Have a Little Patience Man….

My husband is not known for his patience.  He is a remarkable man with numerous remarkable qualities.  As he turns 50 next week, I think of all the things I admire about him.  He is a strong, self-confident man who can fix almost anything.  Though his hair is almost an even mixture of blonde and white, it only adds to his charisma.  The man is heavier than the average guy, but can work circles around men twenty years younger than him.  He has so many phenomenal qualities but patience is just not one of them.  I know that he feels that he has some form of ADD, but was never diagnosed, because in our day (that’s how old we are, I can say “in our day” like we are ancient folks that learned to drive with a horse and buggy), kids never got labeled anything other than a good kid or pain-in-the-ass.  But as I delve into my memories of our life together, I begin to see a theme that leads me to believe his lack of patience might be from something bigger than attention deficit disorder.

My first memory that I revisited was from a lovely day long ago, the kind of day where you want to sit out in the mild weather with a good book.  My husband does not understand words like sit and book, they are not in his in perpetual motion vocabulary.  This fine day he decided to change the oil in my Toyota Camry.  He pulled out his yellow ramps and set them in front of the car.  I leaned against the house watching, thinking about how hard it was going to be for him to drive up on those ramps without going all the way over.  Imagine my surprise when he looked at me expectantly, holding the car’s keys in the air.  Apparently he was thinking that I was going to drive the car up on the ramps…um, had he lost his mind?

Not knowing what else to do, I fished the keys from his hand and climbed into the car.  He stood off to the side as I started the car and anxiously tried to find those glaringly yellow ramps.  I could just barely see them by the front of my car.  My husband begins signally me with his hands, turn a little to the left, a little more, now ease on the gas and go straight ahead, easy, easy.

“You’re almost there, just a bit more,” he tells me, his hands measuring out a space of maybe a few inches.  I press my foot to the gas pedal and somehow manage to push it down a bit further than I was planning, and with the rev of the motor, my car hits the top of the ramps and launches itself right over them, effectively high-centering the car with the ramps now cramped tightly under the Camry.  There is no moving forward or backward.

I look over at my husband and his face is completely expressionless except for this one little vein in his forehead that is pounding wildly.  He doesn’t say a word.

The last time I had seen that vein was when I decided to help my hardworking husband by mowing and weed-eating our yard.  At that point in our life, my husband was self-employed as a landscaper.  I knew the last thing he would want to do was come home and work on his own yard.  I mowed the lawn easily, having done it many times before.  The weed-eater I struggled with, it was a commercial-level piece of equipment and very powerful. It took me quite awhile to even get it started but once I did, I made my way around the yard unevenly edging the lawn.  Because the machine had so much power, if you tilted it too far down, it would scalp the emerald grass and turn it into a mulch of dirt and lawn clippings.  I made my way around the lawn, not worrying about the lack of precision because I knew it would all grow back.  This was harmless practice.

As I got to the front gate I came to the slim stick of a sapling that my husband had transplanted from a trip he had taken years earlier.  He had brought this little piece of life home and had carefully nurtured it, making sure it got just the right amount of sun and water to survive. It was not a native tree, so he wanted to make sure it had everything it needed to survive.  The tree was growing slowly, it’s slender trunk not much bigger than a pencil, but it was surviving, and each year showed more growth.

I approached the little tree and I noted that the grass beneath it was getting extra long.  Carefully I held the heavy weed-eater out and chipped away at the long blades of grass.  I was halfway around the delicate tree and doing a marvelous job.  I really was improving my technique.  I stepped to the side to reach the back of the tree and snip, there went his years of effort flying over the front fence, now just part of the disposable yard clippings.

Dismay overtook me as I stared at the now bare four-inches of stick poking from the ground.  I hear the screen door open behind me, and there standing on the porch is my husband–expressionless except for a pulsing vein in his forehead.  Again he is silent.

Oh, and then there was that time when he told me to not let our dog out in the front yard, but I did it anyway.  Yes, the dog did get in a dog-fight and yes, I did get bitten, but I still didn’t understand why he needed to stand there with his wooden expression and perpetually popping vein.

Weirdly, one day, my at that point still extremely patient husband, was putting up a curtain rod in our bathroom and for some reason, the rod wasn’t cooperating.  I heard a gutteral growl that came from somewhere deep in his soul and next thing I know, my normally very together husband was fighting with a curtain rod in our front yard and ended up hurling it all the way down the street.  Hmmm, for some reason, the guy seems to have some pent-up stress, I remember thinking.

As I replay these events in our life, I begin to have an inkling as to why my husband no longer has any patience.  There is the slightest possibility, however minute, that living with me for twenty-five years may have sucked every inch of patience out of him….I don’t know, its just a theory….

Poop for National Puppy Day…

I’m limiting my time on social media lately and though I scrolled through quickly this morning, I still had time to see that it is National Puppy Day.  Now I’m not one for all these days designated by social media as a this day or a that day, but come on, National Puppy Day?  If you don’t love a dog and especially puppies, well lets just agree there is something very wrong with you.

I scroll through the pictures everyone has posted thinking things like, “I definitely need a bulldog, or look at this mutt…isn’t she the most adorable thing in the world?”  By the end of my scrolling, I am lost in the dog fantasy world.  My own red-coated canine is curled up on the couch oblivious to my dog fantasies.

When I look at the pictures of other people’s dogs, I can tell immediately that they are well-behaved and don’t wait until a person is completely unsuspecting and then launch in an ear-ringing bark-fest because a squirrel ran up the neighbor’s tree.  Surely they don’t gulp down avocado pits the size of lemons and make their owners agonize over spending $4000 to have it removed, and then just when it looks like the check is going to have to be written, leave a pile of poop the size of Mount Everest with an avocado pit as its crowning glory on the living room floor.

I know as I look at these other people’s delightful pictures of angelic pups, they didn’t have to spend $2000 on dog trainers only to have the trainers throw up their hands at the futility of trying to convince a stubborn redbone coonhound that he can walk on a leash without losing his mind.  Surely their dogs don’t track red mud into the house and then promptly crawl up onto the couch, not caring for a moment that it is going to take hours to clean up after him.

Of course when it is pouring rain, their dogs probably run out to the lawn and promptly do their business unlike a certain dog I know who will stand in the drenching downpour while staring at me in the doorway, absolutely refusing to pee until I am standing right next to him on the lawn getting soaked.

When it rains, I’m sure their dogs don’t paw at the back door and then when it is opened, refuse to go out because it is wet outside, and then once the door is closed again, promptly forget it is raining and start the whole cycle over again multiple times.

This dog drives me insane so much of the time…and yet, when I’m on the floor struggling through yoga poses, he has me laughing so hard I can barely breath as he inserts his head between my legs while I’m stretching or covers my face with kisses while I’m trying to downward dog.  He is the guy who inches his way over on the couch at night, just close enough so that we are barely touching but making contact none-the-less.  This is the boy that sensed my sadness when my daughter moved away and snuggled up close to me, his liquid brown eyes staring into mine, reassuring me that everything would be okay.  He is also the dog that sounded the alarm when our friend pounded on our house but we didn’t hear it, because a wild fire was racing through our neighborhood, headed towards our house.  He is the dog that refused to quiet down until we investigated and once we were up, we found that we needed to evacuate immediately.  When we arrived home the next day to find our house intact but all of our yard and everything in it burned, he was right there to offer comfort.

This dog, this redbone coonhound pain-in-the-ass, is also the one that tip-toes into the kitchen at night to take a hit of whipped cream out of the can with me.  He keeps our little secret quiet, although it generally costs me an extra spray of whipped topping in payment.  When I work in the yard, he is right by my side, thrilled that we are outside together.  The joy he has each morning as he greets me lets me know that he loves me unconditionally.

I think about all these things and I know I must do something I don’t normally do, I will post my own picture of this beloved and sometimes frustrating pup.  He is oh so photogenic, so I scroll through my many pictures of him and finally find one that I feel best describes his personality.  I post the picture and feel quite in love with my canine companion with his glossy red coat.

Feeling good I decide to go curl up on the couch with him and give him a good scratching.  I walk down the hallway and into the kitchen and stop dead in my tracks…for National Puppy Day he has left me the gift of a piece of poop on the floor…some things never change.

Trust Me, I’m Ripped Under all this Fat…

I’m fresh from the gym and standing naked in front of the bathroom mirror.  Despite eight months of regular gym visits, my curves (that word sounds so very sexy, but trust me, my curves are not the kind advertisers rave about) hold on stubbornly in all their lumpy glory.  I keep waiting for the miracle to occur that will shave all these extra pounds from my ample body, but apparently that miracle is on back-order.

Fat has followed me around for most of my existence, generally hanging on for dear life to my thighs and butt.  I have been on every diet that exists, from the cabbage soup diet (it probably works because the fat can’t stand to live in the same house as the odor of cabbage that saturates your clothes and furniture) to Weight Watcher’s (where you get to weigh-in in front of a employee that is gung-ho because they have been successful, and also in front of the next five people in line behind you because WW’s has never heard of weighing-in in privacy).

I was around ten-years-old when my parents put me on my first diet–the Cambridge shake diet.  This was the prequel to Slimfast, a prequel that tasted a bit like chocolate and strawberry-flavored chalk.  The basis of the diet was a glass of chalk (oh, I mean shake) for breakfast and another one for lunch.  This was followed by a healthy dinner (I’m not sure my family understood healthy, a healthy breakfast in our house consisted of a slice of Wonder bread with an inch-thick slice of cheddar cheese melted on top, so a healthy dinner was probably cheesy enchiladas or something similar).

My mom would always join me on whatever diet we were on because she struggled with her weight also.  It is somewhat ironic that she grew up as a tall, slim young woman and my dad was a heavier kid.  As adults, my dad settled into a handsome man with a solid, lumberjack physique, but my mom’s sleek figure could not hold up to the onslaught of birthing four children in six years, and then popping out another one seven years later.  My father made sure to remind her that her shape was not as attractive as it once was, so she was constantly battling the desire to eat but also wanting to lose weight.

I was actually the smallest baby in our family, but again in life’s delicious surprise twists, I am now the heaviest of all of my siblings.  I managed to lose the extra pounds in my late teens and kept most of them off until my pregnancies.  I loved the power and strength of my body when I was fit.  Having spent a childhood in the super-plus sizes, I knew what it felt like to carry more weight on your body than you are supposed to.  When I was average-sized, I could cross my legs, run, and move easily.  I miss that.

The eat less, move more concept is not new to me.  I know how to lose weight in theory, but what I can’t figure out is how to get my brain on board.  My body is not screaming out for junk, my brain is.  I think the key to everything is getting my brain to agree to a diet because though exercise is great for you, it isn’t going to give you Gigi Hadid’s body.

I know this because I work hard at the gym, like I’m totally ripped under all this fat.  I make my husband feel the muscle in my arms because they are rock solid…you just have make sure you are feeling my bicep and don’t let your hand graze the underside of my arms that I think is called in scientific terms something like an arm flap (yes, I know that is not the actual scientific term).

I would just like to take a minute to praise arm flaps also known as wings.  I would never recommend obesity or morbid obesity to anyone BUT if you happen to have one of those rooms that lights up the second the sun peaks over the mountains, fat arms are da bomb.  You just rest one of those suckers over your eyes, and bam! automatic black-out curtains.  I must give credit where credit is due.

Anyway, back to talking about my fat body and how I don’t want it to be fat.  This week I added in planks to my workout to work out my core.  Planks seem like such a harmless exercise, I mean you literally start them by laying on your belly on the floor.  All you have to do is lift your entire body up into a straight line for like twenty seconds…easy, breezy–until you actually do it.  The first five seconds you are thinking that this isn’t so bad.  By about ten seconds your heart starts pounding and at fifteen seconds, there is a definite roaring in your ears and your lungs miraculously forget how to breath.  By like eighteen seconds you aren’t even sure if you are at eighteen seconds because you can’t remember how to count.  At twenty seconds you drop to the floor like a dead fish and promptly forget how hard that was…until you try it again.

So after a particularly sweaty day at the gym and knowing that I have now incorporated planks into my routine, I was positive today that six-pack abs had to be peeking through by now, but sadly no.  It was the same old two-tiered roll of belly flesh that showed up mysteriously five years ago.  Damn it!  I guess I’m going to have surf the internet and find yet another diet to try so that I can finally show off the ripped physique that is hiding under all that fat…

Oops, She Better Not Have Done it Again…

“I think I would like Britney Spears to be my hall pass,” my almost 50-year-old husband announces last night.  We are both comfortably ensconced in our loungers, he in his underwear and slippers, me in my sweat-dried gym clothes.  A hall pass for anyone that doesn’t know, is a celebrity that a married person can have sex with if the planets all aligned and a young, fit, gorgeous, famous person came into their life and agreed to it.

Being the thoughtful wife that I am, I immediately acquiesce to his request.  I mean let’s be real, he is almost fifty, watching television in his underwear and slippers.  I’m fairly sure that Britney is not going to hit that, no matter how many stars line up.  I continue to watch television…but then my overactive brain kicks in.

I, of course, immediately start imagining the scenario of Britney meeting my husband and agreeing to meet him in a hotel room (even in my imagination, I know that she is not going to want to knock boots in my bed with its twenty-year-old comforter that though clean, has stains from numerous snacks, the flu, and children’s art projects).  My imagination works overtime and I begin to picture my husband pulling out all his moves to romance her, and I start to feel my fury rise.  How can he be having sex with Britney Spears when he has me at home, doesn’t he understand this will ruin our marriage?

Then, because this is the way my brain works, I decide that he will turn Britney down because he will not want to risk his relationship with me.  But then my brain brings up the very valid point that if he can sleep with her and I never find out, there is a good chance that he would go ahead and give into his carnal desires (again, even in my imagination, I’m pretty sure Britney is not feeling quite the same carnal desire that he is…apparently I am blaming this whole imaginary sequence on him).

So now I’m pissed, like really mad.  I’m stewing in my sweat-dried, not very flattering, but oh so comfortable sweat pants.  My husband however, is still sitting happily in his underwear, watching television and has moved on from even the thought of Britney Spears.  But in my imaginary world, I’m getting revenge.  I’ve decided that I’m going to have to sleep with my hall pass (though I never officially asked, but if he gets one, I get one too).  My hall pass is going to be the always adorable Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

For some reason, my brain picks the same hotel room that Britney and my husband shared (because with all this creative fantasy going on in my head, I couldn’t come up with a different venue?).  In my revenge fantasy, Dwayne and I walk into the hotel room and he reaches for me, in all his muscled glory…and I’m out.  Even in my stupid revenge scenario, I cannot cheat on my husband.

Still mad at my husband, I change the story-line to this imaginative tale and decide I will have the affair with Dwayne, I just won’t tell my husband and will take the secret with me to my grave.  Rewind and start again…Dwayne reaches for me and this time I lean in towards him…and guilt floods through me.  My fantasy balloon has been popped.  I can’t do it, I can’t have sex with my hall pass Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson because I will be eaten alive with guilt.  Damn it!

I sit in the comfortable darkness of our living room mourning the loss of my hall pass and still furious at my husband.  How dare he have an imaginary affair with Britney Spears in my mind?  My mouth opens unbidden.

“No,” I say.

My husband looks at me inquiringly.

“What?” he asks.

“I changed my mind, you can’t have Britney Spears as a hall pass.” I tell him.  “I just can’t take the thought.”

“You are a dork,” my husband says lovingly with a smile.

“And you are crazy if you think some young, hot celebrity would want either one of you,” my youngest daughter pipes in from the kitchen.

‘She is right,’ I think.  ‘We are too old and fat for anyone to want us anymore–and that is just fine with me.’ I settle back into my chair with a contented smile.

A Work in Progress….

I awaken last night to complete darkness.  My first thought is, thank goodness it is pitch black, that means I get a bit more sleep before morning shows up.  The second thought that pops into my brain is about Meghan, my oldest daughter who is spending her second night in her new apartment in the city.  Instantly, out of nowhere my heart begins pounding, not a normal mild increase to the usual steady rhythm, but instead it becomes a drum that is loud and frenetic.  I can feel my heart ramming away at my chest cavity in such a way that I briefly wonder if I’m in the midst of a heart attack.  Fortunately, I have a disorder called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and I have experienced this level of heart palpitations one other time.  I know that it won’t kill me, but it still takes my brain to a new level of anxiety.

I force myself to breath calmly and steadily.  Slowly, the chaotic pounding drops into a more normal pattern.  I breath a sigh of relief and roll over onto my side and my heart takes this opportunity to make one last ditch effort of pounding its way out of my chest.  This episode only lasts seconds and then it is gone.  Instinctively my body draws in a long breath and slowly lets it out.

I lay in bed staring in the darkness wondering if I have just experienced my first panic attack or if the stress of my child’s move has caused a resurgence of my POTS, an annoying but mostly harmless disorder that hangs out in the background of my life.  My mind reflects on the past weekend.

We were supposed to move Meghan on Saturday, but the weather decided that a late season snow storm would make for good weekend weather.  We are all watching the weather hour by hour, watching the schizophrenic forecast change from rain to snow and back again.  Friday’s weather is a combination of rain and hour-long hail storms.  The roads are a thick mess of slush that can’t melt because just as it is on the verge of disappearing, another storm comes in and dumps several inches.  I watch the road anxiously because it is my daughter’s last day of work locally, and the closer we get to her end of the day, the thicker the hail becomes.

My heart wants to swoop in and pick her up from her work so she isn’t driving in this inclement weather, but my mind knows I need to let her figure this out.  The next time she will be driving in hail will be on a freeway as she commutes to her job from the city, so she needs the practice.  I can’t stop myself from texting her and telling her to hang out at work if the roads aren’t safe, but I do not offer to pick her up.  The entire time, I am a ball of anxiety.  When her text comes and says she is safe at home, I want to weep with relief.  But then she decides to head down to the city for an evening with her boyfriend…even though it is supposed to snow.

Again I want to overstep my bounds and demand that the child stay home where she is safe, but I must let her live her life.  I tell her to be safe and I leave it at that, even though it is killing me to think of her driving up the local hills covered in snow in the wee hours of the morning.  But yet again, she makes it safely.

I sleep lightly that night, very aware that Saturday is moving day.  My daughter texts me early in the morning complaining about how tired she is, but I ignore what I think might be her veiled request that I help her finish with the cleaning.  She is an adult, this is her responsibility.  The gods must smile upon the child because the weather, though chilly, does not snow until we are headed out of town.

We arrive at her new apartment to find that her neighborhood consists of a plethora of nationalities and walks of life.  The cars in the parking lot range from barely functional to brand new, and I try my best to ignore the man smoking weed in his car, and later, another man leaning against his car smoking weed watching us.

My daughter expresses disappointment when she sees that the apartment they toured is much nicer than the actual apartment they get.  Her apartment is tiny but functional and clean, but she was looking for swanky and spacious.  As her father, boyfriend and I unload, she stands around in confusion, trying to come to terms with the fact the next year of her life is going to be lived in this very modest abode.  Red flags start going off in my mind because she seems a bit lost.  Her focus is on the apartment’s imperfections and not on getting settled.  My husband sees my distress and has me stand down and let her experience whatever she is experiencing.

We meet the man and woman that live above her, and the woman is lovely but the man appears to have lived a life that might include gangs and prison.  I can only hope that they watch out for our daughter and don’t decide that they don’t like her.  This seems to be a man that you do not want to get on the wrong side of.  I look at my husband anxiously, and he shrugs his shoulders…there is nothing we can do.

As we unload my daughter’s car and I see that there is not one section that does not have a dent or a scratch, my anxiety builds.  I worry about the thought of her pulling out of this carport that is her parking spot, and the thought of her commuting for as many miles as she has to makes me sick to my stomach.  I am just walking dread for the remainder of the day.

That night I feel emotionless, empty.  I know that my being is filled with fear but somehow I have locked that all down just so I can exist.  Sunday morning I wake up and all those emotions that I packed away come springing forward.  I go to the restroom and suddenly I’m weeping on the toilet.  I go buy a soda at the fast food place she used to work, and I’m crying so hard I can barely order.  I can’t control the tears, they just come.

My daughter texts me later in the day Sunday.  She is happy.  She has spent the day with her boyfriend’s family for the first time.  His family is Chinese and he would not introduce her into the family until she would be a regular part of his life.  Now she has achieved this step in life that she has been waiting for.  I am happy for her.  It eases my mind.

I think of myself at her age, and I realize that all of the things I worry about now, I wouldn’t have worried about at her age.  If I had been her, I would have just lived.  I would commute to work, live in my apartment in the city, and not given a thought to any of the constant what if’s that torment my brain now that I’m a mother.  It gives me peace to think about this.  She is just happy to be where she is.

Last night I go to bed knowing that she will commute for the first time this morning, it makes it very difficult to sleep.  I take half of an Ativan to help me sleep.  I pray fervently to God, asking him to protect this child of mine.  This child that I can’t even talk to for twenty minutes without fighting, this child that doesn’t for a second think about how much her parents do for her, this is the child that I can’t stop worrying about…because I love her as only a mother can love a child.

As I pray, the most interesting thing happens.  In my mind’s eye, I see a beautiful, brilliant light blue light surround Meghan and her car.  I am not doing this visualization, it is happening by itself.  I know in my heart that it is a message from God and the angels that she is being watched over.  This image stays with me until I drop into a peaceful sleep.  So it was a surprise when I woke up and thought of her, and my heart took off on its own frantic journey.

I need to have faith that everything will be okay.  I had a very clear vision that Meghan is being protected, so now I have to get out of my own head.  I have to put the focus on me.  My child has moved on, this whole panicking situation is not just about her, it is about me too.  I’m still clinging to the relationship that was actually very difficult, instead of opening myself up to opportunities that are coming for me.  This is a very difficult lesson, one I thought would be much easier.  But as always, I am a work in progress….

I Am Not in Charge Anymore…

As a parent, how do you stand back when your child is facing a dangerous situation?  That is the question I am asking myself right now.  I’m also wondering, should I stand back?  If something happened to that kid, that beautiful, handful that I know as my oldest child, how will I exist?

Tomorrow we are moving this child of mine to a city an hour away.  Her father and I aren’t overly excited about the prospect of her living in the city, but she is a responsible adult.  She works full-time, pays almost all her own bills (we help with medical since she has so many medical issues from her past cancer and her bipolar), and has built her credit from non-existent to a solid score by paying attention to her budget.  We understand her desire to live by her boyfriend of a year, we really do.  But as parents we also worry about her driving in the city, and commuting 90 miles round-trip every day because driving is not her best quality.

When this daughter of ours turned eighteen, we gifted her our Toyota Camry.  The car was in good condition with just one side bumper that had damage (which she caused by backing into a sign).  Now the car is covered in dents and scratches, and the front fender is screwed on because she managed to pull it off by connecting with a truck in a parking lot.  She carries only liability insurance because that is all she can afford, but with her move to the city, her father and I upped her insurance to full coverage at a substantial and ulcer-inducing cost.  This was our one way of still protecting her, knowing that if she is in an accident, at least she will have some money to find a replacement vehicle.

Just this morning I read an advice column that said that if you make decisions for your adult offspring they will never learn to problem solve on their own.  While in treatment for her cancer, I often would let my daughter speak for herself.  I wanted to empower her in her medical care even though she was only ten at the time.  She continued to speak for herself with her doctors for years, until she developed anxiety in her mid-teens.  From there, I took over again and all my former empowerment training went out the window.  As I was taking over, a controlling side to me developed that I’ve just came to understand existed a few months ago.  I thought I was just being a mother, but now I see that her medical care someone morphed into me controlling her life.

With my daughter’s move to the city tomorrow, I can really feel the struggle I have with losing the control over her, even though to me I see it as just making sure she lives a safe and secure life.  If it snows, I keep my phone next to the bed so she can text me and I can drive her to work.  On potential snow days, I literally can’t sleep the night before for fear of missing her call.  If the weather is not great, I will drive by her work to make sure she got there safely.  I text her if it is hailing, listing numerous safety tips for if she has to drive.  I call her to make sure she made it home safely from visiting her boyfriend.  Our family actually jokes about my numerous lectures to her, but I’m beginning to see that it is not something to laugh at, but in fact an unhealthy connection that I’m keeping her bound up with.

All week I have been trying to make peace with my child moving, and the commute she will make five days a week in rush hour traffic.  I felt I was making progress until she texted me from work today that her tremors have gotten so out of control, that she is scared to drive.  We have been through every test there is to try to figure out why her hands and arms tremor, but have not come up with a reason.  The doctor’s best guess is that it is caused by one of her bipolar medications, most likely the depakote.  The depakote keeps her emotionally stable, so the psychiatrist feels that it is a trade-off that is worth it.  The problem is that the tremors have increased the last few weeks to the point that she is complaining about them.  This child has had tremors for probably six years, so she is used to them, but for her to bring them up, they have had to gotten bad.

When I receive the texts from my daughter stating that she is worried about driving, my husband’s and my brains immediately go into problem-solving mode.  We come up with suggestions: call your psychiatrist, call the new apartment and explain the problem and hopefully they will let you out of your lease, call your current landlord and ask if you can continue to rent from him.  There is a palpable feeling of relief between my husband and myself as we feel the universe has spoken and our child will have to stay here in our town.

I text my child the list of suggestions we have come up with, and wait for her response saying she will get right on it.  Sure, we have completely ignored everything I read this morning about adult children making adult decisions, but this is her safety and others safety we are talking about, and we see no other option but to help her stay right here in our town.

To my surprise, my daughter has a different idea.  Having lived with medical issues for years, she understands the medical process.  Yes, she calls her psychiatrist, but for a different reason.  She asks for a medication that will calm her tremors while they start the process of switching to a new bipolar medication that she has been researching.  This was an idea that had not occurred to me, and I will admit, I feel a tiny bit of relief that she came up with a working solution by herself.  It is not a solution that keeps her locked away under her parent’s protective grasp like I think I desired on some level, but a true grown-up decision.

One of my spiritual beliefs is that we come to earth to live a pre-planned life, to learn lessons through the obstacles that are presented through day to day living.  I’ve often thought that with as much as my daughter has gone through already, surely she must have planned for the rest of her life to be smooth sailing.  So I hold onto that thought to buffer me through this agonizing cutting of the cord.  I tell myself that if she is supposed to have an accident, she will have it wherever she is, I can’t control that.  And if she is to have a happy life, it can’t contain a controlling mother, but instead a supportive, loving mother that empowers her adult child.

This is a moment of letting God and letting go.  I have to trust that she will make the decision that is safe for her and those around her.  She has a good head on her shoulders, and I need to step back and let her use it.  I know she has a bevy of angels watching her every minute, even if I can’t and shouldn’t…because that is what being a parent is, letting go…

Who Am I if I am not a Mother?

For the past twenty plus years I have been a mother, but mothering was never a natural desire for me.  When I was a child, I was never one of those kids that mothered all her dolls and counted down the days until I could grow up and have my own children.  I was more worried about important things like when was my waist going to thin out like Barbie’s, or how were my tiny, floppy boobs going to turn into the majestic, perky, plastic mountains that Barbie sported?

When I was a teenager, I cooed over the adorable little tykes running around at church, but more because I wanted the religious boys to see what a good mother I would be.  I figured that if they saw me playing with the kids, they would immediately see past my seventy extra pounds and the thick mustache that no wax could tame, and see their glorious future wife that would push their offspring from her loins (I tended to use those words because of too many journeys into my mother’s romance novels where everything was heaving bosoms and throbbing members).

So in my twenties I marry a phenomenal man who really has no interest in children or pets, but because I have sex with him, he tends to go along with my ideas.  Even then I didn’t really feel the strong urge to have kids, but I needed an excuse to get out of all the socializing that comes from being an introvert married to an extrovert.  I figured a baby was the perfect excuse…probably not the best reasoning now that I think about it.

Two daughters and many years later, it turns out that sometimes I was great at the mothering thing: I made my kids laugh, I kept them entertained, I taught them to potty on a toilet and not in their pants, and before preschool both my kids knew their ABC’s and could count, and I kept a decent amount of structure and discipline in their lives.  But sometimes I sucked as a mom too: doing everything in my power to avoid chaperoning field trips (though I did get sucked into that vortex many times and have the permanent ache in my back from sleeping on the ground at the zoo to prove it), never volunteering in class unless the teacher trapped me, feeding my kids sugar and soda, yelling at my kids when my patience finally couldn’t take their back-talk anymore….trust me the list goes on and on.  If you take the bad and the good, I’m fairly sure it evens out to an adequately decent parent.

My biggest challenge by far was my oldest daughter, Meghan.  She was a mouth and an attitude from the very beginning, but what was cute at three-years-old was worrying at seven.  By the later years, her defiance of everything we asked her to do was more than a red flag that something was going on, but cancer popped into her body at ten-years-old and the focus became all about getting rid of the mutating mass in the bone of her leg.

A year of direct treatment stopped the cancer.  Most of that year was spent in a hospital room that would have been cramped with just the two of us, but was even more claustrophobic with another patient and their caretaker squeezed in also.  It was a year of vomit, pain, fear, excruciating boredom and loneliness, and a constant  worrying eye on test results that came out daily.  In that year she lost twenty pounds, a femur, part of her tibia, her hearing, a normal functioning bladder, her short term memory and the potential for children when she was older.  I lost my sense of security, my kindness, and my belief that most people were good and honest and physically clean.

Meghan enjoyed the year of cancer treatment because it meant all attention was on her.  She told me later that she would willingly put up with all the negatives that came with treatment to be the center of attention again.  I however, aged a decade in that year.  I lost a year with my youngest child.  I no longer laughed easily, though tears could spring at the slightest provocation.  I didn’t believe in people anymore, which is ironic because people stepped forward in droves to help us, but somehow in my journey I lost my link to humankind.  With all the community support and support from my husband and my friends, who were there at the slightest need, I still checked out of the circle of unity that binds people.  Somehow with all the people around us, there was really only my handful of a daughter and me, in our own tiny half of a room in a hospital.

Once cancer was over, I discovered it never ends.  The following two years were continual doctor’s appointments dealing with the after effects of the rigorous chemotherapy, and a few hospital stays for infections.  In my exhaustion, I still noticed that my always difficult child was becoming more moody, and depressed.  The fights became louder and had an edge of threatened violence to them.  Fear began to seep into our lives.  Fear that this developing teen could potentially harm herself, her sister or one of us.

We began therapy for our children about a year after treatment.  We wanted the older one to see a therapist for her explosive behavior and to deal with the trauma of having had a life-threatening illness.  We wanted our youngest to have treatment to deal with half of her family being gone for a year of her life, and for learning how to live with a sister that was always on the brink of an outburst.

A few years passed and Meghan became more unstable, ping-ponging from spittingly angry to morose, camping out in her darkened room surrounded by piles of filth.  I would take an entire day and clean her room out while she was at school, but within a week it would be back to the unsanitary conditions that kept us from ever walking barefoot into her room.  Finally, after a particularly long time spent isolated in her cave, my oldest child confided in me that she was contemplating suicide.  We were on our way to the emergency room in ten minutes.

The mental health services in our small town are lacking, as evidenced by the director that visited with my daughter for ten minutes and declared her not suicidal, but was certain she had borderline personality disorder–the top of the charts in worst mental illnesses.

I took my child home and read up on borderline personality disorder and was dismayed to find that her future possibly held jail, drugs, homelessness, or death…there would be no happy ending.  I sadly made an appointment with a psychiatrist in the nearest city to have my child officially diagnosed.

When we arrived at the psychiatrist’s office, we were at first greeted with an offensive office smell that was a mixture of mold and something undescribable.   The psychiatrist himself appeared to be in need of therapy.  His pastel polo shirt was so wrinkled that I had a suspicion that he had pulled it out of the dirty clothes basket.  His pants had the same less than fresh appearance.  I chose to ignore the weirdness of this office and doctor, and waited with bated breath as he determined my child’s mental illness by reading a checklist off his computer.  This man went to school for ten years to diagnose a person by using a computer checklist.

As he read through the questions, my daughter answered truthfully yes or no and he would click the appropriate box.  After maybe 40 questions were done, he clicked the diagnosis button and voila….she was Bipolar II, the less severe form of bipolar.  So not only was my child not the worst form of mental illness, but she was quite far down the list in severity.  I was furious at our local mental health director for putting me through so much anxiety!

We regularly saw psychiatrists for Meghan, but very quickly discovered they are eccentric creatures themselves.  We had one that would make us wait an average of two hours for every appointment, and then would spend the hour we were allotted seemingly lost in speeches he was giving for himself, as his eyes would be closed the entire time and he would not check in with us to see if we were even paying attention.  He loved his medicines though.  He would prescribe her ones to make her stable, and then more meds to counter the side effects of the previous ones, and then meds to counter the side effects of the meds she took for side effects.  I pulled the plug on this doctor after four or five visits.  Eventually we found a very kind woman that connected with my daughter, and they still see each other currently.

I spent the next years shuffling kids back and forth, trying to keep my youngest daughter safe, while fighting agonizing battles with my oldest daughter.  I was always tired, having completely lost sight of who I was.  My whole life was cleaning up after kids, and feeding them, and I counted the moments until they were gone and I could have a life again.

I never really wanted to be a mom, and when I would give birth to these babies, I didn’t feel the immediate connection that I had heard of.  I was winging it every day, and sometimes those kids were so funny, and some days they were such a pain in the ass.  As my older daughter reached her late teen years I began to worry that because of her mental illness and the after-effects of the chemo, she would never leave our home and live a normal life.  I despaired that we would be together forever, and that was a hell I didn’t know if I would survive.  But then a funny thing happened…my daughter grew up.

Meghan was just turned nineteen and living with us in her hovel of a room.  She put her resumes in all over town because she had quit her job at a fast food joint where she had worked for a year.  Every day I ranted to my husband about what a ridiculous move that had been, but then miracle of all miracles…my daughter got a new job.  Not just a job, a job in a medical office with full benefits and decent pay.  Hallelujah!  At least now she was out of the house for forty hours a week.  But then another miracle happened…she found an apartment.

The town we live in is very expensive to live in, there are almost no rentals, and the few that there are are outrageously expensive, but somehow my daughter found a very nice apartment that she could afford as long as she was careful with her money.  The day we got the news that she had been approved–with almost no credit–for the apartment, I danced like I hadn’t danced in years.  I shouted with joy and laughed an almost insane laugh of delicious abandonment…my child was leaving the nest!

I helpfully supplied that child with boxes and marked the days off on the calendar until her ass was out of my house.  Our fights got fewer and less intense because we knew our time together was coming to a close.  When moving day arrived, I moved most of her belongings myself because I felt my husband was taking too long.  I couldn’t wait for this kid to be on her own.

Another miracle occurred when my child that never left her room except to work, met a nice boy, and he really liked her.  They were new and they were tentative, but they were excited to be together on this momentous occasion as she moved away from home.  I was just thrilled that life was coming together for my kid…and it wouldn’t be at my house.

I bundled my child and her belongings together and deposited them at her new house.  I spent a solid hour lecturing her on living alone and safety, surprised at worry that was beginning to creep into my consciousness.  I would not be able to guarantee her safety anymore.  I would not know if she got home safely from work.  How would I know if she woke up on time to get to work?  The worries came flooding in.  How could I sleep at night if I didn’t know if this bratty child was okay?

I forced myself to go home, but instead of celebrating when I walked into that quiet, peaceful house, I noticed how empty it felt.  Our home was missing someone, and it didn’t feel right.

I walked into her now empty room, in need of new carpeting and fresh paint, and a solid cleaning, and I felt empty too.  This force of nature I had battled for nineteen years was gone, and had taken a piece of me that I didn’t know she possessed with her.

After dropping off my youngest child at school the next day, I found myself cruising past her work to assure myself that she was safe.  Sure enough, her car was parked and she had made it to work on time.  For the following week I drove by her work every day, and sometimes I would drive by her home, just to make sure that everything looked peaceful.

I made my peace with her departure, and those of us left at home reveled in the quiet that had become our life.  I found that the previously harsh memories of my oldest daughter softened around the edges.  Her and I had been bound together by her physical and emotional issues so closely and for so long, that there was a struggle to find my own self again.

I discovered my youngest daughter in the year that followed.  I had always been her mother, but now my focus could be on her alone, and not only on trying to protect her from her older sister.  To my delight, I found my youngest child to be funny, and incredibly intelligent, extraordinarily gifted artistically, and beautiful.  I enjoyed the easy relationship we slipped into.  But as she heads toward the end of her junior year at her early college high school, I begin to understand that my time with her is limited.  She has goals and she is driven, and living at home is not on her list of things she plans on doing.

My oldest daughter is moving an hour away to a city with her boyfriend.  She is transferring her job to a town mid-way between her new home and our town.  She will be out of my stalking zone and I won’t be able to check on her regularly.  She has become a solid adult, living a solid life and that is what I will hold onto.

So somehow, without trying or wanting to, I became a mother…a damn good mother.  It is all I know; how to take care of these two young people, how to fight for them and with them, how to love them so much that I lay awake at night worrying about them.  These two young women have consumed my soul and become a part of who I am, I am their mother.  I have done my job well because each of these beautiful young women is working towards a successful life…so now what do I do?

I was asked what my favorite color was the other day, and you know what?  I didn’t know the answer.  Who am I?  I was this young woman who had a baby so that she didn’t have to go to parties and somehow turned into a natural mother, but who will I be now?  The possibilities seem endless and yet limited at the same time.  I certainly never saw the direction the first half of my life went, so I guess I just have to hang on and see what the Universe has planned for my second half…