Early Warning System

So every day Elizabeth opens her diary to a date two weeks ahead and writes herself a question. And every day she answers a question she set herself two weeks ago.

The Thursday Murder Club, p. 87

Dearest Mum had her own strategy: she had a huge calendar, and different colored marking pens. Gradually, self noticed that she began spending more and more time poring over it. Could have been as far back as 15 years ago. That must have been when she was just in her late 60s.

Dearest Mum came to visit self in California and started talking about this wonderful restaurant in Half Moon Bay called Gibraltar, a place she said she had just discovered. Self was quiet. Dearest Mum looked over. “What? I’ve told you this story before,” she said, looking for the first time in her life very unnerved.

“No. I was the one who took you to that restaurant. A friend in Half Moon Bay told me about it.”

So, the dementia started a long time ago. Could even have been as far back as 20 years ago. But Dearest Mum had this habit of being very gay and charming. If anyone noticed, they didn’t say a word.

Self is hugely enjoying The Thursday Murder Club.

Most of the mysteries she has read this year have been ace:

  • Find You First, by Linwood Barclay
  • One Fatal Flaw, by Anne Perry
  • All the Devils are Here, by Louise Penny
  • Eddie’s Boy, by Thomas Perry

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Share Your Desktop: June 2021

Not sure how old she was here: perhaps in her 40s?

Self’s desktop this month is Dearest Mum, wearing traditional Filipino formal attire (the scoop back, the butterfly sleeves) at her beloved piano.

Her name was NENA DEL ROSARIO. A graduate of Curtis Music Institute in Philadelphia (which she entered at 11), she won the New York Times International Piano Competition at 14, played twice at Carnegie Hall, passed away 4 June 2021. Long, hard fight: she got covid in Manila in March.

Much love to her nurses: Sol, Amy and Rodelyn.

In Memoriam, Dearest Mum: PEONIES

A friend brought these from her garden when she heard about Dearest Mum.

I’m also posting for Cee Neuner’s Flower of the Day (FOTD) Challenge.

Three years after her first appearance in Carnegie Hall, Dearest Mum played there again, for the New York Philharmonic’s Young People’s Concert, Main Hall, 5 January 1952. She was just 16.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Flower of the Day (FOTD), June 7: Roses

Thanks again to Cee Neuner for hosting this wonderful challenge. I love the picture of wild daisies she posted today.

This gorgeous bouquet is from my oldest best friends, Bob and Diane Varner. We lived in side-by-side apartments in Menlo Park, when we were in our twenties. She and Bob moved to El Granada many years ago, but we kept in contact.

Yesterday, I broke the news to them that Dearest Mum didn’t make it. She fought a long, hard battle in Manila with covid, lasted three months. She was admitted to Makati Medical at the height of the latest surge, in March.

I’d been having weekly FaceTimes with her since the start of the New Year. When she missed one week, then another, I called and they said she had a fever. Then, dread test results: positive for covid. She was sent home from the hospital in May, no longer with covid, but she never quite recovered. She lasted till June! She passed very peacefully in her sleep, two days ago. She was 85.

In the afternoon, I was rushing out the door when I stopped and was dazed. Amazed. Speechless. Aren’t these the most GORGEOUS roses you have ever seen?

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Happy Mother’s Day, Dearest Mum!

To self’s mother, who at fourteen became the first Filipino artist to win the New York Times International Piano Competition, who returned to the Philippines with Dear Departed Dad and had five children, who this year beat covid, pneumonia, a minor stroke and being in the Makati Medical covid ward for weeks (during the worst of Manila’s second covid surge) and is now back home. Self greeted her yesterday, but wanted to do this today.

Here she is as a young pianist:

Love you always. Visiting next year, for sure.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The System

The system is broken. When you have adult children hustling parents off into “assisted living,” and giving up the home they’ve lived in for four and a half decades.

The parents give in because, at the end of life, we all become children again. We become helpless. It makes me angry.

3/4 of I’ll Be Seeing You is about what is past. The past is very pretty. The present isn’t. And the future doesn’t even bear contemplating.

Me thinking as I read: Why would anyone want to look at a bunch of total strangers and do crafts? What is so damn delightful about living in a place where you have the crafts option? Who cares about keeping busy? Why doesn’t “assisted living” have a library?

At the same time, the parents are such a burden to the author. She has meals with them, every gesture delicately described.

To me, the parents are functional. Childish, but functional. In the home, they become truly lost, not themselves. They have to adhere to meals at set times, and talking to people. Isn’t the fun of growing old the fact that you can do whatever you like? Because you’ve earned it, right?

And then the big end-of-life talk. Which comes, deadeningly, at the end. It’s so predictable, and really sad.

This is the third week that my mother has been in hospital in Manila. She got COVID. No one in the family has seen her. No one can visit because COVID is raging through the Philippines. She has a trach.

But she is a fighter to the very core. She is somehow hanging on, and a few days ago they transferred her out of the “critical” section of COVID patients. What I think I am trying to say is: Don’t count the very old out. Never, ever count them out. Give them that last shred of dignity, and don’t count them out.

I am nearly through with this book. On p. 171, author states she hopes her 90-year-old father “will find a friend.” His “assisted living” place offers the author a partial schedule of the father’s daily activities:

  • current events
  • exercise
  • lunch

The children auction off of all their parents’ precious things: “the auctioneer arrives promptly” and offers them five hundred dollars.

I am outraged by the author’s nostalgia for all the events that happened in her parents’ house. How dare she indulge in touchy-feely emotions while her parents aren’t allowed to have them. She expects them to be “objective,” to accept that what is happening is inevitable.

REALLY?????

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Life in Colour: Pink

Another photo challenge!

Life in Colour: a different color for every month of the year. Hosted by Travel Words.

April’s color is PINK.

Here’s a night light self has had since she was a little girl. Inside the cottage (you can’t really see, sorry), a wolf in a bonnet lies under the bedcovers, waiting for little Red Riding Hood to approach. The roof is a bright, cheerful pink.

She brought this lamp with her to the States. The light broke and for many years it stayed broken. Then, a few years ago, in Mendocino, self met a wonderful woman named Jewel — an artist AND an electrician! — who fixed it for her.

Now it shines every night on what used to be son’s old desk.

“Oh, Grandmother, what big ears you have!”
“The better to hear you with.”
“Oh, Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”
“The better to see you with.”
“Oh, Grandmother, what big hands you have!”
“The better to grab you with!”

“Little Red Riding Hood,” from the Brothers Grimm

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

The “Fishwife Call”

If Lamorna Ash had written about nothing else except the pubs of Newlyn and the eight days on a fish trawler with six (or was it seven) Cornish fishermen, this book would have been worth the read. But we are only on p. 40, so one can only imagine what other Cornish memories lie in store!

So far, on this eight-day fishing trip, Ash has made reference to Moby Dick and something by Conrad, this interspersed with anecdotes about the crew (Kevin, a flaming redhead and the youngest of the crew is, naturally, the cook. First night’s dinner is “chicken burgers and lovely fucking peas.”)

Speaking of Moby Dick, self read that book for the first time in her first quarter as a Creative Writing Fellow at Stanford. Everyone else was reading Raymond Carver but, self being so obstreperous, she read Moby Dick. It took her, she thinks, something like three months, and she was in pain the whole time.

The trawler’s name is the Filadelfia –why? Next thing self knows, she is trolling her archives for pictures of Philadelphia, her favorite American city next to her own, the city where Dearest Mum attended Curtis (Dearest Mum was only 11 when admitted, and became super-famous, a famous like Britney Spears! For winning the New York Times International Piano Competition, at 14. Her teacher at Curtis was a Madame Mengerva, who told Dearest Mum she should never get married, which is why, when Dearest Mum was 21, she eloped and ended up having five children with Dear Departed Dad)

On p. 40, self reads about the Fishwife Call, that lovely seafaring tradition where “whoever is on watch puts the kettle on, makes mugs of coffee and then heads down to wake the snoozing crew for the next haul” with a hearty ‘Alrightfuckers!’

So interesting.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Getting Through It

It’s been almost a year since the world stopped, plans got thrown out the window, and nothing will ever be the same.

Self thought she’d take a moment to celebrate the things that got her through the past year:

Of course, gardening. Her garden has never looked so great. Every day she watches the oxalis in her backyard get higher and higher. And she just loves it.

Second, books, and her fantastic local library and their curbside pick-up system. She’s been using it since June (Before that, she ordered many books from Gallery Bookshop in Mendocino, which is equally fantastic). Also, self would like to thank the AUTHORS of these wonderful books. When self needed to be transported to another place and time, these authors delivered:

Self would also like to thank FREE CONCERTS. The week after everything shut down, St. Bride’s in London began streaming everything. And so did St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco, which used to hold free noontime concerts every Tuesday.

She would also like to thank Cal Shakes, whose summertime Shakespeare was a high point of her summer, as long as she was home in the San Francisco Bay Area. (Her first Cal Shakes was Romeo and Juliet. ADAM SCOTT PLAYED ROMEO. Sold!!!) A few days ago, she got a message that they would mount ONE live production this summer (Dates to be announced), with appropriate social distancing, of course: Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

Also, FaceTime. Self has actually learned to FaceTime with Dearest Mum. It’s been so great.

And The Economist, which managed to come every week (every two weeks lately, since DeJoy destroyed the USPS)

Finally, she’d like to thank her favorite TV shows, because she’d never have gotten through without them: The Expanse (closing with Season 6), Peaky Blinders (closing with Season 6), The Crown.

A big hand also for Trader Joe’s, for being most sanitary of all the different supermarkets she’s shopped in.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

High Body Count: Eddie’s Boy, p. 29

Self loves this book! From the opening scene — the hero’s having a meltdown in a Bentley because he had to kill, it enraged him, can’t people just behave so he doesn’t have to kill them? — she’s been having a fine time!

There are four corpses (already) in that Bentley, and that’s just in the first paragraph!

Plus self loved learning about the excellence of the double-barreled Purdey & Sons rifle (100,000 GBP each, thank you very much!)

Anyhoo, the first four would-be assassins attempted a break-in at the hero’s re-modeled 1650s Yorkshire mansion (technically, the property of his wife, she’s a member of the English nobility). Our hero drives the Bentley to the Manchester airport, where he leaves it (and the four bodies) in the parking lot and waits for a shuttle to the terminal. Unfortunately, a new set of goons try to kill him before he can get on the shuttle. Since it is only p. 29, we can assume the hero survives, which means these assassins must be off-ed, as well.

A few pages later, our hero faces an existential crisis: how can he get rid of the blood spatter on his clothes before entering the plane (to Sydney)?

Digressing a bit: Self has a book to pick up from the library this afternoon. Then, FaceTime with Dearest Mum in Manila. Tomorrow morning, bright and early (4 p.m. London time), she’s registered for a talk by the woman who writes obituaries for The Economist (such elegant examples of the form, she’s even taught them in creative nonfiction classes). There’s another zoom event tomorrow afternoon, fortunately it’s Central time, not such a big time difference as Manila or London: poets Denise Duhamel and Nin Andrews, hosted by Rain Taxi, and free!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

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