What sort of a birthday present do you give someone with a few weeks to live?

It seems cruel and a little pointless to buy a book, or a jigsaw that they will never finish. By that stage even a box of chocolates would be sitting uneaten in the chaos of painkillers, colostomy bags and industrial sized boxes of Immodium.

You have to do something, though. It has to be a good one. The last one. She won't be here next year.

She probably won't be here by Christmas.

Oh my god. Christmas.

"Jenny, I have to talk to you."

"Of course, dear."

"You know Christmas is coming up."

"I don't know if I'll make it that far."

"I know. I - look, I have to be blunt -"

"That's always best, dear."

"It's my birthday, right before Christmas. Then Christmas. Then Dazzler's birthday. Then AD's birthday. All together."

"Yes, dear?"

I took a deep breath and rushed it out.

"Look, I'm not having this on my birthday forever. You can't die on our birthdays. Or on Christmas. And I'm not having your funeral on our birthdays. If you don't die before my birthday, you'll have to wait until January."

"I'll do my best. You can always delay the funeral. I don't mind, I'll be dead."

I could get her a bottle of ridiculously good champagne. It doesn't matter, with all the drugs, she can drink as much as she likes. She's dying. But her tastebuds have gone funny, she says. Everything tastes weird.

There's no time or energy left to take her out somewhere. She has so many things to do, just getting through the goodbye visits. We laugh after the visits. The Christians amongst her friends are the least able to cope. They use euphemisms and platitudes. It upsets them when she speaks plainly and with finality. Die, dead, dying, death, done. Goodbye. Aren't you the ones who believe in an afterlife? Don't you sincerely believe that this isn't really goodbye?

Jewellery is out. She has spent the past month having her favourite pieces cleaned and valued, and giving them to us. I got a topaz pendant, a glorious orange-gold. She says it reminds me of my hair. She says it was the first gift her husband bought her after they bought a house together. It is deliberately chosen, because I have just bought a house with her son.

"Jenny, I don't know if we will ever get married. I want to. But he isn't ready yet."

"Yes, I know, dear."

"I will never leave him, though. I'll look after him for the rest of our lives."

Flowers are nice. She loves fresh flowers. She might outlast a bouquet. And I'd rather she had them now, when she can see them, than put them on her coffin once she is dead.

"Dear Jenny,

"Thank you for everything. You are the best mother-in-law I could possibly have. You taught me so much. I'm so glad you lived long enough for me to know you.

"Love, Nemosyn"

It's been eleven years. You would be seventy now. We would have had a huge party. Our son would have given you an excellent present - a Captain Underpants book, perhaps. You would have loved reading those. I would have made you a cake with elaborate sugar paste decorations in orange and gold and yellow. We would put seventy candles on it, and it would melt the decorations and be impossible to blow out without a fire extinguisher.

You are crying, I am crying, and you are hugging me. "You've never called me your mother-in-law before," you say into a tissue. "I love all three of my daughters." I count. That's one daughter and two daughters-in-law. We are sisters, we three, as much as if we were related by blood. That's the kind of family you have built. The best mother-in-law anyone could have.

You said grief would be like a horse kicked you in the stomach. Some days I can still feel the bruises. I miss you, Jenny. Happy Birthday.

  1. Lately I've been thinking about
  2. the life I want and the habits
  3. I need to cultivate in order to
  4. get me closer to my dreams
  5. First I need to start waking up 
  6. earlier; four, five, even six,
  7. would be preferable to the 
  8. craziness of now. Walking in
  9. the morning was a way to
  10. start my day in contemplation
  11. of nature. It settled my mind,
  12. calmed my nerves, and was
  13. good for my waistline as well.
  14. Meals are the second habit I 
  15. need. My mother set aside a
  16. day to cook large pots of 
  17. chili, soup, and other casserole
  18. type dishes. I can change the
  19. menu, purchase more
  20. judiciously, enlist the help of 
  21. my children which means 
  22. less screen time for all of us. 
  23. I can stretch, bounce on my 
  24. trampoline, join a yoga
  25. class, go back to knitting club, 
  26. listen to more books in the car 
  27. get my finances in order,
  28. declutter once and for all! 
  29. I will go on dates. Last night
  30. I told someone I've known
  31. for a long time that I envied
  32. a woman his long term
  33. affections. Perhaps I was foolish
  34. it wouldn't be the first time, and
  35. it most certainly won't
  36. be the last. I feel better,
  37. already: having given myself
  38. credit where it is past due.
  39. P.S. It's nice to be able to
  40. write about accomplishments. 

I have a tab addiction when it comes to web surfing. I normally have somewhere between forty and ninety tabs open at a time and I suffer the corresponding issues of dealing with random slow downs which have been getting progressively worse as my laptop ages. My go to solution is to open task manager and kill the browser once it gets above two gigabytes. This has the advantage of keeping my tabs in tack while decreasing the memory consumption and associated performance problems. I recently purchased a new battery for it since it started telling me to replace my battery about six months ago and stays on for somewhere between five and ten minutes when charged. My new battery is a bigger model with a six to eight hour life with the screen at a low brightness. Until, yesterday all was well ... then disaster struck.

Firefox got a major update and it changed all of my settings. This, in and of itself, wasn't horrible though it did change a bunch of my settings which I had to back and fix. I'm distractable without you suggesting irrelevant news stories with catchy titles to me every time I open a blank tab, Mozilla, I don't need you adding to it. So, even after fixing the settings the GUI is still slightly different which is slightly infuriating but I can handle change ... not gracefully but ... Anyway, I pick up my laptop to put it on my lap and accidentally disconnect the power cord in the process because it no longer fits in the plug after somebody knocked it off a table ... and it dies! I hit the power button because the battery is new and it starts booting only to give me a blue screen ... but not of death. After a half-hour windows restore got me back to functionality. Interestingly, it had removed the Firefox update with the system restore.

All of that was yesterday. Today I repeated the whole debacle except for the half-hour long windows repair part which shortens rebooting by around 96%. Then I got the Firefox update again. Grumble grumble mutter, fine whatever I decide to test if the dying occurred when it was in sleep mode. Close clam shell lid, wait for it to go into sleep mode, unplug, and ... the light is still blinking ... that's promising. I open it up and it starts rebooting. Well, fiddlesticks. At least I know ... No... it's the blue screen again ... but that only happened the one time. I thought that was one of those one off, cosmic ray strike errors ... what changed? It-



The update was removed when it finally got back up and Firefox is no longer allowed to update. Bad canine, no update for you! No idea if it's the actual culprit or how a browser update could prevent my computer from booting up but if my laptop is going to spend a half-hour on booting up I'm not inclined to test it again tonight. More news, as it appears and assuming I can still get on the internet. Cheers and happy noding.


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