Friday, November 26

things i wish i didn’t think

This morning, driving into the coffee shop that I refer to as the office, I was listening to a program on CBC radio about five brain-damaged men who meet weekly with a psychologist to talk about their lives, their anger, and their small joys. They call themselves the “five crazy guys” and their stories are tragic and inspiring.

One of them mentioned that brain injuries are called the invisible disease because, often, people suffering from them don’t look visibly different in any way. Then he said, “But they’re the most invisible to us. We only see “us” in the mirror. We’re just us, and the disease is something that only the people around us, that know us, recognize.”

I immediately thought of Mom. She is constantly amazed when we tell her that she’s been herself the whole time that her history hard drive has been malfunctioning. There’s a disconnect between the idea that she can be present in a moment, be the woman we’ve always known in her demeanor and actions, but yet not remember that moment a week from now, or the next day.

For her, every day is the first day after her illness, the day that things start to get better, the day when the memories will start coming back. And yet, by the end of many days, there’s a worry that creeps back into her eyes when she realizes that most of that very day has already slipped away, and that it really isn’t the first day after, but just another day during.

That look comes every time she asks about a friend that hasn’t been to visit in so long and we remind her that they were over last week for coffee. It appears behind her eyes when she has that moment of cognition that suggests that, if she can be present and still forget about it now, and then the fact that she feels present now might not mean that anything is getting better at all.

Miriam and I trade glances when the conversation turns this way. It generally sours the mood, erodes perfectly better days. We just hate to see her fighting it and being miserable doing it. It’s the anxiety that hurts her most, speeds the erosion, drives her hope away, and we do what we can to keep her calm and in the moment. But we know what’s coming, and it usually means that the next day won’t be so good. She won’t remember why she’s upset, but it will be there.

Mom has the disease of ALZ, and it’s mostly invisible to her, but not to Miriam and me. I wonder sometimes if she wishes that we wouldn’t be honest, or that we weren’t there to remind her of all the history she’s lost. I don’t want to think it, but there it is. Honestly, I don’t think we’re there yet, but I know it might come – will come; that time when us trying to help her hold on is more of a hindrance than a help.

I hope, when that time comes, that I’m strong enough to let go with dignity.

That thought, that we see her disease more than she does some days, and that there will be a day when I have to let go, just welled up in me as I listened to the radio and I had to pull over. That thought was strong enough to intrude into my manuscript world and make thinking of fictions impossible, and I’ve been doing pretty good most days on the obsession front, I really have.

Not this morning. They were in my face, and I had to get them out, get them down. And now I have to put them aside again, hoping that letting them sound and blow into the cold air is enough to keep them quiet for a few more days, submerged and below the surface again, wishing sometimes that I could forget like she does.

But not really, not ever.

And now I’m staring at the words and wondering if this is for public consumption at all. They’re kind of depressing. But they’re the truth. Take the good with the bad; she taught me that too. 

Friday, November 12

climbing (part two)

In climbing, the only person you actually compete against is yourself. 

Not that there isn’t plenty of competition: against gravity, balance, time, weakness, fear. But against other people? Pretty much never. In a climbing gym or at a crag you won’t hear anyone say a negative thing to anyone else unless it’s about their hat. I’ve heard climbers chastise themselves for not completing a move or a climb, but criticism of others is non-existent. Support? Encouragement? Even help and information (we call it beta)? We have those in spades. It’s just the way we roll.

I work part time at my local climbing gym. It doesn’t pay tons, but it’s fun as hell, mostly because the atmosphere is just so positive. People come in by themselves or in groups of two or three, but once inside, it’s all one mess of people, all of us united in a love of the movement, the strain, the challenge.

Waiting for your turn on a wall or a route? Chances are somebody beside you has tried it or climbed it, and chances are you’ll get some awesome beta if you ask. New to climbing? Somebody will probably offer some humble and helpful advice when you struggle on the easiest climb. They might point out one that’s easier to start on. They might show you how to manipulate your balance to make a move easier so that you too can defy gravity a bit and glide up the vertical.

And if you stick a move or finish that climb, somebody, even if you’re alone and know nobody, will probably say, “Nice climb”, or share your grin of accomplishment.

"What about the best climbers?" you ask. "Aren't they egotistical and self-absorbed?" Some might be, but I haven't met them. They’re often the most helpful, cheering on the newer climbers, or the weaker ones, urging them on to be better and reinforcing every success.

Sitting at the counter the other day, a couple ladies around my age (which is to say, not young) were getting ready to leave after their bouldering session. I asked how it was and they beamed. “Awesome!” one of them said. “We just started a few weeks ago and, every time I come in, someone offers some new little piece of advice that makes it make more sense.”

I nodded. “It’s one of my favorite things about climbing.”

“Is it like this everywhere?”

I smile, proud of it. “Everywhere I’ve been, yeah. Climbers are just happy folk. We like to see the people around us happy.”

In the gym or out at the crags, it’s the same way. I’ve shown up at crags alone and been climbing with a group or some other single in no time. It takes a bit of trust to climb with people you don’t know, and it’s important to watch them a bit before you trust them to belay you, but that’s part of the thrill; trusting is a rush.

Even when I show up with friends, I don’t think I’ve gone a day in the presence of climbers I don’t know without making a new friend. Maybe it’s the outdoors, or the adrenalin, or the endorphins. Who cares? 

It's possible, to be fair, that there are even climbing gyms or crags where it isn’t like this. Maybe some climbers are just as consumed with shoring up their egos by undermining the self-esteem of those around them as the world seems to be. I’m pleased to say I haven’t met those climbers or seen those places either.

Yes, there are climbing competitions (demonstration sport in the 2012 Olympics as I understand it), and by definition, in a climbing comp one climber is trying to do better than others. But I’ve been to few sporting events where the competitors cheer each other on as much and as sincerely as at a climbing comp.

I know it sure doesn’t happen like that playing hockey. Team sports seem to embolden people to place too much importance on things like final scores. I understand final scores, and I enjoy winning, but it’s tainted for me when that winning requires me to actively dislike my opposition and wish them ill, even for the hour it takes to play the game. There’s something about watching grown men come to blows over a recreational game of hockey that takes the fun right out of it for me.

There’s too much of that in the world, that win at all costs mentality. In sport, business, politics, academics, science, and our schools the emphasis is too often placed on winning as the only goal. Profits are valued over people, bonuses over safety, money over truth, power over integrity. It baffles me. It baffled me in business, where owners and executives only gave lip service to giving a damn about their employees or clientele. It baffles me in politics where those we elect to serve us so blatantly serve the big money that paid for their advertising instead. It baffles me in professional sport, where athletes will destroy themselves and betray their own integrity using drugs to try to get an extra edge. 

I fully and happily admit to not 'getting' that.

I remember watching “A Beautiful Mind” and loving the film as a film. But the part that stayed with me was John Nash’s theorem: That a group of vying agents can achieve greater aggregate success by seeking a cooperative solution rather than competing for one highest-value outcome that excludes success for all but the winner. Nash was American and won the Nobel for his economic theories based on that principle, but the concept seems to have caught on better in other parts of the world than it has in the competitive free-market atmosphere of North America.

This also - baffling.

I volunteer at my gym too, for school groups and birthdays. We volunteers strap on a harness and act as belay slaves for the kids, leading them around the gym to different climbs, making sure it's safe, offering basic climbing tips, encouraging the others to cheer the climber up the wall. Those groups are fun, more than I can explain, but the best moments are with the kids that hate heights or find the prospect intimidating.

Every time I find one of those kids, I try hard to encourage them up the wall, They stop when they want to, and I never push hard, but I tell them they’re doing great, assure them the I’ve got them – that they’re safe – and then ask if they want to try for one more hold before I let them down.

Sometimes they don’t, and that’s okay. I let them down and tell them they did great. They tried, stretched themselves, risked. That’s more than most people ever do.

But often, more often than not, over the course of their hour in the gym they find it within themselves, bolstered by the cheers of their friends, to be courageous and reach for that one extra hold, and then reach for another. It’s rare that they don’t touch the roof by the end of their session.

Maybe it’s clichéd, but I have to say; there is nothing – no thing – better than the look on their face when they get back down and know that they’ve just accomplished something that they were positive they could not do only forty-five minutes earlier. Their friends cheer for them, parents and teachers beam, and their smiles get (somehow) bigger. Wide, surprised eyes squint as the smile spreads upwards and transforms their face. That look is equal parts disbelief and conquering hero. It’s a look that says, in some small way, that their world just had to grow, to swell a bit to accommodate their new selves.

I see that same look on the faces of climbers that have just pulled off a new route, that made them stretch and train and practice hard so they could realize it. They don’t give much of a shit whether the climbers standing around are better or worse. It’s not a competition, after all. It’s just them and the moment and the thrill of growing.

And those standing around? We understand. That’s why we smile too. We might only wish we could climb that well, or maybe we remember what it was like to crack that plateau the first time, but chances are, we’re smiling with the person walking away from the wall because we understand. We are full to overflowing with empathy. So, yeah, we smile too.

But not for too long.

Our turn is next you see, our chance to grow a little bit, to compete against nothing but our hearts and minds and bodies and gravity. Our own smile, one that says “I just grew a notch”, is on the other side of the climb. We have ourselves to be better than, and nobody else.

Sunday, November 7

i have a confession

I’ve been more aware than usual lately that I tend to work my way around things obliquely before I actually tackle them head on. I allude to a lot of things for a long time until I screw up the courage, or find the right time, or my self-imposed defensive orbit just degrades to the point that I fall into the gravity well. Directly talking about writing -  that I write and that I want to be a writer, like for a living - is one of them.

It’s time I come clean.

I’ve talked about a bunch of other things that the life-inversion is about; how much I had grown to hate profit motives, consumerism, the systems of the world and politics, my addictions to stuff and appearances, and all the things that we use to anesthetize ourselves – that I used to anesthetize myself with for so long - and how I needed to make drastic changes in order to chase after a better me. All of those things are very true and close to my heart. But it was the story, the novel, that was the real reason. It was the thought of telling stories like my favorite authors told - stories that snuck past my defenses and made me think and aspire – that kept me up at night. It was the thought of the process of telling those stories and how it might help me grow and expand that made me smile at unexpected moments, like a jolt of pure joy. It was always about the stories.

The story, the one I’m trying to tell right now, is a giant, massive beast of an epic fantasy. The manuscript, as I work deep into the second draft, sits just a bit over 200,000 words, and it’s the first of the at least four volumes I believe it will take to tell the whole tale. This alone might make it a cumbersome thing to try to get published, and sometimes I wonder if I’ve written it this way, on this scale, to make it harder for myself. I do that sometimes, like exaggerating the dream of being a writer: I make it so big that I don’t have to worry about it ever being more than a dream because it’s so unrealistic.

But it is realistic. The story is alive to me. I think I’d read it and fall in love with the landscapes and cultures, the heroes and anti-heroes and complicated antagonists, their foibles and demons and dreams, and the messed up realities that they have to face and overcome to try to make things fit. I want it to work as a great story, one that people can escape into as a pure adventure. I want people to read and be there, and feel what the characters feel, and wish it would never end.

I also have hubristic aspirations. I want the story, the way I tell it, to work on more levels than just as a story. I desire it to be like my favorites, with nuances and insights and things below the surface worth digging for, things that come up for air between the plot lines and dialog, or that reveal themselves only through a process of erosion. I want it to measure up to the tales I loved - the genre and non-genre ones - that broke me open and made my world a bigger place and challenged me in tragic and beautiful ways to see the world exactly the way it is and still be a dreamer. To know the truth and still dream.

But I’m still afraid of that dream in fundamental ways too. It’s so precious to me, has been for so long, that the thought of trying and failing paralyzes me sometimes. I have a fear of failure and have had it for a long, long time. I fear that it will simply be not good enough to publish. Or worse, that I will not be sufficient to the aspiration; that I’ll betray my characters and fail to tell their stories properly. That I’ll let them and the story down. It’s the breathstopping fear of letting the story down that paralyzes me the most.

That’s a danger with dreams; sometimes they take on such mythic proportions that we’re afraid to approach them, afraid that we won’t be up to that challenge, and afraid that failing will mean we were never meant to own the dream in the first place. That’s my biggest fear by far.

Although I rarely remember my dreams, I do have this one recurring nightmare:

In the dream I’m sitting at the laptop and suddenly realize that I’m out of stories to tell. The well is dry and I have nothing left worth trying to say. The realization stuns me and I stop typing. And then the walls start to slowly, quietly crack and disintegrate as if they were made of sand the whole time and all it took was a puff of hesitation to bring the house down. I look down at my hands, at my palms, trying to figure out what went wrong, and the same thing starts to happen to my fingers, each digit first blurring and then softly blowing away from the tip down to the palm down to the wrist. And that’s about when I always wake up.

And then, in the dark, I realize that the truth is scarier: I haven’t even finished the first story, and I have nobody to lay that culpability on but myself.

I hate fear, and love it. I hate it when I let it slow me, and love it when I overcome it. I know that I cannot overcome it if it isn’t there, so I try to embrace it and be thankful for the opportunity it represents, but that’s hard too. One of my favorite storytellers, Frank Herbert, had some wonderful things to write about fear, and I remember them almost daily. And I remember that courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.

I have come to love this blog, but right now it’s also providing a lot of distraction; fun temptations full of writing bite-sized, pretty, thoughtful, ugly, silly things and receiving immediate feedback. I love where TOL has taken me, is taking me – the friends it’s introduced me to and the ways it’s made me stretch. But it’s in the way right now.

So I’m going to take a partial hiatus from thinkingoutloud-land. I think this means one post a week until V 2.0 of the manuscript is done, but I’m not making any promises.

I need to get obsessive and just finish it. As Sugar would say, I need to finally rip this second beating heart out of me. Because I write, I’m a writer, and there are stories to tell.

And I need to do it before my hands blow away.

It feels good to get that off my chest. Thanks for bearing witness.


To everyone that comes here and reads, whether you comment or not (but there’s a special place in my heart for those that join the discussion), both here and on FB, thank you. Just having you around, sharing your thoughts, means the world. Give me through the end of the year or so and we’ll see about getting back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Friday, November 5

lest we forget

November 5th to 11th is Veteran’s Week in Canada, culminating on Remembrance Day on the 11th. It is the equivalent of Memorial Day in the U.S. It is, in many ways, a weirdly conflicted holiday for me.

Last year I got in a bit of trouble with some respected and valued friends for posting a quote by Noam Chomsky that focused on the yellow ribbon campaign, “Support Our Troops”. I’m going there again, yes I am. This time, though, I’ll try to be clearer about how I feel.

Chomsky’s point in that quote was that PR slogans as ambiguous as “Support Our Troops” are propaganda, and that the ambiguity serves to cloud over a lot of issues. I mean, really, who in their right mind would say they don’t support our troops? “Our troops” are people, like us, flesh and blood. These are men and women that are wiling to put their lives on the line for their countries. Sadly, it takes a war for them to prove it.

And that’s where things get sticky and where propaganda slogans can muddle over a lot of complex, dicey issues. Pointing out that we aren’t fighting any really noble wars these days, or noting the ridiculous death toll among civilians and how lopsided those casualty statistics are, or suggesting that the sophistication of modern indoctrination methods in the military can make soldiers into machines can make it sound like a person doesn’t support our troops. And that’s the point of vague slogans like “Support Our Troops”, because unless one is willing to get into the nitty-gritty of it all and really chew the subject to pieces, it can just sound like one is unsympathetic and unappreciative of the efforts of people who are willing to make supreme sacrifices.

For the record then, just as I felt it last year: I am very sympathetic and appreciative. I treat every service man or woman I meet with respect and gratitude whether they serve now, or served in the past.

I don’t support the war effort though, especially not the current ones. I also have very strong opinions about why our governments have us in the wars we are in, opinions that aren’t very complimentary. I think our governments got us there for all the wrong reasons, and through lies and manipulations. I have concerns about the part that economies play in the martial decisions our governments make, and profit should never, ever be a reason to kill people.

I think that everyone -- soldiers, freedom fighters, mercenaries, the civilians and those left behind who lose people they love – are casualties of war. Nobody gets out of it in tact; not really. Whether it’s directly, or by degrees of separation, we’re all casualties. Even when the cause was good, we were all injured by it. We’re still injured by it, scarred at a cultural level.

I wonder sometimes if those scars remind us, or whether they just deaden nerves and make it easier for us to forget the kind of pain we’re actually capable of inflicting.

In Canada, in the weeks leading up to Remembrance Day, we buy little plastic poppies to signify our remembrance and wear them on our lapels and jackets. There’s a poem about Canadian soldiers dying in France in World War I called In Flanders Fields that explains why:

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

It’s kind of amazing, although I do wish there was no need to pass torches. But that's why we wear poppies to show we remember. Our cenotaphs are inscribed solemnly with the declaration, “Lest We Forget”.

I prefer “Lest We Forget” to “Support Our Troops”. It’s more honest; less ambiguous. It’s not, in any way, disingenuous or manipulative. “Lest We Forget” recognizes that war is just fucking horrible and suggests that nobody really wins; that we need to remember this and not make the same stupid mistakes over and over and over. "Lest We Forget" honors the truth that, if we’re lucky, at its best, the least correct side loses in any given war, but even that’s not a guarantee. It’s all so blurry these days, and every side seems gray-washed. But no, no matter the outcome, nobody wins.

I wear a poppy during veteran’s week, I do. And I observe the minute of silence on the 11th. I wear and observe in honor of the people that have given their lives, made sacrifices big and bigger, for me and for others. I have deep respect for that sacrifice, even when politicians and generals and CEO’s seem wiling to spend lives so carelessly.

I wear the poppy and remember all of them. Not just the ones that wear or wore a Canadian flag, not even just the ones on “our” side. They all lived and felt the dawn, loved and were loved, even the ones that we fought against. And like us, they fought for what they thought were the right reasons too, even when they (and we), were (and are), wrong.

Damn rights I wear my poppy. I’m all for “Lest We Forget”. Let’s have more of it. So far, we haven’t gotten the point.

Wednesday, November 3

the highest fidelity

I need to tell you a story about friendship. It’s a story about Mom and an incredible friend she’s had for what feels like forever. Her friend, my friend, Miriam, is pretty amazing, and without her our world would be a very different place.

Mom, when prompted, still tells the story this way: I was thirteen or so and mom was still working at the group home five nights a week. It was a poorly paid job, as many jobs connected to caring for the disadvantaged among us tend to be, and she had picked up a second job several mornings a week at a cafeteria that catered mostly to trades-people. This restaurant, Corkie’s, did a fair bit of business every day making sandwiches for a mobile vendor in town. Mom would zip home at six each morning, make sure I was up so that I could make my lunch and catch the bus, and then she’d be at Corkie’s by seven to make sandwiches.

So there she was one morning, in the back kitchen, exhausted and broken and miraculously, heroically trying to hold it all together while she made sandwiches. This particular morning she was failing, crying as she spread mayo and applied slices of ham and cheese, when Miriam came in and saw her. Miriam just reached out and helped, offered an ear and a shoulder, and they became friends.

That was twenty-seven years ago.

Miriam was divorced too, and moved into the house a few years later to rent a room off of us for a while. When she had a heart attack and lost her business, Mom helped back. Miriam took early retirement and recovered, helping more and more around the house and with the girls. She’s been a part of our lives since then; quiet, industrious, supportive. There. Always. In another age, maybe this one now, or maybe that one if Mom had seen the word a different way, they might have been more than friends. I would have had no problem with that – Miriam is good folk, and they would have made a nice couple – but that’s not how Mom was raised. Sometimes I think that that's too bad.

Either way, their friendship has always been a strong and pure thing. At least some of the strength that Mom managed to harness can be traced to Miriam’s support. Miriam is eighty to Mom’s seventy. She’s been retired for quite a while now and suffered another heart attack and a stroke in the intervening years. When she had the stroke, back when thrombolytic therapy was just receiving its first public bout of fame, my mom pushed the doctors to use it. They, of course, knew way more about it than Mom and ran the appropriate tests before acquiescing, but then, sure enough, Miriam got the clot-busting drugs, and early enough that she made a full recovery. A miraculous recovery in some ways. I like to think that Mom gets a bit of credit for that, for lighting the fire under certain medical bottoms and keeping it stoked.

When Mom’s memory started showing signs of wonkiness eighteen or so months ago, Miriam was there to take care of her and help her stay as calm as possible. She has the patience of a saint, that woman. (As I read a draft of this to her she humbly gives me a “pfft” when I say this – that’s the way she rolls. And when I tell her I’m going to insert a comment about her "pfft", Mom giggles and Miriam pfft's a again. They also roll that way.)

When I came down from the lodge once a month in those early days of the life inversion, I grilled Miriam gently for the details on how things were going. At the time, her desire to keep Mom’s anxiety down had her mostly in an unavoidable denial mode; she had to play down what seemed to be happening, even with herself. I completely understand why.

As the summer went on and Mom’s symptoms didn’t recede, and started to get worse, there came a time when Miriam and I stole a few minutes and just had a heart to heart. In all the time she’d shared with Mom, with us, we had never done this: mano a mano, face to face, just the two of us. It was a watershed moment, one that was sadly long overdue.

We faced the truth together that day and, in our similarly pragmatic, laid back styles, decided on a few things: We’d make sure that Mom stayed at home as long as possible and that she’d know, be reminded every day, that she wouldn’t be abandoned somewhere; we’d get her as much help as we could and fight as tenaciously as we had to in order to get it; and we’d be as honest as we could with each other and her through it all. For Miriam, whose picture might actually be in a dictionary somewhere referencing a definition of “stoic”, the honesty and openness was a grand and selfless sacrifice.

When I went to the UK earlier this year for my also-long-overdue visit with my Dad, Mom hit her hardest patch so far, as if on cue. Two weeks in I was ready to catch a plane back. Mom, her anxiety spiking, possibly because she felt like I was out of reach, or maybe because that was just part of the rhythm of her decline, basically lost about thirty years of history in a matter of days. Miriam was in those thirty years somewhere and Mom lost her.

After two weeks of this, on my second Saturday there, when I was ready to cut the visit short, Miriam and I spoke on the phone. “Wait,” Miriam told me firmly. “We’re getting by and I have her in for an appointment with her psychiatrist on Monday.”

She has a tone, a stubborn thing that reaches convincingly over oceans apparently. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll wait to see what he says. How are you doing?”

“Oh, fine.”

“No, Miriam, how are you really.”

For the second time in the twenty-seven years I’d known her I heard her start to cry. The other time was when, at sixty-eight, she had fallen off the roof cleaning gutters and broken her ankle. And that time there had been a Clint Eastwood-worthy salty string of words thrown in. Not this time.

This time there was only a moment of silence, and then a sniff, and then a sad, tremulous breath. “I’m afraid,” she said, “and tired a bit.” And then, quickly and with conviction, “But we’re just fine. You stay there. You and your dad have been waiting for this for a long time. Everything will be just fine, you’ll see.”

Well it was. The doctor increased the dosage of the medication to help her memory, and put her on the new anti-anxiety treatment. Within days she was feeling better than she had been in months. She got around fifteen of those thirty years back, and the simple, steadfast truth of Miriam returned to her accessible memory files. I have no idea how that works, but it did. We had Mom back.

I wasn’t able to shake the thought of what Miriam went through during those few weeks though. I couldn’t – can’t – fathom what it would be like to wake up and have your best of best friends, someone that you’d lived with for twenty-seven years, created a life of sharing and support with, not remember you when they walked out of their bedroom. I don’t get what that might cost, how deep it would cut; How hard it would be to maintain faith and stay that course.

(An aside here: You may have noticed if you have been following this blog, that I have been mighty fortunate in the strong female role model department. If this were Twitter, I’d underscore this with a hash tag salute, perhaps #understatementoftheyear, or something like that.)

I was over for dinner last night. Mom’s had a slightly harder last few days, the anxiety up a bit, her recall weaker. She was tired and her confidence was shot. There were hugs and re-affirmations of love. I played a few games of single-suit Spider Solitaire with her and helped her get back on a winning streak, and she perked right up. I know that every drug is just a finger in the dyke, and that sooner or later things will start to decline again. That’s reality, and we promised to be honest, but it’s still incredibly shitty to think about. But we try to be hopeful too. It’s just one day. Tomorrow will be better again.

And if it isn’t, we’ll deal with that.

I wait, on my visits, until Mom disappears into the bedroom to play solitaire on the computer after dinner, give Miriam my “I’m serious” look, and ask, “How are you doing?”

“Oh fine,” she said last night. There was a little twinge around here eyes, a sign of the load she carries for Mom. For us. “Some days are better than others, but we’re just fine.”

And I think to myself, this is what friendship really is; something so constant and unselfish that it weathers divorces and heart attacks and bankruptcy and strokes and ALZ and the person you love forgetting who you are, and through it all… remains.

So when I say “we” from here on in, understand that Miriam is a part of that, part of us. It was past time to say so, and she was finally, finally ready to let me. She deserves her due.