June 25, 2018

I will never forget yesterday as long as I live and have cognition. Yesterday, 6/25/18 is the day that I almost became a widow at the age of 54. Yeah, I know 54 is not young, but it’s not 74 or 84, either.

I now know what it feels like to wonder how I will manage without my husband. To try to remember where he said all of the important papers are. To frantically search through his pants pockets to find his wallet that has his I.D. and insurance card while the paramedics lift his almost lifeless body onto a stretcher. To be the frantic spouse who calls 911 and attempts to calmly explain that her husband is not responsive while wanting to shout, “just get the ambulance here, damnit!” I know what it’s like to sit in the crowded hospital ER waiting room and rehash the previous hour’s events and pray that you don’t see a grim-faced doctor striding towards you.

For over three hours, I didn’t know if my husband was going to live. The outlook wasn’t good. He had not been feeling well and a trip to the ER two days prior was supposed to be the beginning of his recovery.

So much has happened in the past three weeks that it’s almost impossible not to believe that through some sick twist of fate or some carefully orchestrated plans,  I was here for a reason.  You see, I lost my job on 6/12/18. My full-time job was reduced to part-time and then finally it became a no-time job. It’s been a difficult transition, but a transition that has given me the opportunity to be at home and help out around the house. I thought then that perhaps there was a deeper reason or meaning to what was happening. Even prior to 6/12/18, my husband’s health started to deteriorate rapidly and I found myself simultaneously job hunting and trying to hold it together at home.

I accepted a job offer which gave me two weeks before the start date and last week, with the urging of my husband, I planned a trip to visit family out of state. Hubby’s health continued to decline and he couldn’t walk even a short distance without becoming winded. I canceled my trip last Wednesday and didn’t look back. Monday, 6/25/18, was the day I was supposed to be driving 700 miles alone while he stayed behind. Sure, he said, he could make it without me. He’s proud like that and not much scares him. I told him that while I appreciated his unselfishness, I couldn’t leave him.

If I had, he would surely be dead.

Thanks to God or the universe or whoever intervened. He is in the hospital where the experts can hopefully find out what happened. In the meantime, I’ll never forget 6/25/18. I will never forget finally being allowed to see him, not knowing if he would be able to talk or see or breathe on his own. When I turned the corner to his room and saw him sitting up looking at his phone, I have never been more thankful and grateful.

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Racism in 2018

This post is not what some of my readers will expect. I try to present a well-balanced viewpoint. Sure, I am what some may call a liberal. I believe in separation of church and state, the rights of gay people to marry and have/adopt children, keeping abortion legal and safe and I generally “side” with the left on a host of other “hot button” topics.

I want to talk today about what racism is and what it is not. I want to talk about what it looks like and I also want to talk about institutional racism and how that differs from what we all see in our social media feeds and on the nightly news.

Recently I have seen a video circulating of a white woman calling the authorities about a black family barbecuing in the park in California. I have also heard of an incident of another white woman reporting a black student for sleeping in a forbidden area of campus at college. And of course, there is the infamous Starbucks incident where three black men were arrested for allegedly doing nothing.

Many of my friends are circulating these videos and these news stories on social media decrying racism. Is it fair to affix a label of racist to a person because they have a possible legitimate concern with the activities of a person of color? I say no. Is it possible that these incidents were somehow a result of latent racism or simply white privilege in action? Sure, it’s possible. Each one of these incidents and others like them should be viewed individually and with as few preconceived notions as possible.

I will never, ever defend the shooting or maiming of an innocent person by law enforcement. I will not defend name-calling and spewing hatred towards an individual based on the color of their skin, the language they speak or who they choose to love.  Should we ignore minorities who have blatant disrespect for laws, rules and/or ordinances? No, but they should not be singled out, either.

As progressives, it is important to stay focused on what is important. Let’s direct our energy towards increasing the number of Democrats in our local governments. Let’s help struggling families by stocking our food banks and electing school boards that care about public education. Spending time reposting videos and memes of supposed racists does absolutely nothing. It just makes us look as vindicative and mean-spirited as the people we’re shaming.

 

The cult of Jack Pearson

Jack Pearson is a fictional character. He is the patriarch of the Pearson family, the family many of us have let into our living rooms every Tuesday night. For those avid fans, I have to preface this by advising you not read further if you have not seen the episode that aired after the Super Bowl this past Sunday.  SPOILER ALERT!!!

I watched the episode and like many, cried tears of grief along with Rebecca when she went to Jack’s hospital room and discovered that he did die from a heart attack brought on by smoke inhalation. Rebecca refused to believe the doctor who stopped her at the vending machine to break the bad news of Jack’s untimely and unexpected passing.  Of course, the fans everywhere had been speculating for months about his death, as we had been teased in so many episodes.

Reality aside, I want to talk about the character of Jack Pearson. Why do men and women alike love him so much? Why are millions of Americans sobbing about the death of a fictional character? The obvious answer is that he was relatable. The family is relatable. Blue collar Pittsburghers meet in a bar, fall in love, get pregnant with triplets, lose a baby, gain an African American son (the very same day!), raise children, and deal with life as it’s thrown at them. Jack Pearson, through all of the heartache and all of the family struggles, is steadfast in his love and devotion to his family. He’s a hard worker, he loves and worships his wife, he treats his children with love and respect and best of all, he loves his daughter and constantly reminds her that she is beautiful JUST THE WAY SHE IS. Kate, the daughter, has a weight problem. She is teased by other girls at the pool. Jack loans her his shirt so she can cover up, never once making her feel that she is anything less. He adores his sons Kevin and Randall and never once do you see him raise his voice or lose his patience. He is perfect. He is also the perfect husband, working hard at his job, working around the house, surprising his family with trips and presenting a united front with Rebecca. He is handsome, romantic and always cheerful. The fact that Jack has a drinking problem and is an admitted alcoholic is always tucked away in the series and attempts to show that Saint Jack is not perfect after all. Oh, but I disagree. He goes to AA meetings and readily admits to his ER doctor that he cannot have pain pills because he’s a substance abuser. Jack never sneaks pills. Jack doesn’t look at other women and Jack doesn’t yell at his kids.  Jack ultimately saves his entire family and family pet but in doing so, inadvertently took his own life.

Jack is like Jesus. As you see him emerge from the house in flames, you see him carrying the family dog, rising out of the ashes like a phoenix.

We like to see characters we can relate to and there is something to be said for losing yourself in the life of another family for an hour per week. However, we must be careful. I have heard so many women say that they wish their husbands were more like Jack. I have wished that I had a father who was so accepting. My father has personal issues with weight and he passed that on to me. He is not perfect, but he’s my father and he’s all that I have. I love him despite his faults.  It is so tempting to compare the reality of our own dysfunctional relationships with the relationships we see created for our consumption on television or in the movies. There is a reason women like to read romance novels and that’s fine. If we women heard our husbands longingly wish that we were more like Rebecca, we’d be rightfully hurt. The same goes for our husbands, our sons, our daughters and our fathers. They are real people with faults. They’re not Jack and Rebecca or Randall, Kevin or Kate. I love the Pearsons, too. There isn’t anything wrong with that. It’s when I start to feel sad for my own father daughter relationship that I need to question my own reality and accept it for what is in, warts and all.

I knocked on the door of every church here in town

to find me some guidance and hope and for grace

some doors opened widely and many faces appeared

with friendly fake smiles like they’re all coached to do

and offer me T shirts and mugs full of brew

some doors were opened more slowly than those

and said nothing to me as the welcome bells chimed

finding a seat in the back on the hard wooden pew

to shake hands with some strangers and sing some old songs

then quietly slipping out the front door with no words

left alone to wonder alone why the old church seems cold

but the megachurch people want to be your best friend

it’s hard to keep searching, this quest for a place

that respects your own space and Jesus is love, not hate

 

 

 

 

Losing Icons

I am 53 years old. Over the past couple of years, many of my childhood icons have been dying. Some are dying natural deaths due to old age and/or incurable disease, but some have died tragically. This past year, the deaths of many “celebrities” have forced me to come to terms with my own mortality and it’s not pretty.

As far as I know, I have pretty decent health. I only take one prescription medication and that’s a low dose blood pressure pill. I have gone off my Wellbutrin which was prescribed for ADHD. I am, by nature, a morbid person. I think about death a lot. I think about my own death, how and when it will happen. I think about the deaths of others, especially those who die tragically “before their time.”

My husband was recently very affected by the death of one of his favorites, David Bowie. David was 70 years old and had cancer. He kept his illness private, so many of us were shocked when he died, including me. That happened at the end of 2016. This year, we have lost Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell, Mary Tyler Moore, Gregg Allman, David Cassidy, Tom Petty, Malcolm Young, Walter Becker and many more. Tom Petty hit me very hard. I am a huge fan of his and always thought one day I would love to see him and The Heartbreakers play live. I have said that often about musical groups such as Steve Miller, another one of my favorites.  Well, Steve is getting up there in age and who knows when he will go? Who knows when any of us will go?

Many of the stars who have passed that I didn’t mention were around the same age as my parents. I am lucky to still have both of my parents, but they are not young anymore. Many people might read this and think that I am naive or in denial about the aging process, death, etc. I’m not. It just takes something drastic sometimes to really bring it into the light. Or dark, if you will.

A “Not Perfect Life”

I was chatting with my best friend on Sunday. She and I have been friends for 35 years and we have seen each other through marriage(s), children, jobs, divorce, illness and death. When we met she was a young bride going back to college to finish her degree while working part time. I was a young college kid, fresh out of high school who wanted to party all day and night in order to forget my feelings. I was on the cusp of adulthood and I wasn’t ready.  My family was ripped apart when my brother joined the Army. I didn’t have career plans. I wanted out of my parents’ house and I was determined to do that, no matter what. 4 years later she was my maid of honor at my wedding to a man who was never right for me.

She and I were each other’s lifelines during the lonely and turbulent years when our children were small. We talked on the phone daily and went on outings with and without our children. On the surface, both of our lives looked idyllic, but neither were and that was one of our strong bonds. When you are a young mother and you’re surrounded by everyone else’s perfectly clean and perfectly behaved children and your own clothes came from the thrift store, you tend to wonder what you are doing wrong. Remember, this was the 90’s. Parenting magazines focused on childhood milestones and ways to help yourself stay organized. The show “American Housewife,” which depicts a mother who wears flannel shirts and curses like a sailor, wasn’t even a thing yet. You weren’t accepted into the Mommy crowd if you were an Earth mother (I was) or if you dared to raise your voice to your children within earshot of others (like my friend did.)

Fast forward to the present. I am divorced and remarried. She has resigned herself to staying with her husband even though it’s a very unsatisfying marriage. Her two oldest children are doing well in life and so is my oldest. Our youngest children are both special needs and are “getting by,” but they continue to be a source of worry and emotional stress for us. We are still not a part of the Mommy/Grandmother crowd and may never be. My friend said that she visits the Facebook page of a mutual friend of ours and “gets ill” from seeing all of her perfect posts with her perfect husband, children and grandchildren. I get it. We always wanted the perfect life. I tried like hell to make the perfect life with my ex-husband. He wasn’t perfect material and neither are my children. You might be saying, “well, nobody’s perfect!” That is true, but some are closer than others. Some marriages are better. Some people did everything right and their children ended up in trouble. Or on drugs. Or worse. Some people’s families are close and some aren’t. My friend and I still don’t have the careers we longed for. Money is a worry in our lives.  Many of our friends are already retired and living very well. We hope that someday that is us.

My friend said that she has realized she has a “not perfect life” and probably always will. I am right there with her.