Updates and Observations

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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…

Trying to Live

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The trip to Chicago was good, bad, all mixed up together at the same time.  Being with my son was fantastic.  We were great travel companions.  There wasn’t one moment  between us that felt anything but easy and natural.  It was his first train ride, and it was good to see my grown up 22-year-old son have the excitement of a child in his eyes when the train began to roll down the tracks.

The pace of our trip of relaxing.  We had plenty of time to get settled once we arrived in the city.  The Palmer House was fantastic as always.  We dropped off our luggage and headed down for a lunch complete with Bloody Marys.   We sat watching the world go by and marveling that this one hotel could hold twice the population of our little town.

After lunch, we wandered over to the school he is considering.  We were early for our appointment, but that was OK.  They were able to accommodate us, and we were able to move up our appointment time and take in the visit at leisurely pace.  The studios and technological equipment were impressive.  It seems like a perfect fit, and I could see the excitement in my son’s eyes.  I saw something in him that I haven’t seen in years.  He was enthusiastic.  This was HIS choice, and his alone.  He was the guiding force behind what brought us there that day, and I was so proud of that.

We spent the rest of the day wandering around the city.  We sat from time to time and simply watched the world passing by.  Oh, yeah, the memories of past trips were weighing heavily on me.  Time after time, I had to redirect my thoughts.  The past is just that.  The past is that part of my life that is now behind me.  The pain of the past has been keeping me from creating newer happy memories.  Like a bookmark in my life, my past has kept turning me back to that same page over and over.

We had dinner at one of my local favorites, and I was thrilled that my son enjoyed it as much as I had hoped he would.  We wandered around some more and ended up back at the Palmer House lounge for a drink before bed.  The two of us sat at the bar and talked, watched the people around us, and chatted with the bartender (one of our favorite things to do!)  As we sat there, a woman (about my age) and a young man (around my son’s age) approached the bar.  They stood behind us, and waited for the bartender.  I smiled at them, and they smiled back.  I’m not sure why, but we all began to talk to each other as they stood waiting.  It was another mother and son traveling together!  They were from Australia.  We all hit it off immediately, and found a place to sit together.  We had the nicest time getting to know this other Mother/Son.  It had been a fantastic day, and we were smiling as we headed back up to our room.  We were both worn out, and fell asleep almost immediately.

I woke up the next morning feeling better than I have in months.  I had slept through the night!  WOOOOHOOO!  I hadn’t been able to sleep well for such a long time.  I woke up feeling fresh and rested.  I looked over at Andrew’s bed, and he was still sleeping.  I needed to get out and walk.  I wanted to enjoy these moment of feeling fresh, clean, happy, and free.  I felt energized.  I put my hair up into a ponytail and threw on a dress and flip flops.   Yeah…it was my $12 beach dress, which didn’t feel quite the same in Chicago as it did in New Orleans.

I set out by myself, just wandering.  I walked for a while, then I sat for a time watching the people and activity around me.  I ended up in a tiny park by the art museum.  I shouldn’t have wandered in that direction.  It was as if the damn memories drew me to them.  The park had three rows of benches.  I sat on the middle row facing Michigan Avenue.  I  sat alone and remembered.  I listened to the voice, and I cried.  I wandered past the steps and the Lions, and I cried even more.  I shook my fist at a fate that had betrayed me and my once-full heart.  I hated the hope that has dogged me and pursued me until it almost killed me.  Hope is a dangerous thing.  Hope is often seen as the thing that can keep a person going under the most adverse conditions.  I’m sure that is true in some cases.   Well, I am here to tell you that hope, if misguided, is something that can kill you.  It almost got me.  I have not doubt that it has taken the lives of others.

I forced myself away from the memories and back to the truth.  My misguided hope did not kill me.  I am tattered, broken, damaged, and changed.  I am not the same woman who wandered this path three years ago.  I liked her.  I miss her.  She didn’t know back then what she would ultimately be facing.  She was trusting.  She loved.  This woman I have become does not trust.  She does not easily love.  Deep breaths helped me settle my head and my heart.  It is what it is.  Let it go.  Let it go, and live your life.  I pep-talked myself on my way back to my son.

Andrew had gone on a walk of his own.  He was excited to tell me where he had gone and what he had seen.  Once again, he helped me step back into my life.  Yes, there is love.  There are good things.  My life is not over.  In many ways, it is just beginning again.  Slowly, very slowly, small moments at a time, I feel alive once again.