Tuesday, December 29, 2009


I have risen (proofed) pain au chocolat all night so that the children can wake up to the smell of delicious baked things (and of course, so I can eat them).  My beloved, the Maharishi, is staying at the beach with my mother-in-law.  His all-night vigil will mean that she, finally, might sleep.  For the last week or so she has had two hours a night and finds it hard to sleep during the day even when Big John is sleeping and even though they have a nurse there at all times.  Her shoulders and neck are one big knot. 

It is a vigil now. It is a waiting to die vigil.  We all pray for it to come quietly, with love and light, a swift transition into the next world, but it hurts and the fluids are conspiring to make breathing hard.  It is a strange time, this waiting for death.  His good friends are at the house. There are no longer the scores of visitors from the weekend, just Harry and Bob and Jerry and some of the old gang.  And J and his brother.  Andi, who's staying in their apartment, brings jugs of hot, sweet mint tea, packed with handfuls of spearmint and urges Sandy to drink something.  J brings in chopped salads from Alejo's, and Italian bread.  I put out bowls of almonds, satsumas, boxes of raisins. But she eats and drink very little. And sleeps very little.  She smiles, holds it in, doesn't allow her voice to crack, laughs at the silly jokes we offer, sits by him and says "You're doing great."  And even when he doesn't hear anyone else or see anyone else, he says to Sandy, mumbles, "Love you."

Upstairs in the house it's beautiful. I don't know what conspiracy produces the rolling surf and glassy skies of the past few days, the impossible blue mountains above Malibu and the mist rolling in towards Palos Verdes.  One or two people walk their dogs.  A couple of sailing boats float by. Everyone must be away for the holidays. It's just still and empty.

The old boys reminisce. Their stories usually involve girls or drinks or both.  They make us laugh.  The Maharishi is reminded of his childhood down there on the beach, the weekend parties, the characters who showed up time and again.  "It was a bit like Cheers here" said Bob.  Everyone knew each other. Everyone knew John. He was the unofficial Mayor of the Marina Peninsula, a place inhabited by divorcees in their 30s and 40s and at the weekends by flight attendants coming in from Paris or London or Hawaii to LAX, just three or four miles down the road.  Sandy has pictures on every wall of John in his youth, with his beard in the seventies, surrounded by a bevy of beauties in skimpy bikinis, or John in his car -- the top down -- with more women leaning against it, blonde hair falling around their shoulders, wide smiles at the camera.  And John in his short shorts, always smiling, his skin tan and taut from beach living.  And John's baptismal certificate, from October 11, 1936, written in scratchy black ink.

The light is beautiful this morning. I can hear the red-tailed hawks and the prayer flags are waving in trees.  This too shall pass.


Julia said...

Thinking of all of you during this tough time. You've got my prayers. xo

jsetzen said...

That is heart-breaking and incredibly beautiful. Thinking of all you guys out there.

Anonymous said...

An awful time for everyone ... let's hope that the end is speedy.
When my stepfather was dying at home we made him a bedroom in the dining room and Mum slept on the sofa in the drawing room - actually she hardly slept, ate very little and from that moment lost her ability to sleep properly ever again.
Thinking of you in these hard and difficult times - just try to keep laughing, plenty of time for tears later.

sianey said...

hello darling - jut to let you know i'm sending all my thoughts to you all out there.

Wzzy said...

Big John's life, right to the end, reads like a movie. Your writing is so vivid I feel like I'm there (and so wish I'd met him). Love and light and comfort to you all. xx