“Within My Father’s Tears”

On the sad 44th anniversary this month of a great loss for our Nation…I wanted to share with you one memory that still burns brightly in my mind and heart….

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I can still remember that day I walked into a small polling place to vote for the first time. I had taken my grandmother to do “her civic duty” as she kept referring to it as. The whole ride there was filled with her lecturing me on the different aspects of this certain election and how important it was for our community, our country, our family and even myself that I take my responsibility seriously.

I smiled at her a lot that morning because she had no way of knowing that everything she was saying was already a very deep seeded part of my being, that her son…my father had in his own way given me a civic consciousness scattered out over the years with his lessons, his gifts of caring and sharing.

It was a hot, humid night in Chicago the spring of ’68…I was awakened by my mother’s voice calling for us all to get up. The window was on my side of the room and I could see that it was still dark outside. I arose quickly as I knew that tone in her voice and had learned not to question it. I struggled to wake up my little brother who shared a room with me. (My father divided us by age, not gender until we entered our pre-teen years)

For a small four-bedroom house, it was always filled beyond capacity and this night in particular it was busting at the seams with people…Family, friends, neighbors and quite a few people I did not recognize. Everyone was moving quickly about the rooms, talking over each other and filling my home with a very real sense of panic. I was becoming confused and upset as I searched the crowded rooms for the one person who I knew I could count on to help me understand what was happening.

I looked and there in front of our big picture glass living room window was my father. Standing there quietly with a cigarette in one hand and a highball glass in the other, staring intensely out not reacting at all to the chaos of the others running every which way behind him. I tugged at his shirt. He turned towards me with one of his famous half grins and for a moment I was no longer afraid.

Then things got crazy and blurred as some one came running in shouting about fires and a mob. My mother was non-stop crying by now as she gathered up the smaller children and herded the rest of us towards the streets outside lined with double parked cars. As the adults scrambled to place us in the cars, I turned towards the night sky.

Off to my left the dark blended into a strange yellow glow. Living in a big city there was always a night light glow to the sky but that night it was like none I had seen before. It flickered and flashed like one of my father’s lanterns that we took camping. My father was watching the sky as well and as he reached down to put my little sister in one of the cars there was a loud thundering sound that had him quicken his pace and for the first time yell out to my mother to hurry.

I ended up in the far back of a station wagon as we drove through the darkened neighborhoods, eventually away from the city, heading towards my grandparent’s farm in Indiana…my mother still upset but the sounds of my father’s whispering voice comforting her filled the car.

Our stay on the farm that next day, made me feel like the world was coming to an end. There were more than a dozen people camping outside the small farmhouse. My father had dropped us off and returned to the city, so my source of reassurance was gone.There was no tv and the adults had all the radios. As children we had to piece together what was going on from listening to the grown-ups talk to each other.

Martin Luther King had been killed and there had been wide spread chaos in Chicago. We had listened to Dr. King’s speeches as a family because my father had wanted us to grow with open hearts and open minds. We had just buried a friend who had died in Vietnam so I understood what killing was but this was beyond my understanding.

We went back a few days later, our neighborhood still for the most part intact but places around it still showed the signs of anger. My father, usually a quiet man, had made a special point to make sure we felt safe.Surprising us by becoming very excited in the weeks that followed. Senator Kennedy was coming to Chicago.

My brothers and sisters had gone along with my Uncle Bob on some of the visits to houses in our area, handing out election stuff supporting Sen. Kennedy for President. Uncle Bob talked to us about how he had helped campaign for President Kennedy and how important it was to help put good people in Washington. My father hardly ever talked politics to us, decided that he was going to take us to the rally that was being put together for the Senator the following month of June.

We went to spend the week before the rally on the farm…the trauma of that April was still lingering with the adults but we kids managed to have a good time…It was early on a Thursday morning, my father was suppose to be working in the city so we were very surprised to hear his car pull up outside. His face that morning as he walked into the farmhouse kitchen with all of his children sitting around a big table eating breakfast has stayed with me my whole life.

His eyes were red and big tears flowed done his cheeks. I had never seen my father cry before. I mean I was sure he had cried but never in front of us. My mother quickly wrapped her arms around him asking him what was wrong. “Senator Kennedy is dead…they killed him too.” was all he said as he buried his face on her shoulder and continued to sob.

Later that night I went and sat with him on the porch, as I took hold of his hand, he looked at me. I could see the sadness in his eyes as he tried to fake his half grin for me and if I had been older I might not have pressed him but I needed to know what he meant by “they killed him too”.

I can’t remember his exact words but the gist of it was that for all the good he believed there was in the world there also was an underlying evil. That there were people who thought that hatred and violence were the only ways they knew to get what they wanted.

He pulled me close to him wrapping his arms so very tightly around me. He was crying again and whispering to me that things would be alright and that we couldn’t let the bastards win.

A few months later in August, my mother had to go get he and my older brother out of jail because of a rather large heated debate outside the International Amphitheatre where the Democratic National Convention was being held.

My mother was so mad as she worried about the money that had gone for the bail but my father in true fashion smiled that half grin of his and said “we got to do what we got to do”.

Within my father’s tears I saw a passion for this country. We lost him at a young age but his actions and his words have always been with me. Part of me knows that he would be disappointed that I got wrapped up in my own personal world for a long time.

Someone pulled the blanket from over my head and made me look at what I helped let happen to our nation (but that’s a sharing for another time ).I am trying to right that wrong and set as good an example for my father’s grandsons that he had set for me. I have learned that alot of us lost that sense of National Pride but I truly feel that we can get it back.

We have come a long way since 1968 but there seems to be those who want us to backtrack instead of move ahead.We need to stick together and not let the bastards win… “We got to do what we got to do”.

On This Day and All Days :

“Why Can’t I Sleep ? “

It’s 3am and I haven’t been able to sleep all night. I gave it a good try more than once but just never seemed to connect with that darn Sandman. 16 years of having to be up at 4 every morning to go to work…6 days a week has programmed me too well . This first week of unemployment started out ok but each day has taken me into an area of uncertainty that I was not prepared for.

I rarely, up till now, have ever even had two days off in a row let alone a whole week. It started out ok. I had decided to take the first few days to get my head together as I knew that I would have to face the fact that I hadn’t had to look for a job in over a decade. I knew that the trend today was towards hiring the younger, less expensive and far more flexible workers…I had worked hard to get to that place in life where I didn’t think I would have to prove my abilities to anyone again but the best laid plans don’t always go the way we want them to.

I decided that a thorough “spring cleaning” would be a great way to start my new path. Unfortunately my sons were not use to such an event as growing up with this single mom who works a lot usually meant weekly chores and lists of “things to do “ posted on the fridge but a long stretched out time frame for getting things done was a factor both my busy sons liked. There I was pulling things out of closets ….rearranging the kitchen…moving furniture…cleaning whole walls and yes, deciding that those walls needed a new coat of paint. My poor sons still trying to grasp the fact that I was home a lot were doing their best to help.

What is it about sons that makes them so protective of their mothers ? I have always been a strong free thinking woman who raised them both with a very close eye even though I did work a lot. I wanted them to be independent as well as have minds of their own. We made it despite quite a few bumps in the road…hell, we made it through some real edge of the cliff stuff but we weathered the storms and kept things together. Neither of them are children anymore, at 16 & 28 they each in their own way are set into a routine of how they like to get things done. Up until now our planned “family time” together consisted of reading, games, watching classic movies and cooking at least one meal a day together (which was usually dinner). I got kisses good night and was off to bed long before either of them because of my early morning hours at work. It was a well ordered mixture of life’s happy moments seasoned with jobs, school and the occasional unplanned events. But they changed towards me when I lost my job.

Now it seems though that they both are worried if I have to sit down after scrubbing for awhile or if they find me just sitting quietly in a chair thinking and you should see the looks I get when I make those all to common I‘m-just-not-young-anymore groans. Yesterday, I will admit to you that I was having a sad moment about not being able to see some of my customers…People who I had taken care of every morning for so many years…My youngest caught me with tears in my eyes …ever since he has made it his mission that no matter what he is doing….he checks on me every ten minutes or so…which I confess was sweet at first but after a whole day of it….does get a bit annoying. Mostly because he doesn’t seem to believe me when I tell him that I’m ok.

My oldest is worried that now that I no longer have insurance that something catastrophic is going to happen to me. I have been battling illness all my life and he knows it but he seems to have forgotten that I was never ashamed about having to go and sit for hours at the free clinic when I had to . My doctors know that I can’t see them for awhile and have let me know that I can still call them with any concerns and have generously made sure I would have the meds I need to get by. I told my sons these things and been as positive as I can be and yet they still hover over me like any second I will fall apart. Both of them at different times have asked me if I wanted them to go with me when I went job hunting. I swear I half expect my oldest to come home and ask me if I need one of those Life-Alert buttons.

I know their concern is out of love for me and I really am so touched and proud of this but as I sit here and write this I realize that it may be one of the reasons I can’t sleep. I do have a lot to sort out . Trying to deal with our finances…finding another job…and still dealing with the loss of a very close and wonderful person in my life. So much to put in their proper places. I have always tried to deal with adversity with a positive attitude . I learned very young that anger and negative thoughts get me nowhere. But so much of my coping is built around thoughtful….quiet reflection and a deep down belief that if I listen hard I can hear my Dad’s voice in my head reassuring me that everything will eventually be ok. He has been gone almost thirty years now but I swear to you …he is still in my head as much as he is in my heart. Other than a few hours here and there my sons have managed to make sure one of them was with me at all times… I do love them so….but we all need our own “Me” time and I think that one of the reasons I couldn’t sleep and keep feeling a lost sort of feeling is because I haven’t had that soul searching….get my head on straight…pick myself up time that moments like this in life require.

Tomorrow is…oops wait it’s 4:30…LOL…today is Sunday…it will be the first Sunday I have had off in years…I think I’m going to take a long walk and find a place to sit and watch the sun come up. The boys are asleep. I’ll leave them a note promising them a big Sunday breakfast when I get back and for them not to worry but I suspect they will anyway.

I let a corporation dictate my life the last few years…I almost forgot that I use to do that myself and pretty well I might add from the awesome way my sons have turned out. Time to look within and find that positive flow again. It’s been a good time spent sharing with you again. I’ll try to do it more often as it really does make me feel more focused. Thanks J

Remembering A Most Talented Man: George Carlin

   In the late fall of 1983, I was standing backstage of the Indiana University Auditorium very anxious….palms sweating….and an undesired giggle attack hiding in the back of my throat begging to get out. I was there waiting to meet a man who had always been one of my icons. Heck, not just mine but my whole generation’s.

  I had just spent over an hour laughing so hard my sides ached and now here I was standing there watching him shaking hands with those who had gathered around him. I couldn’t move…started to panic that I would be like those fans who turn into babbling idiots ….afraid to open my mouth or worse giggle or cry…I stood there frozen as I could feel the heat flood my face probably making it as red as a tomato.

  My friend who had been kind enough to get me there was now talking to the man, the others, who had been circled around him, had left the stage area. The man who I was so nervous about meeting…..the man whose mere presence was making my knees knock… looked at me, pointed his finger and in a very loud voice yelled “ I have never seen this woman in my life ! I don’t care what she said…it’s not mine ! “ I burst out into laughter holding on to my then jiggling stomach ….as at the time I was 8 months pregnant and feeling (and in at least my mind looking) very much like a beached whale . He came over to me smiling and took my hand…I looked into his gentle face and warm eyes… I knew that he was someone I would love and admire forever. His name was George Carlin.

  I only got a few moments of his time as he had to leave but it was such a special memory to me. May 12th is his birthday and I decided to take the rest of the month to share some of his words with you…An amazing man who left us with an amazing legacy :

Please check out my “Quotes of Note” page for more of the thought-provoking smiles he left us.

“This Old Dog Can Still Bark”

“ For everything you have missed, you have gained something else and for everything you have gained you lose something.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

I use to think that the world around me was just going crazy than I had to take a step back and accept that maybe it wasn’t the world but me. The last decade or so has brought this new generation to a different way of thinking when it comes to servicing the public. Technology has made some things easier but corporate greed …book taught, rather than working one’s way up-management coupled with an I’m-gonna-get-mine-first attitude has almost annihilated the phrase “ Slow and steady wins the race “ .

 It no longer seems to count for much to have years of experience and skills…nor does an opinion seasoned with age  carry very much weight when placed against one packed in multitudes of empty research memos based on mindless focus groups instead of real people. It’s not just jobs being shipped overseas that is damaging our work force but corporations sitting in an office dictating policies and procedures that aid only to increase a shareholders profit margin while doing very little to really serve it’s customers and even less to benefit an already under-paid work force.

My Oldest son is working on his 3rd college degree…why ? Well, it’s not because he just wants to work two minimum wage jobs and pile even more education debt on his back. No ! It’s because he could not find jobs in his fields of study after graduating ( one of them being architecture…that bubble burst the year he graduated the first time).Even with his degree to be a math teacher his future is foggy at best but he knows without a degree in something he could be locked into an hourly paid hell like I have just been through.

I had my 15 minutes of fame when I was young…I got to experience a dream . Flooded with those feelings of euphoria that comes from knowing that you have done something really great and you did it better than you ever thought you could. I did not always have a smooth path to travel on but I was blessed with good people in my life as well as the ability to see beyond the bad stuff and learn from it. I never had a lot but always seem to have enough. I chose to be a parent though others may think differently….to me that in itself is a lifetime career with endless rewards.

Knowing that I needed a stable job to be a good provider I picked the one industry that  included a lot of the elements of my dream job…The restaurant world…keeping in mind that this was at a time when mom & pop places could still thrive and the goal was to serve up atmosphere …good food….and affordable prices. I loved to cook. I loved to please people. I loved to perform and in an open kitchen format…I was queen bee. Nothing fancy. No roses made of radishes . Simple comfort food …Blues or classic rock always playing in the background. Smiles and laughter a prerequisite for walking in the door. I worked long hours and didn’t make a lot of money but as I said it always seemed to be enough. I got to work with so many young kids just starting out. I was told I was a good person to work for…even won a few community awards. Many of the young people I trained in such a small little setting went on to be very successful managers.

Corporations began putting the squeeze on small places with higher prices for ones who couldn’t afford to buy mega-quantities at a time. So for those of you who wondered…it wasn’t the government or insurance costs that did in your favorite diner…like with the oil industry the food industry can be just as cut throat if not more. After 20 years in the same location…my little piece of heaven was gone and with two sons to still provide for I did the same thing others like me had to do…I went to work for one of those corporations.

It was a bit stifling at first, the pace faster…public contact somewhat muted but little by little I made my own niche…little by little once again I had a following and a hungry audience to feed and perform for. For more than 14 years, I worked hard…made so many friends…again never making a lot of money but we got by . I delighted in showing my sons that happiness and pride in your job was important no matter what you did for a living.

 Than a little over two years ago, the company I worked for was sold . The new CEO than proceeded to cut costs starting with the hourly help. We were forced to take pay cuts being told at first that it was to keep the company from going bankrupt than it was more forcefully imposed that if you didn’t agree you would be fired and it was scary to find out that in my state…the power is all on the Corporation’s side. Our benefits like paid vacations…401k help…good strong insurance …all taken and replaced with basically nothing. Those of us that had been with the company the longest were hit the hardest.

I lost 6 years worth of raises but I had one friend who lost so much more. They cut hours of older employees to the point that they could no longer qualify for the better health coverage. There is no pensions or compensation for working for 20 years in most of the food industry. ( Though I did get a plaque and a table top grill for 15 years.) There is only…”you’re old…slow and we can get teenagers to do the job faster and cheaper.”

Did you know that most corporate restaurants have timers in the place and quotas of seconds that need to be shaved off ..in order to have a …”get them in and get them out” sort of format ? Time is money and quality of service always seem to be in conflict. Think about that the next time you get annoyed because you are in the drive-thru line longer than you think you should be…know that the people inside will undoubtedly get yelled at and possibly fired because their time was over the 1 minute and 24 seconds they were allotted.

I had been lucky that our last leadership had the mind-set to try and put the customer first but sadly once again, that all-good-things-must-come-to-an-end won out. What wasn’t widely know is that the Bank CEOs and Wall Street fat cats weren’t the only ones who took liberties with the economic crisis. After cutting our pay and benefits our new CEO gave himself a hugh raise and acclaimed one of the reasons was he was helping the company reap a profit. We weren’t doing more business though he just took the money from the workers and gave it to the shareholders instead.

Than our District Manager informed me that after cutting my hourly rate, I was now at the top of the wage “cap”, essentially telling me that no matter how many more years I worked for them…no matter how good a job I did… I would never receive another raise. How do they expect someone to want to continue after that ? And yet, I did….why ? Because I had loved my job so…I loved my customers, many of which had been with me a very long time. I loved the pride I felt being a part of making my store better. I am old-school…I worked my way from the bottom. I am not someone who doesn’t understand what it takes to have a successful business but I also believe that not everything can be mass manufactured when you add consumer confidence and loyalty to the mix.

Too much competition in the marketplace today not to work on things that make you stand out & that shows you can bend to what your corner of the market wants from you. My uniqueness as a cook use to help us hold on to a rather large group of regulars that we could count on even in the lean times but my effectiveness has been stifled this last year and as I stated before my experience….my skills…all the things that make up a big part of who I have become…do not fit into the mold of how and what they want done now. This “old dog” could still learn new tricks but had a hard time understanding why they had to go about things the wrong ways. Couldn’t just keep my mouth shut and accept the shorter leash. I was more than just an hourly robot and  it became all too obvious that there was no longer a place for me, my ideas and especially my opinions so it was hard to walk away from a place that was such a big part of my life for so long but I did.

 I had seen in the faces of my sons such concern…they had to watch as my self-esteem and joy in my work was ripped away from me. I know that some parents hide this kind of adversity from their children but when you try to raise them on the belief in being open and honest…it’s sort of something that you have to set the example for or risk it just being empty words on a page. There is also a place you get to that makes you re-evaluate your own definition of importance especially when you find yourself saying final farewells to three special people in less than four months. The last one being someone who started this journey of life with me and now has left me with a cryptic message of not wasting anymore time on things that are beyond my control to change and focus more on the things I can effect change in….like helping those less fortunate than me…being a part of groups that are fighting to help our country get back on track…try to step up and remember that one single voice might get loss in a crowd but one added to others makes for a hell of a choir… and building more happy memories with those I love because these are the things that matter and will live on after me.

Some of my friends are disappointed in me for “giving up” but it wasn’t a question of giving up… it was a question of giving in and compromising so many things I believe in. Does a corporation get rewarded for getting my skills at no benefits & a ridiculously low price ? If so, how long do you think it would  be before they are in front of me again taking something else away and telling me to accept it or move on ? Moving on seemed the best way to get back at least a piece of my sanity as well as my self-respect.

It’s been hard to fill out job apps…only having two jobs in 30 years looks a bit strange but I will keep moving forward. I am old school but I like to think that I can still learn new things. One manager who interviewed me told me that it wasn’t my age that bothered him it was my experience because I had more than his whole staff did…silly that anyone could think that you can be over-qualified to flip burgers… though…FYI…there is a knack to it J

Thanks for sharing this little rant with me, I actually feel a lot better than when I started it.

“Time…Distance & Good-byes”

Please forgive me if this comes off as mindless ramble because at this moment I don’t feel as if I have any control over where my head is taking me right now…and yet here I sit in front of my keyboard …looking for answers and yet not even sure what the damn questions are…

Many, many moons ago….my family lived with my mother’s sister and her family…Both sisters were pregnant at the same time and in the icy month of December…I was born and a little over a week later my cousin, Kathy was born. We were together for awhile during those first years. Long enough to develop those character straits that off-set one another. She was tagged the difficult one…hard to handle…bad temper….while I got labeled the adventurous one…easy to deal with…always happy…Ha ! Comparing notes, years later, I had to come to the reality that I was an instigator and a con…getting my poor cousin into trouble and than being so much better at playing innocent.

When our families moved away from each other she and I seemed to be the only ones who kept in touch ….A half a country separated us but we always managed to stay a part of each others lives. We both had to deal with unspeakable horrors as children that we kept secret even from each other until we were well into our middle aged years but despite those buried memories we were as close in all other things as any two people could be. She was there for me when my Dad died…helped keep me sane through my very hard first year of my oldest son’s life. While my family couldn’t deal with my choosing to be a single mom….she was not only supportive but became Godmother to both my sons. We had started out together but took very different paths along the way but we still tried to help keep each other balanced.

I got a phone call over two months ago at 4 o‘clock in the morning, my cousin whose life has been so close entwined with mine was calling me from a hospital….she had been taken to the emergency room and was scared. She was diagnosed with Lupus several years ago and it seemed that every time it was thought to be under control something bad came up…now there was a problem with her throat and she could barely breathe. I had been talking to her regularly and knew that she had been battling colds for the last few weeks but had been going to a doctor for treatment. She had been estranged from her family for a long while and felt like I was the only family she had…there had been many times in the past when I had been the one making the call to her for the same reason. Though many miles were between us, I could feel her pain on the phone that morning …I calmed her as best I could ….took down the information she could give me and she promised to call when there was more to be known from the test they were running…

I felt like a robot going through the motions as I went about that long drawn out day…It was early evening when we connected again…It was hard for her to talk and I’m sure any one of you know how it feels to be on the end of a phone with a loved one who is in pain…..you want so much to be there to put your arms around them and hold them tight but you can’t….you can only listen….It was not good news….the doctor at the hospital had told her that they had found a lump in her throat and that there was a shadow on her lung x-rays that they needed further tests for. They were going to biopsy the lump and take more x-rays of her lungs. She was so very scared and I tried to get her to call her family that lived so much closer than I did but she wanted to wait until she got the results of the tests.

It took several days but we talked every day and the conversation got heated as I could hear her desire to fight whatever was attacking her body this time start to drift away. I found myself yelling into the phone…arguing with her that if the roles were reversed she would not let me give up so easily…she hadn’t even gotten the results yet and she was already talking about checking herself out of the hospital and going home to die…Here I was thousands of miles away …not being able to look into her eyes….not being able to take her hand in mine and assure her that she was not alone and that everything would be ok because an overwhelming panic was beginning to surge inside me…I was telling her hold on….begging her to be strong…but in my heart, I knew that this was not like the other times when she bounced right back.

I got home from work and waited for the boys to get home from school so we could make our call to her that day. Her voice was very horse and barely audible….she wanted me to have the boys leave the room…she wanted to talk to me and didn’t want to upset them but I have always been honest with them and neither were children anymore….they loved this woman as much as they loved me…they let her know it too as I left the speaker phone opened. They had found cancer not only in the lump in her throat but in her lungs as well…they told her it was stage 4 and that there wasn’t very much they could do for her…Again she talked of going home to die…the boys and I once more begged her to fight and accept the doctors plan of treatment. She was quieter through this conversation as it hurt to talk but she did listen and promised she would try.

 Over the course of just a few weeks, she got worse…the Lupus had accelerated everything…the pain was unbearable and our conversations were more and more one-sided…as it got even harder for her to talk. We kept encouraging her to not give up…telling her how much we loved her and how we were trying to make arrangements to come and see her in a few months. This excited her….she loved my boys so much and had not been able to see them in several years. She had difficulties in talking but I swear I could hear more hope in her voice. She finally got in touch with her family and they were now with her. I spoke with my Aunt as much as I could. As dark as it had gotten, in my heart I thought she could pull through.

Then one afternoon the phone rang, it was Kathy, I could barely make out her words but she wanted to tell me that she had tried and that she didn’t want me to be mad at her for not being able to fight it anymore. ME MAD ??? What had I done ??? She was in so much pain…The chemo….the radiation….nothing helped…it only got worse and here she was asking me not to be mad at her for stopping the treatments…What kind of selfish ass had I been ??? There were no words to describe how truly low I felt to be on a phone thousands of miles away from the reality of suffering she was enduring and listen to her ask me if it would be ok if she let go now. I got a chance to tell her how sorry I was for pushing so hard for her to stay with it…Her voice….her words….strangely easy to understand for me during this conversation…The boys were home….so it was just her and me…we talked for over an hour…They were going to move her to a hospice so I couldn’t call her back until they did…She would call me when she had a number. I told her how much I loved her…I reminded her how much her godsons loved her…Right before I hung up I started to cry…Kathy could tell…”I’m ready to go…I’m not afraid anymore…” She whispered to me. Still in denial, I fought back my tears long enough to tell her once more how much I loved her and that I would talk to her soon…. It was our last conversation….they moved her into the hospice but the pain had become so bad that they kept her sedated and within just three days her suffering was over…Her family was with her.

I still am having problems dealing with it. Having lost a father and a younger brother suddenly without warning, I had walked through my days… angry over not being given any time to tell them how much I loved them…not being able to tell them good-bye…With my sweet Kathy, I got to tell her how much she had truly meant to me and how my life would not of been complete with her…You know, it hurts just as much either way…

As I will always think of her…(Kathy’s favorite picture of us)

“It’s A Boy…x2”

I know that I have described my childhood home as a small place filled with a lot of people and love…so it shouldn’t be a surprise that I grew up wanting a houseful of my own. My early beginnings were mixed with the “Norman Rockwell” family that was open and warm to all who knew us and my own secret hell of hidden molestation that went unknown to my family for over twenty years. I know now that many bad memories were buried deep when at nine years old I got sick …I spent a couple dangerous weeks with high temperatures that had me in a coma (which, while I have your attention…if you ever wanted to know if coma patients know if you are there…I am living proof that makes me  truly believe they do.) The aftermath of my illness has been with me all my life but it was an appointment in my late teens that shattered my initial maternal dreams.

My doctor was the same one who had saved my life when I was younger. I had been one of his first patients as he had just started his practice a week before I had gotten so sick. When you see someone almost every day for a year and than once a week for six more you tend to develop a special rapport with them.

This visit was different than any of the others though because it was my first grown-up woman one. You have to remember way back then it was assumed not to be necessary until you were older and anticipating becoming sexually active because of my illness, I had been late to most of my physical development stages and it had becoming a running chuckle between us when he would ask each time…”So, are you ready to talk about sex ?”…to which I would turn very red and always giggle when I replied “No”. I had also gotten to the point where I usually went alone to my appointments so when the doctor had made some discoveries and had concerns, he wanted to contact my parents which I quickly talked him out of. They were dealing with so much at the time because my little sister was sick & my Mom had just been diagnosed with cervical cancer. I was almost 18 and convinced him that I could deal with my problems on my own.

His concerns involved deep scarring and several other disturbing things. He cancelled the rest of his appointments that day…He and I spent hours talking… for the first time I described to someone the horrors of the  molestations….I remember crying a lot especially about how much I wanted him to keep my secret…(he did agree though years later he told me that he regretted that choice.) Many tests later he had the sad task of telling me that it would highly unlikely that I would ever be able to have children. Another secret that I kept from my parents.

I waited until I was 21 to have my first lover….He was 15 years my senior…(which is another very interesting tale I will someday share with you) It was also still that “sex-is-safe” attitude time and because I knew I couldn’t get pregnant we didn’t use any precautions. We were together for almost five years when it ended…he had even moved away to another state but when news of my father’s sudden death reached him almost a half of year later, he came and spent a very touching weekend with me. Three months went by… After feeling a bit run down and no longer living close to my family doctor anymore, I went to a clinic…When they told me what they thought was my problem, I laughed and explained they were wrong and to do more tests…end results had me picking up the phone and telling a certain  sweet MD that he had been slightly wrong in his predictions. I was going to have a baby after all.

It was a very difficult pregnancy filled with complications and constant fears of miscarriage…to add to the dilemma this child (whose conception date I knew) decided not to make an appearance for 9 & ½ months instead of the tradition 9. Then prolonged it with more intensity with the 48 hours of labor it took to finally be told…”It’s a Boy !” I had prior knowledge of this but it was really cool to hear it confirmed that way.

That first time they placed him in my arms, I cried not only because I felt so very blessed at that moment but also totally terrified…His father couldn’t deal with the situation which for the most part I had already understood and accepted but my family had seemingly decided to not want to be a part of this as well which I couldn’t understand or accept. I knew my mother had issues with me not being married as well as her, still hurting, pain that I had  not told her about my abuse until after my father’s death but I had always been there supporting and helping each of my siblings through all of their life dramas and events…now there I was in a hospital room… alone… with a new young life in my arms…Who the hell did I think I was ? I had thought I was so screwed up inside when the only one I had to take care of was me plus I didn’t think I was doing it very well…How could I possibly be able to care for this beautiful baby boy ?

I was truly blessed though because there were people who stepped into my life and into my heart. I had a support system and a frame of mind that saw us through a lot of the pitfalls being a single parent can have. I didn’t date for ten years. I was social but work and my son were always 1st priority. I chose to take the responsibility of being a mom very seriously and before any of you think how sad that might have been to go so long without you-know-what, trust me it wasn’t. Again maybe it was because of what had happen when I was young or maybe because I was taught to believe that you had to be in love ( my friends found it both strange and wonderful) …either way, I didn’t really think that much about it or miss it and considering how truly awesome a kid he was…I’m thinking I did quite a few things right…

There came a time though when even my son started to question my lack of a dating life and so I accepted a few now and then until I met an extremely wonderful young man who made me feel like a really complete person for the first time in my life.(Yet another facsinating bit of prose for me to share with you later) But alas…not everything in life works out like we want it to…I was sad but a part of me couldn’t help but be happy that I had gotten to feel such intensity….such love…so many don’t ever get to know that kind of feeling and I did…so being sorry for myself just wasn’t high on that priority list of mine. And apparently there was yet another surprise from who ever it is in the cosmos that guides these paths of ours… because after what I thought was maybe a bit too much “drowning of my sorrows” after the loss of that one-true-love….I, once again, was telling a doctor to do the tests over….Almost twelve years after my first miracle, I heard those sweet words echoing around me “It’s a Boy!”

This time old and wiser had a whole new set of reality mixed with it but I had the best of people around me and a even a few re-kindled family ties. The greatest of all was my oldest son’s reaction and input…He confessed shortly after his brother’s arrival that he had been praying for a little brother for a long time and that he was glad that God had heard him. It was another difficult pregnancy but I had accepted that struggles are a part of life that we can’t always avoid or change but we can always accept and deal with. The intriguing twist in this was that a somewhat new ultra-sound tech missed the mark so to speak in telling me that she could see that I was going to have a girl at the begining of my second trimester… causing me to spend the rest of my term planning for such an event. Not wanting the same problems I had the first time, they knocked me out for this one and upon coming out of the anesthetic, I heard “It’s healthy baby boy”… to which the nurses told me I replied “But it’s suppose to be a girl”….the anesthesiologist than asked me if I wanted them to put him back ? Everyone laughed including me.

I hadn’t picked out a boy’s name so I asked my oldest son for his assistance and as I had done for him, he picked one name out of the bible and one from our family tree. Our lives have been as blessed as anyone could hope for. There have been battles and struggles but when used as life-affirming lessons that teach and nurture…they have not been anything we couldn’t endure. We are close but I have strived for them each to also be fiercely independent. They have become very caring young men who do not hesitate to do what they can to help others. I didn’t have fathers for them but I did make sure they had the best of male role models in their lives. My youngest turned 16 last month…His brother and I never cease to be amazed as how wonderfully he has managed his challenges so far. My oldest son is turning 28 this week and despite what the economy has done to shatter and alter his career goals he still works hard to re-assess and move forward…

Am I mad that I wasn’t a more active player of the sexual freedom explosion ?

Did I miss out never marrying ?? ( I was asked several times)

 Did my sons miss out not knowing their fathers ?

Should I have used the law to make their fathers participate ? 

I have friends that dwell on such things but I don’t….why ? These are things that can’t be changed…I chose to have my children and I chose not to force their fathers to be something that they couldn’t be…It was my responsiblity that I accepted full control over… I’ve watched others use their children for revenge, monetary gain or simply as pawns in a game of unyielding bullsh*t…I can never understand why people can be hurtful and so spiteful about something as special as being a parent… Regrets are a dime a dozen in most people’s lives but what point is there in spending any amount of brain power on them when I’d rather think about how I can surprise my oldest on his birthday with something I can’t spend any money on…lol….family tradition with us….birthdays have to be from the head and the heart not from the wallet…more fun….more meaningful that way…

I was asked what it was like being a single mom… I just realized that I never think of  myself as anything other than just a mom. All good parents worry about their kids…about whether we’ve made the right choices…taught the right things….been there for them when they needed us…or even just if we showed them that we loved them enough…I don’t think these worries ever stop. I still can remember when they put that little bundle in my arms for the first time ….counting ten little fingers and ten little toes….totally facsinated by the tiniest of things as little kisses followed by little tears and so much amazing wonderment as you experience life all over again through their eyes…There is no greater reward on earth than to help a child…grow and learn…whether you have created this life within or reached out and connected with one in need of you….it doesn’t matter….what does matter is how you open your heart and mind to the responsibly you take on not only to that child but to the world in which that child will become a part of…

I feel very blessed to have been allowed to be a part of such a process and equally glad to be able to share these moments and thoughts with you 🙂