What is a Mother

Traditionally, Mothers are women who inhabit or perform the role of bearing some relation to their children. Mothers can be biological, adoptive, step or even punitive. We all know that motherhood is not restricted to whom you have parented; it’s a woman’s universal symbol for unconditional love.

You may not be a mother, but you’ve certainly been a daughter and within the confines of womanhood lies the incomparable ability to nurture, rear, cultivate and encourage others. We are essentially not only the backbone of society, but the true giver of all life. With that immense responsibility comes boundless highs and unspeakable lows.

I watched my friend bury her 18-year old son today.

I watched as she mustered every bit of strength in her body to give him the proper tribute and eulogy he so deserved. This is what moms do. This is what women do.

I watched her carry the weight of a thousand sorrows, finding a way to put one foot in front of the other, passing his sweet face as she made her way from the pew to the pulpit. I wondered how she could communicate to her body that her legs needed to comply. I watched this mom, this woman, find the courage and conviction to rise and move.

What she did next was a truly astounding. Her words were meant to soothe others. Her voice purposed to calm those who were grieving. Her smile while recollecting the beauty of her child was aimed to lessen the hurt of those around her. This is what moms do. This is what women do.

It didn’t matter what color he was or the circumstances surrounding his passing; the grief of a mother is collective. I imagine that if you felt an inexplicable twinge of pain in your body yesterday, it was perhaps her anguish traveling through all of us, as I believe we are all connected.

We make the choice to put someone’s happiness and well-being ahead of our own. All love begins and ends here with us; women.

Today, I watched my friend bury her child with grace, compassion and the courage of a thousand men. All love begins and ends here with us; women.


Ah, Matrimony

Relationships are tough. We are hard wired to seek companionship. We want to love and be loved. Most of lifes detours, from the pole in a strip club to the prisoner on death row, can be traced to our lack of or inability to quench this thirst. Why are some people successful in relationships and other are not? Judging by the self-help section at the bookstore, no one knows but everyone has an opinion.

I’ve been married for 20 years. I know a tiny part of the reason is because we both fear conviction for murder, so staying together is a better alternative. I would also agree that because we acknowledge and appreciate this theory, we both sleep better at night.

Anyone who tells you marriage is entirely blissful is a liar or has a rogue pharmacist. Sure, it’s great when you are experiencing newlywed sex, sleeping naked, vacations for two and quiet dinners. However, life happens and you can work to steer the runaway train together or get off at the next stop. I was lucky enough to find someone not only willing to steer this train, but ride it across wobbly bridges, through dark tunnels and even help get it back on track when it occasionally and inevitably derails.

With 20 years under my belt, I think it is only fitting that I throw my literary hat in the ring and provide you with a few tips you may not get in a traditional relationship guide. Strong successful marriages are not sugar coated, so neither will my advice.  

·       As you can probably imagine, humor plays a big role in our household. If you can’t laugh, it won’t last

·       Go to bed angry. Not every situation can be solved in a timely matter and you’ve got shit to do in the morning

·       Sex won’t always be great but if you don’t speak up, it won’t get any better either

·       Don’t argue naked. For older couples, that’s ammunition (long titties, no ass havin, wrinkly mother fu*ker)

·       Don’t make excuses for bad behavior. It happens. Own it and move on

·       A courtesy flush goes a long way

·       Your spouse does not complete you, they should complement you

·       Be the Ride or Die, but understand that sometimes the ride or die needs to know when we’re stopping for food and if you got directions before we left because last time…

·       Cut your toenails

·       Keep up your appearance for yourself. Everyone benefits when you feel good and look good

·       Your kids are not an excuse, they just change the game. Be flexible

·       Listen, even when it’s the silliest nonsense you’ve ever heard

·       Spending time apart is good for the soul (and your blood pressure)

·       When telling a story, get to the point

·       Don’t talk shit about each other to people. It’s disrespectful

The person you attract is defined by the person you present. Don’t expect someone to treat you any differently than you are willing to treat them, okay?

There is also more than one person out there for you. If it doesn’t work, try again. When it does, it’s pretty amazing. Don’t be discouraged. Sometimes, we have to kiss a lot of frogs before we find the frog we can be comfortable enough with to make children and carve out a life together. Then, you can look at that frog after 20 years and still know it’s a frog, but it’s your wrinkly old frog, and that still makes you smile.







What are you Hiding?

I was in Nordstrom last night trying to find an under- eye concealer that would disguise what I’m told is a genetic problem and not due to my crazy life. As the sales lady applied and applied layer after layer of color corrector, secret camouflage, ultra HD concealer and miracle eye wand, it became very apparent that this was no secret and there was no miracle. I’m a mess.

Up until now, I have been able to “put on a good face”. I have maneuvered through the past 10 years with the uncanny ability to be witty, give good advice, care for my family, volunteer for everything, please my man and be the friend that sticks with you when everyone else has gone home.

Well, the jig is up.

As I walked through the mall with my “old lady makeup” purchase (fondly named by my eldest), I began to wonder what the women surrounding me, mindlessly sifting through sale racks, were experiencing. How many would attend the high school graduation of their first born this week and seize up with the fear of letting go in the fall. How many were overwhelmed with the day in and day out challenges of having a special needs child. How many were struggling to make end of life care arrangements for a parent in their final stages of dementia. How many were questioning their worth.

Life has handed me its share of crap and I completely understand that it’s all relative. My bullshit may be another person’s day off. I get that; however, it certainly doesn’t diminish what we each experience. I try to give each tough situation its dignity and perhaps sprinkle it with a little humor to keep us all grounded.

Each month, I make the trip to see dad. I’m really the only one he recognizes anymore and my time with him is a priority. It’s Friday before Mother’s Day weekend. This is going to be a quick trip and I plan to return Sunday afternoon in time to spend the day with my kids. Since it’s a quick trip and it IS my special weekend, I decide to treat myself to Airport Valet Parking at $25/day. I have never used this service, but what the hell. Live a little, right? Right.

I find my father in terrible condition and call for an ambulance. He is hospitalized. I spend the next 5 days at his bedside, advocating on his behalf with specialists from all medical fields. I keep his medical records meticulous and I’m so prepared, many physicians remark that they assumed I was employed in the medical field. Meanwhile, there are people at home who expected my return and need direction. I’m making calls, arranging transportation and solving problems from the hospital for my people who rely on me to make it all work out. Only one chaotic instance of the elementary school principal calling me to ask what to do with my youngest child left standing after school seems to be a small victory for me. I can do this.

Day 5

I’m running on about 3 hours sleep a night and a diet of Redbull, Subway and chardonnay. Dad is not responding to treatment, so antibiotics are changed. He’s not being discharged any time soon. The weather has seesawed from a cold and rainy 55 degrees to 94 and sunny. Here come the storms. Now, it is important to note for story continuity, that home there is a 500-acre family farm. I am alone in a 150-year-old farm house that my contractor swears is haunted. My grandmother fell off the porch in a rocker and died there, my uncle nearly chopped off his head in a terrible chainsaw accident behind the house. Dead. Lastly, my grandfather cut off 3 fingers while building a chair in his workshop and he also fell off the roof and landed on an axe, but he didn’t die from any of that.

Back to the storm. While speaking with my husband, I can see the sky brewing up my next form of bullshit. I half-jokingly inform my him that if I lose power, I will jump out of an upstairs window. As the words are coming out of my mouth, I lose power. If you’ve never experienced pitch blackness and total silence, let me tell you, it is terrifying. I gathered candles and barricaded myself in my bedroom which now resembled some sort of ghoulish tomb, dancing with creepy shadows I was sure were going to kill me. It is also important to note that I had a .38 and a box of ammunition on the bed with me for mortal intruders, because that’s how I roll. My cell phone battery is draining, so throughout the night, I keep going out to the car to charge it. I am now sitting under the car port, head on a swivel, headlights on, loaded .38 in my lap, charging my phone and mumbling something about fuck my life. Earlier, my husband had suggested I just go to sleep. I hung up on him.

Day 6

The sun appears, the power is restored 14 hours later and I’m already headed back to the hospital. I stop at Target to pick up a few t-shirts and some sweat pants because I had only packed for 48 hours, so around day 3, I started digging into my farm attire (which isn’t pretty). Dad is improving.

Day 7

Dad can be discharged and taken back to his nursing home. I decided it’s best for me to transport him so that we don’t further upset and confuse him in an ambulance. I can chat with him on the ride and remind him of familiar places and stories. We’ve traveled these roads together thousands of times so it will be good for the two of us.

With help, I get him into the car and slide into the driver’s seat. He turns to me and says, “Where are you taking me, Lady?”

Me: Dad, it’s me, Jessica. Don’t you know who I am? Look at me. I’m your daughter, Jessica.

Dad: I find that very hard to believe.

Me: Why? Why, Dad?

Dad: Because my daughter is better looking and has nicer clothes.

So, there you have it. Out of the mouths of elders. Now you know why I was at Nordstrom last night. I hope my purchase will help my father to recognize me when I see him next week.

Oh, and by the way, I will be returning to Airport Economy Parking. The $225 treat myself, valet bill could have paid for my under-eye concealers.



Hardest thing? That’s what she said.

Last week, a friend posted a question on her Facebook page to begin a discussion. The question was: What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

My first thought that came to mind was that time I had to uncork a bottle of wine without a proper opener. That can’t be it. I then began to reminisce about other things that were perhaps, just perhaps a little more meaningful. I had three.

Burying my mother was definitely one of the absolute worst things I’ve ever had to do. One day, when I have the courage and stamina to relive her final months, I will write about the experience. Until then, unless you’ve found yourself in the same situation, you’ll have to take my word that it is excruciating.

The diagnosis of my son’s autism and the journey with him to date has been hard. We all hope and pray that our children are happy and healthy. When we are thrown a curve ball, or rather a wrecking ball into that plan, life gets harder. I cannot tell you if I’ve ever had a complete night of sleep in the bed with my husband without the little fellow showing up around 3am and squeezing in. I’m not sure how the Bucket Grandparents did it. That said, the rewards far outweigh the tough times. My son is extraordinary in so many ways, and though the journey may be hard, it’s also the most amazing thing I’ve ever beheld. I’m excited for his future.

That leaves my list topper: Dad.

Dad is 95 ½. Dad has dementia. Dad has me.

Each month, I throw my household into chaos (this according to my teenaged daughters) when I depart for a few days to lay eyes on dad, take him to his VA appointments and deal with any other issues regarding his care. He resides in a nursing home some 850 miles away in the home town where he was raised from a child. He is there because it is most familiar to him. He responds much better to visual stimulation and isn’t nearly as anxious as when he is placed in unfamiliar surroundings. Therefore, I am slowing the process by keeping him around people, places and things he can easily recognize. Downside, I’m doing planes, trains and automobiles to get there every 5 weeks.

Listen, I’m not complaining. This man afforded me a wonderful childhood, great teenaged memories and unprecedented support in my adult years. This is what I am supposed to do. It does not, however, make it easy.

Today, we went to the VA to have his ears cleaned. He couldn’t hear me on the way, but he talked up a storm the whole way home. The conversation went something like this:

Dad: How long have I known you?

Me: Dad, I’m your daughter.

(2 minutes pass)

Dad: How long did we date?

Me: Dad, I’m your kid. That’s gross.

(5 minutes later)

Dad: Why did I break up with you? You’re so nice to me.

Me: DAD! I’m your daughter. DAUGHTER. Not your girlfriend.

Dad: I knew that. My brain isn’t working, but let me ask you one other thing. Why did I break up with you?

Me: First of all, you didn’t break up with me. No one breaks up with me. I break up with them. Let’s get that straight. Also, I’m your daughter.

Dad: I knew that. My brain just isn’t working today.

(5 minutes pass)

Dad: Why did we break up then?

Me: That is gross, Dad. I’m your kid. Do I look old enough to be dating a 95 year old? Don’t answer that.

Dad: I’m sorry.

Me: I love you, Dad.

Dad: How did we meet?


This is just a 20 minute excerpt of the 2 hour trip home. All the while, he is attempting to pull the cotton balls from his ears as I’m instructing him to stop touching them.

Dad: Why?

Me: Because, Dad. You just had a serious procedure at the VA and the cotton balls are soaked in medicine.

Dad: When did we do that?

Me: Dad, we just left the VA.

Dad: I knew that (touching the cotton balls).

Now, the cotton ball from his right ear is in his hand and he is busy examining it.

We stop at TGI Friday’s for a late lunch. I have to cut his food. He enjoys it while he tells me he used to come to that same restaurant when he was a kid. I smile and rub his arm.

There, in a wheelchair, sits the man I ran to when I was scared. There sits the man I put on a pedestal higher than the moon. There sits the man who could do anything and had done everything. There sits the man who flew B-17’s into Germany 17 times. There sits the man who was shot down and taken Prisoner of War for a grueling 6 months in the coldest winter on record. There sits a man who endured death marches, starvation and the constant fear of death; who watched three members of his crew be blown to bits as he bailed from that burning ship at 30,000 feet. There sits the man who safely flew millions of passengers to their destinations for 30 years, always with a smile and kind word. There sits my daddy.

As I delivered him back to the nursing home, gave instructions to the nurses and spoke to the facility director, he settled back in to a big, blue easy chair given to him by his younger brother.

Dad: You know, my dad brought me this chair as a gift.

Me: I think it was Uncle Emerson

Dad: Right

Dad: I hope you enjoyed your date with me today. I had a really good time.

Me: I’ll see you tomorrow, Dad. I love you.




The Talk

Today is the day I decided to have the dreaded “talk” with my daughters. I had put it off far too long. These girls are constantly bombarded with social media that could be corroding their proper judgment. After all, they are teenagers now; they need and deserve to know all vital information and facts contributing to their long term sexual health.

I began by building a gentle foundation.

Girls, there comes a time in your life when your body begins to blossom like a beautiful and delicate flower, basking in the sun and frolicking in the garden of maturity. Mother Nature sprinkles her monthly lady glitter upon you that symbolizes your priceless gift of admission into womanhood. Your upper body landscape has begun to reveal perky new buds of growth and wonderment, while your lower region will undergo a fuzzy expansion of luxurious underbrush that serves to shroud your sacred bits.

As these changes become more noticeable, you will begin to attract attention from many who desire to dominate you. You may not realize it at first, as these persons are sneaky, often using slick words, lies and sometimes intimidation to trick you. Often they will seek to control your thoughts, emotions, your every sexual consideration; all to deem themselves superior to you.

They will tell you what to do, where to go, who to love and who to hate. On occasion, they will verbally abuse you in an effort to get what they want. They will attempt to strip you of your dignity and make you feel dirty. They will even go as far as to recount that God said it was okay.

If you object, they will tell everyone you are a whore.

If you give in and give of yourself, they will inevitably move on to the next bloom. Once they have what they want, they won’t care what happens to you.

Yes, girls, I’m talking about the Republican Party.

You must fight, like your mother, to keep them away from your vagina and out of your uterus. They are a misogynistic bunch who seem to be willing to stop at nothing until they are inside you. Stand strong with your sisters and vow to help educate others about this misguided, dangerous group.

Your body belongs to you and no one else. Care for it like a temple, but don’t take any bullshit.


Smells like Teen Drama

Last week, my eldest daughter texted me asking for a ride home from the bus stop. The bus stop is half a block. Was someone bullying her? Was she hurt? I asked for an explanation and the only response I received was a plea for my arrival. I decided to walk, just in case there was a bully. I wanted to make my presence known if I needed to get in somebody’s face, of course, only if necessary. Much to my surprise and relief, she was just crying. Then, she walked right past me, no acknowledgement whatsoever.

“Hey, mom’s here” I say as I trail her down the sidewalk. “Just like you asked. What’s wrong?”

“Just never mind”.

Okay. So I am begged to come literally 200 yards meet the bus and I’m greeted with a “Never Mind” and tears. What is a mother supposed to do with that? Probably not what I did. I chose the old follow and nag tactic. It went something like this:

“Why did you ask me to come down here and pick you up if you’re not going to tell me what’s wrong? I’m your mother. You should want to talk to me. Why don’t you talk to me? You know, I would give anything to be able to talk to MY mother. One day, you’re going to want to talk to me and you know what? I won’t be here because I’ll be DEAD. That’s right. DEAD. And you’ll be crying I want to talk to my mother but it will be too late, because I’m DEAD! Really? You’re ignoring me? I can’t believe this. You better stop walking right now and turn around and answer me, young lady. Why won’t you tell me what’s wrong with you?”

Then, I closed my eyes and opened my arms, expecting a crying teenager to run into them for comfort. Arms still extended, I opened one eye and then the other. To my dismay, there stood a teenage girl staring at me and trying her best to wish that we had already arrived at my DEAD scenario.

Apparently, motherhood has different stages. I laugh because I know this. I cry because I swore I would never allow my children to think of me as I did of my mom when I was a teen. Was mom on my top 10 list of favorite people? Not even in the ballpark. Did I love her? Yes, well. Yes.

And so it goes. I must learn patience and the art of teenage space. Eventually, she did come around and I think I gave her some pretty good advice. Will she follow it? Probably not, but that’s okay. I realize that part of growing up is actually giving them to space to do so, knowing when to offer up those arms to hug them and knowing when to just trail behind and keep my mouth shut. I’m going to try it…someday.

The Boyfriend

We have our first boyfriend in the family. I have to say that I am pretty excited for my daughter. She’s nearly 15 and I think that is a fair age. I trust her, but I’m not “Channel 6 News at 11” stupid. I never underestimate the tenacity of a hormone frenzied teen. The other night, my mini-me told me she had a rehearsal that wasn’t on the calendar. Immediately, my mind went to the old “I have a practice at the school and you need to take me but I’m really going to pretend to go there wait till you leave and sneak off to my boyfriend’s house” mode. After some detective work, it turns out that she really did have a practice. Poor thing. She never even knew I was investigating. Would she even know to pull something that sneaky? Damn skippy she would.

I feel like I have been preparing my girls and myself for the first boyfriend since they were old enough to talk. There were the pre-school conversations about the boy who kissed her on the cheek. That’s so cute. He likes you.

In elementary school it was more about diffusing the gross factor. I’ve listened to countless stories of how he said she was stupid, explaining that a 5th graders game was pretty sad and for the most part, he’s brain-damaged.

Middle school contained more brain damaged boys, some with weird facial hair and funny voices, but that’s about it.

Now, high school is all about damage control. The conversations have become dramatic arias about relationships that I clearly don’t understand or couldn’t possibly have experienced. I listen, face completely devoid of emotion. I have learned that if you begin to even crack a smile, it will be met with a “Mahmmmmmm! Gahdddddddd!” So, I sit like a statue, rolling my eyes on the inside.

I try to add a nugget of wisdom at the end, careful not to begin with a “when I was your age”(I was told that anything after that sentence turns into Charlie Brown’s teacher talk). I can usually get in a good piece of advice if I pretend to say it in passing. However, now that the boyfriend has entered our airspace, the commentary has become far more pointed and direct.

If you’re going to give your daughters advice, you better be willing to lead by example. It is impossible to teach your daughter how to have a healthy relationship if you can’t consider yourself a role model.

One of my pet peeves revolves around the use of the word “bitch”. Ooh, I hate that word. I especially can’t stand to hear it in everyday conversation. If you call me a bitch, prepare to be cursed out or worse. No man should ever call you a bitch. You have to make it clear that this is unacceptable. Now, if you allow this type of talk in your home, it’s not so easy to insist a boyfriend show your daughter respect. A man who calls a woman out of her name is a man who doesn’t deserve her attention. Ever.

A young lady will emulate relationships she sees. If you make bad choices and demonstrate destructive behavior; guess what. Get your act together.

My daughters are constantly reminded that their bodies are not the equivalent of a roller coaster. Contrary to some opinions, their physiques are not created for the amusement of others; to hop on for a ride, have fun and then get off. I teach them to respect their bodies by feeding them physically and spiritually. When young ladies understand the majesty of the human body, she is more likely to take great care of her own vessel. Girls who have little to no self-respect tend to become jiz depositories.

It’s okay to be affectionate toward one another. When you kiss, hormones and neurotransmitters rush through your body. Along with natural endorphins, they produce the euphoria most people feel during a good kiss. In addition, your heart rate increases and your blood vessels dilate, so your whole body receives more oxygen than it does when you’re just standing around. Also, along with the increase of the heart rate comes the increase of blood flowing to different parts of the body. Would you care to take a wild guess as to where that blood is rushing to in the young man? That’s right, my dear. You can say that kissing is the gateway drug of sexual activity. Do not pretend it means anything less.

If a young man is respectful, he will not embarrass you or put you in a position where your character may be compromised. Your reputation precedes you. Make sure it’s a positive one.

A dad or consistent positive male role model is the most important part of relationship building for a young lady. This is where she gets her healthy dose of self-respect and understanding of how it feels to be loved and cherished. If this man tells her that she is beautiful, smart and worth being treated only with the highest admiration, she will take that knowledge into future relationships with potential suitors.

My last piece of advice, this week, was to choose wisely. It’s nice to be a couple, but a couple of what is the better question. Be as particular about a young man as you are about your choice in shoes. Believe me, if they are worth your time and attention, they will understand and happily submit.

I have only hope that my daughters will listen to my advice. I know they will have to find their own way but I can sleep at night knowing we have laid a good foundation. It’s also easy to sleep knowing I have a .45 and a shovel.

A Hallmark Holiday; A Cynical Look at December

Last Saturday night, my family sat down and watched videos from our past holidays. It was so sweet to watch the expressions on my children’s faces as they giggled at the film from Christmas morning 2005. There were American Girl Dolls, Care Bears, stationery sets and ice skates. I have to admit that I got pretty misty-eyed looking at that screen and hearing little voices chirping “Santa IS real”.

Fast forward to 2013. The sweet angelic voices have turned into shrill yapping noisy debates about who stole who’s iPhone charger. This is not our greatest Norman Rockwell moment.

Even so, I love the holiday season. We celebrate everything from Hanukkah to Kwanza. I believe our children should be exposed to all cultures in an effort to help them understand, appreciate and respect all people. In our home, you will find several homemade menorahs, five Christmas trees, African-American art and Kwanza lights as well as a butt-load of Department 56 villages. It’s a freaking winter wonderland of diversity up in here. Even though it sounds magical, it is in no way a Hallmark Holiday Season.

Like yours, this is a dysfunctional family. We run the gamut from “can’t wait to see you” to “don’t even invite them unless you plan on posting some bail”. I am here to tell you that there is no such thing as described on a Hallmark Card, so you can relax now. I will also add a sigh of relief since everyone I know would want to straight up murder that fake Hallmark family.

What is it about this season that makes rational people turn in to maniacs? I am so irritated when I see folks sleeping in tents in front of Best Buy and Kmart. There is absolutely nothing in there that requires that kind of senseless time commitment (however, I did see an advertisement for a 50” TV at Wal-Mart for $288, but I digress). Last year, I had a friend phone me from Toys R Us. She was standing in line for a toy but didn’t know what the toy was. It was just a line full of excited people, so she got in it. This, mind you, is an educated woman.
It’s re-goddamn-diculous. You can’t make it to a PTO meeting, but you are out at 1am, playing a sinister game of parking lot musical chairs, to get a deal on more stuff you probably don’t need. The holiday hypocrisy knows no bounds (except for that 50” TV deal. Wait. It’s probably not HD, so never mind).

The holiday season also has this creepy penchant for attempting to bring families together who don’t speak to each other 364 days of the year. I am here to tell you that it is perfectly acceptable for you to excuse yourself from this gathering. The Thanksgiving anxiety of either cooking for a small army or sitting in the home of a virtual stranger for 6 hours is more than any of us should have to bear. I can’t think of a worse punishment (for yourself or for others that will have to endure your presence) than to be thrust into an uncomfortable intimate situation such as a holiday dinner.
Here’s my advice to you. If you don’t see these people during the rest of the year because you don’t have anything in common besides DNA, Thanksgiving is not the time to play catch up. Try spending some time when the stakes aren’t so high. Really, you don’t want your annual get together to be remembered by your hockey puck rolls and dry-as-dirt stuffing. This is most certainly accompanied by monotonous conversation about the weather and your surprise at how the kids have grown since you last saw them. Take a look over at the Kid’s Table. They aren’t happy with you either.

If you do have to sit at the awkward table and manage to expand the conversation, please try to stay away from religion and politics, unless you are like me and prefer to liven up dinner by bringing up these wonderful topics. I also enjoy ranking on my in-laws’ signature Buddig Beef cheese pimento ball thing that everyone raves over. I hate it, and I like making choking noises when anyone takes a cracker full. I also like to announce that I have bit down on an egg-shell in my deviled egg and perhaps cracked a tooth.

Personally, I would much rather have Thanksgiving with the people who mean the most to me. I like to actually look around the table and be thankful for those I see. I will save the days in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s for quick visits to extended family and friends. I like to call these visits the “Holiday Hit and Run”. You’re in, you’re out and it’s virtually painless.

Many people will tell you that life is short, but I believe that life is long. Try watching the clock this Thanksgiving at your third Cousin Betty’s house and tell me if that is not the truth.

I know you will not take my advice, and neither will I. Many of you will be picking through bins of junk at Wal-Mart like seagulls at an unattended beach picnic, while others suffer through dry turkey, cheap wine and bad conversation. I will, once again, rail on the freaky chipped beef appetizer while pretending to be astounded that children do get bigger in a year’s time.

Jesus Christ, what a season…

The Earl of Sandwich

Two and one half years ago, my mother passed away after a brief illness. It was devastating for my father and me. I don’t think either of us ever thought we would be forced to get along without her. She was our rock, the go-to person for everyone, related or not. She passed away in NY and was laid to rest at Saratoga National Cemetery. Incidentally, she is directly across the road from Uncle Dick and Aunt Roberta (you remember her from the mini-van story) and two rows behind my college friends’ dad. I like to think there is comfort in having them so close.

This leaves me and dad. Dad and me. It’s foreign sounding and not a statement either of us are quite used to saying. Mom taught me to be independent. Him, not so much. We have been thrust into a relationship neither of us were prepared to begin. Don’t get me wrong, I love my dad, but most of the time, he and I were buffered by mom. He has attended every birthday, orchestra, symphonic band, marching band, show choir, graduation, marriage (haha, shut up) and birth of my children, but sat quietly and never overly cheered for me or went out of his way to compliment my performance. Apparently, that was Mom’s job. Now that we are together, we are getting to know one another and it’s not always pretty.

You see, there are a couple of ways to view your parents in this stage of life. You can either have Convenience Parents or Everyday Parents. Convenience Parents are parents you have on holidays and when it’s convenient for you to call or visit. You care, but your life is busy and you make time when you can. After all, they can take care of themselves or someone else already has the honor. Perhaps they get on your nerves as well. Everyday Parents are the parents you care for daily. These are the parents that you are on a first name basis with their physicians, know their medications, speak to at least once a day and manage to fit all this into your own schedule, even when it doesn’t fit. I have an Everyday Parent.

I consider myself in what I affectionately call “The Earl Sandwich”. On one side, I have my beautiful 8-year old autistic son, Earl, who requires special attention. On the other, I have 92-year old Patriarch dad, Earl, who also requires special attention (mostly because he’s stubborn). I also have some lovely condiments in the form of 2 daughters, a husband and 2 doggies. Of course, I am the meat of this sandwich (I prefer to be a lean corned beef). The Earl Sandwich is held together by the meat, even when the meat is expired, tired or hasn’t showered.

This Family Sandwich has landed in Indiana for the winter. I have managed to convince the old piece of bread to visit with us for the winter months. Notice I said “visit” and not “live”. According to him, “live” would be bad. Call me crazy, but my stress level elevates to F4 when he is on the 500 acre farm alone. The Sheriff’s department has been very patient with my “wellness checks” when he doesn’t answer the phone for more than 8 hours and my extended family and closest neighbors have been more than cooperative when asked to swing by just to check in. Let’s face it; Everyday Parents are much like children. As much as we don’t want to admit that our roles have switched, they have.

While sitting in the audience at one of my daughter’s performances, I looked around at the sea other smiling parents. I wondered how many of these seemingly stress-free people were also Elder- Proofing their homes. You know, elevated toilet seats, handle grips in the walk in shower, night lights that make your hallway to the bathroom resemble an airport landing strip, electric blankets on top of regular blankets, a pill basket that is kept on top of the fridge and the thermostat set at a toasty 75 degrees (which is working wonders for my hot flashes). Do these caregivers of Everyday Parents know that their kind walk among them in silence? I wonder. So, I decided to ask.
It turns out that many of my friends are having or have had similar stories and are more than happy to share. More important, their elders need to speak about it as well. Today, one veteran at my dad’s VA meeting told me that his grandkids didn’t like to speak to him because they have to repeat everything twice. Well, he’s just as frustrated as they are. His point of view about aging and increasing dependency on others was quite eye-opening. I wonder if children of Everyday Parents take that into consideration.

I joke around a lot about my dad. Yes, I call him Captain Cataract and kid him about the war by doing my stand up routine in my best Hitler voice, “Zat pesky Earl Morrow. Ve vill catch him if it is ze last zing ve do”. However, this family sandwich keeps in mind that every part of the sandwich has feelings that need to be acknowledged and respected.
So, Happy Holidays to all my readers who have Everyday Parents. I know you’re tired and I know it’s tough, but this isn’t a job for the meek. Be proud of yourselves and think maybe, just maybe, your kids are watching and won’t toss you into an old folks’ home somewhere down by the river.

You think you know, but you have no idea

I was on a flight not too long ago that connected through Newark. For late evening flights, I always book a window seat so I can turn away, cover my head and have some quiet. Coming down the aisle, I spot the 4 year old and his mother. Of course, they settle in next to me. This little one was immediately interested in me. Mother tells him to leave the nice lady alone, but he has other plans. About 30 minutes in to the flight, I have a little boy on my lap watching Nick Jr. while his mother sleeps. Turns out, they were on their way home from her mother’s funeral and she was overcome with emotion and exhaustion, a horrible combination. Her gratitude was almost embarrassing.
The moral of this story? Don’t be an asshole.
I have no data to back this up, but I’m going to put this out there and suggest that 99% of people traveling with children are not doing so because they enjoy it. I’m guessing it’s out of necessity. I also have news for you. Even if you are on a flight to Orlando, those parents aren’t happy either. They just want to get from point A to B in one piece without too much collateral damage. If you have children, had children or have parents, then you should get this. Kids are like Murphy’s Law; if something can go wrong, it usually does. As an innocent bystander, you can roll your eyes or try to help.
For those of you getting to know me, you have probably determined that I have a pretty good sense of humor. It has been sharpened over the last 14 years since becoming a mom. It just doesn’t pay to be tense. You learn to move through the world at a different pace, seeing things differently, deciphering what is truly important. Unless you move to Mars (and I cannot prove or deny there are no Martian children), expect to deal with adolescents. Some of you need to remember this when you act “put out” by the presence of a youngster. You were probably no picnic for your parents either. I might also add that after the past 17 days of babyish behavior on behalf of our government, I would welcome a conversation with a kid any day. At least it’s truthful.
My youngest child is autistic. By far, he has been the best teacher of priorities, life, love and happiness. Because of him, I don’t take shit from anybody. I have become a fierce protector of those who cannot protect themselves. When we board a flight, I make an announcement to fellow passengers. “This is my son. He is autistic. He loves to talk and meet new friends. If he greets you, say hello. If he asks you where you’re going, tell him. Don’t treat him like he’s not there. I will do the best I can to keep him seated, but sometimes he just needs to stretch his arms and legs. Thanks for understanding”. It really sucks that I have to announce this, but it seems to put people at ease. I’m not looking for sympathy, just a chance not to have to curse someone out for being a jerk to a little boy.
You may see a mom in the grocery store with one or more screaming children. Do you really think she wants to be there? She doesn’t need your condescending smirk as you pass. How about a pat on the shoulder and a “been there, done that”. You may see parents out to dinner, struggling with a new infant and trying to enjoy a meal. Send them a dessert instead of a glare. This shit ain’t easy. When you’re at a pool and get splashed by some sprogs, remember, you’re at a pool. You’re supposed to get wet. Don’t be a wanker.
You think you know, but you have no idea. There are parents you see every day who are silently challenged with special needs kids and regular old kids. Imagine a job that NEVER ends. Imagine a responsibility that never lessens, only increases and never allows you to slack. Let me tell you, the vast majority of parents are freakin’ awesome. We are all trying our damnedest to raise responsible adults without losing our sanity in the process. Next time you are confronted by a 2’ dervish, get a grip on yourself. You are the bigger person. Act like one.