"Waiting"

When the other is suffering
My suffering must wait
I need time apart
But I cannot say it

When the other is mourning
I hold down my grief
Somewhere down the road
I will find my relief

The other’s transition
Presently all-consuming
Holds shut my bud of change
And staves off its blooming

The other’s mounting pressure
Outweighs my own
I’ll get to it someday
When I can be alone

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Not All Who Can’t Be Trusted Are Arseholes

People who can’t be trusted are everywhere, and are tricky to spot. Because it’s not just the overt villain you must watch out for. Not all the untrustworthy are cads out to betray you for their own personal gain. Some people have hearts of gold and, worse than being sneaky, it’s simply their judgment that cannot be trusted. You know the kind.

Today I questioned my own judgment.

I have known for a few weeks that I will be resigning my position at a job I love to move to another city and open a business with my husband. I’ve been really excited and also scared, and have had mixed feelings about leaving a job that is so perfect for me for the “great unknown” of opening a business. However, I planned to give my notice to my employer in the New Year.

I have a colleague I really like. We’ll call her Heather. Heather is a manager here and is well liked by everyone, and there are a couple of hundred employees, so that’s saying something. I was among the first that she told about her pregnancy, swearing me to secrecy – a vow I took and kept. When I found out she was married to a custodial staff member, Kirk, I was surprised, because he is a real gossip and not what I’d envisioned as “her type”. I was again sworn to secrecy, since it is forbidden to have relationships with people at work and could cost one or both of them their jobs. Again, it is no struggle for me to keep my word in this regard.

Yesterday, in the supply room, Heather laughed at how much product I had in stock. “You need to lay off ordering so much stuff,” she said. So, I told her…

“Listen, you have to keep this a secret, okay? Do NOT tell Kirk!! But I am resigning in a couple of months. That’s why I’m ordering so much stock – because I know it will take months to replace me. I’m going to tell the boss in the New Year. My husband and I are moving to another city to open our own business.”

“Congratulations!” Heather exclaimed.

“DO NOT TELL KIRK!” I admonished again.

Honestly, I could have sworn she said, “I won’t.” But maybe I just assumed she wouldn’t.

Today, Kirk walked into a crowded room at my workplace and congratulated me at the top of his voice. My blood ran cold. I quickly shushed him and he lowered his voice but continued to have an open conversation with me about my plans in what was, now, a hushed room full of eavesdropping ears.

So, despite my intention to wait until after Christmas, I ended up giving my notice that day – the Friday before Christmas weekend. It went well and I may even be offered the opportunity to have a one year leave of absence to “try it out” with our own business, just in case it fails.

But boy am I disappointed in not just Heather’s judgment, or Kirk’s, but my own.

Once A Mother, NOT Always A Mother

I love my adult son. At almost 30 years old, he’s a great guy that I’d be friends with “in real life” if he weren’t my son. But I’m done being a mother. He’s known it for quite a few years. And it’s not only “Okay” – it’s healthy.

Women love their “roles”. Lover. Wife. Mother. I think many people identify more with their roles than their actual “selves”. I am not one of these, and I don’t think that makes me a bad mother.

In all of nature, as far as I could tell from “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom”, a mother’s job is to teach her young to fend for themselves and then to, well, LET THEM. That’s what my son is doing.

From his childhood he understood what “first and last month’s rent” was, and that he’d need to have it some day. He moved out just after his twentieth birthday and has finished college while working and supporting himself since. He works. He cooks. He does his own laundry and never brings it home to me. No, he’s not gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I don’t remind him to do his income tax, turn his clocks back, or call anyone on their birthday (Father’s Day, etc.) because I am done being a mother.

I will always be his family. I will always love him. If there is anything I can do for him that will make his life better I will, after consulting with him, happily do it (rather than assuming I know what he needs and wants). But that’s it. That’s all folks. He’s an adult and I’m done mothering.

I built a nest, and taught him to build his own nest. I fed him and taught him to feed himself. I flew and taught him to fly. He’s flown away, built his own nest, and feeds himself.

I don’t worry about him. I can’t honestly say that he enters my mind every day of the week. Nor do I expect that I enter his. We are just plain old human beings who, by coincidence, have a unique relationship because he came out of me. I don’t own him. We don’t have any claim on one another. We are two random people trying to find our way through the world. That’s it.

I don’t feel like a bad mother because I’ve equipped my kid to be a fella who can and does function without me. Nor do I feel like a bad mother because I can function without him. In fact, if you can’t function without a relationship with your offspring, then doesn’t that make you, as the parent, the burden? I don’t want to burden my young.

Perhaps as a result, we have a wonderful friendship. I see my adult son more than most of my peers. We actually LIKE each other. We don’t owe one another anything simply because we are mother and son. Imagine a relationship with family that is chosen, rather than expected – one that is a privilege, rather than a right.

I am not saying I’ve got it all figured out. But this “parenting” thing has worked out rather well for both me and my progeny, despite being different from the media propagated “Once a mother, always a mother.” Not for me. I was a mother for 20 years. Now I’m just a friend and it’s a real joy to be friends with this young guy.

“Loser”

What is a Loser?
What is he not?
He is the sucker,
Lady Luck forgot.

No difference ‘tween us,
But a change in the breeze,
That put me on my feet,
And put him on his knees.

Good sense and good fortune,
Yoked as a team,
Fulfill on many a,
Lesser man’s dream.

But we call him a Loser.
It’s more fear, than it’s hate.
He works harder than most,
But is trapped by his fate.

Ol’ Loser, leave town.
Take your sad sack and flee,
‘Cause whatever’s got you,
Don’t you git it on me.

 

Walking Each Other Home

Capture

My sister has been inserting this quotation in her email signature lately.  Since our brother died at 40 years old.

As I feed my couple of old folks their breakfast on Wednesdays and Fridays, I feel as though we are, in fact, walking each other to the end of life.  They’re closer than I am, but we’re there for each other.

Ted is confined to a wheelchair.  One of those high backed ones with the head rest, that makes it impossible for him to tilt his head back to drink his juice all the way to the last drop.  He’s hard of hearing and has lost his sight.  He forgets things in an instant.

“Where am I?”

“A nursing home??”

“How do I get out of here?”

“I can’t see.”

At first these questions and comments from him made me uncomfortable.  When he said he couldn’t see I’d joke, “You’re not missing much.”  Now I say, “I know.  You haven’t been able to see for a while.  It must be very difficult.”

This week he floored me.

“When will I be back to normal?”

I paused.

“This is normal Ted.  You’re a very old man now.”

“Oh no.”  Wow.  The despair and, I think, shock in his voice.

Roslin is as sharp as a tack.  She can see.  She can hear.  She laughs at my witty banter.  But she can’t move her body or her limbs, and she can’t speak.

As I make conversation with Ted while her cream of wheat grows cold (I nuke it later), she chuckles at what we say to one another.  When it’s her turn for my attention, her brow and her clucking sounds in response to my kidding around tell me there is a woman inside who is 100% “With It”.  When I finish feeding her toast and jam, in 1/2″ pieces, by hand, and help her wash down her coffee through a straw, she cries that it’s time for me to leave.  I tell her, “I know.  It’s my favourite time of day too.”

I wish I could know that they know how much our time together means to me.  But we can’t know some things, can we?

Ted and Roslin and I – we’re all walking home together.

“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver

geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Packing to Move to the Unknown

I am packing to move in six months – or more.  I’m crazy.  I know.

I don’t even know where we’re going.  I mean, I know which city.  We plan to open our own business in a city closer to his young boys, from his previous marriage.  But I don’t know what our address will be.

But I still can’t bear it.  There is logic in packing now.

  1. At my current job, I can get many, many, excellent packing boxes for free.
  2. For the next six months, my husband will be picking me up after work every day, so I have a way to get these boxes home without annoying all the other commuters on a bus.  After six months, my husband will be moving away to start a business in another city, where he will live with is parents temporarily.  I may go with him immediately but, more likely, I will follow him in the subsequent months.  That means that, if I wait to pack, I’ll be bringing those bloody boxes home on the bus.
  3. My husband goes out to that future city every second week, to bring his boys for their weekend visit.  This is a 5 hour round-trip, meaning my husband drives 20-30 hours each month, barring summer holiday traffic, which adds an extra hour each way in the summer.  (We’re definitely moving.)  His parents live in the same city so he can start ferrying out our packed boxes to that new city over the next six months.  I don’t need all my tchotchkes, extra linens, or to even put up a Christmas tree this year.  Let’s move it on out.

But, logic aside, I am not invested in this beautiful little heavenly flat anymore.  I am still so thankful for it, but I know a journey awaits and I want to embark.  I stare at the end of the living room with it’s mound of packed throw cushions and sheet music and books and I say to my husband, “It’s like Christmas!!”

Feeding Ted

I have a new way to be useful in life.

I feed Ted.

Ted is a man in his nineties.  He still wears his glasses, even though he “Can’t see a damned thing” and I have to holler in his ear every time the spoon heads towards his mouth.  “Open!”

He lives in a neighbourhood nursing home and they struggle to have enough volunteers to get the residents fed in decent time.  (Cold porridge is the worst – yuck!)  It’s especially tricky to get people who are able and willing to come in for breakfast time on a weekday.

I have the good fortune to be available and in the neighbourhood and, unlike so many of my peers who find it “gross”, I’m not uncomfortable feeding adults.

It’s intimate.  It’s forced intimacy between two strangers.  Ted is in a position of vulnerability and, honestly, so am I.  On the first day I wondered how I’d get so much soft and liquefied food to his mouth without making a mess all over his face (I worried less about the giant bib).  Today I joked with him that I’ve worked my way down to half a napkin instead of the four, sodden serviettes I went through on that first day.

But, as the days pass, I learn how to raise my voice in a still “conversational” tone.  I’ve learned what music Ted likes and we talk about the weather.  He can still feel the heat wave even though he hasn’t set foot outside in, possibly, years.  But he often asks me where he is.  He’s asked me where his teeth have gone.  When he’s left alone, before finally dozing off in his wheelchair, he may cry out, “Hello?  Help!  Where am I?  How do I get out of here?  Help me!”  Before lamenting, “Nobody cares.  Nobody cares.”

I love Ted.  He is a fellow human being with whom I have a unique connection.  We tread the same, dusty, well worn path from the cradle to the grave, Ted and I.  At half his age and having grown up in a different part of the city, the likelihood of my ever having met Ted is pretty slim.  The odds of my sharing such intimacies with him are even less likely.

I know people don’t fully understand that I am getting more out of this than he is – or at least, I think so.  It is such an honour, I feel, to be able to serve another human being, in their frailty, in such a practical way.

I am so grateful for this beautiful opportunity.

“Trying”

What,

Really,

is more beautiful than “Trying”?

I mean really trying.

Not just saying, “I’ll try.”

I mean, seeing someone “Succeed” is beautiful, yes.

But it’s beautiful because of the effort.

Because of the journey.  The story.

Because of the trying.

And what of the countless multitude

Trying and trying and trying

Day in and day out

For nothing?

Well – not “Nothing”.

For the right to have Hope.

Isn’t that something?

Isn’t that the most beautiful and terrible thing?

That’s the kind of “Trying” that I am learning to revere.

Womb-less

They took out my womb on Tuesday.

Sounds like the beginning of a terrible, ol’ style country and western song.

I got to keep my ovaries.  So I’ll still have great hair and be a horndog for awhile longer.  Glad about that.

Now I get another 7 weeks and 1 day off.  I’m interested in how that will be.

Tonight I wouldn’t say I feel the pain more acutely, but I am more aware of the wound than ever.  I feel as though I can feel how deep the wound is, which I’ve never been able to say before.  The whole area has just been a tender bruise.  But, tonight, I feel specifics.  I fear possibly feeling individual stitches.  Yick.  Anyhow, just very present to the incision.  Interesting.