Tag Archives: mental-health

The Repressed Cookie Fantasy

I had one of those dreams where you know you’re dreaming and you keep trying to wake up but you just wind up in another dream.

In one of the dreams i kept intending to uhm, touch myself? But i was too busy cleaning and taking care of the cats so i never got around to it.

Idk… That just doesn’t seem like the dream of someone who has a healthy sexuality.

I do tend to repress my feelings in that respect.

I can never figure my husband out. Half the time he seems upset at me and the other half he’s tired or busy.

I think he’s good in bed but he’s been pretty critical of my skills the last 3 or 4 years.

I’m guessing that has to do with the whole porn debacle.

I try not to take that stuff personally but it’s like hiking uphill in a hailstorm.

No, that example actually sounds really fun.

It’s like trying to get myself to swim underwater.

See, i’ve never been able to swim underwater. Even when someone holds my body down, some extremity manages to wriggle its way to the surface.

It’s psychological, i’m sure. Some survival mechanism leftover from when my family forgot me in a pool at the age of 2.

(Unrelated: i am terrified of drive thru carwashes).

Where was i going with this? Oh yeah, it’s impossible not to take critiques on your sexuality personally. It is a part of the brain and body that is deeply connected to emotion, not logic.

So i don’t have a high opinion of myself when it comes to sex and i don’t think the world is missing out on anything by me being pretty much dysfunctional in that sense.

I think i’ll be ok as long as there is an ample supply of cookies.

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Adult Friendships and Other Unrealistic Goals

The concert came and went but Ave the guitarist continued to feel as lonesome and restless as ever.

Their performance had been subspectacular. It was about a hair below mediocre. But most importantly, it was done.

She hadn’t given up, not even when she had to write the letters next to the notes on the sheet music to keep up with the other musicians. Not even when her custom ordered guitar hadn’t come. She marched up on that stage, trudged right along through every measure, well, maybe not every measure.

Ok so she skipped a few measures here and there. But she stuck it out and took a bow with the rest of them.

I’m not sure why i was writing about myself in third person but i’m going to stop that now.

This was a difficult project i undertook. The women i met were very supportive and wonderful. Everyone was. I wish it wasn’t so time consuming. I wish i was rich and could devote myself to all of my art projects without neglecting any.

I had planned on finishing my novel this year. But if i stay in chamber music, i won’t have time for that or to do the illustrations on a book my dad’s self-publishing.

If i let a lot of time go by between drawing or photo projects, i start to feel like i’m losing myself. The same thing happens when i go a couple weeks without giving any Bible classes.

But like i said, the ladies i played guitar with were so supportive and it’s hard to find people like that.

I recently texted an old friend. She wanted to hang out and said she’d check her calendar and get back to me. It’s been a week and a half. I think it’s safe to assume she can’t find her calendar.

Something similar happened with a childhood friend of mine who texted me in January to hang out in February. She never texted me when the time came, so i texted her a few weeks later and she never replied. I’m pretty sure she was drunk the first time she texted me back in January.

It’s hard for me to put myself out there and get met with rejection. I work in Sales so i’m rather used to it, but it’s not the same. I always try to act like it’s ok and it doesn’t matter. I just go on living my life as normal. Sometimes i hear the women in my congregation got together to do this or that and i feel bad because i get left out.

I get that no one really gets my sense of humor. Those who do get it already have their own tight circle; they don’t need new close friends. I’m somehow outside their comfort zone.

At least i have my husband, but he’s always asleep or on his phone or at the gym or at his parents’.

I guess i’m just not that fun to be around. Like on a fun scale i’d probably be just the scale, not even a number.

Tonight i called my mom to invite her to come conduct a Bible study with me. But she’s too busy. The other day she came to a nearby city to a baby shower. I was sort of jealous.

I can’t even remember the last time i was invited to a baby shower. The clothes are so cute, and the little shoes make me teary-eyed. I think i was eight.

I really don’t get it. I even texted this guy i’ve been trying to be friends with for like a year now, because we have a lot in common. The one i said was my soulmate. But that’s pretty much unilateral, as so many of my relationships are. As was the conversation.

He didn’t reply. I deleted his number. It hurts too much to reach out in the dark for someone and be ignored. Anyway, I was just trying to be nice. At least that’s what i thought i was doing.

But let’s revisit my childhood traumas for just a second. Our home was so very small and i was always in everybody’s way. I wanted to disappear. I started overdosing on over the counter painkillers.

That was fun.

When we lived in Mexico, the consensus in the congregation was that i was somehow holding my husband back. So i mixed the painkillers with cleaning liquids and eventually alcohol.

That wasn’t so fun.

The last time i did that, i was 32. My husband had stormed out of the house, angry about something. I was taking my heartrate as i downed the bottle. It was somewhere in the 30s.

Someone called me from a different congregation. She said i sounded weird. I told her i was alright. After hanging up, i put away the bottle.

My dad used to work as a cab driver and that lady was always calling me to ask if he could take her to the doctor’s. It was irritating and i ended up blocking her. But i think God used her that one time.

I never liked it that my dad worked as a cab driver and spent all that time alone with women passengers. It must have bothered me every night for about 23 years.

I don’t know how my mom could handle that. Perhaps i’m far too insecure.

The point is i was suicidal then, but i’m not now. And maybe most people around me never even notice i’m there, so it’s hard for me to part ways with my guitarristas, because they gave me the impression that they cared.

I guess i can always conjure up my imaginary ex-boyfriend. I wonder what he’s up to these days.

My Unborn Child Was a Stomach Bug

I am definitely not cut out to be a guitarist. I have not enjoyed the last few days or the idea of having to do this concert.

Now the day has finally arrived and i wish i could stay in bed all day.

What is the point of performing chamber music in a theater setting? That’s not what it was composed for. It was composed for chamber settings. Small intimate rooms. It’s in the name.

I try not to think about my lost guitar in Mexico or the asshole who never delivered it. I can’t expend energy on being upset.

There will be time for that tomorrow.

Our sextet ensemble kinda sucks and that’s a little depressing. I know the music well but when i’m in public, i blank at random intervals. At this point, i’ve played every piece hundreds of times, but i still blank.

I wasn’t blanking before last week so it is either because i switched to a different sized guitar or because of performance anxiety.

My dad used to say that what you were trying to do doesn’t matter. The only thing that’s important is the end result. My brother and i never agreed with him.

I specifically asked my parents not to come to the concert.

He once advised me not to eat sugar before a show to help with my anxiety. So i stopped drinking chocolate and Coke a week ago and i’ve been in a pretty bad mood.

It’s just not worth it.

And the thing is, i never felt this much dislike of performing when i was just singing. But i do wonder if it’s this bad just because it’s a new experience to me, and it could improve over time?

Or is my bitterness from not receiving my guitar oozing into other aspects of my musical life?

To be honest, lately i don’t enjoy anything, other than food and television. (I was a tv addict as a child until my parents canceled cable).

I feel very inept as a human. I think i would be a very good cat or koala. Anything that’s supposed to sleep for most of the day. I could get Panda of the Year, i bet.

I thought i was pregnant for a few days and that was exciting. But that turned out to be a stomach bug. My breasts were itchy but that was because my washer didn’t rinse out my bras well enough. My back was hurting but that was probably because the guitar i switched to is heavier than my other one. I gained a little weight but that’s just what i tend to do.

Then i read online that if you’re very thirsty or have fever, it’s just a stomach flu, not pregnancy. And i have been very thirsty and a little feverish.

But yesterday i had a nice surprise. When i got home there was a pot of flowers on the table with a card. My husband said he didn’t know who had brought them for me.

I opened the card and it turned out they were for my mother in law who lives next door.

My in-laws are the only people i invited to the concert, other than my husband, but they won’t be able to go.

Maybe i can enjoy the concert more if i think of it as a team-failing exercise. I always fail alone, but this time i get to fail as a team.

I probably shouldn’t tell them that.

The Benefits of Going Mad

Cat hairball season is in full swing and i spent the better part of this daybreak cleaning up after them.

Of course, i couldn’t sleep between coughing fits because of something someone said last night, which would continue to eat away at me if i let it.

Unrelatedly, someone different alluded yesterday to me “and my paradox worlds.”

And now, caught in the snags of my depression, grasping for my happy place, and only having one recourse which isn’t a place at all but a moment in time… i wonder if it’s ok to let myself go there. A moment which only existed as a ripple and doesn’t currently have anything to do with reality.

On the pro side, if i allow my sleep-deprived self to dwell there, i can conserve inner peace. The physical world can fall apart around me. I can tune it all out and just be.

On the other hand, if i go around smiling and not replying to others’ complaints, they’ll assume i enjoy the criticism or am going mad.

It’s almost as if in order to function properly, i would have to find a midpoint between my happy place and reality. But i cannot do that. Because halfway to my happy place isn’t my happy place. It’s just more of this… cat vomit and not being good enough.

But if i stay here in reality, insomniac me will get irritated and say things others don’t want to hear and then they’ll hate me more than they do now. Insomniac me can’t concentrate on anything long enough to be productive. Insomniac me is slow and tardy.

But in my happy place i can soar above it all in a red-orange hot air balloon, sipping on champagne, singing like a bird. I can even drop heavy things from the sky without real consequence.

This reminds me of “Around the World In 80 Days.” I lost track of how many times i read that book growing up. I’ve always wanted to mirror that voyage in real life as closely as possible.

But i only get 2-weeks paid vacation. If i lived in one of those modern nations with extended paid maternity leave, i could do it then. Because in my happy place, i must be cleaning up after a baby instead of cats.

Though in this reality, i’d be cleaning up after all of them- cats, baby, and husband.

Is it selfish to dissociate and go Matrix on everyone? Wouldn’t everyone be better off in the long run if i just let my mental health go? It’s not like anyone depends on me. Well my cats do, but they say they’ll stick by me either way.

The Self-Conscious Photoshop Generation

Do you ever wake up and just hate your eyebrows? They were fine the night before. What could have happened during the last eight hours that made them go off in different directions?

When we lived in Mexico ten years ago, one of the last conversations i had with a friend was her kind of making fun of the way i look.

I never really felt self-conscious before that. I mean, my mom always pointed out my physical flaws when presenting me to her friends. Sometimes older women asked me how a guy like my husband ever even noticed me. But i thought all older women were just mean like that. Embittered by their oldness.

Not so long ago, i was visiting a friend and at some point she said something about physical appearance that sounded passive aggressive to me. I don’t remember what it was exactly- my brain tends to block mean comments from my memories- but it was similar to when someone criticizes chubby people in front of an obviously chubby person…

When i was dating my husband, his mom once told me that she understood if i had depression because i have a lot of freckles.

The offensive part of that comment was that anyone would think i’m that vain. The freckles are the last of my worries.

But admittedly for the last ten years i have felt more self-conscious about how i look. A lot of women use botox or get surgeries. All of that is expensive and there are funner things i’d rather spend my money on.

Anyway, i always wonder how much better people would treat me if i met the definition of gorgeous. It would be harder to read people, i think. Right now several people i know are consistently mean or indifferent to me for no apparent reason. I notice they are friendly to most other people. I can’t help but wonder if part of that can be attributed to looks.

Or maybe i just blame my looks when it is my personality failing me. Because it’s always like a million times harder to change the way i am than the way i look, and i’d rather not have to change myself to win over anyone who doesn’t innately like me.

Which to be honest lately feels like pretty much everyone.

Anyway, within the last twelve hours, i’ve woken up twice trying to scratch off my face. So that’s new.

I think the whole filtered selfie era is bad for people psychologically, creating these unrealistic expectations about how we and others ought to look.

But the animal filters are pretty cute.

When i was doing portrait photography, i was obsessed with presenting the best image of clients. Now i want to show everything as it really is. Crude. Raw. Live. Because life is already beautiful enough. Diversity is beautiful. Scars and tear stains and gray roots.

3-dimensionality is beautiful but when we reduce someone to a flat little screen, we’re taking a whole dimension away from them. People don’t fit in one’s pockets.

I don’t think technology is very far from Star Wars style holograms. But of course, the media isn’t the problem. Even as a hologram i’d probably still worry about symmetrical eyebrows.

I’ll just take cover under a teddy bear filter and hope people think it’s natural.

I Saw The Sign

To leave or not to leave… That is the question.

I have always been the sort of person who freaks out a little when things don’t go as planned. I am not an emotionally stable person, so i try to be as methodical as possible to mitigate overreacting.

Basically i’m like a cat when it comes to change. Hug me at 6 AM. You better not forget to open the curtains. Feed me dinner by 6 PM. Clean my litter box before bed or there will be consequences.

I do love a good adventure, but i have to mentally prepare for it.

I like to read the last page of a book before i buy it, or read a movie synopsis before i go see it.

Some surprises are good, like when my husband does the dishes. But my parents have never tried to visit me without warning. They know i would cry for at least two days straight.

I’ve even thought about preordering my tombstone engraving, just so i can see how it all turns out in the end.

“Here rests Ave, beloved wife, sister, writer.”

Nah, my husband might not say that about me.

Today i was supposed to go to chamber music practice and then have a dinner date with him and go watch a Chinese ballet. You know, the one that’s being advertised all over the place.

But he changed our plans and now we are having dinner at home before the show.

I don’t want to be driving back and forth all afternoon, so i decided not to go to music practice and just stay at work.

Now i just had a work emergency and it was a good thing i was here to take care of it.

It’s funny how something that initially upset me turned out to be for the better.

It makes me wonder if my whole life God has been trying to direct me to better things and i’ve been too stubborn in my life plans.

Maybe i was never meant to be a missionary. Or a minister. Or a photographer, singer, guitarist or dancer. Not even a mother. Or maybe i was and i just missed all the right turns, because i was too focused on the road way farther ahead.

Now i’m stuck in Today world, always waiting for something better, wondering why nothing is how i expected it to be.

I used to read advice online that said the best way to achieve your goals is to stick to them no matter what. “You’ll get there eventually.”

But my life doesn’t seem to align with that trajectory at all, at least not as far as personal happiness is concerned.

It seems that the more i pursue things that once made me happy, the more problems i have in my relationships.

If i try to serve God, soon someone points out what i’m doing wrong. If i try to sing, the classes interfere with work or homelife. If i try to promote my own art projects, come to find out hardly anyone cares. If i try to get pregnant, someone breaks my heart.

It’s my husband. My husband breaks my heart.

And yet, he’s the reason i stayed at work this afternoon and was able to handle the work emergency, to my boss’ relief.

So how do i know the difference between a sign and just circumstance? Like yesterday, when my husband was mad at me and said he was going to hire a prostitute… Was that a sign i should smack him?

My life is confusing. It’s not a journey. It’s not a story. I’m not meant to run away from it. I’m not meant to fastforward it to the good parts. No one really needs me around but no one wants me to leave.

I’m not going anywhere anyways.

Pregnant Bi-Polar Bear Blueberry Polaris Knitting

Dear Body,

Dear Body,

Good morning.

I understand that you haven’t been feeling well lately and this is the second time our immune system collapses in three months.

I want you to know I appreciate all your hard work and don’t blame you for our present state.

I am sorry if I don’t always give you everything you need and for keeping you up at night worrying about irrelevant things.

Sometimes I act like you embarrass me, but the truth is I am very proud of you and wouldn’t want to live inside any other body.

Sure, we have our differences of opinion…
You want to eat x number of cupcakes whereas I only want half… You want to lie in the sand whereas I force you to run on it…
But I try to make up for your sacrifices by supplying you with ample amounts of chocolate.

Bi-Polar Bear Blueberry Polaris Cupcakes, Cookies n Beer

I received your list of requests you made me.
I don’t think I can get you more hugs but I will work on it.
I don’t know what to do about all the work hours and the commute.
To be honest, that has been very hard on me too.
Ok, ok, I will look for a job closer by, even if it pays less.
I agree that I need to spend more time playing guitar.

I am glad we are communicating with each other again, even if it is through a blog.

I know you liked the food in Italy more than the food here so I promise to take you back there some day.

It’s true- I stopped trying to make you look pretty months ago, but it’s not that I don’t care.
You look good enough without makeup.
Ok, ok, I’ll try a little harder.
But I’m not going to torture you with waxes or substances that smell like ammonia.

My dearest Body, I tend to have lapses in judgment and you usually pay the consequences.

Bi-Polar Bear Blueberry Polaris Throws Up
Hang in there.
I need you.

Sincerely,
Me.
Which is the same as you.
You-me.
Me-you.
Whatever.

PS- I know your natural inclination is to try to get pregnant but I’m not sure that’s what either of us really wants.

Pregnant Bi-Polar Bear Blueberry Polaris Knitting

Pregnant Bi-Polar Bear Blueberry Polaris Throws Up

© Ave Valencia 2015

The Day with No Sun

Once upon a time there was a girl trying to write a story about anything, really, but her wild imagination had once again ran dry.

Then she looked out the window and saw it was still dark outside.
It was late morning but the sun still hadn’t risen.

She wondered what could be taking it so long.
So she packed up a lunch, flashlight and two water bottles in her Hello Kitty backpack and set out on what would be the quest of a lifetime.

As she passed the dark village that was her hometown, she sat under a cypress to eat a snack, for although only five minutes had passed, she was already hungry.

A giant cat sniffed her yummy bread and crept up behind her, purring heavily.

“Good morning Mr. Meowskers, are you very hungry today?”
The giant cat did not understand English entirely well and it thought she was telling it to eat her bread.
So it ate it.

“I am on a journey to find the sun.
Do you care to come with me?”

The cat thought she was inviting it to go fishing and nodded it’s big fat spotted head.
It bent down so she could climb on its back.
Ten minutes later, the brush in the forest path grew thicker.
Mr. Meowskers grew tired and started to growl.
He found a mossy boulder and decided to roll around and around in it.

The girl took the hint and went on her way.
Almost immediately she ran into her younger brother.
“What are you doing out here all by yourself?
Come and help me look for the sun.”

“Gee I would but I am going to shoot some arrows with our cousin.
Good luck Sis!”
He grabbed one of her water bottles from her backpack and sped away on his bike.

She walked through a dark canyon and at the other end ran into two of her girlfriends.
They were wearing gym clothes.
“I am off to look for the sun.
Won’t you join me?”

“Now that you mention it, it has been rather dark today.
I gotta do zumba after this and then yoga though.”

“Yeah,” added the other one, “and I gotta finish a paper on natural disasters for my Ecology class.
But have fun!”

The girl skipped some stones to cross a creek and was about to slip when her fiance just barely caught her.
“Wow! Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes?” she asked with a dumb giant smile on her face.
“Babe! What’re you doing this far out from town?
It’s dark and you’re by yourself!”

“That is precisely why I’m out here- to figure out where the sun went.
But now I won’t have to be by myself because you can join me.”

Awkward silence.
Then they both started to giggle uncomfortably.

“What’s so funny?” she asked as she crossed her arms.

“Remember that boat race I’ve been telling you about?”

“Speak no further,” said the girl, holding her palm up.
“Be on your way. I can figure this out on my own.”

“Really? Aww thanks Babe. This is why I decided to marry you. You get me.”

The girl marched off into the thickening forest with her head pointing forward before her body.

The young man called out, “You’re not mad are you?”

A couple hours passed and the girl passed a bee meadow, a volcano, a labyrinth in a tall garden, and a cave.
She was entirely unaware of the time and thought it might be a good idea to set up camp at the cave.
She ate one of her sandwiches and fell asleep for 12 hours.

She woke up around midnight with a blanket over her body and a masked person stirring up a fire.

“Are you gonna eat me?” she asked under her breath.

“The nymph awakens. You may exit my cave now and I shall not press charges.”

The masked person had a youthful voice that could either belong to a man or a woman.

“I am on a quest to find the sun.
If you join me I will pay you.”

You are on a quest to find the sun?
If the sun were hiding it wouldn’t want to be found by a simple-minded creature such as yourself, no offense.”

The girl opened her eyes wide, bringing the pitch of her voice up.
Well then, all the more reason to join me.”

“I shall join you, but not for money.
There is one thing only that I request- that is your honesty.”

“Huh?”

“You mustn’t lie to me, not once.”

“That’s easy.”

“Very well then, it is agreed.
If you lie to me just once I will unjoin you and you will be left to your own devices.”

“Very well. Can we go now? All this talking’s made me hungry.”

She started to unzip her backpack when the mystery person picked it up, lit a torch and led her out of the cave.

For several months they traveled together like that, always in an uphill direction.
As they advanced, the darkness became less grey and more of a foggy yellow.
The girl was tired of always having to share her water bottle with this mystery person and wondered if this yellowing of the environment meant the sun was near.
The hill they were climbing kept getting steeper and steeper.
Pretty soon it’d be as vertical as a wall.

“This hill is getting too steep for me.
Perhaps we should find a way around it.”
The mystery person kept climbing forward as if she’d said nothing.
A few minutes passed.
The mystery person stopped climbing and just stood there blocking her view.
She spoke louder.
“I said, THIS HILL IS GETTING-”

“SHHH! Listen.”

Something sounded like it was moving in a nearby tree.
The girl lifted up the mystery person’s arm and stuck her head under it.
She gasped.

“It’s the sun!” she whispered excited.
“It’s stuck on the branch of that cypress tree!
Here sun! Here koochy-koochy!”

“What are you doing?
It’s the sun, not a cat.”

“It looks so helpless, dangling there all hurt n stuff.
How should we get it down?”

“You’re looking at the situation erroneously.
The question is, how should we get it up?”

The girl thought for a while.
She tried to creep up closer to the astro king but nearly tripped.
The mystery person picked her up and landed her in a head stand position.

“I think it’s working.
I can see the sun starting to come up.”

The mystery person also did a head stand.
“Ah yes. I am a genius.”

“To think this whole time the problem was us.
I feel so much lighter all of a sudden.
Like I was carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.”

As she admired the sunrise, the mystery person was half way gone.

“Wait! Where are you going?”

The mystery person turned around but kept walking backwards.
“We had a deal, remember?
You weren’t supposed to lie.”

“What are you talking about?
I didn’t lie! You’re crazy!”

“Remember the time you said you didn’t even know what my name was..?”
The mystery person tossed the girl’s backpack to her, then turned around and kept walking with a fading voice.
“You’ve known who I am all along!”

“Wait!”
The girl ran after the mystery person but the earth seemed to be moving in an opposite direction beneath her.
“I just wanna…
I just wanted- your mask! Off!”
She broke down crying.
“I just wanted to thank you.”

She spent the night there crouched up and crying, thinking about what a lonesome long journey lay before her and how she had no idea which way home was, upset at herself for not even bringing an umbrella, even though there were no rain clouds.
She looked at the moon and fancied it snickering at her, so she threw her water bottle at it.
That proved pointless.
Finally when the morning came, she got up, dusted her clothes off, picked up her water bottle and her backpack and walked on.

She was just as surprised as I was when five minutes later she strolled into her village, an unsung heroine.
And of course, it was a typical sunny day.

bipolar bear cat toss

When Someone Says “I Don’t Admire You”

Has anyone ever told you they don’t admire you?

How is one supposed to react to a comment like that?

Is throwing things at them out of the question?

What if the person is a really close friend, relative, or someone you really look up to?

What if you’ve looked up to this person for years, confiding in them, trying to please them, and all of a sudden you come to find out this whole time they’ve simply been putting up with you, that they think they’re above you in every way…?

What if you have to live with someone who has such a low opinion of you?

Wouldn’t you want to throw things at them too?

I’m not saying anything sharp or heavy.

Something big enough to get your point across but that doesn’t leave a mark.

bipolarbear-cattoss
Don’t forget to use your death-ray stare against your aggressor as you throw a fluffy object at him.

 

People- we all tend to say stupid things when we’re angry, and if we’re always angry, we’ll only say stupid things.

“Stupid” in the sense that they don’t contribute anything positive to this here world of ours which is already in a sorry state, and the mean comments could have gone without saying.

Ok, yes, he doesn’t admire me. I’m not admirable. So what?

I’m already trying as hard as I can to be a good person.

The inability to impress someone who means a lot to me only discourages me. It kind of makes me want to run through traffic or off a cliff.

But one person’s opinion can’t be my whole world.

My opinion of myself always has to carry more weight than others’ opinions of me, because aside from God, no one else understands my circumstances.

That is why it’s so important to have a healthy self-esteem to begin with.

Every morning, wake up and thank God he made you so great.

Some people think love and admiration go hand in hand.

Others think you can love someone without necessarily admiring them.

Both points of view seem valid.

In other words, I have no idea. I just know it hurts.

how to meaningful conversation neighbor life on life support

How to Hold Meaningful Conversations with Neighbors on Life Support

Ms. Verla had a stroke on Monday.

Things didn’t look good for her.

She kept pulling at that tube that fed fiber up her nose and down into her stomach somewhere.

I asked her if she was comfortable.

She didn’t say nothing.

“Are you hungry?”

“Uh-huh.”

‘Got it,’ I thought to myself, ‘uh-huh means yes, awkward silence means no.’

“Have your sons come to see you?”

…Awkward silence.

“How long have you been here?”

…More awkward silence. Oh wait, that wasn’t a yes or no question.

Duh.

Well what was I supposed to ask a woman born 56 years before me, whom I had seen walking past my parents’ home my whole life pushing her grocery cart full of cans and glass, to make time pass more meaningfully for her?

I knew her name cause I gave her a ride to the recycling yard once.

Only took me about 27 years to get that close to her.

But Monday I was glad I hadn’t forgotten it.

How else could I have found her room at the hospital?

Strange… I thought at least one of her sons would have been there with her.

Later I asked my dad about it and he said the cops were chasing her sons down in the East-side.

Aside from age and socioeconomic differences, Ms. Verla is Black.

Gosh I hope the cops didn’t shoot her sons down, now that I think about it.

But that night at the hospital, when things didn’t look too good for her, the nurse came in and reprimanded her for pulling her tube five inches out.

Then some guys in the hallway radioed the technician responsible for putting tubes up noses for help.

As it turned out, her sons had requested she be taken off life support.

“Just leave her and see what happens,” said the radio call.

I stared out the door with my eyes wide open.

Ms. Verla couldn’t see me.

She ain’t seen nothing for about four months on account of her diabetes.

But her eyes looked pretty wide open also.

Hm.

The elderly are always more conscience than we think they are.

The food lady came rolling in a food tray for her.

“This is for him.”

“For her,” I said, consternated that her oddly-shaped, languid bulk of a body should be confused with that of the opposite sex.

“Hang in there,” I told her before leaving so the nurse could change out her linens.

…Next night, I expected the worst, but she looked much better.

The tubes had been doing her wrong.

“Hi Baby,” she said cheerfully when I told her it was me in the room.

That was what she always called me, long as I can remember.

“The doctors in the hall are really handsome, you’d like to see them,” I told her.

“Uh-huh!”

We both laughed.

“You’re not doing so bad anymore.”

I stood there for a while watching the clock.

Her sons weren’t there again.

Must be terribly boring lying in bed all day all by yourself unable to move or anything.

Or maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be in order to recover.

I dunno.

“You want me to read you the Bible?” I asked.

“Nn-mm.”

OK! no more awkward silences.

“You want to hear Amazing Grace?”

“Uh-huh.”

Took forever to load on the phone but once it started I could see the look of relief on her face.

Half way through it she held her hand out to me.

Did she want me to stop it?

“Do you want me to stop it?”

“Nn-mm.”

She held her hand out again.

Oh. Right. Hold hands.

I told her I’d be back in a couple days to see how she kept up.

When I came to the hospital, the young man at the reception desk told me she had been discharged.

“Do you know where to? I mean, I know you can’t tell me, it’s confidential, but I’ve known her my whole life, and I have no idea where they took her.”

“I’m sorry,” he said sincerely, “I don’t even have access to that information, and if I did, I would not be able to tell you.”

So just like that, Ms. Verla’s gone.

I always imagined myself writing her biography, interviewing her about the way life was in the deep south before civil rights and all that.

I guess it’s common to have regrets left over when long relationships draw to a close.

I’m glad, though, that she was our neighbor all those years, I’m glad she was a part of my life, and I’m so glad I went with her as far down the road as I could.