Reading: Atonement by Ian McEwan. It's utterly amazing and has inspired me to finally update the bookblog (thought not until this weekend probably).

Watching: American Idol, though I never seem to catch the episode where they actually sing, only the one where they spend an interminable amount of time telling you who got kicked off. It consists of many shots of contestants holding each other's hands and closing their eyes while inhaling really deep and many shots of Simon looking bored out of his skull.

Posting: The results of the Oscar Pool. Thank you to everyone who entered!

So, where the hell have I been?

My 97-year-old grandfather had a heart attack one Wednesday morning. The thing about it was that I was supposed to have gone up to visit him the weekend before, but I bailed on it because the weather was supposed to be bad.

And it was only a fluke that I found out about it the day it happened, too. I was doing my depressed hibernation act where I ignore my blinking message indicator light, and I was sitting on the couch that night mindlessly channel surfing when the phone rang and it was my cousin. I wasn't going to answer it except I had just talked to her a couple of days before, and we don't talk that often, so I picked it up, and she assumed I had heard already, so I freaked out and called my mother.

She ended up flying from Hilton Head (where my parents spend January, February, and March) to DC that Friday morning. I picked her up and we drove up the small Pennsylvania town where my grandfather and various other aunts and uncles and cousins were, and we spent the weekend there, and my grandfather looked amazing.

He refused the standard post-heart attack procedure of catheterization. (He says to the doctor: "Are you kidding me? You've seen my chart, right? What does it say in the age box?") Even though the doctors told him he could have another heart attack at any moment and he wouldn't survive it.

So it's three weeks later, and he's back in his room at the home, watching the basketball tournament and taking walks in the cemetery (yes, the cemetery) right outside his room. I was feeling so very guilty about having blown off the trip to see him because he isn't going to live forever, but I'm starting to think he just might.

He is still so sharp and funny and remembers everything about everyone and everything that's ever happened to him. He can still tell you the story of how he was taking his grocery store's cash deposit to the bank one day and everyone there was going crazy but he didn't know why. (It was October 29, 1929.)

I don't have any pictures of him, because it felt too morbid to take them that weekend when things were still so touch and go, but I'll be going back in a couple of weeks and I'll take a few then. You really have to see him. He's incredible.

I signed up for violin lessons which I was going to do over a year ago and I don't know why I finally decided to do it, but I did and had my first lesson on Thursday.

The lessons are kind of expensive ($22 for a half hour, and who knows, maybe that's how much music lessons cost nowadays but I think my mother paid $8 an hour for my flute lessons when I was ten) but the rental on the violin is only $15 total for the first three months. So if I end up hating it, I'm not out that much for the instrument itself, just the lessons, and that's only fair as I am paying for someone's time and knowledge and patience.

I honestly didn't expect to be playing anything at all after my first lesson. I figured it would take a half an hour for her to simply show me how to hold the thing and teach me the names of all the parts. Well, she doesn't work like that. She pulled the violin out of the case and stuck it under my chin, showed me quickly how to hold the bow, and then opened the book (Suzuki Book 1) to the first song (Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, but of course) and told me to play.

And I did! There are three little red strips of tape across the fingerboard and most notes in the book have a "1", "2", or "3" above them, so all I have to do is decide whether it's a note on the A string or the E string (I'm not up to the G or D strings yet) and then put down that number of fingers on the tape.

Don't get me wrong, I sound horrible. But I am playing, in the loosest sense of the word. TTLS, Go Tell Aunt Rhody, all the classics.

Actually, I do know why I finally decided to do it, and that is because I suddenly became very, very tired of my life, and I needed to do something, anything.

My depression has been worse than it has ever been before, to the point where it was scaring me. (I don't get suicidal, thankfully; it's more that I feel like I am literally going crazy, like I have lost control of my brain, and there were times when it did kind of freak me out.) I was convinced that everyone in my life found me insignificant, my existence wholly peripheral to theirs. I threw up almost every day. I also cried nearly every day, usually (for some reason I don't understand) in the car, and that's always nice when you're driving to work, since we all know how sobbing does wonders for your complexion, not to mention the entertainment factor for fellow commuters. I'd have a not-so-bad day, get hopeful that I was finally pulling out of it, and then, no, not so much.

Right now, though, I'm having a stretch of non-bad days, probably the longest I've had since the beginning of the year. They aren't great, mind you. Everything feels very tender and delicate at the moment, like I have yet to find some solid ground, and I still feel more or less lost most of the time. But the cloud is lifting.

Let's just say I've upgraded my condition from serious to guarded. We'll see what happens next.

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