3/28/2010

Somewhere over the Rainbow

Friday night, for the first time in six weeks, my hubbie and I didn't have grandkids staying over night with us. We were, frankly, looking forward to a quiet evening to ourselves. Well, sort of quiet. The phone always starts to ring as soon as we sit down to dinner (8:00 pm). We always groan and wait for the caller ID to come up on the TV screen before answering.

We had to answer this call. It was my sister, who doesn’t call often. We’re both too busy with work and our own families to chat often. She said they’d taken our mother to the hospital, and they weren’t sure if she would live through the night.

Though exhausted, I knew I needed to go see her. My husband was exhausted too and, in the middle of spring planting season, it wasn’t a good time to be away.

But he didn’t want me driving across hundreds of empty, agricultural miles alone in the dark, and so we both got in the car and drove across Washington to the Seattle area, where I'm from, and where most of my relatives still live. We arrived at the hospital by 2:30 am. Mom was still alive. When it was clear that Mom was actually improving, we stayed until around noon on Saturday and then drove home.

But Mom has now passed into what they call “comfort care” or “hospice care,” and so I expect that I’ll be going across the state again soon.

I was happy for the chance to say goodbye to her. She’s 86 and has had Alzheimer’s, in my opinion, for 16 years. My family might debate that, but that’s when I first noticed this formerly vibrant, beautiful, outgoing woman’s personality begin to change. The rest of the family might say she didn’t have it until we put her in a Memory Care facility in 2002. But 1996 is when I seriously started to lose my mother. So, I suppose you could say, I've been grieving her loss for a very long time. There have been so many days when I have just missed her so much. Just wished that I could talk to her, and tell her about me, and my family.

She’s had a number of physical problems as well. Last Wednesday, and I’m not sure why, they took her off all meds.

Generally Alzheimer’s patients are so drugged up with anti-anxiety and anti-psychotics that you can’t tell how much of their incoherence is due to the disease, and how much, to the meds that keep them from being wildly afraid of what’s happening to their mind.

Anyway, there was a time on Saturday morning, yesterday, when I was standing by her hospital bed, and she opened her eyes and looked at me. She hasn’t recognized me, or anyone in the family, for years. My sister was standing on the other side of the bed. She asked Mom if she remembered Cathy. Mom’s eyebrows rose, and her eyes opened wide, and while she didn’t exactly smile at me (she’s forgotten how to do that), her face softened. Tears started streaming down my cheeks, and I nodded over and over again, my eyes looking into hers, and hers into mine. "I see you, Mom. And I see you seeing me."  

I don’t know if she genuinely recognized me, of if I just want to believe she did, but it gave me some closure.

About this post, the long and short is that my blogging might become a bit sporadic (again). There will be details to help with, when Mom passes away. Before that, I want to make a commemorative scrapbook of her life to be on display at her funeral service. Regular-sized scrapbooks generally take me about 40 hours to create, and so it looks like that will use up all of my free time over the next two weeks.

It will be a labor of love.

I will read and review and blog when I can, and visit your blogs when I can. I’m currently finishing Jandy Nelson’s The Sky is Everywhere. It’s a wonderful story.

My own story bears a similarity to Jandy Nelson’s. In The Sky is Everywhere, the main character’s sister dies. Her personality had always been completely overshadowed by her sister’s more vibrant one, and it’s the story of getting through her grief, but also becoming a person in her own right.

For many years, it was like that in our family. Mom was movie-star beautiful and popular. In any social situation, she would do all of the talking and laughing and joke-telling, and everyone in our family was happy to be listeners. Because of that, Mom made it so easy for us to be around other people. But it also meant that my sister (who is as drop-dead gorgeous as Mom was), and I grew up with serious social anxiety. It was just too easy to let Mom do all the talking.

In her youth, Mom was often mistaken as Judy Garland. The family—dad, sister, brother and I were always the planets in her sunny (but frequently stormy) orbit. Several years ago, I wrote a piece called, “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” which will be read at her funeral, and thus the title of this post.

3/26/2010

Saint Iggy: Young Adult Book Review

Saint Iggy
K. Going
Harcourt
2008
Realistic

Summary: Iggy Corso, who lives in city public housing, is caught physically and spiritually between good and bad when he is kicked out of high school, goes searching for his missing mother, and causes his friend to get involved with the same dangerous drug dealer who deals to his parents.

I had to review this book on my blog. It came out a couple of years ago, so if you plan to read it, you'll probably need to check out a copy, or find it in one of the larger bookstores.

I read a lot of books, yet the memory of this one is still strong in my mind. It was a gem ... one of those one-in-a-hundred books. If only every book I ever pick up could be as good as this one.   

Sixteen-year-old Iggy Corso is doing ninth grade over for the third time. He’s also about to be suspended for the ninth time, this time for sassing a teacher. He wants to do better, but it’s hard when you’re not very smart, your parents are addicts, and your mom recently disappeared. But when his principal seems to understand what Iggy is dealing with, Iggy takes heart. Inspired that someone actually believes in his inner goodness, Iggy becomes determined to get back into school, and even to be a contribution. That's what his principal wanted him to do, and that's what he plans to do ... if he could only figure out what that would be.

Iggy’s friend, Mo, is supposed to help him, but Mo also has issues. He’s bright and comes from a world of wealth and privilege, and yet he flunked out of law school, and is an addict. Mo needs money for drugs, and so he plans to get it from his mother, who he hasn’t seen in a while.

They arrive at her house, and she's so happy to see them that she invites them to stay. Mo doesn’t want to, but Iggy can’t imagine how Mo could’ve given up all the comforts of wealth. Iggy’s only source of comfort is his daydreams, where he makes a contribution. Where he is a hero.

Finally, in an ending that will take your breath away and make you cry, unforgettable Iggy gets his chance to achieve his dreams and be a real-life hero.

Going has written several other novels. Her most recent, King of the Screwups, will be released in paperback in May. I’ll post a review of that in a few weeks.

3/23/2010

Literary Awards 2010: Sherman Alexie Wins PEN/Faulkner; David Almond Wins Hans Christian Andersen

Sherman Alexie has won the PEN/Faulkner award for Fiction for his short story collection War Dances. The $15,000 prize will be given out at an awards ceremony in DC on May 8. Read an article here.

If you've never had the chance to meet this man, or to hear him speak, you've missed one of life's great privileges. Everyone loves Sherman Alexie.


David Almond wins the 2010 Hans Christian Andersen Award for Literature. The Andersen award is the highest award that can be given for children's literature. It is awarded every-other-year by the International Board of Books for Young People. Read about the award here. Read a newspaper article about David Almond being this year's recipient here.  It is said of Almond's works that they are "deeply philosophical novels that appeal to children and adults alike, and encourage readers by his use of magic realism.”

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