Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I have been lax in my blogging lately and find I miss it. Everything has settled in, although David still creeps in around the edges. Yesterday a new front window was installed. As a result, the foreman on the job, whose name is John, was going in and out frequently. At one point he called out to me: "Marcia...." The rest is lost to me because of what happened next, which was strange. I thought instead of John's voice I heard David calling out to me, David saying "Marcia....". David had a very identifiable voice, not a particularly welcoming voice and I thought I'd never hear it again. I thought to myself at that moment how I wasn't even sure I remembered exactly how he sounded. I am sure I was somehow transmitting my memory of his voice to that moment but still it was strange.

Nothing else strange happened. The rest of the day went the way of most days. I fixed dinner. Jerry and I watched a movie, which turned out to be wonderful--a movie based on a play by Neil Simon called "The Sunshine Boys." It featured Woody Allen and Peter Falk as a couple of crotchety old men. Woody was not Woody in the film. Woody was a crotchety old man. Jerry really enjoyed it and I enjoyed hearing him laugh--at times, almost uncontrollably. It was typical Neil Simon material and totally wonderful.

This weekend I get to spend with my grandson. Oh, and yes, with his Mommy and Daddy. Jerry is flying to Chicago for a reunion with his fraternity. I thought about going but decided sitting for five hours on an airplane was not going to be fun. Instead I get to spend a wonderful two days at Wild Horse.

Lately I've felt like I was being put out to pasture by Theo. Monday I took care of him, which I do frequently on Monday's. I sat down with him on the couch and set him up with Thomas The Train. He then proceeded to make it clear by impatiently pointing at a chair across from the couch that he wanted me to sit there. This had happened the previous Monday as well. I'm not easily hurt so I just grinned to myself at the weirdness of the request and moved. The same thing happened to Jerry when he walked in. Somehow Jerry and I have become unfamiliar to Theo which makes Theo uncomfortable. I don't know what will happen this weekend because I will almost certainly find myself taking care of him once again. I can't be sent to the usual chair as that will be unavailable.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Kerri, whose blog "Siabra" is so worth visiting, had a suggestion today. She said to pick up the book nearest you, open it to page 73 and quote the third line in our blogs. I did that and found this: "...and would have dinner at one or another of our houses..." The book is Joan Didion's The Year Of Magical Thinking. I wasn't going to quote it at all as it hardly seemed worthwhile, but go to what I mention in the next paragraph and then realized Kerri probably had a very specific reason for the request.

I remembered a poem Didion quoted in the book which had been compiled by her husband right after his younger brother's suicide. I decided it was far more important for me to quote this poem as I wanted it always near me to ponder upon.

I quote it below. It is on page 32 and is by Gerard Manley Hopkins, who is now counted among the leading Victorian poets.

O the mind, the mind has mountains; cliffs of fall
Frightful, sheer, no-man-fathomed. Hold them cheap
May who n'er hung there.
I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
And I have asked to be
Where no storms come.

My mind quakes at these words but somehow they give me comfort.

Monday, April 27, 2009


My husband, Jerry, is famous in our neighborhood at Tahoe, except people don't necessarily connect him with the incident. We'll be at one of the special events during the year and someone will say to me, "What about that guy who confronted the bear that came into his kitchen?" My husband is one those "I will take care of anything" kind of guys.

It was August. We were up at Tahoe to celebrate one of our son's birthdays. At 2:30 AM our dog, Plato, started to bark. Even though Plato is part Akita and an Akita doesn't bark except for very good reasons, I was mostly irritated. After all, having a dog bark at 2:30 in the morning is not fun.

Jerry got up to investigate, opened the door to the living room and walking around the corner into the kitchen found a full grown black bear staring him in the face. All I heard was "Oh my God!"

I would have closed the door and let the bear do his thing but Jerry stood up tall and made threatening noises, which is what you're supposed to do when confronted with a black bear.
The bear then proceeded to get up on its hind legs, walk over and confront Jerry. The books do not tell you a black bear will do this. They're supposed to be so frightened of you they run away. This bear was not frightened.

A moment later Jerry is backing into the bedroom, I look up and see a huge black bear silhouetted in the doorway. A full grown black bear standing on its hind legs can be all of eight feet tall. This bear was big.

I got up and ran screaming around the end of the bed, stopping just behind Jerry. Something about protecting my mate. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I would have done anything other than cower under the covers. There still must be a lot of instinct going in us.

At that the bear turned and ran. The sound of two voices yelling must have done the trick although Jerry kids me by saying it was the sight of my body that did it. Given we were in bed and men and women in bed don't always have a lot of clothes on, in fact may happily shed them--well, you get the picture. Jerry's body isn't much better.

We followed the bear into the kitchen, picking up pans as we went and beating the hell out of them. The bear leaped through the new opening he made in the door to the kitchen and was gone. It had popped open a pane of glass in the door to get in.

The whole time our son, Glenn, had been standing just outside, trying desperately to figure out what to do. You're not supposed to block the exit of a black bear and that was the only way he could have entered the house and helped Jerry at all. He ran in, looked at Jerry and yelled, "Dad, your back!"

The bear had left a little damage in his wake. When Jerry saw me standing behind him he turned around and told me to stay back. The bear then grabbed him by the shoulder as if to say "Hey, I like you. Don't go away!" The bear did not claw Jerry, still it left a nasty imprint on his back. Jerry had no idea he was wounded. "I can fix that," I said nonchalantly and led Jerry into our bathroom and proceeded to try washing off the damage with a washcloth. We were both a little out of it, to say the least.

A trip to the emergency room and ten stitches later we were home again, only to find ourselves giving a report to a fish and game warden at four or five in the morning. The report never made it into the newspapers. We at Tahoe are very protective of our bears. I'm sure everyone thought every redneck within a hundred miles would be after that bear.

The Bear Lady (as we named her) from the local bear protection organization came the next day and set up what is called "A Bear Begone." It's a trap baited with something tasty that, when triggered, sends pepper spray into the eyes of the bear. The bear came back the next night and was scared away by the Bear Lady. It never came back.

It's now bear sighting time again. Would we want to confront a full grown black bear again? You guessed it. Never in our wildest dreams.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I'm dealing with two kinds of healing. I've found out recently that staying on top of medications--when you took them, what you took in terms of dosage--is critical. Thanks to my daughter-in-law, I now have a little box set up for a week of medications so that should help. I'm pretty much staying on top of exercising and find doing them helps not only by keeping me limber and exercising the knee but it also helps me mentally.

I had been thinking I had been doing well with dealing with my brother's death. In fact, I thought I had really started healing. And then... And then...

Last week my sister casually mentioned she had talked to our sister-in-law and that she had been out at the lake place. Three of the sons had been there and the daughter too with assorted spouses and children--a full house. One son had not been able to come but was going to come later. I said, "Oh, that's wonderful for Ruthie, but I'm not surprised. Those kids are so supportive."

Then my sister said, "Oh, and they scattered David's ashes over the point on the lake he loved so much."

Well, that did it. I was immediately a blubbering fool and had to tell her I'd call her back. I'm a writer, so at the same time that I'm crying, as I am now just thinking of those words, why do those words have such an impact? I was back where I was at the beginning, maybe not quite so bad, but bad. I know there are different stages in grief and one of them is acceptance. Can it be that I hadn't quite accepted David's death and hearing they scattered his ashes left no room for doubt anymore?

How could I think, even after hearing about the manner of his death, that he would call one day, and say "Marcia, it was a huge mistake. I'm fine. I'm not dead."

I think, somehow, in my subconscious, I must have been thinking that. There is a book, by Joan Didion, called "The Year of Magical Thinking." It speaks very eloquently of just this kind of thinking. He died right in front of her and yet she thought that if the obituary didn't appear in the paper somehow he wouldn't be dead and that this kind of thinking went on for a year. I have that book somewhere. I have to read it.

I find myself not able to write right now. Maybe it's the grief that's spilling out inside of me that won't let creative juices flow. Instead doubts have begun creeping in: I've lost the touch; I'm no longer a writer. The negative has crept in and is spilling it's nastiness everywhere.

When some other piece about David's death would fall into place--usually from a phone call with my sister-in-law--I would find it took about a week for it to settle in. I hope this too will find it's way in and give me peace.

It's been a week, and yet this morning a bit of reading brought something about David back to me, and with it--tears began to flow again. It was a totally charming little piece written by a man about a story his Grandfather had told him. They had been walking through a zoo and had come across a miniature house and the little boy was totally confused to hear it called a "Whale House" by his grandfather. When asked how something so big could go in something so little his grandfather added to the confusion by talking about aquifers and other strange things. It was only later he realized his grandfather had called it a "Well House" and that accounted for the confusion.

It was only when I realized that it was the zoo in La Crosse, Wisconsin the boy and his grandfather had gone to and that the zoo was right next to my parent's grave site and that it was David who had finally taken me there after I had studiously avoided it forever. I had found it oddly comforting to see their gravestones together at this lovely spot where deer fed and glimpses of zoo animals could be seen through a fence. My parents could not have found a quieter, more tranquil spot to have their eternal rest which was wonderful, because their life together had been anything but quiet or peaceful. I had no doubt my parents had died but still I never felt up to looking at those gravestones until David took me there.

Now I will never been able to go to a gravestone to mourn David. The wind has his ashes.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I'm now sitting, looking out over our new backyard, which took final shape while I was in the hospital having knee surgery. My husband loves sitting out there in the late afternoon with his scotch and I am now going to be joining him more often as my knee is beginning to cooperate and act more like a normal knee.

Our architect used his own backyard as inspiration in planning ours. Both have a circular pattern with plantings massed around it or in corners and a yard in the center. Plato has his own special penned in space in a corner. That, to save the new grass and tender plants. Ours has a wonderful set of stepping stones around the outside to hopefully train Plato to get to his pen without disturbing the grass or the new plants. Jerry has gotten lazier and lazier and now just points Plato toward the pen. "Go Plato!" Too bad Plato can't lock the pen himself.

In a later post I'll fill in a list of what we've got planted in our backyard. I will say about eighty percent of it is new. We have a glorious pepper tree in the center of the yard which the rest of the yard bows to in reverence. It could be as old as the yard--probably is--which would make it seventy four years old. A lot of things have conspired against that tree over the years. We had a neighbor who used to pray for its demise as it blocked their view of the San Francisco Bay.

Another prize tree, a Red Tip Photinia, sits all the way to the left hand corner of the yard. It initially was planted, along with four others, to become a hedge. Its brothers are gone and this one remains, filling out the corner, tall and robust. It grows by sending out new red leaves. It now has amazing bunches of white blossoms growing in wild profusion. I think I love this tree most and it has to do with the very wildness of it's ways. The rest of the yard is very ordered and controlled at this point in it's life.

As a pean, a peacemaker to me our architect, Bryan, planted three Japanese Maples, one of which you see in the photograph. They are full leaved trees, a good fifteen feet tall already, and they are beautiful. Two sit in back corners, one straight back. They help, but of course no full grown tree of forty years can every be replaced by mere spindlings. I fought for and lost a forty year old Japanese Maple in our front yard. It had to go--I knew that. It was a volunteer and was encroaching on a retaining wall, but oh did it hurt to see it go!

I did not manage to replace the other tree I lost. Along the side of the house we used to have an California Live Oak, another volunteer. California Live Oaks are protected trees, native to California. It was hidden for years by the jungle that was our front yard so when it emerged from behind all the strangeness it was a little strange itself with a tall, scrawny trunk at the base from which emerged the rest of the tree. It was the upper part of the tree you focused on: it looked like it should have looked, with a crown of branches lifting heavenward that birds visited.

Bryan wanted that tree gone. It was ugly, it interfered with his plans plus it was planted too close to a retaining wall. He periodically brought up removing the tree but I always refused, asking him instead to plan around it. Then there came the day when he found the tree had some black oozing stuff coming out of it, called conveniently enough Black Ooze Disease, or something of the sort. I envision him chortling and rubbing his hands in glee. He was finally going to get rid of that tree.

He told me the tree was sick and needed to come out. I said I wanted another opinion. Any arborist would do. He said he would go to the city as the city would be the final arbiter anyway.

I came home the next day to find a confab going between my husband; Bryan; John, who was in charge of the job; and Steve, the head construction person. The architect had gone to the city to inquire about removing the tree. Not only couldn't the tree be removed, there couldn't be any construction to within eight feet of the tree. They had begun framing in the steps that would ultimately lead to our front door. They were within a foot of the tree. They were talking about how they were going to have to lift the steps over a bridge of sorts to clear the roots of the tree. That might satisfy the city. I was not a popular person, let me tell you. I sighed and told them to take out the tree. We would just have to hope we wouldn't be fined.

I figure the city killed that tree. The city would have denied us access to our own house. As of this date we have not been fined.

The rest of the plantings have had to wait for the house to be painted. The house has been painted; yesterday the new gutters went up. Now we wait for the rest of the yard to take shape. One day we'll sit on the front patio and look at the view of the city which has emerged from behind our jungle. All that will be missing is that beautiful Live Oak.