Thursday, September 5, 2013

Into September

The summer is officially over but the heat and humidity continues here. This has been a difficult summer. In fact, it almost seems as if there hasn't been much of one, at least from having a lot of time to just relax. The death of Pop and my cousin in June definitely cast a pall over the usual happy times.

I shared my Al-Anon story twice in August: at my home group and at a meeting I helped start and regularly attend.  At that meeting, anniversaries are celebrated at the end of the month. There were three of us who were celebrating anniversaries in August, but I was the only one who showed up.  I had hoped to not have to talk again for 45 minutes, but as usually occurs, the words came out in something that appeared to resonate with others.

A group of us went to dinner afterwards which is usually fun. This time a lady came who has generally been fairly quiet in meetings, often sitting and crying about her daughter who is an addict. She has identified herself as a therapist and talked and talked during the whole meal. It's interesting how people can have an entirely different persona outside of meetings.  Perhaps manic talking is a mask for the terror that she feels?

I've joined a book study group that meets before the regular Al-Anon meeting. We are reading a book called Discovering Choices.  It's about relationships, a topic that interests me because I have basically had difficulty with knowing how to have a healthy relationship for most of my life.

And the book is about having healthy relationships and not the co-dependent kind which is filled with mistrust, fear and anger. Anyway, the book states that "Wherever we may be in our search for healthy relationships, we
have to begin where we are today. It may be painful to think how much better our relationships could have—or should have—been. There’s no point in criticizing ourselves when we did the best we could with what we had. We can gain peace of mind by putting aside what we could or should have done and by accepting who and where we are right now." The book is generating a lot of good discussion in the group as each of us tries to look at present relationships without guilt and regret.

I have been approved as a Hospice volunteer and will start with photographing for a memory book of a lady who is dying. I don't know how I will feel, but somehow think that being a volunteer will be mutually beneficial. My wife thinks that I am too tender for this--that it will sadden me. I may be too tender. But I want to see what I feel and what I can learn from those who are facing their own imminent death.  I will let you know how that goes.

Next week, I am going on the boat for three days. I am looking forward to getting away more than I can say.  I have missed going out every week.  It isn't the same to be on the boat at the marina. The view is magnificent of the city and the harbor, but I need the solitude that comes from casting off lines and heading to the "secret" island.  I feel as if I have been holding my breath and am waiting to exhale upon arrival there.  It is my tree house on the water--a place where I can wear as few clothes as possible and live a nomad's life for a few days.  This winter, the voyage may become much longer as I plan to head down the coast to somewhere tropical. Lots of options at the moment.  And I am savoring each and every one.


  1. wow what a powerful act of service...the photographing of the lady that is dying...that gave me chills a bit syd....and the book sounds pretty good too, relationships are def a topic of interest to me...hope the fall is comforting to you man

  2. Great picture on the water - of "Sojourner." Refreshing to see a bit of a scene change.

    Congratulations at you being accepted as a Hospice Care Person. I've had experience in welcoming these wonderful folks into my home, when my husband was in the last stages of methopheloma (spelling check) - cancer. They are truly special caring people from every walk of life, and very knowledgeable about the family's needs, also.

    As for me, I would be honored and thrilled to have YOU hold my hand during the last days!.

    Good luck, God bless you - - - and remember that the 'burdens' you will witness during your visits are not yours. (Good ol' Al-Anon principle, I think!)

    Hugs, and love,
    Anonymous #1

  3. Syd, bless you in your hospice endeavor. I did volunteer work for hospice for almost 3 years. My final patient was taken away from me because of a spontaneous remission in his esophageal cancer. I was able to walk away from my hospice commitment after that. I will tell you, some days it did make me sad. I was blessed in that all my patients were elderly and had lived a long, good life. That was a blessing for me. God bless you too, Syd.

  4. Oh Syd...the life you live! Its a dream life...a secret island, no clothes, sailing off to tropical places!
    About the Hospice knew I'd have something to say about that! lol
    Anyway, it IS often sad....its an ending of a life, but it can also be such a beautiful time. And you my friend get to be a part of someone's most private, most cherished, time....leaving this earth. Its an honor that I know you will appreciate once you are there and meet your families. You will often find that the client who is dying will teach you so much, and you will give them the comfort of company who is not afraid to walk with them through their last journey. Photographing for a memory book! Wow, what a great beginning for you. You will be so wonderful at this, BECAUSE you are tender. I would love nothing more than to work with you as a volunteer for some of my clients!

  5. Syd I do volunteer work with people dying of Aids, many of them young and it is often heartbreaking. I pace myself and take a break if I get distressed because the patients don't need to deal with distress in a listener or carer. And I make sure to do other activities that give me pleasure and are easier on the emotions. Service though is always rewarding.

  6. Syd in a thong---I had to pause for moment, but yeah what the hell put a picture up.

    I think your wife is right and wrong about the hospice thing, you ma be fragile in watching death creep up on people who know it's coming but you will certainly understand the thoughts and be able to relate to them who ponder the inevitable in such a close way.

    It's been close to a month now since I had to go into my brother in laws house and grab his dead shoulders and visually ID him for the cops. None of his blood relatives could take that on, death freaks them out. He died alone in his bath tub with the water running, I was glad he never got to the drain plug to close it. He knew it was coming but wouldn't let anyone help him, no one but my wife and I knew how close it was but still kind of a shock to wait 3 hours for a cop to come to call the fire department to pry a window. Detroit. Not only financially bankrupt but morally too.

    Yea Syd go to your island and burn a log for him. He would have liked that. He was into helping strangers and i think it fitting a stranger do something for him he did a lot, build fires in his pit. You'll get used to the sight od dying Syd but the thinking I believe will make you want to ask more questions then there are answers to.

  7. I think that in working with hospice you will come to the true realization that death is part of this life and as such, not to be feared.
    And I also think that you definitely need some time on the boat. So go and enjoy and just be.

  8. Oh Syd, You must look for the book, "Final Gifts" written by a group of Hospice nurses. It speaks of some common traits the dying seem to exhibit. It is so interesting and may help you to look at what you are photographing in a new light. Your photos are beautiful and I know that you will do well. Lots of adventure ahead for you. It is an inspiration. By the way, I cry at commercials.....I don't think you can be too sensitive. Lol

  9. How lovely of you to volunteer for hospice. I know those workers brought a lot of comfort to my father-in-law and our family during his final days.

    It's also smart that you are "escaping" on your boat for recharging yourself.

    I did want to ask you if you have any suggestions for my brother-in-law. Apparently my sister-in-law (my husband's sister) has become addicted to pain meds and from what I hear, it's quite bad. Our family wants to do an intervention and ship her to rehab where I went, but my husband and I think it's a terrible idea because she is saying she is fine and doesn't have a problem. I think guiding her husband, mom, family and friends towards Al-Anon and adopting a stance of boundaries with her will be more effective.

    As the resident family alcoholic, they're kind of looking to me but I'm from the other side of the problem. Plus, I was the one who decided I was in trouble and wanted rehab. I've seen too often that shaming or forcing an addict to get clean doesn't work.

    So, what have you seen people do that is helpful? Any thoughts would be terrific.

  10. Oh reading Final Gifts is an EXCELLENT sugesstion!

  11. Wow...most of us just dream about the tropics but it sounds like your dream will come true. Can't wait to go with you vicariously.

  12. I enjoy reading recovery books with others. It helps me to hear their thoughts. Watching others in the last phases of life stretched me into new areas of being human, it deepened my emotional self. It's hard though for me...

  13. LOVE LOVE LOVE your pictures, especially the top two. You certainly have some talent. I know what you mean about the summer going by so fast, with seemingly little time to enjoy it, but seasons come and go and each one is new. Have a good time out on the boat!

  14. Sojourner looks great, wing-on-wing is what we call that, I believe. It take a sense of balance and a steady hand on the tiller/wheel to maintain that point of sail and sail configuration. I think you will be awesome at hospice. You seem to be a very balanced, steady person, your sensitivity notwithstanding. I happen to believe you can't be too sensitive. I gives your listening authenticity when the person senses that you are invested in their story.


    1. Yes, wing on wing is what that is--used on a down wind run without having to haul out the gennaker. I don't have a spinnaker on board so for short runs, I just do wing on wing. And true about maintaining a steady hand, otherwise there could be a jibe. Not a good thing on this boat with so much force on the rigging.


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