Hello Card  -  Volume 32  -  Suzanne Card Number 0  -  Mon, Jul 11, 1994 12:02 PM

The last issue seems like a lifetime ago. John tells me this time I'm the final culprit who's holding things up. I don't have the perfect excuse; it's just that too many things have been happening to me and the effect has left me feeling very scattered.

For instance, this morning I rented some videos and then ran some errands and got home to discover I didn't have the videos with me. This took about an hour. Then it took another two hours to ascertain where the videos were and retrieve them - from the counter of the video store.

Anyway, John M and I were getting along wonderfully well throughout the spring so I agreed to move back in with him. I was really living here already anyway but still paying the rent on my expensive apartment which housed most of my stuff. John also said he'd help me out financially for a while so that I could stay at home and work on my novel rather than look for another evil job that I didn't want. Although I'm getting unemployment, it's not enough to live on. I don't really like the idea of letting someone else support me, but I guess I don't not like it enough to refuse.

So I gave notice to my landlord and he re-rented the apartment, and just before I was supposed to move all of my stuff out of it, John and I started not getting along so well. At that point, though, I didn't know what to do other than go along with the plan, but the whole time I was moving in I was thinking I was moving to the wrong place, living with the wrong man, trying to convince myself that moving wasn't really such a big deal and I could always pick up and move myself again somewhere else once I got miserable enough.

Fortunately, we've started getting along a little better since then. This relationship reminds me a lot of the weather. Hard to predict.

My father died in May. He had a lung disease that kept him on oxygen all the time. He had gotten to the point where he really couldn't move by himself or talk for very long without choking and was destined to live out the rest of his life in a nursing home as my stepmother couldn't take care of him at home anymore.

John and I had been to visit him about a month before, and actually it turned out to be one of the nicest visits I'd ever had with my father. I don't know if I would have gone if it hadn't been for John's prodding. My father himself didn't think I should be spending the money when I was unemployed and he kept thinking he was going to get better.

At one point during the visit my father got remorseful, talking about how he knew he hadn't been a very good father. I tried to reassure him that I didn't agree and that everyone's allowed to make a few mistakes but he didn't seem convinced.

My only regret is that I never did convince him. It was hard to talk to him on the phone after I'd left as his breath would give out after a few minutes and he'd have to get off. So I was working on a letter to him to tell him about all of the important things he'd done right and just how much he meant to me, but he died before the letter was finished.

He died on a Friday and John's mother showed up from Cambridge for a scheduled week-long visit on Saturday. I'd thought I liked her before but the visit was like a glimpse into hell. I'll save the gory details for another time. Then I went back east with John for my father's memorial services.

My stepmother flew back out with us for a week's visit. It felt good to have her here, but my father's death left her feeling very depressed and suicidal. She won't go to therapy, and even now, two months later, she's still talking suicide. Says she can't think of a reason for living.

She's usually very industrious and spunky but isn't interested in getting back into any of her projects. She's just been sorting through my father's stuff (he was quite a saver). I've been trying to explain to her that feeling so awful is normal after losing someone central in your life but that she won't feel so awful forever, people do go on, etc., but I guess I'm not very convincing to her either. Hopefully, she'll be all right eventually.

Right after my stepmother left, John's father and stepmother came to visit, and right after they left John and I went to West Palm Beach, Florida, where John had signed up for a pharmacology conference. This was where John and I really started not getting along. As soon as I got there I wanted to go home.

We stayed at the Breakers, this expensive hotel that seemed like it was going to be really nice to stay in but I just felt trapped somehow. It was a hotel with an attitude - dress codes even for breakfast, hidden charges for everything.

The hotel was situated on the Atlantic coastline, and there was a rampway leading to the ocean beach. At the end of the rampway, there was a sign that read "Please wait to be seated by attendant." Maybe the attendant could have suggested a better spot in the sand than I might have thought of, although I never did wait. I kept expecting a tap on my shoulder from behind, someone admonishing me for entering the beach unescorted.

Somehow, I ended up with sea lice after the first day. It comes from something like tiny jellyfish tentacles which hang out in the Atlantic Ocean waiting to glom onto a person like me. There were warning signs about the possibility of these things being in the water and how you were supposed to shower after you got out, but apparently I didn't shower soon enough or scrub hard enough, or something. Anyway, sea lice produce a very itchy rash, something close to poison oak, which lasts about a week.

So I battled sea lice for the week while John attended lectures and organized dinners and other activities with various doctors and scientists who weren't very interested in talking about sea lice. It was very hot and rained a lot in tropical storm style where the water falls in sheets and anything that can get wet does. Even if one imagines oneself prepared, it's kind of like swimming with a raincoat on while holding an umbrella. There were snakes too, and crabs, and a lot of leathery-skinned women on the beach wearing bikinis with gold hats and matching gold sandals. Perfect weather for skin cancer.

On a more positive note, at some point during all of this I found out that HBO had selected my short story "Physics" for one of a series of three half-hour dramatizations of short stories called "Women Breaking the Rules." Dustin Hoffman and David Brown are the co-producers (David Brown did "Driving Miss Daisy"); they've gotten commitments so far from Susan Sarandon and Angelica Huston to star in two of the productions. I don't know which one would be doing my story.

It's kind of amazing. They found my story by hiring a research person to go through a lot of anthologies. It had taken the research person six months to find two stories they wanted to use, and they're still looking for a third. It's sort of hard to believe that they picked mine - when I first wrote the story, now I guess about ten years ago, I submitted it to close to forty different magazines and journals and got as many different rejections.

Anyway, I hope the series actually gets made. Apparently, lots of things can happen with movie making and no one ever knows for sure if a project is really going to be completed until it is. I'm just hoping that I'll never have to work at another office job again.