The hardest part…

Tom Petty got that bit right. The waiting. The countdown to “Due Date” seems to go into  slow motion during the final weeks of pregnancy.

i arrived in Turkey* almost a week ago. For the first time in my life, i bought a one-way ticket out of the country. My daughter let me know she was expecting right before i left for an extended trip to Spain in mid-April – she was about five weeks pregnant. As i trekked El Camino, i added weeks to the count as we crossed Spain. By the time we got home, she’d cleared the first trimester.

She and her husband traveled to the states in July, where we orchestrated a gathering of our entire clan – including my ex-husband and his wife. The first time we’d all been together since… well… pre-divorce (2004). When The Girl got married, The Boy was in the Army and couldn’t attend the wedding. The logistics were complicated but we were all together for a few days. It felt good.

The Band with Chorus RS

The rest of her pregnancy has gone well. Her school had hired an assistant/team instructor, so the transition to her maternity leave was seamless. She gets great medical care here – even with some cardiac issues, visits to the emergency room, and specialists in September, it didn’t cost her more than about $15 out of pocket**.

Yesterday was her due date, but Bebek has shown absolutely no interest in arriving on schedule. According to her obstetrician, “She’s very comfortable in there.” Bebek is already about 8 pounds. At the weekly check up yesterday, the doctor went through status, risks, options. The current plan is to let it ride for a week, with two check ups, and if nothing is happening, the delivery will be on Monday.

So we wait. We walk. It’s about 6 kilometers round trip from their home to the weekly bazaar. Their home is about a kilometer from a beautiful walkway along the Aegean Sea. It rained yesterday, so we wandered/waddled inside a gigantic mall.

Missing my travel buddy, who opted to stay home for this open-ended visit. We’ve discovered how much mindless fun it is to play with chat filters. We are dorks. We have enlisted the entire clan in this endeavor. They are dorks, too!

i’ve re-learned household routines, shopped, and planned meals to keep them fed. Put together a stroller that has more bells and whistles than my first car! Figured out their washer and dryer so i can assist with laundry.

Seeing her and her husband work through the preparations… Watching him help her put on her boots because she can’t bend over much… i’m excited to watch them become parents! They’re going to be amazing!

The waiting… Damn… It’s going to be a long week!

waiting

* The country, not the poultry.

** She gets 20 weeks paid maternity leave. Her husband gets two weeks. Paid. Her health care has been stellar, with very little out-of-pocket expense. She is a US Citizen, working and living in Turkey. The US has GOT to get its shit together on health care and family leave…

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Rings a Bell

If you’ve been on board for any portion of my Trailer Park journey, you probably know that my relationship with my siblings has had many moments of “what the actual living, breathing FUCK?” After Mom died in 2014, our relationships were further tested as we worked through tons of her belongings. As executor, i was pretty stressed – meeting the intent of her instructions to me, both legally and morally.

Spending time with my sisters earlier this month, i was reminded that we’ve covered a lot of turf in the past few years. One particular exchange bubbled up into my memory bank…even though it was not discussed during our recent visit.

~~~~~~~~~

10 May 2016 – E-mail from S to DF: Mom was adamant that each of her daughters get a diamond ring which she put in the safety deposit box. I find it funny that they have just disappeared!  The one thing that Mom wanted me to have and it is nowhere to be found.  DQ [note: DQ is sister S’s daughter, and was Mom’s caretaker] knew Mom’s wishes and she would NEVER keep them.  No one else seems to be looking for them!

11 May 2016 – E-mail from DF to S: It’s taken me time to respond because of the absolute rage I’m experiencing (still) that you are accusing me of stealing the rings. This has been the angriest I’ve been in decades… I am STILL in a rage, but only now has it cleared my head enough to respond. Mom told me about the rings. I knew where they were supposed to go. They were not in the safe deposit box, nor any of the lockboxes at home. Not once did I ever suggest that DQ had taken them. Not. Once. I noticed Mom wasn’t wearing them during her hospitalization in July. I assumed they were safe. I can’t magically pull the rings out of my ass. I can’t go back in time and figure out where they are. I am beyond insulted that you are accusing me of EITHER stealing them OR not giving you something that Mom wanted you to have.

11 May 2016 – E-mail from S to DF:  I am sorry that you are so enraged about the rings.  There is nothing I can do to make them show up either.  If you don’t have them then you don’t have them.  I just want to make sure that DQ is NOT accused of taking them. Please call me – we need to talk.

12 May 2016 – E-mail from DF to S: I don’t have anything more to say. I’m furious. You accuse me of stealing (because you are worried that someone will accuse DQ of the same), question my integrity? This is not recoverable – words have consequences. It can’t be ‘talked out’.

Shortly after i sent this, i had to get in the car and drive to a regional university – i was giving a presentation that i’d worked on for months, pushing myself into new technological territory. While driving, i started getting calls, texts. i ignored them all. Arriving at the university, i took a deep breath and read my messages from S:

12 May 2016 – E-mail from S to DF: You are correct that words hurt and sometime things are said in anger that are not truly meant.  There is NO EXCUSE for the things that I have said.  To question your integrity is totally uncalled for.  For the anger and hurt that I have caused you — I’M AM TRULY SORRY!!!  What I have to tell you is that I found the rings.  Mom had put them in a box of costume jewelry that she knew I wanted and it had a ring box in it.  I took the box but never opened it.  I already had regrets for the things I have said before I found them and this makes it even worse.  Yes – I deserve it!!  I am extremely SORRY!  They mean nothing to me any more!  Losing my sister over them was not worth it!  I will send them to you to do what you want with and hope that someday you will find it in your heart to forgive me!

She found them

That all happened over two and a half years ago…

In September of this year, S and i planned our trip to Florida to spend time with sister, T, i suggested that she bring the rings – and that perhaps it would be a good time to distribute them. As S and i were preparing to leave for the airport and head home, we put the rings on T’s kitchen counter. There was no need to bring up any of the demons around the mysterious temporary disappearance of the rings.

It was 6:30 in the morning, and we were all pretty groggy. None of us were really sure which rings came from which of Mom’s three marriages, but we let T choose first. The set of two – probably from Mom’s annulled starter marriage – came to me.

We hugged. Made plans to get together again. It was what Mom had wanted – and although it took us four years, and a shit ton worth of angst to execute, we did it. And i have completely forgiven my sister…

Mom liked getting married

 

 

 

Balancing Act

Balance. With each passing day, it becomes more important.

If i lose my balance at this age, i can break a hip. Falls are the leading cause of accidental death for the elderly. As with any other skill, it must be practiced – which explains why i watch the news on TV while perching on one leg. Frequently screaming obscenities at the television when the news is particularly stupid. Balance is more challenging for me when i’m standing still.

But i have not been standing still. So far this year, i’ve been out of town, or out of the country, for 18 weeks. Given that i haven’t poked my head out here since August, here’s a glimpse of what i’ve been up to since my last post.  If you want more detail, just ask! Hoping to have some time next month to write more…

  • It’s not just about balance, but flexibility. Studley’s daughter, Pixie, moved to Alaska last spring. We decided to visit her before it became too cold and dark. Two weeks of exploring a few tiny corners of the state left us both ready to go back for an extended visit!  In two weeks we barely scratched the surface. We also deployed our small town tactic – stop by the local VFW or American Legion hall for a beer. Drink cheap, talk to locals, and find out what’s going on in town.
  • Speaking of what’s going on… We went to our first regional “burn” – like Burning Man, but on a much smaller scale. We felt quite at home among the 500 or so burners assembled at the site of a reclaimed strip mine. My days of sleeping on dirt are mostly behind me, so we brought our teardrop camper. One of the requests by the organizers was that we find a way to disguise the camper to better blend into the temporary tent city. i think we did ok…
  • Speaking of camping… We’ve been off in the woods a bit this autumn. That little metal egg keeps us plenty warm down to freezing. The bourbon helps, too.
  • Speaking of bourbon… Haven’t seen much of the extended family this year – in large part due to me being gone for months at a time. When my Florida sister, T, was selected for a significant honor this month, it presented an opportunity to reconnect. Oldest sister, S, has had a tough year – she beat back another round of cancer (Lymphoma), and finally retired. We decided to grab some cheap tickets and head south. A lot of water under these bridges, but there indeed be bridges. Baby steps.
  • Speaking of babies, i miss the crap out of these two li’l critters. Max is 3, and Ellie is now 1, and they are so much fun! But The Boy and his family are 1,000 miles away. That’s harder than i expected. Even more fun? The Girl is due to shell out her first child in a few weeks – which means i’m packing a large suitcase, and preparing for a trip to Turkey (the country, not the poultry). My third grandcritter is about to arrive – and will be living 5,000 miles away.

There’s more. So much more… but i seem to either have time to live hard, or time to write. For the moment, it’s going to be “live hard”. Operation “Speedball to the Finish Line” is well underway…

Road nuggets

Somewhere between London and Philadelphia, the fever hit. i have spent the past week dealing with a mild case of the flu, while managing re-entry after being away from home for a month. Some random nuggets…

  • Thirty days. That is the longest i’ve ever been away from ‘home’ as an adult. This is mostly because of The Job, which i no longer have. Studley and i were very deliberate about pushing our comfort limits, and we’re still sorting out how we feel. Not seriously considering life as ex-pats, but some gentle experience should we ever choose that route.B1
  • i missed my pets. If i am going to do this on a fairly regular basis, i probably should not have pets. My live-in pet sitter had a pre-planned trip in the middle of that 30 days, so i scrambled to hire people, and find a friend, who could cover those 10 days. One of the most stressful aspects of being gone – and most expensive. i took to feeding treats to the street cats and dogs. cIMG_6363
  • Air travel is still pretty awesome – about 12,000 miles flown on this trip. How long would it have taken by ship? Who knows? Luggage lost on the way to Athens, but it found us a couple of days later. British Airways thought we hadn’t shown up for our flights TO Athens, so they canceled our return, but still managed to get us on a flight home. For all the barking about how shitty air travel is, it’s pretty amazing when you stand back a bit…izmir to istablnu
  • Turkey – Izmir is a lovely city – about the size of Chicago. The public transit cards include use of buses, ferries, trams and bike share. To the people who consider this a ‘third world country’? Rethink that shit… We were out and about alone, day and night, and i NEVER felt unsafe.10
  • Plumbing – in Turkey, there are bins in the toilet stalls for the collection of used paper. The plumbing systems and sanitary waste processing facilities do not handle toilet paper. Surprising how fast you get used to this. On the plus side? Most toilets in Izmir (public, private) have built in bidet functions. Surprising how fast you get used to this, too. Exploring options to upgrade my home toilet…IMG_6268
  • Language – We started using an app (Duolingo) to learn Turkish about two months before launch. The Girl emphasized the need to be fluent in numbers – enabling basic commerce. We thought we’d done ok. We were wrong. i DID have a really cool conversation with my son-in-laws 2 year old niece about colors and animals. i think this topic requires a separate post, as there are numerous examples of how things worked, and didn’t, and many lessons learned along the way!b13
  • Baggage – The Girl had a list of things she wanted us to bring, and we hauled another bag of Christmas gifts from The Girl’s Dad and his wife. We had to bring the big suitcases. Limited to 50 pounds each, we still had to deploy two roll aboard suitcases, along with our standard travel backpacks. Didn’t leave a lot of space for our personal belongings – so we packed REALLY light. Turns out, i can live for a month with just a few shirts, trousers/leggings, a dress, a fleece jacket, raincoat, two pairs of socks, one extra pair of shoes, and four pair of undercrackers. Excellent training for what lies ahead…55

Fierce…

She was born and raised in a small village on the Black Sea, but married and moved to a larger city years later. Ayse is 65 years old, and a widow. We met her while visiting friends of The Girl.

The Girl’s friend, Sevda is married to Pete (from the US). They had a son, Ender, about a year ago, and Ayse spends time with them, helping with the little boy, and managing the household. Ayse has four daughters, three (including Sevda) are engineers, and the fourth is trained as a social worker.

We are working on learning Turkish, but our skills are rudimentary at best. With translation assistance from Sevda and The Girl, i told Ayse that she should be very proud of raising four smart, professional daughters. “In my family, everyone must do something.”

Ayse did not go to college herself, but clearly understands the value of education.

As we picked up Ender’s books, we started sounding out words – numbers, colors, animals. She looked at Sevda with a very determined look on her face, threw a side eye toward Pete, and spoke at length in Turkish.

Sevda said she is going to study English, and was inspired to tackle it because we were trying to learn Turkish. She also said that our Turkish is already better than Pete’s, and thinks he should make the same effort after living in Turkey for so long!

Ayse is a thin woman, wearing modest clothing*, taking the occasional break to go out on the porch and smoke. Her eyes are sharp, and her face looks younger to me than her 65 years. Despite Sevda telling us that she has had trouble with her back, she picks up Ender with ease, slinging him onto her shoulders, her back, turning him a million different ways as she carries him from room to room.

“She could juggle babies! Wow!”

Sevda showed me her garden, which includes herbs, peppers, greens. “That’s an olive tree! We just had a harvest, and made olive oil! Pete and I were picking them from the low branches, but my mother climbed up the tree! She has practically build this entire garden herself! I’ll send home some of the tomato sauce she made this summer!”

As we said our goodbyes**, Ayse invited us to visit us in her home town when we visit again. i told her that we’d help her practice her English if she’d help us practice our Turkish!

In the car on the drive home, i was commenting on how fierce Ayse is – “She is extraordinary! She is fierce, smart – and can juggle babies! How cool is that?”

The Girl seemed a little sad as she said “Yeah… I think she’s sick. Cancer. Not sure of the details, but it’s not a great prognosis…”

baby juggling

Image found here. A famous ‘baby juggler’ statue in Oslo. Who knew?

* In Izmir, women are free to choose to wear modest clothing (hijab) or not. Based on several visits here, and observation, i’d say around a quarter to a third of women – of all ages – make this choice. 

** Saying goodbye in Turkish culture takes approximately 30-45 minutes. There are a dozen words for “goodbye” and the process is complicated, but heart felt. We are still getting the hang of cheek-kissing (right side, left side, right side again for family… i think…)

On the blend…

Blended families.

We think of the classic Brady Bunch situation, or the more complex arrangements where there are young children, remarried parents, custody and shared parenting. With effort this can work well, but often leads to headaches, holiday melt downs, and logistical nightmares.

What happens when old people, with grown children, pair up? Not a lot written about that…

Studley had two twenty-something children when he divorced his wife, and my children were college-aged when their dad and i split. Our courtship was fairly non-traditional, but after hanging out together for a few years, it was inevitable that our spawn would be introduced.

With my kids, it was a more organic process. In the early days of our relationship, they were either living at home, or at university and coming home fairly often. They’d spend time with us, we’d go out to dinner, hang out, watch movies, and they grew attached. Studley and i were also in the more enthusiastic stage of dating, and maintained an open relationship*, which meant he wasn’t my only date. There was only one other man they met, and neither liked him. They were “Team Studley” from the start…

Studley’s situation was quite different. His eldest lived out of state, and his youngest was away at university. There was also a bit more stress regarding the parental divorce, and no way for him to have a civil relationship with his ex-wife. It took more time for him to feel comfortable introducing his children to his “girlfriend”.

Things gelled a bit when i attended his son’s wedding a few years ago. Some combination of me being polite to their mother, and the kids seeing what a couple of dorks we were on the dance floor, seemed to break the ice. Their dad was happy! There have been a few other holiday gatherings over the years, more time spent together, closer connections, and conversations going deeper.

i was honored when his daughter introduced us to her trail family as “her parents” when we met her during her Appalachian Trail hike in August. Allowing things to proceed at their own pace was the right thing to do. It took time, but it took!

This year, his kids wanted to meet up somewhere for Christmas. We settled on renting a condo in Big Sky, Montana, with the goal of exploring somewhere new and getting outside to enjoy the snow. Not being quite as old and crusty experienced with travel planning, they chose the absolutely most expensive travel days for airfare!

Montana

Snowshoe hike. i’m on the left, and Studley is in the middle. It was -2 F  (-19 C). We did not die. 

Calling on my inner travel ninja, i was able to save a lot of money by hacking flights together, adding a 2 day layover in Denver. This allowed for a very quick stop with my son and his family the week before Christmas! The bonus? Studley’s daughter would be traveling with us – a chance for some ‘cross spawn’ time!

Over the years, there have been a few other opportunities for my kids to meet his kids, but they’ve been limited because they all live in far off places! Louisiana, Washington, DC, Colorado Springs and Izmir, Turkey! Doesn’t make it easy to get together for Sunday brunch!

It was an absolute delight to see my son and his wife connect with his daughter. She didn’t mind hanging out with the two grandcritters, either.  She enjoyed her time, and we’ve since had discussions around building some future holiday plans where we’re all in the same general vicinity to make the bigger gatherings happen.

Non-traditional? Whatever that means. The blend extends. 

gratuitous gamma pic

Gratuitous Gamma pic… they are adorable!

 

* We still are in a ‘non-exclusive’ relationship, managing a comfortable degree of ethical non-monogamy. We have, however, become quite particular about such arrangements, having been burned to a crisp a few times by people who are batshit crazy claim to understand what this means, and then try to change the ground rules. 

Hey, baby!

In general, i don’t like babies. Never have been one to fuss and flutter when a swaddle-load of fresh human showed up in a room. Don’t get me wrong – i appreciate babies. Some of the best people i know were once babies, so they are pretty important in the grand scheme of things… i just don’t have an overpowering desire to hold them, make goo-goo eyes, and spew the babytalkin’ words.

A little over a year ago, i wrote of an unexpected adventure – visiting my son, his Serious Girlfriend, and her son while my daughter and her husband were visiting the U.S. Over the course of the next few months, Serious Girlfriend became Wife. They bought a house and settled into a new life together.

Those of you who have been along with The Trailer Park from the early days may remember some of the challenges i experienced with The Boy during his youth. It wasn’t pretty, and i developed a mantra – ‘keep him alive until he’s 25’, hoping that he would level out.  Testosterone is known to retard brain development in males, and by the age of 25, men have caught up with women in maturity. i just wasn’t sure he’d make it that far.  The Army captured his interests at the age of 24 – and he did coast through the 25th birthday unscathed.

If you had told me then that The Boy would be a strong husband, loving father, and dedicated homeowner before his 29th birthday, i’d have probably laughed myself to tears. Not the sweet, gentle tears that slip delicately down the cheek and leave a tiny wet drop on a blouse… but ugly, snotty, out-of-control sobbing tears. “That’s just cruel! That can’t possibly ever happen!”

Because i was that scared…

But here we are… and here he is. Smart, fierce wife – a woman so remarkable that she has Tamed The Wild Man. Sweet, giggly two year old son, Max.  A home. Life as an Army Sergeant. They spent time this spring building a garden, and a chicken coop for future chickens… and became pregnant – with a due date in mid-September!

Surprised he didn’t get whiplash from the sudden change in his lifestyle!

To lend a hand, Studley and i went out a few days early to assist with projects, and get Max used to having us around. He is king of the backyard domain, and it was fun watching him organize a rescue mission with his fire truck collection. After a dinner out, and settling Max in for the night, The Boy and his wife headed to the hospital on Thursday night.

backyard

By early Saturday morning, Ellie made her appearance – both Mom and baby healthy! We took Max to visit. Two years old is pretty young to really understand the arrival of a sibling, but he was a champ – happy to see Mom and Dad, and curious and gentle with the tiny person sleeping on Mom.

Max meets Ellie

After they returned home, we covered basics – food, dishes, laundry – and general entertainment for an energetic 2 year old. We poked at projects, took morning hikes, and watched kids so they had a ‘date night. Wisely, they chose a ‘date matinee’, knowing they would likely enjoy lunch and a movie more than dinner and a movie, given their general state of sleep deprivation.

As i mentioned at the start of this post – in general, i don’t like babies. But holding Ellie sent me tumbling back through all of the memories of the early days with The Girl and The Boy when they were fresh… Seeing the perfect round face, long fingers. The tiny toes that try to grip a nearby finger. The Moro Reflex – watching the remnants of our evolution in a startled baby.

It was natural to flashback to delivering my own two spawn onto the planet, but this time there was something far better – watching my adult son as he starts this adventure. Knowing his pride, joy and fears. I’ve enjoyed seeing him with Max – who was part of the package deal that came with his wife. He has become a great father – and now has another tiny little face that is counting on him to grow her into a good human.

so damn tiny

“Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – ‘God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.’ ” – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Adventure: Run-of-the-mill Edition (Part 2)

As mentioned in my previous post, adventure comes in many forms – not always requiring money or travel or high risk activities. The second recent example? Came at me like a spider monkey, with an infectious giggle, knocking me over and completely taking me by surprise.

Exhibit B: The Girl came home earlier this month, flying through Ataturk airport a day after the bombs went off. She and her husband both made it, with only a few minor travel complications. A travel annoyance for us, but no complaints given what some were dealing with at the time…

The Girl will be here for a month, but her husband, Metin, could only take two weeks vacation. Since The Boy couldn’t take time off before his block leave starts at the end of the month, the only way for the two of them to meet? Go west! Bought tickets, and launched a family road trip for me, Studley, The Girl and Metin.

Travel logistics were challenging, but we made it work, and arrived for the 4th of July weekend. New this visit? The Boy has a girlfriend. A Serious Girlfriend… and she has a baby. Max is a little over a year old. Part of this visit was to meet Serious Girlfriend and Max, while getting The Boy together with the brother-in-law he had yet to meet.

We were on the move most of the weekend, planning to spend the night of the 3rd in a small western town in Colorado. They do the 4th in a big way, and The Boy was marching as part of the color guard with some of his mates from Ft. Courage. The plan was to have the four of us – The Girl, her husband, Studley and i get hotel rooms, and The Boy was to travel with his battle buddies, and stay with the parents of a friend.

Getting a room in town proved difficult, but i snagged two rooms at a historic boarding house. And by ‘historic’ i mean shared bathrooms, original wall décor, original dust, paper-thin walls and no amenities. Partway through the weekend, The Boy asked if it would be ok to have Serious Girlfriend and Max join us for the overnight excursion.

“Sure! We’ll make it work!” i tried finding another room, but no luck. The Boy said they could probably crash at the home of his friend. i offered that we could stick three in a room if needed. Lodgings for The Boy and Serious Girlfriend were somewhat in flux, but he was pretty sure they’d be able to find a place…

And that’s when it happened… The following words escaped my face: “Studley and i can keep Max in our room. You two can just go hang out with your buds and we’ll figure it out…”

A baby. It has been 25 years since i have changed a diaper. i generally don’t like babies. If anyone asks me “Would you like to hold the baby?” i say “Not really! i’m good.” i did ok with mine when they were small, but enjoyed them far more when they became toddler/pre-schoolers…

So what the fuck was i thinking?

Max is a pretty cute kid, and Serious Girlfriend a good mother. When i first met them, The Boy started cracking up when i got into a prolonged Peek-A-Boo game with the giggling boy. “Look at that! She’s gone into Hyper-Grandma Mode!”

We set up a portable playpen in our tiny boarding house room. Serious Girlfriend got Max settled, and they were off. Studley and i looked at the sleeping boy. Looked at each other. “What the fuck are we doing? Is it like riding a bike?” Turns out it is, but there’s slightly less risk of getting a concussion, or ending up with gravel embedded in your knees…

Studley and i slept lightly – both of us a little unnerved at the responsibility of a baby. A baby we just met a couple of days before! Max woke up a few times and mostly got himself back to sleep, requiring only a little pat on the back and a fresh diaper…

Other than catching myself talking to him like i would talk to my dog (“Who’s a good boy?”), it went well. A sign of a happy kid? He woke up in the morning, and just started rolling around, chattering happy chatter to himself, while playing with his sleepy toy.

i’m proud of my children – both living lives of deliberate choice and handling their own shit. As fun as it was to visit with a little critter, i’d probably consider myself a failure as a parent if my children expected me to raise their spawn.

Not quite “Hyper Grandma Mode”, but i did really enjoy it. It was definitely a stretch for me – WELL outside my comfort zone. Since heading home, i have caught myself looking forward to seeing Max again. The Boy and Serious Girlfriend, too, of course…

Me and Max

Adventure takes many forms – be willing to venture into new territory…. Even if it’s a trip that isn’t on your bucket list.

Harder to Kill: 2nd Quarter Already?

It’s true, you know. Time DOES go by faster when you’re old. Well, each day is a smaller percentage of the days you’ve lived, so if it feels that time is accelerating with the passing years, there’s good reason for that.

In my quest at self-improvement, i’ve tackled another round of resolutions and accountability. This year, focusing on becoming harder to kill, while preparing to die. After a reasonable start in the first quarter, including a micro-backslide, i’ve continued the quest.

Blogging? There’s so much i want need to write – a three part series in draft from another round of festivities in the Trailer Park, a postscript to last years ‘bridges’ that came at me out of the blue, new volunteer work that has changed my life, and wrenches in my plan to simply tumble toward retirement without working too hard… A visit from a blogmate reminded me that the connections developed over the past 8 years are deep and meaningful, and i’m a fool if i let these friendships slide into the superficial realm of “Facebook likes”.

But i’m living hard, taking care of what needs to be cared for, so for the moment, i’ll likely stay on blog hiatus until i have a chance to come up for a little more oxygen.

The TL:DR version – Still fat. Not dead. If you’ve got a short attention span, don’t bother to read the rest of this post…If you’re having trouble sleeping? Feel free to tough it out!

Harder to kill: My weight is mostly stable, down about 15 pounds for the year, with no additional significant loss this quarter. But i’m working out a lot and seeing muscles i had forgotten i had… Added some bicycling to the mix, as Studley and i are training for a 2 week European ride in the fall. i’ve finally realized that even if i’m not in optimal cycling shape when we start the tour, i will certainly be in decent shape at the end of the holiday. Probably one of the few vacations where i don’t gain weight, since we’ll be riding 30-50 miles each day.

Preparing to die: Minor progress in getting rid of things and getting organized. Continued conversations with my children regarding the future of my old doggie, who is doing pretty well considering he’s about 100 in dog years, with an over sized heart and debilitating arthritis.

Keeping him comfortable so that the kids can visit with him again when they’re home in July has taken a good deal of my energy. He’s got some gastric issues and i am spending more time than i’d like cleaning up his accidents. Continually thankful that i decided to put in vinyl plank flooring during the kitchen renovation last year, i’m in a constant state of angst, trying to get him out before he explodes with another canine Jackson Pollak piece. If he had thumbs? He’d do the same for me, so i soldier on with a case of paper towels and bleach…

i found a decent reference piece to help guide me. Assessing the HHHHHMM Quality of Life scale is a means to quantify quality of life for a pet… or i suppose any creature. Hurt, Hunger, Hygiene, Hydration, Happiness, Mobility and More good days than bad. i’ve not gone off the deep end charting these items, but i am increasingly mindful of them. It has also forced me to crawl inside his little doggie brain, and consider it from how HE is doing, not how I am doing…

For the moment? He’s wagging his tail, plays with toys, is eating and drinking, and can get around reasonably well on his own. Pain is managed through medication and massage (yes, i’m massaging those bony old hips… it seems to help).

The month ahead of me will be a blur – my daughter arrives soon, her husband to follow, and then a whirl of travels, and visits begins. We’re going to see The Boy for the long holiday weekend, and he will then come back to the roost for a few days before the end of the month. Throw in a west coast business trip for bonus miles. i’ve had to post a calendar to track all of the airline connections – not that i’m counting, but there are 32 flight segments for six people to manage in just about 30 days.

My exercise (and diet) are likely to suffer significant set backs for this month, but i’ve got August and September to get back on track before the next report at the end of the 3rd quarter.

Hope you all have been well – i’ll be out and about trying to catch up some as time permits. In the meantime? Onward!

 

Soldier on…

i couldn’t sleep…on a night when i really needed to be sleeping. Thinking about a woman named Doris. A woman i’d never met. Somewhere out there, she was also not sleeping when she should be sleeping.

Making plans for a trip that she didn’t want to take. A trip to a hospital in California… to see her brain-dead son before the machines keeping his body alive were disconnected, one by one…

When The Boy joined the Army, i also joined an ancient club – Mothers of Soldiers*. Since humans organized to fight, we’ve shared that feeling of pride and terror in our militarized progeny. Proud that they are willing to fight and die, at the behest of chieftains who don’t know their name… for causes that they may not believe in… But simultaneously terrified at the thought of outliving a child… Staring directly at The Very Real Risk of Horrible, Painful, Bloody Death.

They train as they fight. Not quite as dangerous as Real War, but… shit happens. When he shipped out to field training earlier this year, i knew he’d be off-grid for about a month. i also know enough about his line of work that my blood pressure jumped a few points thinking about possibilities.

A few weeks after they were packed up, i was working a volunteer gig at a local festival. i got a call from an unrecognized number. Excusing myself from my booth-mate, i took the call…

Caller: Hi, this is Ashley, from mumble, mumble, grrrble, ramblefloxen…. Are you The Boy Fae’s next of kin?

daisyfae [wide the fuck awake]: Yes! What? What happened?!?!

Ashley: He’s fine! Oh, god, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to scare you…

daisyfae [not. fucking. breathing.]: Holy shit, child… Give me a second…

Ashley: I’m SO sorry! I’m with the family support network, and now that your soldier is without his phone, we are supposed to call everyone to check in. I guess I should have started with that…

daisyfae [air returning to lungs]: Yeah… So, i’m your first call? OK… what’s up?

It was just a courtesy call to give us a point of contact for non-emergency communications. The family support network has to train as well. Turns out, Ashley is a good friend of The Boy – married to one of his platoon-mates, and is a lovely young woman. Before hanging up, i schooled her with a suggestion on how to handle such calls more effectively…

daisyfae: Next call? How about you start with “I’m Ashley with the family support network at Ft. Courage, and your soldier is FINE!” Let that sink in for a few seconds before saying another word…

My heart rate and blood pressure eventually returned to something approximating normal, but as long as The Boy was training, i was edgy. Two weeks later, around the time they were to be packing up and heading back to Ft. Courage, i had a voicemail after returning from a bike ride.

VM: This is Faith, part of the family support network at Ft. Courage. Your soldier was not involved, but there was a serious incident in his platoon during training. If you’d like more information, call me back at…

Immediately returning the call, Faith read a prepared statement from the commanding officer. There had been a vehicle accident, and a platoon sergeant was critically wounded – he would not survive. We were asked to “Please keep his mother, Doris, and his children, in your thoughts and prayers through this difficult time…”

No shit.

i still can’t get Doris and those kids out of my thoughts…

CPL Fae

The Boy will pin on his first Non-Commissioned Officer stripes soon. Corporal Fae. The bottom rung NCO, but i’m still incredibly proud… and still incredibly terrified.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

* It could be “Parents of Soldiers”… not really any difference in the way a mother or a father feels about this…