I’m back home and I feel so much better mentally than when I left. I was wallowing in grief after my mom’s sudden death. I found myself aimlessly wandering through our house, alternating between tears and shock.
The six days with my kids was like a healing balm or salve that my heart needed.
What did we do? I was busy with my son, making his pour-over coffee, overnight oats, grocery shopping at my favorite Berkeley Bowl. I walked Waffles, played Scrabble, went to lunch and shopped with my daughter on Fourth Street, enjoyed time with my son’s fiancee and family. They lost their father several years ago and I felt their empathy and understanding.
The mushroom aisle at Berkeley Bowl, my favorite grocery store.
I was busy most of the time, I felt needed, and I felt my mom is in a better place.
We watched good movies including Metropolitan and Nausciaa of the Valley of the Wind. The voice of the Princess in Nausicaa was done by Alison Lohman, who is a local Palm Springs girl. She was in my ballet class more than 25 years ago. I’m always interested in watching her movies.
The food in the Bay Area is so much better than in Scottsdale. We ordered in most nights because of the storm. We had Japanese, Korean, Mexican and take out from Berkeley Bowl.
My son’s charcuterie with cheeses, salami, prosciutto, blackberries, grapes, crackers and comb honey.
If you find yourself in a funk — not necessarily grief like I’ve been experiencing — how do you get out of it?
My New Year started off with a phone call from my brother that our mom was found in her bed unresponsive. Within two hours she passed away after being taken by ambulance to the hospital. This was totally unexpected. She tested positive for COVID five days earlier but was asymptomatic.
I’m going through shock, denial, disbelief and grief all at once.
I wrote this story about her years ago. I sent it to children’s book publishers and actually got an offer from a small publisher. I turned down the offer because I didn’t think it was big enough! I’ve never had another offer in my life to have a book published.
Here’s the story:
A DIFFERENT KIND OF MOTHER
I have a different kind of mother. She’s not like other mothers on our street. She looks like other mothers. But it’s what she does that’s different.
She sings all the time. She sings songs by men named Wagner and Wolf. But she calls them “VAHgner” and “VOUlf.”
When my friends come over they ask “What is that?” We listen. “La la la la la la la la laaaa.”
I shrug my shoulders and say, “That’s my mom.”
My friends laugh. Their mothers never sing unless it’s to the radio.
My mom sings all the time. She sings operas while she drives, cooks, shops, gardens, reads and cleans. I think she sings in her dreams.
My mother never buys a loaf of bread. She bakes it every week and slices it with a big knife. Sometimes she lets me punch down the dough after it rises.
When I take my lunch to school, my sandwich sits crooked and looks like it’s ready to fall. My mother packs me carrot sticks, a hard boiled egg, an orange and an apple. There’s too much food and not one chip or pretzel like the other kids get. I like to order hot lunch.
My mother thinks hunting through the woods for mushrooms is fun. She took classes to learn about mushrooms so she knows which are good to eat and which ones are poisonous. I hate it when she asks my friends to go picking with her. But they love to go tramping through the dense green forest, climbing over fallen logs covered with moss. She points out the faerie rings where the mushrooms grow.
My mother grows vegetables in her garden, she won’t buy them at the store. But does she grow peas and carrots like the other mothers on our street? No. She’s proud of her eggplant, asparagus, spaghetti squash and rhubarb.
When my friends come over to play, my mother asks them to weed the garden.
“Nobody wants to weed. We want to play,” I tell her.
Then I turn around and the kids are lined up on both sides of her, pulling weeds as she tells them about the vitamins in vegetables.
My mother doesn’t read ordinary books by popular authors. She likes to read e.e. cummings with letters scattered over the page. I don’t know what the poems say. But my mother gathers up the letters and makes sense out of them.
Digging for clams up to her elbows in mud is how my mother catches dinner. She knows about razor clams that we dig in the surf and butter clams, littlenecks and cockles we find in the gritty gravel. She calls the ones we break with our shovels “clums.”
She picks oysters off the beach, shucks the top shell of and eats them raw right then and there. She eats the roe out of sea urchins and said, “It tastes like caviar!”
She’s the friendliest person on the street. She bakes wild blackberry pies for elderly neighbors and talks tomatoes with anyone who will listen.
She invites the neighborhood kids in, even if I don’t want her to. She doesn’t care when kids build a fort in our backyard or makes tents in the living room with old sheets. She lets us draw chalk pictures on the driveway and dig for China in the backyard.
At night when she tucks me in, I listen to her sing a lullaby with her beautiful voice.
When she kisses me good night, I love that my mother is a different kind of mother.
I’m visiting my mom in the Pacific Northwest. This is what my phone blasted to me on my first morning when I woke up.
I’ve never seen a hydrologic outlook on my phone, nor an atmospheric river.
I’m staying with my BFF from college and I asked her what it meant.
She said, “Oh I hate this. It’s a huge amount of rain and flooding.”
I pictured the atmospheric river as a massive body of water running through the clouds above my head.
My friend also told me that she thinks the weather forecasters and meteorologists work too hard to find new terms for long-occurring events.
Here’s the rest of the alert I received:
I was pleasantly surprised to have cloudy skies with blue peeking through. It’s absolutely gorgeous here and such a contrast from the desert of Arizona. I love spending time with my mom, although she’s not doing as well as during my last visit. More on that after I have time to process my thoughts and emotions.
The drive to my mom’s assisted living.
I loved the light in the leaves of this tree at my mom’s assisted living.
What strange weather alerts have you seen? Have you heard of hydrologic events or atmospheric rivers before?
Yesterday I got a pedicure. I last got one during our beach vacation in August. My daughter and I used to get pedicures together. It was a ritual that we loved, sitting side by side getting pampered. I’d read a book, she was on her phone. Although we weren’t talking much, I look back on those memories with tenderness.
Even when she went to college, we’d make time for pedicures when she’d be home for vacation. Or, if I was visiting her for a swim meet, we’d get pedicures together.
Then the pandemic hit and the nail salon by our house closed. Since I moved away, I’m not sure if it ever reopened. So many small businesses closed forever. I’ve had two pedicures since COVID hit.
Yesterday was a treat to be pampered. But it was bittersweet. I missed my daughter sitting by my side.
Do you have any simple pleasures with your loved ones? What do you like to do together?
We had a seven-hour drive to get our friend’s children’s wedding in Temecula, Calif. We left Friday afternoon and drove to Riverside to sleep for the night. Saturday morning we took a walk while the temps were in the 60s. It felt wonderful. We stayed downtown in a hotel we often stayed at for CIF (California Interscholastic Federation, the governing body for California high school sports) for our son and daughter’s championship high school swim meets. It felt nostalgic. Memories surfaced about the hours spent in the hotel between prelims and finals. Our daughter would take ice baths after her morning swims and put her legs up against the wall while laying on her back. This was her way to recover and prepare for finals.
We were craving a breakfast burrito — probably because that was the staple breakfast at swim meets throughout Southern California — prepared by the hosting swim team.
We found one spot during our walk that was packed! So it had to be good. It’s called the Taco Station.
What are some of the fun, off-the-wall diners or restaurants have you discovered? Where were they and what type of food did they serve?
We had a lovely visit with our daughter. We packed in as much as we could during her short trip. I especially loved our visit to the Desert Botanical Garden to show her the Chihuly Installation. Because it’s more than one hundred degrees outside, we opted to go for the last hour it’s open — from 7 to 8 p.m. It was gorgeous.
I’m so glad we became members because we are learning so much about desert plants like the many species of cacti, aloe and agave. There’s a butterfly garden, wildflower garden, bee garden and my favorite — a shade garden.
Tomorrow our son comes to visit. It’s wonderful to spend time with our kids, even if their trips are short! Just having them under our roof and hanging out together is blissful.
Here are a few pictures from the botanical garden:
What are your favorite things to do when your kids or friends and family visit?
My kids like to call me when they’re walking. Yesterday, while my daughter was walking Waffles around her neighborhood I heard her say “Oh no!”
She talked softly, “There’s someone laying on the sidewalk. Probably a homeless person.” My daughter explained that they look away from homeless people, that they don’t want to engage them. My kids live in the Bay Area where homelessness is a problem.
“He’s bleeding!” she said. It looked to her like he had slit his wrists. She ended her call with me. Minutes later she called me back and said he was conscious and was trying to get up. I suggested calling the police but she didn’t think they would help. She tried calling some mental health crisis centers, but nobody answered. Apparently crisis hotlines are staffed at night, not in the morning.
She called me again and said she asked if he wanted her to call someone or if should she call 911. He told her to call 911 because he couldn’t get up. She did and asked for the police and an ambulance. She waited with him until they came along with the fire department.
Another life saved by my daughter.
As a lifeguard she saved a drowning young boy. Then one evening in Laguna Beach, she and my husband went for a walk and a swim. She saw two people struggling in a rip tide. It was hours after the lifeguards were off duty. She swam out to them and told them what to do, to stay calm and helped them in. My husband swam out after her and they were able to get the people — who were drunk — safely onshore.
On her way back to the vacation cottage, she spotted the neighbors dog loose. She brought the dog back safely to its yard.
Yes I’m proud of my daughter to have empathy and to be able to help those in need. She said people were walking by ignoring the man. She was the only one who stopped to help.
What would you do if you saw someone who was probably homeless, bleeding on the sidewalk? Do you think you’d try to help? Or more likely walk away?Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do.