Monday, September 29, 2003

Typhoon Season

Denny got in late last night, amid the remnants of a tropical typhoon. Walking outside this morning, the air was warm and still, but the drive and yard had the washed-over look of a beach--the wind and rain having swept them clean of any surface debris.

While I have been distracted by my Mom's health concerns, autumn has come in full force. During the past two weeks, the fireweed has turned from red to brown, the grass from green to yellow. Once the hard frosts hit, the vegetation will lie down, revealing the contours of the land once again until May.

I have purposely left the marking of graves and cleaning of our little cat cemetary until this late season in order to aid in the locating of the disturbed earth. Hannah's is the only spot not marked by a wooden slab, but we put her close to Whiskers, so I know where she is. Not to be morbid, but it probably wouldn't hurt to make a couple new holes, just in case. Our feline population stretches in age from eighteen to three years in age (not counting Lola, the kitten, whose presence is supposed to be temporary) with heavy concentration in the thirteen-to-eighteen age range. It isn't unthinkable that we will lose a cat or two to the ravages of age in the next seven or eight months.

Saturday, September 27, 2003

Vanilla Coke

Well, so far I have accomplished very little during my vacation.

I'm sure most of my low-octane mood is a reaction of the highs and lows of the past week or so.

Mom had a pacemaker implanted and was discharged from the hospital on Wednesday. She and Dad drove back to Fairbanks on Thursday and she's now forwarding every inane email that comes into her inbox, so I guess she's feeling back to normal.

That good news was balanced by an admission from Vincent that his marriage is indeed over. My heart hurts for him, because I know this wasn't what he wanted. I can't say it came as a complete surprise, though, because several of us in a small circle of friends have had unformed questions about what has been going on in his life this past year. We suspected but didn't want to hear that it was true. Predictably--and distastefully--since making the announcement to the entire group, he has been innudated by offers of soft shoulders to cry on, as if his pain is someone else's opportunity to make a move. There are those who confuse the desire to possess with love, I suppose. I shall let him be for a while. He knows where I am should he want to talk...and I don't need to tell him how sad I feel for him.

I spent today hanging in suspense--my cousin was supposed to drop by about mid-day for a visit. It is now five pm. I played a few more hours of "Syberia", cleaned the cat boxes, sorted some papers, paid some bills. About three, I lay down with a sci-fi collection for a short doze. Then I got up and sipped a couple of vanilla cokes while searching for livejournals of interest. I'd join a D'Onofrio interest group but they all seem to be exclusively populated with adolescent Australians that go on and on about how "hot" Vincent is. Makes me want to gag.

I was distracted in my web-surfing by Lena's eyes. She was lying in the drawer next to the keyboard--her usual resting place when I am on-line. Lately, cats' eyes have fascinated me. Her iris has the color and texture of beaten gold with greenish tinges. I got out my close-up lenses and tried to capture the beauty.

Think I'll drive into town for a pizza. It's been a month since my last indulgence and I dearly love the butter-crust-three-cheese-with-sausage-and-pepperoni number that Starvin' Marvin's offers...

Saturday, September 20, 2003

The Art of Dying

"But the ending always comes at last
Endings always come too fast.
They come too fast
But they pass too slow...
I love you--and that's all I know..."

My thoughts are very much with my mother right now. Despite the time and distances in our lives, I realize how close we have always been. She has always been an unseen companion to my daily life. I have unconsciously carried on an internal dialogue with her, written unsent letters to her in my mind, imagined her reactions to the events in my life.

Now I have to face the very real possibility of going on without her, of life after mother. Someone you take for granted your entire life, someone who has always been *there*--the "other" whose life encompassed yours even before birth...

I am overcome by the depth of my feelings.

I wonder how it is now for her each day. She knows she has a time-bomb in her chest. Every night when she closes her eyes, does she worry if she will open them again come dawn? Each day is a grace. She seems cheerful and serene. I hope that is not just a brave face. I would like to think that it is possible to find grace at the end of life, to have a confidence to replace fear.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Note To self...

Buy more black T-shirts!

I can't believe that someone who is as fond of black as I am doesn't have more black tops... I muttered as I pawed through my clothes at 5:15 this morning.

This lack needs to be remedied.

I found one but it dates from my "fat" phase and hangs a bit too baggily on me... Thank god for on-line shopping. I can have some new clothes in the mail to my home before I get off work today.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

September Sunday

Cloudless skies and a howling wind out of the north, sending the fireweed cotton billowing across the fields. Frost last night but already promising to be warm today.

Traffic at work is slow.

Tanzanian Peaberry coffee (freshly ground) with a dollop of heavy cream, fresh, locally-produced eggs scrambled with bacon and feta cheese, a Lindor dark chocolate truffle for dessert.

Life could be worse...

Of course, I was fifteen minutes late for work because Lucy Sue didn't want to be found to take her medication. Well, that's a cop-out. I was already running late when I began morning medications because after carefully selecting and laying out my work clothes for today last night, I discovered once I had the outfit assembled this morning that I looked frumpy (!) We can't have that! I'm a Civil Servant--I have an *image* to maintain! (Yeah, right...)

You see, now that I am skinny again, I decided to take the plunge and wear a skirt to work. I'm pretty sure the last time I did that was during the Clinton administration....

So, black tights, black tank layered over a lime green one, and my green/gold/black jungle-foliage-print wrap skirt. So far so good. But the short-sleeved safari jacket I was planning to wear on top just didn't do it. I tried my beige duster and that was even worse. The dark green and light green big shirts didn't do the trick either. Meanwhile--time was ticking away. I tried a couple of mandarin-style tunics in different shades of green but was still dissatisfied.

*Screw it*

I grabbed my black denim blazer. That did it. Or was good enough.

I hate pawing through clothes to find things to wear to work. 1) It's not like anyone at the airport--ramp rats, pilots, grader drivers, airplane mechanics or my fellow ATC specialists--really ever notices what I wear. 2) This is Alaska--not NYC. As long as you are decently covered, no one really cares what you are wearing. 3) I have three closets full of clothes--you wouldn't think finding something to wear would be such a challenge.

Thursday, September 11, 2003


I came awake to the sounds of bag-pipes, the mournful sound coming from the always-on television in the bedroom. I rolled over to check the clock...about 4:40 am...the same time I woke up *that* morning two years ago.

The memorial services were being broadcast.

I may finally be ready to write about it--write it all out. The sun is slipping down behind Bluff point as I write this, a ball of red-orange in the hazy autumn air. It has been a beautiful day--cloudless skies--much like that day two years ago.

There's a hole in the world tonight.
There's a cloud of fear and sorrow.
There's a hole in the world tonight.
Don't let there be a hole in the world tomorrow.

--The Eagles

The weather has been clear and mild--much like that September two years ago in the waning days of the summer of 2001 when everything changed. What I write below is based on notes I made during that week in Septemeber two years, a lifetime and a different reality ago...

Long-Winded Prologue

Labor Day had passed and Homer was beginning to quiet down as tourists left. The days were noticeably shorter--a couple early September mornings brought frost under clear skies.

At work, PD had been on leave and I had been working overtime days. I was fighting a sinus infection and so was sleeping a lot, drinking fluids and taking some amoxicillin.

Denny got home from the Aleutians on August 26 and drove to Valdez to spend a couple days fishing with my Dad. He came home on Wednesday with a load of frozen salmon.

By Friday, August 31, I realized that I was itching in a most awkward location and that the amoxicillin had triggered a yeast infection. I applied some generic miconozol that I had on hand, and on Saturday, relunctant to doctor myself for a whole week, I bought some Monostat 3 on my way to work and applied it that night.

When I woke up Sunday, I was still feeling tired and achy. I was not greatly surprised to find red marks on my legs, especially my inner thighs--I always seem plagued by spider-bites in the fall, so I thought no more of it until I got home. By then, when I undressed for a nap, it was obvious I was having a reaction to the miconozol--my inner thighs were puffy and red and the swelling was noticeable on my butt, hands and feet.

I spent a miserable night--woke up in the small hours of the morning feeling chilled and shocky, but figured I could hold on until morning--forgetting that it was Labor Day and the clinic was closed. I tanked myself up on Sudafed and went into the Shelter. I managed to get through my volunteer day, then stopped at the store on the way home to stock up on Benadryl and various anti-itch lotions and creams.

In the meantime, Denny's two-weeks at home were cut short--he had to drive to Anchorage Monday afternoon to catch a flight to Fairbanks for some training before heading out to Cold Bay. So I sent him off and spent another long, restless, uncomfortable night.

Tuesday, I went into the clinic. The PA gave me some Allegra. She could have just as well given me some sugar pills--my hands and face continued to swell and I developed still more hives until I was covered from head to foot. I called her back on Wednesday morning and she phoned a prescription for prednesone into the pharmacy for me.

Blissfully, that did the trick, shutting down my allergic reaction--even my sinuses were clear. I took Wednesday and Thursday off sick from work and basicaly slept the whole time when I wasn't caring for the cats and drinking chicken soup. I worked Friday and Saturday, then felt well enough on Sunday to paint the storage shed.

Those steriods can be marvelous drugs....

About an hour or so into this project, I walked right into the raised backhoe bucket--so busy looking where I was stepping on the uneven ground that I never saw it. I damn near knocked myself out. As it was, I found myself sitting on the ground watching the stars whirl around my head for about half a minute. Once I collected my wits, I put the paint supplies carefully away, went inside, showered, and took a nap.

In retrospect, I should have gone down to the hospital and let them check me out. The thought even crossed my mind. But I didn't have anyone to drive me there and back--what if I was hospitalized? Who would feed the cats?

Anyway, I felt better after my nap and although I developed a large, painful swelling on my forehead, I could pretty much ignore it. (National events would soon take my mind off my vanishing hives and throbbing head--though I realized later that I was probably walking around for most of that week with a concussion...)

The next day, Monday, September 10th, was National Pet Remembrance Day. Our community held a candle-lighting at Bishop's Beach that evening. I had had to work overtime that morning, so I was tired and dehydrated, but wanted to show my support and share memories with the others. We had a nice turn out and it was a cathargic experience. By the time we extinguished our candles and dispersed, the sky was darkening and the breeze off the sea had turned decidedly chilly.

I went home and read a while before dozing off--I had just began the Liaden series and was getting caught up in it. I was scheduled to work the afternoon shift on Tuesday so I planned to sleep in.

Despite being tired, I didn't sleep all that well. I woke a little after four-thirty with a headache and a slightly sick feeling. I went to the bathroom to get some aspirin and a glass of water, then settled back in bed to watch some television until the aspirin kicked in.

I never did get back to sleep.

Channel Two (NBC) was showing syndicated shows--Caroline in the City--but I only had it on for about three minutes or so when NBC broke in with developing news. The scene cut to the World Trade Center streaming smoke into the clear New York morning as the anchors explained that we were seeing the aftermath of a bizarre aircraft accident. An airliner had hit the building--it was hard to judged how big an aircraft it was and I was unfamiliar with the landmarks. I kept wondering how an aircraft could hit such a big obstacle in such good weather? Surely none of the approaches to the New York area airports were so low over Manhattan? It was inexplicable. Any pilot worth his license would have taken his craft into the water before hitting a congested area. Perhaps the aircraft had been uncontrollable... As the news helicopter circled the scene, I kept trying to fathom it.

Then, as I watched, a second aircraft flew in from the right and hit the other, undamaged tower.

I think that for ten seconds or so I told myself that it must have been another news aircraft that had been circling the scene, that it had inadvertently blundered into the building--but the chill of realization caught up with me as the thought crystalized--a thought shared at that instant all across the country--that this was no accident. This was a deliberate act.

That was the moment the paradigm shifted--for me--for millions of others. That was the moment the world--or at least our perception of it--changed forever.

There was a time when Alaska got its television news on a two-day, tape-delay basis. Satellite technology has changed all that. Now I can lie in my bed in Homer, Alaska and watch catastrophe unfold on the other side of the continent. Comparisons have been made to the attack on Pearl Harbor--but Pearl Harbor didn't happen on live TV.

I called Denny in Cold Bay. It was about ten minutes after five and I hated to wake him up, but a bunch of realizations were crowding my mind. The disaster at the World Trade Center was not an accident--it was a terrorist act. These people were hijacking airliners at will. They were killing the pilots and flying the aircraft themselves, because I knew without even consciously considering it that no airline pilot would fly--or allow his plane to be flown--into a crowded building. I knew without a doubt the pilots had been dead before the planes hit their targets.

"Anybody know what that smoke is in lower Manhattan?"
Unidentified aircraft on New York Center's frequency, 8:50 am, Sept. 11, 2001

It was an exhausting week. I didn't sleep well for some days afterward. I was troubled by a dull, persistent headache and work was emotionally draining despite the respite afforded by the nation-wide grounding of all air traffic. The Federal Aviation Regulations were being amended by emergency order several times a day so we would come into work and spend a good forty-five minutes updating ourselves on what the rules were *today*. People turned to us for answers and we didn't always have any for them.

For some time after that awful day, I waited for things to return to normal. Only much later did I come to understand that "normal" would never be what it was before.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Monday, Monday

Once again, I find myself cast up on the far side of the weekend, working my last shift of my work-week before I am quite aware of it. Time is flying past so quickly, I feel like I am running at full tilt and only barely keeping my feet under me...

I need to go back and make some journal entries. I have notes jotted down for various days over the past month or so but August overloaded me, with visitors, sick cats and trapping the ferals just the most noticable of distractions.

Speaking of which, we are moving into autumn. It is September already and there was something that looked suspiciously like *frost* on the deck yesterday morning. The themometer by the back door read 36 degrees. The fireweed has all gone to cotton--the afternoon breezes carry clouds of it. I didn't check to see what the temp was this morning when I rushed out of the house at 5:25 am as it was *dark*.

At least the sunrises/sunsets are now occuring at a more reasonable hour for our enjoyment.

I'm still trying to find my feet in laying out my LJ. I had a background that I wanted to use but so far have only been able to apply it to the public version of my LJ...not the "friends-only" mode.

I am so cyber-illiterate... *sigh*

At least I can still dink around with my Movable Type blog. I uploaded some more photos this weekend...mostly close-ups I took of my wildflowers using my 2x lenses. It's hard to explain the fascination with growing things Alaskans seem to have. I suspect it is an effect of the long winters.

Monday, September 01, 2003

It's Always Something

So, I guess today is a holiday. Holidays--especially Monday holidays--are just regular work days for me due to my schedule. I have done shift-work for so long (basically my whole adult life) that only the pattern of everyone else's activities mark today as a holiday.

Yesterday, we were busy--a confluence of fine weather and the last holiday of summer brought many pilots out to enjoy the day. I got off work at five and went straight home to check on Toby-John. I was concerned about him because he didn't eat much Saturday and he is losing weight.

There wasn't any improvement. He had drank a small amount of water but wasn't interested in food. I coaxed a small amount of baby food into him then went about my chores cleaning the cat boxes. I was tempted to call the vet clinic and talk to the vet on call about Toby--it is a long way to Tuesday from Sunday if you are a diabetic cat who isn't eating.

Out in the shop, I got a surprise. Lucy greeted me from her usual perch above the freezer and as I responded by rubbing her cheek, I noticed she had acquired a large, round swelling on one side of her face. In our defense, Lucy is a round-faced cat with full cheeks, so the swelling--despite it's size--is only barely apparent to the naked eye.

I felt the bump--it didn't seem to be an abcess as there was no discernable wound. When I squeezed it gently, a bit of saliva dripped from Lucy's mouth, so it is possibly some sort of salivary gland problem. I have all manner of fears. Well, one main one--malignancy. It was just a year ago that Frieda had to have her tail shortened due to a fast-growing lump. This location is much more problematic if we are dealing with a cancer. On the plus side, Lucy seems as painfree and chipper as always.

Anyway, the discovery freaked me enough that I called the vet's emergency number and left a message.

Dots called back within ten minutes. I explained my concerns about Toby's listlessness and loss of appetite and the discovery on Lucy. She felt that Lucy was less critical than Toby and we decided I should meet her at the clinic with him in fifteen minutes.

It was about this time that I looked down and decided I really needed to change my T-shirt. You see, I'd changed from my going-to-work clothes into my working-around-the-house clothes when I had gotten home, but couldn't find a handy top. So, I grabbed one of Denny's clean T-shirts that was lying on the back of the couch and shrugged into it. Only *this* was his "Fuck" T-shirt--all over the front and back was written "Fuck" this-n-that ("Fuck Football," "Fuck Television," "Fuck Disco," "Fuck the IRS" get the idea. Hey--we didn't buy it; it was a gift.) That might be suitable for cleaning litterboxes but I didn't think it was appropriate for a emergency visit to the vet clinic. So I scrambled back upstairs and found a used-but-clean-enough T-shirt of my own to wear.

I still made it to the vet clinic in twelve minutes. When Dots pulled up, I was sitting on the steps, Toby in my lap, basking in the evening sunshine.

I feel sometimes like a hypochondriac on my cats' behalf and felt bad about calling Dots away from her family on a Sunday evening but once we had Toby on the exam table, her concern told me I had been right in worrying about him. Although the wound on his leg had healed on the surface, there was a pocket of infection inside the leg that was swollen and causing him pain. Dots lanced the wound and shaved the area around it, getting some blood and a small amount of pus. Because of the location, she didn't want to cut into the foot willy-nilly, so we were left with waiting for the infection to force itself out the opening she provided to relieve the pressure. She gave Toby some pain medication and a new, stronger antibiotic. I held him while she bandaged his foot. He should feel important now with an impressive red bandage from ankle to toe. She also sent us home with a feline electrolyte solution to help replenish our depleted fellow.

We go back Tuesday morning to have the bandage and Toby checked again. I scheduled Lucy in at that time as well. I have been spending all my days off at the vet's lately. It seems it's always something.

Anyway, we went back home and by the time I finished cleaning the cat boxes, it was after eight. I had a couple of pork chops thawed out but didn't feel like cooking. Since I have had a hankering for a pizza for a while--a pizza with feta cheese--I succumbed to temptation and called Starvin' Marvin's. I ordered their Great White (a three-cheese pizza) with extra pepperoni and sausage. By the time I had finished feeding the cats, it was time to head once more into town to pick up my dinner.

When I got back home, I coaxed a bit of food and water and electrolytes into Toby, ate three slices of pizza, and went to bed.


Last night was my short night--having to be to work this morning by five-thirty, a time that never has come easily for me. The night was made shorter by me being up and down every couple of hours to check on Toby-John and drink some water.

Such a sleep pattern disrupts dreams, so I only recall the last one. I was trying to close the bedroom window and it was coming loose from the side of the house. From the window,I could see a workman below--Denny had a crew coming in to do some rennovations. So I went downstairs to tell him about the window and get his help in fixing it. I could hear him arguing as I went downstairs--arguing with a woman. It was apparent they were in the process of breaking up. I tactfully waiting for a break in the action then went out to the work area and asked for his help. I was a bit uncomfortable when he came upstairs to the bedroom with me--from what I had seen of the argument, he had been on the verge of physical violence--not a person to upset and he was obviously emotionally raw from the conflict.

So, no sooner are we upstairs than he starts hitting on me in a subtle way--asking me what time I got off work and if I ever got off shift early. I lied and said no. He was disappointed because someone had given him tickets to some sporting event in Fairbanks (which apparently is just down the road in dreamland...) I told him as gently as I could that even if I were free in the afternoon, I couldn't go. I showed him my ring and reminded him that I was married (to the guy who had hired him, even!) but thanked him for his offer. That seemed to satisfy him, and he went about making repairs to the window.

I am becoming quite the least in my dreams.