Category Archives: All In The Family

Birthdays and Pumpkin Madness

Ten years ago my mom was coming off a brutal summer of chemotherapy. On her 50th birthday she had a double mastectomy, followed by radiation, and then reconstruction. I was scared shitless. She is the woman who drives me batty with her obnoxious behavior and guilt trips, but she is my MOM. She is the one I want a hug from when the world is cruel.

Last summer she completed a triathlon with some fellow breast cancer survivors. The anti-cancer/anti-estrogen drugs she will be on for the rest of her life is destroying her joints. This summer she had both her hips replaced seven weeks apart. Ten years ago I never dreamed she would reach her 60th birthday. Not only is she alive, but she is thriving despite the odds against her.

October is breast cancer awareness month. Of course it now comes across as a giant eye roll. Of course we are aware. The pink wash is everywhere. Pink everything is for sale with minimal money going to actual beneficial research and treatment. I volunteered for years for a recognized organization, but left when I couldn’t stand their bully tactics and politics. It is disappointing to see that, but I am proud of the money raised and the grants that were issued for detection and treatment that saved lives. I would much rather live in a word with eye rolls now than continue losing so many beloved people to a mysterious, common, fatal disease where the two biggest risk factors are being a woman and getting older. The fact remains that people ARE still dying and families ARE still devastated. I still live in a world with the odds not in my favor. Eye rolls over the pink ribbon saturation do not change that, but now we are aware. We can instead fight back and demand better than simply awareness and pink washing across everything. We need fundraising accountability and better treatment outcomes.

I am one of the lucky ones. My mom is still here for her 60th birthday. Despite stage 4 metastatic cancer, despite lifesaving drugs that are also destroying her body, she is alive. She is doing so great she forgets her limitations – like buying a 70-pound pumpkin last week, with no way to get it OUT of her car when she got home. (She drove around with it in her backseat for a week. I find this highly amusing.) Don’t ask me what her fascination is with giant pumpkins. It has always been this way and seems to get greater each year. I hope she keeps having birthdays as I am happy to enable her pumpkin buying habits.

No dog would pose for scale, but don't let the giant hostas fool you. This thing is huge (and heavy, oof.)

No dog would pose for scale, but don’t let the giant hostas fool you. This thing is huge (and heavy, oof.)

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Still Without Him

Marking another year without him, but every day is another day without him. I can acknowledge with grief both that things are easier on a day-to-day basis for me and that I never will be over it. I would never want to be truly over it. To be truly over him.

Even while selfishly admitting that my life does not have the constant, crippling worries about him that it once did, the past 6 years have been really, really hard without him. This year I have not been sick with the usual winter plague. I am (mostly) well-rested and played hermit delightfully all through January with a companion who understands when I need to play homebody. I have made reasonable plans this month to keep busy and occupy my mind with things to look forward to. I felt ready to face the gloom of February without wanting to crawl into a hole. I was caught off guard. This year holds the same calendar pattern as the year his accident happened and it has been a struggle to get through this week. So many reminders of the last times we spent together and the last time I spoke to him. Of taking my parents to the airport at the ass-crack of dawn on a Friday and calling at lunch to remind Randy he was on stupid dog-watching duty at their house after work. To hear his disappointed reaction that I wasn’t coming over the following night because I had plans and his disapproval to know they were with a guy that doesn’t love me in the way I want to be loved. How I would give anything for a do-over of that weekend. To have been there. To not completely melt down anytime my doorbell rings unexpectedly because of that early morning the police came and rang it.

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Filed under All In The Family, Misty Watercolor Memories, Sad Times, Wishful Thinking

Cars Only Bring Me Trouble

When it comes to daddy issues, I have a surplus. This is not one of those posts.

This morning I had one of the most terrifying driving experiences I have ever known, and that is even considering I have been in 2 serious accidents and have blown a front tire at 70+ MPH. While tootling along the freeway on this morning’s snowy commute cold, icy air started pouring from my vents where it was piping hot moments before. I was quite startled and confused. Then my entire dashboard lit up and I lost complete power. I could not accelerate and my steering wheel was almost locked into place. Oh, and I was in the middle lane. While coasting I tried to make my way over to the right lane and onto the shoulder, but this was also at a point where there is a freeway on-ramp. SO MUCH FUN.

I finally made it over to the shoulder as far as I could and took a deep breath and tried to relax my tensed shoulders and death-like handgrip on the wheel. As I exhaled my hazard lights froze.  So I am basically parked without lights, blocking the end of the onramp on the narrowest piece of shoulder while cars are whizzing past me inches away. Who do you call first? Police? Tow truck? I called my (retired) dad and crawled over to the passenger seat to feel a fraction safer.

I like to think I am empowered enough to take control of a situation. If I had children in the backseat I could have put on a brave face and calmly called a tow truck. Instead I was alone and I was scared. I am not ashamed I called my dad first. The man pulled up behind me not 10 minutes later, causing me to think he perhaps did not make full stops at intersections along the way.

I got into his warm car (with working hazard lights) and called a tow truck. There has never been a time I have needed AAA without them experiencing an unusually high call volume warning, but I eventually got through and explained the situation. Despite not knowing the exact address of the mechanic I wanted the car towed to (do you guys know that off the top of your head while on a call?), I was assured a tow truck would be onsite within 90 minutes.

Dad calmed me down and told me about some of his dead car adventures (driving shitty cars is a family affair.) He even tried to tell me he was sure it was something stupid and easy to fix, like a cable. I did not believe him and was mentally calculating how much money I could justify putting into this car. I called the mechanic to warn of our impending arrival via tow truck, and about 40 minutes into waiting a sheriff pulled up telling us we had to move. I explained the car was completely dead and we were waiting on the tow truck. He said we were going to get killed in our position and he wanted to push me to a safer spot.

The sheriff had my dad pull out of the way and had me get back into my car and get it into neutral. THEN HE RAMMED ME. Do you have an adequate image in your head? I was supposed to steer my crappy little cavalier (with inability to turn said steering wheel) and avoid the freeway traffic directly adjacent to me on snow-covered pavement while he pushed rammed me forward. I thought he just wanted to get me to a wider spot on the shoulder. No, I was wrong. When I applied the brakes he honked at me and kept pushing ramming while I slid. This continued until the next freeway exit almost a mile away. The exit ramp is a giant curve – oh what fun in a dead car with no steering and snowy conditions.

Once we were off the freeway and onto the cross street I got back in my dad’s car (his heated seats doing NOTHING to calm my nerves at this point.) After another 20 minutes on hold with AAA to update my location for the tow truck, Dad asked if power had come on when I tried to start the car. I said I only turned key partway but that electrical power had come on. He told me to try and start the car just to see where we were at. It started with no dashboard lights, and dad followed me to the mechanic and then drove me to work (there is also another 15 minutes on hold with AAA, again, in there somewhere.) My hands did not stop shaking for more than an hour.

No one has a clue what happened to my car. Battery was low (new battery 6 weeks ago) but alternator checked out. They charged the battery and it is theoretically operational. I am perfectly content driving a shitty car, but an unreliable one is nervewracking.

Verdict: Cars are trouble but, today, my dad is pretty awesome.

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Filed under A Whole MONTH, All In The Family, Fine Red Whine, Of Course This Is About Me This Is My Blog

The Loaded Chair

There is a wooden rocking chair that has lived in my parents’ living room forever. I love this chair. Sure, I am a sucker for all rocking chairs (as opposed to hammocks that make me seasick) but this one has such a nostalgic pull. I enjoy tracing my finger along the curve of the arms and the carved design on the back. The chair would often get moved to the basement whenever more room was needed – large family parties, Christmas tree, etc. It makes me sad this (easily moved) much beloved chair always got the shaft and tossed aside. Also infuriating is every puppy my parents have ever failed to train had loves to chew on the tempting runners of my desired heirloom.

A couple years ago their living room got updated furniture with a new couch, end tables, and a new sewing machine cabinet. Knowing the rocking chair would get pushed aside once more, I made sure my parents knew that I loved that chair and would gladly take it. Dad laughed and called me shameless and Mom said they would figure configure it all somehow. She added I was welcome to take my giant upright piano over to my place anytime. (yeah, like where am I going to put that?)

Soon after I was at their house and the rocking chair was shoved in the basement, again. I joked that it was a good thing they were going on vacation soon so that when I house/dogsit for them I could use their car to rescue it and bring it to my house. Oh how my mom freaked out yelling that I better not. In a huff I was told the chair was purchased by my dad when my mom was pregnant with my older brother and I was NOT allowed to have it until I started producing some (much desired and hounded for) grandbabies. Well alrighty then. This stand-off continued and whenever I dared to bring up or sit in my favorite chair a guilt trip was not far behind.

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When it comes to marriage, my love life has been filled with numerous close calls. There is a line about bowling in the movie Uncle Buck and John Candy’s character jokes if the object was to get the ball as close to the pins without knocking them down the little girl would be the champion of the game. Some days that is exactly how I feel so many of my relationships have gone. This is not to dismiss the very valid reasons behind these relationships working out, errrr not working out, the way they have. Nobody likes a broken heart, but underneath the hurt and rejection I am thankful for those lessons learned and opportunities for better things ahead. As I crossed the threshold into my 30s with a string of failed, long-term relationships my parents seemed to take every opportunity to make more desperate pleas to make them grandparents. (We don’t care if they are born out of wedlock, it is not the end of the world if you are lazy about birth control, etc)

If I was 100% sure that I didn’t want children maybe I could brush off their jabbing with more grace and laughter. (or hell, even take delight in knowing they are not getting what they want and tell them to give up hope already.) Instead, the older I get the less sure I am either way about having kids. In my 20s I did not give much thought to the kids decision: I love kids, marriage was on the horizon, raising children simply seemed a natural path. In my 30s the idea of kids sure has taken on a far sketchier future. There are an awful lot of scary traits floating around in my genes and would it be a burden to carelessly pass those on? (Ahem, to say nothing about my abilities to actually be selfless enough to be a good parent or have a stable partnership for this endeavor.) All those fears aside, it is not completely off the table and there is a biological timeframe in play that cannot be ignored if having children is something desirable in my future. I am not one to have penis envy, but every once in a while having male parts sure seems like the easier half of the equation.

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Earlier this fall the grandchildren topic came up again in an offhand way. Despite the frequency with which it occurs, I happened to be caught off guard, perhaps further surprised this time by their (alcohol-fueled) double-down efforts and unified assault when I tried to protest. I turned into a hot mess of tears, crying that I was sorry to be such a disappointment and that their words made me feel like a failure. Often accused of being overly-sensitive, maybe this was the first time I ever truly got through to them how hurtful their remarks have been; that I don’t want my self-worth measured in this manner.

A peace offering was made Christmas morning. I got to my parents’ house for brunch and there in the middle of the living room floor was the rocking chair, freshly sanded and stained, with a giant red bow and no mention of their grandchildren expectations.

It's finally mine

It’s finally mine

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Tomorrow Is Another Day

I have so so many memories that tie into Gone With The Wind, with my Grandma front and center taking the blame for it. She loved the movie and we have watched it together almost every year. In the last few years I doubt she stayed awake during it for more than 20 minutes at a stretch, but I cherish that snoring togetherness just the same. I am going to miss having someone to laugh with about the ridiculous corsets and skirts. I mean come on, I have trouble peeing in the woods while camping. I can’t even IMAGINE bodily functions such as breathing, let alone pooping in that wardrobe.

"Oh Pa, I need 2 maids to help hold my dress when I pee."

“Oh Pa, I need 2 maids to help hold my dress when I pee.”

I used to read GWTW every winter break for a decade. It was such a treat to have an expanse of free time where I could read anything I wanted without feeling guilty about what I should be reading. I received my first copy of GWTW (I state first, in order for Jen to wildly speculate how many copies I hoard own) in middle school and the school librarian (no NPW to be sure) accosted me that it was inappropriate for my age and she was going to call my parents. First of all, really, really? You’re going to reprimand a girl who wants to read? Secondly, my mom’s gift inscription in the front cover did little to reassure this woman my parents were fully aware of my choice in reading materials. I think my mom picked up reading the book just to try and figure out what was deemed so inappropriate, but quickly gave up. Besides, censorship was hardly my parents’ strong suit.

At the end of high school during the lull between AP exams and graduation most teachers let us goof off for those weeks. Our U.S. History teacher had other ideas and showed us some of his favorite period films. The Sting was the only one we got to watch the whole way through, and with other films he would show us snippets and scenes. Since GWTW clocks in at over three and a half hours, this was one of the definite snippet films. Disturbed so many people were unfamiliar with the story, a couple of us got up in front of the room and acted out important romantic dialogue while our teacher fast forwarded to the next scene. We may have made everyone watch Prissy shout, “I don’t know nothin’ about birthin’ babies,” several times. Oh the days before YouTube’s instant gratification. (Which of course has now turned into file after file of Scarlett slapping Prissy.)

It kind of astonishes me that in 17 years of dating, I have only made one guy watch my favorite movie with me. My college boyfriend (tempted to simply give him the nickname Mooch for the purposes of this blog) has historically worked service industry evening hours and in the years he pseudo lived with me would often spend his days at my place enjoying my cable TV. I was home sick one dreary winter weekday, so we were both hanging out on the living room bed (aka the broken futon) and I was super whiny about his TV viewing choices. I got up and said I was going to put in GWTW and for some reason he didn’t object (wise man considering his mooching ways.) Those unfamiliar with the movie details, there is a pivotal scene where Scarlett grabs a fistful of Georgia soil and vows to never be hungry again and there is a fade out with a swelling instrumental melody. Right then Mooch turned to me and said, “Wow, you know, that really wasn’t so bad.” The screen then announces Intermission and advises us to turn the DVD over for the second half. I can still see his face drop in defeat.

Not the end.

Not the end.

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Filed under All In The Family, Misty Watercolor Memories

Turkey For Me

Happy Thanksgiving!I am currently parked on the couch in my sweatpants, glancing occasionally at the parade balloons on TV, and mentally calculating when I have to get off my butt and start assembling the stuffing (unstuffing, dressing, whatever you call it.)

My grandma died yesterday and I am sure I will have more thoughts later on that. It was expected and I am grateful her suffering is over, but damn if it doesn’t still really hurt. A lot. Thanksgiving in my extended family is always scattered across the country, but it feels even more so this year with the somber haze. I think there will only be a dozen people at my parents’ and that seems so strange and small. Also I will be the only girl in my generation present, so fingers crossed I can force my boy cousins to chit chat more than their habitual grunting.

Earlier in the week I got into a fun discussion on Facebook about this article on Thanksgiving Bingo. Wow, that describes my family’s antics to a tee and I love it. We are loud and obnoxious and no one makes me laugh the way they do. In our discussion we also brainstormed items that were missing, such as

  • Dig about declining fertility/GRANDBABIES
  • Significant other being called by wrong name/former S.O.’s name
  • Spilling a drink
  • Breaking a glass
  • Burnt or forgotten dinner rolls

One of the items on the bingo card that really hit close to home was complaining about the stuffing. My mom grew up with bagged/preseasoned stuffing with pork sausage added. It is made in a casserole dish so the top gets crispy. My dad was raised in a household where the stuffing was from scratch and actually stuffed inside the turkey so it was downright wet. The fights over stuffing run rampant in my house. This year I am making 2 types of stuffing to accommodate vegetarians, but neither will be stuffed inside the bird (yuck, in case you were wondering where my loyalties lie.)

I am grateful that even on the worst days I am incredibly blessed. I will get a drumstick since my dad will carve the turkey. He will complain about the stuffing but not hold a grudge and deny me my beloved meat on a stick. I am thankful my aunts make the pies so I don’t have to feel bad about myself and my inability to make or like pie crust. Today I will be surrounded by family, even if so many are missing from our table.

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Filed under All In The Family, Fine Red Whine