Peace Be With You

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A Warrior Woman has left this world.

She slew her Dragon.

Let us celebrate her life.
Let us celebrate her release from its tortures.
Let us celebrate her beauty.
Let us celebrate her release from prison.

“I hope my death is peaceful,
And I hope never to return.”
–Frida Kalho

Oh My Aching….

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Yes, that is a portion of my ample posterior.

Yes, that is my Sexy Sparkly Michael Jackson Stretchy Glove-type thingy.  I wear it under my wrist braces to keep my skin from wearing out.

Let’s see, now.  It’s all getting blurred together.  Thank God for credit card records.  That’s how I know where I was and what I was doing whenever I get injured.

I think the first thing was the wrist (again).  Since the last of the LEFT wrist surgeries was all the way back in 2000, I didn’t even think about the possibility of another one when I tripped over a log in the pitch dark and went ass over teakettle, making a one point landing on my left palm.

I felt the all too familiar sick crunching sensation, followed by excruciating pain.  Thank goodness I was with a friend, who helped me up, which I doubt I could have accomplished by myself, since I was upside down.

“Oh no!” He exclaimed.  “Can I do anything?”  He is a really nice man.

“Yes, help me up!”  At least I think that’s what I said.  He would be better able to tell you, or maybe not, as he was nearly as distressed as I.  He is a really nice man.

After a few volleys of,

“It’s broken.”
“No it’s not, it can’t be broken.”
“Yes it is, it’s broken.”
“No, it can’t possibly be broken.”

Etc, etc.  Look, we’re both Jewish, and we’ve known each other a really long time.  Thousands of years.

After a few of those volleys, he helped me back to my rig–that’s what you call any kind of a camping vehicle type thing–where I trussed my throbbing wrist up, smoked some pot, took a tramadol, which I soon regretted because, you know, the itch thing, did the dishes and went to bed.

In the morning I un-trussed my aching wrist and did a careful exam, gingerly palpating all the little bones and checking range of motion–clunk–there it was.  Not good.  I trussed it back up.

My phone rang.  It was my Hebrew Brother.

“How’s your wrist?”

“Broken.”

“Broken?”

“Broken.”

“Oh, well, how long are you staying?”

Before we hung up I heard him yelling “Goodbye!” from his Jeep outside my window.  Dear soul!

I moved farther North to get out of the blazing desert heat.  Three or four hundred miles and two thousand feet of altitude didn’t seem to make it get any cooler.

But since my destination had electricity and therefore air conditioning in my rig, I decided to make it my base camp for scouting hand surgeons.  I did find one, but he wasn’t going to be in the office for a week.  In the meantime, they told me, I could go another half a day’s drive North, where they had a walk-in orthopedics  clinic.  I opted for that.

In the meantime, I was not just sitting on my ass.

The campground is situated on a completely barren stretch of dessert, devoid of any vegetation save the thorny kinds.  I recall, in my college botany classes, learning that desert plants have to have thorns in order to protect themselves from being eaten.  In that case, why doesn’t everything that grows have thorns?

It’s easy to walk your dog there.  All you have to do is go to the “Designated Green Space”

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And there you go.  Actually, there the dog goes.

My dog is VERY friendly, and everyone wants to hear all about her.  You might say she’s a conversation piece.  You might not.  She doesn’t care.

A friendly couple with an aged obese spaniel were admiring her.  While chatting with them, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that she had another admirer: the biggest, sassiest raven I have ever seen.  It strutted up and down, perhaps ten feet from us, uttering little raven-speak cackles and gurgles.

(Did I already write about this, or am I having a deja vu all over again?  Oh well.  A good story bears retelling.)

One moment, I am standing chatting with these nice strangers, and the next, I was hanging, suspended by invisible wires, my body parallel to the ground.  Then somebody cut the wires, just like in the cartoons, and my body obeyed the laws of physics and hit the hard packed sun baked desert with a thud.

That naughty raven got on Atina’s last nerve and it broke, and she bolted out of the gate like a two year old racehorse, forgetting about the me who had a good grip on the other end of the leash.  Before my lightning fast reflexes had a chance to unflex my leash hand, it was too late: the deed was done.  I was horizontal.

When she heard the resounding report of my corpus hitting the desert floor she came running and threw herself down beside me, plastered right up against me, panting desperately.

The shocked couple wanted to know if they could help me up.

“No, thank you, she will brace for me, it’s one of her jobs,” said I, placing my hands on her withers and pushing myself to my feet.  Atina rose to hers and flanked me closely as I hobbled to my rig.  Nothing broken.  Baruch ha’Shem.

You know how when you’ve got a headache, and then you drop a hammer on your foot, you forget about your headache for a while?

Well, first my wrist felt better, and after that my ass felt better.

Then they both started up hurting at once, and I didn’t want to drive anywhere, so I turned the AC on “deep freeze,” smoked the rest of the pot, and read escapist novels for a couple of days.

Eventually I had to (had to) take a shower, and in the course of human events I passed by the mirror and–holy mother of goddess, what in the hell is THAT???

You see that black, green, alien looking lump of dough?  That ain’t half the story.  You should have seen it a few days ago.  I should have snapped a shot then, but I was dizzy and had to go lie down for a while.

And now, just to ice the cake, I’ve been gifted with (drum roll Sheldon) a brand new thrombosed hemorrhoid!  Ain’t that nice!

Today I finally made it to Flagstaff, and called around about a hand surgeon.  I was dreading the inevitable question (which I did get):

“If you hurt your wrist days ago, why did it take you so long to call us?”

How good of you to ass-k….

Tales From The Roadtrek #2: The River Rats

I am fighting off a nagging desire to open with an apology for any indiscretions I may be, have been, or ever be guilty of, in my whole life.  That is because my Seroquel turned on me and gave me bad, bad extrapyramidal symptoms (twitches and a feeling like whole-body restless legs that makes me writhe incessantly, plus intolerable heat intolerance) that might not go away even though I have stopped taking it, and now I have nothing with which to quash the hypomania that dogs my heels like a nine-month-old Labrador Retriever, always pushing, pushing.

Nevertheless, I am having the best time I can have on two hours of sleep a night.

Now, disclaimers over with, I can begin today’s edition of Tales From The Roadtrek!

I fetched up last week at East Peoria, Illinois, along a sort of bayou that was once a marina, until the Illinois River left its banks and plowed it quite flat.

Once a marina, now a bayou off the Illinois River

Once a marina, now a bayou off the Illinois River

Everywhere you looked, there was some kind of interesting (or alarming) relic of this epic flood…..

Interesting

Interesting……………..

ALARMING...see the boat washed up on the levee, about 1,000 yards from the river????

ALARMING…see the boat washed up on the levee, about 1,000 yards from the river????

The campground was highly rated in both Good Sam, the premiere RVer’s resource organization, and Escapees (SKPs), the network for mavericks like myself who want to live life like they mean it and have a damn good time doing it.  Both outfits gave the place high marks for ambience, good facilities and clean showers/restrooms.

I called for a reservation and was told I didn’t need one, and to just give a call when I arrived.  I did so, and was met at the entrance of a ramshackle trailer park by an enormously jiggly friendly fellow on a four-wheeler, who ferried me to a shady rise along a stinking sump that looked like this:

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“How many nights?” He smiled, looking up from his receipt booklet.

“Um, two, I guess.”  I kind of wanted to bail out, but hey, it WAS only $13 a night, and there were two other fairly spiffy looking rigs right next to where he put me.  For $13, if it got too weird I wouldn’t feel bad flying the coop.  So I gave him $26 in cash, which made him grin wider, and he took off, leaving me choking on his dust.

“Howdy, neighbor,” drawled my next-door neighbor.  He looked like he’d seen a bit of the world, and then some.  “Welcome to the neighborhood.”  He lit his next cigarette off the last one, being careful to toss the butt into a Coke can, which I appreciated.  I liked him already.

“Well, what do you think of our little piece of Paradise?”

“Er, well,” I stalled, trying to think of something, “well, to tell you the truth, it looks a little seedy.”

“SEEDY?”  Uh-oh.  “What makes you say that?”  Open mouth, insert ass, disappear.

“Um, things like, you know, THIS.”

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“Yeah, so?  Here, come on over here and set down.  My name’s Tuck.”

Thank the Lord.  Breathe.

Tuck fetched a well-loved lawn chair out of a cubby hole in his rig, blew the dust off it, and offered it to me as if I had never insulted his neighborhood.

I settled in, and for the next two hours did not get a word in edgewise while Tuck regaled me with his adventures in the Army, Navy, prison, long-haul truck driving, Military prison, County lockups, fights, liquor, AA, and two honorable discharges despite all the prison time.  He showed them to me, just so I wouldn’t think he was lying.  I would have, actually, because the usual thing when one gets in prison while in the service is a court martial leading to a dishonorable discharge, but whatever.

Next thing on the agenda was our other neighbor, Nancy, who was a well-worn lady of 45 who looked 60 and acted 30.  Three raucous boys surrounded her. One of them was her five-year-old grandson, whose name I never did get the hang of.  She didn’t know what it meant, and neither did he, so he made up endless nicknames for himself instead of trying to remember his given name.  He fondly reminded me of Israeli kids, who have no concept of mortality.  He was forever and constantly finding new and more exciting ways of leaping off of high objects onto things like gigantic concrete slabs, etc, that gave me nearly uncontrollable urges to get my first-aid kit out where I could see it.

Finally he did get whacked in the eye when the rotted rope of a tire swing gave out and he crashed into some other flying object.  After he got done crying he was pretty proud of his shiner, once we had explained to him what the word “shiner” meant.

The “we” in “we” was his grandmother, her boyfriend who looked about 20 and had twin freaky looking heads tattoo’d on his pectoral muscles, which gave me the creeps every time he moved, and Nancy’s daughter–the boy’s mother–who kind of slouched around looking perpetually uncomfortable, and the two other boys who turned out to be Nancy’s great-nephews, and Nancy’s mother who stayed inside Nancy’s travel trailer because she couldn’t be out in the heat.  And Tuck, of course, still chain-smoking, and me.

We hung out around Nancy’s totally amazing fire ring, created out of fragments of stone that the flood had busted up and thrown around.  As the sun settled down over the river, it started to look like this:

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And I started feeling pretty mellow as the many kinds of night-critters began tuning up their orchestra: peeper frogs, tree frogs, leopard frogs, the Purple Martins twittering, coming home to their house upon its pole that leaned crazily over the bayou.

It was time for me to leave all my bourgeois preconceptions of “quality of life” behind.  All these folks were here because here life was almost free and certainly unfettered, and a simple need for an affordable place to dwell had brought us all together.

And I?  I was the guest, as it turned out, who stayed for another two nights, drawn by the unquestioning offer of friendship and camaraderie, undeserving, from a warm and open-hearted group of fellow travelers, flotsam and jetsam all of us, who happened to wash up on the same shore.

And the clean washrooms and showers?  Burned down last year.

To My Readers

Dearest Readers, how can I ever hope to express my gratitude for the love and support you have given me during these hard times?  Truly, I don’t know what I would do without you.  Your words of comfort and encouragement have soothed my soul.  The stories of your own experiences with your aged parents have encouraged and strengthened me.

May you all be blessed with healing according to your needs, peace of mind, and good friends–whether “in the flesh” or here, in our wonderful Mental Health Blogger community (and everybody else too)!

Much love,

Laura

 

Holy moley, back to the Holy Land again!

So yes, I have been back and forth a lot this year.  Israel is my home.  There is no where else in this world that I feel at home.  I felt at home there the moment I stepped off the plane on my first visit in 2005.  I returned in 2006 to study in a women’s seminary, and in 2007 I made Aliyah: I moved to Israel.

When I settled there, I knew that at some point I would be obligated to return to America to help my parents, who are now 88 and 86, respectively.  That point came in the terrible winter of 2010-2011, when their remote mountain home was completely surrounded by ice, and my father had begun to fall frequently, and my mother was freaking out.  I had already flown in from Israel three times to “put out fires,” and the fourth time my mother called begging for help I packed up my house and was back in the U.S. in three weeks.

They really did need me then.  My father was in the early stages of dementia, and was struggling to maintain what was left of himself.   He refused to use any assistive devices, not even a cane.  He was constantly falling asleep at the dining table and sometimes falling off his chair.  One time I had to extract him from under the table, where he had slid down and was tangled among the table legs with his arms pinned under him.

Then finally he fell and broke his wrist badly and got a concussion to boot, and was in the hospital for a couple of days.  While he was there, I had his bed brought down from upstairs and made the living room into a bedroom.   When he had recovered enough to understand speech, my mother and I forbade him ever to use the spiral staircase again.  He was incensed and called us his jailers, which he does to this day, but better jailers than to have some disaster on the steel spiral staircase that reminds me of a submarine.

The past two-and-a-half years, since I’ve been here, have been tempestuous and productive all at once.  If you are a regular reader, you will know that I have had issues with PTSD caused by my abusive mother, who has not changed any since I left home at 16.  So staying here has been a challenge, to say the least.

A few weeks ago I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had developed high blood pressure.  I was constantly filled with rage.  Suicidal fantasies filled my days and nights.  Not just THAT I wanted to kill myself: developing more and better and more sophisticated methods, so that I wouldn’t be found.  Oy.

I knew I had to get out of here, get back to the Holy Land for a few weeks, breathe the air in Jerusalem that is filled with holiness, even if it’s also sometimes filled with dust.  So I booked a flight for a three week respite, announced my plans to the P’s, and took off.

Do you know, I have so many friends in the Holy Land that in three weeks I could not even visit two-thirds of them?  My family is there, my family of choice, the loves of my life.  I got to see some of my patients, who have become dear friends.  Two of them have had children while I was gone.  Actually, more than two–no, three–no, four–and three of those have had TWO children while I was gone!  I went around smooching babies.  I had coffee and Israeli breakfast (oh, Israeli breakfast!  I could do a whole post on Israeli breakfast.  Maybe I will.) with a lady so pregnant that she could hardly reach the table.  She has since given birth to a girl, MAZAL TOV, even more mazal tov since she already has four little boys.

I stayed with my adopted brother. We took bus trips to exotic places and had extraordinary meals and adventures.  And we made Shabbos together and drank strong Israeli port wine (20% alcohol!) and solved all the problems of the world.

I spent one Shabbos with my adoptive family, my rabbi and his wonderful wife (my adopted sister) and their adult children and grandchildren.  We sang and learned Torah together and laughed and cried and I felt bathed in love.

And then it was time to leave.

I freaked out.  I ran to the rabbi upstairs.  He is an expert in Jewish Law, and qualified to judge cases.  He is also an expert therapist.  Two hours with him, and I knew what I had to do: I had to save myself by being in the Land with my real family.  So I scuttled about and **voila** found a tiny apartment, just right for my needs, and signed a one-year lease.  That night I flew back to the States.

I had already told my parents that I planned to return to Israel for the High Holidays plus the month preceding them.  My custom is to devote that month, Elul, to intense Torah learning, in preparation for the Days of Awe: the ten days between Rosh Ha’Shanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.  There is much spiritual work to be done, if one is to get the most out of those intense and heavy days.

But as soon as the plane hit the tarmac on my return from this three week trip, my heart sank into my shoes.  I just feel terrible here.  I belong in Israel.  I belong TO Israel, and she belongs to me.  We are lovers.  I am my lover, and my lover is me.  I did not know what I would do, how I would be able to survive the–what, six weeks?–of what remained of the summer, because I knew that after the next trip, I would be back here for the winter, and who knows how much longer?

I tried to put a good face on it, and smile, and I don’t think it worked, because yesterday my parents told me, in a kind way, that they know I am not happy here, and they know I am very happy there, and they want me to be happy, so they want me to return to the Holy Land.

This is bitter-sweet for me.  Part of me is elated that they have released me.  Part of me feels like I am failing them.  Both the rabbi in Jerusalem and my therapist here tell me that this is guilt, and guilt is in no way productive, and it is entirely optional.  I plan to get over that guilt, because this place is killing me.  The rabbi in Jerusalem reminded me that we are not permitted to harm ourselves in any way, and even I have said that very thing on this very blog.

My ticket is at the end of July, with an early October return.  I might extend that through November so that I can spend Chanukah in Jerusalem, that amazing festival of light and enlightenment.  And then we will see, we will see what the light brings in.

My Channukiyah (menorah) in Jerusalem

My Channukiyah (menorah) in Jerusalem