Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Stronger and stronger

I know I just posted this, but I think it bears a repeat. When you read this you will likely agree

I spent today mostly staring at my son Tim. He doesn't live here anymore, but he stayed here last night. I checked on him various times through the morning. He slept - or tried to. (Someone kept checking on him.) Lest you think I've gone 'round the bend,  I did have a good reason. I was thankful that he was alive and here and I needed to confirm that over and over again.

Tim was involved in a very serious car accident on Memorial Day. He was a passenger in a car that flipped over one and a half times on the freeway after an over correction by the driver. Thankfully both Tim and the driver were relatively unhurt. Tim has a mild concussion and cuts and bruises and he is very sore. I'm not positive about his buddy, but I know he too had only minor injuries. I presume the car is totaled. Tim said it was on its side with all the windows shattered and the roof collapsed down about two feet.  It is a miracle that both young men are alive and unbelievable that neither was seriously injured. My sister said Maggie was his guardian angel. I like that thought.

Needless to say I was a bit of a mess. In fact I still am.

And so I stared at him all day.

I'm not sure why he decided to return to his own place.

Bubble Bubble Toil and Trouble

A week or so ago I was speaking to my son about how he is handling things following Maggie's passing. He lives in Southern California and I think feels even more alone because of the distance. He does have his girlfriend who is wonderfully supportive but they are both 400 miles away.  He said he is generally doing OK, ups and downs like all of us. He said the hardest thing is when someone "gets in his bubble" about it when they don't belong there.

I knew what he meant instantly. Of course I've heard that expression before, but it rang so fitting as a description of how I handle my own grief. There is a bubble around all of us. Without this bubble we might not be able to get through the day at all. We can throw ourselves into work or projects and maintain some semblance of normalcy because of this bubble. It protects us from the overwhelming grief that surrounds us and protects us from other well meaning people who want to penetrate it with advice or probing questions or even unwanted attention. When they manage to do so, it's very uncomfortable.

The thing is everybody has a different bubble. It comes in all shapes and sizes and includes or excludes as many people as necessary to get though the day. Different people are allowed in the bubble at different times. Sometimes it's hard to know whether or not you are part of someones bubble at any given time. That can be difficult for people, but  I assure you it's not as difficult as going through life with this bubble nor having the fragile bubble break.

For those of you who do not have a grief bubble around you, I will give you this piece of advice. Do not presume you are part of someones bubble. Always respect the bubble and ask gently for permission to enter. It will likely be granted just because you showed the respect. But if it isn't, don't take offense. It has nothing to do with you. Stay just outside letting one know you are there when they need you, but you will not intrude. That is a tremendous gift.

"Respect the bubble."

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Friends you haven't met yet

Friends you haven't met yet. I guess that's all of you who read this.  Hello friends. 

About a year or so ago I agreed to participate in a study/research project. The grad student Chris Wienberg, is a computer scientist and for reasons I still do not completely understand, was interested in talking to people who blog frequently about their personal lives, which I certainly do. It has something to do with accuracy of mathematically based predictions based on the data scooped up in these blogs by who knows who or what. 

I think my participation, and I suspect others, is based on the fact that we don't know or care what data is scooped up. We are the fallible - and I hope undefinable - humans behind the numbers. I pity the fool who thinks they can target me with any products based on the stories I tell/told about Maggie. Of course it's more complex than advertising, but it's way beyond my pay grade. Chris and his team arrived with cameras and conducted an interview. It was pleasant, but after they left I don't think I heard another thing besides a thank you for participating. I didn't really expect to either.

Then yesterday I received an email advising that the film they made from these interviews is complete. It is entitled "Friends You Haven't Met Yet"  and it has been accepted to premiere at the Dances with Films Film festival at the Chinese 6 theaters in Hollywood on June 3 (my mother's birthday).  He sent me a link to the trailer which is at this website https://vimeo.com/86141216  but of course I had to download it. Hopefully you can watch it below. You can see me opening my front door and hear my voice. 

I have no idea what the movie will reveal. Perhaps we are crazy dinosaurs and the meteorite is heading our way.  I am going to go watch it on June 3. I figured I better get down there for my Hollywood premiere, which will coincide exactly with my Hollywood swansong. 

I'm gonna load up the truck and move to Beverly. Hills that is. Swimmin pools. Movie stars.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


This is a picture of maggie's van driving away with the new owner at the wheel. It is time for a new kid to enjoy the freedom it will bring. 

As I was filling out all the paperwork I dutifully noted the mileage at 70,867. Not bad for a nine year old van. But then I noted when I bought the van in 2008 the mileage was 41,000. That means I put slightly less than 30,000 miles on it in 6 years. That's not very much but each mile was packed with adventure. 

We went on very few extended trips (if any), so these miles are mostly short jaunts around town. Trips to the Mall, and the doctor and downtown and Crissy Field. If those trips are five miles round trip, we went on 6000 adventures. That's pretty good. I'm sticking with that regardless of its accuracy. 

I am glad it's done, but I had a good cry as I took this picture this morning.

Goodbye old friend. Take care of the next kid as well as you took care of Maggie. 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Maggie's Garden at Mission High

Maggie roses in the box. Note tag.
We planted the Maggie roses at Mission High last Friday. The plot we were given is in an internal courtyard that could be an absolutely fantastic place. It's a bit overgrown and not very well managed, but that will change. In the space of a little over an hour our group transformed two rows and planted the roses and had lunch. it was a great day, best told in pictures.

Mr. C", an aide in Maggie's class (and someone she adored) made all the arrangements and explained what we were to do. We were to clear these two beds but leave a few flowers for color.


Mr. C showing us what to do.

So everyone just got to work

It didn't take long to clear with all that help. Then we could prepare to plant
Joe Bender (Teacher Joe) and Nurse Janice

Steve digging the hole

Ms. Laura planting the rose

Time to water

Tyre approving the plaque
Steve setting the plaque

plaque in place
Posing for pictures, Grandma Carmel, Steve Eddie and Me (Tim had to work)

father son American Gothic

Food for everyone!

after. bed is clear, roses planted, and watered and straw in place

Now Maggie's garden can take off and add more lovely color to the courtyard. Hopefully more groups will adopt a little part of that courtyard and the transformation will be wonderful. Mission High is in the banana belt of San Francisco - the best weather in the city. The courtyard is protected from the wind, so it is really ideal.
Eva, Duane, Cesar, Rosa and Janice standing in front of  Maggie's bulletin board

I have to thank everyone at Mission High, and especially the staff of room 223, Miss Rosa, Mr. C., Eva, Duane and Nurse Janice for making this happen. (And Nurse Yasmine who is not in the picture) These people gave Maggie a great year in school and a wonderful sendoff. Her teachers and staff from earlier years, Ms. Taylor, Ms. Derkash and Mr. G (Garrido) and all the paras who helped her get so far and do so well.  Thanks also to Mr. Guthertz,  Joe Bender, Mark Erickson, Ms. Laura, Theresa and everyone else who made this garden day possible.

Most of all, thanks to the students, special ed and others who made Maggie want to come to school everyday. You were her peeps.

I will miss Mission High but will always appreciate Maggie's time there.

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Rose by any other name....

Flowers filled this house after Maggie died. We were completely overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of so many. The colors, the arrangements, the smells and well wishes behind them buoyed our souls in those first difficult weeks.

My lifelong friend Sharon took a slightly different tack. She sent a live rose bush. It arrived in a package from the Antique Rose Emporium in Texas. I opened the package and looked inside and thought what a great idea. We can plant this and it will be Maggie's rosebush. I didn't know how right I was.

I can't remember now where we were going, but we were just about to leave the house so I decided to leave the rose in the box until Steve could plant it in our backyard. He did so the next morning. Steve returned into the house fighting back the tears that came so easily in those first days. I smiled and asked if it was planted and he didn't really talk, he just handed me the information that came in the box.

The name of this particular rose was "Maggie."

Sharon not only sent a rosebush that we could plant and enjoy and think of Maggie. She found an actual Maggie Rosebush. Here it is planted an ready to take off.

With any luck, it will grow beautiful flowers that look like this:

I loved this idea so much that I copied it. I went to the website and ordered three more Maggie rosebushes. They arrived yesterday. One goes to my Mother for Mother's day (late) and the other two we are taking to Mission High School today to plant in the school's memorial garden. We get a little patch of dirt in the sunny Mission District and I'm sure these flowers will flourish there.  We will put up this plaque to go in the garden too.

This was going to be just a little remembrance, but like everything involving Maggie, it has created a lot of interest. (I am bringing food for 40 and hope its enough.) We will plant the Maggie roses and put the Maggie plaque next to them. It will be all Maggie all the time. 

Same as it ever was....

I know that a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet, but I'm not sure the impact would have been quite as strong.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One step forward...sort of

There was a small breakthrough yesterday. A trifle, really, but I figured it was time to post something postive.

It will be three months tomorrow since Maggie passed away, and it's been three months and one week since I've been to Stonestown Mall.  Yes, I have been avoiding it, but in all honesty haven't really had the need to go. Yesterday I decided it was time to put my toe in the water.

I'm not much of a shopper. I wait until I need something and then I go get it. It's 90 degrees in San Francisco which is a rarity. I have about two shirts that I can wear when it's this hot and I cannot wash them every day. I knew it was time to buy a few things.  San Francisco is something of a shopping mecca, so there was no shortage of options for me. Considering, however, that I am not a tourist and have no need to purchase (or pay for) designer clothes, it makes the most sense to just head to the mall.

The Mall. The place Maggie and I went every weekend. Her favorite place in the world. She was a teenager and for the last few years of her life she LOVED to go to the mall. Even if it was just with her old mom. We would go, do a lap around the mall upstairs and down and then head home. We almost never bought anything unless there was a birthday or something. We just had to "be seen" at the mall.  I found it a bit boring, but Maggie loved it.

I boycotted the mall for a while after the broken elevaor and insensitive security guard got me riled (see Maggie World: An avoidable series of unfortunate events);  but Maggie is far more forgiving than I. Trips to other malls or shopping downtown wasn't the same. Maggie wanted to go to Stonestown mall and Maggie got what Maggie wanted. We went back.

I parked in the lot right next to a handicapped spot. Ironically, there were several handicapped spots available, which never happened when I was with Maggie. (Tuesday afternoon vs Saturday morning). I sat in the car for a few minutes debating whether or not I was ready for this, then decided I was being silly. As I approached the door to Macy's my phone rang. It was Eddie. Happily I plopped down on a bench and talked to him delaying my entry.

When the conversation was over, I took a breath and went in. I made my purchase and as I was looking for my credt card I found a $25 gift card in my wallet that I didn't even remember I had. (SCORE!). I went immediatly back to the car feeling flush with success.

It was only when I started the engine that I realized I only went to Macy's; I never actually went into the mall. Maggie would tolerate time in Macy's, but all the action was in the Mall.

Oh well, I got my toe wet. It's a start.  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Mothers Day

It's Mother's Day. Everybody knows it's Mother's Day because television and internet ads, store displays, facebook posts, and even blog entries bombard you with this information for days and weeks. This year I find all those reminders a bit painful.

I have a wonderful mother who is going strong as she approaches her 87th birthday - and I know how very lucky that makes me. I am a mother. I have two sons who have grown into fine young men who will call me or come by to check in on Mother's Day, just as they do many other days. That too makes me lucky.

Yet I feel lost on this mother's day because I lost the person who most defined me as a mother. Being Maggie's mother was an experience all it's own and I am lost without having it as part of my daily life.

Before you say anything, let me assure you, I know that I will always be her mother. I know that I was a good mother to her. I know we had an incredible bond that surpassed even that of mother-daughter.  I know I was lucky to have her and that luck lasted far longer than anyone might have predicted.  But I miss her and I miss the person I was when she was here with me. Maggie made me a better person and she made me a better mother.

I still do things to honor and remember her and probably will forever. Yesterday I stopped by Special Olympics at Kezar stadium to cheer on Maggie's peers. It made me both happy and sad. As I wandered through the crowd I heard a young girl say, "Hey, Your MAGGIE'S mom!" I smiled as I recognized her friend from middle school days who was there to compete. I hadn't seen her in probably five years, but she still knew I was "Maggie's mom." That made me happy.

A few minutes later I became a little uncomfortable when she asked, "Where's Maggie?" I froze for a minute before answering, "She's not here." (Pause) "I don't think her class arrived yet."  Both statements were technically true, but taken together were very misleading. There was just no way I was going to tell that child what had happened. She was there to compete in Special Olympics, she was having fun. Nothing would be gained from telling her.

I left shortly after that exchange. As I walked home through a sparkling Golden Gate Park I wondered if I had done the right thing. And, if I did, was I protecting her or me? It doesn't matter, I suppose. We could both use a little protecting. That's what mother's do, right? They protect. I smiled again as I thought of her greeting and of my nearly twenty years as "Maggie's Mom."

 I was MAGGIE'S mom!
 I was Maggie's MOM!

It was the hardest and best job I ever had. And it was a wild wild ride, that's for sure.

Happy Mother's Day.  Enjoy the ride.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Changes big and small

There have been so many changes n my life in the past few months since we lost Maggie. Everything changed. Everything.  The biggest change is , of course, losing her. That's the one everyone is concerned with and rightfully so. It outweighs all the others 100 fold. But there are other things, dozens of them, some big and some small  and each little change is a constant reminder of the big change. .

Some of the biggest changes are noise and schedule. My house was a hotbed of activity when Maggie was here.There were nurses coming and going, oxygen deliveries, diaper and food deliveries, socal workers, teachers bus drivers and any number of other people we would see on any given day. All of that is gone now and the house is very quiet.  The change to my schedule is huge. Before I was like a tether ball. I could not go very far and had to get things down in a very tight time frame so I could get back here to help with Maggie. Now I can go whenever and wherever I want,  and for now all I want to do is stay home. Ironic, I know.

There are a million little changes too. I just came across two of them. Garbage and laundry.

Today is Friday which means today is garbage day. I just went downstairs to put the now empty garbage and recycling cans back in their place and marveled at the changes. It used to be we had so much garbage we had a double sized can that was constantly overflowing and we received nasty notes from the garbage company and/or city nearly every week. A couple of weeks ago I had to call the garbage company and request a smaller can because we have about one bag a week instead of the 20 we used to have. I just stood there looking at that little empty black can that was just as empty before they arrived as it was afterward.


<<-------------then p="">

As I walked way from the garbage I headed into the laundry room. It's a force of habit. Maggie generated 2 to 3 loads of laundry a day so I made it a habit to throw a load in whenever I was downstairs. We needed the machine to be going constantly to keep up  Now, I have one or two loads a week, about a 90% cut. . When I entered the laundry room today, there really wasn't anything to wash.

Having less garbage and laundry isn't a bad thing, of course, It's just two examples of changes in my life that leave me scratching my head and wondering what to do with all the time that I suddenly have. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Information age - or lack thereof

One of the more annoying aspects of my life sans Maggie is the lag in getting the information throughout the system Maggie was part of for so many years. At least a couple of times a week since she died, I get some call or reminder about something  from her wide world  that requires me to call and explain that she has passed away. I really don’t think that should be my job.
Initially, of course I had to and that was bad enough. In fact Maggie was supposed to be seem by a social worked on the Tuesday after she passed away as we were applying for In Home Support Services, something I had finally gotten around to starting. That Monday was a holiday, so I had to make sure the lady knew and didn’t show up at our house. I left a voice mail over the weekend and she called me early Tuesday expressing her sympathy and thanking me for taking the time to call. That was fine, in fact it was very nice. However, a few weeks later I received an official notification denying the request for services and it left me cold.
This morning I had to deal with the hospital from the last couple of days of her life. We never even received any bills in the past because in addition to our private insurance, Maggie has medi-cal which meant we didn’t have to pay co-pays etc.  Of course this time it didn’t work. It was jarring to see the bill outlining the services they provided in the ICU. But in addition to the services, It showed we owed a few thousand dollars as a co pay. Of course that is not correct. I called and explained that Mary Margaret had passed away during this stay and that this co-pay should be submitted to medi-cal. The woman told me medi-cal turned it down because they could not identify the beneficiary (Maggie).  I said well, that’s on you. You have all the information and it will have to be resubmitted.”  There was an impatient clucking from her side and she said, “Well Mary… “ I stopped her right there.  “I am not Mary. I told you Mary is deceased.”  At that point she offered to “call them for us” to see what the problem was.  I said simply “Thank you ma’am.”  I did not say, “That is your job. Don’t make it sound like a favor to me.”  I think that was implied.
 For the past several weeks it has been the Home medical company. They were great throughout her life. It was one of the few parts of the machine that actually worked like clockwork. Someone just needs to turn off the clock now. First it’s the billing that keeps coming and I am repeatedly told to disregard it. (Same reason as above) When they start threatening collection, I stop disregarding. I believe I actually spoke to the right person this morning.  We shall see.
Worse than the billing, though, is the continuation of the automated calls checking to see if the “oxygen user” is using the equipment at the same rate.  We received these calls throughout her time using the oxygen, but it’s really time they stopped now. Considering this same company came and picked up all the oxygen equipment three days after Maggie passed away, you would think they would know that things have changed; but somehow this part of the system was never notified.
 I have clicked off on them five or six times, but last night I decided maybe it’s time to deal with it. Of course it’s an automated call so you have to go through all the steps. They “verify” that this is the O2 user on the phone – and yet it wasn’t – and once the machine is satisfied with that, the voice gets friendlier –as if to say “ok patient, you and I are close friends. Here come the questions”
 First question, “are you still using the oxygen equipment prescribed by your doctor?”
 I respond NO. 
It was as though I shocked the automated voice. The friendliness in the voice disappeared and it was as though I was being chastised by this machine. The voice told me sternly that a representative would be calling in the next two to three business days. 
 Oh God. Please don’t.