A Trilogy of Misfortune

The Members of  the Trilogy
Rhoda (The Mother of Ruth, the Grandmother of Sara)
Ruth (The Daughter of Rhoda, The Mother of Sara)
Sara (The Daughter of Ruth, the Granddaughter of Rhoda


In July of 2008, I wrote a good-bye letter to my sister-in-law Rhoda. She was in hospice and died of pancreatic cancer within a day or two. A link to my letter to her is: Dear Rhoda. You will read in the preamble that she had one daughter and a granddaughter left behind that she felt responsible for their welfare.

I don’t remember the first time I met her daughter Ruth, but it was in Montreal where she lived with her parents. In a short time her parents were divorced and Rhoda moved with her to Florida. By the time M and I moved to Florida a whole lot of “not so pleasant history” had been created. Ruth and I saw each other a lot in Florida and I realized she was very smart, wickedly funny and self centered. Many of her problems started when she was a small girl in Montreal where I believe she made up her mind that her Mother owed her for her misfortunes.

Unfortunately, in the early 80’s Ruth became pregnant and was married. The marriage didn’t last long and after the divorce, Ruth, with Rhoda’s help, tried to maintain some type of home life for the daughter. The years were difficult for Ruth since she had many physical problems. In particular Crohn’s disease which worsened with each year that passed

Her health was always precarious simply because she refused to follow a suggested diet plan to control the Crohn’s. She always preferred eating hot dogs, donut, spicy food and deep fried food that aggravated the Chrohns. Eventually she had a total exoneration and afterward gave little thought that it was time to make some changes.

About two years ago, Ruth developed pancreatic cancer. At that time, she could have had surgery so that she could live. She refused surgery and never wanted to acknowledge that she had a cancer that would kill her. Two days before she died she told M she was going home and that once she was there she would be fine.

Ruth died and it is sad to say that we are not sure if there was any type of burial. It is even sadder that she wasted her life so successfully.

Ruth’s daughter, Sara, was a manic depressive. She, like her mother was bright. Sara tried to make something of her life, but it was too difficult. The last years she lived with Pete who was at least 2-3 times her age. I never met him, but photos show him old and grizzly. Pete smoked endlessly and found he had fully developed lung cancer. He never told Sara he had cancer, but promised her that he would make sure she always had their condo to live in.

Pete died. Sara was alone, depressed and sad to have lost Pete. She wrote sad love poems to him and posted them on Facebook. Pete was the only person she ever had that she could depend upon. Her mourning never lessened and one day, her father let himself into her condo and found her slumped over her computer. We are sure she took something to stop the paint.

I could write more. I won’t. It is so unusual that within a few short years three related people died, two Mothers, one a grandmother and a daughter that was also a grandchild. We often speak about this trilogy of death. We understand the why’s of each person yet it leaves us with an odd feeling when you know nothing could ever have changed the destiny of this family.

What will the 'morrow bring-

morning
If I let go of all the things I know,
if I toss from my heart what tugs at its’ walls,
if I take the chance to step on to the edge of my soul,
then will I be better or worse than I am.

Will the sun shine again as bright as before,
will I never again feel the anxiety within my mind or,
can I take a hold of all the scarred, ragged edges
and bring them back and sew them together again?

If I bend and pick up the pieces of me
If I reach and hold onto the sweetest of the memories,
If I sit and stare at the nothing I see in the vision of my soul,
then will color be able to return to the space I see with my eyes.

Will sorrow that pierces and gouges the heart,
be changed so that the spring returns to the soul
or will tomorrow only bring another spear
laced with grief that only I can feel its’ sting?

As I continue on my journey toward my twilight it is evident that I shall be carrying a few more questions that I can only answer.  Each day I realize that there isn’t any one else in the world that can tell me how I am to do the things I am to do, understand how and when the haze of my world will return to its normal clarity and it is only I who can can know when my tomorrow will feel like it has brought the new spring to my life.

For now I continue to muddle with in the sludge under the white snow that occasionally lets me slip and fall.  It is the grayness of the sky that matches what my eyes see as I sit, sometimes too long, staring off into the corner of my bedroom; or at times I fall asleep on the chaise only to awaken and return to the sight of that same corner of nothing.

I question also, when will the night begin to pass without  numerous times of awakening to see just how much longer I need to stay there.  Eventually I arise before dawn and trip quietly down the stairs so that I don’t awaken M. or the cat, Souse.  It is then, once again in the appalling quietude of our house I sit in that corner of the kitchen that I have always sat in before the bright monitor of the computer to think of what next could lessen the impact of these days on my soul.
And then suddenly,  I realize I have passed from the time of pensive thought into flipping url’s like Blueberry Pancakes on a sizzling hot grill and as the pancakes  are stacked they leave no room between.  As I arise from the computer I know the day lies ahead to be experienced mostly with agitation even more than the Kenmore washer produces to wash my clothes.  And I seem to follow the same cycling.  First there is the agitation, then the rinsing and calming of my mind only to plunge forward into a spinning haze.

I think of all this newness of experiences each day and wonder is it all that bad and  will I be able to make it through it and look backward and know that even in my mature years I can grow and learn all there is that life has to offer.  I know for now I wonder why there needs to be lessons like I am within, but I think  that somewhere in the motion of living there is a plan for me and I must follow this relentless path to find greater peace.

As I turn each new corner I find myself a little closer to my crepuscular years.  With each step I must take now I realize it can only prepare me for the new years ahead of me.  To gain wisdom through thoughts, by the anguish created by death and by recording my  collective new beliefs then it is an acceptable path that I take.

Que Sera, Sera

dwelling-on-five-thoughtpic.jpg
Dwelling On Five Thoughts
18″x15″x6″ Dyed Nylon

 

When I was about seven or eight years old, strangely, I developed a kidney infection. Our family doctor told me that little boys usually do not have kidney infections. He continued telling me to be very good and not run around and make sure I did not argue about taking my pills. Shortly afterward, we left the doctor’s office. My father and I walked to the car and then we stopped at the drugstore to get my pills. I think this was the first time the doctor did not give me pills, but rather wrote a prescription for the medication.

My father parked the car and told me to remain in the car while he got my prescription. The time alone provided a small window for me to daydream. I felt miserable and I had a fever. My head pounded each time I moved or stood. I bent my head making me nearly huddled with my hands wrapped around my waist. I felt very frightened sitting all alone because I worried why I had a prescription. I felt like I was always sick and this was one of the worst times. All I wanted to do was to get home to my mother. She would make everything be better, particularly me!

I have never forgotten, even though my Mother never left my side after I got home. She figured out why I was so upset and took great patience and love to assure me everything was fine. The memory was still there when I was 16 and then again, at 27 when once again I had a kidney infection. I was sure the doctor meant I was going to die of kidney failure–worry #1 became fully developed.

Even after worry #1 was established, I received a magazine from a support group for people that had a colostomy or ileostomy or both in the early seventies. At first, I was confounded why should I receive the magazine and decided it was a mistake. Over the next few days, I glanced through the magazine and started reading all the articles. I had no idea what the necessary products were for and the book did not explain them. There was a story about a person who had both and was a gymnast. The story fascinated me and I decided I wanted to find out more, even though I was aware that since I was about twelve the superintendent’s wife of the community school I attended had a colostomy The more I read, the more I thought of Mrs. Boyle and the picture I kept seeing was of her emptying the device.

The picture of her began to haunt me, as well as, some of the articles I had been reading and in the end, there was a picture of Mrs. Boyle layered over a picture of a woman with an ilieostomy on a trapeze. Quickly that picture produced another tag of worry in my life. Worry #2 allowed me to have many sleepless nights preparing for the worst.

By the end of the next fifteen years, I felt my affectation had greatly dissipated. My two worries did not affect me nor did I think of them. Life presented itself as it should and I had not a worry in all those years. I never thought about how my health could deteriorate and cause me problems within my Crepusculum and easily define my journey to the entrance of my darkest hours. I had a busy life and it was difficult for me to be any thing other than happy.

Even though I was happy, the additional years allowed me to think and worry more. My parents were aging and after I entered my forties their problems became more poignant. While visiting with us, for a long a long weekend, my father experienced his first heart attack. Upon his discharge, he drove back home, mostly as a show of strength and no physical signs of a heart attack showed. Very early in the morning, on a Monday in February, I received a call from my mother that my father was having severe chest pains. By the time I arrived, he was prepped for quadruple by-pass surgery. At the close of the day, I had developed a single picture: My father in the Intensive Care Unit attached to drains, the incision area uncovered and still surrounded with sponges and endless monitors above his head.

At my mother’s home that night, sleep did not come until the wee hours of the morning. Worry #3 formed.

It formed and dominated my mind for a while. By now I had realized I shouldn’t focus on a particular worry. I needed to remember that when I walk out of the house and am hit by a car, is more realistic than if I fabricate an illogical worry.

A short time later, my Mother needed surgery for a colon resection. Following surgery, at a new gastroenteroogist, I was repeatedly told me I must have a colonoscopy as soon as possible because he was sure I would follow in Mother’s shoes He continued enforcing his point by telling me repeatedly that polyps predate cancer and that if my Mother had polyps then he was sure I would! By the time, we left Worry #4 was firmly entrenched and I vowed my Mother would never see that physician again!

For the next seven years, the thought of surgery on my colon plagued me. Finally, I forced myself into having it all checked out and, of course, everything was very GOOD.  I placed Worry #4 on a shelf for the next five years, or until I needed my next exam. I was ecstatic.

While I was being plagued by the worry of one day having colon surgery, my mother had a stroke. As I cared for her, in the months to follow, repeatedly I asked if this could happen to me. I realized that the outcome of a stroke depends upon the size of the clot or the dimensions of the bleed area, thus meaning that if I had a stroke the result could not be of the same as my mother’s. Regardless, I began carrying around a sullen mask, until one day I noticed a worry # 5 was perched on my shoulder next to worry #4.

One day as I was whistling “Que Sera, Que Sera” I suddenly stopped and began singing:

 

Que, Sera, Sera

Whatever will be, will be

The Future’s not ours to see,

Que, Sera, Sera

What will be, will be–

In one short verse, I realized how ridiculous it is to carry around my worries like an albatross around my neck. I have no way of telling, nor does a doctor, what will happen to me in the future. To worry only causes me to have less time to enjoy the life I have. I shelved my worries in a small corner of my mind. I keep them there as a reminder that when I look forward I will look without the influence of worry, but rather I will look openly and understand that even within  my Crepusculum  it isn’t necessary to know every thing!


The five worries were the inspiration for “Dwelling on
Five Thoughts”. Each form represents a specific worry and has a small sculpture inside depicting the worry. When the piece is exhibited the forms are illuminated from the bottom so the viewer might catch a glimpse of the sculpture.