Fragility

My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the spring.  He was lucky because he caught it fairly early.  Although he had options, he chose surgery over radiation, due to a family history.  In September he had his surgery and is doing fine.

The timing of his diagnosis coincided with some pretty serious stressors in my own life, including some anxiety issues which lead to me quitting my job and taking the summer off.  My parents were reluctant to tell me about my father’s diagnosis. They didn’t want to worry me, which I understand.  But when they did tell me, it was okay.  I wasn’t even worried about it.  I knew he would be fine, I knew they had caught it early, and I knew that he would pull through surgery just fine.

Fast forward a bit to August 22.  We were on our last day of our family vacation.  We had spent the night in Salmon Arm British Columbia, when I heard the news.  Jack Layton, the leader of the NDP had passed away from cancer, which started out in his prostate.  He was the same age as my dad.  He had just run a political campaign better than his wildest dreams, done what some would say was the impossible, and in my opinion, it cost him his life. Although I may not have agreed with all of his political ideologies, he was someone I admired and had respect for.

Mr.Layton’s death affected me more than I thought it would.  When we arrived home early that evening, and my husband and I sat alone for the first time in two weeks, I started to cry.  And the tears kept on coming.  I was afraid for my father, I was afraid for myself.  I wasn’t ready to even imagine a world without my dad.  I had put it out of my mind and all of a sudden I had to deal with it.

I took the day after my dad’s surgery off from work so I could go and spend time with him.  There are lots of times when nurses and doctors come in, and my mom and I would slip out in the hall.  There was a man there on his cell phone.  It became clear that whoever he was there for, was not well.  They were moving them to the palliative care ward that afternoon.  He sat 5 feet away from us, with his head in his hands.  His sister came out of the ward and sat down beside him.  They discussed the move to the other floor and all the people they should let know.  They spoke about how their loved one didn’t know they were there visiting.  Then they sat silently for a while.

A nurse came running out to get them, to tell them that they had been asked for.  Their brother had woken up, and asked where they had gone, and for a glass of water.  A wave of relief washed over their faces. The woman turned and faced my mother and I and said “It really are the little things that are miracles sometimes, aren’t they?” before she left to see her brother.  I felt blessed to be slightly included in that moment.

The funny thing about hospitals, is that almost seem to level the playing field.  In the two days that I was there visiting, I met a variety of people, who normally we would have passed without a glance.  But there, we shared something.  There was something more we had in common.  Each person there had faced or was facing the fragility.  Be it through birth, illness or death.  We could share that.

In everyday life we lose that.  We forget that common thread, that shared depth of emotion that each of has with the people we love.  We are not so different. We are all fragile.

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I’m back…

I pulled my blog down awhile ago. There was a variety of reasons, but the biggest was definitely privacy. Both mine and my family’s. I have written about some pretty personal stuff on here, about myself, my kids and my husband. And anyone could read it, and people did. People from my past. So I slammed the door shut so no one could see it. But I missed writing. More than I thought I would, so I opened it up again, for now.

But for those of you out there who also write, how have you dealt with privacy issues? I thought about restricting who had access, but I like the fact that if someone is looking for information on anencephaly or oppositional defiant disorder, they can maybe stumble across me. There have been times in my life where I felt that the Internet was the only place where I could find someone who related. I know that I will be much more conscious of what I write, but I am looking forward to writing again.

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TPM- Grumpy

My mom called me yesterday morning, to see if I was okay.  I had spent part of Saturday with my parents, and I guess that I just wasn’t myself.  And honnestly I haven’t felt like myself lately.  Usually Mondays are opened with some sort of terrible poetry, but today, I don’t even feel like I have that in me.   My husband is working stupid long hours and by the time he gets home we are both tired and grumpy, and I live with two moody teenagers.  I mean  that alone is enough to drive you around the bend!

But in order to make myself feel better, I feel the need to get things accomplished.  I must write this terrible poem  so that I can check it off my list so that it doesn’t become another thing hanging over my head!  Put on pants… CHECK! Brush teeth… CHECK!  Make it to the office… CHECK!  Write awful poem….CHECK!  Really it is the little things that keep me going.

T’was only the fifth time I told them,

“These socks, I’m not going to fold them.

And if they keep making that face,

At the food on their plate ,

The police will never be able to find them.”

Hurry home husband, the kids are driving me crazy!

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Certain Peril!

When we last left our family, they were searching in vain for the keys and the mustard…  Saved only by the superhuman skills of the woman they refered to as “mom”.  In this weeks episode, our hero is facing a new challenge. 

She must make herself be in three places at the same time!  Oh, who has hatched this heinous plan?  What evil-doer has it in for this unassuming hero?  Or is it some rare alignment of the stars that have led to this?  Next Thursday evening she must: work until 6:30, have her son to TKD by 6pm, and attend her daughter’s choir concert at 7!  Her sometimes crime fighting partner, semi-adequate dad, can not help her, he is busy saving the city’s power supply at the local power plant until at least 8.

Our hero has pulled out her blueprints for the time machine that she was working on, only to find that her husband spilled transmission fluid all over them, running the ink!  They are unreadable!  What is she going to do? 

But then, she remembers her secret weapon!  Could it work? Well, it has never let her down before!  She must try!  She calls “super-grandparents!”  Huzzah! Success!  Her father had to attend TKD that night anyway, and is happy to take her son!  She will get out of work a half hour early, as she luckily has time to rearrange her schedule, and make it to the concert on time, where she will meet super-grandma, who will save our hero from certain boredom.  Thank-you super-grandparents!  You’ve saved the day!

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On Time and Distance

I attended Alberta Ballet’s production of “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” on Friday night.  It is a new ballet set to the music of Sarah McLachlan.  In my late teens I listened to a lot of Sarah.  The album “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” will always remind me of being 18 and 19.  I remember my mother wondering why I liked listening to such depressing music (ironically, she loved the music in the ballet, and has no recollection of me ever listening to it).

I found the ballet moving, and it brought me close to tears a few times.  But it wasn’t the content of the ballet in so much as it was the feelings and emotions that are connected to that music.  18 and 19 were not easy years.  When people say that they wold love to have those years back, I think they are crazy.

I was struggling to figure out who I was, and what I wanted in life.  I was enrolled in engineering at university, and hated it.  As a result I may have skipped one or two classes to hang out with friends.  The thing about skipping classes though is that it makes it awfully hard to pass the course.  Which I did not.

I fell very much in love with a young man.  He was good to me.  But I was not good to him.  I was struggling with so much and my relationship with my parents was strained.  I hid the truth from them, resented them worrying, and didn’t know how to deal with all the things in front of me.  I sometimes wish I could have met him later when I was a grown up, and not the insecure and overwhelmed young women I was.  I made huge mistakes in both my academic choices and my relationships with my family and this guy.  Mistakes that still haunt me when I am most vulnerable.

There comes a time when you hit bottom, and I did.  My parents brought me home, kicking and screaming, but it was just what I needed at the time.  It took a long time before I felt like me again.  Years really, and the birth of my son.  I find it funny that I was much more “me” at 15, than I was at 18.

I had moved on from all of this,  it has been almost 18 years since I was 18.  And yet sitting in the dark, listening to that music all those feelings of pain, confusion, guilt and self hate came flooding back to me.  Tears filled my eyes and I bit my lip to keep it together.  Time brings distance and perspective, but it really struck me how a line in a song could wrench my heart, and bring all those feelings back.

it’s not the wind that cracked your shoulder
and threw you to the ground
who’s there that makes you so afraid
you’re shaken to the bone
and I don’t understand
you deserve so much more than this

To my 18-year-old self; I’m sorry you went through that.  It gets better. Hold on. Trust yourself.  You’re worth it.

Me at 22, when I remembered who I was.

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Schmother’s Day

I have a confession to make. I dread Mother’s Day. I have spent the last few Mother’s days with my mom, just the two of us, and that has been great. But the part with my actual kids, kinda stink. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children. I actually blame their father. To him, celebrations like this are just not important. He would be quite happy if I didn’t do anything for him for Father’s day or his birthday. It would make no difference what so ever. I do not feel the same way. I would like a giant fuss. I want presents and fancy meals. Even if I ask for it, it doesn’t always happen.

Part of it is my own doing of course. Years ago we spread my daughter’s ashes on Mother’s day – bad idea. It will forever be in my mind on Mother’s day that I never really held her close, and that I chose that day for the final good-bye. There have been Mother’s days where I broke down in tears at church from the overwhelming wave of feelings that swept over me.

Motherhood definitely changes as your children get older. No longer do you get handmade crafts from school with handprints and pictures. There is no drive for them to do anything special for me, and there is no role model to prompt them to do so. No small child throwing their arms around your neck and snuggling. No small gestures. I miss it. I can ask, but sometimes I don’t want to. I want it to come from them and not just because I am asking for it.

I admit that I am feeling rather taken for granted even prior to Mother’s Day and I am dreading the hurt that I anticipate arriving on Sunday morning when there is nothing for me. In the last few weeks, my daughter has only spoken to me when she wants food or laundry done. A package of toilet paper has been sitting in the middle of the bathroom floor for almost a week, as test to see how long it takes someone else to put it away. No one else volunteers to make meals, no one else picks up groceries, no one else notices when kids need clothes or shoes. You know, the usual mom’s lament.

So I am open to suggestions. How do I make this better? Do I have the flip out? Or do I just give my kids money and take them to the mall and tell them to go and get me something. I have been not so subtly reminding my husband. Does anyone else feel like these days never live up to their expectations? Do I just need to suck it up and accept my family the way they are?

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What’s in a Name?

I am a step-mother. I hate the term step-mother. Really, how many good step-mothers have you heard about compared to all those “wicked” and “evil” hags that fill stories and movies. For the record, I am actually a damn good step-mother. It does help that our daughter lives with us full time, and I have been “mom” for ten years now.

But still I resent the evil step-mothers in stories. Never have I made a poison apple, locked anyone in the top of the tallest tower, or taken children out into the woods never to return. I admit that I wear a lot of black, but that is more because it is slimming, not because I have an alliance with anything or one unholy.

I give my daughter a lot of the credit however. Very rarely has she ever treated me like less than her mother, only once in anger has she used it towards me. Trust me, she has been angry with me lots, so if she wanted to, she could hurl those words that every step-parent dreads: “you are not my real parent”. The one time that it was used in anger towards me, I think we both were surprised by how much it hurt me. And since then, it has never been even hinted at. This reminds me, that I need to tell her how much I appreciate that. Often we will be meeting people for the first time together and they will tell us how much we look alike, because we both have blonde hair and blue eyes (this is where it ends as she is think as a rail, and I on the other hand, well, I am not). We always sort of look at each other and smile, and she takes the lead and says “funny, because she isn’t my birthmother”. This may seem like a small thing, but to me it is huge.

This means that I am her mom, and that just feels really good.

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