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There was the fact that I claimed I would write every day. And that for a period of time which I don't know what it is but is probably a couple of weeks when in fact I did write every day. And nobody read it and all was good.

I stopped that writing every day thing though last Wednesday. And this is because last Thursday I had to drive to Maryland to help prepare for my father's memorial do. That's not something anyone wants to do. At all. So my driving all those hours predominantly through New Jersey was more than it's usual level of onerousness. I've taken that road many times in the last year and never liked it at all. I went down there on Thursday though so that I could be around to finish the slide show about Dad that I'd been obsessing and sobbing over and which kept not being right. So that it seemed the more I worked on adding music and pictures and trying to represent his ninety-one (just three weeks shy of ninety-two) years and less coherent the thing was. I'd decided though that the slide show was of utmost importance and while alternately sobbing over the photographs and over the recalcitrance of PowerPoint I labored on it. It reminds me of a book I once was writing that just got worse the longer I worked.

I continued to labor over the damn thing though up until hours before the memorial and even so never really finished. Some of the most beautiful images disappeared mysteriously but it was too late. Guests were arriving, sandwiches and crudites were unveiled.

On Friday night my mother called the landline in my sister's house eight times. It was three am and no one heard the calls. In my room (which used to be THEIR room but since their bed is now at the nursing home, it's a single bed and exercise equipment) I could hear the phone ring and the machine pick up. I could hear her muffled voice but it was not until I got up that I caught any of the words. And all I heard was "...may God forgive you for what you have done." My mother is not happy to be in a nursing home and rather than consider why she is there she blames her children. My sister and her husband tried to speak but mother didn't answer she just kept leaving messages until they unplugged the phone.

Then I lay in bed and realized I had forgotten how to breathe. And I could feel my stomach eating itself and my back launching into spasms and my heart beating too fast and I realized that I was going to die. I lay there feeling my body dying and feeling trapped in the dying and desperate. It was a panic attack. I never had panic attacks until COVID times. Last summer I started having them nightly. I got used to them and when they stopped coming I missed them. There is something about feeling death breathing down your neck and clutching at your gut to make you feel attached to life in ways that you aren't when all you are doing is the undramatic quotidian. I thought I was dying.

After a bit of the dying I decided I needed to go out to the screened in porch to smoke a cigarette. And it was just as I was lighting it and I shut the door behind me that I realized I was locked out. This was the depths of the coldest. It wasclear to me in my stocking feet and my pajamas that being locked out when it's eight degrees could kill me. They live in a really horrible house in many ways. A giant edifice that a friend once described as "the Keebler elves meet the Sopranos." It's brick and enormous and yet has odd bits of piping around the eaves and whatnot that might be cute on a normal sized house. The deck is three stories high. And on the lower level where I came out (my parent's apartment was on that level but my sister and her family live far way on the upper level) there are thick walls and many rooms between the outside and where people sleep. I had no phone. It was eight degrees. And after having constructed a panic attack death, I had followed it up with the potential for an actual death.


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