Charlie Bertsch (cbertsch) wrote,
Charlie Bertsch

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Groundhog Daze

Life has been stressful and strange since the holidays. I had gone several years without getting really sick and even longer since I experienced one of those will-not-go-gently ailments that used to plague me regularly during my early years in Tucson. But I came down with something right before Christmas Eve, felt so dreadful on Christmas that I barely remember it, then spent over a month seeming to get better one day only to relapse the next.

Luckily, although Christmas was a blur, I ended up enjoying New Year's Eve a lot more than I usually do. I was feeling relatively good that night, for one thing. Plus, despite all the centrifugal forces dispersing my οἶκος, we ended up celebrating family-style, with a bang. Quite a few, actually.

As vexing as it was to have my sleep challenged by bouts of severe coughing, however, the biggest impediments to normalcy lay elsewhere.

My daughter and her mom were both out of sorts a good deal and, often at odds with each other. Having a fourteen-year-old girl is not the easiest thing to do as a parent, I'll tell you that. Of course, the fact that Skylar and her classmates have had to confront the reality of high school in a big way this past month -- band auditions, open houses, tours and now course registration -- has been a huge factor in destabilizing the household's already precarious hold on stability. Thanks to a great deal of hard work on everyone's part -- we're all exhausted emotionally -- I am cautiously optimistic that the worst is over. But I am compelled to knock on simulated wood grain in the process of articulating that assessment.

Skylar glows with a fierce intensity, which makes parenting her at age 14 a challenge, though one her parents gladly take on

And then there was the rapid decline of our cat Thing One, a.k.a Budder, who all of a sudden stopped eating. Just a few months before, he had made a remarkable improvement after being put on Prozac. But this time there was no denying that he had run out of time, though not even twelve. It was very sad to lose such a crucial presence in our everyday lives -- Skylar was two when we got him -- and remains so now. We're going to get Punka and Smokey a kitten to help get them over their grief and keep them active as soon as we can, which will be nice. Right now, though, the house still feels empty.

I think that's one of the reasons why Skylar has been taking the preparations for high school so hard. Although Budder could be a difficult cat to deal with, he was in many respects the sun for us to revolve around as a family unit, since we had to structure our activities around his twice-daily insulin shots and anti-depressant doses. Maybe that's why, when I picked her up after school on the evening of the big orientation, she asked me to take her back to her elementary school to visit her favorite spots. She gave me a tour of the trees on the perimeter of the lower field, explaining what she and her friends used to like doing with each.

Skylar was delighted to visit the lower field where she used to wander during recess

The orientation ended up being rather anti-climactic, since she had just been there for her flute audition. I think at this point she has been on the campus frequently enough to feel comfortable there. Architecture has always been very important to her. She loved the tall buildings of San Francisco's Financial District as a toddler and took to the JCC here, where she attended pre-school, because it is one of the few structures in the Tucson suburbs that actually feels spacious. The high school, with its mildly postmodern design, gorgeous views of the city and mountains to the south, and professional-looking auditorium and theater -- yes, they have two -- will please her aesthetically even when it is frustrating her otherwise.

I have been thinking a good deal about high schools in recent years, wondering if I could teach in one successfully without driving myself mad. The time may come when I need to purse that option. Right now, though, with the responsibility I take caring for my parents, the daily schedule would be very hard to manage. Skylar's mom is always very busy, but is now dealing with even more complex time management since she is splitting her time between two offices nearly a half hour apart. There's only so much driving around she can do, so it's good that I'm able to help, even though I wish the reasons I can were less depressing.

I am feeling a little better about my situation lately, however, since returning to the classroom to teach New Media. Thanks to the grave economic conditions in Arizona and the even graver ones at its universities, together with other factors that work against me, I was starting to think that I was never going to put my academic training to proper use again. Yet I had some rare good luck and now find myself once again teaching what I'm best at. Although my circumstances are still far from ideal, I am counting my blessings and hoping that they will prove a building block for something better in the not-so-distant future.

I knew it made me sad to see my Ziploc bag full of idle dry erase markers, but only when I got back to the white board did I realize how much

The week ahead will be challenging from the perspective of scheduling, since Skylar's mom is away on a long trip. But I think it will be good for all concerned. After all the fraught interactions since the holidays, abetted by illness and other physiological troubles, it's high time for a familial "time out" in which each of us can regroup. That's why I barely spoke to my daughter last night and did my best to stay out of sight and out of mind. Alone time is especially important for her at this crucial juncture in her life. Most teenagers seek solitude in their rooms. Skylar, however, being a naturally claustrophobic person, wants the whole house to herself!

She asks for that a lot. Sometimes I get annoyed that complying with this request means going into temporary exile. Recently, though, I decided to start turning this time into something more positive by heading to cafés where I can get some work done and also have the chance for unexpected socializing. The best venue for the latter is Cartel Coffee Lab on Campbell, because of its quasi-family-style arrangement of tables. The last time I went there, on Groundhog Day Eve, I meant to write the entry that I'm finally completing today, but instead got in a great conversation with an electrical engineer, Linux fan and would-be author of fantasy novels. I hope to run into him again some time.

Musing on Groundhog Days Past at Cartel Coffee Lab on Campbell Avenue in Tucson

Thankfully, Skylar's quest for alone time does not prevent us from doing things together. Yesterday I had the pleasure of taking her to her English horseback riding lessons for the first time in over a month. It's a long drive -- her stable's new location is out past Pantano on Tanque Verde -- which gives us plenty of time to talk and listen to music. I also need to get her fed so that her blood sugar doesn't drop to dangerous levels -- in terms of attitude, that is -- during her lesson. I realized that I really missed interacting with horses, particularly her steed of choice, the well-mannered "unicorn" Spot. I'm looking forward to taking her out to the Pima County Fairgrounds on Sunday to watch her elders from Ashbrook Farm compete in various "hunter" and "jumper" events. Spot will be there too! Alright, that's enough for now. Peace out. . .

Skylar grooming Spot prior to her ride yesterday
Tags: autobiography, everyday, family, health

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  • Weekend Update

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  • Blade Runner Redux

    I was trying to figure out why my photos aren't showing up here and decided to see whether entries from when I was posting regularly were still…

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