Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A mothering moment

This morning, as is usual on Wednesdays, I arrived at Ben & Briana's house to spend the day being Granny Nanny to Drew. She and I have developed a routine to our days that satisfies both of us - most of the time! At almost eight months, she's very interactive and loves to laugh and play. She has a prodigious appetite, and makes noises the whole time she's eating. And when she smiles - well, as I described it to her mommy and daddy - it's as if her whole face breaks out in a grin! I love being with her and watching her grow, in the same way I've loved the time I've been with her big brother. I hope that Drew and I will share a closeness similar to what I have with Addison.

Watching these two grow frequently puts me in a nostalgic mood, and I sometimes recall the growing-up years of my own boys. Oh, there were lots of frustrations - anyone who's raised kids knows exactly what I'm talking about - but the frustrations were outweighed by the joys, and I'm always amazed at how quickly the years passed.

Ben, who is my youngest, fell victim to the lousy economy last Fall when he lost his job. He's a graphic designer, and incredibly talented. But we live in an area that is replete with talented men and women who are looking for work, so that makes it both more difficult and more likely that he will find a good job. In the meantime, he's had quite a few freelance jobs come his way, and coupled with Briana's resourcefulness, they're managing just fine.

This morning, though, well it was pretty special for me. Ben had an interview schedule for an actual employment position - hopefully with benefits - and he didn't have to leave as early as usual. When he was ready to go out the door, he kissed me goodbye and I wished him good luck. I looked at this wonderful young man - almost 30 years old now! - and my heart swelled with such pride it almost burst. He stood so tall and handsome in his suit - not the usual jeans and sports shirts graphic design-types usually wear, but a real suit with dress shirt and tie! As I watched him leave, I thought about how lucky I am to have had that moment with him.

Oh, I wish he hadn't lost his old job, of course. It was a good one and they tried very hard to keep him on, despite the economy. But I sometimes take his role as husband and father for granted, and - truthfully, now - I sometimes still think of the little boy who looked to his mom for comfort and reassurance, and I miss those days. Now he finds - as he should, and as I want him to - his main support and encouragement from his wife, and she's his rock. But this morning, just for that fleeting moment, when he said, "Wish me luck, Mom," I was very thankful to be there, to say all the things that you say to your kids when they're venturing out into a world that isn't always kind and welcoming. "Good luck, son," I said. "Try not to be nervous, and just be yourself. Who you are is the best advertisement for your work."

And it's true, whether he gets this job or another one. He is a genuine person, and I'm very proud of that.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Does this mean I'm OLD??!

I wasn't going to do this. I. Was. Not. Going. To. Do. This. Period. I just wasn't. Not ever. Oh, c'mon, you know what I'm talking about: discussing my aches and pains. It's just too darned old-personey. But since I know you're wondering where I've been, I guess I'll just have to give in and tell you.

The day after I returned from a weekend with my sister, I started having pain in my left leg. First of all, you should probably know that, in our family, the left leg is always referred to as "the polio leg." A legacy from my mother's bout with polio in 1950. Her left leg bore the brunt of the disease and the ongoing affliction. So my mom had a "good" leg and a polio leg. After many years of hearing it referred to that way, it just sort of rubbed off. Yes, you're right: we are odd.

Anyway, this pain in my polio leg was harshly reminiscent of the sciatica that I had suffered in my right leg (also know as my "good leg") until I had back surgery in 1998. The main difference this time was that the sciatica wasn't accompanied by back pain, and - after 24 hours of nonstop pain - I was starting to consider amputation as a viable treatment. See, the pain of sciatica is similar to what it feels like when you hit your funny bone; you know there's nothing funny about it. It's kind of electric and painful, all at once. But the sciatic pain doesn't stop - or at least not long enough to notice. And this time - another difference - the pain was starting mid-hip, radiating all the way down my leg, and going out - I'm not making this up - at my ankle. It really, truly, felt as if I could still feel it about three inches into the air around my ankle.

It hurt. A lot.

So, being quite adept at self-diagnosis and self-medicating, I decided that it was probably inflamed and I needed an anti-inflammatory. The best (non-prescription) anti-inflammatory I could come up with was aspirin. To my generation, aspirin still qualifies as a miracle drug. This, despite the bad rep it's acquired over the years. Those childhood lessons die hard! Yes, I know the dangers of giving it to children, and I am militant about that. But I personally have never had a bad experience with aspirin.

Since I fill the role of Granny Nanny to my 7 month old granddaughter three days each week, and add her 4 year old brother to the mix on Thursdays, I knew I needed to be able to function. I also knew I probably ought to go to the doctor, but could probably put that off till Friday. By Wednesday, the only way to keep the pain abated was with three (yes, you read that correctly) aspirin, every three (that, too) hours. Around the clock. I know it was around the clock, because when it wore off at night, the pain woke me up. So I just took three before I went to sleep, put three more on my nightstand for when I woke in the night, and then took three more upon awakening. Around the clock, like I said. Wednesday and Thursday. It was the only way I could keep from crying with pain.

Thursday I noticed that I wasn't hearing very well. When people spoke, the letter "s" didn't sound sibilant; it was as if it was being swallowed. And the blinker signals in my car were muted. But Jim had a cold that had gone into his ears, so I thought maybe I was catching it, too. All I really cared about was the pain, and I continued treating it.

Friday morning, I called my doctor's office. I must have sounded pretty bad, because they got me in right away. Normally it takes a day or two, but the scheduling nurse sounded really sympathetic. When I arrived, the nurse practitioner (superior to a doctor in many ways, in my estimation!) listened to my tale of woe and pain, asked all the pertinent questions, and began to prescribe. She asked me what I'd been taking, and I told her. I learned a long time ago not to lie to my medical professionals! Almost offhandedly, I asked her to please check my ears, since my hearing wasn't so good. She looked at me and said, "NO MORE ASPIRIN!" My ears were clear, but my hearing was shot. There really are warning signs on the aspirin bottle about that. But I'd ignored them.

So she fixed me up with Flexeril, Vicodin, and prescription-strength Aleve, told me to go home, take the drugs, and go to bed. And she handed me a sheet of exercises to help with the sciatica. I spent the next four days in a drug-induced stupor, mostly in bed, waking only long enough for bathroom, food, more drugs, and back up the stairs to bed. By late Sunday, my hearing was almost normal and the pain was mostly gone.

I stayed on a modified regimen of the drugs all of last week - taking only enough to take the edge off so I could take care of the grandkids - and did my exercises. Over this past weekend, the pain was relieved enough that I was able to prune my roses and even do a little shopping. Today I feel great!

I'm still taking the Aleve, since it's only twice a day and I have to take it with meals. I think today will be my last day with it, though. Oh, and I got rid of all the aspirin.

There, I've done it. I've gone public with old-age behavior. I hope you still respect me.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The gift that keeps on giving

Each year, my sister and I try to get away for a weekend at the Oregon Coast. It's just sister time - no boys allowed - and we always have fun. We do have the occasional opportunity to rub each other the wrong way, but it's always fleeting and a whole lot less damaging than some of what we inflicted on each other as children!

This year, we chose to go on the weekend that encompassed the 90th anniversary of our mother's birth. In one of my more blonde moments, I commented to Peggy, "Ninety years! I'll bet she never thought she'd live to see this day!" And, of course, she didn't, having died 18 years ago. But it's a tribute to her that not only could the thought pass through my brain and out my mouth, but that my sister and I had a good chuckle over it. Mom was never one to mince words. You didn't "pass" or "pass away," you didn't go to "eternal rest," either. You died. And we knew what she wanted to be buried in ever since we were quite young. As it turned out, she was cremated and didn't get the ecru nightgown, but that was her choice. Ecru was so 1960s by then.

We played on our computers, watched Harry Potter movies, ate junk food, drank a little wine, a little Bailey's, a little Kahlua in our coffee. We had hot chocolate, popcorn, and I took along homemade clam chowder and some delicious biscuits my son had made. We watched the waves break, and the people and dogs on the shore. We went in the pool and the hot tub, and just generally had a high old time.

Then, Saturday night late, we each got a message on Facebook that our half-brother - from our dad's other family - had posted some photos and had tagged us. So, of course, we had to look!

All of a sudden, a little cloud crept into our cozy getaway. There, on Facebook, were two photos of our very own mother that we had never before seen. Our half-brother had scanned and posted them as "Old Florida pictures," and they were from our dad's photographs that Rodney has been kind enough to go through since dad died last October.
Also among the many that he posted were pictures of Peggy, our older brother, and me. Pictures that dad had kept for all these years - the most recent were taken in 1972, 38 years ago.

After my first reaction of stunned silence, and a momentary flash of anger that this should intrude on what was otherwise a perfect weekend, I shed a few tears and went out onto the balcony to let it all sink in. This man, this biological contributor, had cared enough at some point to keep these photographs of his children. The same children he abandoned and left to be raised by a crippled woman who was old before her time because of the long, hard hours she worked at physically demanding jobs. This man who had allowed our home to be foreclosed on, who had moved from Florida to Alaska and thus out of the reach of any enforced child support, this very same man had kept these photographs of his children.

Peggy thinks the keeping was not deliberate, but simply the lack of any need to weed out those things that weren't important to him. Perhaps she's right; she often is about things like this. But for a fleeting moment, it passed through my mind that maybe he had loved us after all. That maybe - despite vast amounts of evidence to the contrary - he felt proud of us and kept those pictures as a reminder of us.

Had he not avoided us on occasions when we could have seen him, and had he not shown his disregard for us in so many other ways, maybe I could eventually convince myself that he cared. Once again, I have proved to myself that being old doesn't necessarily equate to being wise!

Anyway, Happy 90th Birthday, Mom. We (mostly) enjoyed the party.