Friday, November 27, 2009
Saturday, October 24, 2009
“A Time Cut Off From Time”
DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW 10/14/09
That’s how it felt when I went to Fran’s place out in Mattituck on Long Island. We did whatever she felt like doing or we did nothing at all. I ran a few errands for her or defrosted her little refrigerator. It was our time together and as the end grew closer, she told me how much she looked forward to my coming on the weekends.
There was no knowing how long Fran would live after she renounced the chemo and radiation. The pain grew bolder and she fed herself her own meds. Fiercely independent, she maintained control for as long as she could. Hospice grew tired of her calling them. She was afraid of being alone, I’m sure. She knew I’d come whenever she wanted me to, but she would send me away too – wanting me to go back to the city. She’d be okay.
“Let me know,” I’d tell her. “You know I’ll come.” I used up all my sick time and personal days from work and I was hoping to hang on to my vacation days. But, I had those for her as well if she wanted and needed me to come out to her.
I guess I’ll always feel I could have done more, I should have gone out there to be with her, but I needed my job too.
Because she wasn’t a close enough relative I couldn’t take a leave of absence to be with her. But, I would have stayed anyway if she needed me to. She didn’t want me. She kept saying, she was saving me for later.
But, the weekends were ours. I grew to looking forward to spending time with Fran. She was easy to be with. She probably held back on her meds so that she’d be alert enough for us to go riding. She had to give up her driving – a really big deal, but she did it. She was brave and so dear. I drove her van. We went to the shore – the sound, the bay, and on good days and when Jim was free to come, we went to the South Fork to see the ocean.
I tweaked her big toe. “I’ll see you soon, Baby Doll,” were my last words to her when Jim and I left the hospital on Sunday. I spoke with her briefly on Monday. “I love you very much,” I told her on Monday afternoon. “Who said that?” She responded on the other end of the line. “DeAnn,” I said. “Tell her I love her very much too.” “I will,” I said. She was confused from all the morphine, I knew.
On Tuesday morning I called her. “I can’t talk right now,” she said. “I’ll call later, Sweetie,” I said. When I called she was asleep.
On Wednesday, I waited and called the nurses’ station when I knew they would have checked in on her. “She’s resting comfortably.” “Thank you,” I said.
At 11:20 A.M., Dr. Emanuele called, “Fran went to heaven at 11 this morning.”
Saturday, August 1, 2009
I'm celebrating! Yes, my new found right to life inspires
me so that I may even do stuff I always found impossibly
taxing -- like practicing the violin.
At dinner this evening at our favorite hang out Jim and I
were playfully interrupted by our neighbor Helen, who is
a free spirit if ever there was one.
She walks around the East Village playing the accordion
and singing songs in French and German. She'll play
whenever invited and even on the sidewalk outside your
window if she so feels moved.
I accidentally referred to this violin I have, which belonged
to my father. I did take lessons years ago, but I started as
a young adult in my twenties and never stayed with it because
life happened and I moved around and away from my teacher.
I found new teachers through the decades but never really
stuck to it. Anyway, Helen got all excited! "Here's my
orchestra!" She exclaimed to anyone who would listen
inside or outside the cafe.
The owner was also hanging out with Helen; they had been
talking. Helen, accordion around her neck, going on about
Jim playing guitar and she the accordion and now I the
violin. "I wouldn't go so far as to say I play," says I. "But
I did do a fair rendition of 'Danny Boy' at one time."
And Helen exclaimed, "That's it, we have a chamber ensemble.
We'll gather out here sometime and play 'Danny Boy!'"
It didn't seem at all absurd to me -- not even one tittle.
I thought I knew what it meant, but It turns out I didn't.
I had an addiction to aspiring to what I thought others had--
love, talent, attraction, creativity, a swirling of options
in life choices.
Belonging to the group, the family, the corps, the tribe --
having an identity, a partner, an achievement, a gift, some
radical way of being, I thought, was the way life had
Being really, really good at something provides an identity,
I thought, and gains you recognition to be part of a group
of writers, painters, dancers, singers. Being gifted in these
ways enthralled me more than being a teacher or social
worker or any other care-giving provider -- which I also
The unforeseen happened and everything changed.
Before I knew it, I was sixty years old -- closer to
eighty than to thirty -- even though on some level I feel
like I'm thirty-five or sometimes, due to generally good health,
Where did the time go while I was hoping and wishing and
feeling disappointed and feeling sorry for myself? Where
did the time go while I was eliminating all of my options
finding that everything I tried was out of fear of failing in
the only places I really wanted to succeed?
But the journey has proven fulfilling anyway. I've finally
said Yes to the unthinkable -- to things exactly the way
they are -- and now I belong to the communion of failures.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
All of these thoughts occurred to me when Sr. Labonte said to me for the first time, “You know, of course, that alcoholism is a disease.” Well, of course, I didn’t know that, and I was hesitant in buying that notion. But, gradually the idea that alcoholism is a disease did sink in and I accepted it. This was long after my father had died and long after the trembling nights when he’d arrive drunk and my mother would be very upset and they would fight and I would be very afraid that life was coming to an end.
Many of my relatives have not been comfortable with life; have found life difficult and so in part I have also found life difficult and have my own addictions, to chocolate, for instance and to relationship and the desire for not being alone, and coca cola. Addiction is an unquenchable thirst.
I grew to be very angry at my Dad over stuff that happened during our lifetime together; I was ashamed of him, of me, of my mother. The days of my childhood felt like life lived under a cloud, was dark and conducive to bone-crushing depression.
Addiction is delicious and ease-inducing and soft and comfy and like a hot fudge sundae or really, really good sex; it’s an ice cream cone with jimmies and oozing chocolate mouse doused in a hot chocolate pudding. Yum!
Addiction is films 24-7, cold beer and pretzels and getting fat, fat or staying thin thin with cocaine or heroin; feeling like it’s a party all the time. And isn’t life just that, a party where you feel free, free, free and un-responsible? Let me eat what I want to eat; that’s what I live for, a fattening, overstuffing, tasty, but only for a moment, meal!
Addiction leads down the road to the nothing that comes from nothing and all that presses down from life like judgment and anger and feelings of failure and feelings of inferiority and superiority and not meeting one’s goals and dying, dying inside with self-disappointment.
Addiction is a seeking for some relief from all the pain of self denigration and feelings of not belonging and feelings of never feeling like one could belong; the utter hopelessness of it all; it’s just too much to think.
And I am going out right now to get a double chocolate chocolate muffin with diluted hazelnut combined with decaf coffee!
Actually, I had a juicy naval orange instead! Whew!
DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW by phone 3/4/08
In Soldier Pond, Madame Beaulieu was the post mistress and the choir director for Sacred Heart Church. It seems I was in the choir from the time I could hold my head up and walk. I don’t remember even being in church as a young child when I wasn’t in the choir upstairs in the back of the church and facing the sanctuary and altar.
I also wept at Pere Desrocher’s homilies. He loved the Virgin Mary and could wax eloquent in speaking about her and how she was our heavenly mother. She loved us as unworthy as we were; she would always be present to us in our sorrows and our joys. We could turn to her.
Vers l’autel de Marie,
Marchons avec amour.
Vers l’autel de Marie,
Donnez nous un bonjour.
We sang in French, we sang in Latin. He was called the crying priest. He would get so rapt up in his words about the Holy Mother of God that I wept too. I wept and I didn’t care that the girls around me noticed. I was completely caught up in his words.
There would be choir practice after Mass and I would stay to sing some more.
And after school we practiced at Madame Beaulieu’s home in her parlor where she had a piano just off the front entry of the yellow house where all the mail boxes were located.
All the little children gathered in the parlor to sing and to dance in preparation for the minstrel show that was held in the church basement. I don’t recall what time of year it was, but I feel it was an annual event. And on this particular occasion we were rehearsing the Mexican Hat Dance; skipping and twirling. I would be singing my solo – Open Up Your Heart And Let The Sunshine In.
It took several years it seems before I would discover that the words in the song were not mothers never lose and fathers never win. The words actually were smilers never lose and frowners never win.
By then the demons had been established; they’d taken up residence.
DeAnn Louise Daigle year-end writing retreat morning 12/27/07
I was painfully in love from a distance and way too shy to let it be known. What I would have given to go to the prom with Bobby Gowan!
So unfair; some girls got to attend proms even when they were freshmen. And here I was a senior and I was going to miss this special senior prom – my own senior prom for which I’d helped to decorate. I tried pretending that it really didn’t matter, but it did.
When the song “To Dream The Impossible Dream” came out and was in the play “Man From La Mancha,” I was so deeply moved by it that several years later I would read the book Don Quixote by Cervantes. There must be something in this story that would touch me, I thought. The song touched me deeply.
To love pure and chaste from afar. These words touched me deeply. I loved every boy I’d loved in that way – “from afar.”
To try when your arms are too weary to reach the unreachable star. This is my quest, to follow that star no matter how hopeless, no matter how far. To dream the impossible dream, to reach the unreachable star.
It was so beautiful, so painful, so magnificent. Later, I saw the play – a musical here in New York City. I got goose bumps when the song was sung on stage, and yet in the story, that this dreamer, Don Quixote, should be in love with a prostitute seemed to me incongruent and even repulsive until the actor sang the song “Dulcinea,” and it was the way in which he perceived this woman as perfect and beautiful just the way she was, without her having to change at all; his perception made her beautiful. And I longed for someone to perceive me beautiful, and I cried.
DeAnn Louise Daigle AWW by phone 1/29/08
I find compelling that what is done authentically on the outside must come from within. This kind of philosophy embraced by the transcendentalists among others, such as the psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, gives me hope along this way of most always feeling adrift.
All that beneath-the-surface stuff left me very unsure about my existence and my place in the world, as if I were missing what is essential. And, like so many in my generation, I did seek answers from the outside even though this split existed within me – that I felt drawn inside.
It feels like it’s pretty much remained thus with me – not that there haven’t been moments when I did feel I had the essential, and that life was promising, and adventure awaited me.
I’m always searching, questioning and wondering about the what-ifs of life. It’s often difficult to just be.
Never-the-less and not without some measure of angst, I managed to climb Hedgehog Mountain, a swollen hill in Mapleton, Maine where a woman I befriended years ago invited me to climb it with her. She lived rather primitively with no running water and only the bare bones of a house where she and her mother resided. Ella worked with me at W. T. Grant Company in Presque Isle, my first official full-time job as a young adult. I was eighteen. I would work there two years. The women I worked with were like so many mothers to me. With them, I was made to feel special and free. Among them, there was camaraderie with teasing and laughter that gave me a sense of wellbeing.
Not without angst, I managed a real hike up a mountain when I was twenty-four with David and some of his fellow students and professors from MIT. Together, we climbed Mt. Lafayette at the northern end of the Franconia Range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, part of the famous Appalachian Trail.
Not without angst, in my early to mid-thirties, I hiked and climbed mountain trails in southwestern Maine and once again in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with sisters from my community; and in summers spent studying theology at St. Michaels I managed to hike in northern Vermont.
And now, not without a modicum of angst, and it growing less, I happily climb the sidewalks of New York City from the East Village to Central Park and sometimes beyond.
Except in rare moments, I feel too restless to allow nature to be the inspiration it used to be when I was too young to know a lot of things; and just a little later, even when it seemed – even to me – on the surface of things that I could have relaxed enough to allow nature in, I remained unable to do so.
DeAnn Louise Daigle 12/10/07