Thursday, November 28, 2013

On Being There

I spent last Thanksgiving with my father in his hospital room, where I’d been with him day and night for nearly two weeks. My father had decided he no longer wanted to live. It was understandable.

We were both deep in grief over the loss of my mother just two months earlier. She, like him, had been in and out of the hospital over the previous few years, struggling with one serious health challenge after another. Her last hospitalization, which resulted in an emergency surgery she never recovered from, ended in an ICU, my hand holding hers as she lost her battle with a blood infection.

It was a horrible struggle for me to let my father go so soon after losing my mother. Yet I had to remind myself that he’d probably have let go sooner had it not been for her, his wife of more than 56 years.

After breaking his hip then discovering he had metastatic cancer, he’d grown to detest the dialysis he’d been on for five years. I reminded myself of the days I had to send my mother in to convince him to dialyze, to stay alive. “Do it for me,” she’d say. “I want you to outlive me.”

And so he did. And then he was done.

He told me he loved me dearly, that it wasn’t that he wanted to die, but he didn’t want to live “like this,” on dialysis, no longer strong and independent as he’d always been.

I didn’t get to hold my father’s hand as I held my mother’s. He passed away early that Saturday morning after Thanksgiving as I slept a few feet away.

But I was there. And for that, I am grateful.

I was there. And I’d been there.

I was there for my parents for three years, as one health challenge after another befell them until one day I realized I was their caregiver. I was in charge of their doctors’ appointments and home care, scheduling X-rays, chemo and physical therapy. I could recite their complicated medical histories without notes and go over their long lists of medications by brand name or generic. I even ran my father’s dialysis for him, which he did at home. Beyond that, I was managing their bills, grocery shopping, and feeding the cats.

Many days I was overwhelmed — sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally — but never spiritually.

As often as my heart broke for my parents, and sometimes for myself, I was also, and increasingly so, grateful for so many things. I feel that still. Maybe more so.

Thank God I could be there for them. Thank God I had my health and abundant energy. Thank God I had a good mind to understand their medical issues so well I was often assumed to be a medical professional. I was a good advocate.

More, I was a good daughter. I was told that often. Maybe too often.
I learned I was rare. We live in times when it’s difficult for children to care for their aging parents, to allow their parents to stay in their own homes, cared for and surrounded by those they love.

Not everyone can afford to cut back on a career or even put one on hold to care for their parents, or to move in with them, or to uproot their own family from the other side of the country. Not everyone is emotionally equipped to handle caregiving.

But for whatever reason, I could do that for them. And I know how much they appreciated me. I’m so grateful for that.

As I shared at my father’s memorial, I gave my parents a gift of myself those years, but it was also a gift to myself.

This first appeared on The Good Men Project, Nov. 28, 2013.

A Month of Thankfulness: On Being There

Thanksgiving has new meaning for me. 

I'm glad I could be with my father last year.

Please click on the link:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

"Be Kind and Rewind": My Elaine-from-Seinfeld Blockbuster Moment

As Blockbuster closes its stores, I'm reminded of the time I discovered they had a note about me in their files.

"What does it say?" I asked.

The guy at the register said: "Doesn't rewind tapes."

What?!?! It was ONE time, I told him, knowing full well the "incident" (quotes intended) was the time I had to rewind one of their grimy VHS tapes before I watched it.

Knowing their tapes tramped through hundreds of VCR machines, I felt I should not have to rewind it twice on my pristine machine. So I dropped it in the return box, kindly explaining on a yellow sticky note that I had to rewind it once, so I didn't rewind it when I was done.

I asked the guy to remove or at least amend the blemish to my record. I have no idea if he did, but I'd like to think their little video profiling practice had something to do with their demise.

*evil laughter*

NOTE: Lest anyone take my "ire" too seriously, I did find this funny. Elaine-from-Seinfeld funny. I actually feel kind of bad for Blockbuster.
*evil laughter*

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Call of the Sirens

I was in high school, a girl consumed and mesmerized by the glossy pictures in her glossy magazines: Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue. I kept them like precious jewels. I lived by them. I found hope in them.

The models, oh they were so perfect, so pretty, so inspirational. And maybe, just maybe, I too could look like that. Maybe just a little.

It was a red strappy dress. Just that right shade of red, not too orange, not too blue. It was perfect against the model’s warm, lightly tanned skin. It was casual yet sexy and oh so effortless looking. It graced the model’s slim figure with a loving and gentle embrace.

She had dark blond hair with natural waves. She was pretty in that high school girl way, like Kate Moss. I wanted that look.

If I could have, I’d have dived into the pages and lived there. Looking just like that. Glossy. Perfect. I knew that was not possible but some part of me still longed for a world like that.

I found the dress. My God, I actually found the actual dress. It was in a store a few miles from my home. I don’t need to just dream, I thought. I can actually attain this.

My heart was full of hope as I discovered it in my size on a rack in one of those trendy little stores, the kind with bright lights and loud colors that carries clothing we see in magazines, clothing that lures us hopeful young women like Sirens, those beautiful creatures who in Greek mythology lured sailors with their songs to shipwrecked deaths against rocky shores.

I took it into the dressing room. It hung lifeless on the hanger, its color less warm and aglow under the sunless light. It was just a few feet of material, not the gorgeously draped fabric on the model’s perfect figure. It seemed cheaper than it did in the magazine.

But I wanted to believe the dream so I denied that bit of disillusionment as I undressed then stepped one foot after another into the sundress I’d imagined could change my life.

 I felt as if someone smacked me in my face when I faced myself in the mirror. How could this be the same dress? My figure was not the model’s. My white skin was not a tanned, glowing canvas. The dress fell unattractively on my body, not caressing the perfect lines as I expected.

I felt betrayed. Worse, I felt stupid.

How could I have been so miseld? I left the store without the dress, and along with that I left behind a bit of a dream and a certain amount of my innocence was smashed against the rocks.


Never again, I told myself those many years ago and yet, I still hear the call of the Sirens. And I find myself wanting to believe.

I want to believe that if I buy those perfectly fitted jeans on the model with mile-high legs that I’ll look like that, too. That life will be glamorous and wonderful if I buy those shoes, start using that face cream or makeup or get that hair style.

I still get swept into the dream until I remember — and I always remember — that strappy red dress.

Charles Revson famously once said of the cosmetics they made in the factory: “In the drugstore we sell hope.”

Now an adult for many years, I know this, we all know this. Even the models in my fashion magazines are not so perfect. Air brushing, Photoshop, special lighting and other tricks make the already impossibly beautiful even more so.

It’s okay to want to look pretty, in style, polished. But I need to keep it real. I’ll never look like anyone but me. I’ll never have longer legs, flawless golden skin, hair that is always perfect.

And that's okay. That has to be okay. It’s all I’ve got.

So when I do hear the Sirens call — and sometimes I’m lured again — I know better.

I remind myself of that strappy red dress and steer myself clear of the rocks.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Another Year Goes By

I am off to the same writing event as I was off to the last time I posted on here. I cannot believe how fast nearly 12 months has flown.

At that time, a year ago, I mentioned the incredible amount of life challenges I'd faced and been witness to — the pains, the gratitude, everything. I was hoping I was ready to roll up my sleeves and begin working on some essays.

But more challenges awaited.

I am still in the midst of these new events and new adjustments, including one I never would have imagined I'd face. Nothing I'm ready to talk about here. Not yet, at least.

So I am off to imbibe in some inspiration.

I have many stories to tell. And I will.