Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Monday, April 1, 2013
It has been 38 days since my mother died. It has felt more like months, in some ways, and time is going too fast in others. When I notice the change in seasons in Chicago - from heavy snow to light snow, temperatures in the high 20s to the high 30s, time change, spring flowers peeking through the mud and snow - I want time to stand still. I am not done grieving my mom. On the other hand, evenings spent alone with my thoughts (I know - don't go into that "neighborhood" alone) lead me down a horrendous path of anxiety and recent memories. Some of those memories are good. Even though my mom lived to be 97, she was clever and funny at least part of the time. At the time the EMTs were wheeling her out of the hospital and into the nursing home (October) she reminded them to be sure to hit all the doorways. This with two broken ribs. Some of the memories are not good, like her lack of appetite and anxiety about her care. I'm glad she got to be in her home for her death, and I thank my brother Paul for remaining steadfast in that concern.
Last week has been the hardest so far. The blessing that she got to go in her sleep carried me through the first week, although I had regrets that I had not done more to take her to see her newest grandchild, Anshu, who arrived in Chicago from Delhi, India on the 9th. Today I tackled the piles of papers on my kitchen table and kitchen desk and ran across her obituary. Now I just miss her. Despite all the difficulties that come with living in a family, having intense emotions, and seeing things differently, I would love to hear her criticize my cooking once more.
I have two brothers and they have been a tremendous comfort to me in the absence of Mom. I hope nothing ever comes between us. Unfortunately, I have no control over that. Time will tell whether we can come to enjoy each other again. Right now we are all wrapped up in the struggle to move on.
I tried to write down what I noticed in the days after her death, and was surprised at the number of things in my life that she influenced. First, I noticed a plaque I had made her that she didn't care for. She used it to hold a plant. I laughed about it. Then I began to make Swedish pancakes and realized that most of my favorite recipes will be reminding me of her. A few days later, a cut on my finger woke me with throbbing pain. As I soaked it in hot water, I realized that much of the medical knowledge I have came from Mom, who was a registered nurse. Every time I am poked with a needle, I remember how she could do it with no pain. My memories are random, as most grief is, and at those moments when I missed her the most, I have been saved by a phone call from a loving friend or neighbor. I'm glad I had an extra four months with her after the doctor at the nursing home told me to take her home and make her comfortable. I gave her a hug each time I said good-bye, and whispered in her ear that I loved her. Her hair was soft and curly, and her shoulder and scapulae bones stuck out. She never complained after she got to come home that one last time, even though her body was failing and her bones ached. She was just glad to be home, and now her spirit is home, too.
Friday, January 25, 2013
What if the rich man had gone out into the street to find workmen for his field. At the end of the day, the workmen came to get paid and he said, "Oh, sorry. I don't have enough to pay you. You'll have to take half."Now I know that there are actually employers out there that do that, especially with vulnerable employees, but that doesn't make it right. I first boycotted Kmart and Sears when Kmart bought Sears and gutted the retirement program of the employees. The news media never provided information on how that was achieved. Wasn't there some sort of legally binding agreement in force? I can't believe all that money would be left to chance.
I have worked for most of my life, paying into my pension, and I seriously considered taking my money out of the Teachers Retirement System (TRS) when I retired. Now I worry about whether I will have enough to get by in my old age. There was a time when a contract was a contract. Employers these days have found ways to manipulate even contracts. I recently heard about a school district that mandated a strike could only be held to negotiate on all 3 issues: wages, working conditions and health benefits. Then they proceeded to offer a three-year contract on health benefits but only a two-year contract on wages. That way, teachers would be unable to strike the third year. Come on, people, we are not dumb! We are teaching your kids! Would you want us to be that dumb?!
The economy of any country is dependent on the people having enough money to purchase things. Robert Reich has suggested that unless the distribution of wealth in this country is restored to former levels, we are probably looking at another recession. I worry that we are in a long, slow inflationary depression, where the same amount of money buys much less each year. In Post-WWI Germany, people carried money in wheelbarrows to buy bread. I have money that was worth a thousand Marks and was stamped to make it worth a million Marks. Everyone says that prices are going up, but if wages are going down, isn't that inflation? We don't have to keep paying more for everything. Read about the conquest of inflation in Brazil. If we don't earn enough to save a little for cars and appliances, this economy will grind to a halt.
Immigrants have always had it tough. It takes a generation to gain enough ground to get a good education and employment that will support a family in most cases. We're not giving away money. Let's just not forget the suffering of a generation of workers during the early Twentieth Century who fought and died for the right to work in a job that provided healthy working conditions, limited hours, and protection from the whims of owners who did not agree with their political ideas.