Sunday, October 28, 2012


October 29, 1987.  Twenty-five years ago today my beautiful mother gave up her fight.  She was only 44 years old but I guess she was tired of the battles she was waging.  My mom was a fierce alcoholic and I never remember a time when I was young when she did not have a drink by her side.  As I got older she did make a couple of attempts to quit but, like most people in her position, she was not properly equipped to overcome what lay at the root of her issue.
I often think about the things my mother gave me and those things I feel I missed out on.  I try not to dwell on either list but, I think today’s anniversary warrants some reflection on both. 

I will start with my bitching.  I’m sure all moms piss their kids off at one time or another.  Mine never did until I was about 16 years old.  I usually tell people that my siblings and I had a “Brady Bunch” existence as far as things went at home with my mom.  She was a substitute teacher at the Catholic school we attended, she was my Girl Scout troop leader, and she sewed a bunch of our clothes and helped us with our nightly homework.  She only ever worked part-time while we were growing up so she always had a good, hot meal ready when my dad came home at night.  She balanced out the anger and aggression that was my father but, I don’t think any of us ever knew how precarious that balance really was. 

Her drink of choice was a sickly sweet mixture of Jim Beam and Sprite.  By the time we were out of our bath at night she had a tall one next to her on the end table by the couch in the den.  Dad sat at the other end of the couch staring at the TV.  I cannot remember any conversation between the two of them. 

I never remember my mom having any fondness for mornings and I now know she must have spent them all hung-over.   Beyond the nightly drinking, none of us would have said my mom had any problems.  The drinking just seemed normal.  It did not touch us.  I’m sure my father would have a different recollection but we don’t really talk about these things.  My mom medicated in the way she was taught to medicate.  She came from a long line of alcoholics.  I now look back and know that most of her family members were high-functioning drinkers masking some dysfunction.   

So, if my childhood was close to idyllic, how exactly did my mom fall so short of giving us what we needed?

The thin film that was wrapping up my parents marriage burst rather abruptly when I was a junior in high school.  They took the three of us into our formal living room to break the news that Dad was moving out and they would be getting a divorce.   We were all in shock.  But, the real devastation was yet to come.  My mother spiraled into a dark horrible place that forced my brother to live with my dad, my sister to completely disown her and, me to live in fear that I would come home and find her dead.  We spent the next seven years wondering what had happened to our comfortable existence.  My mother was a disaster and I hated her for it.  She was weak and broken at a time when I needed her.  She died when I was only 23 and a part of me will always be angry at her for that.

She did not see me get married.  She did not come to my aid when I got divorced.  She was not at my side when my daughter was born.  Part of me has always felt that she gave up on her children when her husband gave up on her.  I felt like she was so selfish and weak.  Did I mention weak?

OK.  Enough complaining. 

I mentioned at the beginning of my dissertation that my mom gave me things.  She did and they are many.  My mom was a brilliant peaceful woman.  She was very giving of her time to the three of us.  She taught me how to diagram a sentence and how to deal with my monthly girly cycle.  She assured me that it was perfectly acceptable to eat spaghetti for breakfast and that meat and potatoes could take on oh, so many different forms. Most importantly, my mom taught me how to carry things. 

I have carried many things over the years that I could not have managed without the lessons I got from my mom.  I forced myself to be the strong woman that I wanted my mom to be.  I allowed myself to forgive my mom and realized that she did the best she could.  My mom was most likely manic-depressive and did not know what to do with the demons that drove her.  I have taught myself a great deal about mood disorders in an attempt to know more about who my mom was and also to be more empathetic to those suffering as she was. 

I miss my mom and I wish she were still here.  I wish she could see her gorgeous granddaughter.  I wish she could share in the happiness I now have with my amazing husband and step-children.  I know that her favorite color was yellow and that she loved the music of Carole King.  She loved lazily shelling pecans at my great-aunts kitchen table and had quite the green thumb for the roses growing in our backyard garden.  My memories of her are wrapped up in a comfortable olfactory mixture of cigarette smoke and Chanel No.5.  She was my mom.  My sweet, sad, hurting mother.  I wish I had known how to help her.  I wish I knew what it was that allowed her to give up on herself.

I am certain that she left here knowing that I loved her and that is a comfort.  I wish I had enough faith to think she is in a better place.  What I do know is that I am in a better place because of what she gave me.  And what she didn’t.   

Monday, May 21, 2012

Go Find Your Oscar

Women are not from Venus – we are just stupid until we reach our forties.  I speak from my own personal historic view as well as from the perspective of confidant to the twenty and thirty-something women that I know and love who are still engrossed in their “stupid”.

The problem actually begins in our pre-school years when we are brainwashed by the Grimm and Disney folks who stuff our heads full of delusions of Prince Charming.  He is a character that is often handsome and romantic, occasionally troublesome to the heroine, and is seldom deeply characterized or even distinguishable from other such men but who inevitably rescue her in some fashion and ultimately marry said heroine (ahh, the ultimate rescue).
We then twist these ideals throughout  puberty and come out with the vampires, werewolves, rock stars and other such bad boys that we feel compelled to mold back into the Prince of our earlier years.  We are quite certain that he is clean of soul and spirit under that devilish disguise and all he needs are a few nips and tucks to perfection.  AND, BY GOLLY, which one of us children of Venus is not up to the task of man-repair??!!!

So, somewhere in our college years we begin to fixate on the most broken and unattainable of men.  We weep buckets of tears at their incredible ignorance of our perfection.  We form these unbreakable bonds with the girlfriends who will support us as we cry into our appletinis – all the while bashing the man who we know will eventually wake up and realize the error of his ways.

He NEVER does!  In fact, the more we push, whine, plead, text and drunk call, the further and faster he runs. 

*(I must add a footnote to my rant.  Not ALL women are stupid.  There happens to be a very small percentage who understands quite early on that Mr. Right is not the star quarterback or the stud frat boy.  They are inexplicably drawn to the third string tight-end or their best friend’s lab partner.  They marry right after school; have lots of beautiful babies and vacation in warm sunny spots in the Caribbean.  They are truly deeply in love with these seemingly average men and they remain happily married until he is chasing her around the nursing home in a wheelchair.  These anomalies are few and far between but they do exist and I believe there are government funded studies to determine what sets them on this strange and peaceful path)

For the remainder of us, we must endure one to two decades of frantic, panic knowing with all certainty that our biological clock will not wait for us to find Mr. Right.  Therefore we do what any INSANE person would do.  We settle for Mr. Wrong.  We trap Mr. Wrong.  We then try unsuccessfully for these aforementioned decades to CHANGE Mr. Wrong. 

If we survive this dark, bleak time, we may emerge bruised and broken but, oh so much wiser.  For me, it took a few years of being a single mom (insert more tears and angst) and then finally meeting my Oscar. 

Many of you will not get the reference here to The Odd Couple.  It was a TV series that ran from 1970 to 1975 about two divorced men who are complete opposites yet manage to survive living together despite their ridiculous differences.  Oscar Madison is the sloppy sportswriter who takes in his newly single friend Felix Unger who is an incredible neat freak.  My amazing husband Tim is my “Oscar” and I am his OCD ridden “Felix”.  Not only do we make this work but, we actually have a blast discovering one another’s oddities.

I am blessed to come home most nights to a wonderful dinner already prepared for my greedy consumption.  Tim reminds me to call and make my doctor’s appointments, he randomly sends me Beach Boys videos on YouTube, and he completes whatever little things I cannot get to with my ridiculous work schedule.

He also walks right past dust-bunnies the size of a Texas tumbleweed and occasionally forgets to tighten the lid on the blender before flipping the switch.

My sweet husband who is NOT a morning person drags his tired butt out of bed every morning to help me manage the 9 year old, the dog and the cat.  Although he can barely string together a cohesive sentence at the ungodly hour of 7am, he warms up my car and loads up lunches and backpacks with hardly a grumble. When I finally climb into my car, I am surprised by a full tank of gas when I have barely realized the tank had about 3 miles to go to empty. 
He puts up with my daily complaints about work, my constant fussing about dog hair, dust, and other messy, dirty, disgusting, awful….  (did I mention my OCD issues?)  He not only puts up with this stuff, he actually loves me.  And I love this absent minded professor of a fellow that I may not have even given a second glance a few years back.  He is nobody’s bad boy (he wishes he were).  He is not some male model.  He is not perfect.  He is perfect FOR ME! 

Tim Melvin is my Oscar and I am his Felix.  I wish I had known him all of my life but I guess I found him just in time. 

So, I end my rant today by saying to all of my girls: go find your Oscar.  Stop trying to create your Dr. McDreamy out of some thug who can’t or won’t hold a job.  He ain’t in there.  Your Oscar is waiting for you at the public library, the grocery store, and church or maybe sitting in the cubicle down the hall.  He may not knock your socks off but he just might sweep you off your feet!

Sunday, May 6, 2012


  So, it happened today.  At least I think it did.  I hope I am wrong but, I am probably not.  Today, May 6, 2012, my daughter climbed up into my lap and fell asleep.  I assume this is the last time this will happen because my “baby” is nine years old and has not climbed up onto her momma for a nap in at least three years.  This momentous event was preceded by a two-sleepover weekend with plenty of giggles and fun times for what she has dubbed “the pre-pre-teens”.  That’s right; my daughter is nine going on twenty.

             She never was much of a napper.  I guess she gets that from me.  When she did nap as a toddler, I would hold my breath, sneaking around the house trying in vain to get some project accomplished.  Inevitably she would roll over at the half hour mark declaring her nap complete.  So, imagine my surprise when she climbed up on my lap this afternoon, attempted to watch an inning of the Orioles game with me and her step-dad, and then promptly began to softly snore in my arms.  Be assured, I made no move to get any chores done.  In fact, I barely moved a muscle trying to prolong this sweet moment with this little lady who usually runs a mile a minute.

            As my arms tightened up I thought about that sweet baby smell she used to have and how it has been replaced by that equally intoxicating (just ask any mom) sweaty little kid smell.  I thought about how her little twenty inch body used to stretch out on my chest and now her “all bony arms and legs” barely fit curled up on the chair with me.  I thought about those exhausting, lovely, peaceful, three a.m. feedings just me and her in the dark on the couch and that familiar feeling of her little body twitching slightly before every muscle relaxed and her breathing evened out and I knew she was in dreamland.

             As my legs fell asleep under the weight of the two of us, I thought about that little white blanket that I used to swaddle her.  She still sleeps with the remnants of that thing every night along with her irreplaceable Teddy.  Other stuffed animals have come and gone but, I think Teddy will eventually be packed into a cardboard box to accompany my grown child on her way to some college campus that will be entirely too far away for me and probably not far enough away for her.

             I suppose some might find it strange that much as I took note of all of those “firsts” like the first tooth or the first time her unsure little legs propelled her around the coffee table, I am so taken with this moment that could be a “last”.  But, as a mother, I hold all of these things in my heart and they are of equal import as they are milestones of a lifetime that I hold so precious - the life of my beautiful daughter.