Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day – A Mother’s Perspective

It took twenty days for his body to get here from Vietnam.  In that time we grieved and tried to come to an acceptance that he was gone.  He was only twenty years old and the most out-going of our group. We all loved him.

When we got word that he was here, we waited for his mother to call and let us know when we could go visit.  It’s been over forty-seven years so those memories are fuzzy. I think his body lay in state for three days or so, giving time for all friends and family to arrive for the burial.

On the night before they closed his casket one final time, his mother took a medal he had given her to hold while he served his year in Vietnam and she pinned it on his chest. She spent time alone with him, just the two of them. She said it was just the two of them in the beginning; it would be just the two of them at the end.

My son was twenty-one when he got deployed to Iraq. They gave us five days to get ready for his departure. In that time he made a will, a DNR, and a Power of Attorney, giving me legal rights to all his affairs.  He asked my advice and I told him not to be rash; he was always one to rush into things without thinking it through first.  I told him I had raised him to be a man and he needed to rely on his ability to do what needed to be done.  I told him he had to come home to his son.  He had to come home to me.

CNN carried the war in great detail back then, so much so that the Pentagon asked them to tone it down.  The enemy knew all our moves; all they had to do was watch TV.

We watched also, so when they captured the first group of Americans, my worries increased one hundred-fold. I prayed my son would know what to do if he was captured; I steeled myself for the worst. I remembered the strength of that one mother so many years ago and wondered if I could be as strong.

My son came back from three deployments, alive but changed forever. He witnessed things we could never imagine. Real things, not the kind of stuff you see on TV or on violent R-rated games, but real, ugly things one cannot shrug off as fiction.

Many of his fellow soldiers did not return. I tell him to pray for their souls.  I pray for them too.  I also pray for the mothers who pin medals on lapels and spend one last moment alone with their sons.

Mine lets me hug him anytime I want. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Book Club Must-Read List


Looking for something to read over the summer?  Our book club (five women) has been meeting since the spring of 2011.  We have read our share of books.  Most novels have been around for a while, so you should be able to find them at a good price.  We recommend you buy them from the publisher, so the author gets a royalty, but we have sometimes had to resort to buying them secondhand when we found them to be out of print.
We have read our share of “forgettable” books, but we have also read many “keepers.” Many have been made or contracted to be made into movies, but the books are infinitely better.
I will start with the most recent, the books we read so far that we recommend to others in 2014-2015 are:
·       Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins
·       Storm Siren by Mary Weber
·       Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
·       Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
·       Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
Books read from 2011-2013 that we still hold dear to our hearts:
·       Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
·       The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
·       The Distant Hours by Kate Morton
·       The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
·       The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
·       Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Allan Bradley
·       Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
·       The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
·       The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton
·       The Help by Kathryn Stockett
·       Room by Emma Donohue 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Gravitational Pull


She was five years old when he was born.  The following year, while she was learning to read and write, he was learning to walk and talk. They didn’t know each other.  Not yet. She lived here and he lived there, far away.
They were both the middle child with an older brother and a younger sister, and they both lived in cities but spent most of their weekends in the country, breathing fresh air, running amok, and gaining wisdom and memories from their grandmothers.
He was a typical teenager, learning to drive his father’s cars and getting into mischief, while she busied her life, graduating from high school and college. The year she married here, he graduated from high school and went to college there, and by the time he was ready to venture out in life, she was settled in her marriage with a child, a Master’s degree, and a career.
He moved a little closer, a lot less far away, and he soon married and started his family. They each spent the next several years raising and loving their families. He had moved closer still, and by then she had three children; he had two.
They both had successful careers. She transformed beautiful, young minds into future readers and thinkers; he transformed beautiful woods into useful and sturdy creations that everyone admired.  
Their marriages were not as successful, and he divorced first.  He assuaged his loneliness by raising his sons and working nonstop in his furniture business. She divorced a few years later and found her nest had emptied on its own, her children grown and gone.   

A few years later, they met, whether by sheer luck or divine intervention.  These two met, gravitating toward each other.  He still lived there and she lived here, but they met. They fell in love, just like their young adult children were doing, so he proposed and she accepted. He offered to move here but she decided she preferred to move there.  He had come all this way to meet her, the least she could do was to take the last few steps so that they could be there together.  

Monday, May 4, 2015

Beauty Treatment from Hell


The tiny woman walked into the exam room, introduced herself, and asked why I was there.  While I explained that my new PCP suggested I see a dermatologist, she scanned my face. 
She called out to her assistant, “Two age spots on her cheeks.  Multiple skin tags around her neck.”  The assistant typed away on her laptop. 
I told the doctor those spots and tags were hereditary; all my family had them. She said they weren’t dangerous.  I asked about the freckle that recently formed on my forehead. 
“We’ll burn that too.” She said, reaching for a tall, thin, silver can the size of my Aveda “Control Force” hairspray.
“Burn?” I asked.  Shouldn’t she discuss this with me first?  I have never had a doctor tell me what “we’ll” do without asking me first. “Is this going to hurt?”
“Yes.”  She shook the can and weighed it in her hand, assessing how much was still in it. “We’ll freeze the age spots first.  This is liquid nitrogen.  It will hurt quite a bit but some of my patients say it feels like cold tickles.
“Hurt?” I look at the exit.
“We’ll do the big one first. Don’t move.”  Bzzzt.
“Ow.” I yell.  Bzzzt. Bzzzt.  “Ow.  Ow.”  I yell louder. That did not feel like “cold tickles.”
“Tell me about your mother’s spots.” Bzzzt. 
“Mother of God.”  I yell.  “I don’t want to talk about my mother.  That hurts.”
“Now the other one.”
“Can we leave it alone?”
“It will only spread and get darker.”
“No, it won’t.  It has been getting smaller and lighter.” Bzzzt. “Ow.”  Bzzzt. “Ow. Stop.”
“Did you spend a lot of time in the sun when you were younger?”  Bzzzt.  Bzzzt. “Do your grandchildren play soccer?”  Bzzzt.
“No, stop hurting me.”  Bzzzt.  “I don’t want to talk to you.”  Bzzzt.
“At least you are not using curse words.”  She says.
Bzzzzzzt.  “What the *&^% was that?” I yell. “That really hurt.”
Her face is close to mine and I can see her smile.  She reminds me of Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors, enjoying the torture she is inflicting on me.  “We’re done.  Now let’s do the skin tags.”
“I don’t want to.”  I say.
“They will only get caught in your jewelry, snag on your clothes.” 
“I don’t mind.” 
“This will hurt even more.” She puts down the silver can and reaches for a small squatty can.  It looks like WD 40 with a skinny wire at its tip.  She activates it and the tip sizzles.  It’s a mini Tazer.  “Lay back.”  She says.
“Hurt more?”  I ask.  I look at her.  She’s tiny.  I can take her down.
ZZZAAAPPP.  “Oh, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.”  I yell out.  I haven’t yelled like that since I gave birth to my children.  ZZZAAAPPP. ZZZAAAPPP.
“Oh, come now,” she says, “90-year-old patients take this better than you.” ZZZAAAPPP.  ZZZAAAPPP.
“Ow.  Ow.  Ow. I don’t care about them.”  I yell. ZZZAAAPPP.
“Now let’s do the other side.” 
“No,” I yell.  ZZZAAAPPP.  “I said no.”  I smell burning oil like when a car’s engine is on its last legs. I think it is me. ZZZAAAPPP.  “Oh, please, stop.”
“We’re done.”  She says.  “Let’s do the freckle and you have three little skin tags on your eyelid.” 
I sit up, then stand up.  “I said no. I am done. Tell me what I have to do to care for this and I am out of here.” 
She asks to check my back and my chest and makes note of two small moles between my breasts.  I tell her they are staying right where they are. 
She tells me that there isn’t anything special I have to do to care for the freeze or the burns.  I can bathe, moisturize, go on with my usual routine, and I should look better in two weeks tops.
There is no need for a follow up, she says, unless I want to come back and have more skin tags removed. Yeah, sure.


Monday, April 27, 2015

The Diaper Bag


Before my injured shoulder, I carried large purses.  I had everything in them that one would need in an emergency.  Rarely have we been somewhere when someone would not ask if I had ____ and I would whip it out of my purse and impress them with my super powers.
But because of my injured shoulder I cannot carry large, heavy purses anymore.  I have to limit myself to small bags that do not weigh very much.
I kept the other purses but I treat them like a carryon. I have a packed purse that I take with me and leave it in my car when I go someplace.  It has the stuff I used to carry with me everywhere in case of an emergency, but if anyone breaks into my car thinking the big purse has money or valuables, I hope they like stale gum, a toenail clipper, and a half-used chap stick.
 I also carry a small purse but it stays with me.  It has the usual necessities:  keys, wallet, cell phone.  The smaller purses are not big enough for all the things I have to carry but I have no choice.  Any larger and my shoulders rebel. 
Even then I cannot carry the little purses in my hands for long periods of time because my arms tire. Sometimes I need both hands for whatever I am doing, so I have resorted to what I call “the crossing guard” look.  I buy purses with long straps so I can pull the straps over my head and wear the strap across my chest. Not very fashionable but I have no choice. My bone health is more important than my fashion flair.
Here lately my husband has started to hand me stuff to put in my purse. He has handed me his keys, his cell phone, and his wallet.  If we go to a concert, he gives me his ticket, his program, and his reading glasses after he is through with them. I know from experience that these things feel uncomfortable in one’s pants pocket, but I finally asked him the other day if he thinks my purse is a diaper bag

When he answered no, I refused to take his things. He is a big boy and can get his own purse.