Friday, June 25, 2010

Beset by Paparazzi on Michigan Avenue

The lucid dreaming project is underway again—the hiatus didn’t end up lasting long—albeit with no lucid dreams in a couple of months, the longest dry spell since this project began last July 29. That’s OK. I’m having and quite enjoying (non-lucid) dreams full of remarkable visions and enchanting spectacles—lots of bright colors and shiny things and people flying in the air (not me, yet) and artistic endeavors.

In late May, Tom and I took a trip to Sacramento for a birthday party and to see Ann and Mac, and by the time we were back in San Francisco via the train, we were both sick. I ended up being ill for two weeks, using up the rest of my unscheduled days off work for the year, and having to postpone my trip to Michigan, thus missing my own birthday dinner! I was really sick, too. By the end, I was starting to have problems breathing. It was kind of frightening.

My dear friend of 41 years, Amy, had offered to make me dinner AND bake me a birthday cake, which I was really looking forward to, but it didn’t work out on the rescheduled trip, because she was going out of town mid-week, but we got to have lunch at Seva in Ann Arbor, and my Uncle Rick and I had lunch at Haab’s in Ypsilanti, and Sally and I took a walk on a gorgeous afternoon, and my sister came over a couple of times, and my parents and I had a very nice visit.

We watched many DVDs, and my mother made her wonderful bread and a delectable deep-dish pizza, and my father cooked us several excellent dinners. My father has been trying to perfect a lasagna recipe, which my mother said is very lucky for her, because it means she has lasagna for dinner at least once a week. My father trimmed the long hedge in front of the house one warm afternoon, and I served as clean-up crew, wielding the rake and broom. (“Medic! I have a blister.”)

I finally tried the video feature on my little camera and was very impressed with the results. These little movies look great played on the Mac, and there’s sound. My father and I went looking one day for the former location of the bar his uncle owned in Ypsilanti once upon a time—we found it; of course, it’s hard to lose something for good in the diminutive town of Ypsi—and then I followed him into a fabulous, huge antiques store, Materials Unlimited, on Michigan Avenue.

Just inside the store, there are a lot of chandeliers, so the video becomes very bright and sparkly, and then abruptly ends, as that is the point at which my father told me to knock it off. My mother and I watched it several times together, and I commented that the end was my favorite part and my mother said, “Me, too!” I like it because a door opens into a magical new world and my mother likes it because of the moment of heightened drama.

(Of course, being my father, he didn’t say, “Knock it off!” He said, “Would you please cease to film?” or words to that effect. Later I asked if that was in deference to the proprietors of the store or because he was sick of being in a movie. He said, “Both.”)

What with one thing and another—being sick and going away—I hadn’t seen B. for several weeks, the person I started visiting as a hospice volunteer in November. Since then she has graduated from hospice not once but twice, meaning that she was no longer expected to die within six months. I was planning to visit her this weekend, and we had talked on the phone several times. At 93, she was also vowing to get the hang of email so she could send me a note.

One of her daughters called earlier this week and said B. had fallen and was in the hospital rather than the assisted care facility where she has been living. Last night, the same daughter called and said B. was in fact dying, so I took a cab over to say goodbye, fretting that I might never hear her voice again.

(No, she did not break her hip in the fall. She didn’t break anything. It is just the policy of her facility to send people to the emergency room in such cases, and in the ER, they gave her medication that conflicted with other medication she was taking, plus massive doses of anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives—it took three hours to knock her out enough to do a CAT scan, per an eyewitness.)

Indeed, when I walked into her room yesterday evening, B. looked vastly different and did appear to be at death’s very door. Her daughter was there, along with a friend. They kindly left me alone with B. for a while, and I rested my hand on her arm and told her she was not alone. A couple of times, she opened her eyes, but it was clear she wasn’t seeing anything, and then she began to thrash around, curling toward me and taking my hand.

Her daughter returned and said that was more than her mother had done all day, and soon thereafter, B. opened her eyes and said hello to her daughter. Her daughter, delighted, asked, “How are you, Mom?” and B. said casually, “Oh, fine.”

B.’s social worker arrived, followed by several other relatives and friends, and by then, B. was trying to sit up, had invited us to make ourselves at home, and had focused clearly on several people, including me, to whom she said, “You’re here!” We had one more moment alone later and I told her that wherever she is and wherever I am, we’ll always be friends, and she gripped my hand with surprising firmness and said, “Absolutely.”

If she is still alive tonight, I will visit again, but if not, thank goodness I got to see her and hear her voice and touch her one last time. On the other hand, I won’t be at all surprised if I’m sitting with her a week from now back at her assisted care facility, either, hearing her review of the hospital experience.
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