Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Tough Day

I recently made an interesting personal observation: I don't cry much these days. I compare to 5 years ago, when my sister was dying of cancer, my mother was losing her mind with Alzheimer's, but just coherent enough for Teri's illness to be new and shocking to her every day, and my son was preparing to go to Iraq.

I cried a lot then, but oddly enough, still mostly in private. I usually cried in the car. I cried when I drove from home to Mom, then I bucked up and dealt with things. I cried between Mom and Teri's house, then got my shit together. I cried from Teri's to work, where I pulled it together to put in my 8 hours. 

A week from now will mark the 5-year anniversary of Teri's passing. She died on Labor Day Weekend, and, while she is always on my mind, I feel like she's sitting on my soul every year at this time. 5 years. I can't believe it. I reflect on our daily conversations, and how she actually wondered where we would each be after this much time. I often wish I could tell her that it's no easier now than it was on Day 1.

It remains to be seen, however, that all of those terrible circumstances that had me bonking into walls in 2009 don't exist, and life is good, and I laugh now, much more than I cry.

However. 5 years! She's been on my mind, with this "landmark" anniversary. I can hardly believe it.

~~~

This morning I walked into Carle Clinic for a doctor appt., and was directed to a self-check-in. Upon verifying my identity, a screen popped up: Is this still your Emergency Contact? It was Teri. Teri's first and last name. Teri's address, and her phone number and her work phone number, and her relationship to me.

It hit me in the gut. I added Clint as my Emergency Contact. And then there were 2: Clint and Teri. I stood there, and hit the giant red "X" next to Teri's name. I scanned my card, printed my receipt, and went upstairs.

~~~

Perimenopause, my diagnosis is, from one of the nicest Ob-Gyn doctors I have ever met. Exactly what I expected. There is medication for my problem (women can guess, men don't want to hear about it)--BUT. But there must be a "procedure" first. A biopsy. Usually a woman has fair warning, and can take some Tylenol ahead of time, but if I want to get this mess taken care of ASAP, we can do it sooner. Like, now. The biopsy is procedural and routine. It allows the doctors and powers that be to say, "see? Those meds are the right thing to do, because this over here isn't the problem," when the results come back that there isn't a problem.

I opted for the procedure, sans Tylenol prep. It had to be performed twice, but was over quickly, and was only vaguely uncomfortable. The doctor noted, as she sat me up, that she'd like to clone me as a patient, stoic and calm as I was. 

As the sweet nurse agreed with her, out of nowhere I fell into tears. I mean, I. lost. it. The ugly cry. The two of them stood there, stunned. I knew my behavior was a surprise, but the more I tried to compose myself, the harder I cried. 

I finally managed to get out that Teri was still my Emergency Contact, and that I was feeling fragile when I walked in. And then ticking off my family's medical history--all of them essentially gone--when I'm naked but for a sheet, is hard every time I go to the doctor. Followed up by an on-the-spot decision about a medical procedure, and finding the statement "this really is a crazy amount of blood" both vindicating and unnerving--well, I guess I just lost my ability to buck up.

~~~

It's a strange mix: grief and hormones and aging and life's natural progression. While I felt a bit undone this morning, I know that women my age are losing their composure in clinics all over the world, and I'm not the first patient my doctor has ever watched burst into tears. I'm 51 and fabulous, dammit, and all of this is not unexpected. I drove myself home, just fine, in need of an afternoon's sleep, and that was it. 

As tough a morning as it was, in the end, I can only circle back to how this post began: I don't cry much, these days, and I cherish that. One "public" outburst is pish-posh after the seasoned veteran I became in 2009. The pendulum may swing back to tough times some day, but in the meantime, I appreciate where I am right now.

Also, I miss my sister.






















Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Seaweeditee

We are vacationing in Destin, Florida, with a couple dozen of our best friends. Sounds like it would be hectic, but it's not. We're all here and we all do our own thing, and we bump into this family or that at the beach or the pool, but everyone pretty much does their own thing.

When we checked in the clerk at the front desk gave us a list of rules to follow. For instance, balcony lights go off early, because sea turtles are nesting between the months of May and October. The clerk threw in another tidbit:

"It's also manatee season. One may come up and bump you while you're swimming, but don't worry about it. They're just big dumb cows. They're actually nicknamed "sea cows."

My initial response was "Oh, my God, I hope a manatee bumps me!!! That would be AWESOME!"

A few hours later, however, Clint was regaling Steven with the manatee story, and he said "she said they'll bump into you. Like a cat!"

Steven responded, "Yeah, a 1,000 pound cat."

Remember when I thought I wanted to zipline? And I forgot that I hate heights, and signed up anyway? See...I didn't think that through. Actually, I don't think I've ever blogged the photo of me crying while I flew over a canopy of trees in Mexico. It is not a pretty picture, is why.

And so, with Clint and Steven's observations, I realized that if a 1,000 pound cat swam up and bumped me with it's big nose while I was floating in the ocean I'd probably come right up out of the water like a dolphin and make it to shore without ever touching the water.

We've spent the last 4 days, then, floating in around in the gulf, and every time I see this (see lower right, front)...


My head screams "MANATEE!!!" and I backpedal from the big dumb oafs.

Only every single time, it's been a patch of seaweed.

We have thus coined the term "Seaweeditee." "Calm down; it's just a seaweeditee."

Tomorrow morning, we're rising early to jet-ski with...dolphins. At this point in time, I think that I'm going to love (love, love) skimming along next to an entire school of 1,000 pound fish with 18 to 28 conical teeth (thanks, Wikipedia). 

The waterproof camera is charged. I will either post the pictures, or never, ever, post them. 

Wait and see.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Happy Father's Day

I dashed into Casey's this afternoon for a big 'ol fountain soda, and when I came out, there was a car parked next to mine with a cute little kid strapped into the passenger seat. His father wasn't far off, just grabbing a newspaper. 

Said cute little kid--and I mean freaking adorable; TV cute--gave me a wide-eyed look as I turned to open my car door. Just as I began to hop in, his sweet little voice called out "Happy Father's Day!" I turned around to see him leaning toward his window with a beaming smile. I smiled back and said "Thank you! You too!"

My speaking to his child brought the father running, and I could see a look of concern on his face. I knew that look. I could see his thoughts: "What did you just say to my kid?"

I got into my car and paused for a few seconds to settle my soda and put my seat belt on, giving him a second to speak to his son. When I figured I'd given them enough time to straighten it out, I turned to look at them. The father had his forehead on the steering wheel, laughing so hard, and when he turned to make eye contact with me, we both just burst into another round of laughter.

It has been a good day, even though Clint worked all day. I delivered gifts to him from myself and from his daughter. I left a bottle of bubbles at my father-in-law's grave. I was proud proud proud when I found out that my son called Clint to tell him Happy Father's Day. I had a jolly laugh with complete strangers, and witnessed another father in love with his funny kid.

Really, I had a great Father's Day.

Water, Roots, Deep Conversation with a Jalapeno Plant, and Unsolicited Relationship Advise to a Loved One

I've spent a good part of the weekend trying to get a grip on my garden, which has gotten away from me. Sigh. I know. Already.

A couple of weeks ago I purchased more plants, and life got a little chaotic, so they sat, in their flats.  The plants were larger, and the roots sat confined in those little plastic packages. They'd become so compacted and dried that the water I'd sprinkled over the them just sat on top, and would not soak in. 

Yesterday I sat and analyzed them, and came to terms with the fact that I was probably out $40 and had killed 2 flats of marigolds and a couple of jalapeno plants.

I decided I had nothing to lose by trying though, so started the day by pulling the plants out of their tight pants--I mean, their tight plastic containers--and sat them right down into tubs of water. I let them soak their feet for a day. I knew full well I might end with a couple of buckets of mud with dead plants in them, but I gave it a shot.

Here are the peppers, yesterday:



And here they are now, my coffee companions this morning:



I slept in this morning, and now on my second cup of coffee, I sit contemplating how important water is, and how it has the same effects on our human bodies as it does on those little plants, and how I wish someone would bring me some scrambled eggs.

Putting off scrambling my own eggs, then, I sat thinking about the roots of those plants. All squished in in there, taking on the shape of the container they were stuck in, growing and growing into a tight knot, and getting sicker. And once released from it, beginning to reach out and expand, and absorb what it needed to thrive again. 

We really do have a lot in common with a plant, don't we?

I spoke this week with a friend that has just ended a relationship. A relationship with a "partner" that belittled her and made her feel bad about herself, and made her second guess her own good instincts. A "partner" that would turn the tables on her and trip her up and make her feel a little crazy. When you're in that relationship with someone--and look, most of us have been in that relationship with someone--that stuff trickles over, outside of the relationship--into your self-esteem, into your personal life, your job, your hobbies, your dreams, your friends, your family.

Now, entertain me, and let's say we're all plants.

My friend's ex-boyfriend--and this is not a man-bashing exercise, the situation is gender-reversible--is that shitty piece of plastic that those plants came in. That sheath that kept her from expanding her roots and reaching out and absorbing what she needs to thrive. I was there once, 30 years ago, a story for another day, but I still remember how that shitty plastic sheath can actually come to feel like home--you're planted in it, for God's Sake. You come to think you actually need it to survive--it has you convinced that it is the only thing holding you together, and you cannot live without it. You see what it does there, right? It's very sneaky plastic; that plastic is a real sonofabitch.

Note to my darling friend:

You've stepped out of the plastic flat. Be one with my jalapeno plant: Drink lots and lots of water now, and grow and grow and grow. Your reach can be endless. And the next time a piece of plastic asks you out for dinner, run for your life. You don't have to be polite to plastic; you can be downright rude. It really doesn't matter if it thinks you're a bitch, ok? 


If you don't believe me, just ask my marigolds. Marigolds don't lie.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Legacy

Last night we went to dinner with Clint's Uncle John and Aunt Judy. John turned 79 today, and he and Judy are real pistols. I fretted over choosing a restaurant they'd like--they're "older," I thought, so nothing too spicy, nothing too boozy, etc. We settled on a great old bar-restaurant called Crane Alley. The minute we walked in, Judy said "I want a beer!" and John followed suit by ordering a smoked chipotle beer for himself, and told us how much he loved big, loud places. He can't hear well in them, he said, but he loooooooves watching people have fun.

They told us about their wedding in Las Vegas (not the first for either of them), in which they met "the cousins"--an annual gathering of 8. They intended to sneak off after lunch one day, and then return at dinner time and announce they'd gotten married. It was one disaster after another: their intended witness took off before they could whisper their secret plans; Judy's name was misspelled on the license application, then they argued whether she should put that she was divorced or widowed (she was both—divorced once, then widowed from her 2nd husband), and the license had to be redone 3 times, to the chagrin of a grouchy clerk. The courthouse couldn't then dig up a legal witness, so they gave up and ran into a cheesy chapel. They finally got the job done and were then forced to sit through a sales pitch to purchase a video of their wedding. When the movie was put into the VCR player, nothing played: the staff had forgotten to turn on the camera.

John told us also of a story about going to a one-room schoolhouse when he was a young boy, and knocking the two front teeth out of a classmate, when he threw a block at him. He lived, he said, with the guilt of knocking that kid's teeth out, but upon seeing him again when they were adults, the guy had teeth! All of his teeth, and they didn't appear to be dentures! He said he wanted to ask how it could be, but on the other hand, didn't want to bring it up.

I noted, "Maybe you knocked out his baby teeth, that he was going to lose anyway." Uncle John gave me a blank stare, and finally said, "You know. I never thought of that." I'm not sure why we all found that so funny, but we ended up howling, laughing. John could finally let go of knocking someone's front teeth out, after 75 years. What a relief.

***

This was just one evening that we shared with family, in the last 10 days or so. Clint's father, Alan Weidert, passed away in his sleep on May 23. He'd been declining from Parkinson's disease for some time.

We have been busy and stressed, and grieving for him and for each other, but what has been at the forefront of the last 10 days or so is the close circle of friends and family that gathered to hold one another up, and celebrate Alan's life. While we have cried, we have also laughed and laughed and laughed, and that is his legacy.

I want to tell all of the stories I heard, in the last 10 days, and all that we did with the time spent with family and friends that gathered. As I said, we laughed, we cried. We ate, we drank. We went to a few garage sales, and even to an acupuncture clinic together. I may circle back and show the photos and tell the stories, or life, as it is wont to do, may move forward faster than I can write about it.

Time will tell, I guess. I know that if I don't get around to it, I still have another angel keeping track, and laughing along.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Kids Say The Darndest Things

Hot in Cleveland was on tonight, and in one scene, Elka, played by Betty White, is talking to a paramour about the fact that his father recently married. It's funny because they are both elderly, so one imagines his father to be 100 years old. The punchline is that his new "baby brother" has just turned 70, and "kids really do say the darndest things!"

This cute skit reminded me immediately of my Great Grandmother. Ida Bennett, from Humboldt, Illinois (likely not to be found on any old-timey map). Sweet and understated, I always made a point of listening, and memorizing, her laugh--as did I my Grandmother's, and my Mother's laugh. They would get, in their own words, "tickled."


My grandmother spoke often of the girl down the road that helped her out every now and again. Ruby. Ruby would deliver this or that, or come down and pull a few weeds while she chatted. In general, Ruby was just a good kid, in my Grandma's eyes. 

As a pre-teen, I always imagined this wonderful Ruby girl as a beautiful, kind, 16 year old girl. Tantamount to Cinderella or Snow White: so pure of heart, assisting the elderly and taking time to enjoy their company. 

Since Humboldt was a bit away, and we only visited every few months or so, years and years passed before the stars aligned and my path crossed with Ruby's: One her visits coincided with mine. A young teen by then, I was gobstopped to discover: 

Ruby was, like, 50! FIFTY, she wasn't a girl, she was fifty! At least, 50! 

Super old.

That's how I told the story, for years: My Great Grandmother was 90, and she referred to the 50-year-old woman as a girl, and I imagined something else, oh, how funny.

Honestly, now I can't even remember what Ruby looked like; I can only remember that I thought she was 50, and old as dirt.

Now that I am 51, of course....I am convinced she was probably closer to 80.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fever



After noting, last week, that I haven't gotten a cold this winter, when I have been surrounded by folks with colds and flu, of course I was hit hard yesterday. My throat hurt so much I swear I could feel strep creeping across the back of it like lava. 

Blessed to have sick days, I took off yesterday afternoon, and stayed in bed most of the next 24 hours--save a quick stint to do Mom's taxes--nothing like putting things off until the last minute.

Sore throat, headache, and upset stomach is now a cough and since snot is gross, I won't tell you about the snot. But the garbage can next to my bed is full to the top with tissues.

I also have a fever. At least, in my mind, I have a fever. My body temperature rarely tags up to 97 degrees, and it is often less than 96. Normally, it is, instead of a normal 98.6 degrees, 96.8 degrees. (My temperature is dyslexic.) Therefore, when I get sick and my temperature spikes to 98-something, I declare myself feverish.

 We are constantly advised to listen to our own bodies, but my insistence that, say, a 99-degree temp closer to a 3-degree spike for me than it is the normal .4-degree fever, falls on deaf ears in the doctor's office. Nurses and doctors have a hard-and-fast rule for what constitutes a fever, and it's downright irritating to hear that I don't have one when I feel so lousy. And hot. 

Irritating for one reason: Everyone knows that a fever is proof that you're sick.

No fever, no sympathy.

Well. Shut it. My temperature is 97.6 degrees right now, which is 2 degrees warmer than it was at 3:00 this afternoon. I am burning up, and if I want to feel sorry for myself, I can.

Poor baby.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Universal Laughter

Last night we attended the 70th birthday of Erica, our son-in-law's mother, in St. Louis. Erica is originally from Germany, and there were 3 family members from her hometown that flew in for the party, to join 40 or so more of us in celebration. There were 2 sisters that knew no English, and 1 nephew, who is fluent in both English and German. (These tidbits crucial later in this story.)

First of all, those 3 sisters spent all day Friday preparing authentic German food for this party. You know, you can find good food in a lot of places. You cook good food, you go out for good food, there is abundant good food, if you want it. But THIS food—this homemade rouladen (thinly cut flank steak, filled with I-don't-even-know-what and then rolled up and baked, and this homemade spaetzle, with nectar-of-the-gods brown gravy ladled over it—THIS good food brought us all to our knees.


An amazing meal, that if I had one wish for you, we could get them together to cook again, and you will be there to taste it.


Clint's daughter Jen made the cake(s) and created beautiful flower arrangements, cleverly placing the bouquets in Oktoberfest steins.

We sang happy birthday, passed cake around, and then retired to the deck on a beautiful night, drinking beer and wine, and gathering into a closer, tighter ring as the guests meandered home. By 11:00 or so, it was just close family left, and story time began. By then we were only about a dozen, and, mentioned earlier, most of us English-speakers only, with 2 speaking German, and 2 capable of acting as interpreters.

Everyone kept up at first, but as one story sparked another, they began coming faster and faster, and our interpreters could not keep up. Margo and Kate began telling a story in German, both of them laughing and screaming so hard that they could't get their breath. Our interpreters also began laughing so hard they couldn't interpret, and what do you think the rest of us did? 

The rest of us laughed along so hard that we had tears falling down our cheeks, that's what we did. We couldn't understand a single word, but the laughter was so contagious, and the realization that we didn't understand what was so funny in the first place...oh lord, we just laughed until our guts ached. It got even funnier when Erica tried to explain it all, but began mixing languages: she began telling the entire story in German again.

Laughter is indeed, universal.

That point was brought home when Erica walked right into the screen door, and then 15 minutes later, I did the same dang thing. Germans and Americans alike think that's pretty dang funny. Boy, it's a shocker when you think you're going through a doorway, but you don't, not at all. I hit that door so hard that my wine splashed out, and was all stuck dripping down the screen to make everyone laugh even harder.

Man, it was beautiful evening. Gathering with friends and family, and so much love surrounding everyone that not even a bit of a language barrier couldn't stop us.