Sometimes it just is.
Christmas is the giving season.
Well, I'd like to see unabashed getting come back into style.
Every day that my mom was in hospice, our littlest grandson (her great grandson), brought her presents. His sippy cup, his tools, the TV remote, his bottle (...empty...let's not get carried away) a flower. Whatever odd thing he picked up, he'd offer it.
I'm convinced that every gift he brought her added a day to her life, so delighted was she to receive them. She knew he wanted her to smile, laugh, get better. He knew the TV remote made him bat shit crazy happy, so he felt sure it would do the same for her. So he gave it.
It worked. Getting gifts, no matter what kind, mattered to her, made a difference.
Now, I'm laid up.
Mercifully not yet in hospice.
Nothing even life threatening. Just annoying hip surgery. A surgery made more annoying by the fact it arrived on the heels of my mother's death. Not the best emotional timing.
That's when they started coming.
The gifts. The cards. The flowers. The food. The texts. The emails. The Facebook messages. The blog comments. The tweets.
Every possible venue available for gift giving and well wishing was taken advantage of, on my behalf, by the most thoughtful, generous people I've ever known. Some, I don't even know well. Some I haven't heard from in more than 30 years. But I can promise you...
It worked. Getting these gifts, in whatever form, mattered to me, made a difference.
They brought tears, made me laugh, soothed my grieving soul, put band-aids on my wounded heart, and lifted my heavy, sagging spirits.
Flowers, as a way to say, "I'm thinking about you and want to make your day a little better" will never be the wrong way to go. Marybeth, Melanie, Patsy, Beth and Tom, Mark and Luann, and the good people at Venoco sent all these.
The well wishes, kind thoughts, and perfect sentiments keep rolling in.
I'm a writer. Words carry a lot of weight with me. Here's some that were sent my way from Mark and Sandy, Jack and Justine, Kelly Rutter Nemic, Tom and Becky, Wes Marshall, Pat and Marcia and Matt and Jennifer:
The very one who rocked you in the beginning needed you most in the end...your mom must've been an amazing woman.
As you remember your mom, others are thinking of you and wishing you comfort.
People who've lost someone special know that the real grieving begins...later...when everyone has gone back to their own lives...know that those who care for you wish to share this difficult time...
I know your mom loved you more than anything...
Sending well wishes your way and hoping your boo boo soon goes away.
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.
Your mom must've been a rock, an inspiration and a person who cherished her family.
I'm here for you.
Whatever you need.
We're thinking of you and your family.
Although I'm not a part of your inner circle support group, I feel a special bond with the Venoco family and it breaks my heart when someone so kind and caring as you and Ed suffer such a loss.
That one was especially meaningful since it came from someone I don't know well, who works with my husband. Yet he took the time to write, and send, as much comfort as he could.
I'm not a religious person.
I've said so often in these pages.
But there's something particularly lovely about spiritual people who send me biblical words of healing and support. They're sharing something so personal and meaningful to them that they're willing to cross the boundaries of political correctness to do it.
I've been so humbled and touched by their offerings of prayers and extensions of grace.
No matter what you believe, I can't think of anything more comforting than knowing others are calling on their God and his angels to make an exception for you.
Then there's the emails, texts and phone calls (in some cases nearly every day) from my kids, my grandkids and my friends like Lisa Rivas, Lisa Robles, Mary, Kerri, Angel and Marybeth, Terry and Barbara and Mike and Jana.
Then there's Haley. My special food friend who made me homemade bread and sent us this lasagna when she heard I was having surgery. She's only 12...I keep thinking she's 11 but hubby says I'm wrong....which would be unusual for me. At any rate, she's young but knows the value of the right gift at the right time.
Then there's my author friends, Robin Winter, EL Farris, Julie DeNeen and A.W. Daniels, and William Martin who continue to market my book and blogs on Twitter, FB, and their own blogs even though I haven't been able to reciprocate in quite a while. And even though they have their own stuff to promote.
And this book came from my friends Jennifer and Matt...for something to do between the drug taking, the self pity, the mindless staring into space and eating. It's about a woman who has hip surgery and her husband thinks he can get away with a bunch of stuff cause she's out of commission. She kills him with a bed pan and crutches.
Na....just kiddin...I haven't had the chance to start it yet. I'm still in the mindless staring into space phase.
From my daughter, Kayla, this husband groper...I mean an extended arm from the hip surgery kit she sent. That claw on the end is holding the lip balm I dropped. Clutch.
And finally, there are those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for me:
The Fickers, the Behnke's, Marybeth Carty, Lisa Rivas and bartender guy, who all bellied up to the bar in my stead. Tears. With friends like these...
So, my blogger friends, my life has been enriched in ways I never thought it could because all of these wonderful people took time out their day to wish me well.
There's an argument to be made that I'm missing the point. There usually is. It's all in the giving not the getting. If all these good souls hadn't given...
Yeah, yeah, I understand that...but for now, I'm the getter.
And this is my blog.
When you lose someone you love, have health issues, or just all around feel like crap, there's not a lot anyone else can do for you. Except this: they can remind you what its like to feel happy.
That's the gift that keeps on giving.
In previous blogs I've regaled you with my hip problems. In case you're new or just want to torture yourself and reread, here they are:
It Can't be That Part I
It Can't be That Part II
Both of these highlight my delightful experience with bi-lateral hip surgery, the medical profession and the health insurance industry. To conclude, after a year of mishaps and misdiagnosis and a year long battle with my insurance, I had labral repairs on both hips.
Labral tears are usually a professional athlete injury. Before you google me to perhaps find out about my storied past as an Olympic Curler, no need. Unless it involves a curling iron, you won't find me. I survived a head on collision. Which should get me a gold medal, but didn't.
Four years later, the familiar tinge snaked through my groin and thigh. I immediately knew what it was.
Been there, done that.
So I did what any intelligent, health conscious person would do.
I ignored it.
Finally, when it got REALLY bad...
I still ignored it.
Then the pain interfered with my stiletto wearing and all bets were off.
Having been pushed around by my general physician before, this time I went directly to the source. I skpped my primary doc and made an appointment with an orthopedic doc - a hip specialist, no less.
Hip Specialist: This is my 15 year old assistant. She'll examine you and I'll be right back.
15 Year old Assistant: Does it hurt when you do this?
Me: Ouch. Yes.
15 Year Old- What about this?
15 Year Old : And this?
Me (catching on): I don't know. I'm not doing that.
15 year old, stern look on unlined, freckled, face: Um hum. Well, let me ask you-
Me: I know what it is already. I've had it before. Torn labrums. Both sides.
15 Year old, eyeing my flabby thighs, gelatinous biceps: Hmmm. Did you have an accident?
Me: Well, four years ago, when it happened the first time, I had a head on collision, they weren't sure-
15 year old: So...no accident. You'll need an x-ray.
Me: Nothing will show up on an xray. I need an MRI.
Xray Technician saunters in- Come with me.
Xray guy chats amiably about nothing. Lines me up in front of the xray machine.
Xray guy: Were you in an accident?
Hip Specialist looking at X-rays: Well, the xrays are clear.
Me: I know. Torn labrums don't show up on xrays. I have to have an MRI.
Hip Specialist: Umm humm...yeah...so have you ever heard of super cali fragilistic bursitis?
Me: I've heard of bursitis.
Hip Specialist: So we can give you a cortisone shot today or start you on physical therapy and if the therapy doesn't help we can still give you the shot.
Me: Does the xray show that I have bursitis?
Hip Specialist: No.
Me: Then why would you treat me for that?
Hip Specialist: Well, we tend to do the easiest stuff first and-
Me: I'm not leaving without an MRI appointment. And you're not giving me a shot and I'm not doing physical therapy. I have torn labrums.
Hip Specialist: Well...if you do have torn labrums you'll have to see the labrum specialist and not me.
Don't threaten me with a good time.
A month later, after my MRI, Hip Specialist calls on a Sunday: You have torn labrums on both sides.
Me: You don't say.
Another month later 18 year old labrum specialist says: Were you in an accident?
18 year old specialist: Yep, both sides, torn. We can't repair them again. They've gotta be replaced. I'll have my assistant schedule it.
Assistant: Okay, all scheduled. Here's the paperwork, all the pre-op and post-op stuff you'll need. By the way, did anybody tell you that you have an ovarian cyst?
Me on hold with my family physician trying to make an appointment to get the cyst checked out. Got cut off three times. Gave up.
18 year old labrum specialist's assistant: Just wanted to let you know we'll need a deposit of half before your surgery.
Assistant: This surgery isn't covered by your insurance.
So, off I go to surgery (again) tomorrow. With my 18 year old surgeon and no insurance.
I'm sure it'll be fine.
It went so well the first time, right?
"If you had the chance, what would you tell your younger self?"
I've seen that question a lot lately. It's a blog topic, a celebrity interview question. The answers are often trite.
"I really AM beautiful."
"Don't be so hard on yourself."
"You ARE thin enough."
Not that those things aren't true. They're just probably not the only true things.
At least not for me.
Whenever I've dared examine myself, if I'm honest, I've never concluded that I'm fantastic. Does anyone with half a brain ever leave a therapist's office thinking, "It really is everybody else?"
So, in the spirit of having half a brain...what would I tell my younger self?
It's okay to not have an opinion. I felt strongly about...everything. Even when I didn't know my ass from a hole in the ground. Wait...I don't think I've changed that much...anyhoo...
My friends' husband?
Thought he was a jackass. Did I know him? No.
Who's Reagan? What's an omic? No matter. I could argue for a couple hours about that topic.
I was there. I knew it wasn't true.
There's something to be said for the ignorant optimism of the young. It's just not anything good.
It's okay to have an opinion and keep it to yourself. Ack. Little did I know that even if I knew a lot about the subject at hand, it was sometimes preferable, even wise, to keep my pie hole SHUT.
My friend's husband really was a jackass.
Shoulda kept that gem to myself.
Jeans don't make your ass look fat. All that fat makes your ass look fat.
Who knew she wouldn't take that well?
I wasn't there and I still don't think its true. But, do I really need to tell the devout (like my mother-in-law for instance) I'm an atheist? Well, agnostic. I'm too lazy to take a stand.
Turns out, no.
Silence really is golden.
Chances and opportunities aren't limitless.
This one hurts. Bad.
Went to the concert instead of work? Fired.
No problem, I'll just get another job. Not so fast. Especially when you've done it ten or twenty times and you're 35 and the economy comes to a screeching halt.
Need to exercise more patience and understanding toward my mother? Sure. Later.
Too late now. She's gone.
Didn't finish college? Who needs that crap? I'll do it later.
Marriage, kids, divorce, finances, life...later never came.
Here's the finest pearl of wisdom: chances and opportunities involve a hell of a lot of work and sacrifice. Not willing to do it? Then it won't happen.
Other than a fair trial, you have a right to very little.
Your parents or your neighbors lifestyle isn't your birthright. See chances and opportunities.
Privacy is a privilege, especially if you still live at home.
Happiness is a choice, often elusive.
Self esteem is earned. Doing a job well (starting with that first one at McDonalds), working hard at something even though you're not that good at it until you get better, doing things you need to do instead of just what you want to do, that's how you build self esteem.
Stand up for something you believe in even if it costs you.
Changing the world is often something only the young have the energy for, so do it.
Go to the mat for an ideal. Nothing builds character more than that.
Hate your job and want to quit? Wait.
HAVE, HAVE, HAVE to get married? Wait.
DYING to have kids? Wait.
Can't imagine living without that way too expensive outfit? Wait.
How many mistakes would I have avoided if I'd have just...waited.
What doesn't kill you often doesn't make you stronger.
Trash your health with booze and cigarettes? Cirrhosis and emphysema don't kill you...at least not quick. Hacking up your lungs and turning yellow from jaundice really isn't attractive. And it sure doesn't look fun either.
If you feel depressed or anxious ignore it, buck up, it'll go away. It won't affect your judgment or your decision making? Right?
This will kill you. But not until you swill in misery for years.
The same bad relationships over and over? They wear you down, give you ulcers and wrinkles, make you cry, and beat you down. Kill you?
Gratitude is more important than almost anything.
There hasn't been one day of my life that I haven't had something to feel grateful for. I should've recognized it, celebrated it, shown thanks for it.
Lucky for me, I'm still breathing. As long as I am, it's not too late.
The woman I thought would never die, did.
When I was ten, there was a girl in my class who had no mother. I don't remember anything about her other than that. At the time, I couldn't imagine anything worse.
I realize that a ten year old losing her mother is a tragedy. A 51 year old losing her mother is the ordinary course. Illogically, I feel orphaned. There should be something between tragedy and ordinary, and whatever it is, it's painful.
For most of my adulthood I worked hard to maintain a healthy separation from my mother. I sometimes over reached in my efforts, in ways I'm sure she found hurtful. I needed a reprieve from her intrusion, her enabling, her self destructive lifestyle. At the thought of her permanent absence, I only imagined relief.
Now I only miss her.
One of the many things she did that drove me crazy, I now admire - she lived her life exactly the way she wanted to, with no explanations or apologies.
And, here's the kicker - she never expected explanations or apologies from me either. And I can assure you I owed her some. Everyone raise their hand who shouldn't apologize to their mother.
That's what I thought.
My mother didn't come from a generation that sat around talking about their feelings, and she didn't. Ever. To my great annoyance. But now I realize she lived what she felt. No words necessary.
I knew she loved me and she knew I loved her. That's what it comes down to in the end.
But, I find myself in a mother-free limbo.
Where is my place in the world without my mother? Besides, next?
I'm still a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a writer.
But now, I'm no one's daughter.
Who do I call for a quick, invigorating tussle?
Who can I count on to disagree, disapprove?
Who has to love me even when I'm a jackass, a shit head?
And who has to always open her door for me?
When my mother died, all those certainties went with her and I'm adrift, feeling like a real grown up, responsible for myself without her as a safety net. And she could be the greatest safety net ever.
I don't believe death makes us better than we were in life. So, as much as I loved my mother I'm not about to elevate her to sainthood now that she's gone.
To say my mother was a saint would be an insult to her memory.
She was no saint. She was a card carrying human being with all the flaws and frailties that membership requires.
She was complex, hard to figure, often difficult.
But she loved everyone she knew the best way she could, with no hesitation, and she gave everything.
I didn't always agree with the way she went about it.
I didn't think she made the best choices.
We didn't often see eye to eye.
I didn't understand her.
But there's a hole in my life where my mother used to be.
Some things you don't know about till you experience them. Raising boys is one.
We have two sons and one and a half grandsons - 14 months old and still in utero, due in December.
Now's the time.
There're things I wish I'd known so I could've passed them on to our sons when they were younger, so I'm gonna get started on the grandsons now.
These are things only your grandma will tell you...okay...probably only if your grandma is me...some little known gems, and some tried and true oldies but goodies.
Rules to live by:
1. Never wear bangs. Ever. Under any circumstances.
I'm not sure how this happens.
Is it a hairstyle that won't stay where it's supposed to?
Are the bangs unintentional? Blown down by the wind, lack of styling products, short forehead?
Who knows? Who cares?
Any haircut that might result in a bang situation should be off limits.
2. Capris pants aren't for you. No, not even in Europe. No, not if you're gay. If you have a penis, capris have no place in your wardrobe.
Gingham is off limits too. I know, 007 wore it. With his toupee.
Think about it.
3. Even soccer moms have tattoos. Sorry, the "I'm cool cause I have tattoos" ship has sailed, especially for you.
You'll have to think of something else.
And no, not lip rings or those platter sized earrings. By the time you're old enough to have those, grandpa will have them.
Maybe you can vote Republican, join the Tea Party. That'll show us.
4. Learn to cook. Odds are your wife won't. If you have a life partner instead of a wife...he probably won't either.
5. Money still talks. There's been quite a shift since the 2007 recession. We've returned to a simpler way of life. Less focus on things, more on the spiritual.
It's all a fake out.
Nothing is more attractive than a financially secure man. It's just not politically correct to say so.
I'm not talking Bill Gates wealth necessarily, although that kind of uber money isn't a dating detriment, I can assure you. I'm talking about a guy who knows how to save a buck, invest wisely, work hard.
The number of zeros differ, but the principal is the same. A safety net is a turn on.
Poverty is only romantic in novels and politics. In real life, it sucks.
6. Don't be cheap. This seems to fly in the face of #5. It doesn't.
Investing wisely means finding balance. Don't stop living for today because you're too worried about tomorrow. You can do both.
There's more than one way to invest. You gotta invest in your personal life just like it was a mutual fund.
It's all a matter of degree.
Work hard, but take vacations.
Save some, spend some.
Chicks like gifts. They just do. So, you'll have to buy them.
Wining and dining? You betcha.
And, never, ever make a girl you're dating pay her share. This is another of your Mimi's politically incorrect views.
A lot of women will say that a man carrying the dating financial burden alone died with Lucy Ricardo. Well, watch and learn. See who gets more dates. The guy who splits the check or the guy who, without fuss or fanfare, pays.
I still love Lucy.
7. Never underestimate Flower Power. Buy them. Pick them. Hell, even grow them. Give them.
I've never known a girl who didn't love flowers, or the thought of flowers.
Even just one flower does the trick.
If you give them for no reason...you're in.
8. It's all about the apology. Shit happens, and odds are, it's your fault.
Most of the stupid shit you're gonna do you won't be able to take back.
The apology afterward is all you've got. It better be good.
See #6 and #7.
9. Courtesy is not out of style. Opening doors, pulling out chairs, giving up your seat for the elderly, giving a hostess gift, and writing thank you notes are the signs of a gentleman.
Have some class.
10. Starter dates are better than starter wives. Don't marry the first girl you sleep with. Don't marry the first ten girls you sleep with (if you should be so lucky).
Make your mistakes before they're permanent.
Before you have kids you can screw up.
35 for a man is like 20 for a woman. Live it up.
And for God's sake, don't marry a woman because you think she's gonna be a great mother. She's not gonna be your mother. She's gonna be your wife. A fully formed woman who should know how to act like one.
And no woman worth her salt is easy to get along with a lot of the time.
I just threw that last one in for free.
11. Respect your parents. This has fallen woefully through the cracks.
They brought you in and brought you up the best way they knew how.
You owe them. Not vice versa.
You treat your mother like crap, your life will not be a happy one. I promise you, my friend.
You think you can take on your old man? Try it and good luck to you.
So, remember their birthdays, Mother's and Father's day, and holidays. Just buy a card for Christ's sake. They really mean it when they say they don't need presents.
They just need you to NOT act like an entitled, obnoxious, rude little asshole.
12. Man up. I saved the best, most important one for last.
Get your balls out of your mama's purse and act like a man.
Get a job.
Take care of yourself.
Take care of your family.
Be a good friend.
Be a responsible, contributing member of society.
And if I ever see you crying during any sporting event...we're gonna have words.
When my oldest was born, my mother came bearing gifts. Not for the baby, but for me. A pair of brown polyester trousers and a 3-pack of underwear. Those HUGE kind that double as a shirt. In fact, you don't really have to wear any other clothes, you're all covered.
Mom said, "Now that you're married with a baby you'll need to stop wearing jeans and dressing like a kid."
Never mind I was a kid and she was wearing jeans paired with a puff painted cat sweatshirt. I got the message. You're judged by your outfit. This is a concept I still struggle with, particularly as I get older.
Not long ago, hubby and I attended a work shindig - his work. I'm a writer, we don't have shindigs. Unless you count group therapy.
We had to travel there so I packed a way cute dress that I'd bought last December and still hadn't worn.
That's what a great wife I am. I make sure I always keep a stock of way cute stuff to wear whenever duty calls. I know, I know, I'm a trouper.
Anyway, last December was...a while ago. Perhaps...a few pounds ago.
I remember when I tried it on it was a hair snug. "I'm gonna lose a few pounds right after Christmas so it'll be perfect by the time I wear it."
Turns out that standing up while eating doesn't burn as many calories as I thought. Wine apparently doesn't count as a fruit either.
I realize I'm not gonna get much sympathy here as I am not a big person. But, I will say that as a small person, five pounds is a whole size. Menopause is no respecter of persons. After a certain age...thick frequently turns up in your body description.
And too tight is too tight no matter what.
I was dismayed to discover that the way cute dress I'd packed for the shindig resembled a sausage casing. I might've doubled up on the Spanx but then I'd never have gotten the dress on.
You know you've got problems when the girdle actually makes the dress tighter.
Anyway, after I tugged, yanked, sucked in, and spanxed my way into the dress I looked myself over in an, unfortunately, full length mirror. It got me thinking...
Maybe the dress wouldn't have been right even had it been, well, bigger. I'll admit, the oxygen getting cut off to my brain might've influenced my thought process.
Still. Those brown polyester pants and chin hugger underwear popped into my mind.
Am I dressing too young for my age?
We all know those women. Saggy knees, baggy arms, spandex mini dress. Ack.
Then there's the snowflake sweater, navy knit trousers (yes, there's a difference between pants and trousers and it's not good), serviceable Easy Spirit flat shoes kinda woman. Double ack.
Isn't there something in between?
Does age appropriate dressing equal frump?
I set out to re-vamp my wardrobe.
I started with jeans. Sorry, Mom.
"I want some jeans that don't show my butt crack," I said to the 16 year old salesgirl at Nordstrom. "Those are for kids. I'm getting older, you know."
She looked me over with that, "You don't have to tell me, sister" kind of face. She announces, "I know just the thing. You WILL LOVE them."
I head to the dressing room with a few pairs of decent looking jeans. I noted the brand name stamped in leather on the back - NYDJ. Never heard of it.
I pull them on. And keep pulling. They stopped somewhere around my armpits. The zipper was about 3 feet long. Another version of those underwear.
I creep out of the dressing room, hopeful no one I know sees me.
"Those look darling on you!" 16 year old crack smoking salesgirl says.
"Are these pants or a jumpsuit?" She hasn't noticed I'm not wearing my shirt. No need.
She stays mum, a dental ad smile glued on her face.
"What does NYDJ stand for anyway?"
"Not Your Daughter's Jeans." She chirps.
I look in the mirror. Nope, they're not; they're my grandma's.
I put the jeans back and bought some longer shirts.
Most of my peeps are at that age. Which means their parents are at that age.
So, like some of you, I've had the opportunity to hang out at various old folks homes visiting parents or grandparents. Considering how old I am (although I hate to) I guess I should think of something else to call them since I'll be moving in before you know it. And me living in an old folks home just isn't right.
I'm already rambling...
Anyhoo, I've observed that getting old mostly sucks. But, there are some things that are kinda cool about it, and the closer I get to the golden years the more I want to look on the bright side. Like...
You can be in a wheelchair, have a tracheotomy, be hooked up to an oxygen tank and roll yourself right out to the patio (usually called something like Serenity Garden or some other creepy crap name), and smoke. No one judges you. Okay, there's probably some judging. But, you could give a shit.
You could give a shit.
Don't want to brush your hair? Fuggedaboutit.
Cut your toenails? Nah. You like 'em that way.
Take a shower? Not this month.
Cheat at bingo? Be my guest.
Turn the TV volume up to 500? Have at it.
It's carte blanche, baby.
Teeth and underwear are optional.
The first works well for my mom. She only wears half of hers. The uppers. I think they help keep the cigarette in her mouth while she's rolling around Serenity Garden in her wheelchair looking for her oxygen.
The second worked well for my dad. He was married 8 times. Any no underwear situation was good news for him. Perked him right up. The last time I saw him, a few weeks before he died, he was trying to pick up on his nurse. I think she had on underwear, but who knows what goes on after 4 pm.
You can try to pick up on your nurse.
Or, anyone that tickles your wrinkly, demented fancy.
My husband was a hot commodity visiting the home. The ladies loved him. He's handsome, well under 90, and is still ambulatory. You can imagine the crowd I had to fight off, so to speak.
In the Alzheimer's unit one little old lady told me, "If I was thirty years younger, I'd give you a run for your money for that guy."
Another asked, "What's his name again? I think we used to...you know..."
Everyone expects you to nod off mid-everything. How awesome is this?
Wife yapping? Nod off.
Kids bossing you around? Nod off.
TV turned up to 500 with Jeopardy on? Nod off.
You can see the convenience.
You forget a lot of stuff. Or, so you say. This is a particular favorite of my mom's.
"I only lost $35 at the casino," she'd brag.
"You mean, $3500?"
"No...I don't remember that..." she'd say, nodding off.
Violent outbursts combined with threats of physical violence are considered cute and it's possible they hand out shivs. I passed a tiny, way old lady hobbling along the hallway with her walker. She told her slightly younger companion, "If he comes near me again, I'll cut him." I laughed for a week about this. Thought it was adorable.
White Out is a budgeting tool.
I'll go to my grave insisting on the genius of this nugget.
My dad balanced his checkbook with White Out. He'd sit at the kitchen table, bent over his dog eared bank statements (who knows how old) with the White Out brush poised over his check register.
He'd mumble, "That's not right," and white out the ending balance. Then he'd write in the one he wanted.
Wish I had thought of that.
I'm not that person who recognizes life lessons on a regular basis. It's fair to say I've been bitch slapped by a life lesson or two in my time yet moseyed on undeterred.
Not this week.
This week, I'm paying attention.
Spoon feeding a dying mother has a way of changing a person's perspective. As much as I hate clichés there are several that apply to me right now. I won't bore you with most of them.
But there's one...
It's the small things.
It's been a week of those. The minor and mundane that might go unremembered if not for their timing. While I struggle to come to terms with losing my mother, I'm soaking up the moments that feed my soul.
Camping out with two of my babies. Well, we're at the Marriott with room service but there was no valet so you can understand my confusion.
Adelia: "Mimi, can you get out my way? I have to go number three."
Me: "Can I have a kiss first?"
Madison, my oldest granddaughter and her mother tussled most of last evening. The usual mother daughter tug of war fueled by pre-teen angst. Madison couldn't wait to shake off the parental bonds and head to the hotel room, mother-free. Right before bed...
Madison: "Can I call my mom?"
Me: "Sure, how come?"
Madison: "To tell her I love her and good night."
At the hospital sitting by my mother's bedside:
Mom: "The last time I went to a party wearing lingerie there was that stripper."
Me, fingers in ears: "I can't hear you, I can't hear you."
Mom to my daughter Kayla: "You never were very funny."
Mom, not able to stand, pulling a copy of my book out of her purse for the doctor: "Have you read this? My daughter wrote it."
My husband's hand at the small of my back. Propping me up like he always has and always will.
Finding out my daughter has reserves of strength similar to Hercules and a heart to match.
Whose motto is: "My mom's crying. Someone's gonna pay."
My son-in-law Che sneaking in McDonalds at the hospital sitting next to Mom's bed sharing french fries with her and watching Family Feud, kissing her on the forehead before he left.
Kissing my one year old grandson a bunch of times even though he doesn't really like it. Breathing him in.
My son Daniel calling every day this week to check up on Grandma and see if I'm okay.
So, when I look back on this terrible time, I'll have the sweet as well as the bitter.
In the midst of all the painful, unpleasant business of dying, we are banding together. A family. Still living.
This is our baby Adelia.
She's 6 years old.
She's hilarious. She's smart. She loves to say "butt cheeks" and "sucks to be you."
She wants candy for Christmas and means it. She won't open any present that doesn't sound like it's candy. She shakes the box then hands it back with "Nah...that's okay."
She yells at her baby brother. For nothing in particular. It usually involves "butt cheeks" or "sucks to be you."
She wears her shoes on the wrong feet. I'll say, "Your shoes are on the wrong feet." She says, "It's okay. Don't worry about it."
She likes to one up her dad with fart noises or bad jokes and say, "Sho you right."
She has Cerebral Palsy.
We don't know what that means in the long term. We only know that the long term will be shorter because of her disease.
Her mom and dad have always worked hard to make sure Adelia lives her life like other kids. She does most things for herself. She's just not fast. She rides the school bus. She plays softball. She dances. She sings...badly, but loud. She fights with her older sister. She gets in trouble.
I got to thinking the other day about what kind of life Adelia can have with a disease that gets progressively worse.
Other than the obvious cure, what would I wish for her?
I think I've proven in the short time I've been a blogger that sentiment is not my strong suit. So, I'm not one of those people who think that the disabled are inherently endowed with mystical, magical or pure qualities.
I'm certain there are disabled assholes.
I realize that's not a popular view. Not in a world where we are all in the stranglehold of political correctness. But, I stand by it.
I say, good for them. There're plenty of non-disabled assholes, so please, feel free.
And, I think only idiots say things like, "I don't want her to be defined by her disability."
Have you ever seen a person who struggles with major disabilities?
It defines them.
They don't like it anymore than you do. So stop patronizing them.
But, it all got me thinking...
I want Adelia to fall in love, get her heart broken, make big mistakes, celebrate small victories, say the wrong thing at the wrong time, say the right thing at exactly the right time, hurt someone's feelings, kiss someone to make them better, cry like the world will end and laugh like it never will.
I want Adelia to live a life in full, in all its glorious, messy, and complicated wonder.
Years from now, I want her to visit me in the old folk's home with her shoes on the wrong feet, chocolate all over her face, making fart noises, telling bad jokes and saying, "Sho you right, Mimi."
I just want her to live.
My relationship with my mother is complicated.
Get in line, right?
My mother struggles with a non-treated mental illness and has for all of her adult life, I would guess. Maybe longer.
She is a slave to her destructive, damaging impulses and addictions. They've stripped her of her health, her financial security, her relationships, her dignity.
As her only child, my feelings for her jerk back and forth between love and hate, empathy and disdain. I want to slap her or hug her. I never want to see her again, I want her to move in with me. Sometimes I rail in anger at her, sometimes I beg in desperation - for sins committed, for the awareness and improvements I know will never come.
I've often said to my husband, "Peace won't come for either of us until after her death."
Last week, she had a heart attack.
My mom has long enjoyed a mind-boggling relationship with suffering. She revels in it, she insists on it. Nothing, and no one, can keep her from it. She felt pain in her chest and arm, called 911 herself, got helicoptered out of the middle-of-nowhere, had surgery, and told no one.
I heard it from her neighbor, who called the fire department when she finally noticed something was wrong over at my mom's house - it looked too still, closed up.
Coincidentally, I'd just talked with her doctor the day before, a patient and caring man. The kind of doctor you want but never get. He'd been concerned, as we all were, that she could no longer live alone. It was a conversation she and I had many times, or I should say I had it. She tuned it all out. It's a conversation that went like most I've had with her since I was 13.
A 40 year wrestling match. I always lost.
"Please stop giving everything away."
"Please don't insist on buying dinner."
"Please don't insist on buying everything for everyone."
"Please stop enabling your alcoholic husband."
"Please respect the rules I've laid out for my children."
"Please stop smoking. I'm allergic."
"Please stop smoking. You've had cancer 3 times."
"Please stop gambling all your money away."
"Please respect my boundaries."
All fell on deaf ears.
"Please don't live alone in god forsaken nowhere when you're in such poor health," got the same negative reception as everything else. Or, no reception. She simply pretends I'm not talking.
Her doctor suggested I write her a letter. She might take it better. So, I did. She still hasn't seen it since she is still hospitalized. But, I mailed it.
I put a lot of effort into trying to lay it out to her gently. Without rancor or resentment. I used phrases like:
"I care about you."
"Your living situation scares me."
"You have options."
"We want this chapter of your life to be safe."
Blah, blah, blah.
Even though it was a letter all about her lifestyle and several options for better ways to live, it was really all about her death and dying. A round about way of asking, "Please, let us make your dying easier than your living."
It's been painful to watch her lifelong, deliberate and relentless self destruction. She's frail yet tough. Meek yet stubborn. Until very recently, she moved at a frantic pace, a race to spend, gamble and smoke until the very last second of her life.
She's done a bang up job of it too. She's got nothing left.
I am angry at her. I resent what she's done to herself. I resent what her untreated illness has done to our family. I find her refusal to acknowledge it infuriating.
Yet, last night I realized that when I wrote her that letter, spelled it out as carefully as I could, I left out what I really wanted to say, but couldn't.
Please don't go. I'm not ready.
IF YOU LIKE THE BLOGS YOU'LL LOVE THE NOVELS IN HER TWISTED CRIME SERIES