Surviving the time change

My mom said earlier in the week that the risk of having a stroke or heart attack increases significantly for those 65 and older two days after the time change. My mom said she was planning on having the heart attack and my dad was planning on the stroke. Or maybe it was the other way around. Nevertheless, they survived another time change and it looks like you have too.

Last Sunday, my mom invited my family to her church for a chili meal. Before the meal, we all went to church with her and Matt. We didn’t fit into one pew, so Paul and Alex sat in the pew in front of us. During the prayer time, Matt announced loudly that he needed to use the bathroom. He kept saying it over and over until my mom nodded yes. Then she rolled her eyes and smiled at me. Matt will be Matt. When Matt got back from the bathroom, he sat down next to Paul in the pew ahead of the one that he was previously sitting in. After a few minutes, he looked at Paul and did a double take. He shook his head in shock and disapproval. Then he got up and sat down in his original spot.

After church, we headed to the chili meal. Matt has a special diet, so my mom brought his food to microwave. When she heated up his meal, it blew a fuse and the lights went out along with the power to the slow cookers. Whoops!

I am not crazy about chili. I like the flavor, but it really upsets my stomach sometimes. It didn’t help that on my second spoonful I almost ate some hair that I found in my soup. I did eat it though, albeit rather slowly.

Then we went back to my parents house. My dad was sitting on the couch in his shirt and underwear. He had a blanket slightly draped over his legs. Remember earlier when I said that I don’t embarrass easily? I just had to find a guy that would be able to tolerate my eccentric family. Of course, I was expected to return the favor.

My dad is a hard core pessimist. His common words of wisdom are shit happens and life’s a bitch then you die. Paul’s mom is a hard core optimist. She told the kids that when she retired she would buy them a swimming pool and spend time with them. It doesn’t seem to matter if the cup is half empty or not, neither one of them lives in reality.

My dad does have a few redeeming traits though. He has a great sense of humor which is one of the few traits that he seemed to pass down to me.

My dad was complaining about having a virus on his new laptop. Apparently he received an email from a deceased friend. He had to click on it to see what kind of message was being sent over from the dead. Then my mom clicked on the email too. I said that she probably didn’t even know that the guy was dead. She didn’t.

We spent a lot of time laughing at my dad’s story of his computer virus. He gets so worked up about technology issues. He even called the anti-virus software. They told him that he probably had a virus. He over the top thanked them for being so helpful. We briefly talked about getting together to smash our computers with bats. Now wouldn’t that be a smashing party??

They may have gotten a virus, but at least they survived the time change.

Just small talk

Yesterday was my dad’s birthday. I always dread calling him for his birthday. I really wish it wasn’t that way, really I do. 

Yesterday evening, I was the first person to call and wish him a happy birthday. I asked my dad if he received any birthday cards in the mail. “No,” he replied. Then we talked about the weather. He said that it was snowing. He said that he was driving but the roads weren’t slippery yet. After a few minutes of ackward silence and small talk, I told him that I should let him have both hands on the wheel. Bye dad.

I wish it wasn’t that way. I know that the time is coming soon when these birthday calls will end. Maybe it was already the last one. I feel sad for the relationship that never was. Although we get along better now than we ever have before, we never had a father daughter relationship that was anywhere near Hallmark greeting card close. I would settle for a relationship that gets beyond small talk.

Some things have been broken so long that I don’t know how to fix them.

The travel diaries, Omaha

The story of how we ended up in Omaha one year during Thanksgiving winds around a rocky path. Before Paul and I met, he was best friends with Dwayne. Dwayne was a man that looked like what you would picture Jesus to look like. He had rugged good looks with shoulder length brown hair that glowed a perfect shade of brownish red in the sun. He was a smart man who loved to discuss philosophy, theology, and psychology. He was fun loving, liked to joke and play cards. But Dwayne had one major personality flaw that inevitably led him down a path of destruction unaware. Dwayne would do anything for a dare.  One night while camping with friends someone dared him to dive off a dock near the campgrounds. Dwayne accepted the dare and dove into water that was only a couple of inches deep. Instead of costing him his life, it left him paralyzed from his neck down.

Before his accident, Dwayne had married his high school sweetheart too young. They had two children and divorced. When Dwayne had his accident, he was with Tammy. I met Dwayne a couple of years after the accident while he was with Tammy. Now Tammy was an evil person. But you know how it goes when your best friend dates someone you don’t like, you tolerate that person. Plus there was never a dull moment with Tammy around.

Tammy had some major character flaws herself. First, Tammy liked to steal things. Once when we went out to eat for Dwayne’s birthday, Tammy went around to every table and took the fake flower displays. She shoved a stack of fake roses into her purse. When it was time to leave, the manager told Tammy she needed to give the flowers back which caused her to make quite the scene. Nothing unusual for her. 

Second, Tammy liked to cheat. Tammy had two sons, one that she had with her ex husband and the other with Dwayne after the accident. Ok, there was absolutely no way that Dwayne could have fathered a child as a quadriplegic, but he was listed as the father on the birth certificate. One year at Christmas time the true story came out about her other son as well. Tammy and her ex were fighting on the phone while we were there. She told her ex that the boy that he thought was his for the past 10 years wasn’t his son, wished him a merry Christmas, and hung up on him. Tammy was just being Tammy. Tammy eventually got together with Dwayne’s caregiver and moved into the apartment next door. Her bedroom and Dwayne’s bedroom shared the same wall. He could hear them at night. Then she tried to keep his “son” from him. Tammy was not a nice person.  

Parenting was very challenging for Dwayne as well due to his handicap. One time when he was still with Tammy, Dwayne and their baby accidently got locked in the van. It was twenty below outside and they were locked inside the van without heat. This happened over the weekend. Tammy was desperate to find someone to unlock the doors. Dwayne sat inside helplessly watching. It could have gotten dangerous really fast. Dwayne also had issues parenting his two older children. His little girl loved to sit on his lap but he could never hug her back. He couldn’t drive them anywhere or do anything. It was at this point that I saw Paul play the part of dad. He took Dwayne’s son Dan fishing, a hobby that he used to share with Dwayne before the accident. We took the kids to the zoo and had them stay with us sometimes. When I first started dating Paul, it was attractive to see him being a positive role model for the kids. He still was caring towards his best friend even after his friend made some terrible mistakes in life. He also had no problems treating his friend like a regular person, going out with him even if it meant emptying his bag or feeding him. He was not squeamish, nor did he complain. His compassion was touching.

Dwayne was the best man in our wedding. A couple years later, Paul was the best man in his wedding. His new wife had some major flaws, like having an absolute filthy house and allowing her children to run wild. But I have to give her credit for marrying a man that she would never have a physical relationship with and had to care for. Six weeks after he was married in his church, Dwayne was buried there. He had a heart attack and died in his 30’s. He will be gone for 15 years this year. What an avoidable tradegy that affected so many lives.

Fast forward time a bit more, Dan grew up and asked Paul to stand up in his wedding in Omaha. He wanted Paul to be there to represent his father. We flew into Omaha for the wedding over Thanksgiving. Dan’s in-laws welcomed us like we were family. We ate Thanksgiving meal there and played a lot of games. They seemed to have a very close knit family. His wife’s father was dealing with cancer. He showed us pictures of himself, a big guy at 300 lbs before cancer. He lost 200 lbs and was skin and bones. At this point, I want to tell you that everyone lived happily ever after. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned. Dan and his wife moved across the country. He was in the military and was deployed overseas. During this time, Dan’s father-in-law passed away. Dan’s wife moved back home and the marriage fell apart almost a year later. But while we were in Omaha, everything was pleasant.

While we were in Omaha, we met up with one of my best friends from college. She took us to the Omaha zoo. It was hands down the best zoo that I have ever been to. It had an open concept. You didn’t get the impression that the animals were unhappy in their cages. The aquarium was my favorite display as it submerged the viewer in a tunnel surrounded above and at all sides with beautiful water creatures. Great job in your design Omaha zoo. I just wish the marriage turned out as well.

One last Christmas of magic

I remember one Christmas where my dad played the part of hero. But was he really?

Christmas at my parents house is kind of a blur now. I remember having two or three Christmas trees before it got to the point that my parents didn’t celebrate with a tree in the house anymore. One year I got 2 Cabbage Patch dolls, that was memorable. Another year Luke took a little earring box that I had and put a couple of pennies in it under the tree. I opened it before Christmas and wrapped it back up again. My mom found out and I got in trouble for that. But the most memorable Christmas was the one that my dad played the hero. I don’t think that my brothers will remember ever celebrating Christmas in my parents house. I will have to ask them.

It was Christmas Eve when our dad was a hero to us. My younger brothers and I had our Christmas program at church that evening. My dad stayed home. After we did the Christmas program at church, we received a bag of goodies which consisted of an apple, an orange, and peanuts. We came home that evening to find that my parents bought us an Atari gaming system. My dad had it all hooked up when we got home and was playing on it. He let us play on it too. We thought that it was really cool. Wow!

We thought that my dad was really cool to surprise us with it. But was he really? He didn’t come to our concert and watch us perform. Through  adult eyes, I don’t think that was very cool. He didn’t play the part of hero very often in our eyes, so I will give him that little small moment. On that one magical evening, he was a hero to us. It was the best and last  Christmas memory at my parents house.

To my daughter’s stalker

I have never met you and hope that I never do. I can understand why you would be obsessed with my daughter. She is that bright light in a dim lit room. Along with butterflies, even the darkest of souls are attracted to her warm glowing light. Sinking ships try to reach that light in this dark world.

I can understand why you said that you would make my daughter love you the way you love her. She is very beautiful. Her stage presence, her angelic singing voice alone has caused the most callous of hearts to open. You noticed that when you met her a year and a half ago on a school choir trip. Even though she told you that she had a boyfriend, that she just wanted to be friends, you thought you could change her mind.

After the trip, you texted, snapchatted, social mediaed, and called her all the time. It got to the point that she told you to stop, but you didn’t. Her boyfriend told you to stop and then you started harassing him. You told him that you were going to kill him at school performances that you knew they would be at and terrorized them in general. Then this summer you hacked my daughter’s facebook account.

We didn’t hear from you too much after that. Although I was disappointed that you decided to go to the same college as my daughter’s boyfriend. I thought that after you got into college and started meeting a lot of girls that maybe you would give up the whole idea that she would love you. She has had the same boyfriend for over two years now, a man I would be happy to call my son-in-law someday.

Then I heard you recognized my daughter’s boyfriend at college from facebook pictures. You punched him in the face. Even though my daughter’s boyfriend didn’t want us to know about what you did, we found out. But this week was the last straw. You hacked into my daughter’s boyfriends facebook account. You posed as him and broke up with my daughter. When she found out it was you, you told her that you loved her and would force her to love you. You said that you were going to find her and rape her. This time you went too far. My husband called you after this. He told you that you are never to talk to our daughter or her boyfriend again. He is not a man to be messed with, so I hope you got the message.

If you ever talk to them again, we will get a restraining order. That is if you are lucky.

Sheerly not cut out for it

I really suck at cutting hair. I could use the left handed excuse of having to learn how to cut with my right hand, but I don’t even think that would cut it. I didn’t always think that I sucked at it. As a teen, I got sick of my autistic brother constantly pulling my hair. It hurt. I noticed that my younger brothers didn’t get their hair pulled, probably because it was too short to pull. Just my mom and I got our long hair pulled. I got really sick of it so one day I took a scissors in my right hand and hacked off around 6 inches of long tresses and lot of stress. People commented. They liked my new hair cut. I thought that I wasn’t terribly bad at it.

Then I got married and had kids. My oldest daughter needed her bangs trimmed as a toddler and I was on it. I cut her bangs, but they were crooked. So I kept cutting until they were straight and about a quarter of an inch long. I didn’t really suck. She wasn’t sitting still. People commented. Ah, your daughter decided to cut her own hair. Poor thing. She wasn’t talking too much yet, so I didn’t argue that I was the one who hacked her hair. It wasn’t too long after that when she started to cut her own hair. She was better at it then I was.

Then my husband got the idea of buying a hair cutting kit to shave some money. He liked to cut his hair short so it really wasn’t that complicated. I could almost handle that. I decided to take on bigger things, my dad’s hair. First, let me tell you that he looks exactly like Santa Claus. He has a humongous stomach, everything else is flat. He has long gray hair with an equally long beard that children could try to yank off and find it to be real. He has the glasses that he looks over, worn on the lower part of his nose. He would be a perfect Santa Claus in appearance. He would just have to work on being jolly. He would have to smile and tolerate little children. He would have to give them candy instead of hiding it to eat himself. Darn, it would have been so perfect otherwise.

I made the mistake of offering to cut my dad’s hair. This is a job that my mom always did, but for some reason didn’t have time for. At one point in her life, my mom wanted to be a hairdresser. During her senior year, the high school had a career day. They brought in someone that worked with the disabled doing what she does now. That person probably never knew that by telling high school kids about his career changed my mother’s whole career and life path. I don’t see her being happy as a beautician. She loves her career and finds it very fulfilling.

The day came for my dad’s hair cut. He came over to my house. I realized quickly that I was in a little too deep. My dad’s hair was long. My husband’s hair was short. I decided to buzz my dad’s hair using the longest setting. It really wasn’t going very well. As I was buzzing the back of my dad’s head, the guard came off. I gave him a very noticeable bald spot down the back of his head. Thankfully, he just laughed the whole thing off. After that incident, things such as scissors and hair cutting kits mysteriously vanished from my house. My mom made time to cut my dad’s hair. My husband stopped complaining about $20 hair cuts.

I realized that cutting hair was sheerly not my thing.

My mother, my heroine

My mother’s life has been anything but ordinary. She was born prematurely in a foreign country. Despite my grandmother taking medication to prevent premature labor, my mother arrived early at a hospital in the Panama Canal Zone, after my grandma flew several hours to see her husband who was stationed there in the Navy. She weighed 4 lbs and stayed in an incubator for a month. This was in the 1940’s and she wasn’t expected to live. 

My mom grew up in a rural community and met my dad in a one room schoolhouse. Her family was poor and she spent most of her summers picking cucumbers for a local factory to help support her family. She didn’t have a lot of time to play and had one doll. As a teenager, her mother died after delivering her eighth child. My mom was in college at the time and spent her weekends helping take care of her 6 younger siblings. My dad went off to Vietnam. He came back a different person. College finals were cancelled due to war protests and bomb threats. 

My parents eloped. My dad went to work on their wedding night, my mom cooked for their sponsors. The night ended with freezing rain. My mom wondered if she made a mistake. My dad started drinking a lot. He was depressed and sat around with a gun in his lap staring off into space. He was going through PTSD after Vietnam. He drove a tank in the war and one day all of his buddies died in that tank. He was the only one that walked away unscathed. He became abusive and mean. My mom wondered if she made a mistake. My mom got pregnant with me. When I was a month old, a tornado was headed towards the trailer park we lived in. Sirens blared, it was time to take shelter. My dad just sat in his chair and stared. My mom decided it was time to pack up and head back home, they were hours away from family. 

My parents lived with my dad’s parents for 2 years while they built a house and started a new life. My dad stopped drinking. My mom got pregnant again. They moved into their new house and planned on having 2 kids. Their plan for 2 kids ended up turning into 4 kids within 5 years. Their second child was violently autistic. My parents fought constantly. My mother wondered if she made a mistake. My mom was very beautiful with plenty of opportunities to leave my dad. A best friend’s husband wanted to plan a hook up with her up north. No one needed to know. Another friend’s husband kissed her. I just found out about this and he was a great guy. Guess who I ran into right after she told me? Other men pursued her, but she ran away from them instead of running away with them. That was one of my mom’s greatest strengths, staying committed to a marriage she was miserable in. This is such a rare quality nowadays.  It is hard to live up to parents who have a wonderful marriage. It is even harder to live up to a parent sticking with it when given ample opportunity to leave. 

My mother was the family breadwinner. She is still working full-time at 67. She was emotionally strong when faced with many difficult life situations. She was there for us when my dad couldn’t take it. She has patience when others have none. She is a hard worker. She handles difficulties with ease. She has been an anchor through all of life’s storms. I am proud and honored to have her as my mother. What a blessing her life has been to me and many others. She has been a lifelong advocate for the disabled and their parents. She has helped many with her empathy and compassion. She has been very generous with the gifts she has been given. She is one strong woman. 

Happy birthday, mom! I love you. 

Up north, part 2

The fortune cookie luck that is ordained for me has apparently not kicked in yet. But I did survive the weekend with the whole extended family and the weather was great. If I do get smitten with good luck maybe I would donate a little of it to my mom. She just missed getting hit by a tornado on her trip back home. Maybe she was lucky that she missed the storm, but she was really pushing her luck.  

I was thinking a lot this weekend about coping mechanisms and how they change over time. My brother Mark seemed to cope with being around the family by drinking. I woke up early on Saturday morning and came out to sit by the fire at 6:30 AM. Mark was on his second beer by then which concerned me.     Other than that, he seems happy. He recently got engaged and is planning a fall wedding. His fiancé is good for him, I hope that he can bring out the best in her as well. I just worry about them. Mark is so much like my dad that I think being a husband and father will be challenging. It can be challenging for the most patient people in the world. I hope and pray that if there is any genetic factor involved in autism that any future children will not be effected by it. 

Luke has two little girls ages 5 and 7. I watched them play in the water, remembering when I was right between their age and watching my younger brothers in the water. It really gives me perspective on how young I was when given great responsibility. Luke worries that his kids hate him because he is a perfectionist who demands perfection. Luke is a great dad. I sometimes feel like my kids hate me and I don’t demand perfection. I don’t demand much of anything. I want them to have something that I didn’t have, a childhood. 

I felt like I could really relate with Luke. We are so much alike as adults even though we coped with life in totally different ways in our youth. The pendulum took us from our extremes to a common middle. He is no longer the party animal. He is serious and thoughtful. I came out of my shell. I no longer feel a lot of anxiety about spending time with the extended family. I am hoping that we can finally forge a relationship. 

Fish out of water

Drip, drip, drip. Water runs slowly at first, seeping into the basement. The water threatens my dad’s graveyard of electronics. Radios, VCR’s, some his for hobby, but mainly electronics that need fixing or are unfixable. Broken parts, machines on the floor open from the last ditch effort operation to save them. Laughter. “Dad is going to be mad” said Matt. Matt has a new obsession. When no one is watching he goes into the laundry room on the first floor and overflows the utility tub. Laughter. My dad yells in horror at the prospect of his electronics’ burial in water. Matt flooded the house multiple times over the year. I can’t pinpoint when this obsession started or ended, it happened about 3 decades ago. 

Drip, drip, drip. Water runs slowly towards the basement. This time the fish tank broke that was sitting by the front door that no one uses. Luke used the front door that day. He flung the door open and the door knob went right through the fish tank. Luke and I try to grab the fish, save them. I reach my hand in to grab a fish. The fish is slimey. I scream and pull back my hand cutting my arm on the broken glass. My dad enters the scene and is mad because the water is everywhere. My dad grabs me by the arm and throws me out of the house. He said, “Go get f*cked and get the hell out of my house.”  I wander around outside crying. I was only trying to save a fish. My mom had to call over my grandma that night. She was the only one who could console me. 

Just low

I feel down today. Just low. I feel like I am climbing a mountain and can never reach the top. Running uphill and only getting a few feet from the ground. Why do I try so hard? Why must I run this marathon? Literally. I am exhausted. Tears escape my eyes with little or no provocation. Sleep is restless. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to work. I don’t want to run. I don’t feel like eating.  My muscles all ache. I haven’t felt this way for awhile, but it is no stranger to me. 

It started on Father’s Day with a slow descent. I thought maybe it was because I was mourning the relationship with my father that I never had and will most likely never be. Wishing for a moment that someone else was my father. Feeling envious of his daughters. Why was I never good enough? What is wrong with me? 

I did conquer a fear on Sunday. A fear of driving over high bridges. But I only did it because I was trying to avoid another fear, the fear of being late. Does that count? I don’t know anymore. I am trying to keep my head above water and to keep climbing that mountain. I am sure this moment of moodiness will soon pass.