The Final Curtain

 

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This is a true story that happened over 13 years ago.

 

“Say your goodbye,” the emergency room doctor suggested, his eyes brimming with compassion. But the deep wrinkles etched across his brow revealed the weariness of all the pain and death they had witnessed behind the hastily drawn curtain.

Say your goodbye.

The beeping of machines dissolved into the background. The relentless ticktock of the clock on the ER wall paused as if waiting for my response. I felt myself sinking into black nothingness. My fingers shook as I clasped her limp hand and traced her wedding ring, its sharp edges jolting me awake. The abyss beckoned me: Don’t be afraid! Lean in! Peer into the darkness!

Say your goodbye.

I leaned over to kiss her pale cheek for one last time. I knew my mother was minutes away from leaving her body, but never expected the stark coldness, the unforgiving finality, the emptiness lying beneath my lips.

I wasn’t sure what to do next. I never had the chance to say goodbye to my dying dad. How do you say goodbye? What do I say? Thanks? Thanks for raising me? For teaching me hard lessons? I’ll see you again someday? Catch you on the flip side? Don’t go? Don’t leave me here all alone? Fear gripped my heart, squeezing the air out of my lungs. I was suffocating right along with my mother. A torrent of tears spilled down from my eyes onto her face. My entire body shook as I held onto her hand.  I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this. I can’t say goodbye. I’m not ready.

“Mom…I love you,” I sputtered into the abyss.

“I’m…..fine….don’t….worry,” my mother gasped, her breath gurgling between each word. “I love you…tell….your brothers…I love them.” She closed her eyes.

This was it. I can’t believe she’s dying. My mom! Dying! It’s just not real. It can’t be real. An ER nurse gently ushered me away from my mother as the doctor closed the curtain around the stretcher once again. She walked me to a small windowless waiting room separate from the larger waiting room outside the ER. This must be the private room for family members waiting for someone to die? Will they move me to an even smaller room when they tell me she’s dead? “We will try and get her stable,” the nurse said. “For now just wait in here. I’ll come get you if anything happens.”

It was midnight. Only bad things happen at midnight.

Only a few hours before I was drifting off to sleep next to my snoring husband and one-year-old son in our upstairs bedroom. A heavy rain pounded on the roof of our house. Without warning, I felt the atmosphere shift; the particles in the air pulsing and bright. Something is off, the universe whispered. Something big is happening.  Electricity surged through my body. The only other time I’ve felt this way was the night my dad suddenly died in a hospital bed 3,000 miles away.

I sat up, listening intently to the steady thrumming of the rain above our heads. I nudged my husband awake. “What was that? Do you hear that?”

“What? I don’t hear anything,” my husband whispered. “It’s just the rain. It’s nothing.” He rolled over to snore again.

But the rain wasn’t right; the wind urgent. Something was wrong.

I crept down the hallway and stairs into the dark kitchen. I wasn’t sure why I was checking, but I knew I had to check. An unseen force propelled me to walk through the kitchen to the door leading to our attached garage. I slowly opened the door, the wind howling outside in response. A low grown escaped from the shadows on the floor. There was my mom, lying on the bottom steps below her in-law apartment above the garage.

“I…can’t…breathe,” she whispered, her tiny frail body wrapped in her nightgown and bathrobe. She was still clutching her phone in one hand. She had managed to make her way down the steps to get help, but didn’t have the energy to remain standing long enough to knock on my door.

Now I was in a hospital, with my mother and The Abyss hiding a few feet away behind a thin white curtain. Soon two of my older brothers arrived and we waited, the foggy early morning hours bleeding into each other. Finally, a nurse entered the “Waiting For Death” room where we had sat for hours like stone statues. “She’s turned a corner! She’s stable!” she informed us.

We were stunned. The ER doctor suggested many times to me that she would probably die that night as she was drowning in her own fluids, her lungs almost completely filled from the congestive heart failure. But now she was suddenly stable. “If you hadn’t found her when you did…” he said to me, his voice trailing off.

My mom almost died that night back in 2003. I said my final goodbye, but the universe had other ideas. They transferred her to Maine Medical Center in Portland and a week later she underwent a quintuple bypass and valve replacement surgery at the age of 69. After the ten hour operation, she emerged feeling like a new woman. “I have a new heart now!” she told me in recovery. The surgeon informed us the average lifespan after such a surgery was 10 years.

Of course, her Mainer stubbornness proved him wrong. I’m thankful to have spent an additional 13 years with my mother and counting. She’s 83 now and enjoys relatively excellent health. I’ve let a lot of things go since she almost died. Peering into the abyss will do that to you. Our once stormy relationship has softened over the years to one of forgiveness, respect, and love.

Often we talk about those final moments; the time she was almost pulled over the edge. I’ve asked her more than once if it hurt to not be able to breathe, or if she was scared to die.

“Oh no, not at all,” she insists. “There was no pain. It was very peaceful. I saw your dad, you know. He was standing at the foot of my bed with two really big angels on either side of him. I knew I would be okay. Not scared at all. I was ready to go.”

I’ve seen death up close before when I was 21 and viewed my dad’s lifeless body lying in a coffin. I’ve carried the burden of not being present when he left us. I felt cheated out of saying goodbye to him. Yet the years of guilt, anger and sadness gradually faded away, transforming into acceptance and gratitude.

I don’t know why I went out to the garage that night. But the universe has a way of balancing things out. Saying my last goodbye to my mom that rainy October night prepared me again for the final curtain. I know when the time truly comes for my mom or me, I’ll be ready to jump into that abyss with less fear and more love.

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Oh, What a Year!

Well, ho ho ho and shut the front door!

It’s that time once again to look at my Saved By The Bell: “Slater Wears Tiny Tank Tops” desk calendar and say to my cat, “Hold up — another year’s gone in the blink of Screech’s lazy eye? What the hell? Is this how time works? Yeah, well screw you, Einstein!”

And for god’s sake, shut the front door.  It’s pretty friggin’ cold out.

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2016 has proven to be quite the stellar year! And by “stellar” I mean an absolute shit show from start to finish! You too?! Come join me as I zip down memory lane at lightning speed on my greased-up sled and crash land into a Wal-Mart parking lot!

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WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!

Here’s a quick rundown of the Maineiac family’s year. We’ll start with our 10-year-old daughter.

She spent five solid months of 2016 begging for one gift from Santa. It’s something every hellion in this country wants to get their grubby little hands on Christmas Day.

No, not a Cabbage Patch doll. Not a Tickle-Me-Elmo. Not even a Tickle-Me-Cabbage (I wish). But a stupidly overpriced mutant Furby inside a plastic egg, aka the Hatchimal.

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There’d better be a Faberge Egg inside this goddamned egg.

That’s right–it’s an egg! With a toy inside! What will these crazy toy manufacturers think of next?

My bet is more useless plastic.

My husband and I stopped at Target last week to find a long line of Hatchimal-less losers standing outside in sub-zero temps. They sold out of 38 of the things in 8 seconds. And no, we did not stand outside for them. I wouldn’t stand in line for hours on a warm summer day for two tickets to a “Back from the Dead” Beatles reunion.

But as luck would have it, some 38-year-old man living in his mom’s basement is selling them on eBay for 300 bucks a pop. Why, just take out a hefty loan or sell your soul to the devil and this little gem could be collecting dust at the bottom of your child’s closet in no time!

After we informed our daughter that Santa might not deliver a Hatchimal this Christmas, this is the following conversation we had with her:

Her: But I really really really really really really really really REALLY want one!

Mr. Maineiac: Really?

Me: Hey, know what I got for Christmas when I was your age?

Her: What?

Me: A Nancy Drew book. Then my brother sat on my head and farted.

Mr. Maineiac: You know what I got one year?

Her: What?

Mr. Maineiac: A penny. And I had to share it with my two sisters. We all took turns holding it. Then they both sat on my head and farted.

Her (pouting): But I want a Hatchimal!

Us (pouting): Where’s that wine?

Next up, my teenage son. Let’s check in and see how his year’s been going!

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[absolute silence for a good 15 minutes]
Ooooookay! That’s all I could get out of him.
(And that really isn’t my son. …but y’know what though? It could be. I haven’t seen his face in about 2 years.)

Finally, let’s check in with my dear ol’ Ma. She spent the better part of 2016 telling me how much she detests Trump. I was talking with her on the phone and tried to change the subject of his upcoming presidency by bringing up other horrible reality TV shows.

Me: Hey, have you seen Naked and Afraid lately?

Mom: No, too icky! I get enough nausea from seeing Trump on the news every damn day.  Did ya see that other show?

Me: Which one?

Mom: Y’know the one! That SHOW!

Me: Oh, yeah! Sure! THAT one!

Mom: Where the guy is married to all those crazy women?

Me: Sister Wives?

Mom: It’s ridiculous! First off, that man is not attractive AT ALL. And secondly, he’s ugly. What is wrong with all those women? I wanna see a woman married to four men! Let’s see that! Brother Husbands!

Me: Good idea!

Mom: Jeezum crow, did you see what Trump the Dump did now?

Me: Oops, gotta go! Time for more Hatchimal hunting!
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And how was your year? Let me know so I can be totes jealz!

Happy holidays, everyone!

Oh, Mother!

 

I think we all know mothers are strong, wise and beautiful women. The moms in my family were no exception.

mothers
Three lovely ladies in hats: my mother, great-grandmother, and gram.

I bet you also realize moms have little time on their hands most days. Which is why I’m posting a short-n-sweet rerun about motherhood, so we can all kick back and savor our breakfast in bed Sunday morning.

I wish all of you moms out there lots of love, laughter, chocolate, and a moment of peace and quiet. You deserve it. Happy Mother’s Day!

My Dear, Sweet, Slightly  Manipulative Daughter

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My daughter is only seven years old, but don’t let her age fool you. When Little Miss J wants something, she doesn’t simply tell you, that would be too easy.

Always a clever girl, she makes little homemade cards to communicate. First, she lures the reader in with her sweet drawings, then goes in for the kill with a well-timed zinger. Over the holidays, she handed me a card and I couldn’t help but laugh. And feel a little afraid. It read:

Dear Mommy,

I hope you have a Merry Christmas! [drawing of Christmas tree]

and get me lots of toys! PLEASE! [drawing of gifts]

and I love you! [drawing of big red heart]

[back of card] and I am standing here watching you read this card 

Love, J

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As I lowered the card, she was right there. Standing. And watching. I get shivers just remembering the intense look in her eyes. She is ruthless.

Her eyes sear a hole in my soul.
Her gaze has the power to burn a hole in my soul.

Today she made me yet another “greeting” card. I had been scolding her all week for not putting her trash in the trash can. Instead she was hiding it all over the house, cramming cheese stick wrappers in my slippers, sliding banana peels under the couch cushions, etc.

I said to her for the millionth time, “You need to put the trash in the trash, okay?”

Clearly fed up with me, she frowned and put her finger to her lips, deep in thought. Then she ran off to get her markers.

Five minutes later she handed me a card:

AWWWW!!!!
AWWWW!!!! Well isn’t this the SWEETEST?
Oh, it's a sweet picture of her and a rainbow!!! My heart might burst!!
Oh, it’s an adorable picture of her and a rainbow!!! My heart might burst!!

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The best part? When she got home from school today and I asked her to turn off the TV, she said, “Where’s that card I made you this morning?”

I have no idea where she gets this behavior.

Keeping Up With My Mom

I live next door to my 82-year-old mother. She has never driven a car, loves to read New Age books, and lives for the moment her mail is delivered. Five other notable things about her:

  1. She eats her hamburger in between two toasted (burnt to a crisp) rice cakes because she’s “probably allergic to gluten”.
  2. She once thought my late dad was communicating to her through her smoke detector.
  3. She firmly believes in the afterlife and brings up her own imminent death at least once a day.  (Then why bother with the rice cakes?)

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    My mom asking the waitress, “Yes, I’d like the hamburger but without the bun. Do you have any rice cakes? And could you turn this music down? How am I supposed to think about what I can’t eat with all this racket!”
  4. There is nothing she hates more than when I try to assist her in any way, especially when I try to help bring her groceries inside.  If I pick up her bag, I’d better be prepared for an onslaught of dirty looks and her yelling, “Jeezum crow, Darla! I’m not THAT old for Chrissakes! GOOD LORD! GIVE ME THAT BAG! GIVE IT TO ME!” Her normal speaking voice has the ability to cut through steel. So when she starts screaming at me, and wrestling the bag out of my hands, every neighbor within a five mile radius must assume I’m accosting a poor old lady in an attempt to steal her rice cakes. And she is always fixated on the location and condition of the eggs. Apparently, all hell would break loose if one were cracked in transit.  “Did you get my eggs, Darla? Did you bring them in the house? Which one is the eggs? Be careful with that bag! That might be my eggs!” I often reply with, “Oh, the eggs? I slammed that bag against the house a couple of times on my way in. Then swung it around like a windmill while pounding it onto the floor before I gave it a good stomping. I think they’ll be fine.” She never laughs at that bit of sarcasm.
  5. She thinks most female celebrities are cursed with “chests that are too big”. To her, this is something to hide not flaunt.

Celebrity chests and death were (once again) the main topics of conversation when she called me on the phone yesterday to chat about the typical stuff: politics, TV shows, whether we’re a ball of light after we die.

My mom is a huge talker, so all conversations are one-sided. She’s been known to interrupt herself. She could break the world record for speaking the longest nonstop without pausing for even a single breath.

The great thing about my mom is she honestly has no clue that what she says is funny. I’m barely able to enjoy a good guffaw in response because she’s already onto the next zinger. She’s also gifted at dropping a funny observation, then following it up with a heavy topic about the nature of our universe and the afterlife some philosophers spend their entire lives contemplating.

Mom: And you know what show I can’t stand? That Karbuncles crap.

Me: The what?

Mom (exasperated): Keeping Up with the Karbuncles!
Slide1Everyone just LOVES that show! And you know why? It’s all about their big chests! Yes! And because it’s illegal to show the nipple area, they have to show the crack instead. I’d rather see the nipple. And there’s a whole bunch of chest crack on that show. The bigger the crack, the better. On some of those girls, that’s all you see! This long crack hanging down to their stomachs! It’s because they don’t wear bras, Darla. Remember: always wear your bra or you’ll turn into a Karbuncle.

Me (laughing): I’ll keep that in mind–

Mom (without pausing): I just finished another book on what happens after we die. What do you think?

Me: Well, I–

Mom: Do you think we’re just a ball of light? What do you think I’ll look like on the other side? Will I be myself or someone else? I’d better not be a Karbuncle! I think I must have lived lots of lives before. And once I’m dead, do you think I can I split up my energy? Be in more than one place at a time? I was thinking, I might stay on the other side, but I might come down here to haunt you. I’ll talk to you all the time from the other side!

Me: Uh…I don’t know if that’s a good idea-

Mom: The mail’s here! (hangs up)

I know I should come up with a clever closing line to this post that neatly ties up the Karbuncles chest crack phenomenon with the afterlife, but my mom has me stumped yet again.

And I have no clue where I get my sense of humor from.

 

50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of Gratitude

Dawn, who writes the blog Tales from the Motherland, invited me to join a group post about all the things we’re thankful for this year in order to spread love and joy around the holidays.

But we have to come up with 50 and only give ourselves 10 minutes to do it.

Sounds a little stressful to me.  So in preparation, I inhaled a few slices of fruitcake, chased them down with some spiked eggnog, then burped up a storm. Ah! Now I was ready to compile my glorious list of holiday cheer.

And because this is all about sharing, we’re inviting you guys to join us. I promise that you will feel truly positive and grateful after you do this exercise.

50 Things That Make Me Happy:

  1. My kids.
  2. My husband.
  3. Yeah, I love my family more than anything else in the entire universe.
  4. Did I mention my family?
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  5. Star Wars. I saw the first one in the theater with my dad when I was a kid.  It was mesmerizing and I had a huge crush on Han Solo. And I don’t know if you’ve heard, but it’s back with J.J. Abrams. Yeah! I just wish to god I had kept my little 1980 Princess Leia action figure. I think my brother fed her to our dog, who not coincidentally was named Princess.
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  6. Shopping for gifts online in my bathrobe.
  7. Coffee! Oh, dear sweet nectar of the gods! Sometimes I just want to dive right into my mug and go swimming.
  8. My mom. She knits like crazy and loves to listen to the Doors. Yup, she’s badass.
  9. Forgiveness. My mom and I have had a pretty rough relationship, but age has mellowed us out. We’ve forgiven each other for many things in the past.
  10. Coldplay. Shut up. I love them! When I hear their music my soul feels instantly lifted. It’s full of positivity and I need more of that in my life.
  11. This year, I actually won a contest to see David Gray (one of my faves!) in a private little concert on the pier by the ocean. We sat on a cozy couch on a deck with about 20 others and listened to him sing as ships sailed by in the harbor. It was the perfect setting.
    My future living room.
    My future living room.
    Singing "Snow in Vegas", his duet with LeAnn Rimes.
    Singing “Snow in Vegas”, his duet with LeAnn Rimes.

    And I even got to hug him afterward!
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    He had such dry humor and he was very polite. He said to my husband, “How you doin’, mate?” Mate! Oh, those charming Brits. Plus, it was his birthday so I got to eat cake. Best. Day. Ever.

  12. My microwave and crock-pot.
  13. The smell of my Christmas tree when I walk in the door.
  14. My husband for being such a loving, attentive dad. My kids worship him.
  15. Singing alone while driving.
  16. Humor. I live for the funny. I have to laugh every day or I’ll die.
  17. Late night TV when I have insomnia.
  18. Listening to my daughter play the violin.
  19. Singing Adele songs at full blast with my daughter.
  20. My son’s dimples and smile.
  21. My bed. Is it just me, but isn’t that moment when you lie down after a long day the single best thing ever? I love sleep.
  22. Blogging. It’s always been such fun and I love to do it.
  23. The Internet. I can’t live without it. I remember the very first time I was introduced to it. My brother told me to type a word to search and I typed “fart” and all these fart jokes popped up like magic. Mind blown. My life was never the same after that day.
  24. My body. It may be getting wrinkled and fluffier, but I can still go for long walks. I can hug people. I’m just happy to be alive at this point. Only took me nearly 45 years to figure this one out.
  25. Oh, my god, did I get to 50 yet?!
  26. I will never get to 50.
  27. My little tiny Prius that only costs about 12 bucks to fill up now.
  28. El Nino! It’s still balmy and almost Christmas here in Maine. After last winter, I’ll take it.
  29. Polar Express. We can’t get enough of this movie. Isn’t Tom Hanks amazing?
  30. Christmas Vacation movie with Chevy Chase.
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    Especially the scene with the squirrel in the tree. Or my favorite line from Eddie: “You know that metal plate in my head? I had to have it replaced, cause every time Catherine revved up the microwave I’d piss my pants and forget who I was for a half hour or so.”
  31. Laughing until you cry. See above movie.
  32. David Bowie and Bing Crosby’s “Little Drummer Boy.”
  33. Chocolate.
  34. The fact my daughter is more obsessed with the TV show Survivor than I am. It’s our little ritual to watch it every week together.
  35. Video games. I love to play them with my kids and I sometimes win.
  36. Pecan pie. I’m making my first one this weekend. And it reminds me of one of my favorite films, When Harry Met Sally.
  37. I work from home and get to be the one to pick up my kids after school. This is one of the major reasons I work from home. I want to be there for them as much as I can. I’m sure they won’t mind if I live in their college dorm room closet one day, right?
  38. Love. I have a lot of love in my life and I’m forever grateful for all of it.
  39. Meditation. It helps calm my racing mind.
  40. Christmas lights. I could sit out in the living room all night and just gaze at the tree. Very peaceful.
  41. Football. When I watch a game I feel like my late dad is sitting next to me. Late as in dead, not as in “late to the game” late.
  42. Dark humor.
  43. That every morning without fail my husband brings me my coffee right after I wake up. He’s been doing this for over 17 years. (I think maybe it’s because he knows how cranky I am before that first sip.)
  44. Wahoo! I’m at 44! And you’re still here? Bless you.
  45. Music. I couldn’t survive without it. It’s magical and transcends everything else. I hear a song and I’m instantly transported to another time or place. My mind is free, just busted wide open. It’s therapeutic and saves my soul.
  46. Writing. Words. Writing words. Yeah. It’s good.
  47. Books. I have about 20 new ones I need to read but don’t have the time.
  48. Gray hairs. I actually love having a little bit of gray. It makes me feel like I’m saying to the world: “Yeah, that’s right! I’m old! Don’t mess with me!”
  49. The Big Bang Theory. I have major crushes on Sheldon and Leonard.
  50. My blog readers. I truly appreciate every comment and like. (I think there are still a few of you out there, right?)

Whew, I’m done!  Now it’s your turn.

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If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list. The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s ok. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! When I finished my list, I took a few extra minutes to add links and photos.

To join the bloggers who have come together for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the blue frog at the bottom of Dawn’s post HERE. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List.

Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise.

Have fun, guys! Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

 

Think You’re Thankful Enough? Take this quiz!

norman-rockwell-thanksgiving

Hey, gang!

It’s time once again to overdose on gravy! Yes, Thanksgiving is almost here!

And it’s my turn over at The Nudge Wink Report. So slap on a feedbag and help me explore burning questions like:

–What makes Aunt Ethel cry into her creamed corn?
–Can turkeys fly?
–What is tofurky really made of?
–What would it take for Al Roker to shut his piehole for once? Hint: Not pie.
–What did former President George W. Bush say to this turkey?
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So, are you thankful enough?

Go take my quiz now and find out! —> How Thankful Are You? 

 

And so it begins…

My son turned thirteen last month. Thirteen.  You know, the age their eyes roll back into their heads and molten lava starts shooting out from every orifice.

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BLAAAAARGGGGGH! I WILL DESTROY YOU!

So many, many things changed in an instant.

The day after he became a teenager, he announced at breakfast, “Mom, I need to do some chores because I need some money. And I think I want to go to the school dance next week. Oh, and I gotta go take a shower now.”

Whoa, whoa whoa — stop right there. Dance? Money? Okay, okay. I can handle that. But voluntary hygiene? You mean I won’t have to spend the better part of the morning begging you to scrape the putrid seven layer grime of raw sewage off your Sasquatch feet? Be still my beating heart! Think of all the free time I’ll have! My nose hairs might even grow back again! Oh joy! He willingly wants to take a shower! Maybe having a teen in the house won’t be so bad after all?

Oh, it be bad. Along with his newfound sense of cleanliness, all of a sudden my son thinks he’s capable of being by himself with no adult supervision.

Yesterday he called me on his little TracFone: “Hey, Mom,” he mumbled.  Because mumbling is the only language teenage boys understand. “I’m gonna stay after school and hang out in the field with Cameron and some friends before soccer practice, okay?”

Hold up.  You? In a field? With friends? Weren’t you the same boy who just THIS MORNING had to ask me for help because you couldn’t figure out how to open the car door? Suddenly you’re competent and responsible? Oh, no. Nope. That’s not how adulthood happens. You don’t pick Fruit Loops out of your belly button and eat them and then the next day hang out in a field with some possible psycho-killer named Cameron. Sounds like a made-up name to me. But my son wants me to believe he’s “mature” now. I’m not sure I’m buying it.

Slide1
“Yes, Mother. I shall be arriving momentarily at the athletic excursion whereupon I shall congregate amongst my colleagues sans supervision.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll call you if I need anything,” mumbled my 13-year-old son.

Call me? You don’t even know how to dial numbers! Do you even know any numbers?

“Okay, call me,” I sighed. “Please. Please for anything. Anything at-”

He hung up.

I suppose I should be happy because that was the longest conversation we’ve had in months.

The next day, still riding high on soap fumes from his second shower of the day, I drove my teenager to his soccer game.  About a mile away he suddenly mumbled with urgency, “Don’t drop me off at the field. Don’t get out of the car. Don’t talk to me. Don’t even look at me. Just drop me off in the parking lot. Wait, no — just slow down here and I’ll jump out.”

Right, because God forbid any of his buddies within a 150 mile radius get the slightest hint that I exist at all. Death in a ditch is more preferable.

This coming from a boy who not that long ago, if I were a mere millimeter outside his peripheral vision for a nanosecond all hell broke loose.

“Okay, mommy’s just going to step over here to get your baba…”

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“MOMMMM!!! WHERE ARE YOU??? MOM!!!! OH MY GOD! SHE’S GONE!!! COME BACK PLEASE!!! MOMMMMMM!!!!

I pulled up to the soccer field still a bit stung by my beloved son’s dogged determination to pretend I’m not alive. I leaned over and said, “Tell you what. First thing tomorrow I’m going to buy a wig, dark sunglasses and a fake mustache. Then I’m going to steal the Invisibility Cloak from Harry Potter, you know, just in case my wig falls off. Then I’ll buy tinted windows for the car in case the cloak falls off. If your friends are within earshot, I will only speak to you in sign language. Not a sign language that anyone can understand but a made-up language only you and I know.  If there’s a slight chance one of your friends cracks the code,  I’ll communicate to you only with my eyes and mental telepathy.  But I won’t look directly at you. I won’t make eye contact. I’ll look a little off to the side. If I’m breathing too much or too loud while we’re communicating telepathically, I’ll hold my breath until I pass out.  Okay?”

“Okay,” my son shrugged and he was gone, leaving me in a cloud of Axe shampoo.

Which was good because now I have loads of free time to search for invisibility cloaks on eBay.

Mishmash Monday

Hello there!

How the hell are you?

Just a friendly message letting you all know I can’t write anymore.

No, wait! Don’t leave me! Come back! This is serious! I got nuthin’! My bloggy well ran dry. My bloggy liquor cabinet has been emptied. My bloggy fridge has nothing but a half-drunk bottle of PBR and my bloggy pantry is full of moldy chocolate-covered raisins. No, wait…those aren’t raisins. I wish to god they were raisins.

Normally I have at least a dozen half-assed posts collecting dust in my draft folder. Today I checked and all I had was a quarter-assed post about Duck Dynasty I wrote nearly two years ago. About asses.

duck-dynasty
Oh how I wish I really couldn’t see them.

This terrible no good winter from hell has killed my writerly soul. Yes, I said writerly. See how bad this is?

But being cooped up with cabin fever for these past six months has made me better at complaining. All winter long my husband and I played the classic married game of “Who’s More Miserable?”

Answer: It’s always me.

(Thank you, past hellish childbirth experiences.)

We’re celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary this week so this is what we do for fun now. Every night we cozy up in bed and suddenly turn into our grandmothers.

Him: “Oh god! I think my foot is going numb.”

Me: “My lower back is on fire!”

Him: “Yeah? Well, my ankle hurts!”

Me: “My knees hurt!”

Him: “My right butt cheek hurts!”

Me: “Hey, you know what hurts? That time they ripped all my insides out then put them on the table next to me! Twice!”

What’s even sadder is most times we are so exhausted from our daily lives we simply yell out body parts at each other. Sometimes to spice things up we’ll throw in a few potential diseases or ailments we think we might be developing.

“Thyroid!”

“Ovarian cancer!”

“Sleep apnea!”

“Menopause!”

What a delightful game! Other than my always being more miserable, nothing much else is going on with me.

As for my two kids? They’re flipping fantastic! Love them to pieces!

My eight-year-old daughter was looking at my high school yearbook photo last week and cringed: “Mom? Why is your hair so big? Why did you make it stick all up like that?”

I wish I knew, Miss J. I wish to god I knew.

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Laugh all you want now but at the time my Cowardly Lion mane provided a cozy home for a down-on-their-luck family of mice. (inhales) Ahhhhh! and I can still smell the burnt hair and chemicals just looking at this picture. And they warned us back then inhaling too much Aqua Net might fry your brain and lower your IQ! Pfft! Yeah, right! Whatever! hmmm…soooooooo….yeah…ahem….yep…..what was I talking about again?

Oh yes, my kids! My son is almost 13 so my knack for embarrassing the hell out of him comes with zero effort on my part.

The other day I was picking him up after track practice when I noticed a slight change in his appearance — a bit of peach fuzz on his upper lip.

“OH MY GOD! DO YOU HAVE A MUSTACHE?! IS THAT A MUSTACHE? OH! MY LITTLE BABY BOO IS BECOMING A MAN! NOOOO! WHY LORD? WHYYYYYY?”

Sure, I probably shouldn’t have yelled this revelation at the top of my lungs in the parking lot in front of his school. Or collapsed to the ground weeping. Okay, and I shouldn’t have actually picked him up. My back will pay for that one later. And maybe I shouldn’t have done all this when his friends were around. Plus that cute girl he really likes. Live and learn. Or not learn ever, in my case. I live to embarrass that boy. Let’s call it payback for colic.

I’d like to close this random post with a little movie review titled Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of What the F***?)

“Do you know what this movie means?”
“Hell no! I thought you did!”

**SPOILER ALERT! If you haven’t seen the film yet, go away now! Go back to Twitter where you belong! Nothing to see here!**

Last week the little red Netflix envelope appeared in my mailbox and I thought, Ooh! Birdman! Cool! I like birds, I loved the movie Mr. Mom, this is going to be awesome! and settled down with my popcorn and gin to enjoy the feel-good movie of last year. I should have known a movie’s only Academy Award worthy when it makes you cringe the entire 2 hours. Ah, yes, the endless inner conflict of creativity versus fame, self-acceptance versus popularity, prop gun versus blown-off nose. Oh, Michael Keaton! I love you, man! You should have won that Oscar! But please, I’m begging you, rip off that ugly toupee and tell me what the hell the ending meant! Why were Emma Stone’s eyes so big? Why is Ed Norton so good at playing an asshole? Why was this movie the most depressing thing I’ve ever seen? Please tell me you lived happily ever after and flew away into the sunset wearing your undies! Why, Birdman? WHYYYYYY????

That’s it from here. What’s new with you? Do you know what the ending to Birdman meant? Do you also embarrass your kids? Can you give me some tips on how to improve my parenting tactics? Did I tell you my lower back’s on fire? What parts of your body are disintegrating?

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Birdman image: Rolling Stone
High School Yearbook Photo: She’s A “Gag me with a spoon” Maineiac

Must-Read Book: The Long Hall

tlhkindlecoverThey were like any other young married couple in love and expecting their first baby, anticipating the labor and delivery with typical anxiety but thrilled to be on the cusp of parenthood. Yet life has a way of striking down even the best-laid plans straight out of the blue, turning something that should have been a celebration into a devastating tragedy beyond measure.

Charles Gulotta’s haunting memoir, The Long Hall, is an intimate and painfully raw journey beginning with the sudden turn of events the day his wife went into labor and the years of grueling recovery they both faced long after. His story is told with incredible insight and honest emotion. At its heart are the central concepts of love and family, and how we must all find the strength deep inside to carry on even in the face of immense loss and grief.

Charles’ story will stay with me the rest of my days. It’s a compelling read filled with beautiful writing.  I read this book in two days as I couldn’t put it down. It’s a rare book that manages to simultaneously break my heart and renew my spirit.  I found myself alternately laughing out loud or weeping with grief.

The following is an excerpt describing the moment he and his wife, Jill, discovered she was pregnant with their first baby:

We found out in November of 1984. Jill had missed her period and was feeling strange, and already suspected what was going on. We bought a home pregnancy test, took it out of the package, and clutched it as if we were holding the future in our hands. Here was the thing that would give us the most significant piece of information we would ever receive, and I remember thinking that it didn’t look important enough. In fact, it looked a lot like those kits we had when I was a kid, the ones that told us if there was enough chlorine in the pool. Yet, it represented the link between not knowing and then knowing that we were going to have a baby.

It was just a plastic tube and a small bottle of liquid. Jill filled the tube with urine, and added a few drops to the bottle. We were supposed to check back in an hour. If a doughnut appeared in the urine, that meant she was pregnant. Seeing the words doughnut and pregnant in the same sentence seemed a little weird, but that’s what it said.

We were scared out of our minds and so we joked stupidly about the doughnut thing. If it was a boy, should we name him Duncan? With Jewish parents, does a bagel appear instead of a doughnut? When we finished the stupid joking, we still had fifty-eight minutes to wait. We decided the time would pass more quickly if we took a nap. Lying on the bed, I stared at the bottom of the windowsill for fifty-seven minutes. I thought Jill had fallen asleep, but she had spent the whole time staring at the back of my head.

When the hour was up we raced to the bathroom, turned on the light, and picked up the tube. Something shaped like a ring was floating in the liquid. We screamed, looked at each other, looked back at the tube, and screamed again. I had to remind myself that the doughnut was not the baby, but was just the chemical reaction. We looked again to make sure, then poured the doughnut down the drain, which also felt weird.

Later that day, we drove to Jill’s parents’ home, to tell them. Bob took the news with nervous silence, then a warm smile. Barbara looked at me and yelled, “What have you done to my daughter?” It was a question that would echo in my head for years.

The following details the fateful day she went into labor and the devastating turn of events that would change their lives forever:

We called the doctors’ office and the nurse told us to get to the hospital. So this was it. Here was that car ride I’d thought so much about, the one you see on television and you think, please don’t let it happen like that. I’d practiced it over and over in my mind. We’d done a trial run the week before. We’d been to the hospital for the new parents’ tour. We should’ve been ready, and we were. Everything was under control. My driving was smooth and effortless. We could have been going to the supermarket for a loaf of bread, except it was almost midnight, and you leave your house at that hour only for life-altering events.

After parking the car, I felt bothered for just a moment by the bright yellow EMERGENCY sign. I opened Jill’s door and she climbed out. Then we walked slowly through the doors of Bridgeport Hospital.

It was 11:40. The day we would have our first baby — July 12, 1985 — was itself about to be born. We were in that moment when everything changes. The bridge from here to there was twenty feet of linoleum. We stopped at the desk and answered questions. Name, address, insurance. A thin man in pale green scrubs appeared out of nowhere, steered a wheelchair up behind Jill, snapped the footrests into position, and pushed her toward the elevator. We had no way of knowing, but Jill had just walked the last twenty feet she would ever walk. Right there. That faded, scuffed stretch of hallway. She was thirty years old. I was twenty-nine. We had been on top of the world for the past four years. But the world rolls. Sometimes you roll with it, and sometimes it rolls on top of you.

Charles Gullota’s memoir is a must-read, it will forever change the way you view love and loss, life and death.  It shines a light on the tenuous grasp we all have on our own lives, how our innate personalities and who we thought we were — our hopes, our dreams, the very essence of our being — can be snatched away, snuffed out in an instant like a flame. Yet, it’s tragedy that forces us to embrace the here and now, compelling us to fully live each day while we still have a chance. Only love has the power to heal us in the end.

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The Long Hall is 320 pages, and can be purchased for $12.95 from Amazon.com. The e-book edition is also available, for about $3.99 US, in any country where Amazon has a Kindle store.

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cg-on-2011-02-21Charles Gulotta is a freelance writer and incredibly popular WordPress blogger at Mostly Bright Ideas. His blog is a WordPress Recommended Humor Blog and was Freshly Pressed numerous times. I had the pleasure of meeting Charles and his lovely wife, Maria, a few years ago and yes, he is just as warm, witty, and insightful in person.

Jeezum Crow! I’ve been Freshly Pressed!

Or as my mom would say:

You’ve been what now? Is this that evil computer thingamabob? You really should pick up a phone more and call me. I could be lying here dead in my rocking chair after having a heart attack while knitting your afghan. You know the one I’ve been working on for months in spite of my arthritic fingers. Oh how they hurt so! And this is all you care about? Freshly Pressed! I’ll give you Freshly Pressed! Jeezum crow! Where’s my friggin’ coffee?”

Not my mom, but pretty damn close.

Forgive me for writing a post about how I was Freshly Pressed, but I couldn’t help myself.  It’s been an eternity since my last FP. Why, I can’t even remember how long ago! (2 years, 3 months, 4 days)

And to know a post about my cranky  80-year-old mother and her dark cutting edge humor would be featured up there on the front page is somehow fitting. After all, I got my obnoxious sense of humor straight from her.  While my late father had the dry slow-burn wit, she has always embodied the brutally honest, in-your-face Mainah charm.

So I’d like to take this moment to thank her for letting me know life’s way too short to worry so much and almost everything in life can be funny, even death.

As we all know:

Tragedy + Time = Comedy

Or in my mom’s case:

Tragedy + Time – Sanka = Endless Blog Fodder

Love you Mom! Thanks for giving my blog so much material. I know you will never read this but I’ll be sure to tell you about it tomorrow while I’m “fixing” your remote again so you won’t miss the upcoming Dr. Oz Show on colonoscopies.

My mother. Yes, I was the daughter of Laura Ingalls.
My mother. Yes, I am the daughter of Laura Ingalls.
As you can see, the plaid apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. (my beautiful mom and gram)

Thank you WordPress for featuring her, my extra-sullen grandfather and his depressed dog in the post, Happy Impending Death Day! 

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I’m still on my summer bloggy break and hopefully will be back to posting more once the hellions are back in school. In the meantime, here are a few more “Mom” post gems if you’re interested and like to take frequent guilt trips:

I’m So Glad We Had This Talk, Mom

I’m So Glad We Had This Talk Again, Mom

I’m So Sorry I Missed Your Call, Mom

I’m So Glad We Went Out to Eat, Mom

I’m So Glad You Read That Book, Mom