apple picking

Driving out to an orchard 

Fields of corn in the bright sun. The repetition soothing, up and down the little hills

The clouds like paint, like whipped frosting today, neat puffs of a pattern like tire tracks, echoing the rolling fields below

A few moments of peace or something daring to approach it. Just observing, not thinking

Seeing my son explore, choose a tiny pumpkin, eat half an apple

It was easier, maybe, because it was something Zack wouldn’t much have enjoyed. Seems normal to go with friends without him, as if he’s just at home getting a bit of a break to work on his homelab or drill a hole for a hook or myriad other things you can’t do while simultaneously toddler-wrangling.

reunions

I went to the annual alumni board meeting / fall reunion event for your fraternity today.  

I don’t know why I’m still censoring names/places/organizations, because people who know me will recognize it (or themselves) anyway. I guess I feel like it’s rude to identify folks when this isn’t their story. I don’t think it’s harming the honesty of my writing, but I don’t know. I thought of giving people nicknames, but it seems too corny. Who knows.

Somehow I had a peaceful ish feeling about it instead of intense anxiety. Just luck I was having an easier day I think, because I can never predict it. Our cohort was largely absent, but I saw some of them two weeks ago, on a day that my anxiety was through the roof. Felt bad I couldn’t enjoy their company more.

It was strange to be there without you, awkward talking to people. Trying to introduce myself to the actives and the new alumni. Trying to remember names and faces, when even before this, I’m so bad at it. And we never missed the spring reunion, but it was sparsely attended these past few years in the pouring rain; now I don’t recognize half the room.

It helps that I don’t care how awkward and rambling I am or what people think of me anymore. I feel untouchable. 

Being a woman in the room wasn’t weird, there were other wives and partners there, but just being without you was strange. I think I channeled a bit of your voice and energy. Talked more than I would have – than I would have had to – if you were there. If you were there I could stand at your side to meet people, indulge my shyness, just smile and laugh when I didn’t have anything to say.

Something that happens a lot is one or two people seem to make themselves a self-appointed guide for me when we’re out somewhere. Checking in across a room, little upwards nod when they see I’m vacant/confused/exhausted, asking if I’m staying and then saying “we” will do something next.

I appreciate it and I think shepherding me around the world is one of the few things that people can actually do that helps, in that it gets me out of the house. I want to see other humans but I need them to make the decisions because I can’t.

Today it was a couple of the alumni who were very involved when we were in school (still are). They look barely older to me than 10-15 years ago, when in my head they were “established career professional” age, but I realize that back then, their whole cohort was about our age or a little older. Now the recent alumni just look too young to have jobs. I’m one of the old fucks now. 

After the meeting, we just went to the hotel restaurant for dinner. Had some Ommegang Rare Vos and sat around talking for like four hours. It was nice.

I didn’t go see the chapter houses this time. I wanted to see the renovations but I couldn’t bring myself to go back there alone yet.

sorry about hogging the blankets

I never believed you completely about how much I hog the covers. You always teased me about it, fake-whined about me stealing them.

I used to try to mitigate it by making the bed slightly unevenly, the sheet and blanket 20% more on your side, trying to do a better job tucking it in on your side. 

But still – even this summer – I thought it was a slight exaggeration. On my own, I tangled the sheet a little in my thrashing, but nothing big. 

Then I added a heavier blanket for autumn and suddenly everything keeps falling on to the floor on my side. I always joked it was your fault the sheets would come untucked on your side and not mine, but that’s clearly not true. I fix it and it’s a mess in a day or two.

I’m not sure what I’m doing, because some days I swear I wake up in the same position I fell asleep in, and would think I haven’t moved, except that the blanket has slipped off and I’m using the side of the sheet as the top and one foot is uncovered. 

counseling

So, I went.

It was easier than I thought it would be to talk to a stranger. I’m not sure how productive it is (whether it will actually result in any improvement in functioning, or elicit anything I am not already reflecting on) but it’s not hurting to try it, I guess. Other than that it derailed my day into more crying, but that could have easily happened regardless. 

for some reason

“For some reason” is my new hackneyed phrase and I really need to stop saying it. I’ve been writing more so I notice it more.

a) The reason is I’m a grief-ridden disaster struggling with daily functioning and everything makes me cry. 

b) Noticing that I overuse it reminds me of how women are socialized to start with apologies. “Sorry, I don’t feel like x” “This might be a dumb idea but”. Even at work. “I’m sorry, but that’s not going to work”. Or end with them. “If that makes sense?” I don’t need to justify my not knowing why I’m having a weird reaction to something or feel unable to deal with something. There’s a good fucking reason and even if there wasn’t my emotions don’t need a qualifier in front to soften them

I’m anxious about first counseling session with the hospice person tomorrow. I got in sooner than expected. 

in which I am inconvenienced because I didn’t fill my prescriptions in the first 3 months my spouse was dead

I didn’t get around to refilling my maintenance meds all summer, but my good health insurance is ending so I made myself deal with it before what I have on hand gets too low. Got 90-day scrips sent to the mail order pharmacy so hopefully I wouldn’t have to figure out how to use the new one right away.

I got a fun letter back from the insurance that the acute asthma med (albuterol) I’ve literally been taking for over 25 years is “New to You” so they reduced my 90 day scrip to a 30 day one. 

After a half hour of being put on hold repeatedly they told me there is no way to appeal it, because the prescription I last filled in May was under the threshold for the amount they count as a 90 day supply, so I haven’t filled a 90 day supply within the last 180 days, so I don’t meet the criteria to get a 90 day supply now on the “first” fill. 

I was well controlled on my other two maintenance meds so I don’t have to use the “rescue” albuterol inhaler that much. This is a GOOD thing in asthma maintenance therapy. That’s why this is a giant fucking joke.  The fact that my doctor was previously writing me a scrip for less than what the insurance now thinks a person needs in 90 days is great, as far as asthma control goes, and you would think they’d instead write me a letter saying “hey you’re doing well taking your meds as prescribed! Thanks for not needing any ER visits for your asthma the entire time we’ve been insuring you!”

So now it means I will have to figure out how to use my new insurance in October, and so I’m crying because even though that’s certainly a trivial thing the trivial fucking things add up when you’re barely getting through the day as is. 

Z is right again

I never thought I would freak out over one of my kid’s toys suddenly coming to life and making noise, but when you think a weird loud noise is coming over the baby monitor after your toddler is asleep, it’s confusing and scary.

I couldn’t even locate the source of the sound until it went off again with tinny marimba music. It’s the jungle animal playset and I forgot that the door to the lion’s cave alternately roars (in a poor quality recording that is hard to understand as a roar without context) and plays a music clip.  Must have been stuck open just slightly, so that a vibration of the floorboards sets it off.

Or the thing is possessed.

Zack didn’t like that toy much anyway because he thought it didn’t promote creativity as there is not much to do with it except press the things that make noise.

It’s not a big hit compared to the bead maze in the same part of the living room, anyway, but I hadn’t gotten around to taking the batteries out and hiding it even though Z suggested putting it away until kid was older and could get more out of it playing pretend, and then of course everything went to shit and I haven’t curated the toy selection in months. (If you’re wondering why Z didn’t just do it himself, it’s because organizing things is my thing, except in the kitchen where I’m only allowed to reorganize my pantry shelf and my coffee nook.)

like always, you were right. you get to be right from beyond the grave. 

distractions

I finished the audiobook of We Are Legion (We Are Bob) at a friend’s suggestion a while ago even though I kept losing track of where I was, but I haven’t been able to make it through the sequel with enough focus to not have to restart chapters constantly.

I’m still only 1/4 through a book another friend sent. My reading comprehension being shot extends well beyond work. 

I was able to rewatch a couple of Star Trek TNG episodes this week so that’s something. Tapestry had never made much of an impact on me before but I found it thought-provoking this time around.

I’m not sure it helps either that so much of what I enjoy is science fiction that probes at the topics of humanity, death, timelines, alternate realities. I’m glad that my friends aren’t shying away from recommending those things or worrying that they’re a trigger for me. But to some extent maybe it’s harder to focus because of it.

I was looking for something on a printed page recently (in a menu I think) and couldn’t find it, wrongly concluded the word or category wasn’t there; someone else found it. NEVER would have happened to me before. When we lived in Silver Spring, I remember one time skimming an ACM article in the hardcopy magazine to check for mention of something like that (specific name or word) to aid a discussion Zack was having with some visiting friend. Like a human ctrl-F. I can’t digest the material that quickly, of course, but extremely quickly searching text (or proofreading for egregious errors) was my tiny little superpower so it feels weird that it’s gone. 

I don’t have any motivation to read murder mysteries or fluff romance or some other genre right now either, but at the same time it stings that the scifi is full of ideas Zack and I always discussed together when they came up in tv, games, books. I’m trying to recall what the last book he read all the way through was (insert joke about CLRS) – the last fiction one might be as long ago as The Martian.  I read fiction faster than him so I would often read something first and summarize the interesting parts or tell him whether a book was worthwhile, whether we should consider watching the movie, etc. In turn he would tell me about hypervisors or blockchain or some new crypto thing or the gist of some ACM paper that I didn’t have the patience or background knowledge to get through. 

I mindlessly ran around in Destiny 2 a few times while on comms with friends, but haven’t been able to handle even the simplest of actual team activities or the story quests we didn’t finish together.

I can’t sit still for TV but one time I dealt with some mail and put on a few Th3JeZ (Destiny streamer) youtube videos and half paid attention. Zack found Jez a little annoying, I think, so maybe that’s why it seems ok to watch it compared with Extra Credits or Jim Sterling or Zero Punctuation, all of which I can’t face yet without my stomach churning.

The next season of Extra Credits’ Extra Sci Fi has started but I don’t want to watch it alone. We watched it in the hospital in January after Zack got downgraded from ICU but wasn’t ready to be discharged. We watched it on the couch at home, got through it all, lamented the new season wasn’t out yet, expressed a desire to (re)read so much good scifi that we didn’t really have time for. We had to pause some episodes 900 times because of stopping to discuss some interesting idea. 

I’m bouncing around between podcasts now, trying to find something to have on while doing chores that is interesting without being frustrating if I zone out for a minute. I discovered Women at Warp and liked it so far (mostly starting from the beginning) and can even listen at 1.5x which I can’t consistently do with fiction. Even though right now I can’t read on paper for shit either, so I’m trying more audio, it still frustrates me if it takes longer to listen to something than it would have taken me to read under normal circumstances. 

optical man-hole

I didn’t really sleep last night, but I got a short nap in today. So, consequently, I’m not ready to fall asleep early today. 

Exhausted is my new normal but I’m not looking forward to trying to focus at work tomorrow. 

I can’t believe it’s been three months. I basically missed all of summer and it’s somehow fall already. 

I feel like I’m in some sort of Plato’s Cave thing like I think the glint of wiggly light on the surface of the water is all there is of the sun. Maybe an analogy to Snell’s window is there somewhere too but I’m too tired. 

I’m scared of the memories of the little things fading. Kissing you goodbye every morning. Debriefing and discussing board games on the car ride home. Your hand on my shoulder. Scratching your back before cutting my nails every time they got long. You telling me to go to bed and you would finish the chore I was doing. Feeling your heartbeat when I lay my head down on your chest. 

pantry

I can’t bring myself to look at the bottles of oils and sauces by my stove, or look in my pantry for long. I have intentional blindness when I do open the door; I glance past the shelves that have all the things you kept on hand, and look just at the shelves that you designated for Laurie snacks. Crackers and tiny soda cans and gatorade and clif bars and such.

First world problems, I know. I haven’t had to figure out how to cook anything yet, between friends and family feeding the kid and me. I heat leftovers or make a sandwich or cut a fruit or make a haphazard bowl of salad, but I don’t actually cook.

I had a repertoire of about 5 Mark Bittman recipes I could handle when you were in grad school and we tried not to go out for junk too much, but that was 7ish years ago and you didn’t like the butternut squash soup much anyway so let’s call it about 4 recipes. 

This was supposed to be your kitchen and I’m pissed you barely got to use it after waiting years to renovate it. I have my little nook where the coffeemaker and toaster oven live, and I’m supposed to be banned from messing with the rest except to clean. You wrote me detailed directions this spring when I had to preheat the oven for you, so that I wouldn’t get frustrated trying to figure out how to unlock it. Now I wish you’d left me detailed instructions for life.