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.

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.

A Cancer

There is a cancer in our government. People have been talking about the cancer of partisanship for years… how our lawmakers can’t work together so nothing gets done. People say our country has become more and more fractured with each administration and it has been going on for years… that Americans haven’t been united since World War II. Perhaps, for a short while, we came together in unity and anger after 911, to support the families of the victims and the first responders. Maybe we all talked about anger toward the Taliban or Extremists.  For a while.

Today’s cancer has metastasized, affecting the very soul of our nation.  In my eight decades on this earth, I have never seen such hate and vitriol being expressed from Americans at Americans.  I used to think politics was a vehicle by which we determined our leaders, a flawed but workable system. In the last four years, I have watched, quite nervously, how it has metamorphosized into government itself. The four hundred bills sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk (the grim reaper, as he likes to be called) is a brilliant example of this.

Our current president does nothing without politics/elections in mind. And from my point of view, he will stop at nothing to achieve his goal. When Donald Trump was first elected, I was not happy. I did not vote for him, for very personal reasons.

I wasn’t angry or scared, either. I cannot say the same today.  His mob mentality has turned our form of government into something I can neither recognize nor name.  Some people on the left refer to it as an autocracy, or even a monarchy. That was exactly the kind of government our forefathers left Europe and England to escape.  That was the genesis of the Constitution and everything in it… to ensure that we, as Americans, would not have to live under the tyranny of leadership that was single-minded and corrupt.

After observing what happened in the Special Counsel investigation and having read the entire subsequent report, I cannot understand why Mr. Trump is still governing.  The White House Counsel alone could provide just one impeachable act, that was so egregious, and so corrupt that even our fidget spinning, complicit GOP Senators would not be able to acquit.  But since the White House and AG Barr have successfully obstructed Congress, and because complicit Senators like Lindsey Graham who refused to even read the report, and Mitch McConnell who so deftly maneuvers his Senate, nobody heard Don McGann’s testimony.

Then came the President’s foibles with our international relations. How can Americans with any memory of history, and any sense of what’s going on in the real world, stomach Trump’s relationships with tyrants like Kim, Putin Erdogan and the like?  He has bashed NATO… this is an alliance that was created after WWII based on never allowing another despot like HITLER to rise to power again… by covering each other’s back in international relations.  Donald Trump puts a price tag on everything and doesn’t even know the history or purpose of NATO.  Yet he is trying to break up the Alliance…. The beneficiary????  Vladimir Putin.

Let’s talk about Ukraine. I don’t even need to go into details. All I need to say is this. Mitch McConnell led his FIDGET SPINNING GOP COMPLICIT Senators down a rabbit hole, convincing them all to acquit the President in his Impeachment trial, without witnesses or documents.  ONE senator had the guts to speak truth to power; many of the other admitted his guilt, but still voted to acquit.

The Cancer has killed our democratic republic. The one thing was had that made this country strong is gone. Instead, we have a cheating, lying fascist at the helm, who we now know, again, is cheating in the 2020 Presidential race.

For those who still support Donald Trump, I suggest you take a look in the mirror. Check your own morals and ethics.  If you are okay with cheating, vote for him. If you don’t care that he has lied to you all along about his money, his ties to Russia, and so much more, then vote for him. If the fact that his raping of 13-year-old with Jeffrey Epstein doesn’t bother you (remember that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered before he could face the charges), take a look at your own daughter or niece, and vote for Trump. If you believe that immigration is a bad thing, go visit the Statue of Liberty on Ellis Island. Read the poem at the base. Realize that we are ALL immigrants except indigenous American Indians.  Then vote for Trump.  AND IF YOU THINK THE ECONOMY IS GOOD, ASK YOURSELF WHY PRESIDENT TRUMP NEVER TALKS ABOUT THE DEFICIT…. HE JUST BLEW IT UP OVER A TRILLION…. THE LARGEST EVER, AND HE HAS MORTGAGED YOUR FUTURE.  Ask him too, why he won’t show you charts from 2008?  He only shows you charts from his presidency and tells you HE DID it. Go the government website and find out the TRUTH, that the economic recovery started under OBAMA, and the last three years of Obama’s administration was better than the first three of Trumps in economic growth.

In a few years, the media that he has been bashing (much like Hitler and Goebbels did in the 1930’s) unfolds the truth, the whole truth to you, you may have some regrets.  But for now, keep on hating, and vote for Trump.

If you think that the Senators and Representatives who have blindly supported him are clean too, before you vote for them too, do a little research in places other than Fox News or on Alt Right resources. How Fox News is allowed to continue to foist propaganda and conspiracy theories, I don’t understand. Having studied journalism and mass communications, their blatant misuse of the airwaves is an abomination. Every time a real, honest journalist emerges, the President squawks and that journalist is fired.

Unfortunately, I am preaching to the choir, I am sure. I used to consider myself a centrist. My attitude about each issue was fully researched from every side and I made up my own mind. I found myself to fall on the liberal side socially, and on the conservative side fiscally… but this administration may well be the end of the GOP. They are far from conservative, fiscally.

This cancer has spread to my marriage, because I’m married to someone who believes all of the propaganda fed by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. This person who I thought I knew and loved has become so defensive, that even if I only want to know where we should go for dinner, I get snapped at. Like every other Trump Republican, if I challenge Trump, rather than hearing a defense, I get an attack on Obama or Hillary…. Usually half-baked conspiracy theories for which there is no evidence.

I trust that our Democracy will prevail, somehow. I gave my spouse an ultimatum about talking down to me about my politics.

Lastly, I am taking care of my mother who actually does have cancer. She’s 88.  She has lung cancer and emphysema. You know what? After all my ranting and raving about politics, I realize her well-being is the only thing I really care about.

I really do hate cancer. I love my mother and my country.

Hold My Tongue

There was a time in my life when I was too shy, too reserved and too fearful to stand up for myself or to make decisions for myself. I was two. In fact, my parents were in such a hurry for me to walk and to talk, but as soon as I was able to do that, they pretty much told me to sit down and shut up.

All kidding aside, I was raised at a time when girls were expected to be sweet, happy and quiet, mostly quiet. I was so indecisive and fearful, that I really couldn’t stand up for myself. I wouldn’t even send food back at a restaurant when it wasn’t prepared as ordered.

When I was twenty-four, and single, my mother was afraid I would be an old maid, and she told me I shouldn’t be so smart or so good at sports… that the boys don’t like that.  I had a hard time with that.  It was the late 70’s and early 80’s, and mom was kind of old school. I knew if I repressed who I really was, I would pay for it later. (I was already repressing a lot of things that had already happened to me, that eventually affected me in profound ways.)

Finally, I met a man who appreciated me for who I was (was being the operative word). Early on, we had a great marriage and were blessed with two wonderful, happy healthy children. As time passed, and we were left with an empty nest, we were also left with the task of getting to know each other again. The difficulty arose when we discovered that we were at opposite ends politically in 2016.  It has gotten exponentially worse, affecting our daily lives.  I can’t express an opinion without it turning into a fight. I can’t even make a comment about current events without it being turned into a political issue. All we have left is, “Did you talk to either of the kids today.”

Consequently, I have had to return to being the kind of person I was as a child and young girl, and it is most uncomfortable. I am expected to be happy and quiet, mostly quiet. This is to keep the peace.  I know it won’t last forever; in fact, I hope it will only last for another 18 months.

For now, I will hold my tongue.

Look Both Ways

As I stepped down off the curb to cross the parking lot to return to my car, carrying a bag of bananas, I found myself laughing to myself. While the bananas are important to the story, I’ll explain later. Having paused to look both ways, not that there was any traffic at 7:30 in the morning at Publix on a Wednesday morning, I continued across. What I found amusing was that the mandates placed in my head by my parents some sixty years ago were still strong and in place. I learned, when I was small, to look both ways before crossing the street.

I learned ideas and concepts by my parents that I have carried with me throughout my life which have served me well through the sixty-one years I’ve been alive. Don’t talk to strangers. Respect your elders. Be honest—Let your conscience be your guide. Be kind to everyone. Don’t eat yellow snow. Wear lipstick.

Nobody told me that my father’s voice would stay in my head for twenty years after he passed away, reminding me to give myself positive affirmations. I had no idea I was going to remember some wonderful lessons, about the harshness of life and the beauty of same, would revisit me at the most unlikely times, as well as when I needed to hear them most.

When I was young, he told me not to be impulsive, to think before I speak or act. I can’t say I’ve always heeded that advice, and true to his word, it has always gotten me in trouble when I have acted on impulse. That didn’t mean I should abandon spontaneity. Words matter, nuance has value.

During those formative years, our parents instill morals and values in us while we don’t even know they are doing it. They also shape our personalities and how we see ourselves. I believe our senses of self-worth and self-value are structured then as well.

The good news is that when our kids leave for college or go off on their own, somehow, we stay with them, even if we stay behind and suffer from empty nest syndrome. We may miss them, but somehow, we know they will be okay. We were.

And about the bananas? I smile inside because the reason I stopped at Publix to buy bananas is because my 88-year-old mother was at home waiting to have her breakfast of Rice Krispies and banana. You see, I am blessed, at 61, to still have my mother putting those mandates in my head, even today. (Although I didn’t wear lipstick to Publix!)

Marriage is Not a Joke, But…

Since time began, or for as long as I can remember, comedians have been making careers out of joking about marriage, about husbands and wives, (more often about wives) and about their challenges. As far back as comedian Henny Youngman, who said, “Take my wife… please,” the bride has been the butt of a lot of jokes.

Now, my husband will tell you that men are personified as dolts in television sitcoms and commercials, giving women the upper hand. But I have, in no uncertain terms, set him straight.

It has been a long time since we;ve seen a husband and wife comedy team, too. There was George Burns and Gracie Allen in the 30s and 40s, and we had Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara as recent as the 80s and 90s. Some may add Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz to the list in the 50s and 60s, although I don’t know if they ever performed stand-up.

I will tell you that my husband and I have been married for almost thirty-seven years. We have faced myriad challenges to our marriage, including financial issues, health problems, and other typical problems couples may face over the years. Through it all, we have determined that a strong emotion keeps us together— spite. While another comedian said this first, we stayed together for the kids. Neither one of us wanted them.

Now the nest is empty, We had spent twenty years focused on raising the kids that we didn’t notice each other, and we didn’t know each other. We’ve noticed that we belong to two different political parties, went to two rival universities, and like totally different types of entertainment. He likes his meat well done, I like mine rare. He sleeps on his stomach, i on my back. Oh wait, that might work.

As we continued to find our differences, we began to fight. Even the dog wouldn’t stay in the same room. We decided to seek professional help and went to a marriage counselor. At first, the sessions were painful and serious, but when we discovered the one thing that we had in common other than the kids, we decided to work on the marriage rather than walk away.

What we found was that we both love to laugh. We both love a good joke. We have set out on a new adventure and are working on our first stand up routine, one in which I can sit down. I am in my sixties, after all.

Life is short, but work to make your marriage last. Remember why you got married in the first place, and remember to laugh.

Don’t Sit On It

We live in stressful times, but sorry, Fonz… the advice wasn’t good in the 50’s, nor was it good in the 70’s when Happy Days was first aired on television.  And it sure isn’t good now. The saying that a burden shared is halved has more value in today’s world than it ever did.

Big girls don’t cry.

Never let them see you sweat.

Suck it up…

Men were never allowed to show emotion, as it was a sign of weakness. Women were told to be subservient in order to “get” a man, as if they needed their protection. The antiquated mores are so ingrained in our psyche, that to resist them is contraindicated by our own culture.  Anthropologists would tell you that it is part of our DNA to behave this way.

It does not necessarily have to be. Exactly when are we, as human beings, permitted to experience the human condition authentically? (I mean, without repercussion?)  We’ve seen the beginnings of it in the past two or three years with the #MeToo movement, with backlash for bad behavior, with a crusade on behalf of our better angels.

But what happens if you’re pockets aren’t lined with gold? What happens if you’re not a Gold Medalist in Olympic Gymnastics? What happens if the person who tried to rape you wasn’t a Supreme Court Nominee? What happens if you haven’t won an Oscar for a movie you made?

Then you are more like me and most women, who have had life happen to them but who have had neither the big stage nor the big name to fight your battles with or for you.  And like me, many women have snuffed out memories of some of these horrendous experiences and tried to live normal lives without making any waves.

Guess what? Big girls do cry. They sweat, too.  And after a while, they can’t suck it up nor hold it in any longer.  If you’ve ever held a spring down long enough, eventually it has to bounce back.  The energy amassed from holding down can be explosive.  Some of us handle it well, some don’t.

I didn’t.  Somebody had to tell me that a burden shared was halved.  Somebody had to stop me from blaming myself and being angry with myself and being unkind to myself.  You know, when you bang your head against the wall long enough, it feels good when you stop.

I stopped. I stopped, and then I started writing about it.  To date, I’ve written three fictional novels about some of the demons women deal with in life. “A Life, Well… Lived!”, “Okay, So I Lied!”, and “Voices from the Ledge” all deal with topics that women find it hard to talk about. (Sexual abuse/assault, sexual identity issues, addiction/alcoholism, suicidal ideation, etc.). All have been written in light fiction, approachable fashion so readers can identify with the heroines.

In essence, I’ve shared my burdens through fictional characters, in hopes that women like me will find solace in the fact that they are not alone. There is always hope.  So PLEASE, don’t sit on it…

On Motivation

Writer’s block, I’ve come to discover, is all a state of mind. I can write whenever I sit down to write. It may be the most mundane thing, like a grocery list, but I can write. Whether I can write the most profound thoughts in a journal or the most sensational ending to a phenomenal novel depends strictly on my state of mind.

My latest inspiration has been, unfortunately for me, a deep sadness. A sadness for something lost. Out of the sadness came one of my most creative motivations during which I was able to complete work on the manuscript of my third novel.  I have so much confidence in this work that I have submitted it to an agent to shop it around to publishers rather than self-publishing. An epiphany for me, as I discovered through this process that I should see myself the way others see me, not the way I look at myself, which for most of my life has been less than.

The other recent motivation came from a dear friend who I will refer to as ‘the letter’, who had the patience to kick me in the rear hard enough to get me off my f-l-a (that’s a local term for fat lazy ass).  ‘The letter’ gave me great advice, tough love and tender compassion.

The end of the story is… look for “Voices from the Ledge” soon. Because I didn’t jump.