Sunday, January 27, 2013

Twelve



I didn't get to see my daughter make her grand entrance into this world, didn't get to hear her first cry.

I was told, later, that she came out hand first -- reaching. That is no surprise to me. She is always reaching for something, usually macaroni and cheese or Diet Dr. Pepper, occasionally money. But very rarely for me anymore.

That's because she's a big girl now. Twelve as of yesterday. A taller-than-me, more sarcastic than me, sharp-as-a-tack, rapier witted tween who is one-year-away from being a  (OHMYGOD) teenager. I'm still trying to figure out how in the hell that happened.

I know that 12 years ago yesterday I was standing in the hallway of the same hospital where I was born, holding my breath and praying to every god and every saint I could think of that my husband would return from his "quick errand" before  the woman we had just met gave birth to what we hoped would be our child.

I held my breath as I waited, and watched a closed door as that baby was born and prayed like crazy that, soon, I would be allowed in. Finally a nurse came out of that room with a bundle of linens. Spotting me, she signaled me with her head, "Go in." Really? "Go in." So we did.

And minutes later, the woman we had just met made all of my dreams come true as she handed me - me -- the little bundle she had just given birth to. And I am still in wonder that she chose me. She trusted me. She gave her baby to me.

I have cherished every second.

And every hug, every kiss, every smile, every "I love you," along with every stomp and every eye roll.

I love her because she is sweet and funny and smart and witty and is so very fluent in sarcasm, and in spite of the fact that she is incapable of making her bed or picking her socks up off the floor.

I love to hear her sing and watch her draw. I love that she watched and loved "Rock of Ages" with me and that she sat down at the piano the other day and picked out the tune to "Sister Christian."

I love that she held my hand today as we watched "Jersey Boys" on the stage, and that she knew some of the songs. I love that she was as excited as I was that I got us tickets to see Elton John in March.

In the days after my daughter was born, well-meaning mothers kept telling me that I needed to put her down, that I was spoiling her.

 I kept telling them to shut the hell up. My arms had been empty for too long, and I didn't want to waste a minute. Even so, I wish I had held her more. Picked her up more. I wish I would have known I wouldn't be able to pick her up at all after about three years. And I wish I had known how soon she would stop needing me.

But I'll never stop needing her.

With her my world is in color. 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The first fall



I was ever-so-thankful for the extra quiet time on this cold, rainy and raw morning.

I would have loved nothing more than to have gone back to my nice, warm bed for an hour or so, too.

But my mother-in-law Jane had back-to-back visits scheduled with her physical therapist and her occupational therapist. These two ladies have been coming to my house once a week for the past three months, teaching Jane ways to be more independent and less dependent on us.

They've shown her how to get into and out of chairs properly, how to go to the bathroom alone, how to get out of the bed without help, how to manuver around my cramped house with too much furniture and two crazy dogs. Given her exercises to strengthen what little muscle she has left.

And they have helped tremendously.

Just two weeks ago, Jane could not get out of her bed at all. In fact, she couldn't even sit up in it. She has no strength in her arms. At all. Not enough to push herself up to a sitting position.

So just last week, I got her a rail that attaches to the side of the bed. On the second try, she managed to use her stronger arm to pull herself up and push her legs over the side of the bed. Then she would use the handy beeper we bought her to summon me to come help her up.

Today she got ambitious.

Today she decided to get up. She pulled herself up and, before putting her beeper necklace on, she tried to stand. In her white socked feet. On my hardwood floor.

She slid. Right to her butt.

And while I sat in my living room, scanning the Internet news of the day and enjoying the last few minutes of quiet before becoming her waitress and nursemaid, she sat on the floor in her bedroom, trying to yell loud enough that I could hear her.

I finally did. I kinda knew something was wrong when she didn't beep.

I found her sitting on the floor, her back to the bed, holding on to the rail for dear life, a look of terror in her eyes. I wonder if she saw the terror in mine.

"Are you hurt,"  I asked her.

"No. Just my butt hurts from hitting the floor."

I saw no blood. No bruises. No tears. Well, maybe the start of a few tears.

I pulled her to standing. A little harshly, perhaps. Yes, I admit it. I was a little angry at her. Like the mom who wants to kill her kid after he almost gets hit by the car.  She had done something stupid. Something scary. Something that could have been tragic.

She could wear little socks that have rubber skids on the bottom, but she says the rubber bumps her her feet. She does have neuropathy. But she could wear them until she can get her slippers on, don't you think?

She wants a rug at the side of the bed. I'm afraid a rug will trip her.

"I'd rather trip than slide," she says.

And I want to strangle her.

This was the first fall on my watch. The first almost. The first near-miss. It made me want to cry too.





Sunday, January 13, 2013

Full circle


It's been a little more than three months since I lost my job, my career, my identity, my self esteem and any number of other things due to the whims of a bunch of billionaire men in ties.

I know there are stages of grief. I don't know if there are stages of laid-off. I know I went through hurt, anger, humiliation, despair, boredom, indifference, and some euphoria that I no longer have to cover soccer.  And jealousy as I've watched new face after new face hired to do what I used to do when I couldn't even get an interview.

As I've said before, it feels like I've been dumped by an asshole, who now is dating a young bimbo. I know I'm better off, but I still hope he gets an STD and she takes him for all his money. There.


In the meantime I've managed to establish myself as a freelancer, form my own little media company, build a home office, order business cards, cover some football games, interview some people, write some stories, get interviewed on the radio, get on TV, update my resume, write some cover letters, update my Facebook status regularly, sell a book or two, paint my front porch, redecorate two rooms,  host two parties and a Christmas parade, decorate my house for the holidays, bake Christmas cookies, cook Christmas dinner and do all the shopping and wrap all the gifts (except my own).

I do still have a rather long list of things I still want/need to do, but now I have a full time job.

I take care of my mother-in-law, Jane.

She's 82 years old and moved in with us just a few days after I turned in my Times-Picayune ID and the keys to the office where I worked for two decades. When she arrived after being kicked out of her assisted living home for needing too much assistance, she appeared to be knocking on heaven's door. Frail, weak, gaunt, she had dropped down to 88 pounds. She couldn't walk. Could barely stand. And complained about everything.

She woke up dozens of time each night needing -- something.  She was hot. She was cold. She was uncomfortable. She was so weak she couldn't pull the blankets on or off. She couldn't get out of bed by herself. She also had an undiagnosed raging bladder infection that made her want to go to the bathroom about a hundred times a day. We had to lift her up, sit her in a wheelchair and take her there, and back.

There were many, many, many times that Marty and I said, "We can't do this." We certainly didn't want to.

We did hire a "helper," a local woman with spunk and fire and the energy to deal with all the needs and requests Jane has.  She arrived every morning with a chipper attitude. Sometimes a little too chipper, to tell the truth. While I would sit in my living room, sipping my coffee and enjoying the quiet before Jane woke up, Freda would come in, go straight to Jane's room and open the door.

"Good morning!" she would shout. "You don't have to get up yet! I'm just letting you know I'm here!"

I wanted to hurt her. So did Jane. She admitted it.

While waiting for the morning beep from Jane, letting her know she was ready, Freda would putter around my house and talk. Loudly. Sometimes to me and sometimes to someone on her blue tooth headset. Sometimes I couldn't tell the difference. At least she did the dishes.

As soon as she arrived, I grabbed my iPhone and my dog and went for a walk.

But besides her spunk and attitude, Freda brought a little too much drama. She didn't show up a few times. Left early a few more. My house became an asylum none of us could stand. We had to let her go.

So that is how I became a full-time caretaker.

Now I enjoy the quiet in the morning a little longer, then go for my walk. Or, as I call it, my dance down the street.  I wait for the beep. I get her up, get her to the table, fix her breakfast,give her her meds, get her to the bathroom, help her get dressed, fix her lunch, an afternoon snack and prepare dinner for her and my family. Sometimes I conduct an interview and write a story in there too.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I get her into the car and drive her to her dialysis treatments. Two and a half hours later I pick her up.

Basically, I have a child again. I dress her. I wipe her nose, her ass. I clean her poop, change her underwear. I cook her food and cut it up and gently place a bib around her neck so she doesn't get her clothes all dirty. When Marty is home, not teaching school or coaching baseball, he does all of the above.

We both have watched our mothers go from strong, fierce, funny, independent firecrackers to -- not. From the women who took care of us to the women who need the caring, doing things we never imagined doing.

I don't remember much, but I know my mother wiped my nose and wiped my ass and cleaned my shit and my puke and fixed me my favorite meals just the way I liked them. She knew I liked cream of chicken soup with toast broken up in it, and sunny side-up eggs, and tuna with sweet pickles because she loved me. And when we're sick or we're hurt or we're blue, all we really ever want is a big hug and a snuggle with our mommies -- no matter how old we are.

I try to do the same things for my child -- when she'll let me, which isn't often. As our mothers need us more and more, our daughter needs us less.


To her credit, Jane has gotten better. She has gained weight, gained some strength and some independence. She can get out of bed on her own now, with the help of a new rail I bought her with my first paycheck. She can get to the bathroom and back, with the help of the new rails on the toilet.. And she can dress herself. It just takes a while.

My own mother, who will turn 80 later this year, still works a full 7-hour day, five (sometimes six) days a week and works private parties after hours. She still lives alone, requiring very little assistance -- except with her TVs and DVRs and iPhones and her iPad. And she recently has developed somewhat of a cat problem she doesn't quite know how to solve.

 They both struggle with feelings of self-worth, often wondering aloud as to their purpose on this earth. They say they don't want to be a burden, don't want to ask for help, don't want to need it.

Neither do I.

What do we do when we've served our purpose? When we're no longer considered valuable or needed? When our whole lives are wrapped up and tucked in a box and put away somewhere? When we can't find a soft place to land? What if we just can no longer pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off?

What do we do then? And who will take care of us?