A lot has happened since my last post, a lot of exhausting things. I’ve learned something. Just because something is exhausting, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a bad thing. When friends ask about my new job, one of the first things that comes up is the “Stress Level.” Is this position less stress? Is it easier? Do I enjoy it more? No, No, and Yes. Continue Reading »
I held Lola’s hand to cross a busy street in Milwaukee. As I hurried her along, she said, “Mom, you can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl. We go slow in the country.” I immediately smiled at her words. I don’t know where she has heard that phrase, but I do know that she was speaking the truth. No matter where she is, now or in the future, she is a country girl. I was so proud to hear those words, at that time, and in that place. What my little daughter’s words reminded me was that fact that the things we instill in our children stay with them no matter where they go, or how far away they are from home…or from us. Continue Reading »
If Hell is a hot place, then sign me up. The past couple of weeks have been miserable on so many levels. Hell, right here on Earth. Underlying all of it has been COLD. I haven’t been able to warm up. I have been taking hot baths and drinking tons of coffee. I’ve made pot after pot of hot, nourishing soup. I dress in layers and huddle under blankets when I am home. Nothing I do seems to warm me up completely.
Mom is still hanging in there. She is failing, but it is a slow process. We have begun hospice care, and she seems to love the extra attention. She isn’t in any pain. Something hovers around the corners of the room, though, and it chills me. She is often confused, and she has lost her hearing. Visits are brief and quiet. I spend more time talking on the phone talking to the legion of healthcare providers than I do to my mother at this point. Of course, life does not stop while we wait for death. Four kids, work, my own physical needs, all of these things keep inserting themselves into the mix.
Last weekend T and I took Luke and his girlfriend back to school in Milwaukee. I couldn’t/wouldn’t commit to going along until practically the last moment. Mom was stable, and T insisted that I come along. Luke wanted to show us the house where he would be moving at the end of the semester. He had been looking forward to the four of us hanging out together on his turf. It meant a lot to our son. I knew that, so I went along.
I had been doing a pretty good job of concealing (denying!) the fact that I was sick. I had too many things that needed my attention. My mom was dying, for God sakes! What did I have to complain about? I pushed through it and collapsed at the end of each day. The trip to Milwaukee took things over the top.
It was bitterly cold when we left that morning. I got chilled and couldn’t seem to shake it. (uh….a fever tends to do that!) We moved the kids back into their dorms, T and I checked into our hotel, and we all headed out for dinner. By the time we finally settled back into our room, I was shaking with cold. I took a hot bath, but I still shivered. By the time I crawled into the bed, T was concerned. He wrapped me in his arms and held me close to warm me up. Eventually, I stopped shivering, but my sleep was fitful.
The next morning, hours from home, I was still freezing. I tried to ignore it. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible and make the drive back home and to the hospital to check on my mom. I jumped into the shower, and I don’t really know what happened. Suddenly T was there. I had passed out. My first thoughts were disappointment in myself. How could I be sick? I had too many things to do! I had too many people depending on me. I couldn’t be sick now. Not now.
I saw the doctor on Sunday when we returned. Of course I didn’t listen to his advice. Take it easy? Uh huh. No. My mother was dying. I couldn’t take it easy right now. I was planning a meeting later in the week in Chicago, an important meeting. Very. “Taking it easy” was not possible at this time. Thanks anyway.
I visited my mom, unpacked, did laundry, ironed, and went to work on Monday. By Tuesday, I wasn’t even able to get out of bed. I tried. Believe me, I tried. At 6:30 a.m., I dragged myself into the bathroom to get ready for work. I sat in the chair by the counter and laid my head down for a moment. I thought it would be a moment, but I fell asleep in the bathroom before I was even able to begin getting ready for work. That was it. I was toast. I had to admit it. I was sick. I spent the day sleeping, and sleeping, and sleeping some more.
I was back at work the next day. By now, everyone was looking at me like I scared them. I must look like hell! “Why are you here? Go home!” I couldn’t. I had meetings all day in preparation for the trip to Chicago on Thursday. I had to meet with the hospice staff in my mom’s room later that afternoon. I had too many things going on and too many people depending on me to go home and be sick. I pushed through. I kept going.
On Thursday, I huddled in my seat on the train to Chicago. I froze the entire time, wearing my layers of clothes, wrapped in my scarf and coat. At the hotel, I begged for some coffee from the front desk. A kind woman brought coffee and cream to my room. I sat on the heating unit, looked out the window, and drank my coffee while I warmed my feet. I looked down at the people below. Everyone was scurrying to get where they were going. The wind was biting and bitter. I could feel it sweeping into the cracks around the window far above the people I was watching. I had hoped to see my son while I was in Chicago, but he had been given tickets to a concert. I told him to go. I insisted on it, and then I sat in my room crying because I was so cold…and now alone, too. I had come to the city hours earlier than the others so I could see Andrew. Now I had four hours to sit there freezing and alone until I met them for dinner. Once again, I hated Chicago. The city felt impersonal and uncaring. I was just a speck, a cold, lonely speck. Pathetic. I really, really hate feeling sorry for myself, but I was doing a stellar job of it!
The dinner was work. Schmoozing is work. I had to be ON. We all had to be ON. It was OK, though. The whole dance of egos was interesting to observe. I soaked it all in. The parrying and the posturing amused me. Several people attending the dinner had obviously spent a good deal of time in the bar before they arrived, so things were interesting from the word go. Once again, I was glad that this is my job, but not my LIFE. While some people live and breathe this kind of thing, I have my secret. In my heart, I am a country girl. At the end of all of this, I will be smack dab in the middle of a cornfield, safe and sound, with my ego checked at the door. The reality of my life, mom, wife, daughter, hillbilly at heart, keeps me grounded. I was amused as I watched the dance of self-importance at the table.
I was up at 5:30 this morning to get ready for the meeting. I was excited and the adrenaline was flowing. This was it! This was an important step in a development project that I have been a part of for several years. The results of this project will have a significant and lasting impact on the entire region. I was/am thrilled to be able to be a part of this process. The Willis Tower (forever the Sears Tower to me) is where we held the meeting. As I stood in the lobby, I remembered a time years ago, when Luke was 3 years old. He had broken his leg months earlier, and the treat that kept him going was knowing that once his cast was off, we would take him to the Sears Tower. That day, years ago, had been a victory for him. Now, years later, I was humbled once again. As I stood in the lobby, mentally preparing to make my presentation, I took a deep breath. The Sears Tower! I was giving a presentation in the SEARS TOWER today! Well, look at this little country girl! I squeezed my eyes shut and soaked in the thrill of that moment. People strode purposefully past me. Everyone seemed to have somewhere to go. Everyone seemed confident. I was a part of that! REALLY?? Me??? Yet again, I felt amazed by the journey of my life. The meeting was amazing. All of the planning and hard work paid off. More meetings are set for next week, and our project is not only on track, but it is gaining momentum. I am so very proud (and lucky) to be able to play a small part in this project.
Several hours later when we stepped outside, the snow had begun. It was beautiful, yet daunting. This was not going to make the trip home an easy one. I had train tickets for late in the afternoon. By the time my train arrived, it would be dark, and I had an hour’s drive to make it back home. I cancelled my train reservations, and accepted a ride home with a co-worker who had driven to the city. Once we got on the road, I wondered if I had made a mistake. It was a white-knuckled four hour drive in the snow. We saw one accident after another and had a few near-misses ourselves. All the while, I was freezing.
I’m home now. It’s pitch dark outside. No city lights here. The wind howling up from the fields is the only sound I hear. I’ve been snuggled under a blanket ever since I got home. I took a much-needed nap, and I am finally beginning to warm up. There are many things I should be doing tonight, but none of them will get done. Tonight I am taking care of more important things with a dose of Great-Grandma’s blanket and a warm, cozy house in the country.
Milwaukee. It’s been a very busy few days since my last post. One son is packed off to school. It was a good trip, a good day. Luke was so darn happy to be back at school and to see his roommates again. They are such a great group of boys. Ah, but they couldn’t wait to get rid of the parents! Just watching them made me happy for the future of this world. Youth, dreams, ambition, kindness, laughter. It is such a good feeling to see my son in a place that fits him well and with people that he so obviously likes. This year there is something new at Marquette for Luke. His girlfriend is a student there this year as well. She’s in the same dorm two floors down. I wonder how he feels about this. I wonder how they will handle it. Luke enjoyed a year of freedom on campus. It will certainly be a period of adjustment for them both, and I am staying OUT OF IT. We enjoyed the afternoon in Milwaukee. The bustle of the campus was exhilarating. It was impossible not to get caught up in the spirit of the day. We enjoyed a lunch with Luke and his girlfriend before heading out on our trip to Chicago.
T and I in Chicago. How long had it been since he and I were anywhere alone and together? Surprisingly, (even to me!) I have decided not to share very much about our night and day alone. I’m not sure why I don’t feel the need or desire to write about it in detail. Maybe the details aren’t really clear in my own mind yet. I will say this, though. There was nothing at all wrong with our time alone. It was full of friendship, gentleness, conversation, and caring. I felt SAFE and cared for, which is something I have not felt in a very long time.
Brush with Fame. T and I were heading towards Michigan Avenue and to the beautiful little park/garden where I have spent many hours crying. Moments earlier, I had decided to stop into a deli and buy a lobster salad sandwich. (This detour is an important detail!) It was delicious, luscious lobster on a croissant, and I was munching big mouthfuls of pleasure as we walked along. We stood waiting for the light to change so that we could cross. As we stood waiting, a guy was working the crowd trying to get money. He had a good spiel. Either give him a dollar or according to him, you would be required to skip across the street. Mostly, everyone was ignoring him. When the light changed, he led the way skipping across the street. One guy, the guy next to me, started skipping along behind him. It made me smile. It was a little round short guy. His wife was laughing by his side. Something was strangely familiar about them. It was Danny DeVito with his wife, Rhea Perlman. Seriously!! I grabbed T by the back of the shirt and gestured wildly. I think for a moment he thought I was choking on the lobster salad. T wasn’t certain, so he followed them right into the art museum. I sat there under one of my favorite lions waiting for him to come back outside. He was grinning from ear to ear. It really, really was them. If I hadn’t stopped for my lobster salad, we would never have had our brush with fame. Ah….good follows good!
And My Mother. I was standing on the sidewalk in front of Luke’s dorm next to a huge pile of stuff. T had gone to park the car. Luke had gone to find a wheeled cart. I was alone when my phone rang. It was the hospital. My mom had been admitted. It was the same, continuing problem. She was stable and resting comfortably. I stood there for a moment and weighed it all out. What should I do? What was required of me? It didn’t take long. Today I was a mother before I was a daughter. Today my job was to be there for my son, not to be running back to the side of my mother. The nurse had said she was fine. There was nothing I could do. There was no imminent danger. Should we skip the trip to Chicago? Should I rush back home to see my mom and “do the right thing?” No, this time with T was important, too. We had both been looking forward to relaxing for a day. We needed a break from the stress of our lives. Rushing back to my mother’s side would only add a little bit more stress and accomplish nothing at all. The next morning, I received another call from the hospital. I was immediately scared. I feared the worst. What if she had died while I was out having a night on the town?? Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. She had a nurse call me to make sure that I knew she was in the hospital. She had thought I would come rushing back home. I asked the nurse if I was needed. “Oh, no!! She is doing fine. She just needed to be rehydrated. She’ll be out in a day or so.”
As T and I drove home, I gave my mother a call. I wondered if I should call her cell phone or try to find the number for the hospital. I didn’t think she must have her cell phone with her. Otherwise, why was she having hospital staff call me? T said to give her cell a try, “You know how your mother is. She will have wanted to get maximum mileage out of this.” So I called her cell, and guess what? She answered it!! She DID have her cell phone with her! I was shocked. She was doing fine, and I told her that we would be there to visit on Sunday. She was upset that we hadn’t cut our trip short since she was in the hospital. I remained calm and cheerful. I told her that I had considered coming back, but the hospital had assured me that she was in good hands. There was no need. There was nothing I could do.
Today, with a half-million things that I needed to do, I went to visit my mother. I stopped and bought a card and a plant before heading over to the hospital. She was doing fine. She’ll be released in a day or two. Andrew and T went along with me. We had so many errands to run on this one day off before we move Andrew to Chicago. We had to buy bedding, household supplies, and groceries. After leaving the hospital, we started shopping and checking things off of our long list. We were in the first store for about ten minutes when my phone rang. It was my mother. “You need to come back. I need you to run over to my apartment. I need you to pick up a few things for me.”
I was in shock. We had just been there. Why hadn’t she told me while I had been there? Her apartment building is attached by a corridor to the hospital! We could have walked over there in less than five minutes. Now we were a twenty minute drive away. What did she need? Instead of continuing my complaints I’ll just say that she needed nothing important. Once again, I was firm. I told her that I couldn’t come back today. We had too many things to do. I reminded her that Andrew was moving in four days. T and I have to work all week. We had to accomplish what we could today. I told her that I would try to make time to stop by tomorrow during my lunch hour. Ugh….
Changes and Discoveries. What I am beginning to discover is that I am pretty easy to jerk around. I give too much. I forgive too easily. Too many people want too many things from me. When I don’t do things exactly the way those around me expect, then people are mad at me. I feel like a pawn in too many lives. The girls were mad because their father and I spent the night in Chicago and didn’t take them along (even though we left money for pizza and they had a fun night.) Andrew was mad that I was cleaning last night, because he wanted to watch something on TV with me. As soon as we walked in the door from our mini-trip, I went about unpacking, cleaning, and doing laundry. T played slots online.
I could feel the cloak of stress fall all around me within the first hour of being home. I called T upstairs and tried to explain it to him. I told him all that I was feeling, and I asked him, “Who takes care of me? Who really cares about me?” It seems like everyone around me wants something from me. They want me to take care of them. They want me to make them feel good. Most of the time, I feel inadequate. There are too many of them, and only one of me. I come up short every time. No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I give, no matter what I do, it is never enough. No one is ever satisfied, and most of all, I am drowning in all of it. I am sinking quickly.
Maybe he gets it. Maybe not. We’ll see…
The tears have started. Oh, this is not going to be easy. As I drove home tonight, I realized that this marks the end of another day. This means that I had one less day to go home and see my boys draped (largely) around the house. Suddenly, none of the things that have bugged me over the past few months (years!) seem to matter. I WANT to go home and see six cars in the driveway. I want four TV’s on. I want the house bustling with kids. I want to hear “Yuck” when I’m asked what I’m cooking for dinner. I want those piles of big shoes in the mudroom. I don’t want a neat, tidy, and quiet life without the boys around. I want one of them in the living room watching a History Channel documentary while the other one is downstairs playing the guitar. Soon, and I know it now, there will be way too much quiet around here.
I cried all the way home. I tried to hide it when I walked in the door, but I foolishly broke down the moment I walked in. There were my big boys, snide remarks and all, waiting for their mother to come in from the garage. I walked in and broke down in a mess of crying and laughing all at the same time. They’ve been expecting this. T announced, “Ah, I knew it was coming.” Luke said, “Oh, I’m heading into the living room.” Andrew said, “Don’t worry, Mom. You are welcome to bring a pillow and a blanket and crash in my tub anytime.” I stood there laughing and crying all at the same time.
I tried to tempt them away from their plans. Do they really need to grow up already? I told them that I have a plan. I thought it would be a blast to build a giant sandbox in the back yard. I’d be willing to quit my job, and we could play with bulldozers again all day long. They just laughed….although, I know for a moment that they thought it sounded like fun! These next few days will be difficult and bittersweet. I envy them their youth and excitement. I am so proud of them, and they are straining at the bit to get this show on the road.
T and I are going to try to make this as easy, and as much fun, as possible. Wait, I should say that after a “discussion,” T and I have decided to make this as much fun as possible. Yesterday, he suggested that we drive Luke to Milwaukee and back home all in the same day. Then…he suggested that we sleep over in Andy’s apartment the following weekend. Yeah, I about flipped out! I couldn’t believe that he wanted to just treat this as a serviceable job. Take the boys. Do what was necessary. Turn around and drive home. No, I wasn’t going to let that happen. It’s time for things to change, and I told T as much.
I have had fun in Chicago with our daughters. I have had fun in Chicago with Andrew. Now I am determined to teach T how to have fun, too. Thankfully, as I flipped out and told him that we were going to have fun, he began to smile. Andrew’s apartment is ONE ROOM. I am way too old to crash on the floor! It was just a minor bump in the road to loving each other again. We quickly agreed to make plans to spend time together on these trips to take our sons to school.
We are both taking the day off on Friday. We’ll take Luke to Milwaukee and then head over to Chicago. T hasn’t seen the neighborhood where Andrew will live. We’ve decided to park our car and explore a bit. Then we’re going to check into a hotel for the night and enjoy some moments of adult time without kids around. I’m looking forward to hanging out and relaxing. This is going to be a good step in the right direction for us.
These next few weeks are going to be crazy. The Tuesday after we take take Luke to Milwaukee, I will head back to Chicago for a class. I’ll be there all week. I won’t even be home to help Andrew pack. T and Andrew will head to the city on Thursday for moving day. I will only be in class until noon that day, so I will be ready to help with moving day by the time they get to the city. I am extending my stay, and T and I will once again spend some time alone in the city.
This is all going to take some careful planning. We are moving our boys away from home. At the same time, we have our continuing responsibilities at work. Things are hectic and busy. Boxes are everywhere. We’re feeling stressed out, but we’re also entering a new phase of our lives. For the first time in decades, we are going to be able to get to know each other once again. I’m actually looking forward to it. I’ve written about my sad Chicago walks, and I am excited to bring T along on my path. It will feel good to have a friend by my side. It will feel so good not to walk alone.