Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Put Your Hands In The Air Like We Don't Care...AND FIGHT!

She works so much, for such long periods of time, and all of it away from home, always traveling; so much so, that I nick-named her 24/7. We haven’t laid eyes on each other in what seems like forever. We went all through school together, I was a bridesmaid in one of her weddings, and we had our first born children one day apart, in the same hospital, right down the hall from each other; but we had somehow drifted apart and wouldn’t know it until years later.

The instant message comes across the screen, wanting to know am I busy and can I talk? I sent an answer right back that I am free and ask what is going on your way? The reply is a simple, “can I call?” And somehow, I already know this call is not going to be a normal, everyday, what’s going on, call. I wait in silent anticipation for my phone to ring; and then it does.

We began to go through the same ordinary greetings but I have become an expert in that tone, the one that carries a tremble with it, and a multi-layered range of fear. She tries to sound as if everything is as it always is, that she is so busy she can’t remember her name, she doesn’t get to see her husband near enough, and she is looking forward to the holidays and the resting of her weary bones that comes with them every year.

Somehow, we never did get to that part of our conversation. We have known each other so well, for so long, she takes the dive and plunges in, the words all but gurgling for air as she tries to speak them. My ears immediately began to reject what they were being asked to receive as she began with; “I haven’t told anyone yet, but I am calling to tell you, because I need your help getting the word out to everyone; I had my first chemotherapy treatment today.”

My brain is screaming so loud the roots of my hair are hurting, “How many more times will I pick up the phone and hear these words? How many more women that I love will have to live this horror story?

What she wants people to know is the rarity of her particular cancer; it is called Inflammatory Breast Cancer; one day it’s not there, the next day it is. It comes in the appearance of a bite on the breast, a bite that no antibiotic will touch or heal, and it almost always arrives in a Stage Three existence.  All of these discoveries happened within a three week period of time; and without the help of family members in the medical professional, she could very well still not know what was going on. She wants you to know that you need to do visual checks in a mirror every day, just the same as you do your own physical checks in the shower. But she mostly wants you to know, that it can happen to anybody, any time, with no warning; just like it happened to her.

Although only one breast is affected at this point, she will have a double mastectomy to ensure all of the disease is gone. Reconstructive surgery is not suggested for this type of radical cancer, so she already is dreaming of tops that close tighter, bras without under-wire, and the comfort of all of the above.  She is preparing in every way possible, because she will control this outcome; it will not control her. She has already cut her hair into a cutie patootie age-shaving cut; it may come out, but it will not be in depressing handfuls in a shower.

Get your regular mammograms, educate yourselves, and make every single little thing seem as if it could be EVERYTHING, because it just might be.  We will pray in silence, out loud, and on our knees, until someone crushes this horrible disease. Amen.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Baby Blankets and Bahama Mama's!

Diapers, strollers, midnight feedings and burping pads. Bottles, pacifiers, walkers and safety gates. Pre-school, first day tears (mama and baby), learning all about jealousy and practicing to share; then 13 years of school if you count kindergarten, and all the lessons in between. Lost loves, lost house keys, (everybody in town should now have a key) lost tennis shoes and homework. Rushed lunch hours delivering forgotten lunches, gym clothes and football mouth pieces. School programs at 7pm, and a dirty shirt found in the corner that has 40 minutes to be washed and dried so it can be worn to match the rest of the class.

Women know from the minute they become pregnant that their lives are about to change for a long,
long time. We know that we will no longer have a real name at home; we will be answering to the moniker of Mama 24/7, or listening to the man who used to call us: Baby, Sweetie, or aghast, even our name, now saying repeatedly, “Go ask your Mama”. 

We know we will no longer experience a restful night, a sit down meal that doesn’t include eating a bite here and a bite there and probably never really cleaning our plate. We accept that the washer will never be empty again and that because of all the distractions of motherhood, the dryer will be used to re-heat just as much as it will be used to dry. We signed on for all of those things, so not only do we accept it, we welcome it, and many of us do it more than once; so that we have several staggered instances of 18 years and running, and we love every single solitary loss of sleep, minute of it.

But let me tell you why we really do all that; why we spend years wiping snotty noses, bandaging up boo-boo’s, and breaking up fusses and wrestling head locks: we do all of those things so we can grow up, find ourselves and become women again, wives again, and meaningful, thought-processing, “we can do more than cook and clean” females again.

We get everyone grown, (husbands and children alike) we teach
them how to cook (or at least make a sandwich) and survive on their own for more than an hour and we leave! We actually get dressed in nice clothes and we go somewhere besides a school drop off or work! We go out to eat, to the movies, and guess who we go with? Our girlfriends who have done all the same things, for all the same years, and now they are escaping for that precious few hours with us!

I had one of these magical lunches last weekend. Some girls from home came into town and we had a delicious lunch, full of laughter and conversation. But you know what’s funny about all of that freedom we had? We didn’t talk about much of anything but our kids and our husbands the whole time. Mama’s will always be Mama’s; go figure. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Blood Strangers

She didn’t create the situation, nor did she coerce it, or suggest it. The owner of this relationship appendage did all of that and now she wonders if any good can come from it. She’s known for years that nothing about the failure or damage was good. She has struggled to help mend the fences and nail them back together, albeit hearts and minds are not robust like standing-tall wooden fences; but often fragile and barren of strength.

His social inadequacies can be blamed for a lot of the distance; bad decisions for the rest. He tried in spits and sputters, but real life requires more effort.  His children seemed to eventually accept that of him, but how does a father not need to see his children, talk to his children, or not need to KNOW about his children; their lives, their heartaches, their failures and successes?  She is sure the love has always been there, but it’s a time of show and tell and he must find a way to make it be felt.

He suggests a peace offering; a place to live. He is sharing all that he has in this world trying to make amends and resurrect a life he let slide away. He’s nervous, uncomfortable, and he’s worried.  Worried it will not work, that it will not last, and that it will not be enough.

The time warp memories of a stagnant, full of stale-smelling cigarettes home, is the adult-child’s version of the first vision of this olive branch. He too is nervous, scared and worried it will not work. He has spent half of his life without this man, this man who now so desperately needs to achieve what he struggled to be so long ago. Their words are sparse as they strain to command memories into quantitative meaning; because clearly, the quality is absent.

The man is not there much, so the house, his home, his offering, is just as desolate as their relationship and bleak conversations. It is his home and yet he appears to be just as lost in the surroundings as his guest. He stumbles with words of explanation as he gives the ten cent tour, when clearly even as a guide and the master of his domain, he is still not the confident owner of his thoughts and emotions.

He has put his hand forth as an offering to grab ahold and pull his adult-child upward. It’s unknown how much trust is required to take that hand and be led to safety. It’s unknown how much healing must be processed before either feels like they really belong to the other, or if and when all that has been done, if the word Dad will ever feel as natural as it should when being spoken.  They are both lost souls trying to find their way through present life and back to each other.

I’m sure this story is far too familiar for so many; never give up hope for new beginnings or positive reconnections.  Just move forward, and believe. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Echo's Of The Past

Do you ever just sit, maybe while you're drinking your morning coffee, or when the house is empty and you're the only one there, and for once, the television is not blaring and no one is calling your name; do you ever just drift back in time to memories that have been locked away so long, you forgot they were there? 

2004 I’m sitting in a high school gym listening to my oldest son give the speech of his life; his Valedictorian speech. The mountains he climbed to get there, the battles he silently fought; many will never know. To be different, one must be strong; he is Hercules.

2000 My youngest son smacks his first hit off of a tee-stand. His skinny little legs are going as fast as they can go. His helmet is so heavy on his little head, I am wondering as he runs, how he holds his head up. Still today, he is one of the most determined men I know.

1972 My PaPa has passed away. The Barbie Head I got for Christmas just that morning, is on my dresser. In the dark it looks like a person and I cannot sleep, because it scares me. I put it in my closet so I wouldn’t be scared anymore; of ghosts.

1982 The group Alabama is performing in Albany. The biggest country music group of my time and the tickets went on sale that morning. While I was at work, my mother stood outside in a mile-long line, in the wind, sleeting rain and cold, to buy my tickets. She could not even feel her feet when it was over. I tell my boys all the time, what mothers do for their children; they still really have no idea.  

1978 Me and my grandmother are in a used/trade bookstore. I am teaching her all about the Archie comics and she is teaching me about Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn.

1980 Its February and our family vacation was in Gatlinburg Tn. We rode in a glass tram taking us across the mountain to a beautiful restaurant, with live entertainment. Between the snow and the Swiss dancers, it was the most magical vacation of my life.  

1990 Santa brought my oldest son a guitar, he discovered CMT, and he would stand in front of our television and play that guitar for hours. For three months, at four years old, he WAS country music.

2006 We’re exchanging vows; me, for the last time in my life. Both of my boys are giving me away to the man they have been calling their Daddy for years.  

2002 My youngest is playing Tiny Mites football and I’m watching Coach Joey Edwards hold their attention like no other adult could; and I wonder, where he gets that magic from?

Then it's over; my family comes rolling back in the house and the noise begins. The memory door closes until another time, when peace and quiet take hold, and my mind finds comfort in what used to be.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Man Down! Man Down!

Slamming doors, stomping feet, brow-furrowed faces and angry retreats. Harsh words, condemning voices, and flailing arms full of arguing dialect. These are just a few of the things that have been going on in my house of late; my nerves are shot and my left eye has a permanent twitch.

My oldest son has a MFA degree, more specifically, Creative Writing.  He has a book about to be published, and his tour is coming up soon as well. He’s a kind soul, with deeply penetrating thought processes, passionate about helping others, sees no color, and believes in safe places for all.

My youngest son is attending his second year of college and his degree will be in Business. He owns a Lawn Care service with a partner and they have been in business since he himself was 15 years old; he is now 19 years old. His thought processes are unbelievably keen and sharp for a young man his age; he’s incredibly informed and he too believes in helping others, but insists they must also be willing to help themselves.

By now you have probably deduced that I’ve had a Crazy Conservative and a Raging Liberal in my home for the past few weeks; those titles are self-pro-claimed, and I’m not saying who calls who, what name. My oldest son has been home trying to figure out his next direction in life and the differences between my two sons has never been more glaringly obvious. This is what happens when you raise young people to be independent, strong-minded, and resilient in their beliefs. My home has become a battlefield; it’s worse than any campaign candidacy where mud-slinging exists, that you could ever imagine.

On prior visits I have made the simple rule that discussions about politics, religion, or any other adversarial subjects must remain closed. Well, that works for a short period of time; the food is plentiful and mouth’s stay stuffed, and with a house full of visiting family, they are both easily distracted enough not stray from my requests.

Unfortunately, when you pack four weeks into one visit, it is inevitably going to happen; somehow, some way, somebody says something and it jumps off from there.  It begins fairly calm, and then slowly but surely, the passion crawls onto their faces, the hand gesturing begins, and before you know it, there’s a high-alert range of voices busting the roof off of my house, they are practically standing toe to toe and in each other’s faces, and war is now imminent.

Last week I took control of my domain, I stood up in the middle of my living room and told them I would no longer be their referee, or putting a switch on their grown-man legs, they could take that mess outside and duke it out.  They looked at me like I had grown another head; and silence was born.  They were both raised in the same house, so my main question is; how the heck did this happen and who are these people?