Monday, 30 November 2009

Nanowrimo Day 30 The finished contest, the unfinished ending

Day 30 ... I made it ... 50,406 words ...

I am going out for a walk and then I might do something to tidy up this ending a bit ... I'm tired and hungry right now:

November 30, 2009
Day 30 ... Last Day

It is Mark

It was soon time to file into the pews set aside for family, time for the service to begin.  Mary Jane came over to me and linked her arm through mine.  "Come sit with us," she said.

"Oh, I couldn't," I said quickly.  "I've only just met you.  I'd feel like an intruder."

Sarah came up and said, "I understand how you feel, but don't disappear on us after the service.  We are awfully glad we've found a long lost cousin."

"Mary Jane added, "It seems almost all of our family members end up being long gone and lost most of the time."

Sarah asked me, "Have you met Andrew yet?"

I shook my head.  "I'm sure I'll meet him soon enough."  I felt a bit like squirming.  I wasn't at all sure I wanted to meet Andrew.  He and Mark could have been brothers — twins even.

The service was one of those non denominational ones.  Joseph's daughter and son spoke of their father with pride and love. He had raised them almost single handed after his wife died.  His sisters both told stories demonstrating that he had been a bit of a devil as a boy and a good big brother.  Andrew didn't speak.  Too shy maybe. 

Mark would have spoken if it had been his brother.  He'd have written poetry that expressed his love for his older brother, poetry that dealt with the universality of love and death and loss ... philosophical and poetic.  Nothing sloppy.  Good poetry.  And Mark was comfortable speaking to large groups of people. 

I wished he were here beside me.  I needed to feel the reassurance of his very warm, totally alive body close to mine.  I'd been too much involved with the dead of late.  The dead and the dying.  The ghosts from my past seemed more real than the people in my life these days.  I had no time for friends because I was writing, no time for much other than eating, sleeping and getting a few minutes of fresh air every day.  And life kept on interfering with the deadline hanging over me.  I decided to leave early and get in touch later, after I'd completed this manuscript.  I'd leave right after the service, tell Mary Jane and Sarah I'd visit another time.

"Oh no you don't," said Eva quietly.  "You are not going to sneak out the back door."

"Why not?  I'm exhausted and I have another five hours of writing to get in before tomorrow."

"Because it would be rude and unkind.  Your cousins want to meet you."

"I've met them ... and we'll exchange cards and I will see them another time."

"Now," said Eva.

"God, it's bad enough that Grandpa thinks he can order me around ... but we're not even related!"

But it was clear that Eva was giving me no choice in the matter.

Why was I so reluctant to stay?  I had another full day to work on the book, and I knew I'd get it finished.  What was making me want to run away?

Andrew's face swam before me ... how could two unrelated men look so much alike?

"Dopplegangers?" It was Grandpa.  "Didn't think there'd be two great marshmallows, did you?"

"Mark is not a marshmallow. He's just a gentle man."

"I'm a gentleman too, but I have a backbone."

I stared at him.  "Do you think he's a coward?"

"Don't you?"

Did I?  Sometimes.  He couldn't do the tough things like end a bad marriage.  But maybe that was because he was too caring, not too cowardly.  He was too easy on one of his daughters.  Was that because he didn't like confrontations or was it because he really did feel she needed extra leeway because she felt like such a loser in her family of brilliant or competent people?

"Maybe he relates to her because he's such a loser himself."

"Oh come on Grandpa.  He's not a loser.  Look at what he's accomplished."

"Does a competent man take so goddamned long to get things done?  My god.  He spends most of his time avoiding what has to be done instead of just doing it."

"I know," I admitted sadly.  "He doesn't seem to cope very well, but he's bright and funny and kind."

"That sounds like my youngest," said Wilhemina. "Have you met him yet?  You'd like him, I know."

"Not yet," I said.

"Have you seen your mother?"  Grandpa asked Wilhemina.

"Is she here?"

"I can't imagine she'd miss a good party.  There is going to be something to drink later, isn't there?"

"She's over there," Eva said.  "In the smoky blue."

I looked over to where Eva was motioning.  Velvet was beautiful.  A halo of blonde hair framed a flawless face.  No wonder her progeny were all so good looking.

"She sure ages well, doesn't she?"  Grandpa was leering.  "Like good whiskey."

"She looks too nice for the likes of you ," I said. 

"She is," said Eva. 

"One of your death bed conversions?" asked Grandpa.

Eva turned suddenly serious. "Velvet came into the home a hard little stripper.  By the time she went into confinement she had grown up.  She was ready to be a good mother ... one who would have raised her daughter well."

"I wish I'd known her," said Wilhemina.  "My foster mother was a good woman and I never felt I had a bad life, but I wish I'd  had a chance to know Velvet."

She turned to Grandpa.  "I wish I'd known you better and longer too.  I wish I'd had a chance to thank you for making sure I was okay."

Grandpa was beginning to look uncomfortable.  He obviously preferred his rakish reputation to one that presented his other side. 

"So you were a bit of a marshmallow too, eh?"

Grandpa scowled at me.  "Nothing of the kind," he said, and walked across the room to Velvet.

"Did I hit a nerve?" I asked Eva.

"Not too many people knew just how kind Paul was"

"Go over and meet Andrew," Wilhemina said to me.

"Will you introduce me?"

"He doesn't always see me," she said.  "Sometimes he's so knotted up inside and living in his own head that he isn't able to see anyone else but himself."

"That doesn't sound very healthy," I said.

"No.  I worry about him.  I wish he were happier.  He's awfully hard on himself."

"He sounds like someone I know," I said.

"Imagine  -- two poor lost souls with every good intention --- and too stuck in their own form of quicksand to grab a helping hand and climb out of the pit."

Yes, I thought, how could there be two of them ... especially two that looked so much alike?

"I think you will like one another.  Come on over and I'll try to get his attention.  He loved Joseph a great deal ... it may be hard just now for him to come out of himself."

It took a long time to make our way across the crowded room.  Little knots of people blocked the route, but finally I was standing just behind Andrew.  He obviously didn't see his mother although she hovered close to him and reached a hand up to touch the back of his collar to straighten it.  He shivered but when he turned around it was me he saw, not Wilhemina.  Good lord, I thought.  I hope he didn't think I'd touched him. I'd never have touched a strange man in that intimate fashion, and certainly not at a funeral.

I wouldn't have touched Mark in that way here in public, especially where he was surrounded by family who likely still thought of him as married despite the fact that he lived alone now.

As soon as he spoke, I realized that Andrew was no stranger.

They say that voices are a more reliable identifier than fingerprints.  And voices tend to be genetically linked.  I've talked to people who are related and mistaken one for the other ... but perhaps that's not genetic but rather the fact that we imitate the voices of the people who raise us.

The stranger spoke my name.  Had Mary Jane and Sarah told him I was here?  Had Wilhemina gotten through to him?

I somehow doubted it.  His next words were, "What in hell are you doing here?"

"It's a long story.  Have you got a month or so?  That's how long it took me to sort it out."

Mark put an arm around me and guided me towards an unoccupied couch.  "Start talking," he said.

"Eva insisted that I come to this funeral.  And Wilhemina too.  If I'd known you would be here I wouldn't have come."

"Wilhemina?" asked Mark.  "How could you possibly know Wilhemina?"

"That's all part of the story," I said.  "Where's your wife?"

"Oh, she didn't come.  I didn't ask her."

"Why not?"

"Too far to travel.  Her job.  You know."

"Did she know Joseph and your sisters?"

Mark nodded, and said, "She didn't like my family much."

"I like Mary Jane and Sarah," I said.

Mark looked a little surprised.  "How do you know them?"

"I don't really.  I just met them today.  But they were friendly."

"Why would they be friendly to you?  They don't know you and you suddenly turn up at our brother's funeral."

Because I'm cute?"

He grinned.

And then we were joined by Sarah who was accompanied by Wilhemina.  "I see you've met," she said.  "I've had the weirdest feeling all afternoon.  As though Mom's here."

"Funerals do that to people," Mark said.  "We remember all the other people who've died."

"Well," I said.  "The people we cared about, anyway."

"Are you coming back to the house?" asked Sarah.

Mark looked at me before responding.  "I have a meeting this evening with one of the Board."

"Can't you tell him you are with family; that your brother died?"

"Yes," I said, "You could take one night off from work.  You could see him tomorrow or phone."

"Where are you staying?" asked Sarah.  "There's plenty of room at Mary Jane's." 

"For both of you," she added.

"I've got a room booked at the Holiday Inn on the Lakeshore Road," I said.  "But thank you."

Mark dithered a bit and finally came out with, "I've told Derek that I'll be staying with them tonight." .I hoped that Sarah would not realize he was lying.

"Who's Derek?" she asked.

"The Board member I have to meet tonight."

"Surely you'll at least come to the house for the reception," Sarah said.

"I'll hang around for a couple of hours, see everyone, and then head over to Derek's.  Will that be okay?"

She nodded.  "Do you need a lift?"

"I rented a car at the airport," he replied, and turned to me.  "Do you have a car here?"

"No," I said.  "Could you give me a lift?"

Mary Jane came up to us and said, "Sorry I didn't get to talk to you sooner.  Are you coming to the house?"

Sarah told her about the arrangements and we all headed toward the door together.

"What's this all about?" Mark said as soon as I slid in.  "Did you know I'd be here?"

"Don't worry," I said.  "I wasn't stalking you.  I was as surprised to see you as you were to see me."

H pulled over and held me for a moment. "I'm glad you're here."

"Why didn't you speak at the funeral?"

"Sometimes it's just too hard to find the right words.  Words that tell someone how much you love them."

"And sometimes you can't tell the world what you weren't able to tell your brother while he was alive?"

"Something like that," Mark said.

"Now tell me.  Why are you here if it wasn't to see me?"

"I'll tell you tonight at the hotel ... it'll be your bedtime story."

"I won't be at the hotel," said Mark.

"Yes you will," I laughed.

And then we were at his sister's  house, and we didn't have a chance to talk again.  I kept hearing people call him Andrew and wondered why he was my Mark and their Andrew.  Their brother, Andrew.  Their Uncle Andrew.

Wilhemina appeared and asked how I liked Andrew.  "He's very nice," I said.

"You should ask him about his work in Africa," she said.  "I'm sure you'd have a lot in common."

I murmured something agreeable and then she was off again, this time to sit with Grandpa and Velvet.  I went over to join them.

And then I felt a warm very human hand on my shoulder, "Do you need a lift to the hotel?" he asked.  He was carrying my coat.  The red suitcase was in the trunk of the rented car.

"I'll be with you in five minutes," I said.  "I want to say goodbye and I need to pee."

I had hardly sat down on the toilet when Eva appeared. 

"For god's sake Eva.  Can't I have even a modicum of privacy?"

"I needed to talk yo you before you got to the hotel."

"To tell me that Mark and Andrew are the same person?"

"That too," she said, "but I didn't want you to do anything stupid."

I thought about what I could possibly do that was any more stupid that falling for a married man who lived a continent away ... a married man who turned out to be my first cousin ... well ... my first half cousin.  Cripes.

"I need to tell him the story," I said.  "The story of the last month."

"Surely he knows the most important parts of it.  You do talk to him, don't you?"

"We don't talk about ghosts ... and I just found out that I am in love with my cousin; that I've committed incestuous acts, for god's sake."

"You didn't commit those acts for God's sake," Eva said without a smile.

"So you were trying to make sure I stopped committing a sin.  Is that it?" I asked.  "Is that why you made sure I came to this damned funeral?"

Eva looked at me in disbelief.  "Is that what you thought?" she cried.  "Have you any idea how many stories about illicit sex I have heard, how many girls I've helped?"

"Did you think you would have become pure for me to forgive you?  For me to understand?"

"We wouldn't be allowed to marry in your church," I said.

"You wouldn't be allowed to marry in a registry office if you revealed your connection, either," she said.  "But why would you?"

"There are good reasons that the law forbids cousins from marrying one another," I said.

"Were you planning to have children with Mark?" asked Eva.  "It's a little late for that kind of thing, don't you think?" 

I emitted a shout of laughter, the same kind of laughter I had shared with Pat and Claire a few days ago.  And then I saw the twinkle in Eva's eye.

"Don't be stupid enough to send Mark away," she said.  "He needs you.  You need each other."

"I don't need a man to make me happy," I said.

"No but you need to love someone who loves you.  You need his friendship and his warmth." 

"And he has a wife."

"Do you see her anywhere around when he needs her?"

"He likely told her she didn't need to come."

"Would you have accepted that?  Did you with Pat?"

"She doesn't love him as much as any of you think she does.  She loves security ... especially financial security."

"He thinks she wants the family to stay intact for the kids."

"The kids are adults, now," said Eva.  "Adults who can see as much of both their parents as they like."

Okay," I said.  "I've got to go.  Could you leave so I can finish up in here?"

Eva looked at me long and hard.  "Don't be a fool.  This is your last chance.  Life doesn't go on forever."

I stared at her and then said, "You'd never know it to look at you and Grandpa flirting away eternity."

Her giggles echoed in the glistening bathroom after she'd gone.

Nanowrimo Day 30 ... the missing bit from yesterday's post

Day 30  November 30, 2009

I dreamed all night ... and remembered the dreams ... that's rare for me ... but I didn't dream about Mark even though we talked on the phone at about 9 p.m.

I dreamed about George ... Big George ... the incompetent worker who messed up a great deal of my house ... for some ungodly reason I had hired him again ... and he was busy making my life hell by setting my radio on some awful rock station with the volume on high ... and then when I protested, he turned on the television to something equally inane and just as loud ... and I don't even own a tv.  And he had not become more competent in the past couple of years either.

Bill showed up in that dream too ...sharing my house ... and giving me his laundry to do ... and then I found myself in a laundromat with former colleagues who were all more competent than I was.  I escaped with the wet clothing by car with two men and a woman ... we were all leaning against one another ... sort of like kittens in the back seat of the car ... and all the wrong couple members were cuddling ...

I am sure there is some deep important message in all this but I haven't time to figure it out just now ... maybe in the second draft ... I still have about 4000 words to write today. And this novel is about as coherent as that dream sequence was  ...  sorry.

This morning I cuddled for a while with Kenya.  her coat is luxurious in the winter ... thick and smooth and smelling wonderfully clean.  And she is building it rather than discarding the ratty bits now so the house is a little cleaner. 

It snowed in the night.  I love the look of fresh snow against the dark grey of the lake and the black skeletons of wintery trees.

I will have to pay Leonard soon.  Tanya gave me her share of the plowing yesterday and I offered to look after Oberon (her cat) for a month while she goes to visit Jordan and Egypt with her sister.  Kenya will be delighted.  She likes cats that like dogs, and she has lived with Oberon before and likely will again this summer when Tanya goes to Scotland.  Tanya came back to the house with me and picked up all my literature on Jordan including a huge scrapbook type report I created after my sojourn there.

CBC (no, the dial had not been changed in the night) was re-broadcasting an Anna Maria Tremonte interview with David McGuinty, the Liberal environment critic.  I turned it off partway through.  I hate being reminded of the stupidity of the Conservative government under Stephen Harper ... and therefore of the stupidity of Canadians who keep on giving him another opportunity to make Canada look like a totally uncaring country. 

The other day an American very carefully added his voice to the criticism.  He didn't want to dump on us because he wasn't Canadian ... but he pointed out all the occasions when Canada has been a moral leader in world opinion.  He emphasized that the weight of our positive influence has always been much greater than the power that might have been expected from the size of our economy or population.  Then he said that, in light of our history, it was particularly surprising that Canada under this prime minister would be so recalcitrant  on the issue of the environment.

So then I moved to the computer.  In my Quarantine Box were a whole bunch of those weird little subjects ... the ones that are just words strung together without meaning.  Two stood out: "ago finished gotta" and "really truly finished".  So I decided to stop procrastinating and get back to writing those last 4000 words.  I feel a little like the male lead in You've Got Mail" as I flex my typing fingers and set to work.  Remember the scene in which she asks for business advice and tells her to go to the mattresses?

Okay enough procrastinating preamble ... on to the night and day before the train trip to Toronto.

Oh ... I've almost got it written ... She drives to the train station dropping her dog at Tammy's enroute.

And now here she is on the train.  Nothing much happens here.  She plays with her journal.  When she was traveling to and from Britain she discovered how to use water colour pencils and a brush with a tank of water while traveling.  She discovered that it worked better on a plane than on a train.

"Damn," I muttered as the water made a jagged gash over the page.  I had been trying tp map out a schedule and was using the water colour to separate the itinerary from the rest of the page where I hoped to add little drawings to illustrate this first meeting with my cousins.  "You'd think they'd repair these tracks.  After all this is a well-used route.  Train travel used to be pleasant."

I thought about the trip from Ulaan Baatar to Beijing.  That was a dream of a trip ... but except for the beauty of the landscape and the very few signs of human or animal habitation, there had not been much opportunity to draw anything very interesting.  No, it had been a trip that reminded me just how vast and empty Mongolia was, and one that gave me a new insight into how rough Chinese justice could be.  No friendly faces when these customs officers boarded the train after we switched over to the different track system.  It took hours to re-fit the wheels so that they would work on the Chinese gauge tracks. Both sets of tracks, however, were superior to these Canadian tracks.  It really shouldn't surprise anyone that Canada is dragging its heels on the energy stuff ... they allowed the less polluting train system that linked all Canadians to wither away over thirty years ago.

I slept for a while and ate a snack.  Then I  knit several rows on the LONG foot of Tyren's second sock, read a chapter of my book (Iced Under) ... and soon we reach Union Station.

It took a bit of work to find out how to get from downtown Toronto to Mimico, but it was less wearing than traveling under London ... and not nearly as crowded.  Canadians use their cars far more than do Londoners so passengers on public transit in Canada tend to be poorer generally ... immigrants ... students ... the old.  Everyone takes the tube in London so you are likely to travel standing up in the midst of people of all ages, classes and colours.  It helps to be older there, though, because the young are still inclined to offer you a seat, especially if you hang over them looking pained.  Canadian youngsters are better at ignoring you.  Or maybe it never even occurs to them.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Day 29 ... almost home

November 29, 2009
40,915 ... 0,085 to go ...

I've just finished snacking on leftover, somewhat dark, pancakes spread with jam and drinking tea while I read email and looked at the past few blog entries containing this silly novel.  Before that I moved some furniture around downstairs in an effort to fit too many things into too little space while still allowing me to watch my movies from a comfortable chair.  And before that I finished washing the dishes from last night's chicken dinner with Tammy, Carlos and Mandara. I made the orange scented sponge cake for dessert but it looked a little more like an orange scented cookie than a cake this time ... still it tasted good and worked almost as well with the whipped cream and mandarin orange slices as it had with cream and raspberries.  I also spent a few minutes trying to re-use a dish detergent bottle before discovering that its top was melded not screwed.

Maybe that's the difference between a good relationship and a bad one.

Except that the best bottles have caps that screw on (and off), and the worst cannot be re-used because they are so tightly glued together ... and the opposite is true of marriages.

Well, not exactly ... at least not for me ... the best relationship for me is neither of those ... it's one in which I am not joined at the hip or any other way but linked in all ways .. head, heart and the nether regions as Grandpa would say.

"I'd never say that," scoffed Grandpa.  "I always called a spade a spade.  Give me a woman with a sweet pussy and a nice tush any time."

I laughed out loud.

"What are you doing here?  I thought I'd seen the last of you once you knew the story of the chain."

"I thought I'd go with you to my grandson's funeral."

"Did you know him?"

"No, but neither did you."

"I'm hoping to meet my cousins.  It would be nice to have some family even this late."

"I'm hoping to catch a glimpse of Velvet ... and they always serve good whiskey at these things, especially the ones that are held in funeral homes, not churches."  He smiled and then continued, "Although I must say the booze flowed pretty freely at some of the Catholic wakes I've been to."

"What do you miss most about life, Grandpa?"  I asked. 

"The women," he said.  "The women.  The scent of their perfume, the smoothness of their skin, the softness of their bodies. I always had a marvelous sense of peace with a woman.  It was like sinking into a feather bed."

"I get that feeling every night," I laughed.  "As soon as I snuggle in under my duvet and stretch out my muscles."

"You need to get out more," growled Grandpa.  "You've become a cold cold woman in your old age.  You didn't use to be."

"She needs to give Mark a chance," said Eva.

"That great marshmallow of a man?" snorted Grandpa.

"Don't listen to him," Eva said to me, and then directed a question to Grandpa.  "I thought you'd given up on funerals.  What's changed your mind?"

"Thought she ..." He jerked a thumb in my general direction, "...might need some help finding her cousins."

"Bull roar, old man. You smelled Crowne Royal."

"Well, I also wanted to see you, old woman," grinned Grandpa.  And he gave Eva an amorphous hug, one that revealed just how much he still cared about her.  It was a little like watching the smoke from two wood fires weave together in the air.

"So ... do ghosts get it on in heaven?"  I asked innocently.  "Or do marriage vows still count if you're dead?"

"Don't be fresh," said Eva. 

"There are other ways to connect once you've lost your parts," said Grandpa.  He turned to Eva.  "My god, I never thought I'd live to see the day I could say that and mean it."

"You didn't," Eva and I said in unison.

"So do you have your ticket?" Grandpa asked once the laughter faded away.

"Not yet.  I'll get it at the station tomorrow morning."

"Well, I'll see you on the train then," Grandpa said.

"I will too," said Eva.

"Wait.  Why did you come this morning?"

""Just wanted to be sure you were going tomorrow.  I think you need to do this."
"Why?"  I asked, but Eva was silent ... and then she was gone ... perhaps to follow Grandpa for some of that Smoke Gets in Your Eyes intermingling ...

I hated the thought of packing for a trip.  In fact I hated the thought of traveling again.  It was less than a week since I'd returned from that grueling trip to London.  Does a promise count if you've made it to someone who died years ago?

"Yes," said a disembodied voice.  "At least yours do because you're still alive."  I wasn't sure if I was hearing Grandpa or Eva.  But I guess it didn't really matter.

I pulled out the red suitcase and started throwing in underwear ... Marks and Spencer's ... and then I got side tracked again.  I had to do a laundry before I left.  Gathering dirty clothing led me to my plants.  They needed loving care.  They looked as if I had abandoned them, especially the one that Lucas pulled down, the one I had hurriedly crammed back into its pot before I left for England.  They needed some watering here, some snipping there.

I thought of Pat's rainforest of plants that created a green dimness in her flat.  Every window downstairs was filled with plants.  I wished I'd snipped a few pieces to start offspring over here ... just in case I never had the chance again.  Illegal of course ... I remembered  the movie about the vines and the sexy Frenchman.  French Kiss it was called.    I saw it in Namibia of all places.  Sitting on a folding metal chair beside the woman who was the NANTU accountant, one of the few competent people working for the union after the war of independence. 

Because the teachers' union had supported the guerilla war against South African domination of Namibia, they were bound by honour to hire the former freedom fighters.  These people had fought for all Namibians, well, for all right thinking Namibians anyway, and had been too busy fighting apartheid to get training or education in their youth.  As a result we had a secretary who couldn't type and a driver who couldn't drive.  I listened to a news broadcast one day and laughed out loud as the journalist said something about the former combatants now employed all over the country.  His accent was strongly British and what I heard was something about the incompetents working for organizations like the Teachers' Union.  It was not a politically correct thing to think, I'm afraid ... but every time I cringed beside Festus as he ran stop signs, sped up in tight situations, and failed utterly to recognize the importance of any of the rules of the road or the rights of other drivers,  I thought about it.  On the highways he was a far better driver than he was in the cities.  He should have been a guide.  He could distinguish all the deer species from distances so far away  that I couldn't even spot their basic shapes.  Our mutual love of animals was what eventually allowed us to bond as friends.  That and my colour blindness.  But that was a whole other story and I needed to prepare for this funeral trip.

One of the things I've noticed about getting to an age when my brain needs oiling is that my mind meanders in the oddest ways.  I feel at times as if I am in a great jungle with thousands and thousands of vines to make my way through.  Quite often the vines are far more interesting than the path and I find myself taking detours all the time.  And every scramble up a vine leads to another vine entangled with that one and so it is very easy to remain in the tree tops of memories rather than staying on the ground with my eyes following the pathways of the here and now and actually getting to my destination.  Whole days can disappear this way.

It's a little like the experience of going upstairs to get something and finding yourself wondering what you came up to do, but it's far more interesting.  I once  had a friend who said she slept around because she wanted to be able to sit in her rocking chair when she was old and have lots of memories to enjoy.

She never became an old woman. But I did ... and I find myself remembering all kinds of things, but few of them have anything to do with sex.

""Maybe that's because you don't need memories to keep you warm because you have the real thing."   It was Eva again.

"Don't you ever sleep?" I asked.

"One of the nice things about being dead is that you don't need food or rest because there is no body to look after."

Before I had a chance to respond, she said with a giggle, "And no brassieres or girdles either."

"Sort of like the relief you feel initially when you no longer have to worry about pads and tampons ... at least until your brain tissues start needing lube jobs," I said, and then added, "What are you doing here?"

"I just got tangled in your vines of memory."

Death was beginning to have some appeal.

Peter arrived to start another day's work and I returned to my keyboard.  Peter must be getting used to seeing me in my pyjamas and housecoat ... I get more writing done if I forget about such amenities as washing and dressing, something Grandpa and Eva would understand.  I doubted, however, if Nana would.  She still had not abandoned girdles and nylons, or lipstick and face powder.  She must think I am a complete slob.  I stopped wearing all of those things years ago.

"It might be a good thing to at least do your hair for tomorrow," Eva remarked.

"Do you think my cousins will care?" I asked in surprise. 

"Just do it," said Eva.

Okay I thought.  Respect for the family and all that.

But how?  I didn't have the time, money or inclination to go to a stylist before I left, and I am a total incompetent when it comes to dealing with dryers and curlers.

"Wash it and scrunch it while it dries," Eva advised.

"Good heavens," I said.  "The only time I ever do that is when I'm expecting Mark.  Most of the time I just pull it off my face into pigtails."

"Just do it," said Eva.

I headed off to the shower.

"In the morning," Eva called, "So it's fresh and bouncy."

How does she know these things?

"I had three daughters," Eva said.



As soon as I stepped down from the maroon and black vehicle and made my way to the curb, I realized I had been here before.  I was on Mimico Avenue heading north to the funeral home.  I passed a red brick house that looked familiar, and then I saw the garden.  This fall had been kind to gardens, especially in Southern Ontario, and pansies still bloomed in the long narrow plot separating Hogle's Funeral home from the house next door ... 59 Mimico Avenue. 

I was back on the street where I'd been taken when my father first placed me in foster care.  I'd been five.  I lived there for two years, and the Hogle boys, Glencoe, Morley and Harvey, had been our neighbours.  I wondered which of them had carried on the family business, and whether the funeral parlour had stayed in the family all these years or whether some big business just thought it was good business to keep a name that was trusted.

I was early so I went and knocked on the door to #59.  A pleasant middle aged woman answered and invited me in.  You can tell when you are getting old.  People open their homes and hearts to you more easily.  Old women are perceived to be safe.  Old men too, I suppose.  It began happening to me when I was sixty and I got my first pair of glasses.  That was also when I endured hot flashes and my periods stopped for good.  And, I presume that was also when the brain lubrication became less reliable.  No more regular as clockwork ovulation to squirt lubricant all over the brain's bits and pieces.  I was beginning to imagine it, not as a piece of grey dead coral, but as the workings of a grandfather clock.  But I digress.  The woman invited me in and offered me tea. 

I asked if I could visit the pantry.  She looked a little surprised, and asked why.  "That's the place I remember best," I said.  "That's where my foster mother administered our Scott's Emulsion every morning.  "Do you know it?" I asked.  "It was thick and viscous and pink and it made me gag.  Mom Hall became angry when I vomited it out."

"It sounds dreadful," she said leading me through the dining room into the kitchen and the adjacent pantry. 

As we squeezed past the dining room table, I said, "Oh ... this is where I got into trouble with my father for dumping my canned peas on the floor."  She didn't say anything.  Just waited for this strange old woman to finish her journey into the past so that she could get back to her own life.  "Clare put hers under her potato shell.  She didn't get a spanking."

The woman walked on wordlessly.  And then we were there in that dark little room where all medical procedures occurred ... vitamins ... Scott's Emulsion ... cod liver oil ... and urine testing.  Mom Hall was a nurse who worked at 999 Queen Street, the infamous hospital for the insane .  It had been built before the turn of the century, the turn of the 20th century that is.  Grandpa probably remembered it ... and Eva.  It's still there but it now has politically correct appellations.

I must have been speaking aloud because I realized with a start that the woman was glancing around as if she were frightened by my presence.  Thinking to put her at ease, I told her about Hallowe'ens when I was a child, when the Hogle boys snuck Clare and me into the basement of the funeral home.  That was where they washed the dead bodies, pumped in formaldehyde, and prepared them for their last showing.   We sang songs about hearses going by and how we might be the next to die ... songs that ended with pus pouring out like whipping cream and other lurid details.   The woman's hands began to flutter as she stammered something about having to get her laundry out of the dryer before it got too wrinkled.

"Oh, go ahead," I said.  "I'll be fine here with my tea." We were once again in the livingroom.  "I'm on my way to a funeral for a man called Joseph.  I don't know his last name but he's my cousin.  I have plenty of time."

By now the woman looked like a rabbit caught in the high beams of a car.  And then there was a gush of words.  "I'm sorry but you can't wait here," she said.  "My children will be home from school any minute."

"Oh," I said pleasantly.  "Do they go to Mimico Avenue School?  That's where I attended school from kindergarten till part way through grade two."  The woman was now ushering me through the hallway now, one hand on my shoulder, the other frantically turning the knob to let me out onto the front verandah.   So that's what the bum's rush is like, I thought, once I was outside again. 

The street was filled with children and I stood and watched them ashet dashed home to television sets and computer screens.  So different from my school days.  I heard the woman's voice behind me.  "They have a waiting room at Hogles.  They'll let you stay there."  And then she pushed past me, quite rudely I might add, to clasp each of her children by the hand and drag them indoors with a hissed, "I'll tell you why later."

They were more courteous and welcoming at Hogle's.  It had undergone considerable renovation since I'd last been there.  All funeral homes now aim for light and bright.  It's as if they want to put the living at ease rather than putting the dead to rest.  I sat down in a pleasant room with couches lining the walls, a room lit by many small stained glass lamps, and pulled my journal from my bag.  A young woman wearing a blazer and skirt brought me a cup of tea.  "I'm going to feel like a sieve if I drink much more tea this afternoon," I said.  She smiled and asked if I would prefer something else.  "No, this is fine," I said.  As she turned to leave, I asked if Glencoe, Morley and Harvey were her brothers. 

She smiled and said, "Harvey was my grandfather."

"So he's dead then.  What about the others?, I asked.

"Uncle Glencoe's still alive.  He's had a stroke and finds it hard to get around now, and Morley died in a car accident many years ago."

"Was his father driving?  Mr. Hogle was a terrible driver," I said.  "Once he nearly ran right off a cliff edge when he picked us up in Long Branch."

She smiled again.  "No, Morley was the driver."  Then, as if she wanted to be kind, she asked me to tell her about the time I rode in the hearse.  We'd just moved to Long Branch and still felt that 59 Mimico Avenue was home and that the Hogles were neighbours.  Mr. Hogle arrived just before dark on July 1 in the hearse and ferried us to and from the fireworks display he and the boys put on every year.

She waited till I finished the story and then she excused herself and I was left alone.  I still had half an hour till people would begin to arrive.

"Good God, woman.  You'll be lucky if they don't commit you to 999 if you don't stop spouting off like you're half daft."

"Was I that bad, Grandpa?" I asked.  "I just keep remembering.  And I forget that other people aren't interested."

"That's obvious," he said.  "But, as a matter of fact, I found it interesting.  I didn't know what happened to you back then."

"Not many people did," I said.  "When I met my half brother he had no idea.  He'd lived with our mother for twenty some years and she never told him anything about me."

"She was probably ashamed,"said Grandpa.  "Why is it so important for you to meet these half cousins of yours?"

"I'm not entirely sure," I said.  "But when I met Grant when we were already past middle age, I felt such a sense of security knowing I had a brother.  I didn't know him at all, but I loved him ... and I felt accepted by him.  It was the first time I've felt quite that way."

"You have children," said Grandpa.

"Your children love you in a different way. They have bones to pick with you.  You've made mistakes with them that they find hard to forgive."

"You feel judged ?"

"I guess you could put it that way.  Or maybe I just feel guilty that I didn't do a better job."

"Are they such bad people?" asked Grandpa.

I looked at him surprised.  "No," I said.  "As a matter of fact they're great people."

"Well then you couldn't have done everything wrong," said Eva who had just come into the room.

"Is it time to face the cousins?" I asked.

"Another fifteen minutes," Eva said. 

"Do you think you could be a little more invisible?" asked Grandpa.  He looked at Eva.  "She keeps drawing attention to herself.  People think she's dotty."

Eva smiled.  "There must be a lot of your grandfather in you," she said.

Grandpa snorted.  "I've never talked the ear off a total stranger telling her my life story in disconnected scrambled shreds and pieces."

"That's because you never lived long enough, Paul."

"Well, thank god for that," he said.  "It was embarrassing to watch her make a fool of herself."

"Thanks, Grandpa," I said.  "I guess if you didn't love me you wouldn't care."

"Hmmmph" was his only comment.

"Will they be able to see you?" I asked Eva.

"Only if they want to," she said.  "Some people are so sensitive they can see all kinds of spirits.  others are so imperceptive, they never know we are around, even when we are closely related and have important truths to impart."

"I know why Grandpa is here.  These are his grandchildren.  But why are you here?"

"I'm here because you are.  If your grandfather and I had married and had children, I think you are likely the grandchild we'd have felt the most affinity for."

"Hmmph," said Grandpa.  "Speak for yourself.  She has no respect at all."

Eva did that viney twisty thing and said, "She's just like you, and you know damned well that's probably why you love her as much as you do."

"What are the others like?  Mary Jane and Sarah?"

"A little more sedate than you are, but bright and friendly and funny."

"Funny?" snorted Grandpa.  "Hardly."

"Don't listen to him," said Eva. "Just be yourself and you'll see.  They'll warm right up to you."

"Should I tell them who I am?"

Before she could answer me the door opened and Grandpa hissed in my ear, "Now stop talking to thin air or they'll have you dragged out of here in a strait jacket."

I smiled at the doorway.  I couldn't tell who or what was standing there.  It was as if the light were all wrong.  Then two women about my age walked into the room and extended their hands.  "Were you a friend of our brother's?" the taller one asked.

I fumbled for the right words. "My mother and yours were half sisters," I said.   "I'm your cousin.  When I learned that Joseph had died and that the funeral was in Toronto, I decided to come.  I wanted to meet you."

"While we were still around," said the rounder woman with a smile.  "Hi.  I'm Mary Jane.  We'll have to have a really good chin wag after this formal bit is over.  Can you come to the house after the service?"

"I'd like that," I said., "You must be Sarah," I said to the woman beside her.

"The same.  I think my youngest daughter looks a lot like you must have at her age.  Same eyes."

"Are they here, your children?" I asked.

"No, mine are all over the lot ... I hardly ever get to see them any more.  One's in Nova Scotia, another's in B.C. and the third emigrated to Australia a few years ago.  I never get to see them or my grandchildren."

Our conversation petered out as people began to trickle in.  I heard some comments about closed coffins not providing real closure, and I thought about the difference for me between being with my dad until he was cremated and coming to a funeral service and seeing just a closed coffin for my mother.  I had always thought open coffins were morbid but I now think it's important for those closest to the person who has died to see the dead, to stare into those empty faces ... to say good bye ... and to know that the spirit has really and truly gone out of the husk.

I wouldn't need to do that with Pat.  We'd said our goodbyes in that hospital room in London.  And when my friend Claire died I'd already told her I loved her and said my farewell.  And I'd sat beside my father's bedside as the life seeped out of him.  But it was different with my mother and my brother ... and with Peter.  They just died without my knowing it was happening.  One day I just got a call telling me they'd gone.  I hadn't had a chance to say goodbye.  So maybe that's what the open coffin allows us to do ... say goodbye.

The only open coffins I've ever seen were those housing relative strangers ... John's mother ... Lyall's wife ... people whose funerals I'd attended because I cared about the survivors, not people I knew and loved.

My reverie was interrupted by what I was sure was a figment of my imagination.  There is no way I could know the man coming through the door.  He was tall and attractive.  Grey haired.  He headed straight over to Mary Jane and gathered her into his arms.  "I didn't think you'd be able to make it," I heard her say.

His reply was muffled because he was now talking into Sarah's hair.

The two women had their arms around him.  What the hell was he doing here?  No, it couldn't be.

I thought about the likelihood of both of us being connected to this funeral and realized it had to be someone else.  Someone I didn't know.

"Close your mouth."   It was Wilhemina.    "He's a handsome guy, isn't he?"

"Yes," I managed to get out.  "Who is he?" 

"My youngest."

I breathed a sigh of relief.  So it wasn't him.  Just a coincidental likeness.  I must have been thinking about him subconsciously.  Wishing he were here.  Wishing I didn't have to spend the night alone in a Toronto hotel room.


Saturday, 28 November 2009

the last post of day 28

November 28, 2009
The Marathon Continues

My Cousin's Funeral

Well, I'd solved Grandpa's mystery thanks to Eva.

Now I wanted to find out what I needed to know in order to attend my cousin's funeral.  That might prove a little harder since Wilhemina disappeared without even telling me his name.  From my personal experience these days, I figure that there must be thousands of men in their sixties who died in Toronto recently.

"But not so many who will be buried on Monday." 

"Mom!"  I hadn't heard a word from her since she died in 1975 and the words we exchanged before that weren't terribly friendly.

"Why didn't you tell me I had cousins and an aunt?"

"You know how I feel about children born out of wedlock," she said almost primly.

"Yes, I remember," I said.  "You were not very pleasant to me when I got pregnant with Kay."

"No, I wasn't," she said.

"I always thought it was a bit hypocritical, you know."

"I never had a bastard," she said sharply.

"Neither did I," I replied in the same tone.  "But the reason I ended up with no parents at all was because you were sleeping around ..."

There was a sharp intake of breath, but I didn't give her time to protest.  "I knew about the milkman, the dry cleaner and the man whose cock you washed in the kitchen sink.  How many others were there?"

"How?"  The question dangled in the air, a palpable presence between us.

"I saw things.  I wasn't stupid, you know, just small and young."

She began to apologize and I said, "Oh and then there were the guys you and Chris dated ... the ones you got into an accident with and it was all over the papers.  That must have been nice for my father to read about too.  He was busy working his ass off  and you were out playing with boys in convertibles.  No wonder he didn't think you were a fit mother.  You sure weren't a very good wife."

I looked up finally and stopped spewing forth the ugly words.  Tears were streaming down her face.  "I'm sorry," I said. "I don't know what came over me.  I forgave you years ago.  You were just a poor little rich girl raised without parents by a gentle grandmother who adored you.  What chance did you have?"

"I wish I could have had a chance to make amends," she said, "but no one gets a chance to relive the past."

No one but me, I thought ... and I get to relive everybody's.

"His name was Joseph," my mother said before she left.

Great ... Joseph ... Why couldn't she have uttered the surname?

I phoned Danny.  "How do I find out where a Joseph is being buried on Monday in Toronto?"  Danny loves to solve any kind of puzzle involving dead ends and dead people.  He is a genealogist.

"Try the death notices in the Saturday papers.  If that doesn't get you anywhere, start calling funeral homes. You can probably get a list from a Toronto website."

"Thanks," I said.  "Did you get the photo I sent?  The one of Pat and Claire and me at the hospital?"

"Yes," Dan said "Oh.  Don't forget that Toronto is a metropolis and you might have to go outside the city boundaries to get the information.  No one lives in that city any more.  They all commute for hours.  Look as far away as Barrie or Orangeville."

I spent most of the next two days tracking down the information.  I finally found twelve Josephs, 6 of whom were in the right age range.  I began to feel like an automaton as I asked each funeral parlour employee the same questions beginning with the preamble "I know this will sound strange but I don't know the surname of the Joseph being buried on Monday ... and No I don't know his address ... or age ... or wife's name ... no not the children either ..."  Some were exasperated.  Others suspicious.  Did they think I was going to rob the house during the funeral?

Finally I had narrowed it down to three men.  One had already been cremated and the service would be held at St. Andrews United Church in Orillia.  The second was having a closed casket with cremation to follow the service at Hogle's Funeral Home in Mimico.  The third was having a very traditional service with an open casket, viewing to precede the service at St. Basil's Roman Catholic Church in downtown Toronto.  All three services were being held in the afternoon between 2 and 4.  I couldn't possible attend all three without sprouting wings myself, and, although I really wanted to attend my cousin's service, I wasn't dying to go.

"Do you know the names of the next of kin?"  It was Danny.  He must have been psychic so he called.

"There are three siblings.  The sisters are Mary Jane and Sarah.  I don't know what the brother's name is.  And his mother was Wilhemina.  I don't know the father. Wilhemina's dead."

Then I wailed, "But I can't call those funeral homes again.  They think I'm a burglar."

Dan hung up without comment.

An hour passed before he called back.  "It's the one in Mimico," he said.  "4 p.m. ... you can get the train to Toronto and then take the Go Train or a streetcar to Mimico.  It's on Mimico Avenue not far from the Lakeshore Road."

"How did you do that?" I asked.

"I've got High Speed," he said.  "I cut down some trees."

Only someone who had lived with the man would have understood the cryptic message.  I told you Mark wasn't the first strange man I'd fallen for.  I was pretty sure Danny had Asperger's and had learned how to cope despite being unable to read social cues.  Like Mark ... and like me ... he lived in isolation ... but unlike us, he needed to have a woman living with him ... someone to play with, eat with and go to bed with.  This latest one was probably the best one yet.  She was pretty and uneducated ... malleable in most things but rigid in the ones that mattered.  Dan was kept on a very short leash as far as other women were concerned, but was allowed to make all the other decisions in the household.  I operated exactly in reverse ... and it didn't work well at all.  Smart women are not necessarily intelligent or educated.



The Funeral

Day 28 9-noon

November 28, 2009
9 am - noon

Today I will write the conversation of the chain women ... and the lead-up to the funeral and the ending with Mark.  Maybe everyone involved will show up at this funeral ... Eva, Grandpa, my mother, my father, Wilhemina, Wilhemina's mother ... Velvet Touch ... my cousins Mary Jane and Sarah.

One of the problems with writing this quickly and not printing as you go along is that you forget events and names ... and leave all kinds of loose ends hanging ... especially if you are operating with an unoiled brain.  I really wish my daughter had not shared that particular piece of information.


Grandpa always liked being connected with women, but this particular connection did not make his life more pleasant.  In fact, it ended it.  It all began with Nana.

Nana had suckered Grandpa into marriage.  He'd been completely infatuated with her.  She was beautiful, smart and living in his parents' house.  It wasn't hard for Marie to ensnare a man who loved women, especially a man who was a few years her junior.  Grandpa thought he was a man of the world, but Nana revealed just how naiive and trusting he was ... two traits she did not share.  Once she'd had the baby (can't remember her name) and was certain that her future and that of the baby girl were assured, she wanted nothing more to do with Paul.

Paul, being who he was, was not devastated by the failure of the marriage.  Sex had ended almost as soon as conception occurred, and Marie's sweet temper disappeared at about the same time.  It did no good to complain to his mother or Eva.  They talked about hormonal swings and the difficulties of pregnancy.  So Paul, predictably, turned back to the piano girls.

His mother admonished him in dulcet tones, his step-father launched one strict, no-nonsense, pedantic tirade and then retired to his newspaper.  Marie seemed pleased by Paul's lack of attention, happy that he spent his nights elsewhere.

She had everything she wanted now ... an absentee husband ... a steady source of comfortable income ... a child who caused her no trouble at all after the delivery and the requisite (and very short) time spent nursing that her mother-in-law insisted on.  She lived in a beautiful home with her in-laws waited on by their servants.  But she was restless doing nothing and as soon as she could do so, she put her name back on the nursing registry.

She was soon staying for weeks at a time with elderly, infirm, rich patients who treated her far better than either she or they treated the household help.  She, after all, was the dispenser of pain killers, the provider of soothing baths and back rubs. And it was a lucrative trade.  The appreciative clients and their even more grateful families were very generous to this woman who took over the burden of an aging parent.

Everything would likely have continued to sail along in this manner, but 1929 happened.  These days rich men were jumping out of high rise windows, not buying furs for their wives and mistresses The business did not go under completely but its revenues decreased.  Two of the German house maids were sent back home, and the household budget was reined in.  Paul, however, continued to be as profligate in his spending habits as ever.  His mother wired home to Germany to the aristocrat who'd paid a great deal already to bury his sin in the New World, and was told this would be the last packet possible.  She put the money away in a separate bank account for the baby's future, and didn't tell anyone about it.

Marie watched in dismay as her golden goose grew thinner, and began to drop its feathers.  Her own calls were dropping off too as daughters and daughters-in-law were dragged in, not without complaint, to empty the bedpans of their family members. The rise in accidental deaths due to drug overdoses was explained by the fact that qualified nurses were no longer looking after these rich old people.

When Marie confronted her mother-in-law about Paul's spending she was hushed.

 "You've spoiled him all his life.  Can't you see that?" she accused the old woman. 

"He's all I have," she replied. 

"What about the baby?"  Marie countered.

"The baby will always be looked after.  I love her as much as I love Paul."

Marie realized there was no getting through to the old woman so she began to plan the only possible way to stop Paul from spending what was left.

She went back to the Anglican Home for Unwed Mothers.  Oh, no, not because she wanted a job there, and certainly not because she needed their services herself.  No, she went back to talk to Eva.

Why Eva, I am sure you are wondering.  Eva was Paul's friend, but even Eva would not have been able to curb his spending.  It was as ingrained as the shape of his hands with their long piano playing fingers, the same fingers that dispensed dollar bills so freely.

Marie was too clever to ask outright for the name of someone she could co-opt into helping her, but she managed to convince Eva that she wanted to take on a little sister.  She wanted to sponsor one of her unwed mothers.  "I'll take her out and give her nursing care and advice," Marie said.  "And I'll help her outfit the new baby."

"That would be wonderful of you, Marie.  But are you sure you can afford such generosity?"

"I've got a new job and I only work for pin money, anyway.  I have more than I can possibly spend on myself."

If Eva was at all surprised by this sudden burst of generosity or if she had any suspicions about ulterior motives, she must have subdued them.  Perhaps once again, her scruples were overridden by her concern for the women she was sheltering.  Or perhaps she really believed that Marie had turned over a new leaf.

She did ask, though, and accepted Marie's explanation that having her own baby had made her realize how difficult it would be for one of these poor street girls to manage alone.

"Times are tough," she said in conclusion.

Eva introduced Marie and Magda a few days later.  They formed a firm friendship almost immediately.  Magda had immigrated to Canada just a few months before and had not established any real network of support.  The boy had fled when he learned that she was pregnant.  A familiar story.  Especially to Marie who remembered her first pregnancy very well.

The story Marie told Magda about her marriage to Paul would have been unrecognizable to anyone who knew the truth, but Magda took it all in and kept it close to her heart for a very long time.  She loved Marie, not only because Marie gave her money every week and  produced boxes and boxes of beautiful clothing from her own daughter's layette, now long outgrown and lovingly packed away by her mother-in-law.  Hand embroidered night gowns of the finest lawn, tiny hand knit sweaters, bonnets and booties.  Soakers that had been knit and felted by her grandmother.  Lacy shawls and blankets of the softest possible lambs wool. And since the little girl was no longer a baby, the gift packages included clothing that would see the unborn baby through to school age.  All of the material things were wonderful, but magda grew to really love Marie.  She loved her because she understood what it was to be deceived, to be left alone.

She listened as Marie told of the heartless rich man who had tricked her, impregnated her, and then stolen her baby giving it to his mother who had always wanted a baby girl.  She was horrified by the callousness of Paul's behaviour toward her friend.  "He beat me," Marie sobbed.  "I had to get away."  Magda patted her hand and clucked sympathetically.  

"And he ran around almost from the moment I told him I was expecting his child."

"Oh, no," murmured Magda.  That seemed almost as bad as being struck by the man you loved.

"And they were women with diseases," Marie had gone on ... "women he met in bars."

Magda didn't question anything Marie told her.  After all, she too had been abandoned by the man she loved.  And Magda lived in a place where she'd heard this same tale repeated many times over.  Every girl in the home had been screwed by a man ... literally and figuratively.

Marie had been lucky she had a mother-in-law who wanted her new baby, thought Magda. as they exchanged their stories.

One day, Marie, said, "I'm not a vindictive woman really, but I wish there were some way to teach Paul and these other men a lesson they'd never forget.  That was the only time Marie ever mentioned anything to Magda about hurting Paul in any way.

Shortly after Magda's baby was born she and one of the other girls were nursing their babies in the sunroom.  "What a beautiful nightie," said the other woman.  "Where in hell did you get that?  Did you steal it?"

Magda laughed and told Janice about her benefactor.  Over time Janice learned more and more of Marie's story from Magda.  "What was this scoundrel's name?" she asked one day. 

"Paul," replied Magda.

"Jesus, Paul Donat.  I bet anything that was him.  Was he German?"

"I think so," said Magda.  "But please don't tell anyone about this.  Marie told me about it in confidence."

"I know Paul," said Janice.  "I dated him for a few months probably about the same time as Marie was having a tough time with him."

"What was he like to you?"

"A prick is always a prick," said Janice.  She went on to tell Magda the story about the piano.  "He didn't even say good bye, the louse.  I thought he was out of town for a few weeks, then one day these two guys showed up at my door and took the piano away.  I'd sure like to get him back for doing that to me."

"Marie said he did that to all the girls.  He liked to play the piano at their flats.  Marie was glad he didn't end up spending every cent of his mother's money on pianos."

"Yeah, well she didn't lose her piano, did she?  That was the most valuable thing I owned."

Magda thought for a moment and then said, "No ... but she had her baby taken away from her."

"Jeez," said Janice.  "That's worse."

"Way worse," said Magda and held her own daughter closer.

And, as happens with stories like this, Janice brooded about the injustices done to all the women Paul dropped by the wayside, forgot her promise to Magda,  and passed the story on when she was talking to another woman who'd also been hard done by, another woman dropped by Paul when it stopped being fun.

She was a rough woman whom time had battered pretty badly.  Paul was just one of a whole series of men who'd treated her badly.  Her name was Helen and she was down on her luck and living on the street when Janice saw her.  Janice was walking the baby when a woman's voice reached her.  "Janice.  Don't you remember me?  The Cleopatra?"

Janice stopped and peered into the shadows of the doorway.  An ancient hag was huddled under a grey blanket.  She struggled to her feet and extended a yellowed claw toward the baby.  Janice leapt back snatching the baby away from the woman's touch.

"Leave her alone.  I don't know you." she cried.

"It's Helen.  We danced together.  Don't you remember?"

Janice stared in disbelief.  The woman was toothless and filthy.  "What in hell happened to you.  You're the same age as I am and you used to be beautiful."

"Life happened," said Helen.  "Buy me a beer and I'll tell you all about it.

By the end of the afternoon, the two  had traded stories, all of them marked by the treachery of men, and both women were drunk and angry.  The baby slept peacefully on the wooden bench between Janice and the beer stained wall of the tavern.  The bartender came over and noticed the baby for the first time.  "Hey, get that kid outta here before I lose my licence."

"Yeah, yeah," said Janice.  "We're goin'.  Don't get your balls in an uproar."

"I can't take you home with me, Helen, "Janice apologized.  I'm still staying at Eva's and she only lets the residents sleep over.  You know, the women and their babies."

"I know," said Helen.  "It's okay.  And thanks for the beer.  Maybe I can do you a favour some time."

Janice never knew that Helen would be true to her word, that she knew a street person who was no longer quite sane.  A woman who like Helen had been beaten by a man.  That woman had suffered head injuries and a hatred so black and virulent that she wanted to commit murder.  The man who'd done it to her was not available to be her victim, but that didn't really matter to her.  She hated all men equally.

This was the woman who murdered Paul.

But Paul was really murdered by six women.  Perhaps seven if you count his mother. Perhaps many more if you count all the women who brought boys up to be uncaring bastards and all the women who had been victimized by them. 

And poor old Paul kept on trying to make things right ... he really didn't deserve to be the scapegoat for all those other guys.

"No, I didn't," said Grandpa.  "But I sure am glad I know the story.  Maybe now I can rest in peace."

"And maybe I can too," I said with a wry grin.  "Although I have to say I'll mis you."

As Grandpa disappeared, Eva reappeared.  "How did you know that story?" I asked. 

"Girls talk," said Eva.  "Unfortunately they didn't talk to me in time to save Paul's life."

"Maybe Grandpa was meant to die young," I said.  "I'm beginning to think longevity isn't all it's cracked up to be."

Eva smiled.  "You've got a few good years left," she said.  "Just give Mark a chance, and he'll prove it to you."

"You really do like that man, don't you?" I said.  "But then, you really liked Grandpa too and he wasn't such a good catch."

Eva smiled and then she was gone.

Nano Last part of #27, very beginning of #28

I have 37,338 words now ... less than 13000 to go and three days to write them ... wish me luck ... I have an ending now but I haven't written it yet and I won't spoil the surprise by posting it before midnight on November 30.  Here is the last bit written.

November 27, 2009
Day 27 Continued after lunch

I wonder why I sent this email to him ... he doesn't even check that account most days ... it's the one that contains only letters from me ... the one he looks at when he needs whatever it is I provide.

I am back at the lake ... exhausted physically and emotionally ... but very glad I made the effort to be with Pat at this time.
I kind of think you probably can't understand ... but just in case you are interested ... it was good to be with my friend ... to see her this one last time ... to share laughter and thoughts ... to rub her hands and feet with lotion ... to make cream of carrot soup for her ... to accompany her in the ambulance to the Heart Hospital where her surgery will take place ... to help her pack and sort and put away things ... to brush her hair ... to spend time with her son and his family ...

Was it a dig intended to hurt or to wake him up ... to let him see what friendship is?

I watched "Adam" on the trip home ... the movie about the young man who has Asperger's Syndrome.  The ending is beautifully handled ... no fake saccharine improbability ... no romantic nonsense.  He tells her he needs her to help him cope ... he says that's why he wants her to come to California with him as he starts this new job ... and she says that is not good enough.  He goes on his own and he learns to cope.  She had already helped him sort out a good many things and he was able to build on that.

I don't know if Mark has a personality disorder but he is strange ... and he finds it very difficult to cope with the ordinary stresses of life despite being extremely intelligent and good hearted.  He has to go to extraordinary lengths to be able to cope.  He married a psychiatrist first and an occupational therapist second.  The psychiatrist may have driven him a little crazy. The occupational therapist helped him get his foundering life on track. But then she too was unable to sustain a good relationship with him.  What makes me think I could do any better than two women educated and trained in dealing with people who cannot cope with life?

The young woman in the movie cared about Adam ... but she didn't marry him ... and I applauded.

I wonder if Mark's ex-wives have seen "Adam" ... and whether they made any connections between this lovely man with Asperger's and Mark.  And if they did, did they also applaud the ending?

I think I have found a man with a great many sterling qualities but one who is unable to have a real friendship or conjugal relationship with anyone. And the really scary thing for me is that Mark is not the first such man to whom I have gravitated. 

Danny comes to mind immediately.  He had to rehearse courteous behaviours and social interactions because they did not come naturally to him.  He was not capable of true empathy.  And yet it was Danny who made it possible for me to go to Pat.  He had learned generosity from his father and has practised it all his life.

That boy Jack ... Boy A ... who grew up in prison after being convicted with his only friend of murdering and raping a girl their own age ... he was lacking all those everyday social skills too ...

That was one tough movie ... one of the ones Mark gave me the last time he was here at the lake.

I've always been fascinated by the violence of youth crime ... remember the two boys from the industrial north of England, the ones who killed the toddler?  That seemed to be the precedent for a whole series of very violent crimes committed by children and youth ...    I suspect "Boy A" was based on that murder, or on the writer's fascination with the subject. 

"Well, I damn well wish you had as much interest in murders committed by greedy women," snorted Grandpa.

"You know that Nana arranged it and you know who actually committed the murder.  Isn't that enough?"

"If it were enough I wouldn't be asking you to get off your tush and find out who the other women in the chain were."

"But why does it matter now that you are dead ... and they likely are too?"

"Curiosity, maybe.  Tying up loose ends.  I need to know.  And that'sall you need to know."

I began to think about it.  Nana needed to find a killer.  It had to be someone she didn't know, someone who would be completely unconnected with her.  Someone who, if caught, would not be able to name Nana.

Nana was unconnected with the underbellies of Toronto and Montreal, so she needed to make a series of connections that would have begun with someone she did know.  It kept coming back to Eva.  But Eva would not have helped Marie kill Paul, not knowingly.  I began to play What If?  What if Nana told Eva some cock and bull story about wanting to help one of Eva's charity cases?  What if Nana formed a tight friendship with this hapless woman who linked her up with one of Grandpa's piano girls.  What if the piano girl bore a grudge and the two women talked about the shabby way Paul had treated her and Nana.  What if that piano girl knew someone who knew the actual murderer?  Nana's physical connection ... her money connection would be with the hapless woman and the piano girl who bore a grudge.  There would be no mention of murdering Paul.  It would be up to the piano girl to make that ultimate decision.  The line is going further and further into the underworld and further and further away from the respectability of Nana.  The final two women in the chain before the actual murderer have to be pretty bloody angry at men and at Paul in particular.

"Now you're getting somewhere," said Grandpa.

"Yeah but it's all just speculation, Gramps."

"Don't call me that," he grunted.  "Ask Eva who she introduced Marie to."

"Okay," I agreed. But of course, Eva, like Grandpa, comes when it suits her.

I decided to go for a walk in the rain with Kenya who was emitting disgusting anal smells and needed to go out for a long walk.  And my head needed to be cleared as well. I donned my yellow slicker and headed off around the lake.  The new neighbour's Dogpatch yard was getting worse, not better.  Now he had cardboard strewn everywhere and the wind has distributed all kinds of paper and plastic bits and pieces to the neighbouring yards.  My house was looking nice from the other side of the lake since the cedar on the north side had been put up.  I let Kenya off leash to run and fetch sticks and then at the last house we turned to come home.  It was a grey misty day and the wood smoke from our stoves hung in the trees.  I could hear the voices of the guys working on the deck next door, and Kenya considered swimming over to visit the little blind dog, Lucky, who was barking.  On our way home we stopped to visit Tom.  He's on his way to Montreal tomorrow morning ... to have lunch with a friend.  When we went past our own place to check out the place next door,  I was delighted to see Christmas lights festooning the new deck railing and a Santa Claus ready to attach to a wall leading up to the chimney.  I mentioned these and they laughed ... the men had been less than enthusiastic but Carol Ann had insisted.  Women know where to place priorities.

Back at home my place was nice and cozy and Kenya stretched out before the fire to get dry.  I went upstairs to check my email and found a note from Mark which immediately made me forgive him. He is sick with a flu bug.  Among other things, he said he felt as I did that a short one evening visit was not working.  It had pissed me off.  It saddened him.

I think I use anger as a shield when things are not going smoothly in love ... makes it easier to throw the whole thing away without getting hurt.  This is the first time in many many years that I have shown any patience at all.  Maybe this is the real thing.

"Your propensity to get angry," said Eva, "is why you live alone with your dog at 69!  I think it's encouraging that you haven't given up on Mark."

And then I talked to Claire, and any thoughts about Mark or Eva or Grandpa fled.

 "Myeloma isn't curable.  Nobody has read the book."

"What book?"

"The book they give out at the hospital .. the one that tells about what happens with myeloma."

Claire had said her good byes tonight.  She had told Pat she wouldn't be seeing her again unless she could travel to Canada.  I said the same thing ... but I would go again if I could or if she needed me ... .

Claire told me what I already knew; that she was surrounded by love ... that Pat was immensely touched by the fact that her best friends from Canada had come to be with her ... and to say good bye ... and I wept ... I want a miracle ... I don't want my best friend to die. ...

I have gone on-line but I can't read through tears.  Claire seems certain that this is the end or the beginning of a hell ... I don't trust Claire's perceptions ... or maybe I don't want to believe the worst ... I wish I knew more.

November 28, 2009
Day 28 begins ...
Yesterday ended with an upsetting phone call; today began with a cheerful email from a good friend who is in his eighties.  One of the lines was: "I made a resolution not to grumble - I am very lucky. I need to stop Doreen claiming, "Sometimes I wake up grumpy, and sometimes I let him sleep!'"   It made me think about all the unhappy faces I'd captured yesterday.

Then I turned to the news on-line.  Not happy, most of it ...  Child who died at airport was 'always smiling': father ... and my mind juxtaposed the short happy life of this toddler with the grumpiness of old folks who live until disease catches up with them.

But there were also some very puzzling (and contradictory) ... and therefore very human ... items For example:
Night and weekend bus service in Ottawa could be reduced and fares raised under a proposal aimed at keeping next year's property tax hike under four per cent.
Raising fares and reducing service?  How is that fair?

And then there were the strange headlines about people who look after unwanted animals ...

From  Toronto:
Four animals inside the Toronto Humane Society's shelter in the east end of the city had to be euthanized after animal cruelty charges were laid against the president and the board of directors at the facility.

And from Ottawa ...  "Cat hoarders charged with cruelty"

I thought about Eva ... looking after women so that unwanted babies would not be aborted and their mothers killed or mutilated.  Was she performing an important humanitarian service, or was she adding to the misery of the Depression?

"I wouldn't be here if it weren't for Eva." 

And who are you?" I asked.  The woman reminded me of someone.  It wasn't like suddenly seeing a Doppleganger, but close. 

"I'm not sure what you would call me, but my half sister was your mother.  My name is not as important, but it was Wilhemina." 

I looked at her more closely.  She was a small woman of about my age now.  Her face was heart shaped with strong cheek bones and her eyes were a startling blue.  "How do you fit into all this?" I asked.  "Was Grandpa your father too?"

"Yes, and my mother went by the ungodly name of Velvet Touch when she was still young and dancing."

"So you were brought up by a stripper?"

"No, as a matter of fact, I was brought up by people in the countryside far away from my mother's place of business."

"With relatives?"

"No, with kind strangers paid by my father.  My foster parents became the only family I ever knew."

"So he looked after you?"

"Yes ... and made sure I could look after myself later."

"Did you spend any time with him?"

"Not that I remember.  He died soon after I was born."

"So how ..."

"He left a trust fund that covered all my expenses until I was twenty-five.  I became a teacher, like you."

"What about your mother?"

"She died in childbirth."

Such irony.  Saved from a butcher's knife and killed by a live birth.

"Many women still died in childbirth then," said Wilhemina.

"Did you ever meet my mother?"

"Not till we were both in our forties, when your mother moved to Montreal after the Avro Arrow was murdered by Diefenbaker."

"I remember that time.  I'd met my mother by then.  I was busy having my own babies."

"She told me.  We worried about how you would manage.  Sixteen and pregnant ... and no family to fall back on for advice or guidance ... "

"And no examples of mothering to recall," I added.  "Did I meet you?"

"Yes but you didn't know we were related.  I was simply your mother's friend."

"Why were you so secretive?"

"I'm not sure now.  But at the time it seemed important.  I was illegitimate, you know."

"Did you have children?"

"Four.  Three girls and a boy."

"Like me."

"Not much like you," she smiled.  "They led far more tranquil lives than you did."

"Are they still alive?  Could I meet them?"

"The oldest died yesterday after a long battle with cancer.  I've come to attend his funeral."

"The others?"

"Mary Ann is 65, Sarah is 63, and my remaining son is 61."

"Where are they?"  I was hoping I could meet them before it was too late.

"They are scattered all over the country," Wilhemina said.  "Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver."

"So I have cousins and nieces and nephews," I said.  "I wish I had known."

"You could attend the funeral," she said.  "I expect they will all turn up.  It will be held in Toronto on Monday."

Odd day for a funeral, I thought.  Why not the weekend when everyone could come?  I turned to ask her his name, but she had disappeared.  I hate the way they just leave without warning.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Nanowrimo Day 27 ... the first half ... on happiness and living partners ... I think

November 27, 2009
Day 27 of Nanowrimo

I am starting with 30,711 excruciatingly bad words and have to add 5000 to the pile today.  That's what this novel feels like ... a pile ... no organization at all ... nothing sorted or folded or even clean ... just laundry, crumpled, often musty, dirty laundry thrown into a pile on the street for everyone to see.  Good grief!  What was I thinking?

The only blessing is that at the end I can go through it at my leisure and perhaps find a few hundred worthwhile words to keep or to start me on something better.

No, that's not the only blessing ... I am writing every day (well almost every day) ... and I have discovered something I quite like ... a three strand novel form where the narrator writes about present day happenings in her life as she interacts with a ghost from the past and discovers a purely fictional storyline that has to do with the ghost's (and her own) history.

If I were to take a purely fictional narrator with her own fictional history and ghosts I would have a real novel ... but I suspect that parts of my own journaling would still enter the fray.

Freud says we play with ideas we love ... and I would rather this were a playful time in a sand box than a labour of any kind.

I am too old for heavy labour.  I just can't be bothered any more.

Not even a labour of love.

My trip to London, spending time with Pat and Claire, and even going to yesterday's party have all been wake-up calls.  There isn't that much time left ... at least not that much productive time. And if one of the big scary diseases doesn't reach out from the dark and pull you in or damage you in some way, old age will get you anyway.

One of my daughters told me yesterday that the brain's lubrication system breaks down rapidly after a woman stops producing estrogen. Maybe that's why we all become creakier as we age. And here I thought it was arthritis ...

I just looked back over the pictures I took at the party and was amazed by the percentage of photos that showed frowns or pain or concern in the expressions.  The happiest one was of a woman called Heather who has been happy ever since I've known her.  She has taught in Ghana and in special needs classrooms; she had a brush several years ago with breast cancer, and she retired soon after I did.  She is beautiful.  The one of Jimmy, who has bone cancer, is another happy snap.  His first career was in the army and then he returned to university and began teaching phys ed as a grown up.  Jimmy always played Santa on the last day of classes before Christmas ... a great tall lanky Santa.  He is one of the most generous people I know, and, despite the pain, he keeps smiling.  Both Jimmy and Heather have been happily married (not to each other) for as long as I have known them ... and for years before that.

When I first viewed the photos I wondered if we were all telling sad stories to one another.  But Jimmy and Heather would have heard the same stories ... they just seem to have an inner happiness that warms their faces and their lives.

I would love to discover where that inner glow originates ... surviving terrible illness? ... happy relationships? ... who knows?

"I know," said a soft voice.

I turned to see Eva smiling at me.  "Well don't just stand there," I said.  "Tell me the secret."

"Your grandfather knew the secret," Eva said.

I thought about Grandpa ... always out for a good time ... "Are you saying that being irresponsible is the secret to happiness?"  I asked.  "That's doesn't jibe at all with my experience.  Heather and Jimmy are very responsible ... and they stayed in relationships and made them work."

"Paul was able to separate out what was entertainment and what was serious and important.  He knew how to play and he knew how to fix problems ... but most important, he knew when to let go."

"Of you?"

"I suppose you could say that, but what I meant was that he didn't harbour grudges and he didn't cling to false hopes.  He was very clear sighted about what was worth his time and energy."

"Is that why he was able to be your friend even when he knew there was no hope he'd ever be anything more to you?"

Eva nodded.  "And it is also why he didn't try to get even with Marie.  He never resented the fact that his parents supported her all those years. He knew that what they gave her was not being taken away from him.  He understood that people can love more than one person, that there is no contest going on."

I thought about something I'd just read in an email:

"Whatever your religious views, psychologists say the ability to forgive is closely correlated to happiness and mental health." It was part of an article called "Forgiving Without Condoning Or Forgetting".  It began with the best reason for forgiving ... we create more unhappiness for ourselves than for the person we hate, then went on to describe grudge-holding, and talked about moving on with your life, something impossible if you cannot forgive.  It wasn't all sweetness and light.  You don't have to condone, excuse or forget the harm done to you and you don't have re-establish a relationship with the person. He talks too about the need to empathize, to be able to see things from the other's perspective in order to forgive, and believes that the older we get, the more forgiving we're likely to become.

The article made me think about my forgiveness of my parents ...  Once I understood that my mother's upbringing was likely responsible for her failure to stand up against my father, I was able to forgive her..  It took me longer to understand my father's actions, but I think I forgave him because I knew he loved me even if he didn't know how to love me properly ... and he lived in a time when mothers were expected to be virgins, not whores..

I cannot understand why he treated my grandmother so badly.  She'd always loved him and treated him well.  But I do understand that people sometimes act inconsiderately because they know that they will drown themselves if they don't shove away the person who is pulling them under.  Was my grandmother pulling him under?  I don't think so.  I think she was simply an inconvenience.  So I still have a way to go before I can empathize and forgive him for sending her away to a strange land to die.

"Maybe you don't know the whole story," said Eva. 

Startled, I looked up.  I was surprised to find her still there, and  I kept forgetting that these phantoms could read my unspoken thoughts.

 "So you think that's why he died happy and Marie lived a long miserable life, because he was able to forgive and she couldn't ?"

"That was part of it, but Marie was a very unhappy woman who always wanted more.  She thought happiness was something you could buy."

"Of course Grandpa always had money.  I wonder whether he'd have been happy without it."

"I am sure money helped, but he was very generous with his money.  He didn't hoard it away or ration it out.  He was as freehanded with money as he was with smiles and kisses."

"Was Marie miserly with money?"

"Marie thought that money could buy friends and so she occasionally appeared generous, but she always went looking for a payback.  Paul never expected anything in return when he gave anyone anything."

"Were you happy?"

"I loved my children and my work, and I was a well loved wife.  Yes, I was happy."

"Did you ever wish you and Paul could have had more?"

"I always knew we could have had a love affair, but that would have destroyed the life that made me happy."

"Grandpa would have married you."

"Paul thought he wanted to marry me, but I would never have been happy in the role of wife to someone who was always looking for greener pastures or  younger, prettier women.  No.  I liked the security of knowing my husband would never stray ... not even in his thoughts."

"And you think that Paul was content with that too?"

"Paul accepted things for what they were."

"And so did you."

Eva gave me a smile.  "Yes.  That is why we were both happy people."

I thought about Mark.  "Mark hasn't got enough time or energy to work as hard as he does and give two women what they need to be happy.  I don't think it always works as simply as you seem to think it does."

"Are you happy with your life apart from Mark?"

I thought for a minute before saying I didn't need Mark in my life to be happy.

"Then why ask for more than he can give?"

"Probably because I want enough contact to be comfortable with him.  Both the brain and the vagina need estrogen to stay lubricated.  You can help the brain by challenging it regularly, but the nether regions need more than just Replens and regular exercise."

"What do they need?" asked Eva.

"I don't know about other old women, but this old woman seems to need regular contact and open communication lines.  I need to know that I am loved."

"What if you were his wife?  Or the only woman in his life? Would his work be your competitor then?"

I thought for a long time before I finally answered Eva.  "No.  I understand that kind of focus.  I know what it's like to be addicted to an idea or a job or to lose myself for hours in the creation of a piece of art.  And I know what it feels like to want to do something really well."

"Could you also accept his procrastination which lures him away from getting the work done?"

"I'd likely get pissed off at times and wish he'd just use his time better, but yes, I procrastinate too, so I'd likely be able to deal with that too."

"So it's just the fact that he's spending time with his ex-wife."

"It's the fact that he's still connected to her ... still on her leash ..." I began, and then stopped myself.  "I wish he didn't compartmentalize things the way he does.  And I wish he didn't have that particular compartment in his life."

"Don't you compartmentalize too?" asked Eva.  "I know I did.  I'd never have got anything done if I hadn't.

"Mark's compartments are like steel boxes, not like fish bowls or office cubicles.  They are impervious.  Until he's ready to unlock the door and emerge, the only way in is to use dynamite.  And then you screw up his ability to concentrate because you've forced him out of one cubicle into another."

"So it's counter productive."

"Yes, and I hate to impose."

"Does his wife have the same compunction?  Do his daughters?"

"No ... they bug him all the time.  But I like him too much to do that to him."

"They probably do too but maybe they understand him better than you do."

"Maybe," I said, and I knew that I would be letting this idea play in my subconscious for a while.

Nolan called last night at midnight London time to tell me that Pat was in Intensive Care after the surgery; that they had performed the biopsy on the lung, and that they were draining the incision.  He didn't know how long she would remain in the ICU or when the biopsy results would be available, but he would call me tonight.  Once Pat moves back to the ward I will be able to call her on her cell phone.

I've been re-thinking cell phones since this trip.  The public phone booth that was impossible to use.  Pat's connections with family and friends through her phone no matter where she found herself (except of course in ICU).  Maybe they are not the devil's invention ... maybe like everything else in life, they can be beneficial if used judiciously.  Like television ... and sports ... and DVDs ... and computers ...

I've also been thinking more about the loneliness of being ill if you live alone.  We will all die alone. But Pat's illness is made more bearable because she is surrounded by people who care ... her son and his family who live close by ... her friends ... her other son and her brother who maintain daily contact ... but it is Nolan who trucks himself off to the hospital every day, often twice a day.  It is Nolan who takes her dirty laundry home and brings back the things she needs.  It is Nolan who waters the plants and keeps the household running.  And it is Nolan who looks after her Canadian friends so that Pat can enjoy their company. 

My neighbour who died early this fall was terribly ill in her last year.  I often thought how lucky she was to have a husband who loved her and took care of her.  They were married for fifty years, and in that last year he devoted himself entirely to her, accompanying her to appointments, driving to Montreal every Sunday and returning every Friday night while she was undergoing radiation ... a whole winter of these weekly commutes. He bullied her into walking small distances when she emerged from the first set of chemotherapy treatments, knowing that she needed the exercise and the sunshine; that she'd feel better for having taken these walks.  Later he fed her, helped her bathe and get to and from the toilet.  He helped her choose the wig she would never wear because the cancer outran the chemo.  She was less kind to him than to any of the rest of us.  Because he loved her best.  Because she knew she could never lose his love and support.  Because she was having such a hard time and he was the only one she could rail against.  There was never any point in shrieking imprecations against a god she didn't believe existed.  But Tom was there.  Tom never wavered, never walked away.

And Pat is harder on Nolan than she is on any of the rest of us for all the same reasons.

I will not have anyone to rail against.  And I will lose not only my health but also my home when the time comes.  I will likely spend the last years of my life in some institution cared for by people paid to do their job.  Is that why I am fussing about Mark? Foolish, if it is, because he lives a continent away, and neither of us can stand the idea of living with another person.

I threw away the one relationship in which I could have grown old with my own Nolan or Tom beside me.  And once you've tossed it aside you can't pick up the pieces and put them back together. Relationships are a lot like Humpty Dumpty ... and that is what parents reading nursery rhymes and fairy tales at bedtime are doing ... trying to inculcate values and teach truths to tiny children while they are still young enough to be imprinted.  I seem to have remembered the stories but not the lessons.

OKAY ... I've put in half my allotted time and I am going to take a break!