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Heat Wave

24 Jul

Now that I am sitting in a mildly air-conditioned room, my thoughts are clear once more. But last Sunday I was staying at a cottage in the country near The Plains, VA. When it was time to leave I could only find one of my dogs. One was missing. My brain nearly fried, when looking for my dog ‘Sisi.’ It is a big farm and it was impossible to tell which way she had gone. Outside in the oppressive, debilitating, indescribable heat, and humidity, I was miserable. It was necessary to find her before driving home to Washington, DC.

I found Sisi, my missing dog after only a few minutes, though it seemed longer. I believe that little rascal came back because she was also simply too hot to continue to hunt. Her tongue was hanging out so far I was afraid she would trip over it.

By the time I got into my car, my shirt was soaked with sweat. I was wearing white pants and a white cotton tank top. But to disguise my belly, I wore a periwinkle blue linen loosely fitting shirt over the tank. Since it is a natural fabric, it was not as hot as a synthetic one would have been. It wicked away the sweat from my body and soaked the shirt. I stopped by my daughter’s studio to say goodbye. It is evident that my shirt was wet or at least damp. Even though my car was air-conditioned, I had driven for less than 10 minutes, and I was still hot. It was only later after another 10 minutes or so in the car that I finally began to be comfortable and cool. That drive was fine, but what about the old days before cars were to air-conditioned? How did people do it?

I know just how she feels

Actually, in the mid-60s before we had an air-conditioned car, it was a real problem going to a party or event. One extremely hot day in 1965 I was preparing to go to a very elaborate wedding from our house on Kalorama Road. I had arranged my hair and makeup, and my dress was lovely and slightly snug as I was still into the wasp-waist look. As I looked into the mirror, I was happy with myself. The image smiling back at me was cool, calm and rather splendid. It was still extra fun for me to realize that people considered me grown-up. Even though I was married and the mother of 3 children it seemed only yesterday that I was in school.

So we got into our sweltering car and began to drive to the wedding, and immediately I began to melt. If we left the windows up the car was unbearable. If we put them down, my hair blew in my face, and the styling began to crumble. We had no choice but to continue, but that was the day that I determined that the very next car we bought MUST have air conditioning. And that is what happened. Very soon, we purchased a new vehicle. At that time, I believe we had the (un-air-cooled) Jaguar for Charley, and I had a blue station wagon. (not air-cooled, either)

Now, so many years later, it is hard to remember what exactly came next. My father presented me with a maroon Oldsmobile Station wagon to replace the blue one. And it was modern. Air conditioning was extra and expensive, but it was pre-installed. It was a big deal at that time to have an air-cooled car. I have rarely been so grateful. Hard to believe now, but we all expected to live without this new luxury. When we were able to move into an air-cooled vehicle it was a milestone.

It seems strange that cars weren’t cooled until 1939. Even then air-conditioning was only for luxury cars. Most limousines had it. Some privately owned fancy Buses were cooled. It was not until the mid-60s that it became relatively easy to find in new cars. That was the end of an era in Washington DC. The heat used to be a factor in the workplace. Offices closed during heat waves, even government offices. But air-conditioning the buildings cured that problem.

Now everything is under control here in DC. (Well, not EVERYTHING!) We may wilt walking from our car to the building we are going to, but inside we are OK. We can even wear long-sleeved dresses or a light jacket. Sometimes this is a good idea in case it is TOO cold inside.

Progress with air-conditioning does not, however, make it any easier to chase a tiny dog who is intent on hunting, in the middle of a hot, VERY hot, day in Virginia.

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

Things for which I am grateful

10 Jul

Right now, I have a month-long holiday while my mother is in Newport with my sister and her children and grandchildren. It is bliss.

Shedding responsibility fast! It feels like taking off a heavy fur coat which was inexplicably worn on a hot day. The relief is instant. Every fiber of my being is alert to the LACK of pressure. It feels as if the room has been filled with extra oxygen, and it makes me feel euphoric. The entire first couple of days felt as if someone had slipped me an “upper.”

Sisi in my bed

It has been 8 days now, and I am still bubbling over with freedom and unstoppable elation. My days are pretty much empty, except for doing what I want to do. Writing, writing and more writing. I meditate and swim and eat exactly what I wish to. My dogs are with me, and the house is quiet. I spent several days at my daughter’s farm, and that was nice, but the cottage airconditioning was not working. That made it difficult and sticky to write. Also, I cannot make phone calls from that house. I have to go over to the main house and use her kitchen phone. That was awkward because I was trying to give her space. But she spent a LOT of time at her studio, so the house was more or less empty except for occasional help.

Magnus the Magnificent

Back home at Mothers where I sit now, the sun is shining in the garden room. No one is here with me except the dogs. I am going to go swimming in a minute. Probably should do it before the garden service comes. It is delightful to be here. Every moment is cherished. Enjoying the moment is becoming easier and easier for me, as my meditation practice improves. And it is like savoring the last of a jar of peanut butter or something delicious. I might use a spoon or even my fingers to get the last little bit of the deliciousness from the pot. That is the way I feel about my life during this month of July. I savor it, and I appreciate it.

Perhaps that is why it is so much fun. Gratitude makes me feel great! It is good for my soul, and it is nourishing for my body. Thank goodness I learned that years and years ago. Because gratitude can turn your mind around if you can find a handle for it. No matter how horrible or how wonderful your circumstances, gratitude will make you feel better. It is a sort of magic.

Now that it is summer and full-on green with everything growing like crazy due to the rain we keep having our yard is overgrown with good and bad things. The weeds in the garden are fierce. But the Wisteria that is growing up the Oaktree is rampant. And what I must do is find someone who can tame that a bit, tack it to a trellis on the tree, perhaps. I am hoping that someone who knows more about plants can help me tame the vines and see them entangled and encrusting the bare trunk of that ruined tree.

The plethora of wild birds, copious squirrels, and occasional other wildlife, bunnies, deer, and raccoons give me great pleasure and constant entertainment. Watching their antics reminds me of the convoluted human experience. They inspire me to write more.

How lucky I am to be here to see them!

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

Mother, lately…

20 Jun

There she sits at the head of the octagonal breakfast table, looking like a Fairy Queen. Someone said she is more beautiful now than she was 20 years ago and it is true. I don’t know if it is because EVERYONE tells her how lovely she is. Or is it a trick of nature? Whatever the reason she is a real beauty. But she is fading mentally so fast that every day there is more evidence of it. She is having real trouble speaking. Her voice is so low I can barely hear her. And to make things worse, she has started putting her hand in front of her mouth when she speaks which completely muffles the sounds she is making. Often they make no sense anyway.

Big smile

She basically has Aphasia, and she is 101. In any case, she sits there with her table full of Judith Lieber bags sitting in a circle around a potted Orchid in the center of the table.
The shapes of the purses vary. There is one shaped like a teapot, one is a cupcake, one a soft serve ice cream, one is a sparkling red Cardinal (bird), and one is a bluebird. The bluebird has a baby bird inside her, and the price-tag is still on it. It says $600. For a tiny crystal covered bird the size of a small pillbox, it is shocking.

Outside the window ( an old fashioned Picture window) is a pastoral scene. Green grass, flower beds on the order of an English border against the brick wall that separates the 2 parts of the yard. There is a wrought iron gate painted a muted turquoise like all the woodwork and trim here. It is always open leading into the rose garden and beyond. I ask Mother is she sees how pretty the garden looks, and she gives me a blank stare. She does not know. Because for some reason, it seems very hard for her to focus on the picture. She looks out the window but does not see what we see. It is sad that she really cannot enjoy the grounds to the fullest. But we have a new wheelchair, and she can be wheeled out there more easily than before. She does get taken out to the rose garden and even down to the pool. And she sees them. But not with the full realization of where she is in the midst of her garden.

She likes color, and she must notice the electric blue of the sky, in which puffy clouds collide and the intense green of the grass. The colorful roses and the turquoise and white pool furniture contrast with each other. But she is really focused inward now. And not in an introspective way. But instead in a way that is sort of dreamy. I ask her if she’s just had a dream and often she will say, “Yes, I have.”

 She saw her Mother in a dream the other day. And her Mother was really talking to her even though Mother said: “It was not exactly my mother, more like a ‘suggestion’ of my Mother.” I asked her if her Mother was young. And she told me that she was. That was sort of creepy, But I guess if you die at 24, you never age. That must have been so weird for Mother. And she wanted to go back there, into the dream. She told me she did. So I tried not to disturb or distract her.

mother in bright sunglasses
Mother in glasses

Letting her stay in these dreams is one of the few things we can do for her, by not waking her or insisting that she see something else by asking her to open her eyes.

 Sometimes I believe these visits are harbingers of death, but at others, just I think they are something that happens when people begin to really enter the final stage of aging. And that is what Mother has done. She is definitely old now, there is no “getting around it.” And that does not interest her. She has recently lost one of her few remaining friends to cancer, almost all the men she knew are gone. Only one or two are left of the adults near her age. And practically no men survive. There are 2 who are about 14 years younger than Mother. And they are definitely slowing down. I am sorry for Mother.

The other day I asked her what she would like to be happy. She pondered this and then looked blank.” I know what you would like”, I said” To go dancing and to have a boyfriend. “Yes! That’s right!” She said. I know this is true. She just is never happy without a man. She never ever learned how to be satisfied by being by herself. Because of her large extended family and because in the winter she lived in an apartment building, she always had company at her fingertips. At a moment’s notice, she could find someone who would match her mood. This is an excellent piece of luck for someone like my Mother, who has not an ounce of ambition in her. She was content to live in the way her father did, and later she was compliant with everything my brother or her husband suggested. She did not like to make decisions or plans. That was left to my father. After him, it was left to her boyfriend or later her second husband Ed Wheeler, whom she adored. But her husbands have died, and her boyfriends are almost all gone now. The fun has gone out of the boy-girl thing for Mother.Because of that, I worry a bit about her will to live. But I really believe we must try to do what people want for themselves. Not what we want for them.

Copyright©. 2019 Bonnie B. Matheson

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