photo by Sheri Dixon

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


My world, like most peoples', is filled with lists.

Grocery lists, shopping lists, errand lists, chore lists.

Lists on the telephone, the computer, typed neatly and posted on the wall or scratched onto the back of a junk mail envelope using a pen that's out of ink.

There's a running list on the Notepad feature of my phone- stuff we need at the time we're there.

I travel at all times with 2 bags plus my purse- my work bag and the "house building stuff" bag.

The work bag is a misnomer since it's got the stuff (and lists) for the taekwondo club Alec belongs to in one section- I'm the treasurer of the club.
It's got our bills to be paid and calls to be made (in list form) in another section.
And there is work stuff in there too- schedules, calls, orders, lists.

The house bag has all the details of our building project- contracts, blueprints, receipts, business cards and phone numbers. And many. Many. Lists.

On one of my lists is the directive to "clean out all drawers and surfaces". This is daunting because we're packrats, every one of us. But I need to clean those areas in order to get to the furniture we want to move, and this whole Moving Thing is an exercise in cleaning out the old, shaking off the cobwebs from our previous life, starting anew and all that drivel.

Here's the thing.

I'm finding, tucked into drawers and cupboards and files...alot of old lists.

And that slows me down, because they must be read, remembered, validated before either being tossed out or saved.

I'm not talking about old grocery lists, those are easy to discard- I'm talking about

the many many lists and plans and letters and drawings that led up to the reality of the house we're now building (these get saved).

Christmas wish lists painstakingly written out in ever-more-legible handwriting by our son- and I wonder, now that he knows "about Santa" will there be a wish list this year? I remembered the conversation that led up to the very large next step of being grown-up-

"Mom- is Santa real?"
"Well, son, what do you think?"
"I don't know- that's why I'm asking you."
"Son, Santa is the spirit of giving. In that respect he's very real, and always will be."
"Soooo...he's you."
"Yes, dear."
"But mom?"
"Yes, dear?"
"I always put the really expensive stuff on Santa's list because I knew you couldn't afford them".
"Yes dear."
"Mom? I always got those expensive presents".
"I know dear."
"So you're Santa."
"Fraid so."
"All this time you've been Santa."
"Yes dear?"
(whispered) "Does dad know?"
(whispered) "No dear- lets not tell him- he's had a rough couple of years..."

the Christmas lists ALWAYS get saved.

There are worn, stained mapquested route pages from every epic journey we've taken ("Family Vacation" just doesn't cover the scope of how we travel...). Those got saved.

So I was actually enjoying my little jaunt down List Memory Lane.


Going through a pile of stuff we brought back from the last trip to MDAnderson I found The List.

It's dated April 29, 2010, about a week before Ward's discharge and from the Social Worker at MDA. See, he'd reached a point where he didn't NEED to be in the hospital anymore- but physically he couldn't walk more than a few steps and mentally he was still really really fuzzy. Really. He was weak and fuzzy from drug reactions and weeks of intensive care and two major surgeries and heart failure and pneumonia and he was just plain wore out.

And they told me that they were stumped that he was not improving from the point he was at- and they hinted and inferred that where he was might be all the better he got- physically wheelchair bound and mid-Alzheimer's mentally.

There was concern that I wouldn't be able to take care of my husband, wouldn't be able to handle his handicaps in our home. It was strongly suggested that he not come home, at least for a few weeks. Or months. Or however long it took for him to be more "mentally reliable" and for him to get stronger.

And they handed me The List.

"Nursing Homes and Rehabilitation Facilities in the Greater Houston Area".

But I couldn't, wouldn't do it.

I just couldn't merge together the repeated assurances that the more people he knew that were around him the quicker he'd recover and remember with putting him in a COMPLETELY different environment he'd never been in before filled with all new people he'd never seen before.

He's my husband. No one knows him, loves him and cares about him more than I do, and I was determined to bring him home.

Because I work flexible hours, and because Joe was here to assist physically if needed and to be watchful when I had to be at work- leaving Ward never alone at home- we were approved to come home. All of us. Together.

Five months later, Ward's pretty much back to his brilliant, funny, beloved old self mentally, his weight is coming up nicely from the over 40 pounds underweight he left the hospital carrying, and thanks to physical therapy he's gaining strength steadily.

I looked at The List, transfixed, paralyzed, instantly awash with the emotions the first reading of that self-same list filled me with- sadness, worry, fear.


I showed The List to Ward- so much of that time was filled with stuff he can't remember, stuff he remembers but never happened, strangeness, I showed it to him so he'd know I wasn't exaggerating when I told him it was recommended that I put him in a nursing home.

Then I firmly and deliberately folded The List in half, and tucked it into The Trash.


  1. If I have not said it, you are my hero and your love for Ward and Alec makes me believe the human race just might be okay.

    Glad that list is gone.

    Blessed Be dear friend,

    sacheen (mobrowncoat)

  2. Wow.

    What an experience. I am so glad to hear that Ward is feeling better--the scariest part is the mental part, isn't it? So glad he's back!

    As for *stuff,* I am not a packrat, but after my divorce (which was ugly and financially debilitating) I became afraid, for the first time in my life, of my mail. Specifically, bills I couldn't pay.

    I'm just now tackling the mountain of paperwork from the last two years of my life. It's scary, but it's SO freeing!

    Good luck with your *stuff* organization!

  3. Sac- thank you dear- you ARE coming to our housewarming, right?

    Alexa- ya. I got bogged down in 45 years worth of photos today...erg.

  4. Very powerful message tucked neatly within another suburb posting. I think I need to read your books. Thank you for sharing.

    Also thank you for your music - I love the Nickel Creek song. You have turned me on to a group I had never heard before.

  5. Thank you, Mike. I think you need to read my books, too :)

    Remember if you order through my website, they'll come signed, and therefore will be an excellent investment for future astronomical value ;)

    I'm glad you like the music- sometimes it's more difficult to find a song that coordinates with the post than to actually do the writing.
    *blogging is hard*...