Tuesday, January 03, 2017

2016 Quadrupule Whammy!

High time to write a final post for 2016, a tumultuous year indeed. Mycotoxins in my domicile and ill-chosen foods are currently fogging my brain, so there will be no truly inspired paragraphs rushing through my fingers to keyboard and screen. I'll write as it comes. Whatever.
As with every year I live, there is the constant interface of the wonderful / terrible. Let's cite some of the wonderful first - two unique, once-in-a-lifetime trips. The first trip was with my elder grandson Charlie, a weekend long adventure during which we 'experienced' Texas and one another. He came to Texas for the food and ate plates of oysters, barbecue ribs and Tex-Mex. We visited the Alamo and had seats for two NBA basketball games with the San Antonio Spurs. We were lucky enough to visit  Pat Hammond, who coached Charlie on balancing six nails on the head of a seventh, quite the feat.

The second wondrous trip was a month long adventure in Italy with Earl - beginning with a week in Rome with his grand daugther Arianne, a first time traveler abroad. I had the good fortune to write nine travel posts for Houston's Paper City Magazine about what we saw and ate and loved in Rome, Naples, Bologna and Florence.
Arianne rests a moment in the Forum.
Earl, Roma Prize fellow, and grand daughter Arianne at the American Academy.
The three of us in the American Academy gardens.
Arianne poses infront of a section of an art installation along the Tiber. See my Paper City
story for more details. Artist water blasted his images, cleaning the walls and leaving the grime
as drawings that stretch a quarter of a mile.
After those two fine trips, the long summer stretched out ahead of us, as did the reality of the presidential campaign. For me, not a good combination. My days were slowly overtaken with what I could only characterize as DREAD and a sense of loss. I presume the fact that I still cry every single day is proof of losses, peppered with foreboding and angst about the effects of the election on our collective future.
The 2016 presidential election affected my entire being. I'd pegged the George W. Bush years as bad, turning to obsessive crocheting as antidote. After Obama's swearing in, I put down my crochet hooks. Looping loop after loop was a diversion. The diversion after this most recent election will be creative resistance to the upending of my world. I am deep in thought about the ways in which this creativity will manifest.
The national political scene dropped over me like a cold and heavy quilt. That omnipresent DREAD is mixed with a pervasive grief for Hillary's loss and another's win. Seems everything I ever believed in, and worked for over a lifetime, is now under siege. I feel uncertainty and outright horror. About climate change and sources of pure free water, the dying off of bees, increasing income inequity, the fate of women's reproductive rights, the just treatment of immigrants and the homeless. I am 74 years old, and the ideals and standards I hold dear will soon be under mortal attack. Of course, I have DREAD and shed tears. Of course, I must pull myself together. My talents and skills, and those of like minded folks, are ever more necessary. There won't be a dull moment, for years to come.
Now back to those mycotoxins. Could they be a metaphor for these times? Mycotoxins are winging their way about my house, apparently coming from two moldy sources. They are poison. They cause bodily harm. Who'd have known, if I hadn't made an attempt to deal with my daily DREAD and asked my friend Sally for an introduction to Dr. Shreenath Doctor. A psychiatrist chemist, he perused 30 pages of medical and family history, and listened to me for more than an hour. Then he said I was not depressed in any way that could be ameliorated with antidepressants. No, he had questions, not about my life, but about flooding and water damage, and suggested that mold and mycotoxins were affecting my brain and well, my entire outlook on life. Swab and air tests confirmed his diagnosis. I will soon be living out of a suitcase at John's house during the days my house will be remediated. New air samples will confirm my domicile cleared of toxins and ready for reentry.

2016 was DREADful in other ways besides mycotoxins and the presidential election. My brother John was diagnosed in early summer with tongue cancer. I told John, emphatically, that he could not die before me, that I could not live on this earth without him. The day of his last treatment, he allowed me into his new world and we began to walk the halls of MD Anderson together.
Kate flies to Houston in late September for a visit with John.
He's building a new store on the Gulf Freeway. Pretty impressive.

John is grappling with, as he describes his successful treatment and the total barbarism of it all, 'the worst thing that's ever happened to me'. His throat was scorched by radiation, and since July, he's relied on five or six 500 calorie milkshakes to keep him walking and talking. John is a ghost of his former self, yet hasn't missed a day of work. As for intake of solid foods? That's tough, and he is still experimenting and calibrating every bite, bending to the demands of his fried throat.
John's illness made for a triple whammy in 2016. But truth be known, as the fault lines in my extended family shifted in so many places, I am moved to cite a quadruple whammy. The consequences of shifts ripple across the generations. We love, we lament, we rejoice and tear our hair out simultaneously. We want peace, a bit of joy, reconciliation or not.
Each of us in this family follows our own unique path. And I am noting here that individual journeys always affects the whole of us. I wonder if I followed the Buddhist tradition, I'd find acceptance of what is and stop trying to fix stuff. Realize I speak obliquely here, respecting the privacy of my loved ones. It's been quite a year for all of us.
So, back to more 2016 good things. In addition to those two trips last spring. Mary B and Queta came to Houston for Thanksgiving and even in a week's time, we did not get in all the visiting we'd have liked. That day we shared in Galveston was wonder-filled with a walk on the beach, plus terrific and unexpected clothes shopping. And then there were family suppers and a big Thankgiving day. We cook and we converse.

I watched Earl take a bow during a curtain call for Houston Grand Opera's fourth production of Faust, using sets he designed in 1983. That Faustian curtain of his can dominate the entire theater.
In 2016, I made more photo collages with my iPhone than ever before. Many are good, and need to be printed, shown. I am writing and know, now for sure, I need an editor. The pile is too big and growing.
At this moment, I cannot imagine the contours of 2017. I am focusing instead on nuances, details and the everyday, because I know that is where to find joy and goodness. Perhaps that's where I'll find hope too?
I liken myself to a quarterback, (Note the incongruity of me using a sports metaphor. Really.). A quarterback strategizes, looks for openings toward which one can run and break free, changing the game/world one action at a time. I think it's up to each of us, now more than ever, to focus on the big stuff, while noticing and building on the small stuff. Look for the openings and change the world. Leave DREAD behind.
My big orange cat Farrell died late this fall, painfully, in the early morning hours. We sat over him, administering affection and soft pats. I still miss him when I return home and he is not at his post in the driveway, unsmiling cat ready to greet us.

1 comment:

earl said...

What a year. So happy to be a part.