My apologies, gentle readers, for the depths of my self pity in this post. Earlier this week I texted my colleague Hannah that I would be delayed at work because I had to take my husband to the Man Plumber and she should not expect me to arrive before 1pm.
The hummingbird bully sat atop the feeder and surveyed her kingdom, which now included the busy pit of activity on the corner of Hope and 9th St., where rebar pillars are lifted and dropped into the site like some sort of urban metallic lanyards, constructed elsewhere and dropped onto the kitchen table by returning campers. Where are these lanyards made that are so ubiquitous in our 1 block radius? Today there is another construction crane being constructed at the west end of our block, with a new concrete pour no doubt moments away.
Saturday I retreated to the nail salon where my 4-week-old pedicure was clamoring for attention. The yoga inversions had become embarrassing; so many people so close around me, my chipped toenails swinging to the view of my partners to the left and right. So off I went to my nail salon, Nails on 9th, where Kim ministered to my fingers and Fay to my toes. While there, I read the book that the President C.L. Max Nikias had assigned to all incoming USC freshmen to read, Notes from the Café by R.F. Georgy. A fictional rant by an old man in the café about philosophy and technology, science and God, I thought it was a good choice for him to have assigned. It asks the reader to question our zombie state in the “crystal palace” prison of our own technology, and to examine what we have lost. When I returned home, I tried to tell my husband about it after bringing our lunch out to the patio; I noted the dull look of disinterest in his eye. He politely waited and then asked me if I would mind bringing him an Ensure.
“Of course,” I said, rising from my seat on the porch and going into the kitchen. I found myself talking to myself there.
…not listening to a word I was saying. I’m just here to fetch and carry.
Unkind new never before spoken words, and yet they poured easily from my sullen lips into the silent kitchen. I’m not one to talk to myself, and granted, I had arrived with the lunch just as he had worked up his attention to writing the acknowledgements for his book assigned by me on my breezy way out, but nevertheless, in the moment, I felt invisible.
In fairness, he has been dealing with a lot in the last three weeks. We’ve been visiting the Man Plumber once a week – too bad he doesn’t make house calls- and also dealing with the thing most dreaded by men over 60, the self-cath. The idea that after living your life as a good and productive person destiny could bring you to this daily or thrice-daily ritual of drainage is depressing, distracting, disorderly and disgusting. The introduction of the practice induced an instantaneous UTI, landing Jimmie in the ER last Saturday, while all other self-respecting Trojans were at the Coliseum. Made for the quickest ER visit ever, however.
I asked Jimmie the other day if he was reading something good, and he looked at me and said it was really too hard to concentrate these days. Friday’s trip to the Man Plumber was invasive – a procedure conducted with merciful speed but painful consequences for my husband. I squirmed in my chair until it was over.
I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again – getting old is no fun. But what is really no fun is seeing the change in him and the change in our relationship as he becomes more reliant on my care and compassion. Don’t get me wrong – I remain steadfastly devoted to him and dedicated to his needs. But these are challenging circumstances. I know the days ahead are sure to be tough. I have faith that we will manage to get through them, he and I, lovingly, as we have every other phase of our lives together.
I hope that the distance that seems to be developing, for example, me typing on my computer on the couch, he sitting under the bully bird’s perch silently gazing at the city’s changing skyline will lessen. Sunday evening, I took the two tickets to A View From The Bridge which our friend Mariclare Costello had offered, and took my friend Tina to the Ahmanson Theatre instead, leaving Jimmie at home. Later when I returned, guiltily sated with the theatrical excitement of seeing a powerful production, I asked him if he was okay with my having gone to the show without him.
“I’m the one who feels guilty,” he said. Neither of us feels good these days.
I have measured out my life in coffee spoons
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot
We are measuring out so many things these days; on one small spiral pad in the bathroom near the scale, we measure out our battles with weight, he to gain, I to lose. In the morning we track his sugar, entering the record diligently in the Iphone that he does not use. And now, three times a day we measure ccs for the Man Plumber.
This morning my return home from the gym was particularly ill-timed, so that I stood, sweating and red-faced, girded in a bath towel, outside the closed door as I waited to hear the welcome sound of flow that indicated success. Today we go again to the Man Plumber, numbers in hand, as we await the decision of the next steps.
The options are not A=Desirable Outcome, B= More Desirable Outcome. They are bleak, neither desired, one inevitable. We both dread our trips to the valley to the Man Plumber now.
And tomorrow he has a tooth extraction. There is really nothing very much to look forward to these days, other than the occasional ice cream, causing a spike in the measured numbers, or a bag of potato chips, which we hungrily share, staving off the inevitable decline. And the book which we are feverishly working to complete; the book that binds our creative interest, the party which I will begin to plan once we have submitted the photos and text to Create Space. And how should we presume? We must presume. It is the measurement of our lives and love.
|And indeed there will be time|
|To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”|
|Time to turn back and descend the stair,|
|With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—||40|
|(They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”)|
|My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,|
|My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—|
|(They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”)|
|Do I dare||45|
|Disturb the universe?|
|In a minute there is time|
|For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.|
|For I have known them all already, known them all:|
|Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,||50|
|I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;|
|I know the voices dying with a dying fall|
|Beneath the music from a farther room.|
|So how should I presume?|
|And I have known the eyes already, known them all—||55|
|The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,|
|And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,|
|When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,|
|Then how should I begin|
|To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?||60|
|And how should I presume?|
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T.S. Eliot
Moving, precise and loving. I feel that I am sharing something privileged.
Thanks so much, Suzanne! It was so lovely to celebrate your birthday with you and your fascinating friends the other night!
My dear. I know. Sending you both love and empathy.
Thanks, Mary. And back to you and Phil! ❤️