three years…

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IMG_2068Three years ago, my client Charlotte was placed in a nursing home, leaving me with too much free time on my hands. My husband and I recently leased a car and I was in need of a job. Insert Mary Alice. Her daughter Julie and I went to school together and had become friends via Facebook, when I posted a picture of the new car with the caption, “All I need is a little old lady to help pay for it”. Little did I know, Julie would call and ask for an interview.

Three years later, Mary Alice and I are the best of friends, even though she doesn’t remember me the moment I exit the room.

When I first began working for her family, she and I would have marvelous conversations about God and how much she missed driving. Today, she doesn’t remember how to buckle her seat belt, let alone open the passenger side door. Though that’s not necessarily a bad thing. During one of our outings, she released her seat belt and began to exit my car while we were making a left-hand turn onto a busy street. Perhaps scaring me half to death was the impetus to forget that skill.IMG_1775

But when we are together, I try my best to make the day fun for her. We never watch television together, primarily because due to macular degeneration, she cannot see the TV or follow along. So instead we make up games to play. Sometimes I use a large plastic ball to pass back and forth between us encouraging her to help count each time we catch the ball. Funny thing is whenever we get to around 79 then next number in her memory always comes up as 90. Other times I pull out old blocks, left from when my children were small and have her help me put them in size and color order. We practice IMG_1416carrying them around the kitchen too, in order to find the best surface to build upon. One day we cleared off her kitchen table and played matchbox derby with her great grand children’s cars. When her daughter came in and saw the commotion, she laughed. “I didn’t realize mom liked this.”

Three years ago, Mary Alice and I would go for walks around the neighborhood which amounted to almost a mile in length. Little has changed since then. However, our strolls are considerably less in mileage, but the conversation has changed little over the years. We tend to sing 1940’s era songs (badly) or recite nursery rhymes, anything I can do to help access her rote memory–even if only for a few moments.

The best part of hanging out with Mary Alice, for me, has been the realization of how patient I really can be though my kids may beg to differ. Someone once asked me how I do this job without getting frustrated. For me, the answer is simple.  Respect and Love. I was raised to respect my elders regardless of who they are. Showing kindness isn’t difficult when you respect someone. Also, I love hanging out with Mary Alice. I love when we play cards-War or Match game. I love when we host the Rosary hour, listening to the Rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet and St Michael the Archangel chaplet, via YouTube each afternoon. I love that Mary Alice’s demeanor hasn’t been affected by this disease. She’s still the nice, ever helpful person she always was in the past. What’s more, when Mary Alice sees me, even if she’s not sure who the heck I am, she’s always happy to meet me, again. I love that we make each other giggle–something as necessary as air for our lungs each and every day.

In the last three years, many things have changed between us. One thing that hasn’t changed is the realization of how blessed I really am. My life is indeed richer for having come to know, play and enjoy Mary Alice’s company over the years.

 

 

 

Look around….

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Last weekend the doll and I were in Dayton, OH attending a family wedding shower for one of my hubby’s cousins. His aunt Marile, who lives in Virginia, approached and asked how the kids were doing. Employing party banter language, I replied, “They’re doing great!”She looked back at me and said, “That’s great. I just remember the High School years as moving at blink-of-a-eye speed. I wanted to memorize every little detail, but there was never enough time”. I smiled in return and agreed. Time was flying by, but I didn’t waver from my party banter style language.

However, she started me thinking. 

I make such a big deal out of the boy’s grades, one might think that is all I care about. I sometimes wonder if I’m being too hard him, in contrast to  my own poor grades in high school. I wasn’t a good student until I reached college and decided to put in the effort toward my degree. But when parents are used to seeing good grades from their children, reeling back that desire (for them to do well) is difficult to put into practice.

Then other issues pop up. 

Recently, the boy asked if he could leave the carpool ride home from school. “Mom the kids in the car hate me…” He explained. “Bay, hate’s a pretty strong word for kids who’ve known you your entire life.” I explained. Every person in that car attended elementary school with him. “Mom, I don’t feel comfortable in the car” He tried again. I know I should take what he’s telling me at face value, yet I still find myself clinging to the hope that he’s reading the situation wrong. As luck would have it, his after school work study program kicked in last week which enabled his desire to leave the carpool. Now his father picks him up on his way home from work. 

“Where’s your boy been lately?” My friend and carpool driver asked me last Friday. Not wanting to broach the subject I simply said, “He has work study after school and his dad will pick him up on his way home now”. “We could wait for him…” She tried. Looking back at her and loving that response–at least one person in that car liked him; I replied, “Frankly, he doesn’t want to ride home with you any longer”. 

Sadly she wasn’t stunned. Instead she lowered her head and said, “I’m sorry”. “You know, my son is different than the other kids. His social skills are awkward. What’s important to him might seem funny to them. I don’t know. But what I do know is, he’s tired of being made to feel inferior”. “Do you know, is my dumb kid involved?” She asked but before I could respond, she replied, “Of course she is… damn”. “If you want, the  boy is drying dishes in the kitchen for service hours right now, you can ask him”. I replied. “I want you to know I’ve told those kids to knock it off Marsha. I’ve asked them how they would feel if someone said that crap to them every day… I’ve asked them to be nice” she said. Shaking my head, I replied “Teenagers, mine included don’t understand what nice is”. 

On the way to school a few days later, the boy said, “That street sign back there is set at a dutch angle”. Having no clue whether he was talking math or something else, I simply smiled and nodded at him. “See, I’m learning all sorts of cool and interesting stuff from YouTube” He added with a smirk.  “A Dutch angle?” I asked. “Yes, it’s meant to show something is askew” He replied. “You thinking about shooting a movie bay?” “Eh, I have given it some thought” he replied. “The thing is, you have to be willing to go outside and experience life, in order to film life. You can’t stay holed up in your bedroom watching YouTube videos. You need to go outside…” I said and received nothing but the sound of music emanating from the car speakers.

As he exited the car I thought to myself, “Did I just criticize him again?” In ten short years he could be married and have children of his own (Dear God!). Life is moving faster than we realize and all he sees and hears is me, criticizing him.  That night when I arrived home from school I approached him and together we hugged. “I love you Momma” he said. “I love you too bay” I replied and hung on until he had had enough. “Huh? What’s wrong?” He asked in clinical tone. “Nothing. I just wanted to make sure you knew I did”. He smiled and said, “Does this mean you’ll stop badgering me about my math grades?”  “No. This only means I’ll keep giving you long hugs”. Smiling he replied “Okay” and then went back to what he was doing before I arrived home. 

I guess what I’m getting at is my need to look at my kids and see the person they are growing into, not who I want or expect them to be. Prior to birth, their father and I dreamed who they might become. Those dreams have long since been vanquished. These beautiful beings are who God intended them to be and that should be enough for everyone, me included.

Fandemonium…

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As written in previous posts, my daughter is not the most proficient speller or annunciator of words. Regardless how many books she reads, she still has trouble sounding out some words. When she was first learning to read and write, she rolled her “r’s” when she spoke and spelled by sounding out her words. Hence, many of her early spelling tests came back with what looked like words written in Russian.

Some things never change…

The other night she mentioned to me how embarrassed she felt upon learning where the word “fandom” came from. Truth be told, my attention was divided at the time and only partially heard what she was saying. “I thought the word “Fandom” was a combination of the words ‘Fan and Kingdom’,” she said. “They aren’t?” I asked studying the smile she was wearing. “No, it’s a  shortened version “Fan and “domainiac” She explained. “Oh”, I said enjoying her embarrassment. Even my friends online didn’t know that either. We were all living under the same delusion”.  “Well, at least there were numbers in your delusion” I replied, before moving away from the conversation.

Yesterday, when I began writing my blog for the day, I decided to look up the origin of the word “Fandom” and found something surprising. According to Wikipedia, a Fandom (a portmanteau consisting of a fan [fanatic] plus the suffix -dom, as in kingdom). 

Not having the correct set of words the doll said handy, I set this blog aside and wrote another one. Last night however I asked her again, “Doll, what were those words you said made up the word Fandom?” She repeated “Fan and Domainiac or something similar,” she said. “Doll, could you have mistaken the word for Fandemonium?.” I asked. “No” she immediately responded. “Well, see, I looked up your words and domaniac doesn’t exist,” I reported. She shrugged her shoulders and then added  “I don’t know! I read the definition on Tumblr..” she explained.

“Tumblr?” I said with incredulity.  “Well, that explains everything!!” I replied and we both laughed. “Were you by any chance looking at the Red Hot Chili Peppers on Tumblr too?” I asked. Giving me a sheepish grin in return,  she replied, “Mayyybe. Why?” “Because they wrote a book about themselves called….?”

“Whatever mom. Don’t you know whatever you read on Tumlr is true?” She said and then laughed.  “Uh huh…just like none of your words need vowels” I replied. “MOM! Be nice”. She replied essentially ending our conversation.

 

 

easy girl talk…

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There are times in my life when I realize what a lucky duck I am. Last night when the doll sat next to me and texted with her older cousin, turned out to be one of those times. I was busy watching a television show online; one I had missed the night before and she busied herself answering her cousin’s questions. When she finished, she struck up a conversation with me. Pausing the video, I turned to give her my full attention and she began to tell me all about how horrible her life is turning out to be… Well, from a thirteen-year old’s perspective, that is.

“Mom, guess what? They rearranged the seating chart at lunch again and now I literally have no one to talk to”. “Doll, surely there is one person you can talk with” I tried. “Mom, okay, twin is next to me, then two new girls and the rest are boys”. “Yeah? I dare say some of your classmates might be jealous of that” I replied. “Well, Stephanie is… But Mom, boy’s are annoying!!” She explained. “Okay, what about the two new girls?” I asked. “I’m not good at meeting new people”. She said. “Well, now is the time to break open that shell of yours…” I said. “Mom, it’s not that easy for me. Unlike you, I can’t talk to a wall and get a response”. Laughing I replied, “Doll, walls can’t speak, however, I know what you mean. And, believe it or not, there are times when I’m shy too. However, the only way you’re going to advance through life is by getting to know others around you. How about tomorrow you ask one of the girls if she listens to any of the same music as you? You might be surprised by what she says…” I offered. “I sincerely doubt that” she replied but fell silent to think.

Wondering if our conversation was over I turned my attention back to the laptop.  But just before I hit the play button, she asked me another question. “Did you ever listen to that Sleeping with Siren song I asked you to?” “Sorry, I did not; I forgot,” I said and then pulled the video up on the laptop. Together we listened -well she sang along and I listened. “See, they don’t scream in every song. You keep confusing them with Peirce the Vail” She said. “Doll the lead singer’s voice is way to high for me…” I said and watched her get upset with me. “Mom, that’s just his voice!! Why do you have to pick apart my favorite bands?” She said with disgust. “Because it’s fun. I get to poke you and you always respond” I replied and smiled back at her. “I don’t like it mom,” she said.

“Doll, when I was your age, we had almost no choices for music listening, unlike today. We had CKLW which broadcast on the am frequency out of the Windsor/Detroit market. So Motown was the big thing.” “I would have died back then without the musical choices of today. I hate mainstream radio”. She proclaimed. “Well, you don’t know what you’re missing, when you don’t have anything…” I said before continuing on, “Then somewhere along the way, FM was invented which opened us up to more variety and rock and roll. My mom, by the time I started listening to music, had run the gamut of music from my older siblings. At home, my dad played old standards on the piano and I listened to music on my siblings stereo systems. I didn’t find my own likes/dislikes until I was about your age. Journey was the first band that was entirely mine…I owned all their albums, not my brothers. While I love Led Zeppelin and the like, Journey was mine and my friends. So I totally get where you’re coming from…” “Why then do you pick on my choices?” She asked again. “Asked and answered…” I replied before adding, “And calling your band Screaming Like Sirens is funny”. “It’s really not mom”. She said in reply. “Lighten up doll…in twenty years you’ll look back and either still really like them or wonder why you ever did”. “I highly doubt that” she replied, still not satisfied with my answers.

Realizing the time, she stood to leave the kitchen. When she reached the threshold she turned and said, “At least dad is willing to listen without making fun of my music”. Dramatically I grabbed my chest and said, “Oh doll, you wound me so…” which brought a smile to her face. “I know your dad told me he was listening to My Chemical Romance and you cheered him on” I replied. “Actually I was yelling out song titles to each one he played”. “Yeah, your dad hasn’t always had the best taste in music…” I said which brought the desired response from her. “Doll, go to bed,” I said, trying not to laugh at the appalled look on her face. “You’re just mean mom” she replied.

“…And this is news? How?” I said to the back her head as she turned and exited the kitchen.

 

 

mothers know best…

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The other day, when I mentioned to the boy that the garbage was overflowing and needed to be taken out, without lifting his eyes from his book, he calmly replied, “Yes, you need to let dad know so he can take care of that”. Appalled I replied, “Well, I would, but your dad’s at a place called WORK, you know, to earn MONEY so we can FEED your lazy butt”. Looking up from his book he shot me a smirk and said, “Oh, well, in that case…the doll’s in the next room…” Before laughing large to himself as he lifted off the couch enroute to the kitchen to empty our trash.

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Over the weekend, the doll, my mother-in-law and I drove down to Dayton, OH for a wedding shower, leaving the boy and his father to fend for themselves. Since his father works on Saturday’s, they made tentative plans to attend an animation convention happening at a nearby university, following work. The problem being, on most Saturdays, once his father arrives home from work, he’s usually quite content to stay home, instead of following through with plans.

Around 2:50 pm, I received a text wanting to know if we had arrived safely in Dayton. I replied that we had and wondered how the convention was going. My hubby’s response was “We haven’t gone, the boy is wishy-washy” Which is code for “If he’s not going to push me to go, we won’t go”.

Earlier in the week we had discussed the importance of takng the boy to this convention. Doing so served two purposes, getting him out of the house and supporting something he’s interested in. Therefore, finding out that his father hadn’t pushed for them to go was unacceptable to me and I let him know.

“Make him go…don’t give him the option!” I texted as much to him as to the boy. The very next text from my hubby revealed how well we know one another, “I knew you were going to say that”. Followed shortly by “He’s putting socks on!!!” Then “He’s has pants!!” Concluding with, “He wants to know if I’ll feed him!!!” To which my reply was easily “Eventually?”

When we returned home Saturday night the boy was happy his father “made” him attend and was rewarded with fast food. What’s more, the hubby had had a good time hanging out with his boy. Win-win all around! 


music appreciation 101

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The other day while Mary Alice and I were listening to 40’s music, the Doris Day song, ‘Que Sera, Sera’ began to play and together we both began to sing the lyrics and laugh at what poor imitations we made. But both the song and lyrics reminded me of my mother. I have a faint memory of mom singing the song while cleaning the house. Another morning, while eating breakfast, we listened to our favorite Pandora music station and Judy Garland came on singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Mary Alice seemed to perk up and began singing right along. I smiled and said, “You know, this is one of my dad’s favorite songs…” and she replied, “I didn’t know that”. “Yes…” I replied happily, reminded once again how music is a keyholder to our souls.

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Last night I stood in the boy’s bedroom door threshold talking to him about my favorite Led Zeppelin album, “Physical Graffiti” and my favorite song, “Houses of the Holy”. “But bay, look on YouTube for ‘Bron-Yr-Aur’ and then ‘Down by the Seaside’,” I asked. He acknowledged me with a nod and I exited his room. A few minutes later I returned and asked, “Did you find it?” I said. “Yeah…” He replied with an odd look on his face. “What, didn’t you like the instrumental?” I asked. “No, it’s nice, just not what I expected from Led Zeppelin” He replied, “That’s exactly why I love that song…how about the other one?” I asked. “I’m just starting to listen…” He said. In the meantime I began to sing the song really loud, “Down by the seaside, See the boats go sailin’, Can the people hear, what the little fish are sayin'”

“MOM did you have to choose that exact moment to sing really loud?” the doll asked as she hung up the phone. “What?” I said. “Great now Felicia’s parents are going to think you’re insane!!” She announced, explaining she was leaving her a voicemail message. “Doll, seriously? They’re already quite aware and I don’t think it bothers them too much” I said in return.

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While walking home from mass the other day with the doll and her friend I asked Felicia, “So do you like the same musical groups as the doll?” She smiled and said, “I’m not sure”. “Well she likes Screaming like Sirens…have you ever heard of them?” Just then, the doll jumped in, “What? No, no, Mom! Do you even hear what you’re saying?” Looking back at her I smiled. I’ve purposely refitted the group with a different name, one which fits my ears’ expectation from them. “The band’s name is Sleeping With Sirens… Jeez Mom, if you’re going to talk about them, at least get their name right!” She scolded. Looking back at the two girls I laughed and said, “What.ev.er doll…as far as I’m concerned, my name fits better than theirs…” and then turned toward home.  But not before I heard the doll say, “Just ignore my mom, she’s such a weirdo!” “I couldn’t agree more,” I said under my breath as I continued walking home.

For example…

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Like most households, our kids are quick with quips and retorts relying primarily on sarcasm to drive their points home. My problem, however, is remembering them all for future blog use.  “I’m going to write a blog simply on the quips they give us,” I told my husband the other night, but then failed to write any of them down. So my exercise for today is to remember some of them… 

You should know better 

 The doll was invited to a birthday party at a movie theater last Sunday and prior to being dropped off, she and I took a quick drive out to a grocery store to pick up a card and gift card to Hot Topic (the greatest store ever since I don’t know when, for 13-year-old girls). On the way to the store, I started our conversation  “I told your dad I was planning on sleeping in this morning and guess what time he woke me up?” I asked. “Why does this surprise you mom? He’s simply being dad. You know that annoying person who doesn’t want you to miss anything?” I couldn’t help but laugh at her assessment of her father. “Perhaps I should have expected this. Is that what you’re saying?” I asked in reply. “Mom, you married the guy, if you don’t understand his oddities by now, then something is wrong with you.” She explained. “Geeze, here I was only seeking some commiseration from you…” I said with mock indignation. “You know better than to expect this from me…” She laughed. *

Fortune teller…

The other day, while my brother Dan and I were visiting with dad, through the course of our conversation, Dan patted dad on the back saying “Well your mother lived to be 102. That gives you at least nine more years ahead of you.” Dad immediately responded “No, no, no I don’t want to live that long.” Dan and I looked at one another and smiled at his response; which we’ve heard before. Then he continued “I don’t want to out live any of my children. That would be dreadful.” Dan and I looked at him then back to each other before I asked “Wait! What does that mean? Do you have any inside information about us…er me in the next nine years?” He shook his head back and forth in reply before adding “But why risk it?” And then chuckled. Meanwhile Dan and I looked back and forth between on another, chuckling along uncomfortably.