Archive for the ‘necessity’ Category

getting turned on

Men love theirs. They are so proud of them. Oddly, they believe women should be excited, interested. Most men seem to think that this is an impressive sign of their manhood to all women. Most women, actually, have little interest. We have seen enough to recognize a bighead is not our style. If you have to flaunt it, we pay little notice. We might have been interested when we were younger. Women re-focus as they mature. What men love to brag about and show off just is not as impressive.
Interestingly, as men age, they seem to get worse. They really want young women to pay more attention to theirs, as opposed to the guys most young girls would date. Again, younger women might be smitten in the beginning, but it fades.
We hear the stories and just shake our heads. What are men thinking? Why do they believe women find ‘this’ attractive? Why do they feel the need to exemplify macho instead of sensitive? Why do they persist in playing with their things to get more attention? Why do they feel a need to show off regardless of their ages? Why do they believe that young women will feel excited at the image of ‘young and virile’ they are trying so desperately to portray?
Laugh if you will. One day the man in your life will probably do the same. Sadly, most do. We can feel pity for the wives. We can feel dismayed at the actions of the husband. We can sympathize with the younger woman who so often is the target of this ‘need’ in so many men. We can try to warn our daughters.
These men disappear for hours, pretending to run errands. Actually, they are hoping women are noticing them; hoping women want them. They do their best to be where the younger women are. Is it ingrained or is it acquired?
They cannot afford to do this but are unable to suppress. They just have to have that new car. Sporty. Hopefully a convertible. They cannot help themselves. Just try to muddle through. Men love theirs.

take only if needed

People watch me in the grocery store. Decades ago I was watched because I was attractive. Now, it is a different situation: I am on food stamps.

Women watch what I place on the belt to checkout. I have no shame. I am so grateful for the financial help right now. I get food stamps. Thank YOU.

I have had no income for almost 2 years. I felt guilty to ask for help. A social worker suggested it and I am grateful. I get food stamps!

So many people have misconceptions about government help. My dad once said that anyone homeless just did not want to work. As a single woman, I knew better. I was part of the huge group. Missing one or two paychecks would mean I could not pay my bills. I was a flight attendant. To some people I earned great money. The thing is, when you travel for a living, you also spend more. The cutbacks at our airline were legend. We began flying more and earning much less. I knew I was on the precipice. My dad simply did not understand. It was black or white. More importantly, having never been in such a situation, it meant that nobody honest could. He was mistaken.

When my airline job crumbled, I began working in earnest, to pay my mortgage. Amazingly, the phone company, the utility company, and many others worked with me. They saw my huge credit history and knew I was not a bum. They put bills on hold while I reconnoitered. The mortgage company sent me a letter. If my payment was late, they would foreclose. Just like that.

I took every job I could. I did landscape work, I sold sandwiches from my trunk, I cleaned gutters and downspouts, weeded flowerbeds every evening, walked dogs early every morning, watered gardens while owners were away. On the weekends, I washed and waxed cars. It was hard. 7 jobs every week. I earned enough to pay my mortgage. I got food at the local food bank. It was humiliating. The woman handing out the choices gave me peanut butter. I cannot eat that. When I suggested she save it for a woman with children, she told me that I must not be very hungry. Humiliating.

The difference between then and now is that I was only 38. I had my entire life ahead of me and was strong smart and industrious. Now I am 61. I am not so good physically or mentally. I get food stamps.

I see women in the store, using their stamps, and look at their choices. I am not being critical; I am trying to learn. So many things are not included but you have to buy them to exist. No cleaning supplies. No light bulbs. Light bulbs in my home are a huge expense. Moreover, they are expensive. I try to buy CFL’s but now it is prohibitive. No pet food or cat litter. No personal hygiene products. No laundry detergent or softener sheets or bleach. Just FOOD. I am beyond grateful. I get food stamps.

I do not smoke but I certainly see the huge cost. People addicted to cigarettes have to feed that addiction. They have no choice. You do not stop smoking because you have run out of money. It is as powerful an addiction as heroin or meth. Your body makes you continue. You have no choice. Stopping is so difficult and society already hates smokers so the added shame of the addiction feeds the problem.

Medications. I take a ton of them. Between my brain injury, my blood sugar, my Cholesterol, my general stress of life circumstances, bills and an impending divorce, I take a ton of meds. They are not food. They are not covered.

I buy wine. Yep. I buy wine. I do not buy it nearly as often. I do not buy the 35-dollar bottles I used to get. I buy 6-dollar wine, on sale. Right now, it makes me almost feel normal. A few days a month, I can have wine with dinner again. Like things used to be. Before I got food stamps, before my life turned upside down.

You get a certain amount per month. Nothing more. It is up to you to decide how to parcel that money. I cannot pay for gas for my car, cannot pay for my utility bill, and cannot pay to see my doctor or light, cool or heat my home. No cosmetics or bath products. I can buy certain foods.

Next time you are shopping, look at your cart as you check out. Bear in mind that many people will not feel you have the right to certain things in your basket. They might judge. If you are on food stamps.

I am on food stamps. It is a huge relief.

got a system?

We all have them. We need them. Systems are inevitable. I personally believe that men need them more than women do, but that is just my opinion.

Which way does the toilet paper go? I dated a great guy in Ft Lauderdale. He was such fun. We talked one day about how people get caught-up in the way the toilet paper goes on the roll. He and I preferred the tissue to go ‘over’. So, to find out how much it mattered, I began putting the tissue under. I watched over the week as the tissue was mysteriously rotated back to ‘over’. He did not say a word. He just repositioned. I finally fessed up. He did too. He told me that evidently it DID matter to him. He acknowledged that he was ‘one of those’. It was a funny experiment in life. We are not immune.

When my dad had open-heart surgery, he could not drive for a while but had medical appointments to keep. I lived in the same city so volunteered to drive when I could. The first day out, he needed to go to his office. I not only had driven there hundreds of times to see him, I had also worked there when he needed help. I knew the way.

As I backed out of his driveway, he said, “Where are you going?” “I go down the hill.” The hill was a slope that joined the same road. In other words, going up, or going down took you to the very same place. It made me smile a bit. He had been told to ‘stop trying to be in control of everything and stop getting aggravated at the little stuff’. Immediately, he said, “well, everyone does it differently, it doesn’t matter.” That did not fool me a bit. Of COURSE, it mattered. I was connecting to the road in the wrong direction. ‘Systems’.

Part of his rehab was to take a daily walk. I was an early morning walker so I suggested we meet to walk together. He quickly agreed. Walking can be lonely at first.

The first morning, because we were still in fall weather, it was dark when he wanted to do his walk. I normally waited until early daylight but this was his gig and I was willing to bend.

I walked to the appointed spot, knowing my path because I did it daily, but it was still daunting because it was DARK. I actually carried a flashlight. As I waited, I saw his light coming. As he got closer, I realized he was wearing a ‘miner’s hat’ with a light in the brim. Funny but it made sense.

We began our first journey together. As we crossed a street, he moved to a different side. As he moved, he kicked a small rock out of the sidewalk. He was looking everywhere, his little light shining, and our additional flashlights made us obvious.

The next day, I saw his miners cap and flashlight approaching. I had to be there first. You did NOT keep him waiting. It was not worth the reproach. As he arrived, we set off and crossed the small road. He immediately changed sides. He also found a small rock to kick. That was when I knew: system. He had a system already. He needed a system. He would never deviate. Always changing sides at the same time, always finding a small rock at almost the same place, to kick aside. He was back in control.

My parents cannot load their dishwasher unless it is loaded properly, in their way. When you try to help with the dishes, it means having to unload and reload because things are in the wrong place. I understand it to a point. I have become much more flexible about my dishwasher. My parents seem to need to fill every nook before they run the machine. I get that. We were taught to do a full load, to save energy. That was 40 years ago. Now, our appliances are so much more efficient, we can do loads that actually have a bit of space and not lose our retirements. My parents will never accept this. It is their system. Only certain things can go in the top, certain things can go in the bottom, and some things must ALWAYS be washed by hand. Not manufacturers’ suggestions: our parents’ system.

My husband had many systems. When he travelled, he always packed one extra pair of underwear for the number of days away. Carved in granite. I saw it firsthand early on. So, we took a trip together and the very first day, I snatched his ‘extra’ pair. That night he was frantic, looking for his ‘spare’. I had expected that he would start looking when he was down to one or two. Nope. Today. Right now. “Where is my extra pair of underwear?” it drove him nuts. It drove him nuts for 6 days while we were on our adventure. He was so unsettled. He actually began to accuse me of taking his extra underwear, so certain was he that he could NOT have been in error. I began asking if we needed to do a small ‘hand wash’. He assured me that he had enough. He just needed his spare.

The last day of our trip, he came out of the bathroom in his last pair of clean underwear to find me wearing his spare. I thought it was hysterical. It was not funny in the least. I had messed with his system. He still remembers that trip as ‘not good’ and it was all because of the stupid underwear.

I have never known a woman to be this anal.

I empty all the trashcans on Monday because Tuesday is trash day. I do my laundry and I clean my grill from weekend use. Today I will make new hummingbird food and replace the feeders with clean ones. I have already cleaned and refilled all of the birdbaths. I will clean out the fridge and wipe the shelves. I will wind my pendulum clocks. I will test my sprinkler system and walk my land to check outdoor lighting to replace bulbs. I replace the towel my cat sleeps on and I am certain to do my ironing. I have to press because Tuesday is errand day. Wednesday I pay bills and make phone calls. It’s my system.

head games

Wishes were granted yesterday. I had my head examined. I was overdue.

Testing was intense. 5 hours of sitting in a small office, doing all types of things to show how my brain works, if at all. This is necessary because of several brain injuries and Alzheimer’s is being rampant in my family. As I prepare to move, I need to plan based on my hope to live independently.

My good fortune is finding humor everywhere in life.

The man (psychologist) was just as you would expect. He ‘tried’ to be fun, but is, after all, something of a scientist, anal, orderly, and controlled. My polar opposite.

While I took tests, he observed and surreptitiously scribbled secret notes. I asked if I might please have some water. He grabbed a coffee cup and obviously saw the horror on my face as he started to fill the dark brown-stained cup for me. He stopped. I had not meant to show my concern. I must have been fatigued. He said, “This bothers women,” pointing to the stains inside the cup. I agreed (wholeheartedly). He said, “It doesn’t bother men, why does it bother women?” I told him that most of us would fear the cup was not clean. I went on to say my brother had a heavily stained coffee cup. He carries it with him everywhere. Once, without realizing my transgression, I cleaned it. Thoroughly. I did the old ‘Polident’ tablet in the cup, twice. Then, I took a scouring pad to the offensive stains. The next morning, after putting it through the dishwasher, I proudly handed him his pristine cup. He asked what I had done. I told him I had just cleaned it, as if it were no big deal.

My brother left. When he returned, he had a new cup. He did not openly complain. After a year or so, his new cup looked just as bad as the one I had spent hours cleaning. He was happy again. I had clearly ruined his cup. I learned the lesson.

This man across from me asked if I needed a different cup. I said no (I lied). After another section of testing, he asked me how to remove the stains. Amazingly, men know that women fight stains. We get no extra salary for this. We get no recognition but men know we fight stains. We are wonder women without the snazzy costume and lasso. I told him to put a Polident tablet in it.

The look on his face was so odd. He almost looked embarrassed. Then he explained that he does not wear dentures. I smiled slightly and leaned over the table. I said, “You know, it’s interesting. You are allowed to buy them anyway. ‘They’ don’t even check.” He just stared at me. I could see I was not getting through to him. So, l leaned in a bit further and said, “In Texas, men are even allowed to buy sanitary napkins.” That did it. He broke. He laughed. He saw the humor.

We went back to the testing.

Two hours passed, immersed in the paperwork and the various tasks I was given. He finally saw that I needed a break. He told me I could take 10 minutes. I almost felt as if a lock was taken from the chain that held me in place at that small table. I bolted.

When I returned, I carried a large cup of coffee, extra shots. He was noticeably concerned. I apologized for bringing something into the exam room, assuming that was some sort of ‘rule’. It confused me, though, because we had been sitting there, drinking water from cups. He explained that the testing materials were very expensive and spilling coffee on them would be a problem. I was mortified that I could not be trusted with my cup of coffee, even though I am not known for being sloppy with beverages. Each time I took a sip, he watched carefully. It was an agonizing drink. During the time I consumed it, he explained twice more the expense of the materials. I knew I was on thin ice.

He turned a page in my booklet in front of me. There was crayon all over the page ahead of it. I asked how crayon got on this expensive booklet and how he could possibly expect me to use it, thus ruined. He was serious: “children are not easily controlled.” He went on to explain he had tried to get the crayon out of the page, to no avail. He asked if I might know of a way to remove the crayon. He asked if I needed a new booklet. He simply cannot help himself. He is a serious type.

During one part of switching materials, I asked him how long he had been married although I felt certain he was divorced. He did not want to share that information, which was fine. He DID mention that the crushing blow to the union was the desire of his wife to have a pet. He explained that a pet means there would eventually be a pet hair somewhere that it “doesn’t belong.” I had enough of a mental picture and needed no other explanation.

As we were reaching the end of the testing, he was rushing me. We were behind schedule. I realized what a huge transgression that was so I was doing my best to accelerate. He announced that we would not be able to finish but he thought he had enough to complete his analysis.

As he rushed me to the door, he explained that I would need to return for his results. We made another appointment.

I am edgy about the results. I am hopeful but recognize it is just going to be my life and I cannot control the outcome too much. I want to take a piece of cat hair. I just can’t help myself.

Independence Day

I had a dream about my mom last night. She passed away several years ago. Any dream of her is a treat, even when the news delivered is not fun, I still had the opportunity to be with my mom again.

I dreamed that she was helping me pack. It was not a great time. I was moving to a small efficiency apartment, for the rest of my conscious life. She explained to me that eventually, as I already recognize, I would be ‘discovered’ and moved to full care. Alzheimer’s disease is rampant in our family. I have suffered 4 severe concussions. I know my limits.

The dream was daunting. I finally saw my future and it was not great. A small efficiency. That meant a one bedroom, one bath, small fridge and small stove, small living room. I have been here before.

When my mom left my dad, she left with one suitcase. Many in my extended family have never understood this. We were a military family, living abroad. The military person controls everything in the family unit. My mom and dad had been married 26 years. She left with a suitcase. Her allowance was 40 pounds. Think about that. Everything they had acquired together was under his control. As I look at my bleak-seeming future, I sense her immense fear. My mom never faltered. In my eyes, in my brother’s eyes, she never faltered. Privately, I later learned, she cried into her pillow.

Once she left, she went to the city in which she had spent most of her life. She got 2 jobs. She lived at the YWCA. She took the bus. She walked to work. She saved every penny.

We would have appeared to others to be wealthy. We lived in a 4 bedroom, 3-bath house, based on my dad’s high rank. We had a housekeeper, a cook. At one location, we had had a housekeeper, a cook, a gardener, a repairperson, and a nanny, on staff. It depended on where you were stationed. Therefore, we had a good life.

I joined her after a few months. Life with my dad had become difficult. She was thrilled. She bought me a ticket to fly from Europe to New York, to Florida. She met me in New York. I can only imagine the huge amount of money she spent for this. My dad did not help with the costs. He was angry that I was leaving. I had to leave.

When I arrived in New York, I had to clear customs alone, 13 years old. It was way over my head. My mom was standing in the upper levels of that most incredible terminal, JFK, watching, and dying for my inexperience. In those days, nobody helped kids alone on flights. Unheard of today but this was 1966. When we could finally embrace, it was lasting.

We got on a flight. Amazingly, it was an Eastern Airlines flight. I later flew for Eastern and had never put the two together. After a few years, my mom reminded me that we had come to Florida on Eastern. I just remember the flight attendant being so kind. We were in first class. Holy moly. The only tickets left on the flight. Mom not only had to pay to get me from Europe to the US, she also had to pay for 2 first class tickets to get us to Florida. A huge expense for a woman working 2 jobs, no car, no place to live.

We spent our first night in a relative’s home. The next day we moved into our own place. My nose could not have been higher in the air.

We lived in an efficiency apartment. It was dreadful. In my spoiled life, I had never shared a bedroom. Now, my mom and I were sleeping together, in one bed. We had a small bathroom, a very small living room, and a ‘kitchenette’. I was blown away. I am sure I was not grateful. She had worked so hard to start a new life for herself, then to add me, at my request. She was killing herself to make something for us both, and I was haughty with disrespect. Spoiled.

I began high school where she and my relatives had gone to school. I walked. I had been driving in Germany. You got an international license when you were 14, so driving at 13 was typical. We were poor. I did not remember ever having been poor. It was very hard to accept this new life. I was a teen, attending my junior year of high school.

Women do it all the time. Women are financially bereft by divorce. It is a government statistic that women never fully recover from the devastation of finances after divorce, unless they re-marry, gaining financial stability. Incredible situation. It still exists.

My mother was killing herself working, walking, and paying for an apartment because I could not live with her at the YWCA. The sacrifices she made were lost on me. I was a junior in high school and suddenly poor. This did not bode well for me becoming popular. Spoiled.

When my mom retired, at age 52, she was almost a millionaire. She and my step dad had amassed a great retirement. She was a whiz at investments and she saved every penny. I appear to have inherited that trait and I am so grateful. They had no debt. They owned 15 acres and a custom home. They raised cattle and had an active solar home. It was 1978. She had done it without help from my dad. He kept all of their furnishings, all of their money. They split a piece of land. She did it alone. Grit and determination should be named Marguerite. She did it. When she married my step-dad, he had never owned a checking account. He lived on a cash basis, renting a room in a woman’s home. He and mom loved each other dearly. She was in charge of the finances and served them both very well.

On this day of our country’s independence, I think of my mother. I think of my future and the way she would have had no nonsense about my next step. Living in an efficiency apartment, a trailer, on your own terms has no shame. You have earned your independence. Embrace it.

I need security

What am I missing?

I worked from the age of 16. I paid taxes, paid into social security. I gained skills, increased my income, continued to follow the rules, paying into a program that we have been warned will soon collapse.

I have seen people ‘game’ the system. I see people paid to do nothing. I see people using social security as their ‘fun money’ because they really do not need it. I see very wealthy people, still taking social security as it becomes due because they are due. I see elected officials make laws about our social security that cannot touch them. They pass laws; they do not abide by the same laws as those of us who put them into the position to represent our rights.

Today I learned that I cannot claim disability. I have a brain injury. I have 3 broken places in my back. I have a broken knee, wrist, thumb, and finger. I jammed a leg evacuating an airplane in the 70’s. That leg has caused me problems with my foot, ankle, knee, and hip. I have a broken pelvic bone.

In spite of this, I continued onward. It wasn’t hard. I was young. As I reached my 60’s it became harder. However, I was lucky. I married the man of my dreams. We agreed that I would sell my holdings, pay his debts and we would live on his earnings, which I knew would increase. I had faith and confidence in him.

Now we are divorcing.

Because I stopped working full time, stopped paying individually into the ‘system’, I no longer exist on the social security rolls. I was still working. I was cooking, cleaning, dealing with the kids, shopping, entertaining for his business connections, and keeping everything and everyone organized. In short: I was a stay at home wife. In 2010, that still means I did not work. In 2000, that still meant I did not work. Why? Every time a television program shows a man taking over the job of his wife, for just a few days, he changes forever. He is apologetic, he is apoplectic, and he is ashamed. It is WORK.

I used to say I would love to have a wife. I would love to have someone who would take care of all of the mundane chores, the errands, the cooking, the cleaning, and the crap. Everything I did not want to do would be ‘done’. Yes, a wife would be wonderful.

When I became ‘that’, I balked. It was a very difficult transition. I felt like someone had stamped ‘stupid’ on my forehead. I got little respect and began accepting that as the stupidity of the masses. I was the very same woman who had run a successful business, who kept her own home, who hired, fired, kept payroll and ran accounts. Suddenly, I was just ‘his wife’.

It took me almost a full year to come to terms with being ‘only that’. When I finally did, I began to recognize this was what so many women before me had done and I was lucky someone was willing to let me take care of everything else while he earned the most money. Heaven knows, I could not have earned as much.

Because of that, my social security stopped. Dead. Stopped. And because of that, in spite of the hundreds of thousands of dollars I paid into my account, I cannot use that money now. And now I really need it. I desperately need it. I cannot do what I did before. I cannot process my computer programs any more. I cannot count on getting up in the morning because of the headache that will not let me sleep until 3 or 4 in the morning, night after night. I cannot say I am capable of driving daily without causing harm to someone because my brain just does not understand anymore what I am supposed to do. I choose to stay put, keeping the city safe by my staying off the streets, away from that huge machine that I can still steer, but not necessarily remember the rules that govern.

I cannot be dependable. If I could, I would still run my business. If I were dependable, I would manage to vacuum my house constantly as I used to. If I could, I would not run out of so many things before I realized I needed more. If I could, if I could, if I could. I cannot.

And no help. Nothing. I am too young to draw my social security and I do not have the required credits to draw my disability because our income was lumped together and FICA paid out of the whole. Huge lesson. No wonder people complain about marriage taxes. I had no clue. I merged everything. I have nothing. I paid lots to the system to take care of myself in old age. Well, old age has arrived and it looks grim. Another old lady without income.

Let’s Pretend

Someone very important in my life is pretending. It disturbs me. That makes me question why:  not why she is pretending, but why do I let it disturb me?

She lost her husband, the love of her life. Now, she has taken up a sort of ‘cause’ to collaborate with another man, because he reminds her of her husband. The new guy is driving the family nuts. They cannot stand him. She cannot explain the attraction. I suspected. I asked. She said that sometimes she even calls him by her husband’s name, and then realizes what she has done. Fortunately, the man is so hard of hearing, he does not even know. She is paying many of his bills.

Another family member is keeping her doggy long past time. It is painful to see. The dog is not allowed outside. Ever. Will never again be allowed outside. The dog does all of its ‘business’ in the house, which is causing issues you can imagine. The dog can never be around any other dog due to an autoimmune disorder. The dog has such a small life. My family thinks it is better than putting the dog to sleep. They are continuing to search for ways to lessen the pain, to ease the suffering. My heart is breaking for the dog. My heart hurts for my family member. Prolonging the agony. I see no winner here.

Someone who used to be in my life is a chronic liar. It seems impossible to stop. Oddly, this person has high moral standards where others are concerned. He has shed people who lied. He has refused relationships with people doing exactly as he does. He pretends to be the man he wants to be. He pretends he is honorable. He pretends to be truthful. At the mere mention of a lie, he reacts negatively. He pretends.

Another person, very close to me is pretending his mom is doing well. She is not. She cannot hear, but neither he nor she will acknowledge that. She cannot remember but makes up reasons and blames others. She has begun hoarding things and creating reasons to do that. She is not well. He pretends she is.

I pretend all is well. I am out of money. I am frantic to pay my bills and find a place I can afford to live. I pretend to others that I know I will be fine. I will leave a life of luxury to live in a mobile home. My best friend reminds me that it will be the cutest mobile home anyone has ever seen. I pretend that is true. I pretend the place I park my new little trailer will be great. I pretend.

A neighbor of mine is battling for her child who is on drugs. My neighbor is a recovering alcoholic. Her husband pretends the daughter is fine. My neighbor sees the truth and cannot pretend. The daughter pretends she is clean every time she comes home to get some rest and money. Then, she leaves, buys more drugs, and pretends until she needs help again.

My parents pretend they are going to downsize. They live in an over-crowded home that they cannot maintain, in spite of the elevator they installed. They live in 3 rooms of a large home. They cannot manage much of anything but pretend they do. They pretend they will move to a smaller home and give in to age. They have pretended this for almost 15 years, when they began to look for homes in their area, slightly smaller. Now, in their 80’s, they pretend they will actually move to a 2 or 3 bedroom place, get rid of at least one car, since neither should drive anymore, and they will be fine. Neither of them is fine. They are elderly and have a list of ailments that would frighten anyone in their 40’s. Nevertheless, they pretend.

I used to pretend that love would solve anything. I pretended that one day someone would ‘complete me’. I used to pretend that my life would be different. I pretended that true love would make everything else work. I pretended that having someone to share my life with was important. That being alone was somehow sad.

When my friend lies, I pretend to believe. When my parents contemplate their move, I pretend to listen to new plans. When my neighbor says his daughter has finally learned, I pretend to congratulate. When my relative pretends her husband is still beside her, I pretend to understand. When someone tells me of love, I pretend to bask in his or her glow.

I remember how I would pretend as a child. I would pretend I was a doctor, or a nurse, or a pilot or a mother. I would pretend my future, always rosy, never difficult. I would pretend I would be popular, famous, smart, or beautiful.

When things go awry, don’t most of us pretend they will improve? I think improvement is really acceptance. At first, we cannot envision accepting the difficulty we face. Then, we grow accustomed to what life will be. Then, we recognize it did not kill us. It did not end so many things. We just learned to get along.

I guess I never stopped. I just pretend.

friends

I’ve been thinking about my friends. Learning who your friends are is important. Your friends are people you can reach for when you need to lean. I recognize how fortunate I am to count so many.

I have many friends from my airline days. These men and women have been physically absent from my life for decades. If I need any one of them, they will  immediately respond. That is friendship. I just got a phone message from one. She lives in Atlanta. We haven’t seen each other in 25 years but stay in constant contact. Her husband had an affair. Then her next husband did the same. She is living on social security, close to the bone, after marrying with houses and investments. She is now bereft emotionally and financially. She is a wonderful friend to me. We have the same pain. However, we had such fun and wonderful memories. We laugh. Everyone needs to laugh. It reminds us to live and enjoy life. We are fortunate. Sometimes we just need to remember.

I have friends from so many neighborhoods where I had homes. Manhattan, Orlando, Miami, Boulder, Colorado Springs, St. Croix, Gainesville, Salem, Spokane, Nuremburg, Munich, Frankfort, Oberammergau, Ft Knox, Redstone Arsenal, and others that I can only remember vaguely. Incredibly, I still am in touch with friends from almost all of those locations.

Now I have many friends I have never met. They are all on Facebook. According to my profile, I have 176 of them. Amazing. These men and women know of my impending divorce, know I have a cat and recently lost one, know I live in Washington and know I love to write. They know I flew, they know I care. They are my friends.

If these friends were around me on a daily basis, I wonder how much they would still want to be my friend. Am I whiny, controlling, difficult, dumb, or boring? Who knows? The beauty of this group of friends is the instant connection we all know. If I need help, look to Facebook. My friends there will immediately rally. I have seen them come together as a force whenever needed.

I have a wonderful friend nearby. We never see each other. We plan, we swear, we promise, we mean well. It simply does not happen. Like me, she is recovering from an ‘indiscretion’ from her husband, the love of her life. As he has moved on with his mistress, she has had to pick up the pieces of their lives, sell their home, and find a new place to re-start, saying goodbye to so many memories and so much pain. We ‘get’ each other completely. She is about 1 year farther down my road. It helps me to see that. I remember when I learned of her pain. Now I recognize I was not supportive enough. We all just go through the motions of help and support. We do not necessarily tie that to our hearts when we should, as friends. My lesson came later. Gratefully, she has continued to be my friend in spite of my lapse.

This is friendship. We ebb and flow. We understand and forgive. On a daily basis, it might not work so well.

As we each move through our lives, some friends come and some simply stay forever. I am blessed with both. You need some of them for a bit of time. That time finally passes and the friend needs to pass with it. They did their job. You did yours. Time to move. Time to change.

A friend just called. Incredible. We have not spoken in so long. She just asked me to come for the weekend. I am going. What could be better than a weekend with one of your dearest friends?

We have so many and they are so willing to help.

Can I help?

The winter Olympics made me sick. I remember vividly that they made me sick last time. I can watch the summer Olympics but the winter Olympics just make me sick. Maybe I make myself sick.

I lean, move, and try to jump. I am helping. I am doing my very best to help them bobsled, short-track, race, do moguls. I cannot help myself. I have tried not to lean and move to no avail. Then, I get sick.

I recognize it is a mind/brain issue. I know my eyes have something to do with it too but I get so sick trying to lean into the necessities. Boy it makes me sick. I talked to my brother about it. Turns out he is doing the same thing. Made me wonder how many people in the world are leaning, trying to help, leaning without meaning to help. We just cannot stop leaning, helping. However, for me: it makes me sick. I get nauseous. This time was bad. I’m wondering if it’s my brain injury. It really doesn’t matter. I just know that I get sick to my stomach now. Consequently, I had to stop the program repeatedly, giving myself time to recover. I really did get sick.

My dad’s brain is not working too well all of a sudden. He has no injury. Yet, many people are older and they function fine. He does not. He has good days and he has horrible days. His brain is not working well.

My brother is somewhat ill. Cancer keeps stabbing at his body. He continues to fight it off. He is not as he was, but who of us is? I want to help. I need to help.

One of my dearest friends will not eat. She has been too thin for years and refuses to recognize it. Many of us are not doing as well as we had imagined we would at our respective ages. Illnesses and such were for the old.

We watch these incredible athletes every four years. We remember when we used to ski, to skate, to dare. It’s wonderful. Nevertheless, it really makes me sick. I just cannot continue helping them. I try not to lean. It does not work.

Where I live, my birds have begun to return. I have a wildlife habitat in my back yard and the birdhouses are already filling. It seems early but I am not in charge of the schedule. I had a large hawk here yesterday, hunting. Anytime I walk up on that huge bird, we are both startled. It flies, I watch in awe. Such grace and such deadly ability to take out little animals I am helping hatch.

One of the birds makes a sloppy mess of the birdhouse. I believe this is a Hammond’s Fly Catcher. The nest sticks and straw protrude from the opening in the birdhouse. The first year they were with me, I noticed the ‘mess’ and pulled those strands out, making the opening more tidy. It was only for me. I did not give a thought to the bird. I did not want it to look unkempt. The next morning, the sticks and straw were again sticking out of the opening. I got the point. A friend of mine mentioned the very same thing in one of her houses. We both realized that this is a trait and we need to stay out of the nesting ritual. I know the birds are back because suddenly I have sticks and straw making obvious notice in the birdhouse. I walk past, refusing to touch anything. I barely glance.

They don’t need my help. Neither do those golden athletes. Sometimes I have to sit on myself to leave things alone. This is not my job, is not my business, and is not my niche.

A friend of mine cannot let her garden be natural. Anyone who knows me, realizes I am a fan of cottage gardening. My flowers and grasses are sprouting hither and yon. I love the carefree idea. She cannot live with that. She could not let foliage die. She had to cut it so it would look better. Cutting tulip leaves and daffodil leaves will cause less growth for the next season. Soon she had no flowers. Remember that ad: “don’t fool with mother nature”? It’s true. We need to learn to leave things alone. Sometimes that is too much for many of us.

So, as my dad’s brain continues to misfire and my brother has his battles, the birds and the deer and everything wild will do pretty well. They don’t concern themselves with much of anything except survival. They will eat as needed to fuel themselves. In their world, you are not too fat. You just ARE.

In the world of flowers and grasses, they will overgrow and the weaker will not. In my world of the Olympics, the summer is good; the winter is difficult. I still try to help.

It makes me sick.

here’s to good health!

Don’t you hate it when your child is sick? They whine and complain, they ‘hurt’ but cannot explain exactly where or how, they cry, wanting more ‘mom’ time but refuse to do as you plead with them to do. They cannot understand the meds they dislike. They don’t want to be ordered about. They are not quite honest about what is at stake and how they really are dealing with the day-to-day.

You want to scream. You want to run away. You want them to grow up or let you parent. Either side would work better than what you have in the here and now.

I just visited such a household. It was difficult. Who raised this jerk? I’m sorry. I know he cannot help it. I know his mom is almost ashamed, as is the sister who had to take on the task of raising this child. However, if he will not admit something is wrong when the TV show comes on, he should not be allowed to suddenly be at death’s door when it’s time to help with the dishes or the laundry. You cannot have it both ways. Neither can a sick kid, but that’s just my opinion.

What I know is I spent a horribly frustrating time with family, some overindulgent and some just plain angry and frustrated with the attention needed by one member being under the weather. What is the solution?

The obvious one is that you wait until the illness is past. That always helps. Everyone can relax. But, what if your child is brain-injured? That child will never really ‘recover’ from this illness. Those parents don’t get the opportunity to ‘wait it out’. They live this 24×7, and have no outlet unless they are fortunate enough to have a huge support group. A huge support group. Huge.

I am seeing commercials about health care. Morgan Freeman is a spokesperson for ‘something’. I get the message. We need to help each other more often than we do. I understand that volunteers are needed. I know we should be doing more for our own. What I do not have the answer to is: how?

How does the normal family get the much-needed help when someone in their household is not going to improve but takes a majority of your time and energy? We are all so busy now. We have so many needs to fulfill.

I came home a crying fool. Afraid I had not done enough for my family unit. Sleep-deprived, angry, upset, scared. What I left behind is the mom who still has to deal with this while I fly away. I did laundry, cooked meals, cleaned the house, made beds, pushed meds on a kid who refused to take them, ran errands, and did medical appointments so that she could finally get a break. It completely wore me out. I am spent. Finally, home, I have no energy left. I have a full week ahead of me and don’t know how I’ll manage it. Tomorrow she starts with more doctor appointments, meal prep, housework, and laundry. Taking the medicine we need is not easy. He needs medicine. She needs rest, medicine, and they both refuse it because they are not capable. He needs to be fed and clothed, not simple. He wants things his way; she wants him to wear his underwear UNDER his clothes, not on top. She wants him to eat and is exhausted with the work that entails. He will not drink his juice, wants specific foods and because he is not well, she wants to provide but is close to illness herself as a result.

When I left, we all cried. I promised to come back soon. I always make that fruitless promise. I cannot afford to keep flying there but these people are so important to me. My family is so scattered. Travel is expensive and of course. I have to pay someone to care for my pet, my home, my routine, in my absence. Money. Medical. Misery. What in the world is happening in our lives? Who should be taking care of this, of us, of lives in illness when something has prevented us from having family members to do it? Moreover, with those family members, where do you draw the line? They cannot do everything. We cannot expect anyone to do anything. What is the solution?

Forgive my soapbox here, but why is our country continually working on a new health care program instead of making the program that our elected officials have, the national norm? Shouldn’t everyone have the same option at the same price? It certainly makes sense to me.

So, my stepmother will continue. I know she is exhausted. And the recalcitrant sick boy is my father. How does something like this happen? Until we find solutions for our family members whose mind has eroded, we are all sick.