02 December 2003 - 1:43 PM
Mind of Winter
The winter is made and you have to bear it,
-- Wallace Stevens (1879–1955), “The Dwarf”
Winter is a lot of my problem. Or a combination of winter and my job. Or possibly a combination of winter, my job and my family.
It might even be just the job and the family. To be fair, there's not that much to complain about, but it's just enough to wear me down.
I've always tended toward seasonal depression, although not in the severe or even suicidal ways that some others do. I try to take care of myself, take vitamin D supplements, put full-spectrum bulbs in the lights, spend time outdoors in the sunlight when I can, but November and December are just hard, and I won't really turn the corner again until the next equinox. It's cold and dark, the ebb tide of the year. The garden is dead, Persephone is returned to Hades, and I want to curl up, like a bear, and suck my claws until the sun comes back.
The seniors are away most of this week on retreat, which takes a certain load off me. The assessment actually did go relatively well. But the freshmen are tiresome in the extreme and it's hard to get up every morning in the dark and drive into work, passing all the people who are walking their dogs, and (once in town) seeing the televisions switch on in the houses along the way.
The dog walkers really get to me. Most of the ones I see in the morning are older men, for some reason. There's the old man with the old mutt on Saint Margaret's Road, and the guy with the three shih tzus on College Avenue. Sometimes I see the man with the two dachshunds or the two men with the two black labs on Church Circle. On days when I'm running a little behind I may see the guy with the brace of borzois on Market or Shipwright Street.
The family is largely OK, though the Avuncular One remains stupid and arrogant and Grandmaman is pitching fits on at least a weekly basis. Thanksgiving was a real treat.
Sis has wanted badly, for several years now, to host a family Thanksgiving dinner. Since she and the Engineer moved into a new (to them) and larger house last spring, she finally had the space to do it. The Engineer's parents drove down (and then drove back, but they and their neuroses are not my problem), Maman and the Viking and I went over, and we had a very nice meal in the middle of the day. The Avuncular One was busy catering to his wife's clan and therefore did not attend (though he also could not find the time to visit his mother that day, either). Grandmaman did not come, because she cannot manage stairs and at any rate she had announced several weeks ago that she had made plans with friends for a midday gathering.
After we ate and the Engineer's parents started on their four-hour drive back to points north, we packed a plate of goodies and went to see Grandmaman in the evening. She was brusque enough when we arrived, and once Sis had gotten started warming up the plate and chatting about the food and how it had been made, Grandmaman remarked (and I quote): 'Well, it's nice that you all were able to have lunch together and forget about your responsibilities.'
And a happy Thanksgiving to you too, you harpy.
Which is not quite what Sis said, but it was close. I was actually calculating odds on whether she would make a smart remark or smack Grandmaman across the mouth. There was an aide in the room, so Sis opted for the smart remark rather than the smack (best not to beat one's grandparents in front of witnesses).
Grandmaman is also still resisting the notion that she cannot have everything she had in the apartment. After the remark about our responsibilities, she demanded the return of 'her' set of silver mint julep cups. These are the julep cups she had been promising to Sis for years, and then grandly handed off to the Avuncular One last month. She has also been making poor Maman crazy with early morning (7-7:30) phone calls demanding 'the green towels' (she had no green towels) or the 'sheets Mother embroidered with flowers' (there were no sheets embroidered with flowers, either by my great-grandmother or anyone else).
The day after Thanksgiving, Maman spoke to her Tante Jeanne, Grandmaman's sister and a truly wonderful lady. I pray daily that when I am 80-something, I will be like her and not my grandmother. Maman told Tante Jeanne about what Grandmaman had said to us when we visited her, and there was a long silence. 'Why do you keep going back?' Tante Jeanne asked.
I don't know.