Friday, October 17, 2014

Twenty five years later

October 17. That's just one of those days you remember. It was 25 years ago today that the Loma Prieta earthquake hit killing 60 people from Santa Cruz to Oakland. As sad as that is, it is remarkable that it didn't kill 6000. Part of the reason it wasn't worse, in my opinion, is that the San Francisco Giants and the Oakland A's were just about to start Game 3 of the World Series and many people in the Bay Area were already at the game or in front of their television sets instead of on the collapsing Bay Bridge or Freeways.

The World Series was billed as the Battle of the Bay, but the series wasn't the big battle that week.

Steve and I were at the World Series. We had pretty good seats in section 10 of the lower deck of Candlestick Park, right between home plate and third base, under the overhang. The quake started and my first thought was that people were stamping their feet, but then I remembered I wasn't in bleachers at a high school game. The rolling started getting worse and we all knew.

For some reason I fixed my eyes on a cameraman who was in a temporary cage attached to the upper deck. It was in place just to accommodate additional cameras for the Series. That guy really got a ride. I watched him hold on to the sides of that cage with all his might, saw the fear in his eyes and wondered if he would fall.  He didn't.

The shaking stopped and there was a roar in the crowd. Atlee Hammaker, a pitcher for the Giants said, "That was the tide turning." (the Giants were down 2 games to none) For a few minutes there was a weird sort of jubilation, and then reality set in. I begged Steve to move out from under the overhang. He dismissed my concerns saying, "That's reinforced steel and concrete, it's not going anywhere."  Just then the television came back on and this picture was showing

I pointed to it and said, "Well, what's THAT made out of?" We moved. 

For a while everyone waited thinking for some reason that the "game would go on."  It did not and eventually we made our way to the parking lot.  I remember seeing people on car phones (pre cell phone days) but no one could get a line.  We found our car and started the long long trek home. 

Generally we could get back from Candlestick in about 20 minutes. Not that day. It took 90 minutes just to get out of the parking lot and another 90 to get home. I was freaking out because Eddie was 18 months old and in the care of my friend Anna (who rushed across town to get him after work, beating emergency vehicles, I believe). I couldn't reach her and had no idea if they were OK. Also I was about 6 weeks pregnant with Tim, so my emotional state was volatile.

As we sat in the car, we could see the smoke from the fire in the Marina District. It was a perfect day, weather wise, and the beauty of the Bay was haunting knowing the devastation that had happened. We listened to the disaster reporting on the radio and I marvelled that they were talking about US and we were fine. ("Us" being San Franciscans).  They kept saying "60,000 people at Candlestick Park and no one panicked," to which Steve would respond, "except Sally."  Hilarious.

We worked our way toward the Richmond District, which had not been mentioned once in the disaster reporting. I decided that was good news, there was nothing to report, but then I wondered if it was because the entire neighborhood was in the ocean and there was no one to report it. Not rational, I admit, but the fear was there. As we approached Anna's house I was quiet, not wanting to spill my irrational fears

The power was out everywhere, which is always unsettling. We were about three blocks away, crossing Geary Street when I saw the Blarney Stone, an Irish Bar then on 21st and Geary (now down the street) There were people crowded into the place lit only by candles. I decided that was a good sign. If people were out drinking, things couldn't be that bad.

We retrieved Eddie who was fine but miffed that Ann had taken the batteries out of his toy to put in her flashlight. (Everyone had to sacrifice.) He could talk some and told us about the "Big Shakes"

 When we arrived home we found my bother in law Jim on the front steps. He couldn't get home to Oakland and decided to walk to our house from downtown. He said he knew our house would be okay because Steve had bolted it to the foundation a month or so earlier. The house was fine. The fish tank sloshed over and one coffee cup fell off a rack, but we were fine.  Steve and Jim, knowing the power was out, did the logical thing; they ate the ice cream before it melted and drink the beer before it got warm. I went upstairs with Eddie and put on my Walkman radio to listen to the news.  

The lights came back on the next evening and we could see the horrible pictures on the television. We know how lucky we were.

 Eventually the Series resumed and we went back to the same seats. It seemed important to go back and show the world that we were still here and OK. The crowd sang "San Francisco" and everyone was into that. We sat next to the same guy as we had when the earthquake hit and in the playoffs before that, but they weren't as lucky as we were. The woman didn't come back as she lost everything in her apartment in the Marina. It was unbelievable. The crowd was much more subdued and the Giants lost in 4 straight. 

Freeways were rebuilt, bridges were fixed, houses were rebuilt, but everything changed. Before that I though earthquakes were just part of  San Francisco's Charm.  I don't think that anymore.

It would be fine with me if the next "big one" could hold off for another 75 years or so.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Lady in waiting is waiting

Today marks 8 months since we lost Maggie. Still it feels like  moment ago.

We've done a lot in 8 months. planned and took a trip to London and Ireland, spent four days in Boston, went to San Diego for a graduation, sold the van, cleaned out most of Maggie's things, cleaned out and sold my father in law's house (OK that was mostly Steve and his siblings, not me) went to work, gave talks, worked on a paper about services for the disabled, planned and attended my high school reunion, raised money for the hospital, spent time with friends and family, got up every morning, survived, and so much more.  In short, I've kept myself busy.

 Being busy helps; but a lot of it feels very artificial.

I need to figure out what's next. Not in the busy bee fashion I have been doing things, but in a thoughtful, considered plan for the future. I do have some thing to offer - mad skills -  I'm just not sure where or how to market them.

My husband wants me to feel fulfilled and happy and encourages me to go back to practicing law full time, I told him that's not for me, but never really articulated why -- mostly because I didn't know why. He assumes I don't think I can get back in to the swing but that's not it. I admit that going to work in a law firm at my age is not very enticing, but it's not because I don't think I can do it, I know I can, The question is what good does that do anyone?

We are approaching this from completely different angles. He thinks I'm selling myself short by not considering that, but I told him today that I think I am selling myself and Maggie short if I do consider that.

 I am only now figuring some of this out, and I'm still having trouble articulating it. But I know this: I can't go back to the way things were before Maggie was in our lives. I am not the same person.  More importantly, though, the skills that set me apart are not as a lawyer, they are the things I learned and did in the past 20 years as a "lady in waiting" in Maggie's world.

I know how the system works, or doesn't work, in California, I know where the weak spots are and who is manipulating those.  I know there are people out there busting their tails trying to improve things for the disabled in California and there are others who impede those efforts in both overt and covert, conscious and unconscious ways. I know more awareness of all of this will help at every level, but I don't want to be a shrill voice that is lost in the wind. I want to be part of something that can make a change.

I know things can be better and I want to help make them so. I want to do that for Maggie and I want to do that for me and I want to do that for the disabled people of California, because they are my peeps.

I want the last 20 years to count.

So this lady in waiting is waiting for an opportunity.

Monday, October 13, 2014


I have so so many things to post about.
I've ever really talked about our trip.
I have to follow up on the talk at Mission.
There are so may things....

But not today.

Today is reserved for Tyre, who was Maggie's friend, boyfriend, prom date, nemeses, classmate, cohort and so much more. He passed away last night and I am so very sad.

 I said in an email today "He was very much like Maggie - they were the two "smart" kids. He was a couple of years older than Maggie, so there were a few years they weren't together (he would have moved on to middle school or high school before her) and neither did as well without the other. They were smart and they pushed each other to get better and better on their talkers."

I talked to several people today as the word of his passing spread throughout his world. Most of the professionals in Maggie's life also worked with Tyre. When I spoke with Nurse Janice she said, "well, those two are together again. Maybe this time Maggie won't play hard to get." That really made me smile to think about.  Tyre had personality galore and could be quite charming. He worked his charms on Maggie. He was crazy about her and she was about him, but she would flirt with other boys to throw Tyre off his game.  It was hilarious to watch. 

It was hard not to be charmed by Tyre. He was expressive and happy and always dressed to the nines. Maggie and Tyre were supposed to go to the prom together one year, but Tyre was in the hospital and couldn't go. We made a point to go by the hospital first so we could take pictures. Tyre was all dressed up to match Maggie's dress and even had flowers. Check out the look he's giving her in this shot. I learned later that he thought Maggie was there to take him out of the hospital and was very upset when we left without him... 

It is mind-boggling to me that Maggie and Tyre are both gone in such close proximity. The two of them exuded so much energy and joy, I know the world is a lot less joyful now. 

I will miss Tyre and I will remember him.  He  made me feel good every time I saw him.  He made everyone feel good. But I don't feel good today.

Safe travels Tyre.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Back to school

Computer issues are resolved. Finally. I've only owned this computer for a year and it was very messed up. I a relieved that I don't have to replace it alrady.

 So, just when you thought it was safe to go back on the internet, I'm back.....

This afternoon I am going to Mission High, Maggie's old school. (Pictured above) You may or may not know that October is Disability Awareness month and "Teacher Joe" (Maggie's former teacher)  asked if I would consider addressing the faculty about my life as Maggie's advocate or about disabilities in general. The request kind of surprised me, but I was flattered at the same time. Mission High meant everything to Maggie and I am pleased to contribute in anyway I can.

Joe told me the theme for this meeting is Access, Equity and Social Justice. He thought of me because that's what I always sought for with Maggie. I said, well, I suppose I did, but I never thought about it that way. When you're in the middle of  dogfight, you don't have time to analyze what you are doing, you have to keep fighting.

Only now, with the benefit of hindsight -- and the highfalutin labels attached by Joe -- do I realize that is exactly what I was doing.

Sounds so Gloria Steinem-ish, doesn't it.

I will report back.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Mixed messages from the universe

I am having computer issues that are driving me crazy. I cannot get online from my laptop and cannot type on my phone or IPAD. I thought I could use the computer at work but for whatever reason blogger won't load. I finally resorted to the phone, so this will likely take about an hour to type and a lot of the words will look like this: osjhefch.

Maybe this is the universe telling me to shut up already.  If it is, I'm ignoring it he message. 

On Saturday we went to a wedding. My friend's son got married. I saw a lot of people I know which was great and also a little hard. 

I was emotionally shaky at the ceremony and a basket case during the beautiful rendition of Ave Maria, which was sung at Maggie's funeral. (I warned Steve that song will probably make me cry for the next five years. His response, "well that will be something to look forward to.")

Somehow, though I felt a little bit of an emotional release for the first time in months. It was so beautiful and I was so happy for the newlyweds, Robert and Jean, that all other cares sort of slipped away.

 We had a great time at the reception dancing the night away and laughing with old friends. It felt great. Really great. 

Then this morning I received a message from Mr. G, Maggie's teacher for two years at Mission. He said he was at the gym this morning and All the Single Ladies started playing. Of course that made him think of Maggie and he smiled. This picture of Maggie responding to BeyoncĂ©  telling all the single ladies to "put your hands up" came to mind immediately. 

I smiled too because how can you not?  By also I felt like the universe telling me Maggie approved of the dancing and joy. 

Apparently I have selective hearing because this time I am listening to the universe. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Recently someone asked me how to prepare for the loss of a child you know isn't going to survive very long. Short answer: it can't be done.

You can intellectualize things: you know the science, you know what the doctors are telling you, you can see what's happening. You mentally prepare yourself, or you try to. You think you understand.

But you don't.

It's like standing on the edge of a cliff. You know there's a danger at the end and you feel a little adrenaline rush as you look over the edge, imagining what it would be like to fall. You know falling would be a terrifying thing and you think you understand that feeling.  

And then you fall off and even before you hit the bottom you know that you had no idea what it would feel like.

That's it really, it's the way it FEELS. All the intellectual processing and understanding and mental preparation in the world doesn't help with the way it feels. and it doesn't feel good. It's like a long slow fall off a cliff, falling falling and not knowing when you will hit bottom or how much that will hurt.

There are good times, of course. Little things jog your memory and you laugh remembering all the amazing things. Sometimes you laugh really really hard. Sometimes it's just a quiet smile. Those are lovely moments, but they are bittersweet, always bittersweet.

All anyone can do is feel it. And remember the child. You can remember the child publicly or privately or both. That's what will keep that child alive for you. That's how their life will count, by being remembered.

Just remember, because the sweet is worth the bitter.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Cape for sale, cheap.

I'm tired. Tired beyond belief. There hasn't been any real rest for me in a very long time.

Being Maggie's mother meant I was on call 24/7. To be fair, being anybody's mother means you are on call 24/7, but the demands of raising a child with ongoing health challenges and disabilities means the "calls" came frequently and at every hour of the day.  In the first five years or so  I was so sleep deprived I probably should not have been driving. Somehow, though we adapt to whatever we need to do to get by.

After several years we started getting nurses at night - not every night like in the last years of Maggie's life, but sometimes. It was often enough that I  started feeling a little less dangerous when driving. Still there were more nights than not that we didn't have a nurse and I was up several times during the night or just didn't sleep at all.  Once the nurses were there all the time, things got better still, but there were always emergencies or a sick nurse or something that disrupted my sleep.

To compensate for this, I developed a superpower. I could sleep anytime, anywhere for as long as was allowable under the circumstances. If there was a 30 minute window, I could lay down or just sit up and sleep for 28 minutes. It was uncanny. It was my own way of keeping myself in an operational state.

Now Maggie is gone and so is my superpower. I've lost my ability to sleep. Not just my superpower of power napping on demand, but sleeping at all. I can count on one hand the nights I've slept through since February.  It was starting to abate before we went to Ireland, but then the trip totally threw off the clock again. Plus, now that we are back, I am feeling the loss much more sharply than I have in recent months The trip was a good diversion, but it's over and now I'm back where I was.

I suppose it's to be expected. An emotional upset as big as this is going to have some long lasting reverberations. Losing Maggie was the rock in the pond. It was a huge splash.  Not sleeping is one of the many ripples that come from that splash.

So, now I'm off to bed where I will read until I fall asleep and then awaken three hours later and stay awake for most - or the rest - of the night.

I'm tired. I miss my sleep superpower, in fact I will have to get rid of my sleeping cape.

But most of all, I miss my girl.