Tag Archives: parents

it isn’t supposed to be like this

As if no one knows, I am 50 years old. I’ve been doing this math problem in my head since January, and it’s easier to do with a number that ends in ‘0’. Here’s the calculation: When my mom was x years old, I was y years old. Then this whole list of things starts popping into my head, things that were happening in my life when I was y and my mother was 50.

OK, that sounds really confusing. Here’s an example: when my mom was 50, I had a 2 year old son and was working full time (plus some) as a systems analyst. I was also singing the the church choir, finding out that I had fibromyalgia and wondering what life was going to look like on the other side of that realization. Stuff like that.

So now that I’m 50, I start thinking about where my kids could have been by now, if I’d had them at the same age mom was when she had me. I could be a grandmother. There’s a mind-blower. I could be experiencing the empty nest that everyone talks so glowingly about. We could be finished with (at least) one iteration of  one of the kids (who would be adults) having changed careers.

I have two cousins that are a bit younger than me. One has three children, a sophomore in high school, a senior in high school, and a 21-year-old who can’t figure out who she is or what she wants out of life. She tried college; she tried Parris Island (lasted about 4 weeks), and now she is back home, working and studying automobile maintenance at the local community college, only girl in the program. Sounds like fun.

The other cousin has three children too. One is 22, in Iraq.The second one is 20, in the Navy, stationed in Hawaii. The third just had a baby, so my cousin is a grandmother.

These are all concepts that are kinda hard for me to grasp my sad little brain around.

Here’s another one: one of my children has been booted from the family domicile. Never, ever thought I’d be here, at this time in my life, dealing with this kind of problem.

Surprise! Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.” So true. Now there are all of these pieces of things that I thought would be one way, scattered around the edges of my life. And his life, too.

Tough love is hard, damned hard. We’ll get through this, and the result of the putting of pieces back together won’t look like it did before the glass was broken. I don’t like the not knowing part.

Too bad. It’s here and I have to deal with it.

But, as Scarlett O’Hara said: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

And cousin Melanie: “Whatever happens, I’ll love you just as I do now until I die.”

’til death did they part

Way back in the 80’s when I first moved here, before Borders or Barnes and Noble ever sprang from the fertile ground surrounding the mall, there was a bookstore, Hinkle’s. It was a family business with a store downtown and another one at a strip mall just west of downtown. They sold books, of course, and office supplies, and gifts, cards, stationary etc. They did custom printing. When I was getting used to living and working here in the ‘city’, I used to walk to the bookstore during my lunch hour and browse. Over the years as the ‘burbs took over and businesses started leaving downtown, the downtown Hinkle’s closed. Not too many years later the strip mall store closed as well.

A Borders opened in the strip mall. The building downtown has been torn down and replaced with a shiny new office building, now in search of tenants. I sort of forgot about Hinkle’s until I was looking for a graduation gift for someone, I don’t even remember who, and I went to the strip mall with the intention of going to Hinkle’s, only to find that the store was gone. A couple of years ago a grandson in the family died tragically. He was friends with some of our students at church, and they took his death hard.

More time passed, until a couple of weeks ago when……

My neighbor went on a trip and I picked up her mail and newspapers while she was away. I was scanning the paper one morning and noticed an obituary for an elderly lady named Hinkle. She was in her 80’s and had lived a very full life. She was described as “not having a mean bone in her body, but she did have a disdain for crumbs.” All in all, a very sweet tribute to a life well-lived.

Then I noticed another obituary, for an elderly gentleman named Hinkle, printed immediately after hers. So I read it and found this:

On Aug. 8, 1941, he married Mildred, and never spent another day without her, maintaining his unwavering devotion to Mildred for 67 years; Mildred also passed on Sept. 16, giving new meaning to “‘ till death do us part.”

So I went back and read the first obituary more closely. Yes, it was Mildred. The obit said that she had been “persistently courted by a young office supplies salesman”. Then, this:

On August 8, 1941, Mildred married Pete, and the two spent every day for the next 67 years together as devoted husband and wife. Pete also passed on Sept. 16, giving new meaning to “‘ till death do us part.”

She had passed away early in the morning at a retirement community. He died later that day, at Hospice.

And I cried for these people I didn’t even know. Not tears of sadness, but what? Their story touched my heart in a deeply introspective way that I was not prepared for. I was crying out of respect for a love story I didn’t really know. There was sadness in that my parents had to be separated by death way too early, and honor in knowing that my parents had also lived a love story, ending in “til death did they part.”

This is what marriage is supposed to be. I pray that hubby and I will be so fortunate.

Hair

Husband just told me that there’s horse hair in the car. Figured I’d been to the barn and loved on daughter’s horse, thus transferring horse hair to the car. The problem is that I visited the horse yesterday, when he was driving the car that he thinks has horse hair in it from my visit to the barn that occurred when he had the car.

Confused? I was too.

Because it’s not horse hair. It’s my hair.

I drove the car on Tuesday. I got a haircut on Tuesday. My hair was short to begin with and now it’s shorter, but not short enough. I may have to get it trimmed some more this afternoon, so it will stand up on top and be spikey.

And it will start to be its natural color, which is a mystery to me since it hasn’t been its natural color since 1977 or thereabouts.

It’s CG’s fault. Yes, I’ve been too chicken to see what shade of steel grey is naturally growing from my head. I used to pay a professional to color my hair, but haven’t done that in quite some time. I have, however, become rather adept in doing it myself so that it at least appears to be a hair color that does occur in nature, on people. Just not on this people.

To me, grey hair is a badge of honor. Something that you earn from years of being a grown-up and dealing with grown-up issues the way a grown-up is supposed to. My mom has beautiful hair; her sister has beautiful hair. They’ve earned it. My mom earned it from years of working hard to take care of me and my dad, and her parents, and her siblings. She earned it working in corporate America, being a strong woman in a man’s world, telling the truth instead of saying what she knew people wanted to hear. She earned it from living through the illnesses and passing of her parents and my dad, her partner through forty-three years of growing up and grown-up life. She earned it by leaving her hometown and moving here to be with us.

Now she’s entering a new arena, uncharted territory. She’s in love, and it’s an amazing thing. My baby girl hasn’t really fallen for a boy yet, just her horse. But the symptoms are the same. She talks about her love; when she can’t be with her love, she wants to be, and counts the days or hours until she can be with him again. She wants to know everything about him, and each new detail adds another piece to the unfolding map of him. She wants to learn about his interests, and wants to share her interests with him. She wants to try things she’s never tried before, because he enjoys doing them.

The first time I saw my daughter gallop around the ring on her horse I was terrified and elated, all at the same time. Terrified: what if she falls off? What if she loses control of her horse? She could get hurt, very badly. Elated: man does that look like fun! They are both, girl and horse, having an absolute blast doing this. Yes, it looks scary, but look at them together! They aren’t scared; they’re having too much fun to be scared. Little girl lost some confidence with her riding abilities and is now afraid to gallop. I’ve encouraged her to try it again. Her abilities are more than adequate; she just needs to get past her fear.

Now I see my mom, preparing to do her own gallop around the ring. But this time I feel much elation; little fear. She knows enough about the things that should terrify her, and me. And yes, it looks a little scary to both of us. But, oh is she having fun!

It’s a picture of joy.

Back to my “horse” hair.

The question is not about whether or not I can handle the display of my hair’s natural color.

The question is: have I earned the right to wear it?

Thanksgiving, again

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, again.

We used to go to the beach for Thanksgiving, husband, kids, mom and dad. We’d rent a house and either cook a meal or order one from Food Lion. The last time we went to the beach for Thanksgiving was in 2003, and we took the flu with us. We all had it at one point or another during the week, except for Daddy. He was healthy the whole week, while the rest of us took turns with the fever, chills, headaches, etc. Daddy was looking at real estate magazines, and I think he and Mama might have actually considered selling out and moving to the beach. Since we were all sick, we went out for Thanksgiving dinner, to the buffet at the Lucky Fisherman. We all left the beach a day early because we were sick.

That happened once before, on a trip to the beach for Thanksgiving. We had rented a different house. Mama and Daddy left for the beach before we did, because hubby and I both had to work. When we got to there on Tuesday, Daddy wasn’t feeling very well and he got worse as the week progressed. We cooked Thanksgiving dinner. On Friday morning, I got up to find Mama and Daddy packed and leaving, heading straight for home and the hospital. We thought then that we’d had our last Thanksgiving together. I remember Mama asking me to take a lot of pictures that year, just in case. After they left for the hospital, I felt so lost and confused. We went to a local gift shop and I bought a Christmas present for Daddy, a tide clock for the Cape Fear River inlet, so he’d always know when the tides were at the beach, even when he was home. I think I was gambling that as long as he had the tide clock he wouldn’t leave, and I guess it worked for a couple of years at least.

Daddy died 3 weeks before Thanksgiving in 2004. On the Friday before Thanksgiving my baby boy came home from school and said that someone had found a suicide note in his 4th period desk and he had been questioned about it, but that he hadn’t written it. The following Monday he admitted that he had written it, and my emotions kicked into overdrive. I called my next-door neighbor to ask her about finding a counselor for him and in the process I became completely unglued. My last 2 grandparents had died, both of my in-laws had died, my father had died, and my son had written a suicide note.

And I broke.

My neighbor asked me to let her take me to the emergency room. Husband was two hours away, at a job site. Mom was two hours away, at her home. I didn’t know what to do, and I couldn’t stop crying. So we went to the hospital. I walked in the emergency room door and the first person I saw, the volunteer working the sign-in desk, was a man from our church. A man who has, and continues to remind me of Daddy. I knew I was in the right place. I spent the afternoon in the ER. Bill, the man from church, came and checked on me several times. My friend Lori, the Parish Nurse from our church, came. (Yes, I belong to a Baptist church w/ a Parish Nurse on staff. Interesting, huh?) My neighbor brought me a teddy bear that travels with me whenever I go on trips now. My husband met the kids at home and took care of them, and we all decided that I should probably stay in the psych hospital.

Only there were no beds available.

So my neighbor had to take me to another hospital in a larger city. I was checked in about midnight, went through a modified strip search, had all of my belongings searched for anything I could use to hurt myself, like the string from my sweatpants. I was allowed to keep the teddy bear, some paper and a pen. I spent the next 3 days at that hospital, and was released on Thanksgiving Day. My mom had taken the kids to her house, so husband and I spent the day doing nothing, just trying to understand what had happened and maybe what was going to happen next.

Now it’s 3 years later, and we’re still trying to understand what’s going to happen next. I don’t work any more, and know that I will never be able to work at the technical level I did before all of this happened. There was long term disability income, but only for 24 months so it’s gone now. We’re trying to stay afloat while a lawyer and the Social Security Administration try to decide what to do with me. There are things that have happened during these past 3 years that I have been able to experience only because of being broken. Good things. Other peoples’ lives that have been changed, for the better, because I was broken. Things can never be the way they were, and I wouldn’t want them to be.

Last night we watched the movie “Evan Almighty”. I remember when “Bruce Almighty” came out, and I saw the trailer for it and thought it would be blasphemous and swore I’d never see it. Then husband and son saw it at the $2.00 theater, and husband told me about it. Yes, it’s childish and silly and vulgar at times, but I like it. “Evan” was milder than “Bruce” and I like it better. The scene where God talks to Evan’s wife in the restaurant resonated with me. If you pray for patience, does God give you patience, or the opportunity to practice patience? If you pray for courage, does God give you courage, or the opportunity to be courageous? If you pray for a closer family….well, you get the idea.

So, what opportunities have made themselves known during these past 5 years? Patience? Yes. Courage? Yes. Togetherness? Yes. Trust? Most definitely, yes.

But I think the biggest opportunity has been…to be thankful for what we have and who we have in our lives.

Because tomorrow something or someone I thought I had might not be here.

It’s the opportunity to be thankful for……today.

Yep, it’s Thanksgiving again. And to those who are part of this life I have, I say “Thanks.”

Blessed BE.

C.

The Part Where (I)We Let Go: Chapter 1

I have a new favorite band, HEM. I must be living in a cave or a barn or something, because I’m finding music that I love, that everyone else already knows about. If this title isn’t a familiar title to you, and you watch television, you’ll recognize it as music from a Liberty Mutual Insurance commercial. Whatever.

The past few weeks have been so, what, frustrating? Boring? I went into knee surgery on September 28, thinking I was walking out the door. But I came out on crutches, and am still on crutches, and will be through the rest of the year, most likely. My fingers, toes and eyeballs are crossed in hope that, after this Thursday, I can “officially” bear weight on my right leg, which means I can drive. Unofficially, I’ve been walking around my house most of the time and only doing the crutch thing when I go out, which hasn’t been that much. Did manage to hit a Switchfoot / Reliant K concert last Friday that was great.

This particular week, the first week of November, is not one of my favorites. On November 3, 2004, my daddy had a stroke. It was Wednesday, the day after the elections. He and mama were at the bowling alley, doing their league thing. They had just finished the first game. I don’t know what he bowled, but I think it was something in the low 200’s. He was always a good bowler. And if you think bowling isn’t a sport, give it a try. Especially if you have knee or back issues. You’ll find out. Anyway, daddy fell or something and someone recognized what was happening to him and called EMT. The got him to the hospital very quickly. Luckily they were at the bowling alley and not at home when this happened, because the bowling alley was about 10 miles closer to the hospital than home was. Last April during the Va Tech tragedy the media was set up at this same hospital. Every time I saw a report from Blacksburg, and saw the entrance to that hospital, my mind went back to November 3, 2004.

I think I mentioned earlier somewhere, that day at work was just nasty. I was assigned to two projects: one in system test, the other in heavy development. There were meetings throughout the day on the two projects. My code in system test was working just fine, thank you very much. But some of the other programmers were having trouble, and I kept receiving error reports to debug that were from other programmers’ code. One other programmer in particular. I was new to this system and development environment; she was a veteran; I was supposed to fix her errors, because she had so many other errors in so many other facets of the project that she didn’t have time to get to them all. Did I mention that error reports were to be cleared in 24 hours? So, in meetings on the project in system test, I was reporting on her errors and not on test results from my own code, because we hadn’t gotten to my code yet because hers kept crapping out. Somehow, I was responsible for that.

On to the development project meetings: where are you on task 23? Not there yet, working on system test errors. What about task 24? Not there yet, because I haven’t gotten to task 23 yet, because I’m working on system test errors. Did I mention that those errors weren’t mine?? I went through two of these meetings, the second one ended about 2:00 in the afternoon. My boss followed me back to my cubicle with a view. Man, did I have a view, the only thing that made going to work tolerable there towards the end. On a clear day I could look out of my 17th floor window, due north, and see Pilot Mountain, and farther in the distance, the Blue Ridge. Awesome. Anyway, boss follows me, I sit down, he stands at the window and tells me I have a problem. I ask him what problem is that? (I know of several, but which one is he wanting to discuss?) My problem, says boss, is that my priorities are not in order. I ask him about that, because I”m genuinely curious. His answer: my focus should be on development, which was something I really liked about what I did. I told him, honestly, that I would prefer that myself, but as long as he assigned me other programmers’ errors to correct, each having a 24-hour turn-around, I had to focus on those first. He told me no I wasn’t. I got really confused. So he told me that I had to figure out some way to do both simultaneously such that, all errors were corrected and development would move forward. I told him I had a headache, probably migraine, coming on and that I was going home. I packed up my laptop and my files and headed home around 2:30.

At 3:00 I walked in my front door at home. The phone was ringing. My daughter had just gotten home from school. She was reading the caller ID and asking me if she should answer the phone. I told her it was OK, so she picked up. I listened to her talking very calmly with someone about school, about her new horse. I dropped the laptop, files, coat, etc. as she said “Here’s my mom” and handed the phone to me. Silence on the other end. The my mom’s voice, screaming. “Daddy, stroke, bad, you and husband come now, don’t bring kids, hurry please.” I don’t remember what I did next. I must have called my hubby because he was there almost instantly. I think I told the kids to pack some stuff for spending the night w/ friends. I don’t remember what I told them, probably that Papa was sick, but not to worry. I called a couple of friends to come pick up the kids. I remember sending both kids off w/ their friends’ parents. I don’t remember packing anything for myself. We hit the road at 6:00 PM and walked into the hospital at 8:30. Found ICU and my mom. Daddy was awake, recognized hubby and me, but he couln’t say anything because of the ventilator. He would hold my hand and smile at me, and then push me away. He did that more than once. My mom interpreted; she’d seen that behavior from him before when he’d been really sick. She said it meant “I’m fine, you take care of you and husband and kids.” I think he did that a couple of times. I think we told him the kids were w/ their friends, and I think he indicated that was a good thing. My mom told him that we were going to stay until he went to sleep, and then go get some rest to be there the next day. He closed his eyes for a little bit, then sort-of peeked out of one of them to see if we had really left, like he was pretending to be asleep just to get us to go home. So we left the hospital and went to mama’s.

And the letting go began.