Monday, March 29, 2010

Death is a Process

Closing down Mother's life is a lot different than closing down Kelsey's.  Everything about this experience is different actually.  I have only just scratched the surface of the work I will need to do with Mother's affairs.  And, unfortunately, it's hard to find the things you need when dealing with someone who never threw anything away.  There is a lot of paper, but nothing in any particular order.  Her dementia probably didn't help, but she was always a lot like this.  Dad was the organized one.

Greg and I have theorized that a lot of what I am seeing is the psyche of someone who grew up during the Depression - she seems to have multiple insurance policies.  She got a very small annuity from two of them that I will need to stop, but I suppose at least a couple of them were meant to pay out to cover burial expenses, which will be nice since this has not been a small expense.  But, the problem is knowing for sure I have it all inventoried, and the stuff I am seeing is even active.  I've paid her bills for over a year and never once seen an invoice for some of the policies I see evidence of in her papers.  Unfortunately, she was in no condition to help me by the time I had to step in - we should have gone over everything years ago, but we didn't.  I wasn't ready to face it, neither was Mother.  I have definitely decided I will, in short order, list all my vitals on a spreadsheet for Marissa so she won't have to play this guessing game.

Mother will be buried with Dad at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday.  That means transporting her body back east, having a second funeral home handling it and getting to the actual site.  That means paying a fee to that second funeral home, as well as transportation costs.  Then we have to get there too.  Then, I can tell you that buying a coffin is more than buying an urn.  I bought Mother a new outfit too.  I think she would have liked it.  I also think she would have wanted me to buy Marissa something new for her funeral.  So I did.  None of this is cheap.  And why I am doing all of this?  Because this is what Mother would have wanted.  Why do I worry about that?  Because it's the right thing to do.  Whether you believe your loved one is somewhere looking over your shoulder or not, I tend to think it's incumbent upon the survivors to do what the deceased wishes.  That, and the fact that I'm too scared that she is looking over my shoulder and will haunt me forever if I don't!

I have been known to say that funerals are for the living.  But, I am not the only living relative with a stake in Mother's burial.  As a matter of fact, it could be argued that I have no real standing in her final affairs.  I am not bound by blood.  Yet, I take the position that I am her daughter, legally and morally, so this is my obligation.  Nonetheless, I want her only remaining sister to feel comfortable with how Mother is laid to rest.  She needs to have this be a good way to say goodbye to her sibling. And that sibling always spoke about how important having an open casket was to allow mourners a sense of closure.  I disagree personally, but yet we endured the viewing tonight.  And endure is the right word.  Mother and I had a vast generational gap on the process of grieving.  Mine does not involve open caskets.  At all.  Thank God for my good friends who came and saw me through it, because sitting in that room with the vessel that carried my mother, but is no longer my mother is not something I would have chosen to do willingly.  This is step one in the process of the funeral.  I am proud of my father's military service.  I am honored to be associated with someone who sacrificed for the freedoms I enjoy (to vote exactly opposite of how he would!) and do so long enough and well enough to be interred at Arlington, so I would never deny Mother the privilege of being laid to rest with him.  But, man, that makes for a long week of having this process hanging over our heads.  Real reflection and the process of grieving I don't think begins until all of this is behind a family. 

Then there's the storage units.  All three of them.  Stacked to the brim with Stuff.  Lots and lots of Stuff.  I threw away or gave away boxes upon boxes of Stuff when I closed up her apartment, but she still had a plethora of just about everything under the sun that I was, frankly, too intimidated to dispense with, even though I think everyone but Mother realized she would never be able to use again.  There were times I was tempted to dispense with it over the ensuing months, but never could bring myself to do it.  Mother asked about it often.  She was possessive about all that Stuff.  I guess I'm glad I could honestly tell her it was all intact, but now I've got to deal with all of it.  It ranges from valuable family heirlooms to pure and unadultered junk.  And it's all mixed in there together.  I'll have to go through each and every box.  The price of closing down her apartment while trying to care for her during the holidays.  The Present Me understands the conundrum the Former Me was under, but Present Me has an R rated thing or two to say about all of this.

And there's El Diablo.  Mother's possessed van.  I came home Saturday to find the side door open.  I slid it shut.  A few minutes later, it was open again.  I had forgotten to depress the button down to lock the door!  I did that and slid it shut again.  A few minutes later, it was open again!  Time for some serious freaking out.  I pushed down the lock again and slid it shut again, with a little more force. This time it stayed shut.  Later I came out with the remote to move it a bit to rotate the tire position and clean the driveway under it only to discover that the auto lock feature was working again.  That hasn't worked since I took possession of the damnable thing.  Now I think it is both haunted and possessed.  I will celebrate the day I am rid of it. Anyone interested in a van that is in league with evil forces should contact me right away, I am willing to deal.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Tides

Last night I was very calm.  I thought to myself that maybe I should not be or maybe I would not be under different circumstances, but losing a mother at the end of a long, robust life as opposed to losing a daughter who never really got hers started is a piece of cake, or so I thought at the time.  I think back to what it was like when Dad died.  Up to that point, he was the closest family member I had ever lost.  Despite a difficult and not particularly close relationship, I was devestated.  Comparatively speaking, Mother and I were much closer, but I handled it all much better.  I am older now, of course, and wiser - or so I'll say anyway - the natural course of events related to death strike me differently than they did eighteen years ago.  But, it's really because there's just no comparing losing a parent to losing a child.

Today my calm sea had ripples on it.  I woke up at 3:00 this morning, not sure why, and that was that.  Finally, an hour later, I gave it up and got up, started the coffee, and got ready for work.  Probably not the best decision I've ever made.  Coffee and adrenaline got me through a while, but as they both drained away, so did my ability to concentrate on the mountains of paper that threatened to swallow my little work station.  Instead, my mind began to wander to unbidden memories.  Memories of growing up in Montana, truly the Big Sky Country.  Memories of my mother's laugh, low with a hint of mischief in it.  Memories of her taking care of me when I was sick.  Memories of the day she had to chase me around the kitchen table to get me to go to school after I got my first pair of glasses.  Then remembering how she patiently tossed a brightly colored ball across the room with me day after day while I had my right eye covered, trying to strengthen my lazy left eye.  (Marissa has the same condition; they no longer have parents do those exercises or humiliate the kids by making them wear those infernal patches, realizing that all those exercises really didn't do much to restore vision.)  Then I would wander off and think about how if Kelsey had just hung on for a few more months, I could have taken some of resources we were using for Mother for her.  If only.

Then I would get my focus back for a while and be fine.  For a while.  Then something someone would do or say would send me back down memory lane.  And for some reason, they were all fond little vignettes of life as a little girl.  I almost wished the memories that weren't so fond would mix themselves in there.  And trust me, they exist in droves.  I was a teenager, after all. 

This is, I remind myself, the way it is supposed to go.  Mother had a good, long run.  Trust me, she did it her way for the vast majority of her life.  She did good things in her life.  She had some fun.  She had some sorrows, but they did not defeat her.  These are things to celebrate, but it is also natural to feel a void at a parent's passing.  There is nothing wrong with any of this, but is naturally unsettling.  Driving home tonight, I had to actually remember not to automatically head to the nursing home.  There is no need to go there again.   I have to confess, as fond as I was of many of the staff and some of the residents, I won't miss it particularly, but it's a jar to a well established routine that I haven't quite reconciled myself to yet.

I finally decided that grief is like the ocean tides. It rolls in and out, highs and lows. Just part of the process. I think the seas will be calmer this go round than last June, but I still think the ups and downs will just be part of it, and I might has well hang on and try not to drown.  We'll see how I do tomorrow.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

This is So Weird

"It's so weird." I said, almost to myself as we waited to turn out of the parking lot.  Finally, Greg couldn't take it anymore and said, in semi-irritation, "You keep saying that.  What do you mean?"  I blinked once or twice, as if just waking up.  Really?  Had I been repeating it over and over?  Hmmm, thinking back on it, I guess I had.  I remember saying it a few times.  There's no telling how many times I had actually muttered it in the two plus hours since finding out that Mother had passed away.

To answer Greg's question was complicated.  I never thought she would go out like that.  She was such a fighter, but, in the end, she had a few minutes of distress (according to what I was told) when they were trying to get her up for the day, and then she was gone.  The quiet, quick end to such a tumultuous, long life.  I had seen her the night before, but very briefly.  I had a headache that was bordering on a migraine, so I brought her clean clothes and picked up the soiled ones, and then begged off.  In the few minutes I was there she drifted off to sleep twice, and she was asleep when I walked in, one bite out of her little burger.  In retrospect, I should have worried about that, and I did a little.  But, what actually ran through my mind is to wonder how in the world she was going to handle being at the Senior Olympics this coming Saturday if she couldn't stay awake through dinner.  I had been worried about the Olympic games for a few days now actually.  She had been signed up to participate in a crafts competition, and in general, just to observe the other "games" (wheelchair races, volleyball, I am not sure what else) for four hours this coming Saturday, and I was to take her down to the UT campus, where the City-wide gathering of senior citizens is be held.  I was completely freaked about how to handle her adult diapers, feeding her, and generally making sure it didn't wear her down too much, but she was excited about going, so, for all those worries and my gripes about them, I was going to do it.  Well, that problem is solved, I guess.

If and when I thought about how she was likely to see her final moments, I expected it to be a more drawn out affair.  Not that I wanted that for her, but I just expected her to fight her way out, as she fought with her age and condition over the last several years.  I thought I would be there.  Instead she died without me.  Dad died without me too.  So did Kelsey.  I struggle with that.  I should have been there.  Mother was by Dad's side, but I had left to go home to get the book he had been reading to bring back and read to him, thinking we were in for a long wait.  He had slipped into a coma that morning, and we were on vigil, but in the twenty minutes I was gone, he passed away. I was always sure he somehow chose that, not wanting me to be there.  But, at least he wasn't without family at the end.  Both my daughter and my mother were, and that seems wrong to me; it seems "weird".

I had hoped, to be honest, that I would see in her a final moment of clarity that would allow me to ask her a few things, such as "Why did you choose me?", "Did you know my parents and what were they like?"  I had wanted to tell her thank you, despite all the struggles over the last few years, for choosing me, whatever the reason was, and giving me what she did.  I wanted her to know Marissa would be taken care of.   I wanted her to have the chance to say what she needed to.  Maybe she didn't have a need to say anything.  I'm not sure.  I'll never know.  And, I really wanted to know about the second engagement ring I found among her things when I closed down her apartment.  Dad didn't give it to her, so who did?  The handsome man whose picture is one of the albums?  Or someone else?  I wear the ring on my right hand, it's very lovely, but every time I slip it on, I wonder what secrets it holds.  She's seen it on me and never acknowledged it.  I knew I couldn't ask her and get a reliable answer, but I am so curious.  There were so many things about my parents that I didn't know.  They lived full, complex lives, and they shared only a fraction of that with me, always wanting to seem more pristine, for lack of a better word, in my eyes than they were.  They never understood that I would have loved them more for all their human flaws and foibles.  I like interesting stories, and I think they had many of them locked away in their heads and hearts.  It is weird to know the opportunity to know them on that level is irrevocably gone.

Finally, it's weird that I am without a parent.  I remember, as a girl of 11, watching the final moments of my father's father and thinking to myself, "Now my father is an orphan" and feeling very badly for him.  Now I am an orphan of sorts.  There will be that weird void of not having to balance visiting Mother with mowing the yard, of fighting with her to gain control of her assets so she wouldn't blow them and leave herself destitute.  It's weird to think that she and I alone in the world shared a certain bond of my childhood.  Greg didn't know me then, Mom and Dad's families were across the country, it was just the three of us in Montana.  The other two people who shared that with me, for better and worse, are now gone.

Finally, it was so weird to be so upset at the loss of a woman who had given me such a hard run for the last few years of her life.  You would think it would come as a relief, but it wasn't.  And that was really weird in its own way.  As much as you know this day will come, you are never ready for it when it does.  So, it will be a weird one no matter what.

Last night a violent storm swept over the area, lightning illuminating the night like it was the sun, followed by rolling, angry thunder and roaring winds.  Rain pelted down, slamming against the house.  I watched it from the back porch and wondered who Mother was tearing into up in the heavens.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Evolution of a Diva

I knew it!  I knew eventually Tum-Tum would warm up to us.  I really would not have thought it would take two years and the loss of her beloved owner to make it happen, but, hey, I was right.  Tum-Tum is finally integrated into the family dynamic.  I profess this now because when I woke up this morning, she was curled up on our bed at Greg's feet.  Miracles do happen.  Maybe not the ones you hope for, but nonetheless...

For those of you may be new to the blog, Tum-Tum is Kelsey's cat and a feline image of my daughter.   Right down to her food issues.  She is slender, very pretty, at times affectionate and needy, at other times haughty and mean.  She will plaintively call you over to stroke her and then swat at you, claws out, a few moments later.  The name comes from a rapper I have never heard of before or since, not that means that much. Kelsey thought that was the height of humor - naming this prissy, delicate thing after some bad a*s rapper. I have likened her before to Celine Dion.

We thought we would lose her not long after Kelsey died when she contracted an upper respitatory infection at the shelter, but we collectively worked to pull her through, not willing to lose another piece of Kelsey.  Since then she has gradually made her peace with her situation, it seems, and realized that she has to make friends with us; we're what she has left.  Yet, she has done it on her terms, and when she has been good and ready.

I believe the beginning of the end of her resistance came when we fostered a Siamese-cross kitten over the holiday.  If she is Celine, he is Adam Lambert.  I cannot imagine the two performers getting along in real life, their kitty counterparts did not either.  The kitten was beautiful, with long, silky fur colored like a Siamese.  He was affectionate, playful, accepting of everyone, and gregarious in all things.  And he had a mouth on him.  He was loud and proud.  She hated him.  He gouded her in return.  He chased her around the house, trying to play with her, not really put off when she would try to kill him for his efforts.  More importantly, she watched him get all the attention.  Everyone loved him, he was just so lovable and cute.  She began to try and mimic his attention getting antics, without really much success.  She would plaintively call for us to come over to her, as soon as we would break down and do it, she would lose her temper and try to hurt us.  I imagined her saying, as she dug her teeth into us, "I cannot believe you let that usurper into my house!"

Charlie didn't care for him either, but, as with all things Charlie, he was more passive in his resistance.  He began pooping in the bathtubs, both of them, as his most blatant sign of protest.  And then little dead animal pieces began showing up in the garage.  I pity the poor rats that live on the property, I think he took his frustration out on them.  But there were no head to head confrontations with the kitten, that's just not how he rolls.

Of course, like I tend to do, I immediately fell madly in love with the kitten and wasn't assertively searching for a permanent placement for him.  He had been rescued by Marissa's boyfriend when he found him living under his grandparent's front steps.  In poor health, his grandparents could not afford nor had the energy to care for a ball of furry energy like that, and he was underweight, covered in fleas and matted when Jacob called us in Pittsburgh to see if we could take him in for a while.  I agreed, then told Greg I had agreed, and my husband graciously rolled with that for a while.  But, he watched his daughter's cat closely and became very protective of her.  The more she hated the kitten, the more he began to pressure me to find it a home.

We did:  the perfect home.  Greg's mom.  When she came over for the Super Bowl, she cuddled with the cat the entire game; it was clear they bonded.  It was perfect.  I still could see him, and if she ended up not being able to handle him, I'd be right there to take him back.  He's been with her for about six weeks now.  Unfortunately - I mean, ahem,  fortunately - they seem to be getting along.

As soon as he was gone, Tum-Tum seemed to change.  Either out of sheer relief and gratitute that we removed her nemesis, or because she realized how easily she could be removed from the most Exalted Pet in the House perch, she seemed to mellow and become increasingly more friendly and patient.  She still will, without seeming provocation, take a swat at someone, almost simply to remind us she still can and will when it suits her.  And, for the first time ever, she will routinely seek out someone's lap.  She is still furtive about it, making it practically an hour long process of inching ever closer to make it happen, but she does do it.  The other night, I was watching Zombieland while she spent the entire movie trying to decide if she wanted to curl up with me.  Unfortunately, by the time she finally did, there was only about fifteen minutes left in the movie (which is short to begin with), and I needed a potty break, but at least she made it for a while.

She still is not a fan of the dogs, but she has them all cowed, so they do not bother her.  Occasionally one of them will dare a glance her way, but she quickly meets it with a hiss, throwing her delicate ears back just enough to let them know who is boss.  Not a one of them thinks to challenge her.  She is learning therefore to treat them as mere annoyances, but not real problems to her existence.  Yet she still makes it clear she wishes they did not exist.  As I write, she is staring at the Dalmation, her tail swishing back and forth in staccato rhythm.  Noelle, after a few minutes of it, put her tail between her leg and left the room.  Message sent.  Message received.

Tum-Tum still has her favorites amongst us humans, and still keeps to a select circle.  She loves Marissa's boyfriend, correctly pegging him as a cat lover.  She favors Marissa next, but will also turn on her when she feels like it.  Then Greg, but the same story there. I am last in the pecking order.  Maybe because she just doesn't like me, but I tend to think it's because I'm constantly surrounded by at least one dog.  I'm just the hardest to access.  She will follow me around in the morning because I am the first one up, but it's Greg's lap she'll curl up in at night now, and it was at his feet I found her this morning.  Greg was close to Kelsey, so it's fitting.

She even has a playful side.  Who knew?  It'll come out when she's sunning herself on the front window ledge.  She'll turn over on her back and stretch happily, mewling lightly and roll back and forth, seemingly having the best of times.  But, don't trouble her with toys, they are very much beneath her.

In short, she seems to accept and be relatively content that this is her lot in life.  She no longer wraps herself around the coffee maker nor sleeps next to the urn, but when I come home at night, she generally walks out of Kelsey's room to greet me, and I found her curled on the pillow there yesterday.  I think most of her hours alone in the house are in the bedroom where she spent her first year here.  I can't tell whether that's just where she's comfortable because she's used to it, or if she can still smell Kelsey there and wants to be around it.  If she could talk I wonder what she would tell me.  Besides the fact that she never wants to see that damn kitten again!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mail Call

When I walked in from the very long day at work today there was a card standing on the kitchen island, waiting.  I've become nearly blind without glasses, but I could see that it said "Peace" on the front, so I immediately assumed it was from someone who knew Kelsey or us and had somehow just heard the news.  Even after all this time and the complex, highly connected world that we live in, there are still people I'm not sure know what happened.  I fumbled around for my glasses, thinking I should get my heart strings tugged now, as soon as I walk in, instead of later when I'm even more tired and it would be even harder.  The neat, flowing script began, "You don't know me..."  I have some messages tucked away that begin that same way. We did receive some comments on Kelsey's obituary from total strangers who were moved by her struggle and our candor about it, and we did receive a number of messages from individuals who knew our daughter, but not us.  Those messages mean a lot to me because it's a fast paced, busy world.  I've been carrying a card around to write out to a friend of mine who just lost her mother for a week now and haven't managed to get it written. So, the fact that someone took a moment to write to people they have never met or even heard of before is pretty amazing.  This was a particularly interesting message because it goes on to disclose that the writer is a parent of a young woman just celebrating (the writer's word) her fifth year since going to treatment.  The family did not know any of us, but she disclosed she keeps Kelsey's obituary in a drawer.  While that might seem unusual, I understand it, it's a reminder of things that might have happened.  But for the Grace of God go I kind of thing.

She went on to write, "These girls are the most beautiful, selfish, smart, talented and caring people on earth."  That statement really resonanted with me.  I think that it is most concise and accurate description I have ever heard or read to sum up the many women I have met over the years who have been personally affected by an eating disorder.  Now, let me say right from the start that eating disorders are not a female-only disease.  Men, in ever increasing numbers, are being victimized by eating disorders as well.  Nor is it a Caucasian disease, a rich/elitist disease, an athlete's disease or a disease of vanity.  It cannot be corralled into any neat little quantifier like that, but there are some common traits that I have observed over the years and most notably during my recent involvement in the art auction, and this unknown mother hit the nail on the head in trying to succinctly sum them all up.

Let me address the selfish label first, because that's the word most likely to bristle readers, but I knew immediately what she meant.  And it's not what you think.  I did say to Kelsey, more than once, I'm ashamed to admit, "The problem with you is you don't think outside of yourself."  or "It's all about you."  She did seem, to me on many, many occasions so completely self-absorbed that no one else on the planet really mattered.  In point of fact, that was far from true.  Or at least it wasn't strictly true.  As with all things concerning this disease, it's horribly complicated and not easily quantified.  Hence the problems inherent with successfully treating it.  But, like anyone possessed by a demon, once it takes hold, it's a little hard to hold onto one's world view.  The disease, and how it impacts you, becomes like a vacuum, sucking all the life out of the air around you.  And the family dynamic gets sucked into the gaping vortex as well.  Relationships, jobs, hobbies, advocations, all of it will get swept up and eventually swallowed up by this thing.  Ironically, while I can't speak for all victims of ED, self-esteem issues are rampant.  Kelsey may have acted like she was totally self-absorbed.  She may actually have even been that way, but she didn't have a good sense of self.  She didn't truly believe in the good things people told her about herself, but totally bought all the bad ones.  She could put on a front sometimes, but that's all it was.

Which borders on criminally sad because she had a natural, effortless intelligence.  And that is a common trait that I have seen in almost every member of the eating disorder community.  They are smart, really smart, but caught up in something that people outside of it would call very dumb choices.  And many of them, like Kelsey, are highly gifted.  Many I have met are artists, writers, musicians, or talented athletes.  And many, most particularly Kelsey's dear friend Leslie, are highly empathetic.  I swear if I get a paper cut, that young woman probably feels it all the way in Pittsburgh.  She is highly attuned to other's emotions and in trying to please them.  So much so that I worry she sublimates her own needs and hence, the eating disorder was the result of that conflict.

And, honestly, the individuals I know who are open about having an eating disorder are generally women.  And, in general, they are Caucasian.  Men are not yet comfortable in accepting that this impacts them as well, afraid to speak out in a society that considers this an effeminate disease.  And, despite us being well into a new century, some old gender prejudices remain.  Men are taught to internalize their feelings, not discuss them, and to hide their "flaws" as a sign of weakness.  I would imagine the racial lines I've seen drawn would be for the same reasons.  Cultures that teach their children to strive for perfection will not foster an atmosphere wherein a person can feel comfortable saying they have a problem.  Just a guess.  So, that leaves the women I have met, who are able and willing to be open about what they have experienced.  And are experiencing.

When I was working on the auction, I was constantly struck by how beautiful and intelligent the women I was working with were.  And I was struck often by how it was pretty clear that not all of them knew or believed that about themselves.  Even the one or two women who seemed to possess a strong sense of self in one arena (career, as an example), skidded on thin ice in other areas.  On some level, it's baffling because you want to ask, "Don't you know how awesome you are?"  But, of course, it's not like I haven't seen that same conundrum played out in my own house.  No, they really don't.  They struggle.  Every day.  And that was the other thing I was so constantly struck by.  The auction was a challenge to plan because volunteers flowed in and out, depending on where they were in their recovery process.  Many of the women I met initially who seemed to have it together and were well on their way to recovery would eventually drop out of the process because they began struggling once more with the disease.  Once the Beast has you, it really does not want to set you free.  If I am totally blunt, I think the women were often triggered by others in the group.  Almost as though they believe in this common cause, but they can't be around one another to work on it.  Maybe that's just a leap on my part because Kelsey was that way.  She would not have been around someone she felt was thinner, prettier, or more talented than herself without feeling very threatened by it, which would have been just about everyone.  But, then she would have tried to cover that up with a false sense of bravado.

Finally, I hope that family does indeed celebrate their daughter and her recovery.  It is well worth the use of that word.  I am constantly struck by how very hard to completely shed this thing is, so if and when it is completely left behind, it is definitely worth a big celebration.  But, for the people I know who continue to fight it, it is so worth the fight because they are worth fighting for.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hope Springs Eternal

One day last week I stumbled out to the front yard in the morning, still blinking sleep out of my eyes, two of the dogs tangling with my legs, only to look up at my Bradford Pear and realize that it was blooming.  Just like that winter in Texas is over.  In the Lone Star State it works like that, one day it's one season, the next day it's another.  Of course, I say that, and yesterday it was rainy and cold, so go figure.  But, usually it works like that here, and even with yesterday's chilly exception, Spring is making itself known.  So, I was trying to wrap my head around that and thinking that I should take a page from the live oaks here and sluff off the old leaves and turn over a new one.  Well, I'm not sure I'm quite ready for all that.  But, I thought to myself as I considered the little white blooms on my tree, the new season is cause to take stock maybe, check the vital signs and see how I am holding up.  In the end analysis, some things are bad, but not everything.  Perhaps surprisingly, some things are positive.  Here are some glimpses at both sides of the proverbial coin:

The thing about time is it's relative.  For some people, June 20th seems a long time ago probably.  For Greg and me, it's not long enough to salve an open wound.  The fear, at least for me, is that everyone will lose patience with us, for the way we're still not whole.  I can't speak for Greg really, but I sense he worries about the same thing.  We go about our business, but we're not going about in exactly the same manner as we did before.  We lack much enthusiasm, everything seems to be like walking through quicksand.  And then there's the short fuse.

I had noticed it in myself, but this morning Greg told me he has had the same experience.  One might think we'd have this new level of ability to not sweat the small stuff and, face it, most everything in comparison is small stuff.  Oddly, however, that's not the case.  The little stuff just sends me into orbit.  I get highly irritated overly the smallest little things and, under the right circumstances, I've been known to completely come unglued over things that a year ago would have caused me to make some caustic comment or two, maybe bother me for a few minutes, but then I'd be done with it.  That was not always my personality, it was something I spent years struggling to achieve, and I hate that I seem to have lost it.  Larger issues I do better with, believe it or not.  Yet, when someone does something small, such as behave rudely (the trigger for a particularly bad outburst I had a couple of weeks ago was when someone responded to a work e-mail I sent posing a question with the response "WOW"), act pushy, or are willfully obtuse (a common problem, it seems, in my industry), I simply cannot stand it.  Greg's situation is worse because he has to interface with a diverse population, many of which are communicating because they are doing something "wrong" (not mowing a lawn, not paying a mandatory assessment, etc.), or they are upset with the associations Greg works with for various reasons and are complaining.  And, trust me, people in those circumstances often do not behave in a mature, business-like manner.  The way you survive that and handle it correctly is to not take it personally (even when they mean it that way), step back from the situation so you can see it for what it is and react calmly.  Greg has always been very good at that.  Now we both struggle with it.

For me, it is worse now than it was in the first months after Kelsey died.  I don't know why.  Maybe because there is the added stressor of Mother's situation.  But, maybe it's like when an arm or a leg is reviving from being asleep; it's that irritating tingling before normal nerve sensation returns.  Maybe, hopefully, this stage will pass, and I can regain some semblance of inner Zen.  I mean you have no idea how hard I worked to overcome my innate tendency to be a hot head, and I was so much happier with the Mellow Me.  I don't like it on the Dark Side.  It makes me really mad.

However, some unexpected things have happened for the positive.  Through this journey I have met a lot of incredible people.  Some people who I had not been in contact with for a long time have come back into my life and been highly supportive.  Granted, some of the people we know seemingly couldn't handle the intensity and have seemed to fade into the background, at least for now, but really they have been the minority.  As I have said before, I am blessed with wonderful friends.  I knew it before, I am more convinced of it now.

The largest gift of all was meeting so many of Kelsey's friends, now young men and women living their lives on the other side of the dark teenage years they were embroiled in when I first met them.  I love seeing them, always bright and attractive, now sober in most cases, heading for better things.  They are proof that there was light at the end of the tunnel.  And again, not reacting at all like I would have expected, instead of making me sad, because I am watching others have what Kelsey could not, it makes me very happy.  I feel a sense of satisfaction.  I realize part of it was because I was right when I concluded early on that there was a group of bad behaviors, but not bad kids, surrounding my daughters.  I would like to think it is less selfish than that.  I hope and believe I am genuinely happy for these young people.  I am so glad I have been, even if briefly, witness to their blossoming.  That has been truly amazing.

I know that this is an evolutionary process.  How I am today is not how I will be a month from now.  For now, please do not send me any e-mails all in caps.  I don't seem to like it much.   

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Elephant in the Room Dressed in Black and Gold

Picture this:  my dog Cheyenne, the one who so sensitive to my emotions, is clearly picking up on my distress on Thursday morning as I am trying, without much energy or desire, to get ready for work.  She is pawing at me and butting her head into my knee like she does anytime she feels I am upset.  It's as though she is saying, "Look at me, I'll distract you!"  So, I'm absently patting her, still more or less staring off into space, lost in my own thoughts when it occurs to me that anyone who would witness this scene would think I am worried over my mother after the week I'd had.  The truth of the matter is, I was thinking about Ben Roethlisberger.

Some might say that I was using that situation as a necessary distraction to stressful events on the home front.  However, there are others who know me who have likely thought it was a good thing I had this whole situation with my mother to distract me from the crisis concerning the two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback of my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers.  I am not sure what I would say to that actually.

Whatever the truth of my mental frame of mind is, I would imagine there are those who are waiting for me to take a position and are wondering where my loyalty will ultimately fall:  my raging sense of female empowerment versus my completely blind devotion to my team and the players on its roster.  When a fellow Steeler fan solicited comments on the situation, I wrote that I was struggling to reconcile those two issues.  A man commented back to me directly not to take it personally.  My immediate reaction was to think, "Wow, that's such a Man thing to say!"  And, of course, with my personality, I started to take the bait and engage him in what would have probably been a heated exchange with him ending it by calling me a female dog.  I tend not to take the high road in moments like that, I almost always snap back.  This time, however, too tired to fight, I let it go.  But, the bottom line is, while I originally felt wounded by that comment, he's probably right.  For me, this is personal.  I take my status as a Steeler fan very personally.  It's almost the first thing anyone who meets me learns about me.  It permeates my existence.  Okay, I can't resist:  it Completes Me. As a result, I feel protective of the players who wear "my" colors.  I hate it when anyone says anything bad about them (go ahead, just try to tell me Franco always caked out of bounds!)  On the other hand, I feel that one of the worst things an individual can do is to sexually assault another person.  It's not limited to men assaulting women, of course, but because I am a woman, the incidents of sexual assault on women are more my focus.  I am well aware that rape is not about sex, it's about power, but that is what makes it so heinous; the physical assault coupled with the stripping away of another individual's dignity and sense of security.  The crime that keeps on giving.  I can't and won't condone it.

So, we come to it:  how do I reconcile my stance as a woman standing firm against a hateful crime with my wanting to stand up and speak up for anyone who is a member of the team?  That's my struggle exactly.  How do I?  With the lawsuit, it was extremely easy.  That whole thing is about as bogus as a Raider fan stating that they're going to the Super Bowl next year.  There is probably a grain of truth in both claims, I do tend to think that this Andrea McNulty did have sex with Ben, and I think a Raider can go to the Super Bowl if he buys himself a ticket, but that's about the end of it.  I can shoot so many holes in that woman's claim, it's not even a challenge to try.  I hated the fact of it, because I think it was a distraction during the season, and I think it does a disservice to other women who actually are assaulted, but I never, not for a second, gave it any real credence.  But, my heart sank when I saw the news of the latest situation.  This one is a little harder to blow apart.  Of course, I still tried to tell myself we're all innocent until proven guilty, it doesn't really square with they way he conducts himself almost all the time, no other women are popping out of the woodwork (ala Tiger Woods) to say bad things about him, he's been active in a number of charities since the beginning of his career, and so on and so on.  But then he hired that attorney, Ed Garland, and I actually began to have doubts.  Mainly because I know who that man has defended before, and they all seem to be guilty.  I never watch the Ravens and see Ray Lewis but what I think, "You should be in prison."  Of course, I kind of wish he was off in prison somewhere because he's a beast of a player, and I'd rather my offense not have to face him, so take that into account.  However, his other big name clients that I am aware of are just as guilty in everyway but by the law.  The guy is good, I'll grant him, and it makes sense that you want the best, but I don't know...I didn't like the message it seemed to send.

And I was already aware of the incriminating photos of Ben with all these young women, clearly drunk to the point of passing out and wearing the less than fortunate t-shirt "Drink Like a Champion".   I have seen countless similar pictures of people on Facebook, but here is a lesson for a modern age:  in the Internet Age, you simply can't get away with that, it'll always come back to haunt you.  Of course, being young and dumb is not a crime, it's just stupid.  But it plays into a query my husband posed, which is whether Ben has a drinking problem.  I blew that off initially, but then I thought, "What if the head injuries couple with the alcohol, and he gets violent when he drinks?"

The worst was when Willie Colon came out with his statement, which is that he was on the dance floor away from where the assault supposedly happened and didn't see anything.  That was a carefully calculated statement meant to remove himself from the situation.  What I really noticed is what he didn't say, which is, "My friend Ben Roethlisberger did not do this."  Of course, attorneys are all over all of this, so they aren't really allowed to speak freely.  Who knows what he'd really like to say.

I keep waiting for the Steeler organization to say more than what they have.  Again, their attorneys probably aren't allowing it, but the Steelers have the largest female fan base in the NFL, this is hardly good for business.  I want Big Ben to come out and say or do something to assure the female fans.  But, what would he say that they would actually believe at this point?  Because, no matter what ends up happening, his reputation is completely shot.  Not that he's going to have trouble paying his mortgage next month, but he could have done so much more.

In the end analysis, I guess I have to wait, like everyone else, to see if he is truly innocent or guilty.  But, will I ever really know?  Can I look at him again under center and not have these nagging doubts?  I am trying to keep an open mind, but I will confess that also means I have to explore the possibility that my beloved quarterback really did assault that poor girl.  Dennis Dixon, I just hope you're using the off season to stay in football shape, my friend, you just may very well be the future face of the franchise.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

End of Days

I met with Mother's medical team today so we could discuss some end of life issues.  As much as I have struggled with the issues she has presented me with over the past few years, realizing that I had a room full of people expecting me to map out the decisions about her care in what are likely the last month's of her life was rougher than I thought.  That power, if you will, to decide what is best for an individual who once made those decisions for you is a little hard to fathom.  I control life and death every day.  I have ten four-legged charges who are totally at my mercy.  I have been a parent.  I have been highly aware of Mother's situation for some time now.  But, here I am, staring at the moment and thoroughly unprepared for the emotional impact of it.

Dad went very quickly, from my perspective anyway.  Mother, I know, lived with his declining health far longer than I was even aware, but I got the call to come home late in a week, was booked on a flight, flew home on Super Bowl Sunday in 1992 and was without a father by the next Friday.  And I thought it was hard at the time.  I had no idea.

Here I am, having known Mother was staring down the wrong end of the barrel for literally years now, trying to reconcile all of it.  Life.  It has an expiration date for all of us.  And Mother is, frankly well past hers.  She has multiple fatal diseases, she has lived well past the national average, she hasn't taken proper care of herself for years and her toll is due.  And I allowed her to drink alcohol when she shouldn't, eat sweets, and in general partake in activities technically contra-indicated by her various conditions because I more or less figured that someone her age has the right to do what he or she wants as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.  Now it's about to catch up with her, and I have to reconcile all of this.  It's a lot to wrap one's head around.  And in a way that's odd.  She's old.  Old people pass on so others may occupy that space.  My time will come.  Sooner, I honestly hope, than hers.  She has breathed air that Kelsey never got to.  This is the natural course of things, yet the fact that to an extent I will guide that course is horribly hard.

And the funny thing about all of this is that, who knows, she may still outlive all of us, and all of this gut wrenching moral soul searching may be for nothing.  That's the weirdest thing about life; it's never exactly by the script.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Down the Rabbit Hole

I smell bad, I'm dehydrated, I've had one hour of sleep in a bed since Sunday morning and maybe a total of one or two more dozing off in hospital chairs.  I can't get the taste of bad hospital coffee out of my mouth and my head is in rebellion.  But, the first thing I did when I hit the door was turn on the TV and look for Law and Order.  Thank God I found some.  This is a really old one - Mike Logan and Lennie investigating a crime to turn over to Claire Kincaid and Jack McCoy.  It's a good one (that's an inside joke).  And I need a juicy murder with a twist because it's been a heck of a day.

I had been in bed almost exactly an hour, a Tylenol PM in my system to try and dampen the rumblings of a headache I felt toward the end of the Oscars, when the phone rang.  It was a little before 1:00 AM.  I should have known what was coming.  Who else called the house phone at that time of night but the nursing home?  I was too deep in the clouds to even get out of bed.  I think somewhere in my head I thought that if I didn't answer it, it wouldn't be real.  But my husband, damn him, picked it up and handed it to me, confirming my fear; it was the home.  And, they weren't calling to say hello.  Mother had not been able to breathe and her vital signs were off the mark, so they were reporting the ambulance had already left with her.  Here we go.  I tried to blink the sleeping pill away and heavily pulled myself out of bed and rummaged through the closet for the requisite emergency room uniform:  sweat pants, comfortable shoes and a fleece top.  I grabbed my book, made sure I had the iPod and cell phone and off I went, taking the short middle of the night trek to the Round Rock Emergency Room that I have taken so many times.  At least, I noticed gratefully, they had her in Room 2 this time.  All the ghosts for me seem to live in Room 3.  I have been there a few too many times.

Mother was already in a room, a full oxygen mask strapped on, along with all the normal accoutrements (IV lines, electrodes dotted all over her chest, leading to lines constantly checking her vital signs).  Once again, like the fateful day of the Steeler-Viking game, the ER had determined she had fluid in her lungs.  However, things were a little more intense than I've seen before.  The doctors were asking pointed questions about advanced directives and whether she would want to be placed on a ventilator if it came to it.  The way they were asking the questions, with a little more urgency and force than usual, I am sure did not escape her notice.  I tend to think it set the stage for things that would take place as the day wore on.  She has a brain disease, but she's not an idiot.  The information she is intelligent to gather gets in there and mixes with the disease and then gets scrambled, but it gets there.  And in a way that makes her highly dangerous, if only to herself.

The layman's version of her condition is that the ulcerations on her leg are infected and that toxicity is poisoning her and causing fluid to form in her lungs.  Already with one faulty heart valve, her 91-year old body can't work that hard to give her oxygen.  One of the two doctors, looking at her legs, pronounced that she was likely close to a state where amputation was once more in the discussion.  Again, she is hearing all this and processing it through the broken filter of her Alzheimer's.  However, legally, she is still responsible for her own medical decisions.  I do not have medical power of attorney, but even if I did, the legalities are complicated.  As long as the patient can be deemed reasonably competent (and she did know all the pertinent facts; what day it was, when her birthdate was, who she was, where she was, etc.), her wishes have to be followed.  That's legally.  But, it's never that cut and dry.  There's always pressure to get her to do what they want her to do, which is to let them treat her.  Being reasonable has never been high on her list of personality traits.

Long story short, seriously ill, she was admitted and taken upstairs, but there wasn't a lot of discussion with her about it.  The assumption, of course, is that she, having made her background as a registered nurse clear, would understand her own predictament.  That was likely a critical error.  She cannot stand the feeling of being out of control of her own destiny, she fears it above all else.  Add to that the sweet young male nurse with a bit of Adam Lambert flair who told her she would only be there for a "couple of hours".  Trust me, she took that literally.  She repeated that she had been promised she'd only be there "two hours" at least a half dozen times before they even got her settled in the room, and she would keep it up like a mantra the entire day.  She dozed a little at first, but the other thing she seemed to be very capable of was clock watching.  The two hours expired and she went nuts.  She tore off her oxygen mask and started becoming abusive.  She was refusing all care.  The target of much of the abuse, I extracted myself.  Groggy from no sleep on top of a pill meant to make you sleep, I knew I was treading dangerously close to reacting incorrectly to her tirades.  So, I excused myself and retired to the main waiting room, having already decided I just wanted her to be released back to her nursing home.  There is no point to trying to care for someone in that state.  The opposite effect was taking place, in my opinion; her agitation was so severe that she was increasing the trauma on her body.

But, the hospital had other ideas.  Not willing to simply let her leave untreated, they tried to coax me to strong arm her, and then they tried to coax her themselves.  The doctor, having failed at trying to reason with her, called in the chaplain, a kind, soft spoken woman who had lived in Pennsylvania for five years.  She was devoted to turning Mother around.  She did not.  All the while, the clock was ticking, I wasn't working, which means I was not getting paid and whatever mounds of paperwork I had left from the week before was likely growing.  I projected that onto a misintrepreted e-mail my boss had sent me, and drama on that front ensued, thanks to some intervention by my husband, who knows us both.  Summary of that sub-drama, my agitation and paranoia was increasing with the exhaustion and stress.  Toxic behavior, it seems is contagious.  Finally, the hospital staff gave up on her.  Probably in large part because by then she was throwing things.  When Greg and I walked back into the room to take her back to the nursing home, she was doing her best Linda Blair imitation.  She was practically vomiting obscenities at the patient group of earnest women gathered around trying to help her.  They took it all in as though she was telling them what a lovely day it was outside.  They truly are angels of mercy.

This is a highly edited version of a long and complicated day, but suffice to say, after depositing her back in her room, I limped home to fall asleep in front of old Law and Order episodes.  Mother, a nurse from the nursing home told me a few hours ago, went to play bingo.  Having committed what is tantamount to a slow version of Hari Kari on herself and caused me to declare this the second worst day of my life, she actually was pleased enough with herself to play bingo!  There just aren't words for how bizarre and off balance life with Alzheimer's is. 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

History Lesson

My friend Francine invited me to come along with her and her brother to Fredericksburg for the regional premiere of the Spielberg-Hanks World War II collaboration called The Pacific.  Yes, you guessed it, it is exactly the same format as their Band of Brothers.  There are a lot of reasons that I love Steven Spielberg, not the least of which is that he has often brought World War II to the screen, dusting off old themes and characters and making them alive for younger generations.  He has an affinity for it because of his father, who flew the Hump during the war, just as my father did.  But, like me, he seems to have gravitated toward reflecting on the European theatre, delving less often into the Pacific.   Empire of the Sun being an exception, of course, but that was less about American soldiers in combat than viewing the atrocities of the Japanese from Anglo-eyes.  But, I knew from reading interviews that he always wanted to look to the Pacific someday to honor his father.  And, it seems, at last he has done it; granted after Clint Eastwood beat him there, but it's a big war and there are many stories to tell, so there is room for more than one Hollywood heavyweight.  Anyway, all of this as a long introduction to how I spent my day and where my thoughts took me yesterday:  which is to my father.

I have mentioned him before, so some of this will be repetitive probably, but I have not dwelled on him in detail largely because he passed away from cancer when both my daughters were very young.  Marissa does not remember him, Kelsey only vaguely recalled him.  Yet, his influence was heavily felt in their lives, because it was in mine and how I conducted myself.  Once, in melodramatic fashion, I announced that Hitler continues to claim victims, meaning myself.  I was just being a Drama Queen, but it is completely true that the aftermath of World War II is a constant in all our lives, to an extent I think most people my daughter's age don't understand.  The political landscape of the world was forever changed in the rubble of the war.  From larger global divides and politics, to the small, individual stories.  Stories of children of holocaust survivors who often find themselves with serious mental health issues as a result of their parents' experiences, for example.  Which is why I am so grateful to people like Eastwood, Hanks and Spielberg for reminding us of the sacrifices made by men like my father.  I believe we need to understand where we've been before we can really understand where we are.

But, this is not about Graham Bleiler, the uneven parent.  This is really about the man I never knew.  I always felt as though I never got the best part of my parent, the war did (hence my little dramatic statement).  This was reinforced by Mom's comments throughout my life that he was "not the man she married".  Yet, I never completely understood the level of the trauma he carried inside until I read Flags of Our Fathers by James Bradley only a few years ago.  For some reason, although I knew my father was haunted by his experiences during the war, right onto his death bed, I never really could empathize with him the way that I wish I had.  Reading about the traumas of the survivors of Iwo Jima helped me to understand the depth of the PTSD many of them came home with in the context of the times, which did not support mental health issues.  They came back to a war weary culture that wanted to sweep it all away and get on with things.  Even veterans didn't quite understand it in themselves; thinking it was a weakness.  My father's co-pilot told me the story of his brother who ended up homeless in San Francisco, shaking his head sadly at the lost soul who never recovered from the war, but did so in a way that conveyed that he didn't quite understand why his brother couldn't shake it off.  For many, like my father, they just buried it, where it festered, like hot coals in a dying fire, ready to erupt up again if poked.

Dad didn't participate in ground combat.  He never had to look a man in the eyes from the end of his bayonet.  The ghosts that haunted him were from the night raids on Toyko.  By that time, my father was piloting one of the B-29 Super Fortresses, a plane they called Devilish Snooks, as part of the 40th Bombardment Group.  Many of you know the story from a textbook point of view.  In the waning days of the war, the United States was trying to pound Japan into submission to avoid having to invade it, which they knew would be costly in men, material and moral.  The Japanese would have fought to the death.  So, the gloves came off.  My father's group was ordered on low flying night raids on Toyko and Osaka.  The reasons to fly in so low were strategic and highly successful.  The results, at least for my father, lasted a lifetime.  Late in his life, one late night when he had a few too many, he opened up about those raids.  He could still vividly recall the smell of burning flesh, and he knew they were targeting civilians, not just industrial areas.  He knew those were women and children he was dropping payload on, and it never left him.  Yet, he knew his orders, he knew his mission, and he fulfilled it.  He understood the larger reasoning for it, but he never completely reconciled that intellectual knowledge with the immorality he felt for doing his duty.  When he was sick from the chemotherapy in the week before he died, he thought he saw those women and children coming for him to punish him for what he did.  It was gut wrenching to witness, and I prayed to those souls to accept my father and forgive him.  He was a victim of the same war, it just took longer to claim him. 

So, I pondered my father's actions and life yesterday as we meandered through the museum in Fredericksburg, and I think of the soldiers who serve our country now and what they have seen and will have to live with and how that will impact their children and their children's children.  And I despaired a little bit at the human condition that causes us to have to send young people out to do and witness such horrible things, while at the same time being thankful that they are willing to do it.  In the end analysis, I never said thank you to my father for his service.  I should have.

Thank you, Dad.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Law and Order as Therapy

I would like to have done a lighter toned blog for once, but it's been a rough couple of weeks for the Veldman family so, aside from the momentary lift of the hockey game, there haven't been many bright spots to reflect on. I think of what we're going through a bit like grinding gears when you're trying to drive up a steep road; it's sort of messy transitioning between phases in our new lives. We're not really sure what's around the bend, but we are definitely on the road, whether we want to be or not. But I have to confess I'm really tired of working on recovery, worrying over Mother's situation, watching my other family members suffer.  Sometimes all I want to do is lie on the couch and watch Law and Order. This is why I was actually sort of glad to get the Olympics behind us so we could get back to lots of different versions of it.

I became addicted when Kelsey first went into treatment. I was a little shell shocked when I first came back from dropping Kelsey off to her first residential treatment in St. Louis. I couldn't quite reconcile where my life was with where I always thought it would be. I was trying to re-dedicate myself to my children, and absorb the early lessons counselors were trying to teach me, mainly the mantra, "It's not all about you." But, we were told a couple of times by a couple of different therapists that we also had to "take care of yourselves." So, how do you reconcile those competing ideas? By a little trial and error, but, for as much as I have preached putting your kids first in this blog, it is also sincerely true that you cannot completely lose sight of yourself. If you do, I think, you'll find you have nothing left to give your loved ones. And I sincerely believe they don't want that of you. So, I kept up volunteering with the Humane Society and I watched Law and Order as often as I possibly could. Back then TNT was using Law and Order re-runs to launch itself to the number one cable channel. And they milked it like it was a herd of happy cows. This worked out great for me. Mondays were particularly great fodder. I think the show was about to hit its 13th season, I hadn't watched it before (always working), so I had lots of ground to catch up on and episodes began at 5:00 PM and ran straight through until 11:00 PM. One Monday shortly after Kelsey entered McCallum Place I sat down in the living room chair and watched all five episodes without moving. Of course, that was not smoothest parenting move on my part that night since I have no recollection whatsoever as to what Marissa was doing, but there was so much of it on that I could watch it when the rest of the family was doing something else. Everyone in the family caught a bit of the fever anyway, and it became just what we did with any scrap of down time. Marissa and I are watching a Criminal Intent re-run as I write this. But, it was definitely my big guilty pleasure. The draw was simple: the crime and its detection and prosecution are the main character, and I could watch hours and hours of people who were worse off than I was. It was highly therapeutic. Whether I honed in on the victim or the perp, somebody was in a bigger jam than me. I would end my viewing, whether one or many episodes, feeling a little better about things. Almost re-energized. Weird? Maybe. But, sometimes, you go with what works.

I did become fond of the stars of the show, though, even though it is carefully crafted not to focus on the personal stories of the detectives and prosecutors. I was, and remain, particularly fond of Ed and Lennie. I cried when the actor who played the wise cracking detective Lennie Briscoe passed away. Most of the women I know knew who he was from Dirty Dancing. Others know him from his successful Broadway career, but I loved him as Lennie, and I miss him. But, then again, I'll always have him on Sunday morning re-runs. I would have a lot of fun at first checking the case law they cited. The law they use is generally sound from what I can tell, and some of my favorite scenes are when they argue a motion. It's like little snippets of actual cases. They make it seem to flow a lot faster and easier than even I know it really does, but when they state a statistic, it's generally a real one. Made it easier to not feel like a complete slug watching so much TV.

I don't know if I spent more time watching than I should have, but it helped me through lots of dark, dark days. And, here Marissa and I sit, bonding over Goren and Eames out-smarting a clever conspiracy, trying to feel a little bit better about our own bumpy road. For a few hours anyway, it'll actually work.