Letting Go of Al and My Kids

Our marriage ceremony Golden Gate Park
in San Francisco 1971

I have had more than two full and difficult months. When I last wrote about Al, I mentioned that he had had a stroke. His stroke was on the weekend before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day, our son Satvamrita arrived from India to take care of him.

In that post, I said I didn’t know whether either one of us would live for a few days or ten or more years because the next moment is not in our hands.

On December 29, I had an appointment to get my eyes checked about two blocks from Al’s apartment. The friend that drove me and I were invited to come to his apartment for dinner after the appointment. We decided to go. I’m sure glad we made that decision. (I generally don’t go anywhere because of Covid.) That dinner was the last time I saw Al.

He had had trouble sleeping for months before the stroke. He would go to bed in the late afternoon, wake up about eight and then be up most of the night. He had followed the same sleeping pattern after his stroke. On January 6, he started sleeping all the time. Satvamrita wasn’t even able to wake him up for appointments. Then, in the early morning of January 8, he took his last breath. So he ended up passing in his sleep.

He was ready to go and he was finally out of pain. (He had been having severe leg pain for months if not years.) I wasn’t ready though. I had never considered it a possibility that he would be gone so soon. After all, Chaitanya was coming to relieve her brother in mid-March. In my mind, they would continue trading off caring for him for years.

I was also not at all prepared for how deeply Al’s death would affect me. When Satvamrita called me that morning to let me know his father had passed, he was feeling such deep grief. I burst into tears and felt so sad, sad for Al, sad for my kids, and sad for myself. I cried spontaneously many times over the next weeks and I imagine that will continue to happen from time to time. Al’s presence in my life clearly had meant a lot to me.

My kids planned their dad’s memorial to be held three weeks after his death. There was both an onsite function and a zoom option as some of Al’s contemporaries would have been hesitant to venture out in the current Covid situation. Since I am now living in a senior community, I also decided for the zoom option.

There was a video that was created for that event. My kids collected pictures from throughout his life and also some videos. They then sent them to a friend at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram in India and she created the memorial video. I often cried as I watched it. It is so beautiful.

(The video has photos of when Al and I and our children were young, and information about his extensive career working with the homeless.)

Not only was I dealing with Al’s loss but I had to deal with the fact my children would soon return to India. Luckily they had spent significant amounts of time with me throughout their stay here. But letting go is still difficult.

They are presently in Norfolk, Virginia spreading some of their dad’s ashes and from there will go to Baltimore to do the same. On February 10, they will go back to India.

I know that I will talk to and correspond with them frequently when they return to India. They are always good about staying in touch. But it has been several long and difficult months. I know I have to be gentle with myself and I am very appreciative of all the friends that are helping me.

I will miss Satvamrita and Chaitanya and I will miss Al.

Al, Sreejit (his name before he was initiated as Satvamrita) and Chaitanya in 2018.

***

Before he died, Al wrote a memoir about his childhood. Although the memoir details many of the abuses he suffered, it is also an inspiring story of how he was able to keep picking himself up, over and over again to make the best possible circumstances out of the situations he found himself in. You can find both kindle and paperback versions on Amazon, if you’re interested.

Winter Village and Other Christmas Decorations

One day soon after Christmas, my friend Kavita asked me if I would like to see her Winter Village decorations using What’s App. Within a day or two, her husband Prakash sent me a video of the village and other Christmas decorations as well as photos that were closer up.

Their home is in Redmond, Washington. Normally people would come to their home to see the display but Covid has certainly changed our ways of celebrating holidays.

As you watch the video and look at the photos keep in mind the ski slope scene is new this year

Laughing is Good for Me- Part 8/Making a Difference

I had six stories for the laughing series. I decided six was too many for one post so I’m putting the last three stories into this post even though I expect this one to be significantly shorter than Part 7.

***

My daughter put a microwave oven in my apartment in the senior living facility when she fixed it up. I haven’t had a microwave oven since I found paint chips in my food in my old one. When I looked in that microwave oven, I saw chipped paint on the top.

I hadn’t used a microwave oven since then, except when I stayed at a friend’s house in the summer of 2020. Using one then reminded me how convenient it was to use one. So I wasn’t totally opposed to having it, especially since I knew wouldn’t be cooking on the stove top.

I had friends that objected though and suggested that I get a toaster oven which is what I have at home. They were even willing to go out and find me one. I was surprised when the one they bought was smaller than the microwave oven and since the kitchen has very little counterspace that was especially good.

I had been using the microwave oven to heat eye compresses so they put it on top of the refrigerator and plugged it into the same outlet that the refrigerator was plugged into.

I had second thoughts about that, and checked the Internet to see if it was okay. When I did that, I discovered that nothing should be plugged into the same outlet as the refrigerator. I was not surprised and had somebody unplug it for me. Later, another friend said my microwave oven was now a fly-proof storage unit.

I’m not used to being in Seattle for Christmas. For the last 30 years, I have been in India for almost all Christmas seasons. So when I fully realized I wouldn’t be going there, I wanted to get some Christmas presents, I wondered where to put them in the small studio apartment.

When I looked around, I noticed the microwave oven on top of the refrigerator. I remembered the friend commenting about it being fly-proof. It also would not be where anyone would look for anything and it certainly would not be used for cooking, since the plug and cord were hanging loose on the side of the refrigerator. So that microwave oven truly became a fly-proof storage unit!

***

Satvamrita became a brohmachari (monk) in March 2020. He received a new name at that time. (Before that he was named Sreejit, a name given to him by Amma when he was 15.)

His new name was much harder to remember. Al, his father, still called him Sreejit when talking about him (since Satvamrita was in india).

After Al had a stroke, Satvamrita came to Seattle to take care of him. Al wanted to say the new name correctly but he couldn’t, and so in his confusion used other names. The most common name that he was now calling my son was “Karuna,” my name! So Satvamrita heard “Karuna” many times a day.

On December 29, I came to Seattle for a doctors appointment. There was still snow on the ground.. Afterwards, since it was two blocks away, the friend who drove me and I went to Al’s apartment for dinner. I hadn’t seen him since before he had the stroke.

We didn’t stay long for a variety of reasons. Among them was the fact that between dealing with the snow, seeing Al, and the doctors visit, I was totally exhausted.

Satvamrita walked us out to the car. As we left the apartment, I needed help getting my walker over the edge of the doorway. I looked at my son and called out to him, “Al!” He looked at me shocked, “You too???” he said.

I thought that mistake was pretty funny and am still laughing about it.

***

I was awake from 1 to 3 AM two nights ago writing this last piece of this post in my head. I cried during part of it. I wish I had actually written it down because what I remember isn’t as complete as what I composed during the night. But it’s close.

One of the first things that happened after his stroke was that AL wanted somebody to notify all of his Facebook friends. That request was fulfilled.

One of the people that he notified was a friend that he used to work with and they had a large box of ice cream delivered to his apartment. There were 6 different kinds of ice cream in it.

Al goes to sleep about 5:30 in the evening now and he often wakes up throughout the night. One night, at 3 am Al called out to Satvamrita in the next room, “Does anybody want ice cream?” “No,” Satvamrita answered. A few moments later again Al called out, “Are you sure.” “Yes,” Satvamrita affirmed. Al had already had ice cream twice that day. Hearing the silence that followed, Satvamrita got up and brought the smiling Al some ice cream.

For some reason, I thought that him asking for it at 3 am was really funny. More importantly, the incident shows how people can make a difference in someone’s life by something that is as simple as sending/bringing them some ice cream.

Because of his stroke, I have realized what a difference Al has made in my life. In the late 1960s he protected me by sitting all night with me at a pier on the Seattle waterfront after I had missed my college dorm curfew. In the 1970’s, we attended concerts by Tina Turner, James Brown, War and others. Later we raised two wonderful children together, even after we were divorced. The hard and painful times that occurred back then are no longer important to me.

Before his stroke we talked on the phone every day for months. I know he was frustrated that he couldn’t do more to help me through my illness but those phone calls were a big help. I’m feeling a similar helplessness that I can’t make it better for him now, but am so grateful that our kids can help him.

This contemplation is giving me an opportunity to reflect on how many other people have made a difference in my life: Amma, my children, my friends, my spiritual community, my colleagues, my clients, my neighbors, and the staff and residents here in Woodinville. And I know I have made a difference in many of their lives as well.

I believe that the next moment is not in our hands. I don’t know whether Al and I will live for a few more days or 10 or more years. What I do know is that our friends and family are pitching in and helping us. They are making a difference. And I appreciate them more than I can say.

***

This post didn’t turn out to be the short one I visualized when I started it but it turned out to be an important one.

Laughing is Good for Me- Part 7

In terms of fruit, my son Satvamrita has only put up with bananas or the occasional orange, for most of his life. Fruit was just too messy to deal with. Now that he’s in Seattle taking care of his father who recently had a stroke, he has decided to expand his fruit horizons. The closest big grocery store to him is in the International District so he is exploring Asian fruit.

At the market he discovered dragon fruit and star fruit, as well as more common staples such as pomegranates, papayas, and persimmons. This is proof it’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks. He’s 47!

***

A friend who lives at Amma’s Amritapuri ashram in India and I have been writing to each other a lot…using Whats App. She has a sign in her room that says “Seize the day. Live, Laugh, Love” I decided that would make a wonderful motto for me.

I had one friend print a copy of the sign for me and another friend put it on my bathroom mirror so I would see it throughout the day.

(The sign is actually in the middle of the mirror under the light.)

I also wrote two staff members from the senior living facility in Woodinville where I am staying now more and told them about my new motto. Their reaction to my announcement and their interaction makes a good contribution to this laughing series.

Pat: LOVE IT ❤️❤️❤️

Although at first I thought it said, “SNEEZE the day”!!!! 🤣

Emily: I LOVE this too!

LMAO Pat!!

Thank you Karuna ❤

I wasn’t familiar with LMAO so I looked it up. When I found out it was the acronym for Laugh My Ass Off I looked at my Bitmoji app to see if it was there. It was.

***

A friend was writing about her yearning to be with Amma again and autocorrect did what autocorrect does.

Her email:

I so cherish all the times we have had with Amma-. And I feel a constant deep connection with her. And yearn to be in her presence again.

(auto correct (actually)changed yearn into urine 🤣🤣 I guess that means I have to pee)

***

Thank you all for bringing laughter into my life.

Watching the Creek (and more) from My Window- Part 4

The first predictions of snow were really off. However the one for the day after Christmas was quite accurate.

When it was light enough to look outside, it was a beautiful sight to behold. From inside my room I could look out the window and see the snow. (I am appreciating how often they clean the windows here. It makes it possible for me to take clear pictures.)

After I got dressed, I walked, using my walker, down to the lobby to get my morning pastry and to fill out and turn in my dinner menu. I looked out the front window of the facility and saw so much snow. There was someone in the parking lot using a snow shovel to clear the sidewalks. That would certainly be a huge and time consuming job.

The first time I looked at the creek I thought I saw the water moving.

When I looked at it a couple hours later it looked frozen. I thought it was a possibility considering by then it was 27 or 28° degrees outside. I imagine there was water still running under the ice.

The snow stopped much earlier in the day than forecasted. It will completely stop by 7 pm.

And then on Thursday it may start again!

***

The day after. No wonder I’m cold.

Watching the Creek from My Window- Part 3

I have written two other posts about the creek outside my window in Woodinville. I have changed the titles of those articles to include this title and have added Part 1 or Part 2.

In the last installment I mentioned that even if the creek contains a lot of water during the rains, the water disappears and the ground once again becomes muddy soon after the rain stops. This photo is a good example of what I mean.

mud

This week it has been raining a lot. One day, I looked outside and the water in the creek had a current. I made a video to show you the current. Look at the left side of the video.

We often don’t get the weather that is forecasted. If even part of this happens, it is going to get interesting around here. Take a look at the temperatures that have been forecasted for later in the week.

Laughing is Good for Me- Part 6

I learned this week that earlier this year, Amma (Amma means Mother) had started singing a song about laughing at our ignorance. I don’t know who wrote the song.

In addition to the concept of laughing at our ignorance, three lines caught my attention when I heard it for the first time. One pointed out that we focus on what we don’t have rather be happy about what we have. The second line said that even after we learn our next breath isn’t in our hands, we keep on gathering wealth. The third line was one that said even with people around us dying, we think we are immortal. Each was followed by the statement “Mother told us to laugh at such ignorance. “

A friend found the English translation of this song for me. When I read it, two more lines caught my attention. 1) Mother told us to laugh at fate by using our intellect to overcome it and 2) Mother told us to laugh loudly forgetting our worries.

While my laughter blog series is not about laughing at our ignorance, it is about finding humor in serious situations. And humor definitely decreases my tendency to worry.

***

A friend that was visiting me was trying to convince me that I should replace my mattress. I could imagine flipping or rotating it, but saw no need to replace it. Later in the visit, she was lying on the bed and slipped off the comforter and landed on the floor. Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt.

After going home, she wrote me and said she was still chuckling about being tossed out of the bed. I said for me it was more like full laughter than a chuckle and that she had fallen too gracefully to have been tossed. Later, I added that I thought that if she had been tossed it was the mattress that was the culprit, because she was trying to get rid of it. That image made me laugh even more! In fact, I still laugh when I think about it.

***

This week there was an African drumming performance at the Woodinville Senior Center where I am living. There had been a text and a phone call about it but I didn’t hear or read either of them. The performance was already half over before I was aware that it was happening.

African drumming speaks to my soul. I was filled with memories of being in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco as well as the grassy part of Seattle Center where I had listened to drummers and danced. At one time I had taken African dancing lessons. I never was good at the dancing but I sure loved to do it. I cried deep tears all the way through the performance.

There was a point when the drummers invited everyone to dance. I stood up but my feet wouldn’t move. My dancing days are probably over.

The African drummers got the African employees to dance and that was fun. Pat, an employee I have talked about in previous laughing posts although I may not have named him beforebefore, started leadng a group of residents in a dance. I had an intuition about him later that night. The intuition I had was that he was a introvert masquerading as an extrovert because of his commitment to bringing joy to the world. I asked him about my thought a couple days later and he said he wasn’t sure. He said he definitely was an introvert before he went to seminary but he may have changed to an extrovert there.

My ex-husband AlI had a stroke the weekend before Thanksgiving. On Thanksgiving Day my son Satvamrita arrived from India to take care of him him. Satvamrita was allowed to take his dad back to his apartment at that point. It is certainly not a funny situation but funny things have happened. Like the day Al decided to go to the store. Satvamrita was walking and Al was in his powered wheelchair. Al wouldn’t tell Satvamrita where they were going. Satvamrita videoed part of that experience.I will this post with two video clips of their journey

***

Laughing is Good for Me- Part 5

I am currently living in a senior living facility in Woodinville,Washington. They have all sorts of activities here. Most of them I do not participate in because of my health but I do what I can.

One day around.Halloween, they offered a complementary pancake breakfast. People were invited to come in their pajamas. I decided I would participate in the breakfast although I would not be wearing my pajamas.

I hadn’t looked at the flyer carefully and showed up on the wrong day. After some confusing moments, the hostess figured out what was wrong.

I decided not to participate in the actual event. I went down to the lobby soon after it was over however and saw a staff member in a very large onesie. I don’t know how many people came to the breakfast and I don’t know how many wore pajamas.

I don’t even remember who was wearing the onesie and I don’t remember if it was a costume or actual pajamas but I will long remember the experience of turning the corner and seeing her. And I will laugh.

On Thanksgiving Day, I also walked to the lobby. This time the person that is most often in the front desk said “Look at what I’m wearing.” She came from behind the desk, pulled up her skirt and this is what I saw … big skinny chicken legs. (They were actually socks.) I laughed.

I was pleased that when I asked for one, she gave me a photo and permission to put the picture on my blog and to say whatever I wanted to say. I will hold that whole experience in my memory. And I will laugh when I think of it.

***

I thought I would give a warning before the next section. some of you may not want to read it because it is gross or because I sound like a middle school student who is obsessed with bodily functions.

My stomach is gurgling a lot. Actually it is more than likely the gurgling is coming from my intestines. One day I was too tired to hold the phone while I was talking to my son, so I set the phone on my abdomen with the microphone pointing towards my head. All of a sudden the gurgling started. “What is that?” my son exclaimed! Remembering that moment still makes me laugh deeply.

I am on so many medications that constipation can be a real problem. I celebrate it on a day that I poop at the beginning of the day. I sometimes even celebrate the size of what comes out of me!

It isn’t only stories about humans that are making me laugh. Somebody sent me the cartoon about two crows, a baby and a parent. The parent crow was saying to the baby crow “Just hold it until we find a parked car.” Not only is that like middle school humor but it also feels like it is actually true that the crows have their strategies for interfering with human lives all planned out.

For many years, I have only remembered one joke. Question: How do you make God laugh? Answer: Tell him your life plans.

This week, a friend added to my joke repertoire. I don’t know why he told me this joke unless it is because I have so much gas and essentially no control over when it comes out but it certainly fits the category of bodily function humor:

An elderly couple is in church. The wife says to the husband, “I’ve let out one of those silent farts, what do I do?”

The husband says, “Get new hearing aids.”

I laugh every time I remember it.

Transformation: Watching the Creek from My Window- Part 2

For most of the time I’ve been here, what is called the “creek” has just been dry ground. On the rare occasions that it rained though, some puddles formed. When it began to rain more frequently, the puddles lasted longer and then turned to mud.

dry “creek”

About two weeks ago, there was a big windstorm and at least one tree fell. (There are pictures related to that incident in my last post.) Since then, friends and I have speculated that one fallen tree might have pulled others over as it tumbled.

Last week it rained heavily. The next time I pulled up the blinds, I had the view below of the creek. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This time it looked more like a lake.

If it hadn’t stopped raining the water likely would have soon gone over the embankment and probably would have made it to my building.

The water was significantly down by the afternoon. I could see ducks, along with a brown animal, playing in the water. When I looked at the brown animal, the word mongoose came to my mind.

I found a picture of a mongoose on the internet. The brown animal could have been a mongoose, but it could also have been something else.

(I’m not wearing glasses regularly nowadays because they fog up when I am wearing a mask and if I have any screen time on the laptop or phone my eyes get blurry so my eyesight is almost never clear.)

The next day the creek was back to just mud and puddles. More logs and branches were visible and they were closer to me. I suspect some had been submerged when I last looked and had become visible again when the lake turned to mud.

Also, it was possible that other trees had fallen in the storms and maybe there was running water under the still water. If so, tree parts may have been washed downstream and were caught here when the creek became mud again.

back to mud and puddles

The Angry Bird T-Shirt

I bought a new T-shirt three or four years ago. I thought the design on it was lightning. I was dismayed when I discovered that it was actually a depiction of an angry bird.

I did not want to wear a picture of an angry bird on my T-shirt but it is the most comfortable T-shirt I’ve got and it is also easy to get in and out of. Both of those qualities are very important to me right now.

As I continued to think about it, I remembered when the crows used to dive-bomb me in the Greenbelt behind my house. There was an old helmet that had been left in the Greenbelt sometime in the past. If it hadn’t been so dirty, I would have been tempted to put it on as I felt I was being attacked. I was told that it was nesting season and that I was coming too close to their nests. The crows were only protecting their young.

This year, the same thing happened at the place that I am staying now. Crows dive-bombed me two different times in May or June. It happened in different parts of the property, so I don’t know if it was the same crow or two different ones. Those incidents happened three or four weeks apart. Both times, I could feel the wings of the crow touch my head. And once again, it was nesting season so the crows were simply protecting their babies.

When I remembered those experiences, I no longer cared about wearing a T-shirt that had a picture of an angry bird on it. Then, I realized that my role as a corrective parenting group psychotherapist had been to teach adult men and women how to take care of their inner children.

As such, I was an advocate for the young. I was also a protective mom when it came to my own children. Even though they are now adults, I don’t want anyone messing with them and will definitely come to their defense, at least in my mind.

So now I am able to wear my angry bird T-shirt proudly. It is one of the symbols of my life. What are the other symbols? I’ll have to think about that.

The Angry Bird
Going for a walk with friends