Saturday, June 30, 2012
I can cross sleeping in a hospital bed off my list of things I've never done, same for napping on the cold linoleum floor of an ER. My mother was scheduled for surgery on Monday for a strangulated inguinal hernia. Yesterday she continued to vomit between her pre-op tests. My father was unresponsive most of the day, unable to focus or keep his eyes open when I spoke to him. His body was very active in the hospital bed, legs kicking and left arm rising high above his head. At one point his fingers formed scissors, aggressively snipping the air. He awoke briefly and said the ends were uneven. Once a hairdresser always a hairdresser. Later in the day he was mumbling about mountain gear for an icy climb in Germany. On the start of this fourth of July weekend, both of my parents were in rapid decline. My cousin Northie came after work to keep me company at the hospital as we waited for my sister who was en route from Massachusetts. A dear family friend drove from Pennsylvania to be with my mother at home, who continued to wretch in a brown plastic bucket. I left my father, whose breath had the distinctive rattle of death, at 1230am to tell my mother I wanted to bring her to the hospital. She didn't refuse. Through out the night we bounced from the ER to my father's room. He greeted us with a drowsy good morning every time we entered. Surprisingly, as morning broke and he found us sleeping in the bed next to him he was much more alert. My father was unaware that down the corridor my mother was being prepped for emergency surgery. Once under the knife, the surgeon found gangrenous tissue in her lower intestine. Her body was slowly becoming toxic, a situation that could have been fatal. My father's expression was priceless when I told him he was finally getting a roommate, my mother.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 4:47 PM
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Barely awake, my mother lifts her nightgown and exposes a large sausage shaped lump on her groin. "I found this last night in the shower." I'm speechless, and release giggles instead of sobs. The doctor sees us immediately, and confirms it's an inguinal hernia. In my father's hospital room she starts to wretch. I leave his bedside and retrieve a plastic bowl in time for her to spew putrid, green bile. She's convinced she has food poisoning from the salad she ate the day before. Nerves, bad greens, the hernia. I don't know what to think as I try to care for both of my parents. All I want to do is giggle; certainly this isn't happening. I take my mother home and contact friends to check in her. I return to my father who is getting weaker, and more jaundiced. His highlight of the day, is teaching the nurses how to give the perfect shave. My mother has a consultation with the surgeon tomorrow at the same time my father starts chemo. My gallows humor is kicking in. I find this all absurdly comedic. My life in LA is light years away. Trying to conduct conference calls and respond to emails through out the day has been challenging, but staying in contact with my life at home reminds me that this too is temporary.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 1:03 PM
Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Getting acclimated to the routines in the hospital, the various doctors and nurses, the important questions to ask, the essential diagnostic procedures that will take place the next few days. The mass on my father's neck continues to grow, wrapping around his throat like a heavy wool scarf. Swallowing is difficult, yet nutrition is essential to combat chemo. A gastric feeding tube was recommended, then rejected when the procedure proved to be too risky. We agreed to try a round of chemo and monitor how he responds. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger", takes on a whole new meaning.
Through out the day my father kept talking about cowboys. His eyes darted around the room, often settling on static air. I asked him if we were alone, and he said, "no". "Who else is here?" "Rodger", a name I didn't recognize from his large pool of friends. "Do you know Rodger?" "No, but he knows me," he said smiling. "Who is he?" "My guide."
My father has no fear about the procedures, about dying, or about living with pain. Before we leave I always ask if it's okay if we go home for awhile. A karmic offering, since I think it would be awful to be left alone in a hospital room. He said he wanted to come with us "to say goodbye to the birds and trees and some other stuff." "Don't go", so we stayed until 10pm. After 12 hours, my mother was fading. She spent the day reminiscing about the past, specifically the days pivotal people in her life passed. She cried, and was exhausted by my father's frank, emotional conversations. He wasn't holding back, said we never woke up in the morning and just sat around and talked like we were doing now. We could have "squeezed more fun out of life". He told me how much I've hurt him by not visiting more often. "On this journey it's important to find loving people to be with." It's strange to look forward to another day sitting by his side in a hospital bed, but I do. Life is very pure at this moment, and our connection is possibly stronger than it's ever been.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 11:40 AM
Saturday, June 23, 2012
My father’s thin frame barely makes an indentation in the mattress. For a man who once weighted 270 pounds, this is a shocking vision. His throat is horse, and his right arm a mere dangling limb. This is the hand he painted with, his last watercolor still a work in progress on his easel. He’s thrilled to see me, yet I can’t stop the tears from sliding down my cheeks. I don’t want my reaction to frighten him, “Don’t cry, it’s okay”, he comforts me. He’s in pain, and it crushes me. From deep within I feel an ache and I wonder what journey we’re on. I’d rather be in SE Asia, but I know this one is just as significant and life altering. My mother cooked dinner and we tried to get my father to join us, but eating is too difficult for him. He chokes, and has no appetite. He’s lost a significant amount of weight since I saw him in December. Tomorrow I will experiment with pureed soups and smoothies.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 11:25 AM
Friday, June 22, 2012
I received that dreaded call this morning, the one that changes everything. My father fell last night, walking from the kitchen table to the sink. His right arm has been numb for several weeks. When he lost his balance he was unable to steady himself with the hand he typically relies upon. He fell backwards on the floor, clunked his head. An ambulance rushed him to the hospital, and he was released several hours later to my mother’s care. However, it was a sign of larger problems brewing. Today they received a prognosis from his biopsy; the mass on the right side of his neck is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
Bins packed for my weekend camping trip to Idylwilde were quickly unpacked. With a foggy brain, I gathered clothes in my suitcase while trying to get a flight. I cried to a man in India, and lost my patience with a curt woman in Florida. I kept asking for a miracle when MP took control of the situation, and not only booked me a flight but gave me her miles. I welcomed the help, which continued to present itself through out the day. A late afternoon hike eased my apprehension. I wonder what awaits in NJ.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 11:12 AM
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
I like short cuts, any route parallel to a main artery, for locals in the know offering, in theory, less traffic. They are my daily passageways. To avoid log jams at the bottom of my canyon I zig zag down the hill through streets that gentrification played a game of hit or miss. On one side of a particular street is a wall lined with oleanders, and behind it, a convent. Some days I race by, and others I'm stopped in my tracks by the beauty of the Mediterranean tower, the cross against the blue Hollywood sky and the tranquility that seems to exist behind the gates. Today I was moved to photograph it and think about the monastic nuns who live behind the gate. They live a life of silent prayer and raise money by selling homemade pumpkin bread, chocolates and peanut brittle. One of these days I'm going to visit the gift shop and sample their wares.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 10:02 PM
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Spent a perfectly wonderful afternoon in the hillside shade at The Hollywood Bowl listening to jazz. Our section was active with bouncing beach balls, bubbles, and a generous concert-goer tossing jello shots into the crowd.
Most nights in the summer I hear the applauding crowd at the bowl. Melodies waft info the night, often distorted, but sometimes clear enough to distinguish a particular tune. Built into the side of the mountain in Daisey Dell, The Bowl is the largest natural amphitheater in the United States, seating 18,000 visitors. The seating area, which remains virtually the same today, was designed in 1922 by the well-known Pasadena architect Myron Hunt, based on concepts from his earlier design of another Southern California landmark, the Rose Bowl athletic stadium.
In 1943, Frank Sinatra's Hollywood Bowl debut on August 14 was the first appearance by a pop singer with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. The Beatles performed twice to sold out audiences of screaming teen age girls in August 1964 and 1965. In 1968 Jimi Hendrix graced the stage, as did Jim Morrison and The Doors.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 10:09 PM
Saturday, June 16, 2012
I was unaware that in late 2009 ten original segments of the Berlin Wall arrived in Los Angeles, and were installed on Wilshire Boulevard. Thankfully, on my short walk from the Arts and Crafts Museum to LACMA I passed by them. Brought to the city by the Wende Musem, and painted by artists including Kent Twitchell and Thierry Noir, they form the longest stretch of this iconic historical monument outside of Berlin. Standing in front of them I could only think about the lives they separated and the political conflict they symbolized.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Posted by Maria Grasso at 6:00 AM
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Unexpected synchronized moments make me wonder if the universe does indeed pay attention. Today, leaving a meeting with my agents, I ran into TT, my first boss in Hollywood. Not sure the last time we saw each other, but I'm guessing years. I was inspired when I recently read in the trades that after nine years one of his passion projects, a film about Alfred Hitchcock, had just wrapped production. He was one of the most wonderful bosses -- supportive, fun, passionate -- and hired a team of loyal executives whom I still remain close to. He also knew how to celebrate our victories, resulting in many champagne dinners and late nights in NYC during the upfronts.
Twenty years ago today, I landed at LAX with a suitcase and five thousand dollars in the bank. I didn't know what would happen to me, or where this journey would lead. I was hopeful, excited, anxious and bursting at the seams to shake up my life. By August I had found employment as a television development executive at a studio. TT was my boss' boss, and two years later after a promotion, he became my direct boss. In all honesty, I have a hard time believing I've spent two decades in this city, in this industry, in these adult years of my life. These run-ins are simultaneously jarring and delightful. Faces marked by time, familiar voices unchanged, and befuddled exchanges about still being in the game. Twenty years working in Hollywood has resulted in a wonderfully tangled web of relationships and associations. The longer I'm here the more I reconnect, even if for a brief moment, but always long enough to remind me of the roots I have in this community. Today's run-in felt like a wink from the universe acknowledging the anniversary of my arrival, the beginning of this strange and beautiful ride.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 9:49 PM
Thursday, June 7, 2012
I was in my mid-20s when I found out corn on the cob was not dessert. Growing up, that's how my mother served it. During dinner she would "put the pot on to boil", and by the time we finished our meal, steaming, locally grown corn was served. I must have been dining at a friend's the first time I had corn with my meal, and I had a crazy realization. What if it's not normal to eat corn after a meal. It is in fact a starchy vegetable. Shortly after I asked my mother where this custom originated from, and she nonchalantly said something to the effect that this is what her mother had done. Over time I let go of this tradition, but tonight after a light dinner of kelp noodles and vegetables, I satiated my dessert craving with a sweet ear of yellow corn.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 10:16 PM
Sky-gazers around the world watched a silhouetted Venus travel across Earth's closest star, an extremely rare spectacle that served as a reminder of how tiny our planet really is. The next transit is 105 years away - beyond this lifetime, but just another dinky speck in the timeline of the universe.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 5:59 AM
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
After months of stagnation, I feel a shift happening. Pieces seem to be falling into place. I feel a groundswell of optimism and trust. For the fun of it, every now and then I pull a tarot card. The Ace of Wands is what appeared tonight. It's message could not be clearer.
The Ace of Wands is a symbol of possibility in the area of creativity, excitement, adventure, courage and personal power. It shows that a seed of bold enthusiasm has been planted in your life although you may not yet recognize it. When the seed sprouts, it could take almost any form. It might be a creative idea, surge of optimism or need to act boldly. On the outside, it could be an offer, gift, opportunity, encounter or synchronistic event.
The Ace of Wands is also the card of creativity. Under its influence, you can become a conduit for inspiration and invention. Forget tired, worn-out solutions. You have the chance to be original. Trust your own creative potential, and there will be no end to what you can achieve.
Posted by Maria Grasso at 8:26 PM