I am Dorothy

Mom's story backup to March 1st
Home | Patti Livingston Remembers | Talking to Mom | Dorothy Raitt Lykes

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     It would be kind of neat if I could write sixteen pages between now and tomorrow night.  Then this would be eighty pages; Mom’s age when she died.  It’s a bit much to write, though.  

     While she was dying, I learned from Debbie and Kelly about her love of sequences of numbers.  We kept guessing what the clock would say when she died.  We thought, maybe, 2.22.2004 at 2.22, or 2.24.2004 at 2.24; things like that.  ;-)

     Oh God, I hope Mom won’t be mad at me for contacting Lee?  Will I go to hell?
     “Don’t even say that!”  Mom?

     “Take that back,”  she would say.  “Never say that again.  Tell yourself, ‘I am a good driver’.”  “Cancel that,” she would say, and then, when she was dying, “Cancel Steve.” 

     “You mean cancel his subscription to ‘the Georgia Review?’ ”

     “Yes.”  But she didn’t mean that.  I know what she meant. And I obeyed.  How could I not.

     “I’m going to hell.”

     “There is no such thing as hell.  You’re going to see Richard.”

     “I’m going to see Richard.”

      I saw a picture of Mom looking beautiful at Richard’s Eagle Scout Awards Ceremony.  She is pinning something on his uniform.  He is standing stiff and straight, arms at his sides, looking serious with crewcut and glasses.  Behind her are Velda AND Mama.  I was unaware of any occasion where these two women were together.  Here is proof that it happened.  Mom is so trim and pretty.  I remember that evening.  I remember her getting ready to go out with Daddy and Richard, “To Ricky’s Eagle ceremony.”

     It is evening now; nearly time to go to the Sophie book discussion group meeting.  Mom would never miss a class.  I went to the gym with Mark this afternoon.  It was great to be back.  I could do every machine.  All I couldn’t do was the aerobics part.  It reminded me of one time when Mom drove me out to a school at the edge of the Indian Reservation which was empty, then.  She attended a fitness class there.  She worked very hard all her life at staying fit.  It became more difficult as her weight increased, slowly but surely over the years, and her health decreased.  But she had been an athletic woman.  The teacher at the class complimented me.  I told her I had been doing the par course.  I think I meant around Hubert’s garden in Pokhara, Nepal. 

     We buried the mouse.  I wrapped it in paper towels, respectfully.  Mark dug a square of earth out.  I placed the mouse in the hole and covered it.  I had to go back with a kind of kukri blade and hack away some of the dirt.  I put crumbled earth over the paper towels and just the thin top of the block of earth, the grassy part, over like a lid.  I smoothed it down so that it was even with the rest of the lawn.  It still makes me sad.  Mark never looked at it this morning.  He asked if maybe it killed itself trying to jump out of the acquarium.  I think this is possible.

 

February 25, 2005

     “This may be the last time we are ever all together.”  Mom started saying that in the sixties already!  The actual last time was the 4th of July weekend, 1997.  There were many goodbyes.  A couple of times, we actually hugged.  To feel her chest against my breasts was embarrassing.  I was never comfortable with hugging women.

     “Now I can stop worrying,”  when I arrived at hospice from Switzerland.

     “You don’t have to worry, Grandma,”  Kelly said.

     “Mother’s always worry,”  I told her.

     For nearly anything, there is a Mom memory.  Tell me any word, and it will trigger a memory of Mom.  “Apple.”  Make apple pie: “That’s something I never have to do again.”

     “Orange.”  Mom and Dad sitting outdoors on white-painted chairs made of wooden slates, the backs like a scallop seashell, there arms resting on thee chairs wide, flat arms in the cool shade of the avocado tree around a small table sipping lemonade, talking to Henry.

     Today is the day.  What have I done?  I have resurrected Mom, an extraordinary woman, but still a mortal.  What did I do when she died?  Was it I who created her spirit filling the house and yard?  Was it I who turned the little miracles into little miracles: poetic license?  “Poetic license,” she said, when I complained that her poem about Flamingo’s was inaccurate.

     Can something as small as a human being, an ordinary human being with a daily life composed of repetitive ordinary chores, duties, and deeds, become something as large as a freed spirit?  I don’t know.  I won’t know until it happens, or doesn’t happen, to me.  Have I chiseled a critical chink in the armor of the faith which sprung into being as her spirit emerged into my life full blown and powerful?  Will that all collapse?  Will I look around me and see the world as ordinary, concrete and corporal?  Or, will she still be here, still send me little messages, still love me forever and ever.  Will I meet her again when it’s my turn.  “I will miss you for the rest of my life.  But I believe you will always be with me.  I believe that when it is my turn, I will see you again.”  “mmhmm.”  I take that as a promised.  And though she exaggerated and dramatized, Mom never lied.

     Today, I go to the classroom at the Neue Mittleschule.  Today, I begin to carry on her legacy.  With luck, I will recruit some students for the creative writing class, or plant some seeds that will make it happen some day.  With luck, and a little help from my Mom.  ;-)

 

I love you, Mom.

 

Linda

 

P.S.  I think I’ll just stick with what we agreed upon: “After you die, I’m going to go right on talking to you, Mom.”

     “And I’m going to answer you right back.  You’ll know by all the little miracles in your life.”

      “Thanks, Mom.  Love you.”

   

February 26, 2005

 

     Yesterday was a perfect day of celebrating Mom.  I have to shower and dress, and it’s a weekend, so I don’t know when I will return to this, but the memories keep coming, now that the floodgates are open.  I have written them down on the outside of an International Club envelope.  This is not the end.  This is the beginning.  This work is taking shape.  I visualize a reference to Mom’s humor and the inclusion of her paper nightgown in the hospital poem.  I can imagine including antecdotes from others who knew her. I can see this evolving into the book I promised.  Sure, it’s mostly from the point of view of only one of her five children.  Write what you know. 

     I am a writer again.  I will continue to write on a regular basis.  I will never again let anything interrupt my writing.  But this time, it was worth it. 

     Thank you, Mom.

    

P.S.  Today was the day I lay in a safe house in a locked room with two black Labrador at the foot of my bed, and Woo, the cat, asleep on my stomach.  Healing.

    

March 1st, 2005

     Hello, I’m back.  On Sunday when I called Debbie, she told me about going through a box of miniature train cars from the shed.  One car disintegrated in her hand when she lifted it.  There were many dead scorpians, the small, deadly kind.  In a corner, she found a live one.

    Last night, I dreamt about a spider, very tiny.  I was moving it by the silk to deposite on the kitchen counter.  The end of the silk was exceptionally sticky.  I had difficulty  unsticking it.  Finally, I managed.  The spider was safe.  Then I saw a worm-like creature.   It expanded until it was a foot long and two-and-a-half inches thick.  It uncurled until it was stretched out on the kitchen counter.  It had fins and a scorpion’s stinger.

     “Look at that stinger!  Debbie says it’s easy to kill these things.  What do we do?”  I asked Hubert and Micha who stood beside me and leaned to peer at it.  Before we could do anything, the scorpion moved across the sink and disappeared through a rubber valve-like opening from the kitchen to outdoors through the wall.  I had not known this hole existed.  Hubert handed me silver duct tape and I tried, over and over, to close the hole, difficult because the tape kept twisting and wouldn’t stick properly.  Micha didn’t want the scorpion in our house.  I certainly didn’t want it coming back inside without our knowing it.  We looked out the kitchen window and down to the ground to try to locate it.  Mixed dream memories: there was a second scorpion out there and we were afraid they would mate and make scorpion babies or, it had left, or it was hiding.  Standing on the ground looking up at us was a rolly-polly, gray four-legged creature.  At first I thought it was the scorpion, but it was the shape of a pig.  Then we realized it was a miniature hippopotamus! 

     Yesterday was the anniversary of Mom’s ascension sunset, but I didn’t get to write about it.  I could have, but I was in a funk and ended up sorting CD’s and tapes, then visiting Frau Ducommon, then shopping at Coop, then driving to the gym to meet Mark and work out.  On Sunday, I wrote down memories of Mom on the back of an envelope.  I will begin with them:

     Mom carried a bottle of water with her everywhere she went.  “This is the desert.  Don’t waste water!”  I learned from her to do this although I haven’t established it as a firm habit.  She always carried a bottle of Evian when she flew, so she didn’t have to wait for the stewardess to serve drinks.  (She and Debbie like Evian).  Flying back from Zurich one year, they landed in Geneva.  She had to wait four hours before they served the first meal reaching cruising altitude after leaving Geneva.  She was diabetic and this was not a good thing!

    On that visit to Baldingen with Janet and Marjorie (and Norman?), I felt frustrated that the two weeks past without my getting to have one good, one-on-one conversation with Mom. 

     When she and Debbie visited me in Baldingen together, I felt annoyed when they talked about things I couldn’t know about; a regular little click.  I felt annoyed when their jaws clicked as they chewed their food, and I think Mom even chewed with her mouth open.

     She hung a tote bag on her walker to transport her books, documents, journals, and bottle of water from place to place in the house, or from the car into the Senior Center.  She bought black plastic pens with a narrow point that wrote like the old-fashioned inkwell pens.  These pens went with her everywhere.  She gave us many.  Most dried out and have been thrown away.  I discovered one in the door of the Volvo this week, and tried it on the palm of my hand.  It still writes. 

     When I accompanied her to the Senior Center to visit her class, I pulled into the handicapped parking spot at the curb next to the building.  I walked around the car, removed the walker from the back seat and placed it on the street beside the car.  I wove the handlebars through the wide, black clothe handles of the tote bag, opened Mom’s door and waited while she climbed out, bent over, leaning forward, grunting(?).   She grasped the black plastic grips at the ends of the metal tubes and began walking toward the classroom.  I parked the car, visited the ladies’ restroom and entered the classroom.  Windows on two walls opened onto the interior of the Senior Center.  Mom had already begun teaching.  It was a joy to read the poem I had composed for class out loud in front of the others.  Sometimes, Mom let me read other poems out loud.  Ah, to be back in her classroom again! J  But this is never to be. L  I got to know Karen Bowden there – and amazing woman poet who really liked me.  Sometimes Mom let Pauline take over her class if she was traveling.  I think David did, too.

     Way back when Mom first started teaching at the senior center and I attended a class.   She gave us Valentine doilies like you used to use to make Valentine Day’s cards with in grammar school.  She put a cassette of tranquil music into a black cassette player and turned it on.  “Close your eyes and meditate” (for ten minutes?).   “When I turn off the music, I want you to begin writing whatever comes into our mind.”  She had given me a maroon leather ‘Empty book.’  She gave me many empty books and journals over the years, hoping I would write; hoping I would fill them.  I’m still working on it.  When I travel, I grab one (usually the one which was hers which she started on the trip to Baldingen and left behind by mistake). 

     Ah, here is the book.  It is red (I replaced red with maroon above).  “Write it down.  What time is it?”  she said when she realized I was writing down whatever her said that first Monday night of her dying.  Ha!  The entry is undated.  I should have put the year!  It says:
     “Mother just turned on the lights in the classroom.  The flute music is still playing in the background.  The light hurt my eyes after the soothing dark.  This is my valentine’s book.  Mom gave it to me this morning as an early Valentine to use for class.”

    Oh God, I miss her!  Why do I do this to myself?  It was so easy while she was Cosmic Mom.  Then, I could have her whenever I wanted her.  But to remember – sadness – is to realize I will never have her like this again while I live. 

      “I meant to tell her what a coincidence this was since only two minutes earlier I had been standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth and imagining myself sitting at the typewriting in her room writing about my darling husband and about my feelings about seeing Mabrooka again: the good and the bad – fear of managing her as my servant.”

     Ah, this is between 1982 and 1985. 

     “…joy at seeing her again as my sister.  It was coincidence because I hadn’t felt like writing just to write in a long time. 

     “When the light went on, all the ladies in the class took up their – (spelled ‘there.’  In the second or third grade, they tried so hard to get me to spell ‘their’ ‘their’ instead of ‘there’) – pens and began to write.  I hadn’t known what to do next.  (So, my memory was wrong!  Probably most are.)  But seeing them, it was apparent to me that they have done this before.  We are practicing being creative together, in a group, en masse.  We are a mass of creative energy.

     “The assignment, what we are to write about, is an early Valentine’s Day experience.  I was distressed when I heard it that I couldn’t think of a single Valentine’s Day from my childhood.  The only thing that faintly came to mind was the image of little Valentine’s cards with a bear or a raccoon on one side with hearts, the paper cut to outline the bear’s ears and little body and the top of the hearts.  The other side of the card was white, and their <(spelled wrong again, Linda!)> we used to write a little message: “To KAREN FROM LINDA.” 

     I can see how this is going to work.  I will gradually incorporate all the information from the journals, the letters, the notebooks, into this work.  It WILL become the book I promised Mom I would write about her.  It will be a search for the truth.

     “I remember one valentine I made for my mother that I discovered a few years later with Wendy, which made me laugh until tears came to my eyes.  I must have been very young when I made it, and I tried very hard to make it perfect.  It said, “To my SWEATHEART.”  The doilies Mom gave to the classs to help trigger our memories helped a little.  When I felt the paper doily, I could remember placing my fingers at the edge of a doily heart and separating the two doilies.  Then I must have cut red paper hearts by folding red construction paper in half and, with those round-tipped scissors and my tongue dancing at the corner of my mouth, formed the shape of a half valentine which, when I opened the paper, became the red heart that I stuck with a glob of that thick, sweet, smelling, sticky white goop paste into the heart of my heart doily.  I may have stuck blobs of cotton to the red heart like clouds and in the center, in my best childlike hand, I would scrawl the giant words: ‘I LOVE YOU.’

     Mom showed her trust in me.  I must have been in the fifth grade.  She had bought a large book for Julian Bradford.  She allowed me to write, “in your best handwriting,”  “Happy Birthday to Julian Bradford from the Locketts.”  Oh, my distress when I read, “Happy Bird day.”  (Probably another metamorphosed memory).  (Good title:  (ala ‘Shakespeare in Love’ saying: “good name” – “Metamorphized Memories”)

     When I arrived in Phoenix, I told Mom to keep her eye out for coupons for Lenscrafters.  She pulled out the drawer of the gray filing cabinet, removed the Linda folder, opened it and thumbed threw the documents inside, or, right up front, found the sheet of Lenscrafter coupons, still valid, she had been saving for me for months.

     I am happy working on this:  March 1st 2005 12.04.  But, now it’s time to save what I have done to date in my “I am Dorothy” homepage, and prepare to make salad for Mark’s lunch.  He should arrive shortly.

     I feel like asking Debbie for permission to put Mom’s poems on her homepage – those I have here.  She forbid this a year ago.  I feel too impatient to wait for her to get around to gathering, organizing, editing Mom’s poetry to get it out to the world.  I know it belongs to the estate and I don’t have the right.  I am too chicken to broach the subject.

     More and more, I find myself using Mom’s figures of speech.  “Broach the subject” is something Mom would say.

     Mom always encouraged me to become friends with quality, artistic people.  At her 80th birthday party, the living room was filled with gifted, talented, intelligent, creative people who loved her.  Amazing, the people she attracted to her inner circle!  I played social butterfly, answering the door, creating name tags, conversing with each newly-arrived guest briefly (to make them feel welcome), then escorting them to Mom in the living room seated on her chair like on a throne. 

      When Pina sang, Mom’s lips were purple.  Her mouth was hanging open.  She looked awful.  It was amazing that she managed to sit there and stay awake for four hours.  She was already dying.  We didn’t know.

        “Who forgot to put back the car seat!!”  Me of course.  She hated it when this happened.  “Ouch!”  she cried, hurting herself as she attempted to climb into the driver’s seat.

     “I’m afraid,” she said, with the physiotherapist assisting her while, for the first time since ??? she stepped from the family room over the door sill down to the carport.  He taught her to get into the car.  She needed to relearn these skills so as not to be trapped in the house forever.  This may have been after she was diagnosed with Osteo Stenosis.  Dad was in Phoenix at that time and accompanied her to the doctor’s.

     When she was dying, the Monday night I arrived, she said, “Thank Dick.”

     I told him that when I called him from Debbie’s later in the week.  I was disappointed in him because he replied, “What does your mother have to thank me for.”  Did he really not understand?  Had his former love for her totally disappeared?

     “Well, you did have five children together?”  was all I could think of to reply.

     “How many children do I have?”  Mom asked that same Monday night.  It broke my heart that she was so confused that she wasn’t even sure of this.  I fumbled the answer.  Did she want to know how many she had given birth to, or how many were alive now?

     She was like a frightened child at Dr. Carl’s the dentist she visited for years and trusted.  She was afraid.  I recognized her fear.  It is my own.  So that is where it comes from!

     She paid over $400 for Dr. Carl to fix my teeth.  They worked on me for four hours.  Back home at the dining room table, I could barely get my mouth to close, I had held it open for so long, it seemed frozen in that position.  “Dr. Carl doesn’t like his patients to lose their teeth.  He will do anything he can to save a tooth.”

     I refused to allow the middle-aged, female dental assistant who hurt me so bad while ‘deep cleaning’ my gums to work on Micha.  She hurt me so much, I cried.  Blood splattered on her glasses.

     When I had the thing in my throat, I visited an American doctor in downtown Phoenix.  He told me I was fine.  I drove home.  At the dining room table, I exclaimed, gleefully, to Mom (and to Lee?), “I’m not going to die!”

     At the writer’s conference, Mom wore shawls she had crocheted herself.  I think I’ll put one of mine on, though it’s already to warm in this house (though minus 10 outside!)  That’s the sun shining through all the windows.  “You need beauty,” Mom said.  Then she gave us $150,000 which allowed us to build this house.  Thanks to her, I live every day with beauty.  Thank you, Mom.

     Hubert made me wash the quilt Mom gave me yesterday.  I was afraid to; afraid the colors might bleed.  They didn’t.  he doesn’t understand that most mornings when I make our bed, I wrap myself in the quilt like Wynona Rider at the end of “How to Make an American Quilt” I watched with Mom lying on the other side of the king-sized bed in her bedroom.  I hug the corners to my chest, close my eyes, feel her love and exlaim,  “I love you, Mom.”

     “Always have a book with you to read.”

     “If you want to be a writer, you have to read read read.”

     I told Debbie I can get rid of all the books and reading material around here which Mom didn’t give me.  Reading what she provided will fill the rest of my life with learning.  She will continue to educate me for as long as I live.  Thank you, Mom.

     “Who put the empty milk carton back in the fridge?!!” 

     “Don’t drink out of the carton!”  she commanded when she caught us.  Did we really drink from the carton and put it back in the fridge?  I seem to remember this.  I would never think of doing that now!  Probably, we came in from the heat of a Phoenix summer too thirsty to wait the few seconds it would take to fetch a glass and pour.  I can’t imagine another excuse for this behavior.  Maybe I never did it.  Maybe that was Ricky.

     “Close the door!”  She hated it when we entered the house leaving the door open to the outside, letting the heat inside. That was in the days of air-conditioning, before the swamp cooler.

     “He painted the hinges,” she complained after the painter painted the outside of the house and painted over the hinges so you couldn’t budge the shutters.  Which were these?  I can’t remember.

     Someone robbed them.  There was no sign of breaking and entering.  She believed – probably rightly – that workers had made an impression of one of the house keys in clay and had a key made.

     She and Debbie had fence makers add a fence to fence off the patio so the dogs had a larger yard. 

     Norman bought two ten foot wide satellite dishes in the early days of satellite when these were so expensive.  Mom never replaced them with a plate-sized dish after these became available.  “Find Orbit,”  she instructed.  She was expert at manipulating the dials to move the giant satellite dishes so that they literally pointed toward the satellite in heaven which would bring a particular movie.  Sometimes, you’d be watching a program in another part of the house and the screen would flick through various stations as she moved the satellite.

     “Wash a head of lettuce and make a salad.”  Piece by piece, I removed the brown parts.

     “Crumb the table.”

     “Sweep the floor.”

     Mom made caper charts – tables with our names and lists of chores – probably rooms to clean.  It was fun to mark off a box (did we put our initials in the square?) when you completed a chore.  Mom knew how to motivate us.  Each Saturday morning, we sat down on the long white sofa in the living room.  Mom and Dad bought that sofa in the sixties, along with the gold leaf coffee tables (and a standup lamp?)  We went round and round.  Everyone had to select a room.  When it was your turn, you chose the easiest room left.  The bathrooms were easy.  The hallway was easy (just required vaccuming).  Of course, you had your own room.  We each got three rooms.  We worked for a couple of hours until all our rooms were clean.  Then the house was in order.  With five children, none of whom ever put anything away during the week, the house was a mess again a couple of days later, and so it remained until the following Saturday when we sat down in the living room…

     I think I had radar when Mom was about to put us to work.  I hurried to the piano and started to practice.

     “But Linda’s not helping!”  Richard complained

     “Don’t bother Linda, she’s playing the piano.”  I always intended to ask Mom if she knew what I was up to.  Now it’s too late.  L

     Mom saved stamps for me.  Once I told her over the phone that I had put them into stamp albums and it was like an art museum of miniature paintings.  She thought that was nice.  I knew the stamps were for me when I found them in a small drawer of her rolltop desk in the family room after she died.  She went to a lot of trouble to put gorgeous stamps on the envelopes she sent to me and her grandchildren.

     She kept a picture of Hubert and me in the front of her wallet; the first thing you saw every time she opened it.  I found this, too, only after she died.  She really did love us!  Hubert hadn’t seen her since 1992.  She died in 2004.  12 years!  My fault. 

     “Don’t seed-plant negative thoughts.”

     Mom assembled enormous syllabuses, and copied these each week “for my students.”  She sent me packets with her syllabuses.  She saw to it that we put these in notebooks when I was in Phoenix.  I took these home with me.  (I have yet to read them; but I will!)  She wanted me to double check that I had all the syllabuses.  Together, we wrote up a list of them.  I promised to go through my notebooks when I returned to Switzerland and let her know which ones were missing.  It was very important to her that I had them all.

     She set up a cassette recorder at each poetry reading she attended and made tapes.  She gave me so many tapes.  I have listened to a few.  Yesterday, I organized them.  I intend to have the ones I haven’t listened to on one shelf, and, tape by tape, listen to them.  When I finish one, I will put it on another shelf – the “listened to” shelf.

     Yesterday, I began listening to one she made for my birthday in 1983.  She must have sent it to me in Tunisia. Micha had recently been born.  The family was at Richard’s after Cal Tech Alumni Day.  The tape begins, “Linda, this is your mother.”  I am going to listen to her voice saying that again today!  How wonderful!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Hi Mom!  Richard makes sounds of “mmUmmm Mummm Mumm” eating triple chocolate cake Carol made.  Mom calls it “your birthday cake.”  Kim and Kelly recite poems.  Kelly recites  “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

     Driving to Yosemite when I was a child, Mom taught me “The Owl and the Pussycat.”  It is the only poem I know all the way through by heart.

     Her creative writing students were elderly poets, mostly women, but John Aimes was one.  So was a man who became unordinately attached to Mom and wrote long letters followed by one long, threatening letter written when he became enraged after she refused to return his affections.  She gave me this to read.  “I don’t know what to do about him.”  She said.  I don’t think I had any answers.

     After class one time, we went out to lunch with her female students at a nearby restaurant.  I think I had – what’s that meat called – on rye.

    

     When she came to visit me in Switzerland while we lived in Baldingen, I drove us to Klein Dottingen (?) to a typical Swiss restaurant for lunch.  We ordered squash or pumpkin soup.  It was great!  She loved it.  We each got a large bowl and I was is full when I finished mine, I wished we hadn’t ordered anything else, but they brought a large plate of fries and Schnitzel and Mom ate it all with relish.  I wished she wouldn’t eat so much.

     “You’re tiny,” she said a few years back.  Maybe it was the year I went home and everybody had gotten fat: Kim, Kelly, Lisa, Debbie.  Brian and Mom already were.

     Once, seeing me without mascara, blonde eyelashes, blonde eyebrows, she remarked, “You really are a blonde.”

     She bought $500 worth of cotton socks, naturally made and dyed.  She gave me many pair.  They were the best socks I ever wore.  I wore them until they had holes and I had to throw them away.  After she died and I found a few pair in her sock drawer, I took every pair I could find.  I also took the red ones.  I wear Mom’s socks when I need courage or strength.

Standing in the kitchen, she lifted a water glass.  Through the bottom of the glass, I saw her lips like fish lips as she gulped the water.  It didn’t look good.  I tried not to see.

     During driving: “Could you clean my glasses?  Hold them by the frame.  Don’t touch the glass.” 

     Driving to Huntington beach, she wanted me to give her a Sucrets.  I opened the rectangular tin, unwrapped and handed her one.  “May I have one?”  I asked.

     “These are medicine.  Alright, just one.”  They were a kind of cough drop.

     She gave us each a clothe carrying case with a pink pen and pencil set with our names on them.  She gave me my “writer’s block” with “Linda Eisele  Writer” which rests against the dictionary.  She sent me a sign when I tried to put it on the bookshelves, saying, “I don’t need this” after my moratorium on writing began to let me know to leave it where it is.  I obeyed.

     “You don’t obey me!”  She complained.

     She flew up to Logan and together we attended the Western Writer’s Conference.  Kitteredge was there.  We sat in a classroom listening to a lecture about getting published and Hollywood (I think). The instructor asked us each to say out loud, “I am a writer,” and briefly tell what we had been working on.  When it was my turn, I said, “I am a writer” (for the first time in my life).  “I haven’t written anything yet, but I AM a writer.”  General laughter.  Mom was with me to share that significant moment.

     Richard Shelton attended also.  I invited him to lunch and to dinner, for Gigot and for baked salmon.  He read his poems in our living room and Hubert escaped to hide out in another room.  He thought it was pathetic for a grown man to read his poems out loud.  Hubert has always felt threatened by this literary side of me and my family.

     Mom wanted Richard and Lois to like me.  She encouraged me to send them our Christmas letter each year, though they never responded.  “Send him a check with a small donation for his <work teaching creative writing to prison inmates>.  He always writes a letter if you do that.”  Each year, I asked, and as long as her health held up, she spent hours and money taking our Christmas letter to Copy Quick and having it printed up on green stationary, addressing envelopes, and sending it out.  “I don’t do my own Christmas letter.  Sending yours is like sending my own.”  It went to all family members.  Mom added names of cousins I wouldn’t have included to my address list and sent those.  She liked me to send it to Bill and Pat Wilkins; Richard and Lois Shelton.

     Phoenix was hot in summer, but in the house was much cooler.  I loved to work with Mom in her office creating order.  I loved to see here there, thoughtfully working at her typewriter.  I guess this is my favorite memory of Mom.  I guess I have this memory from her sixties and seventies.  She looks like in the picture with David and Roberta.

    

 

 

     Today, Brian sent pictures of hawks mating in his yard.  I don’t dare to tell him that they are a sign for him from Mom.  He would think I’m crazy.  Debbie will receive the same email.  I’ll bet she gets it.

     Yesterday I had a headache.  This morning, I had a headache.  It was just a small one, left-hand side above the outer end of the eyebrow.  When I went downstairs just now to turn off the heater (though it’s minus 10 outside and the coldest day of the year), I noticed it was gone.  Yesterday I was depressed all day long until eating dinner in Murzelen with Marianne Hoffmann allowed me to talk about anything (I talked about the sibling troubles starting with Mom’s dying and back 20 years with Lisa).  Maybe it was my knee, I thought, or the dream about Dan.  Or maybe it was a kind of grieving because a year ago Mom died.  However, the fact that the headache vanished as soon as I started writing about Mom again makes me think it came because I wasn’t writing.  And how about this… when it was time to begin to write this, I hurt my knee.  Now that I am able to drive again (and drove to the gym to work out yesterday afternoon with Mark), the car breaks down.  It seems to me that somebody is telling me that I’m not supposed to go anywhere.  I’m supposed to be right here, where I am, doing exactly what I am doing.  And happy for it!

    

 

    

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