Life as I know it: November 10, 2018

Life as I know it is this: My mother has a terminal blood cancer diagnosis (MDS). I am an artist with a professional career in IT. I am dog person living alone with two cats. And I burn with deep pain and passions that frequently erupt into the quiet practice of writing.

What is the function of my blog in my life? I consider the direction it has taken. I have many poems, hundreds probably, and have posted them here. I could keep up with that work, but I feel the call to something different.

My friend Todd blogged his personal journey through blood cancer- from his leukemia diagnosis to untimely death. It is a body of work I believe has helped others on that same journey (Popcorn from the Void). In the coming months, I intend to write about my own journey through grief alongside my creative writing.

Grief is my constant companion. It is the direct result of loving and having loved deeply and lost. I don’t write about my broken heart very much, but it plagues me with rage and sorrow. My deep fibers. They take my breath away.

I am standing on the tracks and there is a light coming toward me, a freight train that I cannot escape. I have read that all other death is merely practice for the death of your mother. Having lost my beloved father at age 12, it is difficult for me to imagine anything more painful than that (other than child death).

My mother is fine right now. She has treatments of chemo to deal with the cancer and anti-biotics to deal with the infections that low white blood cell counts allow to grow. She is active and living her life as normally as possible. She is not close to death yet.

But I am experiencing pre-grief. It is the sort of thing that comes at you sideways. It is feeling anxious without being able to do anything about it. It’s waking up, walking out, letting go. The ground beneath me is shifting- by my choice. I shaved my head. I broke my celibacy. I accepted a promotion.

In the midst of crisis, I am calm. This is typical for people who grew up like I did. I can be calm because I delay. I hold my shit together in order to get through it, to calmer waters. And when I get there, I let it wash over me. I experience the grief, the pain, the anger, the loss. But I have had a lot of crisis these past five years. I have both outgoing and oncoming grief now.

So, what is the solution?

I am in the in-between hours. It is the time for collecting good memories, to fill my cup, to feel free and alive, and take stock. I am visiting with friends, seeing live music, cuddling my cats, reading books- simply being without driving myself to some more constructive end. When the difficulties arrive, I will be able to look back on this time of my life and rejoice. There is happiness within me and within those I love.

It is precious to me, a reminder that life is not all darkness even when it is the darkest.

 

Copyright C.M. Mounts, November 2018

I See You

I’m on my lunch hour. The sun peaks between the holes in the clouds. A small rain shower, enough to cool and clean the air. Enough to make a little muddy patch of dirt beneath my feet, where I sit on this cement bench beneath the caterpillar tree. Not mud really- wet earth. Roots of the tree are visible in places, some as thick as the smaller limbs overhead. Trees grow roots wide, not deep. Some grow in groves, so they do not fall over in high winds.

***

I arrive in the ICU after work. She is awake. It’s hard to watch her silently scream with the respirator tube in her mouth. Her lungs are not in good shape. She will go under the knife again, get a tracheotomy to attach the respirator to her neck. Increase her comfort levels. She is not out of the woods yet. Her abdomen is split open for access and won’t be sewn shut for months.

She almost died. I can’t talk about it. I always push this stuff off until a later time when I have the space and distance to deal with my grief. For now, someone needs to be present and hold their shit together. There are too many factors pulling me in multiple directions. Time is precious. Writing is painful. It stirs up every sort of horror that my eyes have seen, and my heart has registered, but my face left blank. I have friends and cats and bars. It will have to be enough.

***

It’s evening downtown on a Thursday. The youth are loud, full of anger and angst. School is out for summer and maybe forever for some of them. It is July in the 60’s and there is mist hanging over the fractured energy. The volume makes me tense. An old man says to me as I pass, “Smile, it’s not that bad.” I am transparent, my stress clearly on my face. I look at him kindly and say, “So says you.” I stand in the bus shelter to escape the cold. A teenage girl weeps on the bench and explains to the boy that has come to fetch her, “I’m OK; I was thinking about grandma.”

I wait for the #4 bus. In front of me is a five-story mural of Bob Dylan: three faces, three ages, staring off in kaleidoscope color. I try to find the associations in the schema but I can’t tease it out. The details of his wild curling hair, the wrinkle folded flesh, the wide red stripe splitting his guitar in half- where does the inspiration come from? I am lulled into meditation by the sound of a jazz saxophone street musician. His timbre is calm, and the kids grow quieter and move on.

When the bus stops, I line up but think better of it. Two dollars pulled from my wallet and placed inside his case. I do not look at him. I am worried about the bus and run to board it. As we pull away, I watch him: black man, bright sax, waning sunlight, mirrored glasses, reflected blue light. He looks like jazz- cool, peaceful, vibrating. I smile as we pass him. He plays on. I wonder if his eyes are closed.

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, July 2016

High Water

When the flood comes into the house it leaves mud and mold. You try to clean up. It’s a bad day when you must throw the refrigerator and the flooring out- but what can you do? You have your life with you, the stuff of what remains- your mind, your experience, your willingness to move on or not.

Maybe that’s the real tragedy of it all. That the tragedy derails you for years. That passersby look on at the unfinished roof and are annoyed at your laziness. They don’t know that dad fell off the ladder, hit his head, and died trying to fix it.

And you can’t face it.

You can’t face the pain. Bills must still be paid and the collector doesn’t give a shit that your heart is in pieces. That you can’t think clearly enough not to pour spoiled milk on the last of the cereal in the box.

No one remembers your trauma and you are never over it fast enough for their taste. They’ve moved on to the next episode, the next season. As if life is a television series and they are sick of watching you.

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2018

Baggage

“Excuse me, is that your bag?” she asked. “No,” I replied, “that’s my wife.” The woman’s face wrinkled in the familiar expression of disdain I have become accustomed to from that same said wife. The stranger scoffed and walked away muttering, “Jerk.” I guess most people cannot appreciate my humor. My wife can’t. I stared at the woman’s back and wanted to call after her, “Hey! Why don’t you mind your own business, you busy body!” I held my breath instead. I looked for my wife.

She had wandered off from the shopping bags to browse some antiques. She expected me to stand there and protect her purchases. It was just another example of how disconnected we had become. She didn’t notice when I was gone. I didn’t notice when she was gone. Yet we stay married. I think she hates me because I never gave her children. I think I hate her because she is chronically ill. Just another detail that makes me a jerk. You heard the lady.

This flea market is the one habitual activity we meet up for every weekend. She likes to shop and get bargains which she fills our house with and gives away as gifts whenever family comes to visit. They don’t come often. I think she is filling up our home as an external attempt to fill the space in her heart where she wanted her children to be. Too many trips in and out of the hospital. Too little energy to chase a toddler.

I work too much to have been any help to her. I thought more money would make her happy. I thought taking care of her frail body so she never had to work would make her happy. I thought buying her all this crap would make her happy. All it has done is make me old and bitter.

If she left me to find another man because I’ve turned into such a jerk, I would likely never find another companion. Because I am such a jerk. And she is an old bag, stuffed with crap she doesn’t need but won’t let go of.

Maybe that’s why we stay married.

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, July 2008

Great American Road Trip- Part 4

Monday, July 24, 2017 ~ WY-UT-ID (455 miles)

Rock Springs, WY; Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, UT; Mountain View, WY; Salt Lake City, UT; Ogden, UT; Albion, ID

I wake up at 5:20am for no damn reason. Five hours of sleep is better than none. This is the hard grind of driving all these miles and trying to get sightseeing in too. I am filthy- road grit, sunscreen, bites and bug spray, gross. I am gross. No energy to shower last night. The free wine didn’t help.

I am in a hotel room next to the ice machine with a view of the HVAC rooftop system. The sun is rising and I hear the womp, womp, womp of the hotel laundry room below. Pre-pay late arrival gets you the ‘worst’ room in the hotel. It’s clean and well put together so what do I care? On the road in couple hours anyway. Continue reading “Great American Road Trip- Part 4”

Something Worth Letting Go

“How can you stand to lose it all?”
That is the refrain on repeat
As if clothing and the coffee maker
Had some deep meaning
Deserved my grief

I suppose it is the fruits of my labor
But fruit rots
Like my body
Like flowers on graves
For those I love

Time is slipping away
Always passing
All that stuff is just shit
All that money is just green paper

I know too life without green paper
It is so mean it drives us to spend
One third our lives in its pursuit

But my dresser did not hug me
My shoes did not comfort me

When it all became too much
When life’s edges tore at me
Made me ragged
Beyond my ability
To bear my grief

It is all ash now
Blowing in the winds

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2015