Thought I would post these today, with permission of course. Time slips away and these moments are gone before you realize it. Thank You Baby Girl – for allowing me to save them and share them. You’re beautiful! May 3, 2014
Remember when you were a kid, and you couldn’t wait to sit at the grown up table on holidays? No more mismatched chairs, paper plates and plastic cups at the rickety old card table. No sirree bub – you got the formal dining room and the good china at the adults table. You were where it was happening. Definitely a mini rite-of-passage, at least for this chick. As the oldest child and oldest grandchild I got to go first. Woo Hoo! Welcome to the Party, Pal!
But I want to talk about a different table. The Head Table. I don’t mean where Bride and Groom sit during their reception, or where the Silver and Gold Anniversary Couples get to sit. Those are cool places to be. The happy place – center of attention and hub of the party wheel. I want to talk about the table you get move up to – and sit at – when your parents pass away. Its not an actual table, but its a real thing nonetheless. And its emotional, and scary. If all goes as hoped, you’re bound for the cemetery next. Not that anyone hopes to die, but if The Fates are kind, they take you before your children.
When you step up to take your seat at the table (if those Fates have once again smiled upon you) you’re usually middle aged – and usually with children and grandchildren by that point. Sitting down, you get to take stock of your life to date. You evaluate your goals, reevaluate them and maybe even change career direction. Or divorce. Or remarry. Have a full blown nuclear mid life crisis.
Make a menopausally fueled Hit List. Or none of those things. But – underlying whatever is going on is the stark reality that there’s no human buffer zone between you and the Great Beyond anymore. No safety net below you as you stand on the platform at the ceiling of the Center Ring. Tag. You’re it.
I was chatting with my Aunt Jean the other day. She lives near Chicago, but we try to connect with one another as much as possible. She was 17 when I was born, and she’s my Godmother. We were discussing careers and work. She mentioned that at my age- I’m at the apex career wise. If I’ve reached for the brass ring already – great. If not, I’d better do it soon. She didn’t say so, but I thought – I’m approaching the Head Table, dammit. I haven’t sat down yet because my Mom is still with us; but I’m halfway up there as of 2007 when my Dad left us terribly, suddenly. Two of my best friends in the world – Cheryl and Martha – have a seat saved for me. Cheryl’s been sitting up there since 1999. Martha, since last year.
I’ll be in great company, but I’m really not ready to move up to the Head Table yet. Those Fates though, they don’t deign to ask whether or not you’re ready to sit up there. And if I had to guess, I would say that NO ONE is ever ready for a seat at this particular table. The view is probably lovely up there – friends, family etc. The love, palpable. But it seems a lonely place, regardless of the company you’re in. And, taking your seat up there acknowledges that you are, in point of fact, now an orphan.
So, as I meander towards my new assigned seating (which I FERVENTLY hope I will not have to sit in for a few years yet) I find myself asking the questions: Am I happy? What makes me happy? Do I matter? Selfish questions, but at my age I’ve paid enough dues in life to ask such selfish questions. I also ask unselfish ones: Have I made a difference to someone, helped someone, been a good parent? (Don’t ask my girls that until I’ve had a chance to bribe them) Hahaha! ;). And finally: What do I want to do with the next 30+ years of my life? I’ve certainly discovered a passion for writing and photography in the last year or so. I would like to build on that if I can.
What questions will you be asking yourself as you approach The Head Table? Or, what are you thinking about as you sit there? Inquiring Minds…. etc.
My mother called very early yesterday morning. I expected it on January 9th because it was Mayhem’s birthday and Mom always calls first thing in the morning to wish her grandchildren a Happy Birthday. I was not expecting an early call a few days later; so when I saw the caller ID I admit to panicking a bit. Last year was not a good year health- wise for either my Mom or my step-Dad… sooo yeah. Fortunately, she was just calling to alert me to the dawn. She also calls for “rainbow alerts”, and gorgeous sunsets, and unusual bird sightings – outside of our usual conversations. I will miss that when she passes, which won’t be for awhile yet if I have anything to say about it (which I don’t, but still…).
I threw on a jacket, grabbed my camera, and headed outside in my slippers to the back yard. Our property abuts the dike along the Westfield River, facing southwest(ish) if you’re looking directly out my kitchen door – so the sun actually rises in the winter just outside of left frame in the first three pictures, and well outside of left frame in the fourth. Behind the dike is a cornfield, then the treeline along the river. The next 4 pictures you see are a sort of “pan” from left to right. The sky was just beautiful yesterday morning. By the time I got to work it had clouded over completely and later there was a freezing rain to drive home in. But the lovely start more than made up for it. I hope you enjoy the pictures.
I’ve really tried to avoid posting a lot of bitchy or angst-y stuff on here – because I do realize that nobody likes a Debby Downer. Negativity pushes people away – right when one might need them the most. So I try not to be negative very often with my posting. Oh I’ll editorialize – I’m an opinionated Swamp Yankee after all – but I try hard to keep things positive. But lately I’ve been lead towards thinking that perhaps I am not being as authentic as I should be with my friends and readers. The truth is powerful, yet sometimes its a stinky, suppurating, bloated, uncontrollable mess. The truth’s power is resurrective, but in order to do that, the truth first has to become a corpse. And there’s nothing “magnificent” about THAT- unless I’m being wicked sarcastic. And I do that well, in case anyone is wondering, or had any doubts.
So yeah, the last few months have been on and off hellish, and this last week has been an absolute nightmare. A nightmare I have absolutely no control over and limited influence with. Several people in my personal circle are dealing with serious illness right now; or are awaiting confirmation or an “all clear”. The issues with my mother and step dad continue to spiral up and away – and I still have a front row seat to all that. Then there’s financial stress, always fun…. I’m also dealing with the dreaded M word and while so far the hot flashes have not shown up – my mood is all over the place and my reserves of patience deplete quickly. Let’s just say I am not suffering fools gladly these days, shall we? All of which makes the communication dynamic with my mother quite “lively” at times. Several of you I have messaged, so you know the deets. I appreciate your thoughts, advice, support and good wishes more than you know.
I find it helpful to vent, but some of those I vent to often misinterpret it. They don’t like to see me upset, and it gets them upset. I’ve told them that I’m just venting, then I feel better and can cope. I need to get all that crap out of me- but it still gets misinterpreted. Plus, now they are dealing with their own issues and I do NOT want to cause them any additional stress. Soooo yeah – here I am, frantically rowing the boat with one oar while it slowly sinks. Translation: locking myself in my room, screaming at top volume, and then curling up on my bed to sob quietly. (so far I have avoided sucking my thumb, but I’ve been tempted) And the Viking, the one I should be able to rely on, well he seems to “get” it sometimes. Other times, I feel like I’m dealing with a 2 year old…. The girls know enough to just let me be- or just hug me, but the supposed “grown up” is becoming the uber-needy one. I don’t like being needed as much as I seem to be these days. Especially when I feel like few are listening to what I need.
It feels to me like people just don’t understand I’ve got nothing left at the moment. There’s a HUGE empty pit of blankness inside me now. Reserves of strength and happiness occasionally trickle in – enough so I can function through my days anyway. But I’m going nowhere fast. There’s little to look forward to – and very little money to do much of anything I consider fun. “Going for walks in my neighborhood” is not an option with the weather we have been having anyway (I can’t breathe soup) and I’ve lived here a long time – seen it already – BORING – also, few of my neighbors speak English and I don’t speak Russian. I can’t visit with them very much. I did bite the money bullet and book an overnight trip to stay in Gloucester next weekend with the Viking and go on a Whale Watch (a birthday present for him – he turns 47 on Thursday) However, I may have to cancel those plans in order to be available if those in my circle need me bedside. This person has already told me there’s no real need for me to be there, and yet I want to be. Which would leave me/us stuck here, and I’m selfishly, bipolar-ly a bit put out by the thought. The SECOND I try and do something that makes me happy, that goddamn Murphy has to show up and invoke her stupid law! Of course I shouldn’t project – and just wait to see how things play out.
So here I sit, in the rut of day to day boring sameness. Stuck. Feeling more than a little sorry for myself. And I haven’t even started discussing the sandwich generation issues yet…. Oh boy! Talk about frustrating. Wondering just who the heck that woman is living down the street from me, and what in hell did she do with my mother??? There are a multitude of aging and substance abuse issues to address there. I can view them fairly dispassionately using my “professional filter”. I can and have offered viable solutions – as if to a client. My mother wants no part of my ideas. She wants things her way and her way only, and cannot, will not change. Which leaves my stepfather, unfairly, on a slow boat to nowhere. She doesn’t want to deal with his aging issues and illness, it would mess up her routine (ie her drinking schedule) too much. For example, my sister and I have suggested they make their small unused dining room a second bedroom/sitting area for him so that he can putter around and not disturb her if he can’t sleep. But… NOOOO! She’s flat out said numerous times “I can’t take it, I’ll just leave.” – which leaves me speechless and wondering if she ever took her marriage vows seriously at all. I find myself increasingly angry with her and at her. I straight up told her she’s not coming here if she leaves, and suggested she just cut to the chase and get a divorce if she can’t handle it. She doesn’t want to, yet she’d just abandon her husband – who shouldn’t be left alone – but who presents no danger to himself or anyone else. My mother refuses to believe that (“I don’t know what he’s going to do” – because he won’t do what she wants him to on HER schedule). Visiting nurses and home health aides? Sure, but according to my mother, for too few hours. (she’s already decided that, without even trying it first). She won’t talk to a therapist either. So… “whatever, Ma” I guess I’ll just sit back, shut up and get ready to clean up the mess after the situation implodes. And I’ll literally be able to watch it all from my deck, oh happy day!!
So I say ENOUGH ALREADY! I can’t get away from anything, but need a break. I get up, go to work, deal with all that work stuff, come home- to the same house, same dishes in the sink, same laundry, same set of unsolvable issues, address what I can, get the chores done – go to bed, get up and do it again…. AMEN. So tired and emotionally depleted. Yet I’m still needed – and I just haven’t got it to give. I’m uncomfortably numb, a deer in the headlights of an oncoming diesel truck. Which is part of the reason the Viking is having “berserker” fits on occasion, just adding to the stress. I feel a little better now that I’ve verbally virtually vomited all through this post. No easy solutions – but that hovering SH*T Fairy- (her name is Brigid Murphy by the way) she can leave anytime now. Really… Seriously… Right Now.
Offering my most abject apologies here for the wasteland my blog has become lately. There is so much going on in my life right now that when I do have a free minute – all I want to do is relax and not think about anything. I’m hoping things will slow down a little soon, because I do feel better when I write and I love hearing from my readers and blogger friends and relatives. I also desperately need a vacation, I haven’t had any significant time off since the holidays. So I’m taking this opportunity to write quickly; as I found an opportunity to surface for a quick breath of air (“Gasp!”) I’m due to go under again in just a few minutes, so sending you all love and big hugs! I’ll try to post snippets and some pictures if I get the chance. Right now, I’m taking care of me and listening to my inner voice- which is telling me to relax and do nothing whenever I get the chance. Please know I love you all and really appreciate all the friendship and support you offer me every day. You lift me up. Hugs again (One can never get, or give, too many of those!) Best, Donna
This may or may not be a long post today, folks. Not sure how much of a “rant” I’ll be going on; but I wanted to write today about the importance of speaking up for yourself and your loved ones as regards health and medical care. As a mom, I’m used to advocating for my children – having spent years going in and out of the pediatrician’s office with them. Now that they’re older, I’m spending more time in the outer waiting room but I’m still actively involved in advocating for their care. My husband, bless his heart, has to have the medical stuff and questions written down for him if he takes one of the girls to a med appt – but at least he’ll go, right?
As many of you are aware, I’m also now at the point of starting to be more involved in my parent’s health care decisions. My mom recently signed the HIPPA disclosure forms and provided a copy of the health care proxy to her dr’s office, so now they can actually speak to me….. (sigh! – I find this very aggravating for a myriad of reasons and were I to start listing them I would be wayy off topic and seriously ranting – very quickly. So I’ll save that for another time) I can tell you one thing I find TREMENDOUSLY frustrating is the older generations unquestioning acceptance of whatever their doctor tells them. And, their seeming inablility to be more of a squeaky wheel when needing answers to their questions. For example, I asked my mom the other day why some tests had been ordered for my step dad and why he was still in the hospital. Her response was: “We’re just doing what they tell us to do.” I find this lack of curiosity disturbing, with apologies to Lord Vader 😉 . Its almost like they’re becoming lemmings heading towards the proverbial cliff. I’d at LEAST like to know WHY I’m jumping, but apparently they do not. I can say with certainty that my mothers answer (above) was not related to any privacy concerns, because the entire family knows whats been going on…. so yeah, its frustrating. He’s been stuck in the hospital over a week now and we don’t seem to be any closer to any answers for him whatsoever. Consequently, I will be writing down some questions for my mother to ask his health care team. If she waits for these people to call her back she’ll be waiting till hell freezes over, so I’ve suggested she ask at the desk when she visits, and make at least 2 phone calls daily, until she gets some answers.
As far as my mom’s health care goes, she had some labs drawn when she had her annual, but she doesn’t know what they were for so I will have to contact the office and ask them, and then get the results. Mom doesn’t call to ask, she figures they will call her if anything’s wrong. Which of course they would, but I just wonder why she wouldn’t want to know her lab results. Am I anal? Probably. But I had a very bad experience a few years back with a severe anaphylactic reaction to sulfa. I mentioned to my doctor that I thought was allergic to it and he cursorily checked my chart – nothing noted. So he prescribed the med, and I ended up in the ER and admitted to ICU overnight. Come to find out, the nurse had not brought the information forward from the previous page in my chart – where it was clearly noted. Needless to say, the doctor offered profuse mea culpas when he saw me on rounds the next day. And now, if I say anything – the doctor pays attention.
My parents generation is one that does not question a doctors’ authority at all, forgetting that the doctors are human and just as fallible as the rest of us. We know its up to the patient to advocate for themselves and their loved ones, to be an active part of their health care team instead of just the recipient of health care services; ask questions, which can only improve their health care in both the short and the long run. Now if I can only get my Mom to understand this and start doing it……
Lots going on today. Please say a prayer for my stepdad as we advocate for and support him to deal with health issues. Thanks!