Family

it isn’t about the flowers

vday 2

In my junior year of high school I was assigned a research report on something that was of interest.  I was to write it and submit pamphlets for my AP English class.   My classmates had interesting subjects and the teacher looked at me to inquire what research subject I would choose.  We were in our high school library and I had no idea.  Not very many things interested me.

As I sat looking through reference books I came across a phone number and wrote it down.  That piece of paper sat in my backpack for over two weeks until I finally got the nerve to punch in the numbers to call the 800 number.

It was to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, MD.

The operator kindly took down my information and promised to send information about colon cancer and the research NCI conducted.  A week later, the thick envelope arrived in the mail and I quietly wrote my research paper.  Years later I realized my English teacher had given it to my counselor and  it had determined the pathway I would take for the next eight  years.

I find myself on the National Institutes of Health (NIH)/ National Institute on Aging (NIA) website.

http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-genetics-fact-sheet

punnet squares

The middle son continues to plot Punnett squares and is sent upstairs, by the hubs, to me.  The man enjoys advanced mathematics and computer programming languages (he spent this last weekend creating clouds) but is stumped by genetics.  What are the differences between mitosis and meiosis? this son asked the hubs and soon, his footfalls were heard trudging up the stairs.  Perusing his book I found the section about color blindness; the genetic condition this son inherited from one of my X chromosomes.  Reds and greens are not distinct for him and so I chose the above square to illustrate how I passed it down through meiosis.  None of our other sons express or carry this gene.  Only this one.

Early this morning, as I drove this son to his junior high for a field trip, we sat at the traffic light.  He talked of his color vision deficiency and science.   He is attending a math field trip at the professional hockey venue to learn how math and science is utilized in this sport.   We talk of Punnett squares and I wondered if he could distinguish the colors of red and green on the light.

Science seems to be on my mind too.

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Over the weekend we watched, The Theory of Everything; the film about Stephen Hawking’s life.  The hubs and I had quietly sat while our sons remained in the den; plugged into their computers.  We had been surprised when the middle son joined us; watching the entire movie.  Last evening I finally watched Still Alice based on the book by the same name.  Those who’ve watched it said to bring tissues and as I rushed into the theater I realized, I had none.  When the lights came on two hours later I hadn’t needed them.

still alice thumb

While amongst other moms at a birthday party yesterday  the inevitable question asked was Did you have a nice Valentine’s day?  I had gone to the supermarket on Saturday, considering what to cook for our family dinner.  Each Valentine’s day we dare not venture out amongst the long dinner lines and happy couples with our three boys.  Instead, we choose to make a fancy dinner at home.  But the day had arrived and I had neither any Valentine’s gifts for my sons nor food in my fridge to constitute anything special.  And so I had stood in the supermarket’s butcher counter considering my options after my heart healthy jog, that morning.  The steady line of men came into the store purchasing flowers, cards and candy.  When I grinned at them they sheepishly looked contrite; caught doing everything at the very last minute.

I, myself, had purchased the flowers at our local Costco the day before.  The hubs loves carnations and myself, roses.  When the hubs discovered this he looked at me questioningly.  Amidst a busy day of going here and there I had returned home, briefly, and caught my household cleaning to attempt to surprise me.  I had had no expectation for this day and was happy to discover their sentiment.  After the dishes had been put away the hubs and I quietly sat.  We have had years together with countless ways of celebrating our love for one another.   I pointed out the flowers and he smiled.  “Do you think our boys will remember our Valentine’s days?” he asked.  I quickly answered no, they probably would not.  His reply had surprised me.

Yes.  They will. 

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He pointed to the flowers; the real reason I had most likely purchased them.  He and I no longer need the popular notion of sending candy and flowers, though we are most happy for others who do this.  We were already over the moon that my cousin was finally engaged to her long time companion who I always mistakenly introduce as her husband.  She had sent the text with the picture above.

Why am I rambling about seeming unrelated topics, you ask?

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The pieces of my jigsaw puzzle are finally fitting into place.  My various lives are abutting together; disjoint as they sometimes are.  I am becoming whole.

As disjoint as all the topics above are, they are relevant to who I am.  For years I kept them distinctly separate, compartmentalized away into various regions of my subconscious.  But the key to discovering who I am was to open these doors and to dwell within these memories.   I am grateful that my hippocampus is intact and that these memories can still be retrieved.  It is these things that define who we are.  Without them life loses its meaning and you become a vacant vessel.

If you cannot remember the things that you love and did love, why live?

To the question of how my Valentine’s day weekend went? It’s complicated and not at all about the flowers.

It got a kick start with sixteen women watching Fifty Shades of Grey; a book chosen by our bookclub several years back.  We had all guffawed and enjoyed the break from the busy school year since the date of this bookclub had been in June.  We didn’t have high expectations of the film but enjoyed the social outing.  They had to kick us out of the theater after the movie, the next round of women queuing to enter the next showing.

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On Saturday our family dinner came together.   I wonder what our sons will take away from Valentine’s day.  Most years I decorate my home for each season but time, this year, had gotten away from me.   The boys dug into the candy,  lit the candle and hungrily ate their dinner of steak and lobster; a rare treat.  When asked what our favorite things about this day were, the hubs remarked he enjoyed trying to surprise me, with our sons, by cleaning the house (my favored love language of acts of service).  My favorite thing had not occurred on Valentine’s day.  I had been sick and congested and overwhelmed with the messy life I had (my car and home) last Tuesday.  He had commanded that I drive my vehicle to a carwash; something he normally does not do.  He’d rather clean it himself.  It is amazing what a clean car can do for my psyche.  It had spurred me on to complete other tasks; sick as I had been.  I organized my computer area, answered emails and efficiently cleared my desk of stacks of paperwork.   Grateful I had hugged my hubs, knowing this was why we were married.  This was a gift.

The common theme I took away from watching The Theory of Everything and Still Alice was about love.  Jane Hawking’s devotion to Stephen as his muscles deteriorated to motor neuron disease aka Lou Gehrig’s and the fictional Alice Howland’s deteriorating mind to early onset Alzheimer’s.  After watching the Hawking movie, with us, the middle son laughingly joked that half of the movie I gripped the hubs’ arm in tears.  When the hubs inquired about Still Alice, side-by-side in bed, I turned to him matter-of-factly.  I forced my sleepy eyes to open and voiced the question aloud, once again.

I asked if he didn’t want to reconsider purchasing long term care insurance, should he ever need to place me in a locked care facility.  For Alzheimer’s.

Watching Still Alice the question returned, would I want to be genetically tested?  Although my own mother had late onset Alzheimer’s her marked decline was fairly rapid.  There is a stronger genetic component to early onset Alzheimer’s; research suggesting the involvement of chromosomes 21 and 14.  Late onset also has a genetic component but there is discussion that environmental factors may be instrumental in turning these genetic mutations on or off.

Best Friendsbeing mortal

I have always known I would NOT choose to take the genetic test.  I hope that my lifestyle choices and environment can factor against the likelihood of this happening to me.  The Punnett squares visualized in my mind and I ponder if I will ever have a conversation about this with my three boys.   I have a 50/50 chance.

The Best Friends Approach to Alzheimer’s Care book is shown in the Still Alice movie several times and I was reminded of my time with the Alzheimer’s Association, meeting David Troxel who was affiliated with the local chapter’s board.  I will always advocate for increased awareness, my purple pin upon my suit blazer since 1999.  Currently I read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal; affirming my time when I too, spoke with geriatric parents’ families about end of life issues.  I had been interning under a wonderful physician and walked the halls of County hospital.

This was/is the person I am, the one who delves into the darker places that people don’t care to trod.  Aging.  Mortality.  At age sixteen this was the topic of my paper; a downer amongst my peers.  Only one other person in this class wrote a paper that none could truly understand; an essay about black holes.  She became our valedictorian and, to no one’s surprise, chose astrophysics as her major and matriculated to Cal Tech.  Hawking was her idol.

The hubs turned to face me, his gaze direct.  He knows my wishes to be placed in a locked facility; should my mind deteriorate like my own mother’s.  He chooses NOT to place me and I vow to do the same.  I have walked the halls of these places, both as a gerontologist and as a family member.  My years in the neurolab taking data on hippocampal lesions in rats and histological slides on ApoE and fibrillary tangles were progress but there are still no guarantees for finding a cure.  The hubs negates the need for long term care insurance and jokes that he’ll implant me with a microchip to track my whereabouts.  Most likely he will find me in our local supermarket, chatting with the cashiers as I do now.  He tucked me into bed and turned off the light.

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This is real life; his depth of understanding and binding love the real take away from my weekend. This is what I think of when I see roses and carnations; attaching them as associative clues.   I continue to catalog my memories and hope I will always be able to retrieve them.

 

 

 

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Family

searching…

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http://www.amazon.com/Lotus-ATS-908-Purestream-function-constipation/dp/B008BWANF6

Whilst at a birthday party, today, I headed to the bathroom.  Much to my surprise I was warmed by a heated toilet seat!  I quickly washed and headed back out to the festivities.  The host of the party later shared the joys of her $700 toilet.  My eyes bugged out!  I purposely strode back to her bathroom, as she expounded on the mulitple functions and interesting features of anal massage; taking the picture.  Our own household has a bidet and I knew the hubs would appreciate this treasure. This, I tell my girlfriend, I have to blog.  She owns two of them!

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This was the scene after the birthday candles were all blown out…

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…and I arrived home to a dog half-shaven.

I thought this was a joke, by the hubs; but he claims he wants our dear pet to look like a lion!  He had the audacity to ask me if I thought he looked cute.  My other sons seem to think he resembles Simba from the Lion King, and held him high to present him like his father does in the animated movie.  I think they are all delusional.

As the weekend winds down I finally have the time to reflect on life that passed me by.   The Peanuts calendar for today has  the 1 Corinthians 13:4 (NIV) verse and I smile.

Love is patient.  Love is kind.

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I search for the rest of the passage; my Bible beneath the stack of Kim Harrison books.  On February 25th her new book, The Undead Pool will be released.  The Steve Jobs autobiography sits on top.

I am thankful I survived last week.

Amidst the lunar craziness I happened to lose the backing of my earring.  For hours the hubs, kids and I frantically searched our bedroom, last week.  The studs on my earlobes had been given to me almost eight years ago; the hubs surprising me on my birthday.  His fingers had twirled the backings on;  tight.  They had never left my ears until the day, last week, when I noted the earring was loose.   And so we searched on our hands and knees to no avail.  I habitually touched my ears to make sure they were always there.  It unsettled me that they were gone.

We constantly were searching for something.

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After enjoying our sons’ Valentine’s day parties the hubs began to search his pockets, our car, our house.  What did you lose? I asked him.  It was an envelope.  He returned to the elementary school and re-traced his steps, methodically going through lost and found.  Our son’s third grade class scoured desktops and floors in search of the elusive envelope.  No such luck.  He dejectedly left to run errands before he returned to assist with the school’s track team, after school.

Later the hubs reminded me of an anti-Valentine’s day party my two roommates, bff and I, hosted on February 14, 1993 as we cooked dinner.  We had still been friends, back then, and the wall-to-wall of bodies that crammed into our apartment were all single and free.  We were the anti-thesis of this Hallmark proclaimed holiday.   We didn’t need to be in a relationship to be happy.  We were young and the world was our oyster!

Love was elusive back then; something that we weren’t sure we wanted.  In my mind I imagined I would be awestruck by my soul mate; the a-ha moment making me frozen.  Breathless.  That night I had sat outside setting up my guy friend with another girlfriend in hopes that he would get lucky.  And he did.

And twenty-one years later he stood cooking next to me.  Who knew?  We wondered what ever happened to her.  Her name was Anne.

As I put things away, high in my upstairs hallway closet, I found a scrapbook brimming at the seams.  I opened the pages to find letters and envelopes from the hubs during the years we lived apart from 1994-1997.  His envelopes bore the stamps of Pensacola, FL and Corpus Christi, TX and cards with sentiments of love filled its pages; including  Valentine’s day.   I handed him the book as he scratched his head.  Neither one of us remembered that I had kept these and he grinned.

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The shadows of our past were rekindled; two decades before.  We both read the letters, grinning at our youth and the ardor of young love.  We both were searching for the person to spend the rest of our lives with and in those years we questioned if it would be with one another.  We hoped this would come to pass.  And it did.

And then came the years that would put our love to the test; the times we revisited if our lives were to be with one another.  We both recalled the day I wanted to leap from the moving vehicle; ready to break our engagement.  The years we spent apart due to military deployments; back-to-back.  The tirade I threw, yesterday, at a misconstrued comment.  When he stated that he would ignore my rant; due to the full moon, I stomped away.

Love can’t be complacent.  It is always a work in progress in the daily minutiae and craziness of parenthood.  The romance of the every day isn’t in the passionately long kiss or the anniversary bracelet placed upon my wrist.  It is in the not so quiet presence cooking in the kitchen, the commiserating eye contact; acknowledging the wrong doing of any of our three sons.  The evolution of a friendship and marriage that has survived all of the above.    I thought I knew all I had to know about my husband.   But I consistently am proven wrong.

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The husband, who eschews anything French, made the chicken torte that is both of our faves.   I stood, alongside him, creating souffles…frothing and beating so that they would bake and emerge from the oven; just in time for dessert.  Souffles are temperamental; rapidly deflating if left to cool, and so we worked in unison to time it just right.

We labor together to make it work; just as in life. 

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The text came later in the day from a girlfriend.  She had found an envelope with my husband’s name on it on the sidewalk, just outside the school.  She brought it into the front office and several people brought it to my husband’s attention.  Someone found what you were searching for.  Today as I showered I wondered if my earring back could’ve loosened in my bathroom and as I glanced down to imagine it; my earring back shone against the tile.  I whooped!  The studs have returned to my earlobes.  It had been a long week.

It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.   It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

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I’m glad my search is over.

Family, Work

lunar craziness

131016 moon

The full moon rises…

And I rage.  I yelled at our employee across the shop’s expanse as he stared at me.  One of my glaring faults is in watching my tongue.  I do not tolerate people who disrespect my kin; including my f@#%ing dog.  The employee made the above statement to the hubs; his employer.  Our canine has come to work with the hubs for as long as we’ve had him; approximately four years.   My succinct words that we, “left our dog home so his bark wouldn’t annoy you”  angrily percolated out; continuing to stir the pot.  Our furry canine will now spend work hours patrolling our backyard.   I was proud of the hubs when he calmly stated, “Please do not kick the dog; it’s like you are kicking me.  The day you choose to do it will be your last day here.”  This employee has been with us for ten years.

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It is only mid-week and I rubbed my temples together amidst the mess.  We have conferred with the almanac and the full snow moon arrives with cupid’s arrow; February 14th at 6:54 PM.  My sons have been forewarned.  They know what that means.

Our conference room was also full, mid-afternoon, with various family, vendors and old friends passing through.  Amidst the craziness I tried to remain hospitable and, eventually, did make peace with the above employee; with hugs at the end.  But I explained that I needed to vent my anger, to be transparent, to be able to forgive his outburst.   If I did not my resentment would continue to build and boil over.   He apologized profusely for his rude behavior towards the hubs.     He still dislikes our dog.   Though my outburst wasn’t ideal we all finally are communicating.  It is never pretty; nor easy.  But it clears the path for change and reconciliation.   Or termination.

Sing it loud & clear.  Transparency.

I take deep breaths.  I think of the phone call with a dear friend as she struggles with physical issues; my heart wrenching in two.  Life is not fair!  After the call I headed, early, to the church to pick up children from catechism (Catholic religious education) in hopes to sit in the silence of the pews to catch my breath and mouth a prayer.  Instead I arrived to a traffic jam, at the sole entrance, into the parking lot.  The church was full of high schoolers and the quiet moment of solitude was not to be.  Instead  I stood in line with parents.

Drama unfolds within family as a niece struggles with her pregnancy.  I find myself in the role of counselor as I listen to her hopes and fears.   I think of the tough road that lies ahead and hope that she can find it in her heart to forgive those who have hurt her.  I thought of my own pregnancies; the joys, the fears.  Again my heart saddens.  Life is not fair!

I stared at the dishes on the table; crumbs and remnants of our dinner. I was too tired to pick it all up.  The butternut squash soup was not a hit.  After a long day at work, the hubs and I cooked.  But there is no satisfaction in cooking when it is left, uneaten.  Not one son liked the soup.  At.  All.

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Life.  It is messy.

The gravitational pull of the lunar cycle is taking its toll.  Craziness is everywhere.  And it all leads up to Valentine’s Day.

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For years I’d sweep up the crumbs; cleaning up.  I get agitated when I see a mess and clutter; my mind not able to focus until everything is put in place.  But with kids and schedules I have had to learn to let things go.  Sometimes seeing the crumbs reminds me of what I have.  My girlfriend’s quote comes to mind…

Life is what happens when you are busy making plans.

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The crumbs of my life have been swept up in a tidy bin; stored and forgotten.  I wanted to forget the tragedies, the inequities and messy things in my life that have happened to me.  But these broken, jagged and messy remnants have made me the person I am.  They define me.   And so I recall them, piece by broken piece.  And I am empowered.  I have survived.  I know how this life ends.  It is between these two points that I have to make my choices and pathways; amongst the lunar craziness.  I need to let things go.  To go with life’s messy flow.

Like water off a duck’s back.

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I cannot control the craziness that happens around me; the things that make life unfair.  I always want to; my willful personality overriding my rational mind.  I need to master mental discipline and  cope with the mess that is always present.  Each weekend when I clean my home I think of how happy it makes me to see clean, simple lines without clutter.  But it is how we cope with the messy that makes us better and stronger.  If I can do this with grace and panache; it would make my life Simple.  Enjoyable.  Grateful.

But for now I stare at my colorful and full calendar; crossing out dates and adding new ones.  My heart palpitates as I think of the end-of-the-school year and the craziness that marks my life as a working mother of three.  Within a two week period I have: concerts, spring programs, First Holy Communion celebrations, a 3-day camping weekend, theme parks, picnics, promotions and graduations.  Deadlines now change as I think of the piles of paperwork upon my desk at home.  And so I organize and plan.  Maybe if I am mentally ready the stressful little details will not derail me when this time comes.  Mental discipline.  Go with the flow.

Then I look at my schedule for today.  Yee gads!  I have empty Valentines day cards, kids’ golf and running schedules and a booster club meeting; all within a five hour period.   When the 13 y/o stated he needed 9 X 12″ poster board, yesterday afternoon during our crazy work day, I told him to walk to the grocery store and purchase one.  He had only known about this assignment for two weeks and, of course, it’s due today!  I came home to a mess as this son scoured all of our closets and organized craft areas to search for paper.  Popcorn kernels lie beneath my kitchen table and I had attempted to pick them up last eve.  This same cycle will most likely be repeated this evening.  And the next day…and the next.

And then one day my house will be sterile and quiet.  My sons will have grown and the hubs and I will stare across at each other and wonder how time flew by so fast.  I share this thought with him across the office as he quotes customers on his computer.  It’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow I say.  The bff’s text reminded me; her husband wishing her this sentiment today.  We both text “LOL” simultaneously.    We have no plans.  Normally we make a fancy dinner with our family of five.  The boys like the fanfare with our fine china.  Currently we have no food in our fridge. (sigh)

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Yep.  Going with the flow in my crazy life.  And the moon continues to grow full. Happy Valentine’s Day (tomorrow).  LOL.