I Want My Mommy

In memory of Jean Tecosky 10-22-31 to 5-27-22

The logical me knew this day would come. The rational me has been preparing for it. In fact, when mom moved in with Milton and me six years ago, there were a lot of people who had a lot to say about it. Some people thought it was a noble endeavor. Most people thought we were nuts. When people asked Milton how he can stand living with his mother-in-law, he had a simple answer.  He would tell them, “First, she upgraded our cable to include all the sports channels and she’s paying for it; second, she buys all the liquor and she only buys the good stuff; and third, she goes to bed at 7:00! What could be bad?”

I also need to mention here, that my husband Milton was just wonderful to Mom… (That might have been the bourbon talking.)   I’d say they were lucky to have each other. Milt says of mom there are very few people who are loved by so many… Jean Tecosky was one of them.

But actually, we were blessed. In those six years, I got to know my mother intimately… what she thought about all kinds of things (culture, history, politics); if she had any regrets about her life; would she have done anything different if she could go back and change something… 

As little girls, I think, mothers are an enigma… a mystery. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be her when I grew up.  I played dress up in her closet when she wasn’t looking, trying on her shoes and carrying her purses. As a teenager, we couldn’t sit in the same room with each other. When I finished college, we were cordial, almost friendly. By the time I gave birth to my first child, we were very close again. We shared confidences, she gave me excellent advice while raising my kids, she taught me shortcuts in cooking, housekeeping and handling all kinds of crises. She was, once again, the person I wanted to be when I grew up.

Mom really found her own voice, though, after my father passed away. She had always talked about having gone from under her father’s wing directly to under her husband’s protective wing. That was just her generation. When dad died, however, she had to learn to navigate life on her own for the first time in her life, at age 67.

Mom began volunteering where I was working simply to fill some of her time. She would sit and stuff envelopes in my office once a week, and then return to her condo for the rest of the week. One fine day, Howie, who was in one of the auxiliaries I facilitated, whisked her away from her envelopes, and taught her to test her limits. It was then that I saw my mother begin to blossom into the person she was meant to be all along… a woman of confidence, grace and humor; a person with her own ideals and her own opinions. She had strong convictions and deep compassion. I marveled at how easily she befriended the residents of the nursing home and made them feel important. Sadly, when I was forced to leave my job, she felt compelled to stop volunteering as well.

A former supervisor of mine, or I should say mentor, who taught me so much both professionally and personally, always used the following expression when talking about the nursing home. “Growing older is both a blessing and a challenge.” This was so very true about my mother. The blessing was obvious: four children, nine grandchildren and twelve great-grandchildren. Mom used to be teased unmercifully by my brothers and me that she was “chicken little.” But in the latter part of life, one of my brothers began to call her chicken “big” because she was handling life so well.

I saw first hand how she faced each new challenge with courage, strength and determination. She stared down and conquered lung cancer at age 88. She beat the hell out of a pulmonary embolism at 89. About the only thing that was holding her back was “that damn oxygen hose” in treating her COPD. You would think after watching her fight with this, I would be able to or choose to quit torturing my own lungs with cigarettes.

Mom was not only resilient, she was realistic.  How often does an elder person willingly give up driving?   “Take the keys!” she said to me. “I don’t trust my reflexes.” And then who chooses to move into an independent living facility?  “I’ve been depressed lately,” she told me. “I think I need to live around more people my own age. Its too lonely here.”  You should know that she only lasted at that ILF for a few months when she decided everyone there was just too old. She was 84 and older than most of them, but she was bored and tired of pushing people around in wheelchairs. She wanted out.

She moved in with my husband and me with the idea in mind that we were moving to the Orlando area. Unfortunately, we were unable to sell our home. Fast forward five years, and we made the move. (Real estate markets being what they are, it was a good thing we waited.)

Mom was originally going to find her own place to live, but after all she had been through and because COVID was still haunting us, we wouldn’t have it. We set up house making her as comfortable as possible, but mom felt something was missing. She was pretty sure she knew what would fix it so she dragged me to the Seminole County Animal Shelter.  We walked up and down each aisle but the dogs were all too big. One of the volunteers asked if we needed help and then brought out a tiny little fur ball.  It was a Mitzvah, not only for me but for her. We decided to call her Mitzi. From that moment, Mitzi spent all waking moments by her side. 

To tell you the truth, I think Mitzi is missing her terribly… she sleeps in her bed, and when the door is closed, she sleeps on the floor in front of it.

So, like I said, logically, I knew this was coming.  And rationally, I had already thought about what it would be like… But how do you really prepare. Never is the right time to lose someone you love. Emotionally, I’m not sure I can deal with this.

My mother was my best friend. We were always on the same page. She was the one who encouraged my writing and publishing. She was my biggest cheerleader. Who will push me now? Who will make me clean off the coffee table? I mean, for heaven’s sake, who will tell me to put on a little lipstick?

Here is my best attempt at finding my own solution. Mom was a fatalist. She believed, to her very core, that when your number its up. Period.  So, it follows that she had no fear of dying for the same reason. I guess that’s why she was so good at living. And when it was time for her to go, with my three brothers and me around her and having listened, with her eyes closed, to loving phone calls from all of her grandchildren, she simply let go and stopped struggling to breathe. I too shall adopt her philosophy.

For my father, I think of him whenever I see a rainbow.

For Mom, it will always ever be when “I see the moon and the moon sees me.”

Isn’t That Sad?

Once upon a time, I was a happily married mother-of-two in a kinder, gentler world. Perhaps that was during the age of George Herbert Walker Bush. Although I see myself politically as left of center, he was a reasonable president, a decent, respectable man. I wasn’t afraid to walk out my home. I had no fear of strangers. Striking up a conversation about current events didn’t evoke anger.

While raising my children, it was my intention for them to become well educated, learn how to make their own decisions, gain tolerance and love, develop critical thinking skills and make the world a better place just by being in it.

For the longest time, my only childhood dreams were thriving. You see, unlike most of my friends, I never had any fantasies or dreams about becoming the next Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Barbara Walters, Barbra Streisand or Marie Curie. I really had no desire to pursue any kind of long term career. I wanted only ever to be a mom, and then later, a grandmother.

Please don’t misinterpret the previous paragraph. I do have many talents and abilities. I spent 40 years in the workforce in the apparel industry as well as the not for profit industry. I honed my skills in sales, marketing, public relations, and writing. In college, I did major in journalism with a minor in theater, graduating Magna Cum Laude. I do love acting and singing. I play the piano and the guitar. I’ve published four novels and am currently working on a musical comedy.

My children have grown now. They’ve been gone from the nest for a good 15 years. While my husband and I went through some growing pains getting used to it just being the two of us, I believe that today, we are happier with each other than ever, except for a few minor issues. And as you will see, those issues may have well created the problems we have now as a family.

It is no longer that kinder gentler world that I was talking about. I mentioned that I was a little left of center. Somehow both of my children went the opposite way. That’s OK with me. They have the right to have their own political views. They must get that from their father who is a staunch conservative. After all, they do say that opposites attract. He eats his meat well done and I eat mine rare.

My husband and I, along with my aging mother, recently moved to be closer to my son and his burgeoning family. In the short time that we’ve been here, I have been verbally attacked at a grocery store for wearing a mask. I won’t repeat the language used, but suffice it to say that I was called an idiot (with a qualifying adjective prior to it). Why I was wearing a mask was none of her business. Seems you can’t talk to strangers anymore. And that’s sad.

Every house on this block has an alarm system. When I was growing up, we didn’t even lock the doors when we went out to play. I would leave in the morning on a Saturday morning and come back as the sun was setting for dinner and my parents never worried where I was and what I was doing. Now, some parents use tracking devices on their kids. And isn’t that sad.

What once was a fun kind of way to keep in touch with old friends and family, the internet has become a volatile, dangerous place. If anybody has a question as to what I’m talking about, it’s social media in general, and Facebook specifically. Funny that they changed their name. It won’t fix the damage that they’ve done with their algorithms and their fake and inflammatory viral posts that now have normally nice people full of anger and hate.

In my heart, I truly believe that my family members have become victims of these vile algorithms and viral conspiracy theories. As a result I have lost my daughter. While I knew her politics were way far to the right she has been swept up in conspiracy theories and lies, including the big lie. She has not spoken to me in any consequential way since the 2020 election, having blocked me on Facebook and having changed her email address. She doesn’t answer my calls or respond to my texts. I have no way of reaching her because she doesn’t want hear from me. When my husband tried to intercede, he was told it was none of his business and she hung up on him. Just last week, she called my mother to wish her a happy birthday. In my mother’s attempt to pacify the situation, my daughter told her that their relationship has nothing to do with her mother, and then she brazenly hung up on my mother. That was inexcusable. This kind of behavior, I believe, is a direct result watching, reading and listening to hateful rhetoric of the far right. It is not, I repeat not, what she learned growing up. It is not what she is taught in her religion I her clergy. She used to be the most huggable, loving and tolerant child.

I recently sent her one last attempt at bridging this gap. I suggested to her that she make a list of all the terrible things I represent to her, and a list of all the wonderful things she remembers from growing up in this family, see which list is longer and which has more value to her. I still got no response. I don’t know if I will ever see her again or hear from her. She is carrying her second child, and her first child doesn’t even know who I am. All of this vitriol I blame on Donald Trump and far right conspiracy theorists. And isn’t that sad.

Life is short. Shorter than we ever know. I personally know that I have a whole lot less time in front of me then I do behind me. I can’t waste another tear or another sleepless night over all of this. I plan to drink in what’s left of my life in joy and happiness. Funny though, my daughter’s middle name was joy until she changed it. And isn’t that sad.

Observer of Life… Mine, and Why I Write!

I am not a victim. But I am a result.  I’ve always said that we are all a melting pot of our own life experiences, and I truly believe that. People will say that I got what I needed while growing up… you know, a roof over my head, food in my stomach, access to a good education and a stable family life. That is all true. I dare say, and this may hurt some feelings, that I didn’t get what I wanted… or thought I needed.

This is where the “result” part comes in. I was the youngest of four, and the only girl. I had a tough love kind of Dad and typical 50’s-60’s kind of Mom. First, I was not one of the boys. I don’t think my father knew how to deal with that. Second, he came from a fractured family (not due to anything nefarious, but due to the fact that he lost his mom to a stroke, for all intents and purposes, when he was nine, and she passed away when he was sixteen). His family structure was simply atypical. His father worked endless hours and he was left to be raised by his mother’s nurse and his sister who was ten years his senior. What I needed from my Dad, he was simply unable to give… and that was tenderness.

My mother, who I am bless to still have with me, was most definitely a product of the times. At eighteen, she went from under her father’s wing to under my father’s wing. Protected and provided for, I don’t think she blossomed into the woman G-d intended her to be until she unfortunately lost her husband of 49 years, my dad, at a relatively early age by today’s standards. I heard a lot of “wait till your father gets home…” while growing up. It was clear he ruled the roost. Mom didn’t exert herself until much later on, and I don’t think it had anything to do with the women’s movement. It came later, when she started to discover her own voice.

As for me, I was caught between two generations. I had parents that were a little “old-fashioned,” yet I was a flower child, hippie, boomer, women’s movement all rolled into one. I wanted to do one thing, and was discouraged from it for one reason or another.  At the same time, I didn’t want upset them or be insolent. I was taught to respect my elders, honor thy father and mother, ya know? I was actually afraid of my father, to tell the truth.

Socially, I was a pariah. I didn’t seem to fit in anywhere. I wasn’t the kid everyone picked on, but I wasn’t in the clique… I wasn’t one of the “mean girls”… I wasn’t a “Pink Lady.” Got the picture? I did whatever I had to in order to fit in with whomever I was with. A chameleon. I did this on a regular basis, all through my “formative” years.  About the only think I stuck to was drama. It was my safe haven, I imagine for very obvious reasons. When I was on stage, I could be anybody but me. I never thought of it as self-loathing. It was more like lack of self-identity.

When I reached adulthood, not too much had changed. I think every woman goes through these kind of growing pains at some point in their lives. I didn’t go through it yet. I was pretty much a late bloomer in just about everything. The whole world was experiencing the sexual revolution and there I was at 23, still a virgin. First, I was afraid of men. You would think having grown up with three older brothers I would be more comfortable around them, but it actually worked against me. Any of their friends on whom  I might develop a crush  was automatically a lost cause to me… I was a little sister, so I was off limits.

Without going into much detail I will say too, that I had experienced in my short life, three separate incidents of sexual abuse by then. (One was a near-rape from which I had escaped when I was 17). I even had a brief lesbian relationship because , well, because. It happened. It freaked me out, because it was right in the middle of Anita Bryant and Stonewall. I fell in love with a woman and that messed up my head. The one thing I knew was that I wouldn’t get pregnant, and I wouldn’t get violently raped by her. It lasted for a little over a year.

Eventually I married. To this day, and its 38 years later, I can’t tell you if I loved him on our wedding day or if I was in love with idea of love. I know that he made me laugh. I know that we enjoyed a lot of the same things. I know that he had a lot of patience when it came to sex. I also know I was getting older and older and I wanted to have kids. We made a good team. We had a lot of fun early on.  We also had an extremely difficult time starting that family I wanted so badly. After two miscarriages, I went into a deep depression. I even offered to let him go… so he could marry someone who could give him children. After primary genetic testing, they had to do further testing on me. He was fine. We waited for an what seemed like an eternity to find out that my first test was only a lab artifact and that I as perfectly fine. It seems like nothing went easy for us along the way.  Nothing. Even when we bought something from IKEA, there was always a screw missing.

My husband I went through an awful lot together. We withstood health scares, financial pitfalls, hurricane mishaps, and your typical marital discord. We’re still standing. Sometimes not together, but we’re still standing.

My career. Not what I had put on my blueprint for life. I had wanted to continue performing, but my father said he wouldn’t help pay for college if I majored in theater. When I told him then I would just skip college, he wanted to know if I would clean houses or be a cashier my whole life. Because without higher education, that’s all I would be able to get hired to do.  My dad… I loved him, but he didn’t instill much confidence in me, nor did he support my dreams. He was practical. I guess that’s why I bend or bent over backwards to try to support EVERYTHING in which my kids showed an interest.

I ended up getting a degree in broadcast journalism, and then worked a very short time in television news. I ended up in South Florida, too large a market for a neophyte like me. My father’s business, at the time, was burgeoning, so he hired me to run his marketing campaigns as well as institute the use of technology into his business. We started with the Apple IIe, so that should tell you how long a time ago it was.

After eleven years, Dad was forced to retire for health reasons. We closed up shop and I embarked on a journey into the not-for-profit world, raising funds for those less fortunate than I. For 25 years, I did events, major gift fund raising, educational symposia and parlor meetings, while handling technology, social media and more for three distinctly different companies. I learned and grew through these endeavors, both professionally and emotionally.

What I haven’t said about myself is that I am a marshmallow. I hate to be around people who are not happy.  As I mentioned, I spent my whole life acting like a chameleon, trying to fit in at all costs, not rocking the boat. What did that do for me? It cost me own identity. I repressed my own demons and my own feelings, and after a while began to drink them away. Since I claim to be a late bloomer, this didn’t really start until my late 30’s. I became an active alcoholic.  At first, a psychotherapist labeled me a “functioning alcoholic.” Never lost a job, never got a DUI, didn’t lose my marriage… I was fine…  Needless to say I stopped seeing that therapist.

I originally sought out a therapist because of panic attacks and anxiety. Over the years, it was determined that I have Bipolar 2, Major Depressive Disorder and General Anxiety Disorder. Subsequently, I’ve been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia (a symptom of which is depression),

Low Vitamin D, Cerebral Aneurysm, COPD, Advanced Degenerative Disc Disease, Spinal Stenosis, and Psoriatic Arthritis of the Lower Spine.  All that and I still don’t qualify for Social Security Disability. I haven’t worked in four years, so the financial pressure is enough to depress ANYONE. It’s a wonder I bother to get out of bed in the morning. It’s a wonder I CAN get out of bed in the morning. But I do, because my mom needs me for various things. Don’t get me wrong. Once we got through the cancer treatment and built back some strength, she’s pretty self-sufficient at 89.

Somehow, between us, my husband and I were able to raise two kids, who both avoided jail, drugs, gangs and the like. There was a lot of guidance and a lot of finger crossing. Both our kids were bright and adept. We encouraged almost everything in which they showed an interest. (We put the brake on only once, when our adventurous daughter wanted to go away on an Hari Krishna weekend).  I allowed them to test the waters on their own, as my father did for me, tossing me into the pool with the promise of never allowing me to drown. I felt it was important that they learn to judge people on their character and their values. Many times, they would involve themselves with some unsavory types. It would take them awhile to figure it out, and when they did, they would make the break. Afterwards, they would ask me what I thought. If I told them, they would ask me why I didn’t say anything. My answer was always the same. “Some things you need to learn yourself.”

I never wanted to be labeled an Helicopter parent. We stayed out of their business unless asked. We’re still that way. Both of our kids live out of town. One is driving distance, and one is two planes and an Uber away. That doesn’t matter much during a pandemic, because we haven’t seen either of them in ten months save a Zoom reunion or FaceTime. Both chose noble professions in which they help others. That made us both proud. They remain, however, quite distant, and family seems to mean something different to them than it does to us.

That being said, I have defined my new purpose in life. I have to have a purpose. Doesn’t everyone? Without a purpose other than self-preservation or self-aggrandizement, I believe we would be leading very shallow lives. For one, my job is to care for my almost 90-year-old mother. While she is self-sufficient in almost every way, she may need more as time goes on. For now, I keep her laughing, fat and happy. My other purpose, I guess, not that I’m anyone special, is to share what I have learned about life in the best way I know how, and that is to tell stories… to write.

My fiction is not about fictional characters. It is about things that I personally have faced in my own life, slipped neatly into a fictional story. If the trials and challenges I have faced become relatable through fictional characters, and I can show one person, any person, anywhere, that one can survive and move on, then I would consider myself successful in this new endeavor.

I hope you will endeavor to experience some of my writing. Even if you don’t need to learn a lesson, you may just enjoy the books! http://www.jtfisherauthor.com/portfolio-2-1/

Politics, Passion and Pain

How Partisanship, Pundits and Pathologies Tore my Family Apart

You know what? I don’t even know where to begin. In fact, I can barely see the screen before me through swollen, bleary, tear-soaked eyes. When I think about my 38 year marriage to one man and the blessing of two healthy. adult, married children and the fact that none of them are speaking to me, it cuts me like a knife.

Some would say it started the day Donald Trump came down that escalator to announce his candidacy for President. I know it started long before that. My husband and I knew we were of opposite parties when we married. He, a conservative Republican, and me a left of center Democrat. We actually agreed on most things, except for maybe some fiscal issues. I remember when our family joke started. We went to vote at the fire station in 1984. I went ahead of him and he called out to me, “Don’t forget to vote the way I told ya, honey.” We’ve  joked about it during every Presidential election since. Except this year. More on that later.

He told me enjoyed politics and sports. For years, we watched college football and the Dolphins together. He would watch a lot of “talking heads” while I raised the kids, kept the house and enjoyed the arts. I played guitar and piano, did arts and crafts, and spent a lot of time experimenting in the kitchen. Nobody seemed to mind that.

Ours was never a smooth marriage. We went through a lot of things. We had medical issues and monetary issues. We had disagreements on a lot of things. There was never any infidelity that I was aware of, but there was indiscretion and dishonesty on his part in other very hurtful ways.

When our kids left home for college and launched into adulthood, it left us with a lot of time on our hands. We had to rediscover each other. We tried hard to find common ground. We watched sports together, we played sports together. We tried travel. We tried all kinds of things we could do together, but nothing seemed to draw us back in tune. Since I knew he liked politics, I started paying attention. I noticed that he had a deep disdain for Barack Obama, which I did not understand. He would roll his eyes and grunt every time the President was on television. I didn’t understand some of his reasoning. None of what he was saying was even evident to me.

Then came Donald Trump, a man for whom I had no respect to begin with. I started paying attention. I also started reading and watching more news. I began watching with him, on Fox News, but couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Then I found MSNBC. This was a station that made no accusations without documentation and whenever I had doubt, I researched.

As each week passed, my husband became more and more contentious with our “discussions” that even the dog would leave the room, until the day when he said to me, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” What I heard was, “You’re stupid.” The fireworks began. Every time I asked him a question about Donald Trump, he couldn’t answer, and responded with an attack on Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. It dawned on me that he was doing this because that’s all he was hearing on Fox News, or from Ruch Limbaugh, Mark Levin and all the other Right Wing Pundits.

I tried as hard as I could to help him see that he was not getting all the news, or only one side. He was being fed misinformation or partial information upon which he was forming his opinions. He was believing conspiracy theories that had no basis in truth and he was growing more and more angry. It got to the point where everything I said about ANY topic became a point of contention. We found ourselves arguing over whether the sky was blue or not, and he always had to have the snarky last word.

When I had a concrete example for him that even he agreed was wrong, I thought I was making progress. The fact that the ONLY network or TV station is the country that did NOT cover the March for our Lives in its entirety, that did NOT show the speeches or the mass of people, the protest  signs but only the COUNTER protests was the purest example of a one sided view of the world. Donald Trump, the NRA and the far right didn’t want its minions to see it or hear the truth. Their mantra was that the Democrats want to take away their guns and showing that event would have taken away from their disinformation campaign.

I began watching Senate and House hearings, reading reports and articles and learning as much as I could. More than any GOP Senator did, I read the entire Mueller report. I DO know what I’m talking about. I am probably as if not more informed as any reporter or participant in Washington. FOX NEWS, RUSH LIMBAUGH, TOM FITTON, MARK LEVIN, DAN BONGINO…. They are all guilty of pushing conspiracy theories and molly-coddling a lying, cheating, grifting man who is posing as President to milk the government for all he can while doing the work for Putin. (latest is destroying US participation in surveillance pact and the planes to do it).

What you may not know about me is that I am marshmallow. I hate to be around people who are not happy. I spent my whole life becoming a chameleon, trying to fit in at all costs, not rocking the boat. What did that do for me? It cost me own identity. I repressed my own demons and my own feelings, and began to drink them away. I became an active alcoholic. Today, after 15 years of sober living, I:ve never wanted to drink more !

Like cats and dogs we fought. Last year, during one particular painful fight, I told my husband I can’t live with him anymore. He pushed and pushed, and finally told me that I had to be the one to call the kids and tell them we were getting divorced. I was gasping with tears and choking on phlegm. ”I dare you,” he said.  I was so emotional, so angry, and so out of control that I actually did it. My logical mind knew it was wrong, but I was too far gone emotionally to be able to control myself. It was a grave error because it changed my life forever.

My daughter’s reaction was typical. She said, “Okay mom, just keep me out of it.”

My son hung up on me. He has barely spoken to me since.

In the past year, we have all been navigating through a world pandemic which has been poorly managed at the national level due to partisan politics, and a crashed economy, that our President thinks is making a V-shaped recovery because of the stock market. More than half the people I know are out of work, have run out of unemployment assistance, some have been evicted, some have been dipping into retirement savings, some have used up all of their savings.  I know many who have, for the first time in the lives, spend hours waiting in FOOD LINES. No, Mr. President, you did not manage a booming recovery.

My 89 year old mother, who lives with us, was diagnosed with lung cancer and emphysema, and began treatment in January. On top of that, I was diagnosed with advanced degenerative disc disease, stenosis and psoriatic arthritis of the spine. In January and February, I chauffeured my mother to chemo and radiation treatments, scans and check-ups. All the while, at home, administering breathing treatments and cooking anything and everything I could to tempt her dwindling appetite. Thank God she beat the cancer. Today the biggest challenge is keeping up her spirits and her oxygen. While my husband has been good to her, the same cannot be said for how he treated me. There were days when I could barely walk. Those were the days he would leave me to walk the dog.

It wasn’t until October that I finally gave up trying to save him from going any further down the false media rabbit hole. I told him I gave up. He can believe what he wants, think what he wants, do what he wants. I don’t care anymore. But he can’t do it with me. The only problem as I see it is if we divorce, we will both end up paupers.

The very last straw was two weeks ago. I was trying to make my way back to the bathroom, the night before I was scheduled to go in for an epidural. I overheard him on the phone talking about the John Durham Report. I stopped in my tracks. My personal theory is that Durham hasn’t found anything yet that feeds Trumps narrative, so they didn’t want to come out before the election with a nothing burger so as not to embarrass him. Then I heard my husband say, “No, I can talk, she’s on the other side of the house.” That made me want to hear more…

My husband proceeded to talk to whomever  about the fight we had the night prior, when he told me, when asked, that yes, he thinks that Joe Biden is corrupt. That whole idea makes me laugh… he thinks Biden is corrupt, yet he will vote for Trump.

I walked into the bedroom and asked him, “Who are you talking to?”

He said “Your son.”

I grabbed the phone and angrily affirmed, “Do not allow your father to talk to you about me or my politics or anything we might fight about.”

My son said, “I’m not.”

My husband has now turned my son into a liar.

Further, a few days later, after my husband had voted, I asked him if he had voted the way I told him to, you remember, the family joke, he got testy… he forgot the joke… and he snapped at me and said, “NO!”

I confirmed with him. “So. You voted for Trump?”

“I did.”

“Okay.” I said, and hung up.

My husband also shared that story with both of my children.

Fast forward to today, the day before Thanksgiving. Not only are none of my family members coming home for the holiday (likely due to the Pandemic, or we’re using that as a convenient excuse), but I haven’t heard their voices in over two weeks. My daughter has blocked me on Facebook and my son is ignoring texts.

The last time I saw either one was in January. The last time I spoke to my son, we had a disagreement about a point he was making. (I guess I’m not permitted to disagree).  My husband, knowingly or unknowingly has been driving nails in the coffin of my relationship with them even though the two of us have made some strides.

We watched the documentary, “The Brainwashing of my Father”  a study in the rise of right wing media that goes as far back as when Richard Nixon hired Roger Ailes to help with his campaign in marketing. I NEVER THOUGHT I WOULD HEAR THESE WORDS… my husband said he would give up all right wing media for 90 days to see if that would help. I am still in shock, and not sure I trust him to make that break cleanly….

So we are healing, little by little. I wasn’t in any hurry to throw away a 38 year marriage, so I was thrilled to see him put his marriage ahead of his politics. (He hadn’t been doing that for the past three years.) He had chosen Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, Mitch McConnell, William Barr, Rush Limbaugh… all of them, ahead of me. With this I was unable to cope. When I told him I had an attorney and papers were drawn up, I think he realized how serious I was.

In the end, all I have left is prayer and my dog, and the dog is old. I have one more thing. I have a glimmer of hope that a man with honesty, integrity and compassion will take over the helm of this country on January 20th at noon. I pray my family will heal too.

Life is Short – Love Hard!

You know that feeling when a relationship is nearing an end? It’s a deep sense in your gut that you’ll soon be saying goodbye, whether you want to or not. I learned a long time ago that these kinds of things are not guaranteed, these love relationships. They are not linear, and like most stories, love stories have a beginning, a middle and an end.

A little background on both of us… If you know me, then you know all of this already, but if you don’t, I’ll give it to you in a nutshell. I’m a middle-aged woman, who spent a lifetime serving as mom and as wife, while working full time in the not-for-profit arena, doing the best I could to make life better for those less fortunate than I, while raising my two children and taking care of my husband and home. My kids are doing great. One married seven years and a half ago and is living up state. The other moved even further away as married with children and a terrific job , and just loving life.

Now I am in the midst, I imagine of what is known as an Existential Crisis, as I am slogging through that awful period of the “Empty Nest Syndrome,” while trying to rediscover my marriage and to see if my husband and I are on the same page about our future together. I’m dealing with a lot of transitions in my life, and trying to determine my next path, and I really don’t know what to do. I’ve been a full time care giver for my 89 year old mother as she navigated her way (successfully) through lung cancer, and now I’m trying desperately to  protect her from Coronavirus. My emotions are sometimes raw, yet sometimes numb. My passion for work, for life, even for chocolate has been muted.

The other starring character in this story has an even more mournful past. He is the product of a mixed marriage, if you even want to call it that. He was actually hit by a car and left for dead, though he had a strong will and survived, as a youngster. He was kept in foster care for way too long. He seems, even today, to be an isolationist, and to be ever so slightly melancholy, although some just say he is laid-back, or mellow. I feel he is very trusting, accepting and loving. There aren’t too many like that in this world, especially when their beginnings were so challenging.

I came upon him quite by accident. My wanderlust took me to where he was one day, and I happened upon him, visited with him for a short while and then left. But something inside me kept tugging at me, telling me to go back. I’m not really sure what it was. A calling? A sense of obligation? A need on my part?

I went back several times to see him, to figure the whole thing out. He needed me as much as I needed him. I knew he couldn’t stay alone in the situation in which he was living, and I needed to have my own personal outlet for emotions that nobody else could ever understand. I love my husband, my mother, my children and my friends, but this guy seems to me to be the best medicine. Like a few before him, he is the kind of friend who listens without judging, accepts my crazy mood swings and goes with the flow, seems to know when to just lay down next to me quietly, and when just a little kiss on the cheek to tell me he loves will be enough.

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Alex’s time is running short. He is having trouble with arthritis. Big trouble. So much so, that when I tried to help him up to his feet two days ago, I threw my own back out. But as I have with all my four-legged children over the years, I made a promise to him. I told him that if he promises to tell me that he can’t take the pain any more, I promise not to make him stay any longer. I have never known a love like his, and I doubt I ever will again. (But then, I said that about, Goyo too.) Rest in peace my dear sweet Alex.

I Won’t Grow Up!

I have a serious question. Please see right through this next sentence. I’m asking for a friend. When, exactly, do adult children come to the realization that their parents are human, and have human reactions, emotions, fears and failings?

Some would say that by writing this, I’m being too transparent, especially that I’m planning on posting it on my blog. If they read further, my children will say this is passive aggressive behavior. They diagnose me of this all the time. At this point, I’m not sure it will matter one way or the other, so here goes…

In the last eight months, I have had the awesome responsibility and honor of caring for my mother as she navigated her way through cancer treatment (finishing just before the shutdown for the Coronavirus Pandemic). For six weeks, I chaperoned her through chemotherapy once a week and radiation daily. In between, we visited Pulmonologists and Primary care doctors to treat other maladies. She was a champ, most of the time. I jumped through hoops, though, trying to attend to all of her meds, her physical and personal needs, and most intensely, her dietary needs. I didn’t mind any of it. In fact, I loved finding new ways to tempt her compromised taste buds. It only got difficult when her mood was compromised as well.

What I didn’t expect was the physical and emotional toll on myself. I have degenerative disc disease and two autoimmune disorders, and unfortunately stress does affect them all. My condition had been affected, although I didn’t realize how much until the evenings when mom went to bed and I collapsed into my easy chair.

As many who know me are aware, I have been extremely distraught about the current state of affairs in our country. I have lost so many friends and acquaintances to COVID. There had been additional passing of loved ones or friends, or loved ones of friends. I have attended several Zoom funerals. The sadness pervades me.

On top of everything else, my husband and I have been at odds. While I won’t go into detail about that, suffice it to say that we are on different sides of the fence politically, and I will only say that he thinks that’s the entirety of the problem, and that if we don’t talk politics, we’ll be fine. He, unfortunately for him and for our marriage, doesn’t learn from experiences. It always reminds me of the Mark Twain quote, “We should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in, lest we be like the cat. She may never sit on a hot stove top again, but she may not sit on a cool one, either.”

We live in Florida, which is exploding with the Coronavirus Pandemic right now. On top of that, we are, quite possibly, in the path of a Cat 1 hurricane. I worry about the virus for me, but mostly for the fact my mother, the champ, didn’t survive cancer to succumb to COVID. I also worry that if we lose power, will we be able to get enough gas for the generator to keep her oxygen going? We’re always prepared for Hurricanes otherwise, but this year, I’m of no help to get shutters up because my back renders me incapacitated. I’m worried. Period.

All of these things have played a part in my inability to rest well or to eat well. I am not myself. So, when I reach out to my children, either one of them, in pain, and looking for some sense of normalcy in my life, wanting only to chat and hear their voices, I get attitude. Neither one of them can look past their own opinions and suppositions about what they expect from their mother, to realize that I am, indeed, a human being, with emotions, fears and feelings.

Last night, I tried to tell one of them just that, and when we began talking about another topic, I offered information that wasn’t exactly on topic, (and it was, I admit, a negative contribution).  The tone in my offspring got testy and contrary. I couldn’t handle that sound, that feeling in the pit of my stomach. I said goodbye and hung up.

I’m not perfect. I’m not Peter Pan (that’s my brother). I can’t be held to a higher standard anymore. Both my kids are in their thirties, and I thought I did a good job raising them. They both chose fields in which they help people. Apparently, the sensitivity they possess stops when it comes to me.

So, who needs to grow up? Me or them?

My Matchbook Metaphor

It was like a long wooden match. When we first struck it against the flint, it sparked and burst into a brilliant orange and yellow flame. There were tiny bits of sulfur spewing out from the initial explosion of excitement. The fire burned big and bright, drinking in the air and growing tall.

When the sparks began to subside, the flame settled into a steady and slow burn. Every now and then a fine hair from the wood that had peeled ever so slightly from the stick would sparkle a little bit brighter. But as time went by, and the fire worked its way down the matchstick, the original fire waned and the flame got smaller and smaller.

The matchstick itself that remained at the top was burned through, and had lost its strength. The oxygen had been sucked away from the flame. There was no longer anything to keep it alive. The potency of the stick itself was unrecognizable. The fiber had been charred by the anger and the heat of the fire.

Finally, on its last breath, when there was nothing left to keep the fire alive, it quietly withered, leaving nothing but the scarred remains of the matchstick’s foundation, and a wisp of smoke, sadly blowing away like a memory in a puff of the breeze. And isn’t that sad.

I CriedToday

Usually on the Fourth of July, my day includes a lot of rituals. I’ve always loved to celebrate the fact that I’m an American. The pride I’ve always had to live here in the strongest, greatest, safest country in the world, the gratitude I’ve always held for my freedom and the love for my country were things I’ve always held dear. On the Fourth, I would always wear red, white and blue, I would hang my grandmother’s military honors flag outside my house, we would barbeque and I would sit at my piano off and on all day, playing medleys of patriotic songs.

Not today. Today I cried. I mourned for the tens of thousands of Americans who needlessly lost their lives as the result of a poorly managed pandemic. I grieved for the Gold Star families who may well have been the victims of loss due to a traitorous Commander-In-Chief.  I weep for the loss of integrity of our diplomats and public service representatives who can no longer be trusted because our word is no longer dependable due to the misguided lack of leadership coming from the Oval Office.

Just when I thought things were getting better and there was hope that we were finally working toward the ideals of our founding fathers, someone came in and smashed it to pieces. Our citizens are more divided than they were before the civil war. The hate and derision are palpable, even in my own household.

When most of America had seen enough of the civil rights violations of African Americans, our President stirred the pot just enough to bring out enough white supremacists out in the open that they are pointing weapons of war at peaceful protestors. He has politicized the pandemic just enough that not wearing a mask to protect their friends and neighbors is a badge of honor and “pro-Trump.”  His ignorance of the science and desire to win an election will have killed likely another 50,000 Americans before we even vote.

The Grand Old Party, the “Party of Lincoln” no longer exist. Most of the Republican Senators and Representatives who are sitting right now are doing just that… sitting, and watching this president defile the office, defecate on the Constitution and destroy our reputation around the world.  He has gone as far as ignore a Russian bounty on the heads of our service men and women serving in Afghanistan, without standing up to Vladimir Putin.  The entire truth will come out. It always does, and they will ALL land on the wrong side.

So, in the year 2020, I will not celebrate our independence. We are held captive by a criminal, lying, traitorous fascist. If true Americans don’t do something to change that on November 3rd of this year, I hope they develop a taste for borscht.

I hate borscht, therefore, I cried today.

Dear Mom

During the past few months, as the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the world, leaving devastation in its path, I have done much soul searching. My main purpose in life these past few months has been to take care of your needs, your health issues, your entertainment and everything in between.

It wasn’t until last night, in the middle of the night, that the thought occurred to me that over 95,000 Americans have passed away, alone in hospitals and nursing homes, jails and on the streets, with no opportunity to say goodbye to their loved ones. It was then, even during these treacherous times, that a feeling of gratitude washed over me. As tired and as scared as I have been, all of that seemed to disappear when I realized that you were still here, safe and relatively healthy, asleep in the front bedroom.

So many people pass away never hearing that last “I love you,” or that final “thank you.” So tonight, while I already sat with you and had this conversation, I wanted to write it down.

I may lose you tomorrow, next month, next year or in five years. If I keep tripping over and disconnecting your oxygen tube, it will definitely happen sooner than later. I just wanted to take the opportunity to thank you. You always ask me why I thank you, but tonight, I didn’t allow you to speak… I just wanted you to listen.

First, I thanked you for giving me life. For raising me with good morals and values. Thank you for living your life in such a way that I could learn by example. You have been through so much and I’ve watched you face everything with such poise and such grace. You taught me to be a good wife and mother, a good daughter and sister, and a good friend. My work ethic, my tenacity and my ability to make flank steak, mac and cheese and butter cookies… these are all things I learned from you.

Because of your patience and tenderness, I am who I am, and I thank you for that. I am grateful that I took the opportunity to tell you all of this while you are still here.  I have no doubt that you knew all of this, but I wanted to tell you anyway.

I love you,

Judy (your favorite daughter)

P.S. Does that earn me a standing rib roast???

The Changing Room

It was just one more day where I sat and stared at the non-descript gray sign that read ‘Women’s Changing Room.” There were some days when I imagined I was sitting in the locker room of a fancy golf club. Other days I dreamt I was waiting for the assistance of a clerk at Nordstrom to bring me a smaller size in that skinny black dress I fell in love with as I sipped from a glass of lukewarm Chablis.

Today felt different. For some reason, today I felt a sense of doom. I think it’s because I let other people get into my head. I reached over to the magazine table to get my travel cup and promptly knocked over my coffee. Great, I thought to myself. This is going to be a lousy day.

You see, this was my normal way of looking at things. One little thing goes wrong, and I let it spoil the rest of the day. The thing is though, that sign in the dressing room reminds me that I couldn’t do that. I didn’t have a choice. I had to keep on going, no matter what. I had to be the voice of reason, the pillar of strength, the everlasting light of hope.  There were some days when I could handle it. And some days I crashed and burned.

Today, I felt the tiny flames singeing at the fair hair on my arms and the bristles of my unshaven legs. Mom looked so pathetic. She had successfully completed six weeks of chemo and radiation. I say successfully for several reasons. One, her tumor had been totally eradicated. And two, for her age, she   was remarkably strong, gliding through the treatment with few side effects.  Sure, Mom lost some of her hair. She was blessed with a really thick head of hair, and at 88, it was a beautiful shade of silver. Not the old lady blue silver… and when she began to lose her hair it was only the dark hair that she found in her comb every morning.

I never minded taking her to all of the radiation treatments in the early mornings or sitting with her to pass the time as she received her chemo treatments. I relished the time in my kitchen seeking new ways to tempt her appetite in ways that were acquiescent to her condition… easy to swallow, filled with nutrition and flavorful enough to cover the tinny taste caused by chemo.

The one thing that I couldn’t handle was her depression. Her demeanor, for her entire life, had generally been upbeat, her outlook positive. She wasn’t a complainer and she didn’t fear death. She is a fatalist. She always told me, “when your number’s up, it’s up.” She took this diagnosis in stride, saying on most days, when I would marvel at her grace, “do I have a choice?”

Today was different. I kept trying to nap, but I kept seeing the sign in the waiting room of the radiation oncologist’s office.  “Women’s Changing Room.” When did she change?

I can’t quite figure out whether Mom is reacting to what’s going on in the world around her with the Corona Virus pandemic, or if she had a bad night, or if she had cabin fever. Today, she changed.  Today, she didn’t care about getting better, or eating, or anything else.

I wasn’t in the best mood anyway, for other personal reasons, so I stayed out of the way. I didn’t cope well with the new attitude. I had spent the last three months trying to keep her alive and laughing, and she didn’t seem to care.

I remember when my grandfather was ill. She would always say to him, “You’ll feel better tomorrow.”

Maybe tomorrow, she will too.