My Wobbly Bicycle, 54

Posted by on Dec 18, 2013 | 34 comments

Tonight I brought dinner to Jerry at the rehab place where he’s staying (Do you have any IDEA how badly some of our elders are fed in these places?). We watched an episode of HGTV (yes), and I cried when the man with five children whose wife had died sold his house so he could send the children to college.

Sonia the duckTrap # 1: the word depression. It only confirms itself. At the moment, okay, instead I’ll say the atmosphere around me is blue-black, and seems like a bass cello; no, I’d say an oboe, except that I’d see Sonia the duck in Peter and the Wolf.  So like me, smiling at the duck while feeling like, well, shit.

Depression is a worthy word, though: a sinking. As if gravity has a double-hold. It takes longer to do everything, and I’m clumsy because of these weights attached to my spirit.  Okay, Jerry’s out of surgery, I got Wally-the-cat and me home, while the ambulance brought Jerry to rehab in Traverse City. He’s been there over a week now, due to come home Friday. He’s doing great, better than we would have imagined. Meanwhile, I have my six months’ oncology checkup on Friday. My poor oncologist. He does his best to save people, and what does he get for it? Fear. As if he were the Wolf in the aforementioned Prokokiev story, fangs dripping. wolf

I’m weary. There’s been so much strain around Jerry’s surgery, getting it planned, making it happen, getting to Ann Arbor, spending the week there, then home in the snow. Bringing him food  Plus several secondary health things that have had to be dealt with, one being that I’m getting a steroid shot tomorrow for the pinched nerve (yes, that’s what it was) in my lumbar area. And it’s a week from Christmas.

Trap #2: trying to identify a reason or reasons. If I only hadn’t had to do this, or if only that hadn’t happened….Who can say? Who knows what if this, or what if that?  

I mean for the Wobbly Bicycle to be kind of philosophical, universal, thoughtful, and all I’m doing is describing how I feel. I’m wondering WHEN Plath,  Sexton, Snodgrass, Lowell–the poets that got stuck with the label “Confessional”– actually started those poems, if they wrote anything in medias res. If they did, I’ll bet they woke up the next day, wadded them up and started over, with better sense.

Shall I post this? I’ll probably regret it.  What happens is, you’re down and the mechanisms you usually use to present a face to the world collapse. So you either curl up in a corner to avoid exposure, or you say more, or different, from what you meant to.  

However, Wally the Buddha cat says, “No writing is wasted.” He always says the right thing.  And Sonia the duck says, “What the quack? You want a good story without tension and worry and sadness? Not happening.” wally straight-on


  1. I smiled when I read this. I was so glad to hear from you. The posting is so REAL! Thanks for being you. Love, J/M

    • Glad you smiled. So did I, so it was good for me. Love, f.

  2. Please don’t regret posting this. Not only do your friends and readers (one and the same, I think) want to keep up with your life, but we want you to feel comforted by knowing we care, and that we accept whatever you’re feeling, thinking, and doing, without judgment. At the same time, I think there’s much value in honesty, especially when you’re getting through one life-altering struggle and suddenly you find yourself entering another. A few years ago Hal was stuck in rehab for half a summer after breaking his hip while in Charlottesville, VA; I stayed in the house of one of his friends, but really I stayed at his side in the rehab. It’s very much its own world, off the space-time continuum. We are sorry you and Jerry are dealing with it, but we are hoping you feel as we did, bathed in your love for each other and still able to laugh now and then. Most importantly, we hope he’s getting good care – and that your follow-up appointment goes smoothly. Hugs to you both from Hal and me.

    • It seems that good writing always has that raw edge of Reality, even if it’s not likeable. I know you know what it’s like to do this rehab thing, and also to live with a lot of things that just are what they are, no way to make them different. Hugs back from Jerry and me. f.

  3. Frome the picture, I’d say you probably misread Wally – he’s a smart cat. I think he’s saying ” When’s Jerry coming home, so I can get some sense back into my life. We need a man around the house and that’s not my job. I like the music.”


    • Exactly! He’s lying on my desk right now with his paw on my right hand,making it hard to type. He misses Jerry a lot.

  4. Just you keeping it real. Never regret or second guess that. Christmas puts so much
    pressure on people to be inauthentic to their genuine experience that it makes it hard to sit in what truly is, or rather what it always is–which is a joy of mishmash and terrible struggle to find meaning in the face of human suffering.

    • Thanks, Mishele. I agree about not regretting or second guessing. What is, is. All lovely in its way. Love to you. F.

  5. We’ve never met, Fleda, though I’d love to! You are an honest person… not afraid to bare your soul. I admire you. Hope tomorrow is brighter for you & your load feels much lighter.

    • I love hearing from someone I’ve never met. Thanks for writing.

  6. Dear Fleda:

    Might be time to take a few minutes and make a gratitude list. They always work for me, and there are times I’ve made one every day for a while. The repetition helps. I’ve found it’s impossible to be depressed while feeling grateful.

    All the best for the holidays!

    • Thank you, Ted. I am very grateful for friends, especially. But I’m thinking dark/light, how can we separate them? Gratitude for them all. Love, f.

  7. Dear Fleda-
    These are the dark days (Will there be singing? Yes, there will be singing. About the dark days) and then they will change to another color. More light. Sunday is solstice: that’s a start.

    You have every reason to feel low. I bet it’s just awful . . . and in this Arctic cold no less! It’s just not fair.

    I like Ted’s strategy. These lists of “good things”, as I call them, do give a little lift, even if only in the moment. I also like treats and pick me ups: baths, good things to eat or drink, jewelry, movies. Little stepping stones to get from one moment to the next. Not that I would know what you’re going through. Still.

    I do wish you the best!


    • Dark days, light days. They’re all DAYS, aren’t they? And I’m glad to have them. Love to you. Maybe you’ll be home for Christmas?4

  8. Thank you for posting no matter how you feel. It is refreshing and instructive though I know that’s the last thing on your mind. Your posts have guided me through a few rough spots.
    I admire your honesty. Your courage, Your integrity. Your humor.

    Merry Christmas. Glad jerry is doing well. I think I hear a song coming on.

    • Ha, ha! A song! Good idea. Love, f.

  9. Dearest Fleda, What you are feeling is a reaction to all you have been through. It’s perfectly normal. ‘After great pain, a formal feeling comes.’ Just be good to yourself. Every day you will feel better and stronger. I’m so glad Jerry is doing well and will be home for Christmas. Give him my best. And big love to you. Mary Rose

    • Yes, and I think I may turn the poem I’m working on now into a formal one. It’s not going anywhere the way it is!

  10. Glad you are real! You certainly have cause to be exhausted. Are you taking extra vitamin D–I need to take 5000 iu a day! Helps mood. Vit D is actually more like a hormone. I also have had depression often. It is fascinating in that it is so unworkable! (seems like)… it is a real physical entity with pain…not amenable to an admonition to “Cheer up”. For me depression goes with wheat, and somewhat inferior food–like sauces, spices in restaurants, processed foods. Wondering what you ate in AA.. Probably not up to your usual. Now you can eat some good fresh food… KEEP UP REAL POSTS. Most with such moods do not share them. Thank you! I find Rhodiola helps with mood, as does a thing called Ginseng Revitalizer from Planetary Herbals. Pls. dont go to pharmaceuticals…for one thing they dont work.

    Also a friend with huge cause for depression said exercise was the best…fwiw. Thanks for real!

    • I have started swimming again, very helpful. Thanks, Lynne. Love, f.

  11. there are no mistakes,
    find a wall…

    • You are always exactly on the mark. If there were a mark. Love to you. f.

  12. God love the two of you, kid, and remember that thing about the ‘cloud of witnesses” out there, all of them with your name on their lips and in their hearts.

    • You and Martha being two of them. Love to you both, and I’m glad Martha is doing so well.

  13. Go placidly amid the noise and haste, Fleda. Sometimes there is too much noise, too much sorrow.Thank you for for your honesty.liz

    • Thank you, Liz. Placidly does not disagree with all the rest. It seems both can happen at the same time. Love to you. F.

  14. Let’s see: upcoming appointment with oncologist for the latest “news,” husband major back surgery, frigid temperatures, low light–anybody’s mood would take a dive and serotonin levels would plummet. What’s remarkable is you: your strength even in this. Practical stuff is needed, I think. The vitamin D mentioned above is critical; nearly everyone in northern climates is Vit D deficient, which impairs immune systems. Also, plenty of full-spectrum light bulbs in the house, plenty of physical warmth, daily exercise–these things are proven to relieve depression. If after all that, then medication. Don’t fool with it. My own cancer came after two years of depression from losing two children in utero, one at five months. With hindsight, clearly causal in damaging my immune efficiency. –Among the cloud of witnesses, Fred

  15. My best friend and I write letters to each other that often, or at least often in part, sound like this post, Fleda. Both of us know it’s a temporary state and give in to expressing it reluctantly, even guiltily, but there’s relief in knowing that someone cares. (In your case, many someones care.) Looking for reasons guarantees finding them. Exhaustion is sufficient, in your case, so I hope you will look no further, take heart from loving responses from friends, give yourself some little treat or mini-escape (napping in front of an old movie?), and trust that Jerry will soon be home, and the sun will shine again. Hugs!

  16. Oh Fleda, I know all too well the dark days of the soul. In teaching living with grief workshops I talk about keeping a gratitude journal; there are days when the mere fact of awakening may be what you are grateful for. I despise euphemisms and platitudes, so please don’t take the concept of gratitude as such. Your honesty, even when raw, gives me courage to face and give voice to my own sorrows.

  17. Your describing life Fleda. And I need (I think we all do) other people to tell me thier lives. This is why I read memoir and poetry. So that I can be told and shown over and over (for it is constant re-education) that I am not alone and more importantly that I am not crazy. Our own echo-chambers can get pretty dark. So I keep riding the roller-coaster for as long as I can with everyone else. Thanks for riding with me.

  18. If writers do not say the difficult parts, then how will anyone else know that experiences are shared ? Hard to write but so helpful to others when someone does.

  19. Hang in there, Fleda. I recommend reading some Doris Grumbach – Life in a Day or Fifty Days of Solitude. Or either one of her memoirs. Doris is 95 now and living in assisted living near Philly, nearly blind, but still trying to write. Her stuff gives you so much to think about.

    • re Doris Grumbach: Cruce met her a couple of years ago, when he sat next to her several times at the Met Opera’s simulcast showings at our theatre here in Wilmington. We haven’t seen her lately, but she was definitely hanging in there and it was a pleasure to meet her in person!

    • I’ll get one of her books, Tim. Thanks.

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