Monday Morning Musings:

“The search for meaning, much like the search for pleasure, must be conducted obliquely. Meaning ensues from meaningful activity: the more we deliberately pursue it, the less likely are we to find it.”

–Irving D. Yalom quoted in Brainpickings here


My sister and I listen to the woman,

she is perfectly pleasant, if a bit harried–

it’s possible she’s double-booked her appointments.

We can only offer your mother six hours of care, she says

(that we may or may not pay for)

but we can’t let you know until you pick one of the providers.

(We stare blankly at the five-page list.)

No, I can’t recommend any of them–

can you imagine if it didn’t work out?

But you can call and ask them questions.

(That shouldn’t take much time, right?)

No, the caregivers are not permitted to give your mom medication

I guess you’ll have to work something else out.

Yes, we do offer some free meals, but only if you go with our program–

and your mother would have to pick up a week’s worth at the front desk

Well, yes, I can see she uses a walker and is nearly blind, but that’s how it’s done.

I hear these meals taste kind of nasty–

Now the dinners from that other program . . .

(the one your mother is ineligible for because her income from Social Security is slightly over the cutoff, though it’s not enough to pay her rent)

Yeah, those meals are delicious. . .Do you have any questions?

My sister and I look at each other—we have lots of questions,

but nothing she can help with.

She’s referred inexplicably a few times

to the process, program, situation

as “catch 52”—

perhaps it is all so ridiculous that “catch 22”

is no longer enough to describe it.


My sister goes home, my husband and I go home, too,

we feed the cats, and then visit a winery.

We drink wine, listen to music, and eat mac and cheese.

Decompress, not deconstruct.

Vino and Vibes,
William Heritage Winery











The next day I cook and bake,

the kitchen exorcism

being a well-known technique for

getting rid of any lingering demons.

Artisan Bread
Blueberry Peach Crumble



















Our younger daughter is visiting a friend in Japan.

she sends us a photo

the two of them with a snake.

I think if anyone could charm a snake,

it would be her–

though she looks terrified.











I think of my younger self–

once I held a snake









and had a head full of dreams,

not as practical as either of my daughters,

and not as charming either,

but in those days

my mother could see and walk

and was raising another child.

I raise a glass to wish,

only suddenly I’m

uncertain what to wish for.


We watch a mystery series

there’s murder, conspiracy, and violence

yet we know that at the end

the questions will be answered,

the mystery solved.

And if it’s not completely tidy,

it’s enough to satisfy.

Maybe the answer is 42, after all

though I’m not sure

of the question anymore.

I pour another glass of wine,

toast, “L’chaim.”

Perhaps “to life” is enough.



We watch the storm—

rain urges moon,

and she sings,

bares away language

to let live the cool whispers

of blue shadow light

on aching skin.

Life is wanted here—

trudge, run.

(If not, when?)

Together, we soar.









The Oracle gave me this coda of hope and action. I’m sure she knows that the expression is “bear away,” but she is clever, and no doubt she enjoyed the double meaning here.





28 thoughts on “Searching

  1. The Oracle know everything. I’m glad she’s with you, in that wine glass too probably. You have a big dilemma and I do hope you fine a way around it. We lost all our parents long before they needed help of any kind. All except my father-in-law who we had living with us for over a year. It was hell. But I had four kids under the age of seven and he had issues.

  2. You know, the snake is one of the oldest symbols of feminine power, sacred even. You have what it takes to get through all this with your mother’s care. I’m glad your sister can help alongside. “L’chaim!”

  3. I was reading along, feeling the dilemma, all those unanswered questions, delicious looking food, and then BOOM! – a snake. Shiver me timbers …

    I so hope all your musings find a solution for care-taking your mother, Merril.

  4. Life can be overwhelming when we consider that it includes so many other lives that are just as important to us as our own. Decompression does the soul good.

  5. Caring for ill elderly parents is really hard and can be very isolating and lonely. I’m glad you have your sister for help and support. My husband and I cared for his parents for five years, both in our house and in a nursing home when it became almost fatal that we weren’t capable of the level of care they needed. Navigating options for the elderly is effing crazy and frustrating. I could write a book. Sorry to go on but I empathize. (((Hugs)))

    • Awww–thank you so much, Charlotte, for the kind words and hugs! It is all so crazy, and I know it’s different in each location. (Social worker daughter in Boston says it’s much different there.) It’s great you and your husband could care for your parents. My brother and niece also help out, so at least it’s not all on us. My mom is going to need nursing home care at some point, but obviously we’re trying to keep her as independent as possible for as long as we can.

  6. There’s no easy solution, even without all the bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo.
    We can only do our best. Those words from the Oracle are beautiful–I needed them today too. “Life is wanted here”. Yes it is.(K)

  7. Navigating elder care is not easy. I’ve been on the sidelines with my mother-in-law (who had terrible dementia and lived well into her 90’s — body healthy, mind long gone) and my father-in-law. It’s good you don’t have to do it alone. I had hoped that by this time we would have come up with a compassionate system that doesn’t break the bank. This:

    “perhaps it is all so ridiculous that “catch 22”

    is no longer enough to describe it.”

    May be true. And 42 is as good an answer as any (or so Douglas Adams thought).

    Wishing you good solutions. Love the final words of the Oracle. 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Robin.
      I suppose, in a way, it would be easier for us–though terrible to see–if my mom had dementia because then she’d be in a nursing home, and that care would be covered. Right now, she’s not at that stage–just forgetful–but she doesn’t walk well and she doesn’t see well, and it is getting very expensive for us to pay for her care, part of her rent, and everything else.
      The Oracle did send me a nice finish. 🙂

      • We had similar problems with my father-in-law (Leroy), wanting to keep him at home as long as possible. The solution was one of luck and misfortune. One of the family who found himself unemployed, along with his wife who was also unemployed, were hired to live with Leroy, giving them the money that would have gone to a caretaker (after a series of bad caretakers). Since they didn’t have to worry about rent, utilities, etc., it turned out to be a win-win for everyone. I know that kind of solution isn’t always available, but it does help to think in creative ways around the system that currently is available.

      • Thanks, Robin. I’m glad it worked out for your father-in-law. I suppose we should have thought of something more creative years ago, but at the time, we thought it would be best for her to remain in the city where she could still go to activities, paint, etc. Hindsight and all that. . . 😉

  8. Ah yes, what to wish for. If you were young again and your mother healthy, you wouldn’t have your lovely daughters. Love the pic of you with a snake. I wouldn’t have been able to do that!

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