A Good Trip to the Desert

15-year-old Joel wanted to tell a story today.

On Friday when I dropped off a leftover paper for Cindy (she was looking for a job, and I always seemed to have a spare paper at the end of my afternoon route) her mom Jean answered the door. When she mentioned they were driving out to the desert to see the spring flowers bloom, I thought what fun, and asked if I could go along.

She thought about it for a moment, and then said how nice it was that if you waited you could always depend on a man coming along or something like that. I found out what time they were leaving so they could pick me up in the morning.

My mom was surprised I was going. When she’d talked to Jean earlier, all Jean had said was they had plans the next day, but Mom didn’t get invited.

After they picked me up in the morning we stopped for breakfast with the rest of the group. The other moms and daughters seemed surprised to see me. I still thought my mom could have come along, but I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.

We got out near Borrego Springs, and the flowers were beautiful. After lunch (I didn’t pack anything and had to go into the deli to get a sandwich) Cindy wanted to sit in the sun. It was warm, and the rest of us were in the shade, so she had to go way off to be in the sun. When I tried to talk to her, she was so far away she couldn’t hear me very well and after while I think she might have fallen asleep because she stopped answering.

On the drive home, she was still sleepy. I think she slept all the way home, like two hours. It was a long drive and I knew Jean must be tired, so I said I had my learner’s permit now and if she wanted me to drive for a while I’d be glad to. I think I even mentioned that my driver’s training used exactly the same kind of car she drove. But she didn’t hear me, so after a minute I said it again. I could tell she was really tired, because she still didn’t answer. After I said it the third time and she still didn’t answer, I decided she was too tired to think about it, and I just let her drive.

It was a fun day, being out in the desert when it was cool, all the flowers blooming, spending time with friends.


Jake, Web, and Mom

I don’t know how long ago I promised the third Jake Calcutta story, followed by the third Irish Adventure From the Fog but reports of my writing, as they don’t say, were greatly exaggerated.

We’ve been home from Wisconsin for two weeks and we’re still not back to our regular routine. Another week and we should be more or less recovered. Gustave Flaubert wrote to Gertrude Tennant, “Be regular and orderly in your life…so that you may be violent and original in your work.” (Soyez réglé dans votre vie et ordinaire…afin d’être violent et original dans vos œuvres.)

Don’t believe the hype about the wild lives of writers. The wild life is what goes on when they’re not writing, or because they’re not writing, or they’re not writing because of the wild life, or something. Without an orderly life, truly creative work is difficult.

Here’s to an orderly life and robust originality in my upcoming artistic works.


Since My Whole Life is Moving Mom…

Saturday, the day it didn’t rain we moved Mom’s stuff from her apartment to the assisted living facility. It was easy, which is becoming the norm on this project. Couple young friends did the heavy lifting, and we were done by noon.

Now if the company responsible for moving her hospital bed can actually get it done, she can move in Wednesday, if the convalescent home can figure out how to discharge her without a social worker on staff because theirs left recently. That is, as long as someone at the doctor’s office gets her prescriptions transferred to the assisted living pharmacy. (They’ve had two weeks to organize all this, with Best Beloved riding herd like a deranged cattle rustler, so I’m not sure what’s up other than the severe ponderousness of bureaucracy.)

But it’s looking like maybe we’ll be heading home come Monday.

One more week. I can make it one more week. I can.

My sister Lynn and my wife Sue Lynn, 25 years ago



It’s All One Post

Somewhere in Neil Young’s live album Year of the Horse he yells “It’s all one song!” I’m beginning to feel that way about my posts lately. Guess I write what I know, eh?

Today we learned my mom was accepted at the assisted living facility we loved and hoped for.

H’ray!

We also discovered that there’s more than $700 missing from her bank account, and the most likely explanation is, sadly, the abuse of trust. Another reason we’ve been putting all legal docs and records under the control of one of her children instead of the wrong people having too much access.

But, she has a new home, and we can start moving her soon, and clean out her apartment.

And then I can go home.


The Shrinking Moving Mother

with my Best Beloved on the Sacramento RiverIn the time since Mom disappeared and reappeared, it has become obvious to her that she can’t live on her own anymore. This was obvious to us a year ago when we started discussing it (fruitlessly) with her.

A trip to the emergency room and two months in a convalescent home has her convinced. She’s excited about moving into a good-smelling (this is a big deal) food-oriented (another big deal) assisted living facility.

That means she needs to downsize. By about 75%.

It’s going to be a challenge for everyone involved. I’m thankful every day we’re here for Best Beloved and my baby sister who was able to join us.


this is not a post

the cold I’ve been running from has caught me

we leave tomorrow morning for northern Wisconsin

four day drive

we might be moving my mom out of her apartment after 22 years and into assisted living

I’ll leave you with this: https://joeldcanfield.com/test/anibg.html (you’ve read the story; watch the background)



The Amazing Disappearing Mother

We call my Mom, who lives in northern Wisconsin, a couple times a week. She’s essentially bedridden, but she has an excellent support network through her religious congregation.

She’s not tech savvy, as in, her TV remote sometimes gives her trouble. Deleting messages from her answering machine has eluded her for years. When we call and get the “Messages full” error, we assume she’ll call back when she’s back from the kitchen or whichever room of her apartment she’s been visiting.

Every once in a while, we don’t talk to her for a whole week.

When it hits 8 days, we call someone to go check. Like a week ago Saturday.

She wasn’t there.

On the rare occasions she makes her doctor appointments, it’s a weekday, so this was most unusual. A while later Best Beloved had the thought to check whether her wheelchair was there. No wheelchair, she’d taken it with her. Wheelchair, no Mom, she went out on a stretcher. That’s not being dramatic, it’s reality.

Our friend went by again. Wheelchair was there.

We called the hospital. No Mom. They suggested the hospitals in the nearest big town.

No joy.

Called another friend in the area, who said yes, it’s time to call the police.

It is marvelously comforting to have the calm, steady voice of a small town police officer take the pertinent details and promise to “send an officer to check it out.”

A while later, they called back and said she’d been picked up by an ambulance.

A week ago.

Before, I was puzzled. Now, I was concerned. Because if someone goes to the hospital, but they aren’t there anymore, and they didn’t go home . . .

We called the hospital again and gave them the new information. The person who answered the phone said, yes, she did come in by ambulance last Saturday.

So we asked, where is she now?

She was quiet for a bit, said “hmm, can you hang on?” and put us on hold.

I found a mindless online bubble shooter game to keep my brain quiet until she came back.

The call dropped.

I called another friend in the area, and while their phone was ringing, Best Beloved’s phone rang, and it was my mom.

She was unclear what happened, other than she’d been in an ambulance, went to the hospital, and was now in one of the care facilities we’ve been trying to convince her to move to because we don’t believe she can live on her own anymore.

She’d asked them to call, not one of her children, but a local friend. And somehow, that didn’t happen. (We’ve talked to a half-dozen people at this facility, and they are one and all professional caring people, so we’re not sure why the call didn’t happen.)

I asked Mom, perhaps in a loud voice, why she didn’t HAVE THEM CALL HER SON?

Her hearing is so bad and the connection so bad, I don’t think she even heard me.

She honestly thought her friend had been called, and that she would notify us (this is, in retrospect, a perfectly reasonable conclusion, though it doesn’t change the fact that I am family, and the other person is not.)

After more phone calls to the facility, we’ve learned that she’d had some medical visitor, or social worker, at her bedside, when suddenly she seemed confused, in a manner and to a degree that prompted a 911 call. She’d been treated for dehydration, but was still fuzzy mentally, and didn’t seem as ambulatory as they expected, so she went to the care facility instead of home.

When we arranged for her to have a working phone, and had a real conversation, she was coherent, cheerful, and pleased with the food where she was staying. Good food is a major driving force in her life. I inherited that, I guess.

She still doesn’t realize she’s there voluntarily, and we don’t plan to tell her. Though after yesterday, maybe it’s no longer voluntary.

Have you ever spoken to someone with expressive aphasia?

We called to check on her, and after the very nice nurse put Mom on the phone and went back to her station, Mom started saying sentences like “Meet when doctor sleep big down the hall eating flow.” About a minute of that, and I stopped her and said “We have no idea what you’re saying.” She continued in the same vein. I asked her if she knew who I was, and she said “Of course. You’re you!” I sort of felt that wasn’t good enough, so I asked “What’s my name?” and she said “Joel. Joel David Canfield.” (This is correct.)

Then she went off rambling again. I called the nurse on my phone while Best Beloved kept Mom talking. When Mom mentioned going to her mother’s house (her mother died 45 years ago) and that I was with her and had fallen down (um, no) our concern escalated.

The nurse came, listened to her conversation for a minute, then took her to her room to assess her. A while later they called and said she was on her way to the emergency room.

A few hours later the hospital called and said it was a urinary tract infection, which we knew could cause disorientation; it’s apparently common in older women. They said a dose of IV antibiotics and a course of oral antibiotics when she got back to the care facility would put her right. The nurse from the care facility called when Mom got back there late that night with the same news.

And that’s how I spent my summer vacation.

My mom has been widowed twice. She’s in very poor health. Her car sat in storage for 15 years after she stopped driving. She has steadfastly refused to move somewhere she can get the care she needs, despite falling multiple times. We were on the verge of initiating a more aggressive approach when this happened. It appears that she may end up staying at this place permanently, which is another adventure, but knowing she’s being monitored is a huge relief.

Since my father died at 52, Best Beloved’s at 58, and her mother is still in pretty good health, this is our first experience with this aspect of caring for an elderly parent. It has been a mite stressful, it has.


A New Kind of Dream

My dreams have been changing the past months. Less anxious struggle, more epic adventure, including one about my father, the first dream I’ve ever had about him. This is not that. This is last night’s offering; in the dream, years pass, and in my head, the dream itself felt like it lasted a number of hours, though of course the way our minds play with time, it could have been an instant.

The dream opened with a young man meeting his father for the first time. The young man was bitter, his father, amused.

Followed much rambling between and about the father and son, which I don’t remember, then it switches from third person to first, and jumps back in time twenty years.

Joel D CanfieldThe three of us were hiding out in a park somewhere. She was blonde, he was dark; nothing more than that, just dark. She was with me, and he was with us.

We went back to town and realized the authorities knew, and they were after us.

We ran separately. I went back toward the park. I left my little white breakfast plate with leftovers and a fork under a white plastic chair. Or maybe it was a bush. Went through the gate, around the lake, to a house.

Later, she joined me. I don’t think I was me, so she wasn’t Sue. The old folks and grandkids living there acted as if we belonged.

We knew they’d find my plate and follow the trail here. “We had no choice.” Our 3-year-old didn’t cry when we left him there. They were good people. The look on the old man’s face told me our son was in better hands than ours.

Later, the other guy and I were at the hotel. It’s hazy at this point, but later when she and I went back, the young girl was dead, probably because of the other guy.

She wouldn’t talk to me, just arranged the clothing in the dresser drawer.

In the kitchen, I looked past him to the road. At first I thought the sound was the motorcycle I could see, but then the helicopter noise separated from the big two-cylinder motorcycle engine and I ran out the side door and around the hotel. Up over the ridge; had no idea what would be there.

Below was a vast network of raised paths through a lake, with mountains on the other side. As I ran down the hill, a horseman came toward me out of the labyrinth. We passed each other, him going uphill, me going down.

I kept running.