Siren Found

I hadn’t written since November. I couldn’t. It’s not that I wasn’t having thoughts; it was just that the thoughts weren’t good. They weren’t bad, doom and gloom. They were just there. Or, they were stories and ideas that I’m not ready to share.

Then, I went to California…

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(Above: Paul and I on the shores of Zuma Beach, Malibu, California)

I have always been attracted to the water, the ocean, and to marine life. I can see why I would like these things, since I am a lifelong Michigander. But here’s the thing. I don’t know how to swim. Yep. I grew up in a state surrounded by water and I don’t know how to swim.

I took lessons when I was sixteen, but I have a fear of water too great to ever “really” put them to the test. My sweet husband tried to teach me in his parents’ pool, and I can do “okay” but that’s in a safe environment.

The strange thing is, I do not have a fear of boats. I am perfectly fine to spend an afternoon puttering on the lake in a pontoon or even speed boats are fine. I can do ferry rides!

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(Above: waiting to board our whale watching vessel)

On January 2, I got to do something that I’ve always wanted to do. My husband, my best friend, and I went whale watching. There is nothing more beautiful than watching ocean life just…live.

Paul first pointed out a seal that popped its head out of the water to eat. Then he pointed out another. As we were riding, and I was open mouthed, “hi, I’m a tourist”-ing, he saw something else. “I’m not sure if that’s something over there or not…” he said. And as we got closer, we saw that the something was something. Two seals were kicked back with their front flippers up as if they were waiving to us. I bet they were thinking, “look at those…. weird creatures…ta-ta…”

I rode along, enjoying the smell of the ocean and the fresh air. It was in the mid-fifties to a Michigander in January is like a taste of spring. The ride, the air, and the mystery of the water below us filled me with a calm like I don’t ordinarily know. It was the feeling of being home after a long time away. I know very well how cheesy that sounds, but it was the truest sense of peace I can imagine.

Our captain came on and reported that gray whales had been reported 14 miles from us in one direction and 19 miles in the opposite direction. He sounded sad that we hadn’t seen whales on our whale watching trip, but I was content to just be on the ocean.

“I guess all I needed to do was say something.” Our captain came back on a few minutes later. We were approaching a pod of over 100, closer to 150, common dolphins.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and took a few photos, but I had to put it away almost as quickly. I was genuinely afraid that I would get so excited that I would jump up and throw my phone into the Pacific, and I would not be nearly as graceful as Rose and the Heart of the Ocean. A simple “oops” wouldn’t escape my lips.

I stood transfixed and I felt tears well in my eyes. The dolphins jumped and flipped, twisting in and out of the water as though they were trying to entertain instead of just living.

This. I thought. This is the way to experience ocean life.

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I’ve not been a fan of SeaWorld, and I’ve written angry letters to the aquarium in my local mall. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a shark in the mall. And I’m not a Blackfish bandwagon movement supporter. Per my mom, I screamed the entire time we were at SeaWorld when I was two. I am sure I’ve been an anti-captivity supporter since birth.

I feel drawn to the waterfront. To the shore.

We visited Zuma Beach in Malibu and I felt good and clean and inspired. Given time, I could have parked my behind on the beach all day and just created.

I am not the first one to have this feeling—this “calling” so to speak. My favorite contemporary fiction writer, Cecelia Ahern, says, “there was a magic about the sea. People were drawn to it. People wanted to love by it, swim in it, play in it, look at it. It was a living thing that as as unpredictable as a great stage actor: it could be calm and welcoming, opening its arms to embrace it’s audience one moment, but then could explode with its stormy tempers, flinging people around, wanting them out, attacking coastlines, breaking down islands. It had a playful side too, as it enjoyed the crowd, tossed the children about, knocked lilos over, tipped over windsurfers, occasionally gave sailors helping hands; all done with a secret little chuckle.”

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I feel connected to the water. Maybe it’s a fertility thing, a woman thing, a writer thing… I don’t know exactly. They say that sirens sing and lure seamen to their demise. I think sirens sing to other women and help us find what we didn’t know we lost.

Bill Medicare For This Too Please

I cried all the way from home to town on Saturday night. It was 9.8 miles of tears and denial. I am not ready to face the fact that my grandmother is getting “old” and she’s 87.  Her health is in decline and the fact of the matter is, she’s facing a nursing home. When a person stops eating and has become (and I hate this expression) “dead weight”, requiring a wheelchair, it’s apparent that something is wrong.

This is the woman that did walks, rode motorcycles, went camping, and puttered in her flower gardens of purposely planted weeds. Until two years ago. And I’d like to place blame on the family members that told her “you’re getting old and going to die soon”. Given the opportunity, and my penchant for saying exactly what I’m thinking, it might happen.

I don’t want to face the mortality of my grandparents. I was close with my great-grandmother, and she passed when I was thirteen. It was so long ago that now, it seems like it happened to someone else. When I think about her, it feels like I’m thinking of another person’s experiences. But I suppose I am. I am no longer the teenager “me” and in all that is normal it is also a bit saddening.

If I flip the digits, the “3” and the “1” in 13, I am my current age. I am 31. Although my grandmother isn’t facing her deathbed, it is glaringly obvious to me that she is no longer young. She has reached a stage of not knowing who my parents are, and she is seeing things that aren’t there. (I do that, but it’s called imagination. When older adults do it, it’s called dementia.)

I spent a good chunk of my afternoon yesterday reviewing the percentage of coverage for Medicare and reintroduced phrases like “gap coverage” and “co-insurance” into my vocabulary. When I started teaching I thought, hoped is a more accurate term, to forget that knowledge and leave it in the recesses of my mind. Come to find out, you don’t forget that Medicare covers at a rate of 80/20 and the deductible is roughly $166.

I looked at residential care facilities near my grandparents’ home and found abysmal results. One had twelve reported “incidents” to Medicare last year. Another had eight. One’s most recent health department inspection was in 2015! What the hell! People live there. Families depend on them to care for people like my grandmother. Those are our loved ones! I’m sure that this is some sort of righteous outrage on my part, but I can’t help it.

I’m sad that I live about 150 miles from my grandparents. I hand wrote my grandfather a letter today, totally four pages, explaining what to look for and how to question Medicare and Blue Cross about their coverage. The trust I have in those closest to him in miles is dismal (at best). I wish this wasn’t happening. I wish my grandfather didn’t have to choose to put his wife of nearly sixty years into a care facility.

I wish I didn’t have a fear of nursing homes. I wish they didn’t make me panic and cry, even when I’m not already overly emotional. I wish my other “family” members didn’t plant the seed of death in my grandmother’s head. I wish that those physically closest to him weren’t two of the most self-serving individuals on the planet. I wish this wasn’t “normal”.

Most of all, I wish I could bill Medicare for this. For all of it. For me, my parents, and my grandfather. But that, my friends, isn’t covered under part “A” or “B”. That, is the co-insurance. Our out of pocket expense.