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So, how was your day?

By Dalene Rowley

Note: I hesitated to write this post for fear the telling of my story might seem irreverent. But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. And this is the truth of my life.

Let me tell you about last Wednesday:

After too little sleep, a difficult morning and a stressful day at work, I found myself arriving home desperate for a 10-minute power nap. Within five minutes after walking in the door, I got a phone call from my mother. My first thought was of my 95-year-old grandmother. She’d been declining since mid-December—most rapidly the past week—and by Monday had pneumonia. My heart was spent from tear-filled goodbyes the past three nights and I knew she was close to the end.

My instincts were correct. My dear, sweet grandmother had passed away. I called my siblings, then left to join my mother and my aunt, who recounted to me the tender details surrounding Grandma’s peaceful departure. We spent the rest of the afternoon sharing memories and making plans for the family to celebrate her life (she had forbidden us from holding a funeral). My cousin stopped in. Then my brother and his wife arrived. We laughed. We teared up a bit, but not too much. We were genuinely relieved and happy for her. Grandpa has been gone five years and one day. Grandma missed him every day. It was her time to enjoy a wonderful reunion with him.

I sat on the sofa across from the open door to Grandma’s bedroom, from which I could see her body, lying in the same place and position as she was when I’d held her frail hand and softly stroked and kissed her forehead just the night before. As the hours passed, I was both visiting with the family present and also texting other family members to keep them informed of the emerging plans. Interspersed with my texts from siblings and kids were texts from my husband. I informed him of the possible plans.

He was texting me back about the plans, and also about his afternoon in Las Vegas, where he was attending an education conference.

As I sat there, engraving on my heart the last images and impressions of my grandmother, I received a photo of a giant pawn shop sign.

“We’re at the famous pawn shop waiting to go inside. They’re filming right now.”

We don’t get cable, so I have no idea what he’s talking about. “What’s the show called?”

“Pawn Stars.”

Some time later, while I’m waiting for the mortuary people to arrive, I receive another photo.

“Monster trucks on the Las Vegas Strip.”

So not my world. Especially not at the moment. The people from the mortuary arrived and I noticed one of them is the boy who grew up around the corner. Apparently he’s working there while preparing to go to medical school. I was touched by their thoughtfulness in appearing as though they had all the time in the world and in letting us have a choice in every detail possible. The moment they wheeled the gurney out the door and carried away her body was surreal. I’ve been there before. It is surreal every time.

Finally just before 8pm, we said goodbye. I grabbed some takeout from Spicy Thai for my 12-year-old and I, who hadn’t eaten since noon.

On my way home, I got another text from my husband,

“We’re eating at the Cheesecake Factory in Caeser’s Palace.”

After my son and I ate dinner I remembered it was book group. We read “The Wednesday Wars.” I wanted to go because 1). I actually read the book this time, and after almost putting it down, I ended up enjoying it very much. And 2). I needed to decompress a bit.

Before I left I remembered I needed to check on my baby chicks. They reside in the downstairs bathroom. In a box. Right between the cockatiel cage and the fish tank full of turtles. And one goldfish (who, I regret to say, became turtle food just this morning).

I walked into the bathroom to hear the cockatiel flapping his wings and screeching. He was in the turtle tank. I have no idea how long he’d been there, but the turtle tank is gross and full of who-knows-what germs. I reached in to rescue him.

He bit me.

On the middle finger.

I gently shoved him back in his cage (the one with the missing door) and submerged my hand in hot running water, squeezing out as much blood as I could, wondering what else besides salmonella must be thriving in that green slimy water. The same green slimy water that was all over my skin when it was pierced by the beak of the cockatiel I was rescuing.

I dried my hand with a clean towel, managed to squeeze out some triple antibiotic cream from what I hoped was the clean end of the broken Neosporin tube, and smirked a bit as I bandaged the wound with a bright red Angry Birds band-aid.

This is my life. I wonder how I would have dealt with the reality of my grief if it hadn’t been tempered just a bit by the odd juxtaposition of the false “reality” of the Vegas strip and reality TV. If the attempted numbing of emotional loss hadn’t been brought into sharp relief just a bit by the bite of an angry bird. And if my tendency to (generally) choose to laugh when brought to the brink of “laugh-or-cry” hadn’t been aided somewhat by the presence of an Angry Bird on an angry bird’s bite on what one could call my angry bird finger.

I don’t know how to answer that. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the heaviness I feel (too much cancer, another death…and those are just the heartbreaks I can talk about). The ridiculous somehow seems to provide a kind of balance while I’m waiting for the sublime. At least it keeps me from tipping over the edge. So far…

So, tell me about your day. Or one of them. How do you keep from tipping over the edge?

About Dalene Rowley

Began blogging as a legitimate way to avoid housework and to keep a journal of sorts. In her other life she wants to be excellent at a number of things, but in this one she's settling for baking a mean sour cream lemon pie, keeping most of the points on her quilt blocks in line, being a loyal friend and aspiring to moments of goodness as a wife and mother.

9 thoughts on “So, how was <i>your</i> day?”

  1. Thanks for this real post. Sometimes when I try to convey this kind of crazy day it seems like a self-flagellating litany. You've done a good job writing it without making it feel that way. I'm sorry about losing your grandmother. And I really really hate cancer!

    All too often I am so mired in the low emotions of an intense day like this I don't allow myself the distractions. I get mad when something tries to bring me out of my focus. That anger just makes everything worse and when I crash it's much uglier. I should get a box of Angry Bird bandaids to remind myself not to get mad, to take the relief in whatever bizarre form it comes in.

  2. I go into my room and lock the door and turn off the phone and the computer and be with myself.

    I'm sorry about your grandma. I was thinking the other day "I need a mom to talk to!" I'm the oldest woman in my family these days and sometimes I need that wisdom. You're fortunate to have your mom, kid.

    Disconcerting to see oneself become the older generation.

    Your day reminds me of 9/11. I was up at 6 shampooing all the carpets in my house, Bill was hunting over the mountain, and buildings were collapsing in New York. The scriptures say that in the last days "there will still be marrying and giving in marriage." Sometimes I ponder on that and wonder if the world will be falling apart and I'll still be texting Bill to bring home a loaf of bread.

  3. What a perfect day. It was a joy to read that. Sometimes I think the kindest thing God does with us is to keep walking away when tragedy strikes, to have life keep flowing and have us distracted by trying to keep our balance. Sometimes I think we have to write "cancer" on a cushion and then tear the stuffing out of it. I do a lot of crossing my eyes, willing them to stay that way, just because it would freak people out.

  4. The serious and the absurd in one day! Wow. Condolences for your loss.

    Humor was invented to break up the heaviness that can sometimes overwhelm. Comic relief at the right time is a gift.

    I have to give my youngest dilating eye drops in one eye because the other eye is so different that his brain kind of shuts off that input. He hates the drops but he hates the eye patch more. I've tried all sorts of silliness to keep the process more routine and less upsetting. I give him a tissue to hold while I put the drop in. He quickly dabs his eye after it's done. One day as he lay down on my bed to get ready for the drops, I gave him the tissue and said, "Tissue!" and then after I was done I said "Kiss you!" and kissed his forehead. He said, "Mom, why did you say tissue, kiss you?" I said, "Because it rhymes!" Now depending on his mood, he'll say, "Tissue, kiss you!" or "Mom, don't kiss me this time."

    I know that's trivial compared to the day you had, but some days my little guy freaks when it's time for the drops. If a little "tissue/kiss you" can make things easier…

  5. This is beautiful, Dalene. From the image of generations of your women-folk gathered with your passing grandma to the salmonella on your angry bird finger. I love it. There is something not only amusing, but strangely comforting in the way you write about the many juxtapositions in your day.

    "Some time later, while I’m waiting for the mortuary people to arrive, I receive another photo. . . “Monster trucks on the Las Vegas Strip.”"

    And annegb's, ". . .the world will be falling apart and I’ll still be texting Bill to bring home a loaf of bread."

    I feel overwhelmed today with never-ending upkeep and expense of caring for a 60-year-old home. The yard, the plumbing, the leaking roof. This is my "day off" work. I unloaded four 50 lb. bags of various fertilizers from the car just now in preparation for the coming seasons. I have no husband for heavy-lifting or to share any of my burdens. I'm tired . .. nothing new to your ears.

    But for the sake of responding to your question: Ironically I felt quite joyful dropping that $200 at IFA. And the delight I feel working in the garden somehow eases the loneliness and connects me with all sorts of good things. Including God. I also bought REAL child-sized shovel and rake with wooden handles for the grandkids to use when they're at my house.

    Then I sat down and propped my feet up to read your post and eat left-over Tiramisu. Suddenly, all is right with the world.

  6. Lovely!

    I live in Henderson, just outside Vegas. To get to the hospital where my husband was a few weeks ago being the "mystery man of the hospital" because none of the docs knew what was wrong with him, I had to pass many many billboards for all of the insanity that fuels so much of this town. It is a strange juxtaposition, this thing called mortality. Another Vegas based one: I used to work on one side of town and would often need to go to hearings at the Family Court which is on the other end of a long road that (at the top of the hill) holds the temple. Between me (at the courthouse–where broken families deal with their breaks) and the temple would be Shade Tree (a shelter for abused women and children), and many many weekly rent apartment buildings filled with people struggling to keep themselves off the street and littered with those who were losing that struggle. Look to the temple, I would say to myself, thinking of all the misery I had to pass through to get there–and I was a mere bystander.

    Life is so often filled with the inexplicable (I have boys in my family) and I can often find myself fuming because of the insanity, or quietly slipping there myself and then my 4yo daughter will be singing, As I have Loved you or some other primary song.

  7. Your day's recounting was beautifully written. Thanks for sharing such a difficult day. Life is like this sometimes.

    One day during our home remodel our computer and tv both stopped working, then my two younger kids who shared a futon in our 212 sf garage where we were living during the winter both threw up on the sheets. As I trudged into the house, arms filled with smelly sheets I descended the stairs to the basement only to hear the slosh of a couple inches of water on the basement floor.

    I just started laughing at what more could go wrong in one day. At least the washer worked!

    Humor helps me cope.

  8. Jendoop–thanks for your reassuring words. I wasn't sure I could pull it off, I just felt compelled to try. I just realized I probably need at least a year's supply of Angry Bird bandaids.

    annegb–I appreciate your perspective. Thank you. Keep texting Bill–that's will help hold at least one tiny part of the universe together.


    mormonhermitmom–"Tissue, kiss you," That is so sweet. I love a good rhyme, especially when it brings reassurance and comfort to someone you love. I so agree with you about humor–it is a gift.

    Melody–Thank you dear friend. Also, your garden–both the comfort it brings you and the peace and pleasure it gives to many–makes me happy.

    Jenni–Yes. I feel blessed to have been able to notice and appreciate the grounding power of the mundane and the absurd.

    angie f–"Look to the temple." Words to live by. Thank you. I love that you have the voice of your 4yo to help you stay centered amidst the wildness of boys.

    Sage–Nothing brings me to the brink of laugh-or-cry quite like vomit. I'm glad you had both your sense of humor and a working washing machine on that day!


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