The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Sunday Lull May 17, 2015

My kid is in my bed, playing on his 3DS, the volume’s up on the accompanying soundtrack which, after the nineteenth time is annoying enough, let alone the nineteen-hundredth time. He’ll mute it if I ask, but I don’t, because the music seems to add to his enjoyment of the game. This is, after all, Sunday morning. That island in the week where nothing can touch you (if you aren’t a church-goer, that is!). It’s the one day that I let the chickens out a little later, the one morning when the clock tells me it’s 6 am and my heart doesn’t tighten at the prospect of the morning rituals before me… I enjoy my bedroom’s comfy chair on weekend mornings, and although the seasonal bouquets of lilacs and lily of the valley are no longer at their fragrant peak, having them here is a rare treat, and confirms for me that we’re still in that magical and short-lived time of the year I love so well. It’s a Sunday at home in the Springtime, and Elihu and I are together, each doing something that we love to do. Things don’t get much better than this.

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been given a couple of unexpected gifts which have really helped to lift my spirits too. I guess I didn’t realize that I presented to the world as being so in need – maybe living in a constant state of never-quite-enough has dulled me a bit to the fact that not all folks live like this – and that there may exist a chance that I myself might not always live this way. While it might be my goal, I’ve never been able to imagine a time when Elihu and I could live without food stamps or assistance to heat our home. I suppose the goal is to glean an income from the Studio one day, yet still, that seems so far off, I can’t quite see it. Currently, our income is most often less than our basic living expenses, with my stalwart mother stepping in to make up the difference. It’s the little things that make it impossible to get ahead – unexpected car repairs, new shoes, haircuts, even shampoo and laundry detergent – things that by themselves don’t seem too much, but when they arrive one after the other can clean out a checking account pretty quick.

Lately I’ve been keeping track of these expenses and trying to nail down where my money goes and why it is I can’t seem to get enough… And one of these recent gifts was membership into a program which helps to get such control over money. The timing of this gift was perfect. Just as I’d been making columns, listing my costs and my income and beginning to use cash only instead of debit cards, this arrived. A woman I’d known from another lifetime as a kid in my hometown had gotten this program for me with the provision that I follow it for the next ninety days. I am so there. Can’t say I’m not a bit nervous – I still haven’t gotten those new gigs nailed down yet, so I’m still short on the income side. That means spending still less, and when you already live so modestly, it’s hard to know how to do that. Reduced my cable to basic, my garbage removal to once a month, trying to unplug the power supplies around the house, turn things off… Still, it’s daunting, this idea of breaking even, let alone of saving.

And then there was the second miracle gift – a person with whom I have some musician friends in common gave me an unexpected gift of cash, which has allowed me to put a little away, as well as pay the electric bill left over from a too-long winter. How did these things happen? Hard to understand, and for me, hard to actually accept the help. I waffled over the offers for a while, before I realized that if I were in a position to help someone else, I’d do it. And my grandmother used to tell me that the best way to receive a gift is to simply say ‘thank you’ – and mean it. I did, and I do. And I’ll be living my gratitude for these acts of kindness by continuing to push up and out of my situation. I’ve got lists, plans and goals. Sometimes I don’t think I’ve made much progress in my time here, but then I’ll look back over the past six years here and realize that a whole lot has happened. And although the steps are tiny, they are forward-moving, and after a while, baby steps actually do get you somewhere else.

Monday morning will come soon enough, and I mean to meet it with enthusiasm and hope. I often say to my kid that this is not a planet for wimps. And me, sometimes I feel mighty wimpy. So I’ll use this lull in my life to recharge and regroup. Church or not – what a blessing is a Sunday morning.

 

Small September 8, 2013

Man, do I feel small right now. As in tiny. Really tiny.

Like you, I do realize that everyone is equally significant in the world. Yeah, I know that each one of us is unique, and no matter how small our own roles may seem here on Earth, our job – to simply be, as we are – is just as important as anyone else’s who lives here too – regardless of their station, status and wealth. So if I get that – if I truly believe that each one of us has our thing, that each one of us is doing exactly what we should be doing simply by being – then why do I feel so tiny and irrelevant right now? Why do I feel I’m somehow not doing what I should be doing? Well, there is something helping me to feel this way… I can’t say my mood is a total surprise.

The likely culprit would be last Spring’s issue of Time magazine in which they present the 100 most influential people on the planet in 2013. Picked it up innocently enough at a friend’s house, and before long was fully immersed and eager to read the whole thing. Bursting with short articles, supportive blurbs, visually loaded charts and cute, cartoony diagrams that helped one get a clearer visualization of just how influential these folks were – it was hard to ignore the growing sense of my own non-accomplishment as I compared my virtually non-existent numbers to theirs. Of course I was comparing apples to oranges. And of course I had, at the point of having read the entire edition cover-to-cover, forgotten completely the aforementioned philosophy at the top of this page…. My process went from experiencing awe to feeling bewilderment to a sudden and very unpleasant vision of myself as professional ‘doer-of-not-too-terribly-much-all-that-important’. While I can’t say that the issue wasn’t inspiring on some level, I can easily say that it was deflating on another.

Good spiritual folk advise to be happy for the achievements of our fellow humans. That bearing joyful witness to their accomplishments in turn lifts us up and personally benefits us energetically as well. That to be jealous of their success (which puts out the negative, non-supportive sort of energy that goes with those feelings) will only make our own plight worse. Like shooting ourselves in the foot, emotionally speaking. Furthermore, the positive or negative energy we feel or express also helps to alter the emotional atmosphere of our entire species. Kind of like the way a single drop, while seemingly meaningless on its own, is crucial in creating water. (When explaining to my son why we should vote, I offer that if every drop in the ocean felt as if it had no purpose and it would go elsewhere, then we’d have no oceans. I find that I even have to remind myself of this when election day rolls around.) Yeah, I know all this, and of course it makes sense to at the very least give folks props for their achievements, but I’m behaving like a spoiled child at all this success. I’m utterly lost as to what it is a CEO even does, let alone begin to imagine what it’s like to live with so much money that you simply don’t have to worry about basic needs. We seem to inhabit far different worlds, these influential folks and me.

I recognize the self pity aspect of my reaction. And I don’t let myself completely off the hook. But still, I do allow myself a night of feeling small. Last night the feeling was keen and fresh, but as I’d thought might be the case, in the morning’s light I feel restored, more hopeful about my own intimate prospects, and a bit less insignificant. I am, after all, very important to the people in my family, and I have one young person dependent upon me to advocate for him, to love him. And cook him supper too. ! I see the tiny tooth marks of our resident chipmunk, Gwendolyn, on a freshly picked pear I’d left out overnight, and my heart softens. How tiny we are indeed, in this vast world… but our very homestead itself is a virtual universe, and each one of us has our role to play. I look out at the horizon, the mountains beyond. And it occurs to me that in spite of all the chaos and activity – and success – of my fellow humans, toiling about so madly on this globe – that no matter where on Earth you visit, it is always possible to find the sky. To look out over a yard, or treetops, or even a city, and see the infinite, right there… And you, as its witness, seem to be the only person in it. It seems to exist all for you alone. And truly, it might be correct to assume it does. And that you are the only one. In our world of duality, we are alone, and we are one, all at the same time. We can share in the joy of each others accomplishments (oh, how linked and dependent upon each other we are! Going it on our own would be more dire than the harshest episode of Survivor, I can assure you!) yet we can approach the world as if it were our own, private classroom of potential, and choose to feel that all its resources can be ours if we do things just so….

Well. At least I know this stuff. Living by it, that’s another thing entirely. I don’t always walk my talk for sure. But I get it, and at least that helps me in the wake of my witness to all that off-the-charts (or on-the-charts, I should say) achievement. Yeeps. I’m still a little overwhelmed with the scope of this world. It still makes me nervous, it still challenges my sense of self-worth and meaning. But I acknowledge it, try to improve my outlook just the teensiest bit, and then I try to proceed into my day in as much joy as I can. Because I know, regardless of the numbers in my bank account, that I am an important person in the world. I’ve got my thing, and I’m doing it. I know that I am very influential in my tiny family of two. And to my tiny friend Gwendolyn, I’m very big indeed.

 

Abundance Invisible May 3, 2013

I suppose one might say Elihu and I are as poor as church mice. On a purely practical level I guess we are. But lately – or more specifically, yesterday – with the sudden and dramatic influx of readers here, I am made aware of the subtle and often unseen nature of abundance. Nothing feels much different today, as I sit in the chair in my bedroom, bed still unmade, morning dishes still unwashed, writing on my ancient little Mac. But of course, things are different. Had no idea how the freshly pressed thing worked, how on earth anyone’s blog got mentioned on it (if it had to do with pure stats alone I was never going to see myself featured) but overnight I’ve become rather acutely aware of what it is and how it serves. Once again, my life is full full full, albeit in ways that aren’t always apparent in everyday life. I feel so much less alone this morning – Elihu too (he couldn’t stop giggling to learn about our sudden spike in readers) and I feel less like a woman muttering to herself, and more like a person with an offering to make. And that’s certainly got value; we as humans all know what it is to feel unimportant or unseen. It feels good to know that we’ve got new friends, and that we might be offering a little joy here on this sometimes incredibly difficult and tedious planet. But that’s enough on that, I don’t want to start taking myself too seriously. ! The challenge now becomes to continue to do what I’ve been doing for the past two years without censorship; without letting my voice or content be influenced by anything other than what’s going on right here and now. With that said, on to more thoughts on abundance…

The other day, after coming home from the grocery store and laying out all of our goods on the table, I sat back in awe as I tried to fully understand the bounty. “Abbondanza!” I said, over and over again, as much for myself as for making the point to my son that what we saw before us what truly a manifestation of abundance and good fortune. “Imagine one hundred years ago” Elihu mused, “this would be impossible – to them this would be unbelievable!” Yeah, my kid gets it. And how happy I am to have a kid that does. It is pretty spectacular, this bonanza before us, although we’ve become virtually desensitized to such things in our modern, Western world. (If you’re reading this it probably goes without saying you’re likely a member of this privileged club.) Products from all over the world sit on our tiny kitchen table. The lettuce we think virtually nothing of comes from California, some three thousand miles away. Our grapes come from another hemisphere even! I pause to try and imagine the labor involved… it’s not possible. From growers to pickers to drivers of machinery to the designers of said machinery to the folks who unboxed it and placed it on the shelves here in our town… it boggles the mind. It’s why we say grace, why our prayers of thanks in this household are not so much to a creator God as they are offerings of thanks to all our fellow human beings who have toiled – probably without thanks or appreciation for their toil – in order to make our lifestyle possible.

While I may never see the day when I get fully caught up on my electric bill, nor know an era in which I make it through a winter without running out of heating oil, by the grace of some amazing power I have never known what it is go hungry (I suppose if I did pay those other bills I might know it!). I don’t take that lightly. Sometimes, when I claim the income from a new piano student on the Food Stamps re-certification form and they reduce our monthly assistance to little more than $100 a month, sometimes when I find myself enraged that I must choose either food or heat – I have to make an effort to stop myself, and to remember that things aren’t so bad as they might appear on paper. I have to take a breath and step back. Self pity is a demon to fight, and sometimes it’s a challenge to shake myself out of its seduction. A quick look around, a short inventory of the things I do have, and I can quiet the upset… Yes, things are tight, but what do I have? I have a gorgeous baby grand piano in my home – I have a harpsichord too! I live on a stunning piece of property, my son miraculously goes to the most nurturing, supportive school and is joyful every day of his life, my parents are both still alive and live just next door. And let’s not forget, I’m down two dress sizes now, too. ! Things really aren’t so bad. Ok, so I might not make a solid living teaching and playing piano, and I may never get fully caught up on our bills, but our overall quality of life is rather good all things considered, and my son is a very happy and thriving child. Really now, what could be ultimately more important than those two things?

Honestly, we’re able to survive because of my mother. When we run out of cash on hand, when our larder is empty, when I haven’t the gas to drive into town, she always gives us a little something to help us get by. (She quit her job recently, so that sort of help might not be so easy for her going forward. One more thing that lingers in the back of my mind as I assess our future.) Lately, she’s been keen on helping us with some infrastructure fixes. Like replacing the porch roof or insulating the attic. These things will make a huge difference in the liveability of the place, and they’re projects I could never ever take on myself. Yet they are unseen. The new porch is not an upgrade, it’s the same porch. Only now it has a ceiling that doesn’t leak. The attic will just hold in the heat a bit better (which ought to put an end to the oil running out too soon! A major plus.) Nothing in these improvements shows to the eye – but they’re things that must be done at some point. Guess mom wants to know it’s been taken care of before she’s ‘gone’. (Too blunt? Mech, it’s getting that way these days. !) They’re important projects, but as there’s no appearance of an upgrade it doesn’t look like anything’s been done. Although our house is still a tiny little ranch with thin windows and ancient fixtures, at least the roof doesn’t leak, and next winter we’ll be toasty. Abundance here too.

I also am a believer of a sort of ‘like with like’ phenomenon that seems to occur in life. Some folks really live by this law of attraction, and while it does resonate with me, I am still hard-pressed to live by its rules as the true LOA followers endeavor to do. I just haven’t mustered the discipline to shush the constant poverty chatter in my brain. I sometimes wonder if it’s why I can’t seem to just get up and over this hump… then my reality meter kicks in and I consider the idea that folks just plain don’t need piano teachers like they do plumbers or insurance salesmen. I guess. Yet still I can’t help but wonder, if I threw caution and known reality out the window and simply envisioned a truly abundant life – as in thought about it day in and day out, lived as if it already was so, what might happen? I try to imagine not only becoming caught up on my electric bill, but not even concerned about future such bills. I have heard it said that possibilities are limited only by our beliefs. Again, sounds good. Sounds like we might have some control over our lives, it gives one hope. Yet I struggle to integrate it into my life. Am I settling? Am I convincing myself that what I have is good enough? Sometimes I’m fairly sure that I’m settling. That I haven’t invested enough energy into imagining things as I’d like them to be. It seems I might be holding myself back with the ‘poor-me’, ‘if only’ talk. But then other times I have a truly perfect day, and I think I’m way ahead and none of that stuff matters at all…

Today was such a day. A full-on sunshiney Spring day in the one of the most beautiful city parks I know, the whole Waldorf school in attendance at their annual May day celebration in which the fourth grade (of which Elihu is a part) experiences a rite of passage and dances around the May pole weaving intricate patterns with the ribbons in the style of schoolchildren from a bygone era. We were able to get grandma and grandpa out in the fresh air too. Such good fortune; it was an important day for Elihu and they were there to share in it. After the festivities Elihu and I remained in the park where he chased ducks (as he always does) and he caught two right off the bat – with no bait, just his swiftness and cunning! We stayed there for hours, and after a bit took a walk up to Broadway, where we visited a very high-end chocolate shop. After a rare treat there, we returned to the car by way of the local hippie shop. We passed nearly an hour there admiring rocks and crystals and chatting with the dredlocked girls who worked there. We made some egg deliveries, then returned to the park. We realized that we hadn’t eaten in hours, and so as a final chapter in our grand day, we decided we’d eat out. Had the best chicken in the world at Hattie’s, grooved to some classic R&B as we ate, then made our way home (organ trio for the ride back.) When we got to the train tracks the gates were going down – and wouldn’t ya know, it was our good friend Mike at the wheel! We honked, and he leaned way out the window, smiling and waving. (He really did look like something from a children’s storybook, his elbow out the window, that striped engineer’s cap on his head.) That was a hoot. We rode home with the sun and warm wind streaming through the open windows, and we were happy.

We got home and Elihu, although he’d said he was getting tired, found a burst of energy and took off running after the birds. So far, a good chase hasn’t lost its appeal. Good thing. It buys me a minute to sit and catch up on my thoughts. As I begin to wrap up the post, he calls me. He wants me to watch him climb the apple tree. So I join him. We pick violets which we’re happy to discover now carpet our lawn. We inspect the garden and find some perennials returning. Things feel so good. Simple, but so very good. We’ve even got leftovers for another fine dinner tomorrow, too. Seriously, what else do we need? Our lives are full and we are happy.

So for now I’ll settle for the idea that when we’re happy and grateful, even more things that make us happy and grateful will find their way to us. We’ll walk that fine line, falling off every now and then, throwing little temper tantrums and feeling sorry when things aren’t as we think they should be, but then we’ll shake it off. We’ll get up, look around us, take another inventory of our lives and begin again. The evidence of an abundant life might not always appear as we think it should, but we have everything we need to live. Some times not as much as we’d like of one thing, sometimes a true abundance of another, yet always just enough.

 

Senza Sonno May 2, 2013

It’s back. Only now I can’t even get to sleep much less stay asleep. The recent loss of my father’s voice on my answering machine is a low-fi backdrop to a constant stream of worries that plays relentlessly through my head… And each night it seems we get to bed later and later… Phone calls, unexpected visits from friends, desperate final games on the DS before bedtime, more dishes to wash than it seems we could have possibly used just to make dinner for the two of us… various things thwart our plans to retire at a sensible hour. And the later the hour, the more stressed we both are about hurrying up and falling asleep. It took Elihu close to an hour before I heard his breathing shift. He tossed and turned until past 10… Me, I napped for an hour but am back up again, wide awake and awaiting the effects of one of my few precious remaining sleeping pills. I try to go without any pharmaceutical assistance – I really do, but it seems no matter how much I may yawn during the day and yearn for my bed, I cannot depart this waking consciousness on my own… I awake tired each morning after just an hour or two of true sleep. And as I embark on a long, full day, I look forward to little landmarks to keep me going, culminating in that glorious relief my bed will bring…. yet it when I finally get there…. there aint no relief waiting for me.

I’ve shared my love of sleep before. I no longer find shame or embarrassment in my need for a good eight or nine hours of the blessed stuff. I’ve come to believe my body needs it. I feel refreshed and ready when I’ve had a good long night’s sleep. I can go a day or two on scant nighttime naps, but by day three I’m not happy. And tomorrow morning will be such a day. I’d fix it if I could, I’d call a doc friend and ask as humbly as I could for some help, only even if she does help me out, I still can’t afford the full-on, mainstream price tag of the sleeping pills without benefit of insurance. Why do I even mention this? I came to learn recently that my Medicaid has lapsed. Not good. Not even sure how it happened. I’m usually on top of that stuff… (Makes me wonder if they’ll cover my colonoscopy from a while back. Ich. One more thing to stew over while I’m busy not sleeping.)

Not much to do now, think the little pill is fuzzing me down now. That’s better. Maybe now I can drift away. Only four hours left… Here comes the game of the sleepless night; the constant readjusting of one’s justifications – I can do it on three hours if I have to… it’ll be ok… it’s just one more day… how hard could it be?… ok, I’ve got just over two hours. That’s better than nothing, right?

Yes, I’m getting the heavy lids. Thank God! Shoulda just done this hours ago. Better late than never. Better ‘con‘ than ‘senza’. !

 

Of Mice and Money June 22, 2011

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Divorce Diary,Mommy Mind — wingmother @ 2:23 pm
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How much to guard? How much to reveal? This very public forum has me second guessing things I’d probably once have written about without pause. Well, I have some new plans which feel pretty good, and as I’ve no support whatsoever from my husband nor his family, I’m going ahead with it. I’m filing for bankruptcy.

I’ve learned that the legal firms who now handle my debts can attach the money in my checking account. Once they’ve done their legal thing and followed the proper procedure, they are entitled to make the next step towards recovering the debt. Not that I wouldn’t pay the debt if I had an income, or the means, but I simply don’t. And I need the little I have to keep the electric on. So here we go…

I’m surprised at how matter-of-fact this all feels. I feel slightly detached, as if I were gliding through a dream. What the hell is real anyhow? I’m not doing so well economically for the time being, true, but I live comfortably, and surrounded by beauty. So am I truly poor? (Often, when I remark to Elihu that we’re lucky in many ways, citing our ownership of the land on which we live as proof – make that my parent’s ownership of the land on which we live – my son will correct me. He reminds me that people do not own land. We agree to leave each other to enjoy our own little pieces of it in our own ways, but, he reiterates, we do not own the land. Ok. He’s right, I know, but still it buoys the spirit to think we have ownership of something.) My ego-driven self really wants to know I still have something to show for myself here, yet in the end I do know that nothing is truly ours, and despite our best efforts everything will change form and cease being what it once was. I offer my beloved Aerosoles mid-heel slip-ons, frayed at the edges by gnawing mice as example. Looks like Jesus was right. All our stuff is going the way of rust, mice and moths at some point. So perhaps wealth – or at least the perception of  having stuff – is rather a shifting mirage.

So here I go. I’m starting over. I can only buy things that I have cash in hand for. Thankfully, that’s not really a new challenge; I’ve been living like that for nearly three years now. My needs are fairly modest, and I’m good at being frugal. Who knew? This is a reality I would never have dreamed of three years ago this time. I admit I get to feeling sorry for myself when I pass the patrons seated on the sidewalks in front of the wonderful Saratoga restaurants – I covet their elegant-looking salads and thin-stemmed wine glasses, but hey, I’ve been there, done that.

Not to worry, I’ll taste the arugula again.

 

Switching Channels June 17, 2011

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Divorce Diary — wingmother @ 9:11 am
Tags: , , ,

An uncomfortable volley of emails. Angry action taken on both sides. I am tired. He is tired. We can find no agreement. How is it possible? How on earth did I get here?

I have refused to sign and return our joint tax papers until I can be assured the $8K refund will go to my son and me, as my husband offered. Now he says he must use the money for property taxes, else the property will go into foreclosure. I can’t be much worse off than I currently am, so I refuse. I can see no other card, save the precious child card. Til now I’ve adamantly refused to take that path. My son loves his father, and he needs him. I cannot remove his dad from his life. Barely out of bed, today I am fairly exhausted.

We’ve all seen those inspiring, tear-inducing spots on you tube of down-trodden people who’ve risen up against huge challenges to become shining examples of possibility. Against the backdrop of the world’s population my circumstances do not look bad. And truly, thanks to the welfare system of this country, I am not hungry. Yes, I have been without food and heat, but never to the point of abject poverty. I drive a CRV (can’t afford tires or routine service, but it’s paid for nontheless, and it serves me well). I live in a house. I have a computer and internet access. I have all four limbs and my health. And usually, a sense of humor. Today I am trying to measure the quality of my life against the bulk of the people with whom I share this planet, in order that I might take a breath and step back for a moment.

Today, I will put aside the divorce drama and instead focus fully on The Studio. The community arts center which lives primarily in my dreams at present. I must give less energy to the dark concerns that tug at me daily, hourly. Somehow I must keep the hopeful vision of The Studio alive and fully animated in my thoughts. I must imagine the sounds of happy children’s laughs ringing out within the Studio walls, I must imagine the gorgeous sounds of Baroque music which will fill the concert hall this July. I must keep these images lively and dancing in my awareness at all times. How in hell I’ll glean an income from an arts center, I have no idea. I’m a musician, not an administrator. But today, I will trust. I will just trust, that where my attention goes, my energy flows and results will manifest. I admit, I spend most of my energy dwelling on the hopelessness of my situation, and I see only more of the same.

Today I will change the channels. I will participate in my future vision instead of the current reality. I’ll see if the world looks any different tomorrow.  (My attorney seems to have no problem with letting 24 hours pass without attention to this case – maybe it’s time I tried it too!) Pass me the remote…

 

Pick Yourself Up June 8, 2011

Well thanks. I read your comments with tears, embarrassment, gratitude, relief. To know friends are out there really does help to keep me going. Immediately after I’d published my post I was filled with regret and shame, filled with the imagined comments of people who would justly scold me for being so full of self-pity today. Everybody has laundry. Every mom has a messy house. And chickens? I’ve lost chickens before, it’s nothing new, plus it’s to be expected in the country. Money problems? I’m able-bodied, I should just suck it up, get a day job and pack my kid off to a babysitter, right? Isn’t that what most people do? Who cares if I net two dollars an hour, at least it shows I’m trying, right?

Sometimes it must look as if I’m not really doing much about my situation. Some kind of action is called for, why have I not taken any? Why not? Now is when my mind quiets. I know why I live as I do. I know, and this is why: at the end of the day I would rather be poor and enjoy life with my son than well-off and seldom home. Although this notion doesn’t fly in a court of law – and in fact actually works against me – I can’t care about that. And because I have this ability and freedom in my life I should just cease my complaining and remember what I do have. I have the ability to do many things, and to do those things mostly when I’d like.

Today was not necessarily a bright day, but it was an important one.

I learned that my folks don’t have many great options in their future. In the beginning stages of his Alzheimer’s, dad neglected to renew his long-term care insurance and so now that’s not an option for them any more, in spite of them having once had it in place and having paid for it for a while. A real disappointment and waste. Wish my mom had taken action when she realized this, but hell, I know that the feeling of defeat kinda zaps you of the resolve to fight. She might have had a chance of appealing this when it happened, some seven years ago, but not today. Looks like the Tiffany lamp which hung in my dad’s childhood home might have to go to pay for the Jamaican lady who’ll have to come out to the house to look after him in his aged years. (Maybe not, as this may become my own full-time job one day.) If they title the house and other stuff over to me, then I won’t have the lifeline of welfare that currently keeps us fed, because on paper I’ll show to have financial means. And as I understand, if they put their few assets into a trust, the NY state laws may well end up allowing Medicare to attach it all anyway a couple years down the line, in order to pay back the system for any medical bills it’s covered thus far. (Apparently the new laws which we’ve yet to learn are being written as we speak.) How is that a trust? I thought trusts were supposed to protect against that kind of stuff. ?? Ok. Great prospects.

Is it all really so bleak? I look out on the landscape of the people around me and wonder, are they doing well or not? Do they understand their own financial futures or are they a big guessing game? How many know the rules – and how many don’t know and don’t care? My father’s mother burned through a couple million dollars – thirty years ago – languishing in a nursing home for a decade. At that point in her life she remembered no one. All the money her husband had carefully invested and set aside during all of their lives served no other person or purpose but to pay for her bed and meals as she lay there, just waiting for her death. God save us from that fate.

Leaving the elder lawyer’s office, I didn’t feel any better, in fact I felt worse, although I said something like ‘at least it feels good to know’ to my mom. Yeah, right. Thought there would have been more options. Well, we’ll do our homework, set up another appointment and hope that the future brightens up a bit by then.

Turns out I have a $15 credit with the garbage collector. That was good news. I enjoyed a nice exchange with the gal on the other end of the phone and we both laughed about it. Ok. I’ll take that. Pleasant chat, good news. Moving down my to-do list. I learned it will cost and additional $400 should Elihu and I choose to use our airplane tickets to Chicago before they expire in August; there is a myriad of fees atop the ticket price, making it likely I’ll bail and lose my initial purchase price of $600 altogether. (They’d been bought one year ago when it looked likely that Fareed and I had reached an agreement on our settlement. I was coming out for the court date. Turned out he wasn’t in agreement, and there was no need for my being present for yet another pointless court date.)

Sick feeling, gotta move on here. Decided to be proactive and called one of the three legal firms which continues to send me scary letters each month regarding payment of my marital credit card balances. Nothing interests them except money. Calling to say hi doesn’t do a thing. If I wasn’t sure before, I am now. They may take legal action, I hear them say. They may put a lien against the house in Dekalb. Go ahead, I have nothing to lose. Really. Bad feeling in stomach, but at least I tried.

Sometime during my disheartening day of grown-up nonsense, I ended up canceling the appointment with Elihu’s mobility gal that we’d had planned for after school, because I thought it would just be too much in addition to the news I’d yet to give him. Thankfully she agreed. So I picked him up after school, took him out to get a snack at the local store (something I seldom do) and then finally drove him home, dreading the scene to follow.

I’d stalled as much as I could, finally I sat him down at the kitchen table for our talk. ‘I have something serious to tell you’ I said. I tried to prepare him for the moment. ‘What?’ he asked. ‘It really is serious, I just want you to know. It’ll all be ok, but it’s kind of sad.’ His eyes were fixed on me and the moment seemed to linger, timeless. ‘We lost all our chicks today’. He paused, never taking his eyes from mine. ‘All of them?’ I nodded. I wanted to say as little as possible, to let him express all he needed to. I was ready just to be there for him. I watched his face. Nothing. No scrunching up and crying, no laughing with discomfort, no anger, nothing. I told him that I’d cried all morning, and that if he wanted to cry of course he should. Once again, he was stoic. ‘I want to see’ he said, very seriously. ‘Yes, I wanted you to. I didn’t move them at all. I just waited for you to come home’. We walked out to the garage. He moved among the small bodies, picking each one up very matter-of-factly, examining them, noting how much was left, speculating how they must have died. At each one, he’d say their name and say that he’d miss them. Then he tossed them into a bin. He came to Pickles, the pretty, all white one named by a friend, and his voice sounded sad. ‘Oh, Pickles, I’m sorry’. He asked me to take a picture of her for the girl who’d named the chick. We set her aside. Finally, he came to Josephina, the black barred rock hen who’d been born on his birthday. ‘Jo-se-phee-na, oh Josehpina’ he lamented. But he did not cry. We set her aside too. We decided the rest would get tossed for the crows (and coons too, probably) and we’d bury Pickles and Josephina.

All in all, I think he did very well. Sometimes I wonder at how easily he takes this news; his father would likely say Elihu’s becoming acclimated, somehow desensitized to the deaths of his ‘pets’, but I would not agree. He acknowledged them, thanked them and then sent them on their way into the universe. After we wiped the dirt from our hands Elihu mused quietly ‘that’s life on a farm, I guess’. He wasn’t broken-hearted, but neither was he jumping with joy. It was what it was. A moment of stock-taking, of  pause, before moving on once again.

Elihu lost a tooth today. And while watching the Monty Python ‘Piranha Brothers’ sketch on you tube. ! A happy moment. And tonite, as I fished around under his pillow for the tooth and slid in the bill (yes, a bill, and having foolishly set the precedent at the market value of $5, that’s again what the tooth fairy left) I considered how lucky I was to know this moment. How lucky I was that I would have this to remember one day.

Hookay. Got it out of my system now. Time to pick myself up, dust myself off, start all over again.