Guatemala: Time is a Place


By Marylou Shira Hadditt

In Guatemala, time is a place you live in. As a dimension it becomes quite different. Essentially, time is slower.
guatemala bus-editedThe bus leaves when it is full.
The boat comes when it comes.
You sit forever at a restaurant after you’ve eaten. It would be rude for the waitress to bring you a check.
Time allows people to see where other people are. To relate to absolute strangers in a friendly, patient manner. Never, in any of our interchanges with all variety of service people – hotel and sales clerks, bus drivers, sellers of merchandise on the street, waiters and waitresses – all were pleasant and good humored. No one was ever the slightest bit impatient.
My daughter Gail is my traveling companion. We go to the bank to change travelers checks; the line is long. We wait, we don’t look at the clock. there is no clock to look at. When it becomes our turn, we are warmly greeted by the clerk: “Buenos dias, senora, ” or “Buenos tardes, senora”. Guatemalans always use the honorific. We follow, likewise, using manners we often forgot at home, “por favor, senor/senorita” and “muchas gracias,
senor/ senorita. ”
We wait for the ferry boat to take us across Lake Atitlan. We signal , waving from a hill above the shore. A small Chris Craft with a smelly outboard motor pulls up to the dock. I struggle, dragging my wheeled suitcase along the sandy path. A passenger jumps out of the boat, runs up to me, takes my suitcase to the boat. “Me gusto:” he says. Another passenger helps me, “la abuela,” (thd gandmother) climb in to the boat. The ferry waits until we are comfortably seated before leaving the dock.
We enter a restaurant in Antigua, relax at a table in a garden courtyard, We laugh at the mermaid fountain, water spraying from her nipples. We admire the carefully planted hibiscus, fuscias, day lilies. Someone has taken a great deal of effort planting and caring for this garden. The waitress give us a menu. This is not a microwave restaurant. Our meal is individually prepared. Sooner or later dinner appears. Sooner or later we eat. Sooner or later, we ask for the check. The waitress won’t bring the check until its asked for. Doing otherwise is rude like asking us to leave before we are ready. Before we leave, we exclaim how good our meal was and everyone says, “Gracias. Muchas gracias.”

The bus to Solola leaves when it is full. Along the route many more people board carrying bundles on their heads, on their backs, in their arms. The bus becomes crowded, people are squashed against each other. Those who are sitting two to a seat, squeeze together to make room for a third. If someone has a vacant lap, a nearby child is invited to occupy it. These bus passengers have time to notice their neighbors and to make acts of kindness an everyday occurrence.
guatemala lady-editedChildren are everywhere — accompanying parents on the buses, in the market place, in restaurants, in church. Babies up to two or three years old, cuddle in brightly colored rebozos against their mother’s breasts. I never saw an angry short-tempered parent tugging or yelling at a child. Instead, I saw children contentedly playing with siblings in the corners of market stalls, boys and girls as young as six helping parents by carrying a load of firewood or a basket of grain. Being useful. These gentle people took time and patience with their children and the children behaved in a relaxed, non-threatening way. Contrary to my Western misconceptions of machismo in Latin countries, fathers were often seen carrying the children.

Gail ML Antigua- editedWe sit at a tiny four-table restaurant for breakfast. We order a papaya liquado (smoothie) with two straws, one for each of us. Almost two weeks later, we return to this same restaurant for breakfast. We order one liquado and one panqueque. The liquado arrives with two straws. The waiter had time to remember, even though we were strangers.
I felt physically different in Guatemala. I hardly wheezed even though I was climbing steep hills, and my leg didn’t hurt from walking on cobblestones. My back, which usually aches every morning, didn’t. Now that I am home, I realize that I need to reevaluate my time, how I perceive it and live within it – to learn to idle productively. Finding time to relate to the world around me in a more sensitive manner.
women washing clothes-editedI question my own values, my pressing needs. For instance, is my life so much better because I plop my soiled clothes in a white porcelain box, push a button and they come out clean, than that of a Mayan woman who joins her friends to stand in a clear mountain lake,, minnows tickling her feet while she scrubs the family’s clothes on a rock, lays them out on the grassy shore to dry in the sun?

When I am delayed in an endless line of late afternoon auto traffic. I take a deep breath, say “oh well”, settle back listening to a tape, not looking at my watch. That’s what I learned in Guatemala. Those five or ten or even twenty minutes don’t matter that much.
The bus leaves when its full. The boat comes when it comes and the groceries will be waiting on the shelves when I get there.



80th Birthday on a gondola

Some entrepreneur, with an eye to making money while making fun, imported three bona fide Venetian gondolas, complete with brass griffons, tritons and pom-poms and rented them to be polled around Oakland’s Lake Merritt as if it were the Grand Canal in Venice. . The gondolas have varied uses: wedding parties, birthday parties, champagne floats and one gondola with an partially enclosed nest especially for lovers. For my 80th birthday my daughter Lucia treated me to a full moon Venetian evening.

Lake Merritt is a U-shaped estuary of San Francisco Bay, a haven for Canada geese, teal, gulls and an occasional pelican. It is the crown jewel of Oakland and treated appropriately. Around its entire three mile perimeter rise are strings of fairy lights.
To the West are new high condos, to the South, the city itself – its varied architecture having survived many earthquakes. To the East are older elegant mansions from the thirties nestled beneath the Oakland hills fronting on the lake shore.

We embarked at about 8:30 — there were still a few pink streaks of sunset in the sky, the moon was not yet up. “Guseppi”, our gondolier, stood behind us on a platform, poling around the lake, appropriately singing Venetian songs; at one point he sang Happy Birthday to me in Italian and Santa Lucia for Lucia. As we glided around the lake, enveloped by the slight spray of salt air, we watched each high rise building, one by one, come alive with lighted windows, growing tall and straight into the sky and growing deep and wiggly in the dark waters of the Lake.
Guiseppi began to sing “La Bella Luna”, turned the gondola Eastward as we watched the moon large, golden orange, a huge saucer, slowly rising through the branches of the trees on the Eastern shore. I sang “Au Clair de la Lune” tho’ Lucia told me my French was awful, which is what my daughter Gail says about my Spanish and which I what I know about my Hebrew.
Guiseppe led us on a silver moon path back to the dock where another Gondolier, with a guitar and a much better tenor, serenaded us with a series of Italian love songs.

I told Lucia, that’s was the nicest kind of present. It can’t be put in on a shelf,, it doesn’t have to be dusted, it doesn’t wear out. It’s just there in the corner of one’s memory whenever you want to retrieve it.


Mark and Lucia

Mark and Lucia

Odes to Mom

Note from Penny: we four children get creative at birthdays. These were written for 60th and 70th birthday celebrations.

Lucia, Penny, Gail Steve - ML's 60th

Lucia, Penny, Gail Steve – ML’s 60th

May 1998 (70)

There once were four children who started
but their efforts were really retarded,
they tried to complete
a rhyme to repeat
before their dear mother departed.

Bootsie she was called as a girl
green eyes and black hair all a’curl
in dresses with sashes
she flashed her long lashes
and Necie called Bootsie her pearl

Marylou wrote ads for Sam Bell
It was something she did rather well
Co-op ads won her prizes
which was no surprises
the folks in Hyde Park thought her swell.

Her politics are quite left of center
though whom could we say was her Mentor:
Was it Aunt Bea or Sagan?
Lillian Smith, but not Reagan
from the South to Sonoma it sent her.

Let me tell you how she got her new name
after four kids, two husbands, INSANE
we know she went nuts
no ifs ands or buts
now Hadditt’s the name that she claims

There once was a Sonoma witch
whose life, at 70, was rich
she wanted a ritual
but got only victuals
and the party went off without hitch.

1988 (60th)

To the tune of “Daisy:”

Bootsie, Bootsie, tell me your name, now do.
Bootsie, Bootsie, or is it
What really is your name?
For it never stays the same?
Whatever you choose, it never will lose
The essence that’s truly you.
Holzman, Hadditt, Stauffer and a Deutsch
Bootsie surely has given us a choice

Two marriages and a flip-out
We know it was a trip-out.
So What will be next; how can we guess?
What life will bring next for you?

(to the tune of Rocky Racoon: see kazoo accompaniment in photo)
Somewhere in the back hills of Sonoma there lived an
old haq named Marylou. And one day she had her sixtieth birthday; it blew her away
She said ” I can’t believe it”
So one day she had a great big party with family and friends that would never end..
Mary Louise
Sorted through life’s debris
And always had something to salvage.
From Hyde Park to Kenwood, she’s mainly done good
And will live to a hardy ripe old age
Her life’s work it seems,
has been pursuing her dream and continuing her education. Her career will unfold
And will turn into gold,
As she works towards her
Mary Louise
Stepped into the Breeze,
Only to air out her fanny.
Her fanny, It seems,
had split at the seams,
while methane escaped from her cranny.

A Lava Bed of Yellow Blossoms

A journal of my first trip to Tassajara Zen Center


I am in a narrow valley less than 1/4 mile wide in the Los Padres National Forest east of Carmel), California – deep within the Coast Range. This is the peak season of wildflowers: monkey pod, fire weed, buck thorn, paint brush; I only know the names of a few of the ubiquitous flowers here. There was a severe fire two years ago and combined with this past winter’s rains produced mountain sides covered with a Van Gogh palette of blossoms. The high mountain which shields this valley on the East has a lava bed of yellow flowers flowing down its side.

The Retreat Center is part of the San Francisco Zen Center and has been trimmed, planted and walled, ageing half a century with that sleight of hand one finds in Zen gardens. Yesterday, while sitting in the sun, I watched a student hand trim the grass growing around a boulder. Low stone walls are ubiquitous – each bulk of granite carefully placed to complement one another by color in tones ranging from gray to pink to lavender as well as complementary shapes.

Coast Range TriteleiaWherever I turn, I see beauty. In the gardens, alongside the creek, in the hot baths and the Zendo, “See” is not an accurate word. This is the kind of beauty one feels – caressing my shoulders as I walk along the pathways; warming my heart, touching my soul

Tassajara is famous through its published cook books, especially the Tassajara Bread Book, but is also famous by word of mouth (and taste of mouth) for good reason, I sit down to a beautifully set table and am served the most amazing variety of delectable vegetarian food with fresh herbs that I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat. Asparagus and string beans are cooked just to that crunchy place of proper eating, The table cloths are bright red cotton with matching napkins and, when we arrive, we find our napkin ring with our name on it, arranged alphabetically at an entry to the dining room.

The whole valley is full of being alone spaces. At a bend in the creek, hidden within the trees, is a small writing table and chair. Along the major pathway is a congregate of long, wide, slender and tall hollowed redwoods carved for easy sitting. The major bridge across the Tassajara creek where one of its tributaries joins is lined on either side with long, comfortable benches. Often I saw one or two people sitting there quietly reading. Especially before meals, people gathered to chat along the bridge. Further on the main path of this narrow valley are a group of carved oak chairs that get moved from place to place depending on whether you’re alone or together. I was sitting in one of those cozy chair watching the woman hand clipping the grass.

The people, either priests, students or guests are quiet and respectful of one another, of each others’ space and of the land. Tassajara is a true retreat, beautifully away from whatever is happening in outside world. Just before I came inside this evening to write by kerosene lamp, I stretched out on a chaise by the pool and looked at the stars – so many stars, stars the way I remember from my childhood before city lights faded the sky. I could even see the Milky Way.


I am sitting on the women’s sun deck by the hot tubs. An indoor tiled Japanese style bath is quite deep – up to my chin – and very hot. Too hot, in fact, for me. Instead I relaxed in the outdoor tub, stretching out on a water smooth granite chaise. Above me, the sky is Crayola True Blue, a cloudless cloak over the wildflowered mountains. Before me on the private women’s deck is a gallery of nude women: here a large Ruebens buttocks, there a pale lean Kranach. A Matisse sits with her back to me, her legs folded beneath her with a background of underbrush and the song of the creek instead of wallpaper. A Modigliani rises from her nap, breathing in the sun and sweet air. A small child climbs over what is probably her grandmother – both quietly giggling.

7191005490_14a16aa5f4Everywhere is granite and everywhere human hands connect granite walls to matching stones along the creek. There is a rock stairway with a wooden bannister leading to the water. The naked grandmother holds her granddaughter’s hand as they descend to rock seats submerged just precisely enough to cool one’s belly button.

Everywhere are signs of consideration. Like the creekside bannisters, there are carefully selected toiletries, chosen by Tassajara as “ecologically sound” shampoo, conditioners, soaps, lotions and poison oak cleanser are available to care for both guests and land. There are little thoughtfulness: matches and a small dish beside the kerosene lamps; a small table in front of the first aid station on which are provided mosquito repellant and sun screen. Each bed is supplied with a duvet and a goodly supply of warm Army blankets for folks like me who sleep cold.

Food! Try as I might to reconstruct those three delectable meals each day for five days, I cannot. It’s like trying to reconstruct a love affair. I will tell you about their “bag” lunches. The “bag” is a reusable plastic container with a lid. Choice of lunch includes roasted red and green peppers, tapenade, a variety of bread and rolls, hard cheese, soft cheese, goat and cow cheese, guacamole, hummus, half a dozen raw veggies, egg salad, tomato salad and green salad. I do remember a delicious breakfast surprise, semolina with gervasio (sesame salt). And I thought to myself, “you know, I can do some of this at home.”

Adjacent to the dining patio is a tea station with urns of hot water and every tea imaginable. A large bunch of orange monkey pods cheerfully bloom at the base of several shelves which are filled with clear glass tea cups, I’m, told, tea is available 24/7 although I had my last cup of tea early in the day.


The staff were gentle and thoughtful, especially when it came to helping me use my nebulizer. Once I mentioned to either a student or a monk that I was too short to reach those warm Army blankets. Presto! A genie appeared and carefully folded the blanks at the foot of my bed. Then this afternoon I was wandering aimlessly walking around, looking for a spot to sit by the creek when a pleasant young woman stopped, asking if I needed help. I replied that I was looking a chair I’d seen beside the creek. She wove me in and out of her rather labyrinthine collection of student housing to a secluded chair and writing table within hearing distance of the rapids.

I think I am beginning to get an idea of what is meant by zen “practice”, although I’m not altogether sure. Zen doesn’t seem to be a religion but rather a roadmap for day to day living. The core of practice is, of course, meditation. The emphasis is on giving your sole attention to what you are presently doing. To live in the present.

911494903_bf64e0ca0aI watched my good friend Judith who came to Tassajara as a work-study person, standing at the kitchen prep table. There were eight people, four on either side of a long cutting board. Everyone was intently chopping – I didn’t see what they were chopping. I just heard the tap-tap-tap of the knives against the food. No one talked. No one chattered. I later asked Judith if they ever talked. “Only to discuss matters of food”. she replied. This is what Judith calls “practice”. The woman I saw cutting grass around the boulders, was that her practice? She was certainly focused on the present,

I found myself completely in the now with my hearing aids. The only time I wore them when I was a Tassajara was when I went to classes. When I’m in a large restaurant back home, I give up trying to have a conversation because of the noise. At the Tassajara dining room, which probably accommodates up to sixty persons, I wore no hearing aids and joined in conversation comfortably. I attribute this to two things: one, everyone spoke quietly and, two, I was so at ease and so completely living in the present that I didn’t have all those hundreds of thoughts running around in my head which I am sure get in the way of giving full attention to anyone or anything.


I’m thoroughly convinced that a once a year trip to Tassajara will keep me both physically and psychologically healthy for a long time These past five days have been the only time in my entire life that I almost never hassled myself. I had no ruminations, no repercussions, no guilt, no alienation. I was just there.

How to keep some of this now that I am home.

Find peace for myself.
Slow down. If it’s supposed to get done, it will get done sooner or later. Keep a mindfulness of touch.
Take time to feel where I am. Look up at the sky. Note the variations of blue. Feel the breeze on my face. Define the shapes and colors of the trees. Look for bugs and worms in the grass. Find the smallest blooms. Carefully watch where I step. Locate myself in space.
Be more attentive to others. A phone call, a drop by visit, a get well card, a food treat. A thank you note.
Take time and care with food. Let Tassajara food be a model. Learn new ways of preparing food. Find my center when chopping or stirring. Taste each ingredient as I add them. Take time to taste. Nourish myself. Give the gift of food to others. Say I care about you with food. Say I love you with food.

The Ballad of Glen Coe

Summer, 1978. On a camping trip through the UK with Gail and future son-in-law, Sean. Sean, a native Brit, shows us all the sites tourists didn’t see as well as some unexpected ones. A late August night, it was past ten o’clock, and that far north in Scotland, dusk was just beginning to fall. We were looking around for place to camp and not having much luck finding a suitable spot. Sean stopped at a petrol station, asked for suggestions. We were directed to turn off the main road, and there was a quiet glen, “if ye don’t mind the spirits,” we were told.

The next morning, as we were driving northward to Skye, we recounted the night before:


By Marylou Shira Hadditt

‘Twas a dark and cloudy night
We camped out in Glen Coe
The mountains looked forebodin’
Those clouds were filled with woe.

We pitched our tents up hill away
And set dinner on to cook,
We sank our feet into the bog
And walked about to look.

Across the Glen were three cruel crags
With gray and purple stones
And on each mountain top, a cave
Densely filled with ghostly bones.

“Let’s not camp here”, I begged them
“This glen’s a scarey site.”
“It’s just the mountains”, Sean replied
“You’ll be quite safe tonight.”

And so we set our bed rolls
And so we ate our food
And so we washed our dishes
And went to bed for good.

I’m layin’ in the dark of night,
Thickly black inside the tent,
Then I heard some clompin’ hoofs
Round the tent they went.

My heart is beatin’ faster
My adrenalin’s rising up
The hoofs are kicking at the stones
Stompin’ round where we’d sup.

“Go way! Go way!” I heard them cry
“Be gone ye from our Glen”.
Clompin’, stompin’ round my tent
Gallopin’ round the fen.

‘Go way! Go way! you human beings.
“Go back to town and store,
‘You’re sleeping on our stompin’ grounds
‘We cannot dance no more.

“Go way, leave this magic place
“We don’ like folks around.
“Go way, go way, be gone
“This is our sacred ground.”

Are they goin’ to get me?
Are they leanin’ on my tent?
Do you hear those hoof beats clompin’?
Do you know which way they went?

Enter now our hero, Sean
Who opens tent flap wide
He looks to right, he looks to left,
“Hmmm. There’s only dark outside”.

Calls Sean to us, ‘What’s that?
‘You say you hear a noise?
‘Don’t be afeard, it’s only wind
‘Go sleepy-bye girls and boys.”

So brave Sean puts his head
Back inside his tent.
With one or two final clomps
Away the spirits went.

Was it wind or was it ghosts
Of that battle long ago
When Celtic clans met and clashed
In the massacre of Glen Coe

(Glen Coe, Scotland 1978)

PS. Sean admitted that he, too, heard the clomping, but. as a native Brit, he knew how to handle ghosts.

Why Do You Write?

Perhaps I can articulate why I have kept this small portion of a speech as a treasure in my file.  Mostly, because I’ve read volumes on “How to”: write novels, memoirs, essays, poetry, fiction, nonfiction: –  tens of thousands of words by more published and unpublished authors than I can count. Here in 313 words, Nobel Prizewinner, Orpham Pamuk says it all. 


From Orhan Pamuk’s Nobel Lecture, 2006

Why do you write?
I write because I have an innate need to write. I write because I can’t do normal work as other people do. I write because I want to read books like the ones I write. I write because I am angry at everyone. I write because I love sitting in a room all day writing. I write because I can partake of real life only by changing it. I write because I want others, the whole world, to know what sort of life we lived, and continue to live, in Istanbul, in Turkey. I write because I love the smell of paper, pen, and ink. I write because I believe in literature, in the art of the novel, more than I believe in anything else. I write because it is a habit, a passion. I write because I am afraid of being forgotten. I write because I like the glory and interest that writing brings. I write to be alone. Perhaps I write because I hope to understand why I am so very very angry at everyone. I write because I like to be read. I write because once I have begun a novel, an essay, a page I want to finish it. I write because everyone expects me to write. I write because I have a childish belief in the immortality of libraries, and in the way my books sit on the shelf. I write because it is exciting to turn all life’s beauties and riches into words. I write not to tell a story but to compose a story. I write because I wish to escape from the foreboding that there is a place I must go but—as in a dream—can’t quite get to. I write because I have never managed to be happy. I write to be happy.

Midwifing a Death


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January 15, 2004


By Marylou Shira Hadditt

This is about death – a more forbidden word than ‘sex’. About death and an extraordinarily profound experience. I drove up the Coast to spend a day and a night with my friend, Page who had terminal liver cancer. The day was sunny and bright – the winter rains made the moss on the redwood bark shine like neon and the familiar route 128 took on new dimensions. Page had rented a house on the sea; she wanted to wake up in the morning to see the ocean once more before she died. The house was in Albion, (adjacent to Salmon Creek bridge where I’d had my car accident twelve years ago. Page was with me in the aftermath.)

The Albion house, was a gem of a California home. All floor to ceiling windows and redwood rafters and exposed beams. The house sat right on the edge of the headlands. One could see the ocean from every room in the house – Page’s large king size bed looked both to the West and South where a series of seaside monoliths caught the breaking waves. Even with the windows closed, we heard the sounds of the surf all night long. There was a quiet and peacefulness, both inside and outside the windows.

Page astonished me. An intense person – we are alike in many ways- one of which is often not being sure of ourselves. In bed in her bedclothes, she was a different woman. Clearly, without hesitation, she voiced her needs and desires. “I need your help”, or “I don’t want your help just now” — all voiced without “could you please” or “would you mind”. She told me and another visitor that it was time for us to go, She wanted the last half hour alone with the sea. Page could not have been that direct two months ago. There had been a transformation.

The transformation of her acceptance of death. She did a lot of reading about death, she asked friends to bring her poems and stories; I read to her from Whitman, “and to die is different from anyone supposes and luckier.” She asked me to repeat “luckier” several times. I read a fable about Eros and Death, getting their arrows mixed up with one another – love with death and death with love. Another fable of a Maori woman who shed her old woman’s skin. Page liked these simple fables. There were precise, no ambivalence. Page told me about a breathing meditation: on the inhale, the breath encircles the heart giving it protection from fear, but she admitted, sometimes the fear sneaks in. Page surrounded herself with dying and death, not sadly, not mournfully, but in gentle peaceful acceptance.

As I look back now on our two decades of friendship, I feel blessed to share dying as we share our living. I drove back to Sonoma County, not with sadness, or grief. I drove with an uplifting feeling, one might even call it grace. As I drove through that cave of redwoods along the Navarro river, turned on the Mendocino NPR station, – there was Berlioz’ L’Enfance du Christ. The nobility and holiness of that music, the grace of the redwoods, the shadows on the roadway: these embraced me. In love — and perhaps the grief, like Page’s fear, will sneak in from time to time.


Page Prescott was the midwife for her own dying. She saw what needed to be done and went about doing it. Shortly after the days at the Coast, three days after her 70th birthday, Page chose not to eat and not to drink fluids. She was inviting death to come to her. She selected a cardboard casket and asked friends to decorate it. During the next week and half, she made certain to say all her good-byes. Eleven days later, she slipped quietly away in her sleep with family and friends nearby to ritually cleanse her body, prepare for cremation.

Two weeks later I had a wonderful dream. I am standing in my garden when a bright red World War I monoplane flies over. Page is the plot, wearing an old fashioned pilots cap. She leans out the window, calling, “Tootle oooh! Bye Bye” and sails off.

It’s Not Easy: Giving Up Driving


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GUEST OPINION: ‘I stopped, but it’s still not easy’
Originally published: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 at 5:11 p.m. Santa Rosa Press Democrat

I am 84. I quit driving two years ago on Dec. 31, 2010. At first it was very difficult. It’s still not easy.

I spent the first six months having anxiety attacks whenever I had to arrange transportation. Two years later, this still happens when I get last minute invitations.

I spent the next six months depressed and introspective while I learned to accept my new self-imposed lifestyle. Now when I hear a neighbor say, “I was bored so I hopped in the car and went shopping,” I confess the sin of envy.

It’s not easy.

I took the better part of the year to assemble a list of available public and private transportation:

Sebastopol Area Senior Center — no charge — but with five working days notice required.

Jewish Family and Children’s Services — with a fee — 24 hour notice.

Sonoma County Paratransit – fee — 24 hour notice.

Sebastopol shuttle — nominal fee — the last bus leaves downtown Sebastopol at 3:30 p.m.

It takes research and imagination. Other alternatives:

Airport Express, $35, takes me to Oakland Airport where my East Bay family picks me up.

Golden Gate Transit is a dreary 2½-hour drive into downtown San Francisco.

Each of the above public facilities has its individual quirks.

It takes creativity. A friend takes me grocery shopping every Wednesday. Good friends live in the country, far from the bus route. Paratransit delivers and picks me up at a restaurant in the village — my friend ferries me to her house. For after-dark events, I have a list of folks who enjoy similar things so I have both transportation and a date.

There were hints to decreasing driving ability. I list them in ascending order: I found it too stressful to drive freeways to San Francisco or Oakland — thus there were less frequent visits with my family. I took three right turns to avoid a left turn. I stopped parallel parking. I drove no more than 20 miles from home. No more night driving. My knuckles turned white when I grasped the wheel in traffic. At the intersection of Highway 12 and Fulton Road, I looked down and saw my foot on the accelerator instead of the brake. I corrected myself, didn’t bash into anyone. But I immediately remembered the Santa Monica man whose “stuck foot” plowed through a farmer’s market full of people in 2003, leaving 10 dead and 63 injured.

I chose to sell my car and gave up my keys.

My four adult children were glad they didn’t have to take the keys from me. Although in retrospect I wonder if I ignored any hints they may have given me. After the fact, one daughter said, “Mom, I felt like I was driving with Mr. Magoo.”

It’s not easy.

I’ve lost two valuable parts of my life: Freedom to go where I want, when I want to and privacy — delicious aloneness inside my car, encapsulated, a special place with windows on the world. Just me with my radio or CDs, sailing along Sonoma County’s country roads. One winter evening, atop Coleman Valley Road, dreaming down at the sea and the sunset, I pushed KDFC and there, miraculously on the radio was Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. Delicious memory — my car and me.

I kept my expired driver’s license for more than a year.

Ironically, there is a special ID card for seniors that carries the same ID number and looks exactly like my driver’s license —- except it isn’t. And it’s still not easy.


Stories Seldom Told: Lot’s Wife

here’s the link to the Stories Seldom Told Script online at


IRID (written by Shira Hadditt)
(Based on Genesis Chapter 19)
No one knows my name. The name I was given at birth. The name my parents spoke when they called me to dinner; the name my brothers and sisters sang when they called me to play. I spent half my short life knowing who I was. Then I got married and somehow, I ceased to exist. I ceased to exist for myself, for my husband, and sometimes I am sure, I ceased to exist for my daughters. Those sweet girls, I’m sure they secretly worried that would grow up only to lose themselves in marriage as I had done. Yet we never spoke about. it One didn’t talk about such things; we were expected somehow to learn to live with our sense of nothingness. For all eternity, I have been identified by my husband’s name and none other.

Lot’s wife. No more. No less. There is no me.

I raised Tana and Tiamat, my daughters, as best I could despite the fact that Lot continually blamed them and blamed me that they were not boys, when of course we all know it was his seed which made them girls, not me. I was only the repository. But of course, we didn’t talk about that either. They would often come to me, my gentle daughters, asking why Lot was so brusque and sharp with them. I would smile meekly and say, “that’s just your father’s way, he loves you very much.” I wasn’t about to believe this and I’m sure they weren’t either.

I only wish I could believe that my husband, the father of my daughters, really cared for them. Virtuous Lot is that self-same man who had the gall to tell an unruly mob to do what they would to our lovely girls. “Do what you will”, I heard him say, not caring a whit if his daughters were raped or brutalized as long as G-d’s angels were left alone. Doesn’t Lot have enough faith in G-d’s ability to protect the Angels that he had to offer up the bodies of his daughters, his flesh and blood, as bounty?

That’s why I turned back. To see if my girls were there, to see if they were following Lot and me from the besieged city. I saw their bright faces, was relieved to see their young bodies unharmed, their eyes questioning. “Where are we going? and why?”

“Mother, Mother, wait for us.” They called to me. “Here am I, Darlings, waiting for you”. I turned around to reassure them. That’s when it happened. I don’t believe a cruel G-d punished me, but a kind and loving G-d gave me final respite.

When I turned back, I had dissolved. I became somebody for all ages. I became a pillar of salt. Some say that I became in death that pillar of strength, which is expected of all women. Others say I became the salt of the earth. For generations I have been known only as Lot’s wife. My name is Irid.


On Cross Country Moves

Does it really matter, like Penny said, Mom, that was 40 years ago. Forty years ago that we moved from Chicago to California. And yesterday an email from Lucia read:

IMG00401-20130923-1432≤Van pulled out @ 2:50 pm, 20 years, 10 months and 2 days after we took possession of this house that has sheltered us and kept us safe, and helped raise our children.>

I cried. First I cried for Lucia, the gentleness of saying goodbye to a house that kept her safe and helped raise her children. Then I sobbed for me. Sobbed for never saying goodbye to 50th street, that’s what we called our Chicago house. When I cried and talked go Lucia yesterday, complimenting her on her loving leave taking, out slipped from my mouth, with no forethought, “When I left 50th st, I fled. And I did. And the house we moved into twelve years before we moved out did not keep us safe, did not shelter us from the storms of our own conflicting souls and hearts and hopes. Did not keep us safe from the internalized resentment Tom and I had toward each other. Did not make a safe place to raise our children but surrounded them with our own sexual mishagash and alcohol.

I fled that house. When we moved to California, I fled that house in much the way I fled, in a hyper manic sate, after hallowe’en 1972. I was owned by the house or owned by everything in it. i remember a fragment of a poem: I was drowning in piles of Oriental rugs, piles of paper and clippings and books everywhere. A piece of the Garrick theater decor that, only the week before we left for CA, did Tom admit he never liked the thing. And how pretentiously he would point out to guests the rare Louise Sullivan carving framed over our mantel. How pretentious he was about his rugs, prints, pots. All were finer, rarer than in most museums. And for a long time, I believed him too.

1030 E 50th St. {Penny says, " the family joke is that this house is literally 5 or 6 doors around the corner from Obama House. Too bad we couldn't hang onto it, eh?"

1030 E 50th St. {Penny says, ” the family joke is that this house is literally 5 or 6 doors around the corner from Obama House. Too bad we couldn’t hang onto it, eh?”}

How much in love with him when I married him. Handsome, brilliant, melancholy Tom. I was going to make him happy. We combined my inheritance and his low GI bill loan to buy the house. We were going to make a home for all his collection: his Japanese prints, his Chinese pots, his antique rugs, his valuable books.
And by the end, most of the fine Japanese prints were sold at auction at Christie because neither of us were working and we lived on those prints. Like a house of cards, it all fell down on us. On me, on Tom, on our children.

I tried to remember my leave taking of 50th Street. Did I help pack things? Or did I just take off for California on the first plane I could get after January 1st to go to a new job, a new life. What do I remember? I don’t remember a moving van loading up like Lucia saw. I remember a tag sale, all over the dining room table;; I remember a piece of junk that had belonged to Noel sold for some ridiculously high price; I still remember the autographed White Sox ball from the year they won the pennant that Sam Bell had gotten for Steve and Steve said to sell it. Every once in a while, middle-aged Steve will mumble that he wished he had it.

I don’t even remember packing a suitcase. Getting on the plane. Getting off the plane.I remember going into the manager of the Contra Costa Times office, where they thought — from my good references from my boss
— they had a star salesperson === only my boss and I really knew my skills were limited to the Hyde Park Community. I got sent to the Valley Times. Wearing a brown knit dress which I thought would be California clothes I got from Stevie Breslauer in Hyde Park. Walking in there being terrified.. remembering visiting managers of large chain stores and not knowing what to say. In afterthought, I think somewhere along the line, i crashed, but that was long before I understood the working of the bipolar person.

And then I got fired. I don’t remember what they told me but the message was I was too hippie. I wore beads. And beads were Berkeley and free speech movement and Peoples Park. Fired: two or three months after we moved into that dinky three bedroom house, the girls shared a room, tom had an office. I had 1/2 of a double bed, 1/2 of a closet, but I did have my own towel rack.

As some point, I must have had some kind of incident or something, because I remember Tom took me to Stanford psyhc clinic, and the doctor said if I had another attack, he would put me on this new medication, Lithium, but he’d rather wait. Too bad he didn’t Rx it then.

So does it matter, forty years later, if I stayed and packed boxes, or if I left the whole responsibility to Tom. who’s been dead 25 years and to movers who are probably out of business. Does whatever happened forty years ago really make a difference today?. Do I need to feel guilty and bad mommy?. I think not. I really think not.

When we had our family meeting on 8/25 and I said I wanted my therapist to speak at my memorial service about how difficult the life of a bipolar person was, All three kids agreed it was completely inappropriate for a therapist to speak about treatment of a patient.

“ Besides, we all know you’re crazy,? mom. And they said it with love. Not with cynicism. Not with anger, They said it with love.