Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine

Last Saturday I met Charlie at La Boheme for tea and a nice chat, came home and vacuumed cobwebs off the living room wall for six minutes, and drove down to Sears at Tanforan to pick up my repaired sewing machine. Re the six minutes of vacuuming, I’ve finally realized that if I wait for an entire free day to clean the house or sew a pair of pants, it will never happen, so I’m trying to make good use of the tiny blocks of time. The drive to Tanforan seemed a bit harrowing. I think my fondness for driving on the freeway is diminishing.

On Sunday I cooked garbanzo beans and some white jasmine rice that had been languishing in the cupboard for months. I soaked the beans Saturday night, which I’ve been experimenting with lately, and it does reduce the cooking time, but it also makes the beans taste unpleasantly sweet. There is the quick soak method, where you bring the beans to a boil, turn off the heat, let them sit for an hour, and then finish cooking them, which I plan to try again, but I suspect that if they spent that hour cooking instead of resting, they’d be done at about the same time.

I will also try soaking them Sunday morning instead of Saturday night, and, finally, bringing them to a boil Sunday morning before I go to Rainbow and then turning off the heat and letting them sit until I’m back from the store. The garbanzos and white rice tasted almost like dessert even with a tablespoon of salt and three tablespoons of lemon olive oil added, and it may turn out that the only way to avoid that is not to do any kind of presoaking. Normally I add two tablespoons of olive oil to a pot of beans, but I was trying to diminish the sweetness.

On Monday, I had lunch at a Thai place downtown on Sacramento St. with two of my Indian women colleagues. They are lovely people, with lives full of wholesome activities. Very nice to be around, though it was hard to hear each other over the overwhelming racket in the restaurant.

This time last year, Carlos’s ultimately fatal medical travails had begun. The trees with the pink blossoms are in bloom now just as they were then. I remember noticing how beautiful they were and appreciating it, but also thinking how incongruous it seemed for all that beauty to be sprouting while the worst thing that had ever happened was unstoppably underway.

After Carlos died, my mental health professional, Deborah, observed, “It’s just going to be an effing hard year.” I thought, “A year? Surely not,” but that was pretty much right. I simply could not believe an entire person could have vanished so completely and I’d say grieving was acute, off and on, for ten and a half months, at which point I started to feel what seemed to be genuine acceptance, though now, of course, it’s all roiled up again as the anniversary of his death approaches.

I was faithfully keeping my journal during that time, plus posting frequently on the Caring Bridge website that Lisa C. set up for Carlos, which was a great idea and a big help. I also found a calendar form online and made a brief entry for each day, just a reminder, starting in January, ending on March 10.

February 9: “With T&D to Herbivore; with CR later at Santaneca. Strange evening.” There was confusion about who was going to eat where when and Carlos and I couldn’t agree, so I went with Tom and his girlfriend to Herbivore, arranging to visit Carlos afterward, but when I got to his house, he wasn’t there. I wondered if he’d ended up going to the restaurant I’d wanted to go to in the first place and sure enough, he was at Santaneca, but what seemed at the time weirdly upset, berating himself for doing it all wrong, nearly in tears. I remember telling him, “It’s OK. We’re together now.”

February 11: “Take CR to MNHC. SFGH ER at night.” That was the day I walked him down to make an appointment at Mission Neighborhood Health Center, and in the evening, Don, Charlie and I took him to the emergency room at S. F. General, in case he was having a series of strokes.

February 14, Valentine’s Day: “Dr. Alvarez at MNHC. CT scan. Dinner at my place.” That evening, I got a call saying there was an ill-formed “lesion” in Carlos’s head. I’m pretty sure they said in that call that it was ill-formed, because I went online and learned that benign brain tumors are typically smooth in appearance, while malignant ones are not, so from that evening, I correctly assumed he had a malignant brain tumor.

I printed out the calendar pages for February and March so that as these anniversaries roll around, I know what to feel bad about when. In some ways, it seems as if he died minutes ago: how did an entire year vanish? But in other ways, it seems long, long ago that he was here.
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