All the Way

September 12, 2012 at 4:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

“When somebody loves you
It’s no good unless he loves you all the way
Happy to be near you
When you need someone to cheer you all the way”
When that somebody who loves you thinks you are the cat’s pajamas then that is what you become. Because my crush thought that I was adventurous, at age fourteen, I learned to ski. I swallowed up my fear, my dislike of the icy, biting wind, the belief that I would be permanently injured, the tears brimming at my eyes, the bile about to vurp out of my belly and saw myself in his eyes. He thought I was fun loving and daring. Who was I to doubt?
He said, “If you can do basic math and read, you can cook.” So we learned together and became determined to make our table one of abundance, conversation and cheer.
We had to learn a new language to communicate with our firstborn. His faith that we would manage just fine was just exactly what I needed to throw myself full throttle into figuring it all. As if we can ever figure it all out.
He told me I was smart and that kids liked me and that of course I could be a librarian working with teens. So I did that. He laughed at my jokes so I became, in my mind, funny. He treated me like a sex kitten and … you get the idea.
The person I am now is the vision that he saw when I could only see someone destined to be a flibbertigibbet, an irresponsible, live-only-for-the-moment dilettante. It begs the question of who I will be when I am no longer reflected from his rosy colored glasses.
I will not focus on that now, as now he needs me. And he believes that I can help him through this hardest of times. He needs me all the way. Come what may. So I can.
“When somebody needs you
It’s no good unless he needs you all the way
Through the good or lean years
And for all the in-between years come what may”

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Bugger Off

August 28, 2012 at 5:20 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

“He is packing it in and packing it up And sneaking away and buggering up And chickening out and pissing off home, Yes, bravely he is throwing in the sponge.”

Minstrel singing, “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”

The calendar is blank.  A year ago my day planner had the words “Mike in” and “Mike out” sprinkled all over the little boxes.  These words designated when the husband was traveling.  Sunday to Tuesday in California, home Tuesday night then out Wednesday morning for meetings in Pittsburg and home Friday night.  That was a typical week and it was the rhythm of our lives.  I had free time galore and I filled it with book clubs, racket ball matches, buddy runs, happy hours with the girls, volunteering at the library, yoga, playing bridge, skiing in winter and hiking in warmer months, going to plays, trying out new restaurants, and tending my tiny flower bed.  Not exactly a meaningful life, but a break after years of parenting and working at the library. We downsized and moved to a college town. I was having fun while figuring out what was next and wondering if my career-driven husband would ever slow down.

I never would have guessed that what was next was solo care-giving for my 57 year old husband.  Actually that wasn’t next.  “Next” was diagnosis, treatment (or rather treatment failure) hospital stays, keeping his status on a need-to-know basis and now hospice at home.  I never missed an appointment with him.  I took notes, did research, dealt with the insurance companies, set the appointments, brought the pills, ran to the pharmacy, and ran interference.  No one was to know.  He was going to have the treatment and then life would go on as close to usual as possible.  Except it didn’t work out that way.

In my darker moments I wonder, who will take care of me when I can’t take care of myself?  Caring for someone even after the doctor visits and hospital visits are over is exhausting.  It’s not the physical challenge (thank goodness he is a small man) but the mental ones.  Be upbeat, be entertaining, be compassionate, and be all about him.  Don’t think about the future, don’t think about next week, and don’t think about tomorrow.  Tomorrow will be the same as today.  I know there are good people out there that care for a loved one for years and years and it makes me want to flog myself for selfishly wishing for my old life.

So would I pack it in? Would I “bravely” throw in the sponge? I hardly know how to answer that.  I love the ending of “Thelma and Louise” where they drive off the cliff.  I know that is Hollywood but why not just piss off home and bugger out?

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Cleaning Granny’s Fridge and other Frightening Games

October 3, 2010 at 6:41 am (Uncategorized) (, )

Is it sad or funny?

A common activity for baby boomers whose parents are still living is a contest I like to call, “The-oldest-find-in-the-freezer” competition and its counterpart, “Guess-the-mysterious-food-preserved-in-ice” game.  In my most recent match I won the first event with a bag of frozen shredded cheddar cheese with a “use by” date of March 2004.  My sister, not to go away without any awards, correctly identified a brownish yellowy kind of ice blob with a pinkish tinge as frozen shrimp.  I’m not altogether sure that she was correct (although I think she was right about something “looking fishy” about the contents) but in the spirit of friendly rivalry I gave her that round.

I had to take solo-satisfaction in my quest to remove everything from the pantry that had outlived its “use-by” date.  Since I’d been down this road before there really wasn’t any creepy old stuff, but I did have a great round of “Duplication Solitaire.”  A great old fashioned game kind of like canasta, where one tries to get seven-of-a-kind in each of a variety of categories.  For example:  chicken soup, I found 26 cans, of which nine were Campbell’s’ chicken noodle, eight Campbell’s’ cream of chicken, six chicken with vegetables and three Progresso chicken vegetables, and just one chicken and rice.  Of course I could have gotten a special bonus in Duplication Solitaire if I had counted the dry chicken soup.  Apparently, gremlins sneak small boxes of the Lipton brand into your shopping cart EVERY TIME you go to the store if you are over 75 years of age.  My parents have 34 boxes.  They sometimes get the onion soup mix, 19 boxes, but not as often.

These are a few of the other more notable items from the inventory:  seven bottles of barbeque sauce, four quarts of mayonnaise, 17 cans of tomatoes in a variety of sizes and brands, eight bottles of pasta sauce, 31 cans of tuna (this includes some packed in oil, some in water, some flavored with lemon and pepper and also canned salmon), and five salsas. This seems like too many for two people that don’t “like that Mexican food,” eat out five or six times a week, and have problems with spicy food but perhaps they are expecting a gang of teenage boys to visit for the next Super Bowl Sunday.  And now, to make matters worse, Mommy has discovered some evil company called the Vermont Store.  Boxes of more food are arriving daily.  She will have to live to one hundred to consume all of the jams, jellies, fruit butters and preserves (19 jars and counting) that have moved in next to the seven boxes of Success rice. Or, I’ll just let her enjoy her three-year-old bacon.  She says, “If it’s frozen it’s fine.”  Who am I to argue?

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Changing seasons

August 19, 2010 at 4:31 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

While summer doesn’t officially end until late September, I’ve always felt that the beginning of the school year marks the shift. Now that I’m living in a college town I’m eager to see what this will mean here. Yesterday I ran into Target and I was taken back six years to the meaningful conversations I had with daughter #1 as we prepared to move her into a dorm room.
Me: “…that lamp is cute, but you need something cute AND functional.”
Her: …”I hate you.”
Me: “…what if your roommate brings a rug too, the room isn’t very big?”  Her…”I hate you.  “Me: “…absolutely not! You’re going to college for an education, not to watch TV!”  Her:…I hate you!”  Me: “Whatever.”  Her: “Whatever.”

I actually heard the exact same conversation. Here is what I would tell the mom now that I’ve gone down the road a few times. Just nod and say fine. After all the money you’re going to spend on tuition, what’s another 500 bucks. The rugs will be puked on in short order, it’ll be good to have a back up. The lamp lighting won’t make a bit of difference on your students ability to study. Having a TV in the room will give your student a diversion from partying, or studying, but mostly from partying. When they graduate, they’ll tell you that they love you. It’ll be worth it.
There were mothers and sons at Target too. The mothers were asking the sons if they needed things. The sons didn’t know. It was very funny and kind of sad, these moms, having driven their man-boys to the college town, and desperately wanting to give them the tools they would need to survive. Tide, Bounce, Irish Spring, Jockeys and the rest. The boys were sizing up the beer coolers with one eye, and rolling the other one at the mother holding the 3-pack of Lysol.
So there you have one change of season sign: Target is crowded with mom’s wearing CU Buffs T-shirts and the human drama is playing itself out.
The upperclassmen will be moving into their ramshackle rentals over the next few days. I’ve been seeing lots of beds and sofas left for the garbage trucks as one set of renters makes room for the next. The sweet smell of reefer populates some streets as the early birds are settling in their nests and the parties at the nearby park go later into the night.
Starbucks is packed, but so far the “kids” haven’t discovered the hipster, hippie coffee shops here on the east end. They will, they’ll grow their hair out, pick up some Peruvian made scarves, stop eating meat, become addicted to espresso, become lesbians, then not, join Green Peace, take a philosophy class, decide their parents are right-wing idiots, and learn to play the guitar. It’s their season of love.
Blues jam concerts on the mall will make way for marching band pep rallies. Local concerns will move to page 2 as the rise and fall of the football teams’ season becomes front page fodder.

Locals are starting to complain about the traffic, the “you-can’t-find-a-parking-place”, damn kids riding their bikes drunk (a few tickets have been issued recently), yet they forget that part of what makes a college town special is the energy and verve that the students bring.  It’s like complaining about sand in your shorts when you’ve chosen to sit at the beach.  I say bring on the students, bring their insight, their energy, style, and noise.  It’ll be quiet enough in the nursing home, so until then:  Go Buffs!

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The Mirror

June 22, 2010 at 4:32 pm (Uncategorized) (, , )

Every now and then I like to spice up my looks by applying a bit of mascara and eyeliner. No false eyelashes or Cleopatra eyes for me, just a spruce up of the peepers. After poking my eye and leaving mascara streaks on my reading glasses one too many times I decided that at the ripe old age of 50 something I ought to have a makeup mirror. I bought a cheap one at Walgreens (good thing, I’d hate to think what I might have seen with a really good one) and that is where the good vibes crashed to a halt.
“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the freaking old hag looking back at me?” What lovely, ignorant bliss I had been living in. I had no clue that the Metropolitan and Central lines of the London subway system were imprinted over the whites of my eyes. Yes I had seen the “concern” wrinkle between my eyebrows (OMG-my eyebrows; they may be blond, but they’re like unkempt Nordic mustaches), but I had no idea that it had gotten so pronounced. It’s as if overnight my “concern” wrinkle had become the Deep Valley of worry over the fate of the world. Above my, now-I-realize, much in the need of trimming eyebrows, live the transmission lines of my expressions. Hidden much of the time by bangs they went from little electric lines on the outskirts of civilization to overgrown air-conditioning powering suburban buzzing power ropes overnight! And when did I start growing peach fuzz on the fringe of my face?
At 3Xs power, the “little” bags that I thought were only present after a particularly big night of drinking, I now know are permanent plastic bags of cantaloupes parked under my crows feet. The little dark red freckle on my nose, under 3Xs power, is actually a flashing magenta neon sign advertising that the bar is “always open.” And pores!? I always thought my skin was pretty smooth and relatively free from big-pore-syndrome. I have craters. Here’s what our friends at Wikipedia have to say about mine: “pit crater, a crater that forms through sinking of the surface and not as a vent for lava.”
My buddy John always used to say, “the time to get work done is before you need it. That way people will always just think you’ve always had a youthful look.” He may be on to something. John has always had a youthful look, although now he tends to look surprised all of the time. Still, perhaps it isn’t too late for me. It would be nice to elevate that saggy area over my eyelids before I can’t even open my eyes more than a slit. I wouldn’t mind just going back to the way I used to think I looked. Yet time marches on and my only real hope is that my memory will fade. Or I could figure out where I’ve put one of the eight pairs of reading glasses that I own are and get out the yellow pages and look under cosmetic surgery. Or miracles.

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Am I a “skier” or do I just ski?

March 9, 2010 at 4:06 am (Uncategorized) ()

It’s been a tough year for the skier in me.  Lackluster snow, a busy “real” life, and disharmony in the time available-good predicted weather conditions equation. That just won’t do for a person (me) that is self-labeled “a skier.”  Coming into the sport late in life (I was 14 when the Man Unit taught me) and having had lots of breaks where the last thing I thought about in winter was the price of a season lift ticket, puts me squarely on the side of the person who skis as opposed to the skier.  After all, I’ve never spent a season working a ski town bar just for the thrill of being able to make first runs everyday.  I’ve never skied a double black diamond.  Never downhill skied in the trees. Does this make me a poser?  At 11 AM this morning I decided, once-and-for-all, I am a person who likes to ski.  I am not a skier.  It was cold and wet, conditions were OK but not great, and I hung it up.  The girl that zoomed down a run at Squaw Valley, hit a bump doing 60 MPH and busted a ski, she’s older now. The girl that skied with her Dad and sister at Breckenridge back in the day, she has more sense now than to jump on a black diamond run in pursuit of bragging rights.  I can remember chasing (always chasing) the Man Unit and his equally awesome ski pals, scared out of my mind and trying to hide it, and feeling that oh-so-fricking-wrong feeling in my knee and knowing the only way down was on a toboggan. I’m ready to admit I love to ski, but a skier I’m not-so-much.  I love the easy runs on a blue sky day.  I fear the black runs on an icy day.  I dig the thrill of going fast.  I hate being out of control.  Bump runs-only by accident.  Trudging up an unmarked trail to make my “own” ski run on the side of a mountain, are you crazy?  Great equipment has made me able to stay on the mountain longer and for that I’m grateful.  Careful pre-season conditioning has kept me from getting hurt and getting the most out of each ski day.  But I’m not a “100+” skier (a person that skis a minimum of 100 days per season), I’m a “I-ski-enough-to-make-buying-a-season-pass-economical” kind of person that skis.  I do miss some of the elements of being a skier. The beers after a long day on the slopes, the full week of eating pancakes and pizza, and the bragging rights associated with taking on a new mountain. But when I think of the best days I’ve ever had skiing, they have nothing to do with any of these things.  The best days I have ever had skiing were not on the slopes of the Rockies, but on the flat trails of a midwestern forest preserve on cross country skis with my man and my girls when we were all much younger,  a thermos of cocoa and a brown bag filled with peanut butter crackers making the outing complete. I hope I can keep downhill skiing for decades to come, but nothing will every measure up to those precious few winters when we were all much younger and the thrills were of a more memorable and sublime nature.

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Hello world!

March 2, 2010 at 4:40 am (Uncategorized) (, , )

Some of you might remember my former turn as a wanna-be Bob Greene/Erma Bombeck daily columnist when I moved to Colorado and started writing essays under the byline of The Denver Basement News.  It’s 14 years later and I’m ready to start writing again, having resigned from my gig as a teen patron librarian, sold or given away 75% of my belongings, moved out of the too big & filled with STUFF house in the suburbs and moved to Boulder.  Enjoy or not.

Today was my “day one” living in Boulder.  Last weekend doesn’t count as boxes were being emptied, cussing was heard as wireless access was being attempted, and strange but necessary things went missing during the move.  One needs ones body lotion!  Found later in a box marked “basement junk” in the underground parking lot.  Today I felt Boulderetti.  Meaning, sans car, I strolled in the sunshine to the market, the hardware store, the bookstore (independent YES!), the library and the gym.  I passed three medical marijuana clinics, four yoga studios, two acupuncture offices, and an Ethiopian restaurant. I had a skinny cap at the Laughing Goat. I browsed the used furniture store.  I almost got run over by speeding cyclist on three different occasions.  In short, I love this life!

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