April 29, 2015
It’s 6:30 am. I’ve already been up for a good hour. Partially because I generally wake up close to that time – but in reality, it’s because my mother woke me accidentally – she was having a bad dream…something I am sure is a regular occurrence now with my Dad’s illness. I can hear him breathing on his oxygen machine from the kitchen – the very kitchen I grew up in. How strange this morning seems – and yet all so familiar too.
Yesterday, my Dad called me at work, something he NEVER does. Mom fell ill; she was dizzy and in bed and he was worried. Having ALS, he is now pretty much wheelchair-bound, so it is difficult for him to help her – although he so valiantly tries. Of course, I rushed directly over to their house….my old house – in fact my grandmother’s old house (talk about “coming home”).
I know I am not a doctor – but I am a mother (too) and she seems to have a virus of some sort (blocked ears). I settled her in and she napped for most of the afternoon – but not before asking me to organize my Dad’s dinner….her main concern. How funny and yet how sweet – 61 years later, she is concerned about getting his dinner on the table on time. No problem, I tell her. I leave to pick up my daughter from school and go home to organize my own family before returning…I insist that I will spend the night because the truth is that they need me to (for Heaven’s sake….who will make Dad’s breakfast if I am not here – and ALS or not – Dad still has his appetite and loves a good breakfast). Mom is all worried about putting me out – but I tell her her “Mom – you sat on edge of my bed for years when I was a kid, whenever I was sick and if I called you today to say I wasn’t well...” she finished my sentence with “I’d rush right over“. Love. Family. Enough said.
So here I am. Roles are reversed and it is strange – and yet, I feel both relieved and happy to be able to do this for them….they have given me so much. Does it take a bit of rescheduling? Of course. But my family (thank goodness that I married the man of my dreams and have such terrificl supportive kids … really) and my wonderful boss and co-workers make it a cinch…ease my concerns with their honest love and support.
So here I sit, at the kitchen table – in my old “seat” waiting for Dad to wake up(although he did briefly – first words out of his mouth were – How is Mom? 61 years and still each other’s main concern, truly amazing…) so I can make his coffee and his breakfast. I feel okay – I feel weird – I feel a bit scared as that future inevitable has given me a trial run. I take solace and am reminded that; To whom much is given – much is expected.…and I know that in the end, I will be able to finish this journey – with grace and a smile, if only to make my parents’ life easier…it’s all I can do.
February 8, 2015
The guests have all gone but their laughter echoes off the walls in my house – their smiles shine in every mirror. How wonderful it was to spend this blustery winter afternoon in the company of so many women who have shaped my every day.
Almost every year I hold a Valentine Party – ladies only – and it all began because we were young mothers with babies and toddlers and the glow of Valentine’s Day had worn off in our marriages as these babies replaced candlelight dinner and the need (I suppose) and the energy for our husbands to court us. It was a completely normal and understandable change in our lives – but me, the hopeless romantic, wanted to still celebrate Valentine’s Day and so I thought, wouldn’t it be great to celebrate these wonderful women I know with a Valentine Brunch.
And so the Valentine Party was born -” the ladies only” part meant -No Kids!! We dressed up, put lipstick on and tried to wear something in some shade of red or pink. We were only 8 at that first brunch….and then it grew….and it grew…and it grew, as did my incredible circle of friends. This afternoon we were 28 people in my small, but party-friendly house. Champagne and orange juice always starts off the celebration and the main event is the connections we made – we continue to make and the freedom to be the young girls that still live inside each one of us.
I am just now putting my feet up, sipping the last glass of champagne, watching the various Valentine decorations swing back and forth and listening to all that wonderful girlish laughter that my walls are kindly holding onto for me.
January 22, 2015
(Lying in bed this morning, I heard Simon and Garfunkle’s Sounds of Silence as I was writing this)
Hello 4:30 my old friend
I’ve come to sit with you again
In the dark before dawn I am creeping
while my family is upstairs sleeping
and the noise of the trucks on my street removing snow
is waking neighbors that I know
These are the sounds – of the sleepless.
In my bed I tossed and turned
while my clock’s face light burned
How many hours before I go to work?
Why does menopause have this sleepless quirk?
and as the hours slowing tick on past
I’m thinking fast
of all the things – I have to do
How many people stop and stare
at the numbers flashing there
on their night tables a-gleaming
and the crazy thoughts that send them reeling
all the worries that loom so large at this tiny hour
by dawn, have no real power
These are the thoughts – of the sleepless.
Tonight I will begin again
to try to sleep the night and then
we’ll see where I am at dawn
still asleep or writing here with a yawn
Now the coffee maker begins to spit and sputter
I hear a mutter
Someone else is finally up – good morning
January 18, 2015
My son moved out 5 months ago. Just the fact that I wrote it that way – “5 months ago” – reminds me of how when your children are very small you count things in their lives by the months. You know; they are 12 weeks old instead of 3 months old; they’ve been eating solids for 4 weeks instead of a month etc. I’m sitting here grinning at myself…..once a mom….
So, yes – my son moved out 5 months ago. He’s 24 (and a half – Lol!) and it was time. By that, I mean that it was the perfect time. He was ready and I have a firm belief that everyone should have the opportunity to experience living alone at least once in their lives. When you live alone you have time to be truly still and quiet – you can really study and ponder your heart’s desires….you can wander around your apartment feeling lonely or bored or if need be, you can scream out loud in disappointment and frustration and you can break down and cry a river of tears when your heart has been broken, without any judgement and without the comfort of anyone which can not only be cathartic but also give you the chance to then pick yourself up and stand shakily tall….and realize that yes, you will be okay. Essentially, you learn to survive – you get the chance to really know who you truly are.
Now, my son lives in the same city so we get to see him pretty much every weekend. He enjoys being an active part of our family, not to mention that he likes to come home for a real “meal” as he calls it (I have always loved to cook and bake) and do his laundry in the comfort of a clean laundry room. He plays video games with his sisters, helps with homework with his youngest sister and my husband gets to rehash all the heavy news stories and engage in “tech-talk” with someone who actually understands what he is saying and not simply smiling politely (listen, I can barely manage my cell phone!). For me? Well….truthfully, there’s not too much room for me when he comes home – but that’s ok – that’s just they way it is right now. I had years, so many years of being “the one” – being the main focus of my children’s lives; The Almighty, All-Knowing Mother.
What prompted me to write this was that it occurred to me how weird it is to have lived with someone all of their lives, to have had them be the reason you got up in the morning (and not been able to sleep at night!). To have had their every need – from basic survival, like eating, sleeping or tending to them when they were sick – to entertaining and playing with them. School, birthday parties and play-dates…all part of your every “work” day (I always viewed my choice to be a stay-at home mom – a Career choice).
Now – you see them once a week, or once a month or once a year, depending on your situation. It’s not like breaking up with someone….it’s like a purposeful drifting apart – and it’s fine – it’s good – it’s normal and the way life goes…..but it is strange.
And so now, it’s me who is wandering through the house, alone in my thoughts…..twenty years ago – who’d have thought?
November 9, 2014
I had lunch the other day with someone who I have known for a remarkable 26 years. Although we don’t see each other all of the time – she is someone who has known me from the time I was a newlywed, through motherhood, career changes and now struggles with aging parents. We met when I came to work at the same magazine (she was even my boss at one point) and although there are several years between us, she has never made me feel it – we have simply been Friends, each one of us bringing something wonderful to our relationship. We have stayed in touch all these years but sometimes years would pass before we would see each other, our lives were simply busy travelling in different directions.
Then one day, a few years ago, we decided to finally “do lunch” and I am happy to say that this is now a regular occurrence. When we get together we do sometimes touch on the past – barely. Mostly, we talk about today and our conversations are endless.
I always feel so full when we part company and I think it’s because she knows me for Me. Not someone’s wife or mother … just me. She has a good idea of what my hopes and dreams are for myself and she knows of some of my struggles, as I do hers.
We have a history, but are not so intertwined that it is ever old….and when we get together, happily – neither are we.
November 9, 2014
My husband and I were looking through old pictures last night. We are working on finally cataloging and tagging them all. As each frozen moment in time floated across the screen, so did my heart. People who are the dearest to me, captured in easier times. All physically so free and easy and well….it really wasn’t that long ago, and of course all of us were so completely unaware of what prisons were to come for some….thank goodness, I guess.
I saw my children so young and sweet, and I desperately longed to just reach through that screen and scoop them up into my arms and onto my lap – as I used to do. Each picture was more beautiful than the last, and I was amazed at how perfect I found each one – because I do remember that at the time the photos were taken, I was often kind of annoyed at how many times at least one child was squirming, making a silly face or looking away. As a photographer, I have the habit of always searching to create the most magical moment and for each picture to be absolutely perfect.
Now I realize that every one of them….is.
September 12, 2014
Yesterday I met an old friend for a long overdue coffee. It was wonderful. It was like old times and always, all at the same time. We used to meet once a week – every week with a third friend, at this same coffee shop – back when our youngest children were babies. We lovingly coined this day as Coffee Club. It was the day that we hashed and re-hashed and solved both our own motherhood troubles as well as solved all the world’s crisis’ – or at least decided on what we were going to make for dinner that night.
Here we were again, re-kindling our Coffee Club – just the two of us this time. My friend had left her job a few months ago to help her mother care for her aging father. She was going to move to another town – a 10 hour drive from here. Six weeks in – she realized that this new move was not going to work out for her and her son…at least, not right now. So once again – Coffee Club was in effect to try to shed some light and make an effort to set a path for a new future for her. I asked her what her thoughts were on pursuing a new line of work…she said she wasn’t sure. She wondered if she should go back to something that she already she knew or try something completely different – maybe even go back to school. Then our conversation turned how she just hadn’t been feeling great for the last few months…aches, pains and ailments had crept up and she was having them investigated. I chuckled and reminded her that she was “eyeballing 50″ (a term I have used, in relation to myself many times over the decade – half in humor…sadly, half in truth) then laughed out loud and told her not to feel bad; Heck – I’m eyeballing retirement I told her (ok, not really… not quite yet!). We shared a giggle.
As she spoke of her increasing maladies – I showed her the index finger on my right hand, now slightly bent with its often somewhat swollen knuckle (hello arthritis – been waitin’ on you!) and thought about how my ankles applaud me as I make my way down the stairs every morning with their snap, crackle and pops accompanied by the operatic sounds that I often make when rising from a chair. Then there’s the hip that aches when I dare to stand for an evening in heels at a cocktail party or get really crazy and dance at a wedding.
Like every other woman who is 50 – I don’t sleep…I really, really want to, and I try so hard – but my brain just spins and spirals from 2 to 4 most mornings. In fact, as I lay awake this morning at 2am, I thought myself that it was a good thing we had Coffee Club in the morning – otherwise I am sure I would still be awake by 6…in time to greet the alarm.