Fulfilling the Narrative Imperative
with Tales to be Told
by Ned Buratovich,
Thanksgiving Week Opening
Thanksgiving week, 2020, I begin my “Autoblogography.” Thanksgiving week, 2020, I laid my mother to rest. Needing a structure to get started storytelling while stuck in sadness, I used the days of Thanksgiving week as a trellis around which to intertwine my tales. Seven posts for seven days, I promised myself. Here they are:
Today is Thursday, November 26, 2020. Today I start my storytelling. On this Thanksgiving day, I am most thankful for having my mom’s company on this earth for all my 71 years. I buried mom on Monday.
For the last three years I cared for my mom, night and day. It was not even a choice; it was my sacred mission.
Before that, when she could still leave the house, though her gait and mind were faltering, I was constantly by her side. Everywhere we went, I held her hand. I told her I would not let her be embarrassed in public about her decline. I said, “Don’t you worry, mom, I will be your cane and I will be your brain.”
While sweeping leaves from mom’s front patio, I looked up at the clear blue Sebastopol sky through the yellow-orange fall foliage of the patio’s pepper tree, berries going from green to red and thought to myself…
We are all like these berries:
Clustered in our communities
Going from green to red,
From alive to dead,
In the fullness of our own time.
Mom had a good run, a long, full life of 99 lovely years. She was a spirited, joyous and amazingly vibrant woman. Find tributes to her and stories about her at her memorial page: https://nedburatovich.com/frances-buratovich-memorial/
On Black Friday, my story darkens. In my announcements of mom’s passing, which I began broadcasting today to family and friends, long uncontacted, I made mention of my mental health issues.
Sent: November 27, 2020
Dear Family and Friends,
My mom passed away from dementia on November 18th. I had been her live-in, day and night caregiver for nearly three years. Everything has been like a blur for me lately. This is as soon as I had the composure to notify people beyond immediate family. Please visit mom’s memorial at: https://nedburatovich.com/frances-buratovich-memorial/
I apologize for the broadcast email. I know that I dropped out of individual contact with so many dearly close family members and friends several years ago, abruptly. I’m sorry. Please understand that continuous caregiving with scant respite took a terrible toll on my well-being. There is no delicate way for me to say this, so here goes: I’ve been wrestling mightily with mental illness and I’m not sure yet which one of us is winning. I plan to prevail; you may follow my progress (or not) at autoblogography.me That’s going to be about all the communication I’ll be able to manage for a while. I’ve been overwhelmed and overwrought with everything. Were you to reply to this email, I may not respond, not for a while. I still have over a year’s worth of unopened email and postal mail to plow through.
Please keep me in your prayers,
If you came here because of that email, you might be thinking:
“Wait, he can compose a cogent paragraph, take a nuanced photograph, how could he possibly be mentally ill?”
I was wondering the same thing. But four visits in the last year (two in the last month) by Sebastopol PD to my abode to perform a “Wellness Check,” i.e. assess “whether I might harm myself or another,” i.e. suicide intervention. I kept breaking down from the relentless grief and stress day in and day out for years. My God, who wouldn’t? Every visit, the cops eventually agreed, under so much pressure, something had to pop – natural, not crazy… but still.
For years, I’ve managed the small business of mom’s household administration. I continue today with the business of sorting through mom’s records, preparing the paperwork required when someone passes.
Mom was meticulous with her money management, she budgeted, saved receipts and balanced her checkbook to the penny. She worked 26 years for Safeway as a grocery clerk. She was rightfully proud that, at the end of the day, her cash register drawer balanced out to the penny, every single day! Almost. Some days she would be off by a few cents and that bothered her, visibly.
Mom was 93 or 94 when she started asking me to check her math on her checkbook.
Continuation Coming Soon
What’s up with identifying the days by their retailing monikers? Black Friday? Small Business Saturday? Sofa Sunday today, Cyber Monday tomorrow, Giving Tuesday the day after that?
Monikers make good mnemonic devices. They help you remember, when you read this many months from now, what you were doing on that day. What were you doing on November 27, 2020? You have to check your appointment calendar. If I ask what were you doing on Black Friday, 2020, I suspect you won’t need to check your calendar.
What the heck is “Sofa Sunday?” I had to look it up: something about sitting on the sofa strategizing what deals you’re going to get on Cyber Monday.
Nah, not for me; for me, sitting on the sofa idly surfing the web means I’m depressed. For me, SOFA stands for So Overly Fucking Apathetic. As my brother, Nick, will say, “I got shit to do, but I don’t feel like doing shit.”
Depression has degrees. Let me illustrate using the river-rock wall of Pacific Market, right around the corner from mom’s condo.
Over these last years, I have resided largely in the depressed or suicidal regions, all too rarely in the healthier frames of mind. I couldn’t tell anyone, ANYONE, how bleakly I truly felt. If I had, I feared it would result in my being medically incarcerated against my will. I couldn’t let that happen, I wouldn’t be able to take care of mom. There were some close calls:
Sent: September 28, 2019
I’ve been up much of the night, many nights in recent weeks and feeling, well, just run down.
Kaiser has been nagging me to go in and get checked by my doctor, so I went Monday, and they kept me there for a few hours.
Here’s from a message I sent to a friend (an ex, but still a friend):
My medical examination went pretty well. Other than my blood pressure and glucose being a little bit High, I’m in very good health … physically.
Emotionally, well, they had a mental health crew come and check me out. That’s because the intake nurse and I both ended up crying when I was telling her how hard it has been with Mom. But then, it triggered a mental-health evaluation and a several page questionnaire, with, on a zero to three scale, questions like, Suicidal Thoughts, feelings of worthlessness, sleep disruption, propensity for self-harm, etc.
I told them, “I’m not filling that thing out, on every one of these, I’m off the scale, I’m at 5 and I have been for months. That’s just the way it is, Doc, I deal with it because I got to take care of Mom.”
Well, more interviews and, long story short, at the end, they were all like, “Dude, you’re amazing!” My doctor said, “Well, you know, we have meds and treatments and counseling all available to help you.”
Nah, I said, I know I’m broken and I know I have a lot of recovery and healing in front of me. I just can’t spare the time to do that now. I declined the vaccinations too. You know what, they let me go. I looked in their eyes, I was calm and cogent, but decidedly emphatic. I have been through a heartbreaking hell and I wasn’t going to sugarcoat it for them
Doctor looked right at me and said, “What do you really need?” I said, in exasperation, “I need more sleep.” We are going to figure out a way to get hospice or something so I can have a night (or two!) a week without mom’s motion alarm waking me up 3-4 times an hour.
I was secretly worried that I might be having chest pains, etc. but doctor checked that out and said it was related to stress.
She said, “You are physically healthy, but you are wound so tight, you are going to snap. What are you going to do to relieve your stress?”
We had discussed Piriformis Syndrome, for which I also turned down medical treatment, because it’s mostly stretches, SMR (Self Myofascial Release – like with foam rollers, Theracanes, etc.) and I will do that on my own.
I miss the gym classes, really, they have been a salvation for me. Then, hips started aching, I got overwhelmed, just stopped going. I know that, for me, active exercise would be my preferred approach to treating stress and depression, far better than psyche meds and/or counselling.
My doctor agreed.
My doctor said Mylanta…
(My Lazy Ass Needs Therapeutic Activity) and said, OK, no meds, but get yourself back to the gym. Doctor’s orders.
I sent out the email above over a year ago.
I sent out the email below this evening.
Same recipients, same content, pretty much.
It’s got to get better from here on out.
Sent: November 29, 2020
Dear Gym Besties,
My mom has passed. Thank you so much, each of you, for your understanding and emotional support during this protracted challenging period in my life. I sent the attached announcement out to family first.
It’s been a month since mom was taken away from her home in an ambulance, cops holding me back while firemen carried her down the hallway, wrapped up in a sheet, puking blood. That’s when I did my grieving, wailing so loudly that the neighbors called the cops to check on me.
Now that mom is gone, I have 100% turned my attention to my own health. I have already seen a physician and mental health therapist, with the same objective for each: heal what’s happened to my spasming Piriformis so that I can stand and walk again for more than a few minutes without crippling pain.
My depression assessment and blood pressure are off the charts (189/119! at the worst). I told the doctor: my body is not suffering from a deficiency of anti-depressants, my body is not suffering from a deficiency of blood-pressure meds, my body is suffering from a deficiency of exercise. Fix this dang hip thing so I can bounce around like a clown in Zumba class again.
I don’t have emails for Ruth or Deena or Adriene or Peter or Don. If any of you could forward this along, much appreciated.
Hope to be bouncing back sooner rather than later.
The internet is littered with cyber sale sites that failed to make money, many of mine among them. Evidently, I’m not that good a businessman.
I like to think of myself as an artist (like who doesn’t?) and despite mental issues, I’m not delusional enough to imagine my creative work is saleable. But, I want to get it out there, so I give it away in the vain hope that one piece or another will go viral and validate to the multitudes my inborn brilliancy.
So here’s my unbeatable Cyber Monday deal: craft items SO FREE, I can’t even give them away! You have to go get them yourself. Here’s how you do that:
The links below will take you to my imagiNed.com “Conceptual Artistry” website, where you can scoop up Cyber-Monday-SO-FREE-I-can’t-even-give-them-away deals ALL YEAR LONG (which defeats the urgency premise of Cyber Monday, but, as noted, I’m not that good a businessman.)
As Cyber Monday closes, I move on from my cyber-hucksterism to more meaningful matters. Take a deep breath. OK. Up next, Giving Tuesday:
Content Coming Soon
Sad doggie, waiting at the window
for a mom who will never come home again.
That’s all I can manage to write today. Accept this picture as worth a thousand words.
Two Weeks after Thanksgiving Week Opening
Taking some time away from my “life story” to work on other creative pieces and projects. Here’s one example, a note to my neighbors.
Subject: Photo Gallery of Village Green Scenes
Sent: December 10, 2020
Dear Village Green Neighbors,
Thank you for your kind words and messages in response to my mom’s recent passing.
Over these last three years, constant monitoring of mom’s condition left me scant time to stop and have a conversation on my way to the mailbox or the recycle bins. However, I would sometimes stop to snap a photo of the landscaping when the light was good.
Here are two dozen of my favorite photos: https://imagined.com/blog/village-green-scenes/
If you like any of them, feel free to download them and do anything you want with them.
Sharing them is my way of being more neighborly and saying thank you.
Take care, keep safe, be well,