Sunday, May 26, 2013

Time to get ill. Apparently.

I had the delight of a super-long weekend to look forward to, so naturally I woke up Saturday feeling crappy and spent the entire day on the couch, watching Harry Potter movies and eating toast, with a wee break to go attend to some cat-sitting duties. Today is going to be much the same. The universe is obliging me, in a sense, by providing intense napping weather: cool, gray, rain threatening to fall. Imagine the insult added to injury if it were beautiful and sunny and warm outside, the way you want Memorial Day weekend to be! I've got two more days for my health to improve so I can at least enjoy a little bit of my time off, and get out and ride my bike or something.

Netflix is also obliging me by releasing Arrested Development today. Huzzah!

I took Winnie B to the vet on Friday--it was as good an excuse as any to bug out of work early--and I think I have to not go back to that vet. It's too dang far away and I probably passed 20 good vets on the way there. It's just the place that works with the rescue organization where I got Winnie, so they've seen her twice already AND see lots of stressed out cats and probably a wide variety of health conditions, and I find that reassuring. But my poor buddy was freaking out and panting in the car the whole way there and it's at least a half hour drive, and I don't want to do that to her again. Ugh. Anyway, I've been suspecting that my girl has asthma. I still suspect that, but the vet basically said that there's not enough to go on to make a diagnosis at this point or even to order a chest x-ray, that Winnie's lungs and heart sound fine (despite Winnie's strenuous objections to being towel-restrained and stethoscoped), which is good news, and that the random rapid breathing I've noticed has nothing to do with asthma and is probably just part of what's normal for this particular cat.

So, I don't know that I have any new information, but I am somewhat reassured, and at least feel like a better pet caretaker for having gone in. And Winnie rebounded from the experience within like 5 minutes of being home.

Somehow last week was incredibly long, despite having the long weekend ahead. Last weekend at this time, for example, I was recovering--and I do mean that--from my friend G's memorial service, and that seems incredible to me, that it was just a week ago that we all finally gathered to celebrate and mourn her. She died in mid-April, after electing to remove the PICC line that was providing all of her nutrition--she never did learn how to eat again after the esophageal cancer diagnosis of two years ago or so. It was a shitty way to go, a long decline flat on her back in a nursing home bed, holding onto every last one of her marbles in a place where most of the residents were older than her and dealing with varying degrees of dementia. I didn't visit her as often as I should have, or as often as I could have, and I'm guessing everyone who knew and loved her feels exactly the same way. But we got the chance to say all the right stuff to each other before she died, and I'm grateful for that, and I hope it gave her some peace while she struggled with the decision to let go.

So a month passed between her death and the memorial service, and because of that it really didn't hit me until we had everyone together and were all talking about her, you know? Her last remaining brother came up from TX with his family and I had forgotten how much he looks like her--it knocked the wind out of me, actually, because you think you won't see those features again, and then there they are, on someone else, that twinkle and goodwill shining out from brown eyes instead of blue. I also had to sing two pieces in the middle of the service, and that was as hard as you might expect, but we chose them carefully--nothing with so many difficult emotional associations that you can hardly get through it in the best of times, for example--and placed them carefully, before most of the eulogizing. And I don't know what happened--it's not professionalism or anything like that--I can only call it grace because when it was time to stand up and sing and be a conduit for what everyone else was feeling, I just did it, without shutting myself off from the proceedings (this is one way to get through singing at funerals) and without breaking down myself, despite breakdowns before and after the singing.

There was one somewhat uncanny experience that I really couldn't talk about until I was done singing, and I honestly don't know if I've said anything about it yet. One of the songs we chose, Roger Quilter's setting of "Weep You No More, Sad Fountains," was ideal because I hadn't performed it before--so it came with no specific emotional baggage for me--but it was evidently something G had sung quite a lot throughout her career, with R at the piano. R has been my pianist for 15 years now, and we work together much the same way that she worked with G: by listening to each other in the moment, rather than discussing and dissecting and planning out how a thing is going to go. It's good musical chemistry, is what it is.

Anyway, all this is to say that R knew how G used to sing this piece, and so the first time we went through it in rehearsal, I was hearing and feeling in R's playing the old grooves that come from practice and repeat performances with the same person: the flex of the musical line, the subtle shifts in tempo and dynamics, the phrasing were all just as G used to do them. I knew this and could hear it plainly even though we didn't discuss it. And so as I was singing it was as though I had learned the piece from G, or had been coached on it in her studio, or really that she was singing it with my voice, and I had to get a grip right quick and not think about it, or find a way to let go of it so I could let it happen and not be overwhelmed by it. It was a weird experience that repeated itself when it was time to sing in the service too. It was stranger, and more difficult, than singing the other piece--which I did study with G, which was commissioned by her and written for her and dedicated to her and premiered by her, and therefore full of associations of our work together and her singing career.

Well. There's a lot more I could say about our relationship, but suffice it to say that it was one of the most important ones of my life. I am so relieved that she is not suffering anymore, but it's no wonder I've still got a grief hangover.

She was an incredible singer who had already stopped singing by the time I met her (thanks to her first cancer diagnosis and treatment). You can hear some of what made her so remarkable on spotify, though it's just a tiny representation of the breadth of her career, and of her talent.

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