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Saturday, August 31, 2013

A Sea of Determination and Hope

Some nights even in these last smoldering weeks of summer I sleep in Clint’s red sweater.  Worn and washed dozens of times, its softness is almost painful.  I still feel his warmth in it and every now and then I sprinkle a few drops of Old Spice on it so I won’t forget how he smelled.  Even after he was sick and dying my husband smelled of Old Spice and not death.

I survived.  I thought I would perish in my grief, drown in the sea of sadness that rose around me when Clint died.  But I lived.  In spite of myself, I lived.  It took three and a half years for the toughness that is at my core to beat down my grief and come to the surface.

Clint never doubted my strength.  I never thought about being strong or not being strong.  I faced life and did what I had to do to make it work.  I thought everybody did that.  

On the afternoon he was dying and I was lying next to him in our bed whispering into his ear that I would be okay, that I was as strong as he always said I was, I thought I was lying.  I thought I was telling him what he needed to know in order to feel okay about leaving me alone.  

I was wrong.  Challenged first by the void in my life that Clint left behind and then by my inability to function as a nurse because my grief was so complicated, I was then faced with a series of stress driven autoimmune syndromes that paralyzed my life for a year.

I didn’t want to deal with Parrish.  I resisted letting him back into my life but he wouldn’t go away.  As I watched him deteriorate into what should have been a terminal psychosis triggered by alcohol abuse, a sense of the raw need for survival welled up inside me.

Less than three months ago, when Parrish nearly died of an overdose of Seroquel, something happened in my soul, in my spirit.  Even with all the craziness around me and in me, I began to think of a future for myself, a meaningful and creative life without Clint.  I dug in.

I knew with complete certainty that I had to come home to Saint Simons.   On June 6, I decided to sell the house on Canyon Road and on August 22, I moved into this flat.  Four days later we closed the deal on the house in Macon and here I am, swimming in a sea of determination and hope, surrounded by the comfort and cover of sprawling oaks and the force that is the ocean. 

© 2013 cjschlottman 

Friday, August 30, 2013

A Purple Streak in my Hair and Why I'll Never Drown

It’s hot as the hinges of hell.  Earlier in the day Ole Dick was out on his balcony dicking around with his stained glass.  I have to give it to him for working in all this heat.

I, on the other hand, have been thinking up ways to avoid organizing my boudoir.  This is the way it looks and I’ve been here eight days. 

That’s my chandelier sitting in the tub.  The maintenance man was supposed to come over today and hang it up in my bathroom but I guess he got too busy or found something better to do on the Friday before Labor Day.

Living down here is a little like living in Mayberry.  Everybody is on Island Time and I better get used to it if I’m not going to pull out what’s left of my hair.

A little over two weeks ago I went to see my friend and hairdresser, Peggi, and got her to put a streak of purple in the left side of my hair.  It’s awesome.  I don’t have a photo of it yet because, as they say, the camera does not love me.  The camera essentially hates my guts if you want to know the truth.  I’ll probably have to wait for Cuz to come visit and take about a hundred photos of me to get a good one. 

After I got the purple streak, people in Macon started talking to my hair instead of me.  They looked straight at the streak and asked me how I was doing, not that they really cared.  Macon is like that.  It’s full of phonies.  I’m not counting the real friends I have there.  They don’t give a shit what color my hair is.  Nobody here seems to notice.

It has been a rainy summer in Georgia and the rivers north and west of here are all at flood stage or higher.  That means our rivers are wide and at high tide the marshes on either side of the causeway are dotted with ponds of water.  It is beautiful and like no other place I know.  Earlier I got in my car and drove across the causeway and back just to look at it.

There is strength and courage and danger in water.  I’m a good swimmer but when I was little I nearly drowned in the deep end of the swimming pool at the Crooked River State Park down near Kingsland.  The lifeguard pulled me up from the bottom and I was in love with him for about 10 years after that.  I ended up spending so much time learning how to do every swimming stroke known to man that I swam on the swim team when I was 12 and 13.  I swam the backstroke and the breaststroke.  It didn’t do much for my breasts, but I by God never worried about drowning again.   

© 2013 cjschlottman  

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I Am Happy

The man in 101 makes stained glass.  His name is Dick and he comes across as one.  He’s a real I’m-on-the-condo-board kind of guy.  You know what I mean.  I should give him a chance.  This morning he was working on his balcony and I could see he the beautiful blues of the glass.  He can’t be all bad.

I spend too much time on Facebook, and how I have become fascinated with Pinterest, a site where one builds a virtual bulletin board and pins stuff on it.  Mine is full of quotations like, 

“You belong somewhere you feel free.”  Tom Petty

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy.”   Unknown

“So this is my life.  And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”   The Perks of Being a Wallflower

It’s cool on the balcony and Honey is guarding the neighborhood from the other chair.  I am happy here.  I think I said that already today, but I want to make sure I say it enough.  I can write here, write like I am meant to write.

Kristy and Shannon and her family are coming down tomorrow night for the holiday weekend.  Shannon and Joey and the kids are staying at Lawrence’s house and Kristy is staying here with Marnie and me.  I am glad they are all coming to my Island.  I want those great grandlittles (Abby and Drew) to learn to love this place the way I do.  I want them to see the moss on the trees and be amazed by it.  I want them to put their feet in the sand and dip themselves in the edge of the ocean and feel the power of the universe as the tides move in and out.  I want them to catch blue crabs and learn to pick out the sweet meat without leaving a bunch of shells in it.  I want them to love crab soup and want me to make it for them and think about me when they eat it, even it somebody else makes it.  

I want Jacob to sink himself into all this beauty and history and get his creative brain stirred up and want to draw or paint or write.  I want Noah to feel the magic of this place and know the force of the river as it flows by all filled up with river critters and dreams.

There’s a fearlessness about the energy here and I want all of them to drink it in and be empowered by it and become fearless themselves.

My house is in total disarray but my mind is squared away just fine.  Marnie is on her way from Macon and I am going to go in the kitchen and make us a pot of chicken and mushroom risotto so we can have some comfort food in the middle of all this mess.  

I am happy.

© 2013 cjschlottman

Life's a Trade Off

Saint Simons Island

I am happy here on my island.  Honey and I walked the fitness trail yesterday afternoon and again this morning.  The trail itself is a half mile long, so the entire trip is probably three quarters of a mile.  It’s a start.  I am walking the stairs at least twice a day.

Last night I started rearranging the kitchen.  Marnie and Sophie didn’t put away things the way I want them, so I am placing my stuff where it works for me.  I am grateful for what they did.  At least, I don’t have to unpack the boxes to get to them.  

The weather is hot, but this morning is pleasant here on the deck.  By mid-afternoon there will be steam in the air even through the sunshine but I don’t care.  I am happy here.  

All my life I took the beauty of Saint Simons for granted.  Now every time I look out the window I am in awe of its splendor.  I am surrounded by ancient oaks that are dripping with Spanish moss, their limbs hanging over the roads forming mystical.  

I am concerned for Cuz.  He has lung cancer that spread to his brain and forearm before he had any symptoms.  The lesion on his forearm, which he thought was a cyst, began to grow and became painful, so he went to see his friend John Kendrick who is an orthopedic surgeon.  

X-rays and scans and biopsies followed and the metastatic lesions in his brain were found.  He will go to Moffitt cancer and research center in Tampa as soon as his doctors gather all of their findings to send with him.

Cuz has been a big part of my life - and Clint’s too - since the night before Mary Ellen’s funeral in December of 1996.  That’s 17 years this year.  I cannot imagine him being sick and in the bed and suffering.

Jesus.  I am tired of the men in my life getting sick and dying.  No, Cuz isn’t dead, but he is dying.  No matter what treatment he gets, his life will be shortened by this killer.  

Maybe one day I will understand all this loss, but I'm not counting on it.

© 2013 cjschlottman