Thursday, December 11, 2014

Watery Oblivion

The sea calls to me
The waves crash
The wind blows
and I am drawn to the roughness of the surf and the depth of the water

Today there is no sun A front is moving in

I am filled with tears I cannot shed
Perhaps my tears desire to mingle With the salty ocean
to merge with their perceived kin

For the first time in my life,I want to walk out into the surf 

                                                             2014 Nov 1

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Comfort of Watery Oblivion

2014 Nov 1

If you are a reader of Mind Flotsam, or a Facebook friend, or a friend in real life, or any combo of those, you may know that I deal with clinical depression. My personal opinion is that it is partly hereditary, partly seasonal, partly brain chemistry related. I take medication, which may help the condition. I know it did help when it was initially prescribed. In recent years, I have begun to doubt the ongoing benefits of fluoxetine therapy. That is not my reason for writing, though.

I need to try to articulate a brief thought that occurred to me yesterday as I sat on the dune line, staring out to the ocean. The thought may or may not have been related to my chronic depression. I need to put it out there, in an attempt to somehow banish it from my future.

Perhaps just a little more background is necessary. While I LOVE being near the beach, ocean, water, I rarely get wet, unless its raining. I do not swim. Nor do I venture into the surf, even when it is gentle. I will sometimes walk along the water and allow my feet to get wet. But at no time do I venture into the surf, to any depth above my knees. Though I am a person who loves the ocean, I also have extreme fear of moving water, especially deeper than say, eighteen inches.

So, try to understand the confusion that gripped me when, while sitting looking out at the raging waves yesterday, I suddenly felt drawn to walk out into the waves. Me, the person fearful of more than calf deep water. These were waves  breaking onshore with strength that ate up the sand and a height of about 3 feet. 

For a moment, it seemed I was drawn toward the water, and the possibility of oblivion. There was no value judgement attached to this desire. It only seemed like a good idea, to allow myself to be engulfed by the water, embraced by it, as it were. I didn't give any thought to the water temperature, or what anyone would think. For the time span during which I felt mesmerized enough to do this, I had no other thought. 

It was only scary in retrospect. When I "came to myself" and realized how comforted I was by this thought, I suddenly became frightened. Frightened by how desperately I had to force myself to think about the idea with logic and with the idea of consequence. Even then, it was a struggle to let go of what was an appealing, thoroughly comforting idea. I prayed for God to help me to get a grip. Then, I cried.

I sat there on the dunes for some time, trying to figure the whys and wherefores of this thought of walking into the embrace of the wild ocean and into oblivion. When I came home, I tried to talk to R about it, but that was not fruitful.

So, today, even though the thought has departed, I must write about it in an attempt to exorcise future thoughts of this type. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014


2014 Sept 27

 Mind Flotsam ~ GREYLA

Yesterday was a beautiful day weather wise, but an extremely heavy day emotionally. I awoke from a pleasant dream, feeling that something had worked toward resolution with regard to an old emotional wound. A good start to a good day, was my hope.

When I took Greyla out for a walk, the day began to turn emotionally darker. 

Greyla is 15 years, 5 months old, and has some neurological degeneration in her hindquarters, along with arthritic changes. Her vision is poor and her hearing less than perfect. However, her sense of smell and the pleasure she derives from sniffing is topnotch. We walked through the grassy area that she loves, out to the highway, where she always stands with her nose scenting the breeze from the Sound, which I am sure is rich with salty sea smells. Then we returned to our space and RV. 

As we walked the area between our Jeep and the RV, Greyla misstepped and fell down. Because her hindquarters are weak, I tried to support her as she attempted to rise. This resulted in her front legs giving out for the first time that I had noted, and her snout hit the concrete. 

When I finally got her inside the RV, and explained to R what had transpired, he seemed to think it was an anomaly.  My thinking was more dire, which set me on a path of wondering how we will know when the appropriate time comes to put our girl down.

With Blue, our first dog, I had the guidance of both our regular Vet whom I trusted implicitly, along with the Vets I worked with at the emergency Veterinary clinic, and my dear friend Carol, also a Vet. Blue had dual problems, in that she had a tumor on her liver, as well as renal dysfunction. It was the hardest decision we ever had been faced with at the point in our lives, yet we knew what and when it had to be done. 

With Jake, our second dog, the diagnosis was less clear, and we took the necessary step to gain clarity before making any decisions. Once we were relatively certain his 13 year old body was suffering from Leukemia, I was still unable to let him go. I loved that boy with my heart and soul, and so for a short time, while he was on steroids in massive doses, I slept on the floor of our sunroom with him, as his IV bag hung from the ceiling fan. He was unable to stand on his own. I remember awaking from a nap in the middle of the night, on the floor next to him. He had had a bloody bowel movement and attempted to scoot himself away from it, resulting in his beautiful face being inches from the poop. I am haunted by the look in his eyes. At that moment, in perfect clarity I saw that I was keeping him alive only for me.

Our third dog, Baxter, was a rescue who came to us at six years of age. We loved him for six years. At 12 he began to have problems with walking and balance. After x-rays and lengthy exams and observations, it was determined that he had a brain tumor, in the area controlling his balance. It would only exacerbate with time. It hurt, but there was clarity about the decision.

Katie was the fourth dog we put down. She came from a shelter and lived with us for 13 years, which made her probably around 16 when we faced her euthanasia. She made the decision easy for us. She stopped eating, gradually and then refused to drink. She communicated her need to move beyond this life very clearly. She was the only one of our dogs to that point, who didn't die at home, yet it seemed fitting, as she loved all the people at our Vet's office, so when the time came, she was among lots of people who loved her, in addition to her family.

Greyla is another story all together! There were those, including our trusted Vet, who counseled us to put her down in April of 2013, when abdominal x-rays showed the reason for her labored breathing to be a mass, extending from her diaphragm to her small intestine. But, because nobody could site the origin of that mass, we chose to have an ultrasound, ostensibly as part of the diagnostic process. From the ultrasound we discovered that the point of connection for Greyla's mass was her spleen, not her liver, as we had feared. After much consultation with both the Vet who did the ultrasound and our steadfast, caring Vet, Ed Bennett, we opted to go forward with surgery to remove Greyla's spleen and the mass, knowing full well all the ramifications. Greyla's recovery after the splenectomy slow, but steady. And there has not been one day when we have regretted that decision. 

I need to say, that all of that did not take place in a vacuum. Only three months before Greyla's surgery, I had received information that my Daddy had stage four lung cancer, discovered when he required emergency surgery for a bowel obstruction. I was not prepared to have so little control over so many events in such a brief period of time. Keeping Greyla alive at that point, gave the illusion of some control.

While we were in Pittsburgh, both last year, and again briefly in late April, Greyla has had follow ups with her Vet. We currently have her on a combo of meds to ease her arthritic inflammation, as well as to ease any pain she has. We do not have a Vet here on the Island. However, All Pet Animal Hospital and their staff have been wonderful via long distance. 

The problem is, now that I see deterioration, and although she still enjoys going outside to sniff,and she has never peed in the house, although she does poop in the house in a laying position regularly, she still eats though with less gusto, and drinks normally, and we are mostly able to manage her pain, I'm not sure how to gauge when it is time to let her go. Add to that, the complexity of R's relationship with her. Greyla is technically R's dog. She was a gift to him for his 50th birthday, as he had expressed a desire for another female black lab. 

The other night I thought I saw just a shadow of the look that Jake gave me that haunts me still. However, I don't want to be the one who makes this determination. I don't fully trust myself ~ the past year has been a difficult emotional one for me, filled with loss and mourning, on many levels. And Greyla, although a sweet dog in many ways, is not the brightest bulb on the tree :) I'm not certain she has the depth of spirit that Jake had, so it could be that I'm allowing guilt to see things that don't really exist.

R's response to my queries yesterday regarding Greyla's health and general well being was, "Her life's not so bad right now". Is he correct? Or is he delusional? 

How do we know what is right and when it's right? Do we wait for her to be unable to walk at all? To pee in the house? To loose all interest in food? Does her dignity come into play? And does she even have the self awareness to have "dignity"? 

Yesterday, my conclusion was to wait it out until R sees and resolves that  the time has come.  Today I find myself wondering if he sees through eyes so blinded by love for her, as I was with Jake, that he is missing important clues to her well being.

I spend too much time crying because I fear the loss, yet cannot bring myself to say with certainty that now is the time to let her go. This sucks.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Random Thoughts On Soul Mates and The Love of One's Life

2014 August 14

Random Thoughts

Several days ago, a friend posted on Facebook, a quote which basically said that the concept of "soul mate" and "love of your life" are not the same concept, but rather separate concepts that involve choice.

My knee-jerk reaction was to disagree. In my mind and heart, the concepts were intertwined. The idea that there is one person to whom my soul responds, as if we are, both somehow, tuned to the same frequency. A single person whom I instinctively trust completely, even in areas where I had been afraid to trust previously. One individual to whom I am drawn, as if by powerful magnetism, who also is compelled toward me, in the same fashion. These were the concepts that in my mind, defined both the love of one's life and one's soul mate.

Until I read what Chris posted on her wall on Facebook, I thought that both my soul mate and the love of my life, were one human being who passed through my life nearly forty years ago. I see now, that while that may have been true at that time, I have changed and grown in the interim. I married and committed to marriage with someone whom I did not view as either my soul mate, nor the love of my life. And to be honest, I am aware that he doesn't see me as either of those in his life. So we made a choice to love each another. As our vows said, "..for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parts us." That was A CHOICE!  

Then I began to think about it, as the original writer had expressed, as a choice. Perhaps one's soul mate is the person to whom your soul resonates, as if tuned to the same frequency. But, perhaps, the love of your life, depends on your definition of love. And perhaps throughout our lives, that definition can change, according to our spiritual, emotional, and psychological growth.

As I thought about the idea of both soul mate, and love of one's life, it occurred to me that looking at it from a Christ-perspective, isn't our Creator, Redeemer and Comforter, the true and real fulfillment of both these concepts? 

If real, true, agape love is about honoring the "other person", then haven't we all been done the greatest honor by Christ? He loves us unconditionally, and awaits each of us, patiently, till we turn to him. Even when things we do pain him and are an affront to goodness, still he waits, loving us, even in our sinfulness. That seems to me, to be perfect love. 

Too often, I let the corporeal define how I interpret concepts like soul mate and love of my life.  I know I am not alone in this. Too many people are caught up in how the world defines us. The things of this world will pass, including our bodies. So, why define important things by limited concepts?   What is the first thing we learned as children, in catechism? In case you don't remember, or didn't have catechism, the answer is: God is love. So, shouldn't we always choose love?  Perhaps that is what the originator of my friend's post meant. God loves us, in spite of ourselves. We need to learn how to do that - to love each other, regardless of the circumstances. That starts with a CHOICE.

Monday, February 17, 2014

'All Growed Up', as my friend Laura would say...

2014 Feb 17

Yesterday I met one of our neighbors here in the RV Park for the first time. She and I were comparing notes on how challenging this winter has been for so many folks, health wise, and in other ways, as well.

I mentioned, in conversation, that my father passed away in January. It was the first time, I realized later, that I had spoken those words without tears welling up. And, as I thought about that later, I wondered what kind of a daughter can reach such a point in so short a time frame?  I felt guilty. 

However, as I sit typing those words, I am crying. So, I am guessing that I am the kind of daughter who now grieves alone, rather than in public. I am the kind of daughter who dreams of her Daddy, and wakens sobbing. I am the kind of daughter who knows I will see him again, but who is saddened that he is away from my senses at present. I am a daughter like many others, I suppose. Certain dates will bring tears to my eyes and longing to my heart. Yet, I will bear that pain in private, rather than uncontrollably, wherever I happen to be when it rises up. 

Is this what it means to "be grown up'?

Monday, February 3, 2014

2014 Feb 2 A New Beginnng

2014 Feb 2

Very recently, my husband had a bout of pancreatitis. It was the worst he's experienced, and he's had some bad ones, starting back in June, 2004. For years our PCP has treated him while continually explaining to him the need for him to stop drinking. While he did finally forgo hard liquors, he continued to consume beer, on a daily basis, and occasionally wine. The decision to stop is one that only the person consuming alcohol can make. 

My husband says he has made that decision. 

Great! Wonderful! To God be the glory! Well, yes. Absolutely. 

Yet, as with any change, there is something frightening about this shift in the whole dynamic of our relationship. This is all new, for both of us. Our roles have been well established over our long years together. Sometimes there has been an irritating imbalance. Yet, our patterns seemed set and there was a certain comfort in the familiarity, even when it was irritating.

We are currently just a few days into our brave new world and the only things we have going for us in this sobriety, are honesty, caring, and our long history, along with the fact that we each made a commitment to be in this relationship for the long haul. That, and the fact that, In spite of all our ups and downs, and round the bends, we do love each other. Not that we haven't questioned that basic tenet. But, as Tevye and Golde so eloquently sang in Fiddler on the Roof, "Do you love me?" "I suppose I do."  Yet I find myself wondering if that will be enough in the days, weeks and months to come.

For years, I prayed that God would do whatever it took to make my husband stop drinking. In fact, I was on a bus in Ireland, praying exactly that, when he had his first pancreatic attack, in 2004. Gradually, I prayed less. Sometimes I nagged more. Neither seemed an effective strategy. Now, it seems my husband's eyes are finally opened, and I am afraid. Of what, you ask. I suppose the whole paradigm shift that is taking place scares me. What if we are too comfortable with our old roles? What if, in his sobriety, he realizes that he doesn't really love me? What if I am unable to adjust to these changing patterns? What if the strain of getting and staying sober is too much for us, as a couple to handle?   

Please, do not counsel us to go to therapy. I suggested that several months ago during a particularly rocky patch, and was met with a resounding, "NO!" I suppose I may revisit Al-Anon, at least for awhile. I am grateful to have several people in my life who have walked this road and who, I am sure, will be willing to offer whatever guidance they can. I am praying again. This time, for both of us, that God will provide His wisdom, and most of all, His love as we navigate these new circumstances. The times they are a-changing. Lord, give us grace to change with them.

Friday, January 31, 2014

In honor of William (Bill, Will, Willie) Balkovec, 1925 - 2014

 In honor of William (Bill, Will, Willie) Balkovec, 1925 - 2014

The Leader of the Band by Dan Fogelberg

The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy
To the leader of the band

I thank you for the music
And your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom
When it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness
And the times when you got tough
And, papa, I don't think I
Said 'I love you' near enough

The leader of the band is tired
And his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
And his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
To imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy
To the leader of the band

This song reminds me of my Daddy. Not because he was ever a band leader, but because of his love of music, especially the music of the Big Bands of the 40s and early 50s. Lately, the stanza about thanks has meant a lot to me.

I am grateful for his love of music and the exposure to it in our house. I am thankful to know who Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, Bunny Berrigen, Fred Waring, Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Eddy Duchin, Count Basie, Glenn Gray, Duke Ellington, Sammy Kaye, Louis Jordan, and many others I'm sure I've forgotten, are. I might have been one of the few kids in my age group to know the words to songs like "Skylark", or "Pennsylvania 6-5000", or "Chattanooga Choo-choo".

My daddy's stories were not "of the road", but rather of his times playing baseball, or times growing up with his family, or his friends in the Army. He always had stories to tell. Only in the last couple of years did I listen intently. I am sorry for not listening with greater appreciation through the years. 

We left Pittsburgh several times over the last few years and each time it was with my dad's blessing. So, indeed, I thank him for "the freedom when it came my time to go". And I thank him especially for telling me when I needed to come home.

My Daddy was almost always kind. He stood up for me when others did not. He may not have always understood my choices, but he loved me enough to always have my back. I hope he knew how much that meant to me. I can't say Daddy got tough with me too many times, but there are a couple that stand out in my memory. Those were turning points to a better relationship between us, I think.

As to whether I told him I loved him enough…I did not. I don't think "I love you" was a phrase used in our house when I was growing up. Consequently, I never told my Dad I loved him until I was 25. And I was afraid to say it. Amazingly, once it was out there, that first time, and Daddy responded with, "I love you, too, kid," there was never anything holding back our mutual "I love you". Still, "Papa, I don't think I said 'I love you' near enough".  

The leader of our family has moved beyond this life. He was tired. Not just his eyes, but all of him. But, his blood, does run through each of my his children's instruments. His songs live on in our hearts and souls. And I think I speak for each of us when I say that, indeed, our lives have been a poor attempt to imitate a good, loving, caring, kind-hearted man, whom we were blessed to call our Dad. I pray we are a legacy of which he can be proud.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


2014 Jan 27

Where to begin? My family of origin doesn't really have anger issues. I do not ever recall seeing my paternal or maternal grandparents get angry. My Mom had lots of issues, but I'm not sure anger was one of them. My Dad was not an angry man. Yet of the eight siblings in our family, at least four have or have had anger issues. Currently, I would say at least two of us, maybe three need to work on our anger. 

So where does this anger originate? According to Pastor Bertine's sermon yesterday, at Gulf to Lake Church, anger generally originates as a result of hurt, and or frustration, and or fear. Since I can only speak to my own stuff, I would say that I have the trifecta of origins going on.

Most of my anger is involved in my relationship with my husband. Hurt? Yes.
Frustration? Yes. Fear? Yes, but not of him, rather of where our relationship is headed.

The past year has been a most difficult one for me, for our marriage, and for the general feelings of marital joy. Neither Raymond or I are the perfect spouse. But, I thought we shared in common, a strong sense of family. 

Now, for some recent background.

Last February, as we were planning our travels for 2013, my Dad had emergency surgery for a hernia repair and bowel resection. At that hospitalization it was discovered that he had stage 4 small cell lung cancer. We changed our plans, and instead of heading to Texas, drove to Pennsylvania. Dad's oncologist would not discuss life expectations, so we took up residence at a local campground, uncertain how long we would be in Pennsylvania.

By summer, Raymond was getting the urge to move on. Since he doesn't drive, any moving that was going to take place had to involve me. We made plans to travel from Pittsburgh through upstate New York, into Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Then, on our way to Florida, we would come back through Pittsburgh for my doctor appointments and for Dad's 88th birthday.

Throughout the spring I had been experiencing numbness and tingling from my chin to my shoulder. My PCP suggested I see an Orthopedic neck specialist, which was one of the appointments scheduled for September. I have had severe arthritic changes in my cervical spine for several years, but they had only begun to be intrusive during 2013.

On our return to Pittsburgh in September, we opted to park in Raymond's brother and sister-in-law's driveway, since the plan was to be in the area for about two weeks. Even so, Raymond disliked the location because he felt too isolated in the far northern suburbs, since very little was in walking distance, and I was rarely available since I was spending as much time as possible with my Dad.

The real curve ball came just before we were scheduled to leave for Florida. My symptoms were progressing and I really felt, as did my surgeon, that waiting till spring for neck surgery was a gamble. So, I scheduled the cervical surgery and fusion for mid October. Raymond was very unhappy. Between the surgery and recovery, the absolute earliest I would be available to drive our RV to Florida would be the last week on November.

Raymond acted in a manner that hurt me deeply. Later when we talked about it, he explained that his reaction was because he felt blindsided. 

Shortly before my surgery, my Dad began radiation therapy to attempt to shrink one of his tumors which was causing him difficulty breathing. He finished radiation while I was recovering, but still unable to drive. 

I began driving when my surgeon OK'd it. Slowly, I began to build my strength and my range of motion. By my final post op visit, early in the last week of November, Dr. Smith gave the OK for me to try the drive to Florida in the RV. It was two days before Thanksgiving. Raymond wanted to leave immediately. I want to spend Thanksgiving with my dad and brothers. At this point I was feeling both fear and frustration. The fear was two pronged. I was afraid of Raymond's reaction if I told him I wanted to stay on longer in Pittsburgh, as well as feeling fear that this would be my Dad's last Thanksgiving. Frustration was full blown because Raymond seemed to be lacking an empathy for my needs, at that point. Frustration was also in play because of my father's situation.

Yep, I had the full trifecta, of hurt, frustration and fear. Only I didn't know it at the time.

Truth be told, I didn't want to leave Pittsburgh at the end of November. But we were already paying for a lot in Florida that we hadn't used in October or November. The weather was freezing in Pittsburgh, and our RV is not really made for winter camping. Raymond was unhappy in the extreme. I was depressed. My Dad was dying. Life was overwhelming. So, in an attempt to be "a good wife", we left for Florida on November 29.

The drive took a lot longer than any before.  Apparently I still did not have the stamina to drive long distances and found it necessary to stop frequently for rest and naps. When we made to to Edisto Beach State Park, in SC, we stayed four days. I needed three of those just to recharge.

After arrival at Nature Coast Landing, in Crystal River, FL, the thought of immediately turning around and driving back to Pittsburgh was daunting. So, I didn't think about it. Instead, I called home every other day or so to see how things were going. I distracted myself by decorating the lot and the RV for Christmas. 

On Christmas, I was very homesick. Raymond was very melancholy and seemed to be missing his parents, who died several years ago. Because of Raymond's emotional state, I was glad that I hadn't left him and Greyla alone over Christmas. Although, I was still torn by thinking of Daddy and the fact that this might be his last Christmas. Still, when I spoke with Daddy on Christmas morning, he seemed in good spirits. But there was still some part of me that was resentful of Raymond and his blindness to my needs and wishes.

New Year's day arrived and I called to wish my Dad and brothers a Happy New Year. My brother informed me of Daddy's decline & after talking to Daddy, I knew I had to return to Pittsburgh. I explained to Raymond that I needed to face this own my own. I would be wanting to focus all my energy and time on my Dad, at my brother's house, and that to have him & Greyla along at a local motel (which was what Ray wanted), would be too much of a distraction. Perhaps that hurt him. I don't know. I just knew it was the truth as I was experiencing it.

I arrived in Pittsburgh on the afternoon on Jan 5, after driving from Florida.
I spent time talking with my Dad. My brothers and I spent time trying to care for him over the next several days. He passed away in the wee hours of Jan 9. Following Daddy's last wishes, we arranged for his cremation, with no viewing. There was a service the day of the interment of his ashes, at the chapel at the cemetery, on Jan 14.

The next day, Raymond began pressuring me to return to Florida. I was not ready. There were things to be done. There was a need to be with my brothers and sister. There was a need to grieve with my family. Raymond seemed not to have any understanding of these feelings.

My feelings of anger grew. Each time Raymond called, I dreaded answering, knowing one of his first questions would be, "When are you coming back?" I wanted to stay at my brother's house. I wanted to be with people who were experiencing the same pain and loss I was feeling. Twice I put off my return date. I really couldn't understand Ray's impatience for my return. Especially since every time we spoke, I cried. Finally, when there was news of an anticipated storm and snow accumulation, I relented, and planned my departure. 

Then, my brother, Vinny, developed a problem with his left arm. His doctor's appointment was scheduled for 8:15 AM, the day I was scheduled to leave. I called Ray to let him know that I would be getting on the road later in the morning that day, and his reaction was not positive. He assumed I was going to stay to see what Vinny's outcome would be. I had to explain, more than once, that I would drive Vinny to the doctor and get on the road around 10:30, rather than the 8 AM departure we had originally figured. Regardless of Vinny's status, I was not yet prepared to leave. However, I felt I had to in order to placate Raymond.

Several times on my way back to Florida, I became overwhelmed by emotions and cried. Some of that was loss. Some was anger.

Having arrived back in Florida on Jan 25, just three weeks to the day since I left, I was in full on anger mode with regard to Raymond. At this point I knew it was anger, because God graciously pointed it out to me as I drove. And there was an assurance that I had to return to Gulf to Lake Church on Sunday morning. I knew that the sermon was one I needed to hear. It was!

I am now trying to work through both my anger and my loss. Pray for me. And for Ray.