Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Isn't it weird, how you get things when you need them? Stuff around here has been kind of tense, as you may have gathered from my tirade a couple of posts ago. There is an added element that I haven't spoken of, because it's my son's business and my son's life and though I document far more on this blog than most parents, blogging about that situation just seems a step too far. So I said, it's been tense. I was looking for something else in my archives, a particular piece about my Mom, because yesterday was her birthday. The search term I entered was completely unrelated to this piece. I have no idea why it came up. But it did. And I had one of those moments. You of those "You're so stupid you couldn't see what's right in front of your face"  moments. One of those "You think you know everybody else so well but how about a little self-examination for a change" moments. It's weird.

This is the piece. Illuminating. And kind of spooky too. I wrote this piece SIX YEARS AGO.

Leaving Me - (May, 2007)

Friday was the last day of school for my boys.

That night, we took them out to dinner to celebrate their freedom, and lament the loss of mine. Though the restaurant was crowded with similarly jubilant parties, and Diminutive One kept jumping up to use the bathroom, it was a relaxing dinner. We talked, we joked, we teased one another like we do.

Pre-Pubescent One was telling me all about the many couples that had formed on the last day of school. He explained that anybody who had been too timid or afraid to ask the person of their dreams to "go out with them", had done so the last day of school, knowing, that if rejected, they would not have to face their peers or their paramour the next day.

Strangely, I can see the adolescent logic in this thinking.

After naming several new power couples, he ducked his head and said shyly, "I have a girlfriend you know."

And then his face broke into an incandescent grin, the likes of which used to be reserved for dinosaurs and matchbox cars. Suddenly, I missed that little boy very much. Now it's dimples and big blue eyes that cause him to light up. Now, his heart is no longer mine to protect.

I looked at him, trying to see him out the eyes of the twelve year old girl that I once was. He is tall and lean with narrow hips and broad shoulders. He has thick and shiny brown hair, that is fashionably long and feathers pleasingly away from his face. This is the result of much careful styling, but it looks perfectly unaffected. His skin is still smooth and clear.

He has enormous hazel eyes and full lips. They are utterly kissable those lips, and always have been. As a baby and toddler, he had to endure much smooching on his succulent red mouth. That mouth is now full of metal, but it only serves to make him look disconcertinly mature. He could easily pass for fourteen or fifteen.

It hit me with a son is a hottie.

This realization made me feel a melange of emtions, but mostly, I felt inexpressibly afraid. Because he's a soft hearted kid; a sensitive soul. Like his Dad, he exudes tenderness, compassion and sensitivity. Like his Dad, he doesn't feel the need for a lot of hyper-masculine affectation. For that reason, girls have always been drawn to him. And for that reason, I fear his heart will be broken time and time again.

Girls are going to eat him alive, and there is nothing I can do about it. No band-aid, no ice bellied boo-boo bear, no tender kisses will be able to ease the anguish of lost love.

He noticed me scrutinizing him, and his grin widened self-consciously.

"What?!?" he asked.

He thought I was making fun of him, but I wasn't.

"Nothing, honey! I'm just happy for you. Tell me about her."

Her name is Ellen. She is beautiful. Ellen is nice. Ellen is smart, athletic and popular. Ellen this. Ellen that. Ellen, Ellen, Ellen. He wants to invite her over. He wants to take her to the movies.

I felt the Margarita that had been pleasantly warming my cheeks turn into a flaming ball of acid in the pit of my stomach. He had it bad.

I asked him if he had kissed her, and he confirmed my suspicions by turning scarlet and averting his gaze.

" it time for us to have the talk?"

I was really just teasing. We explained to him where babies come from long ago. Inquisitive children have a way of ferretting out information before we're really ready to give it. In Pre-Pubescent One's case...that was at the tender age of seven, when he oh so casually asked me out of a clear blue sky..."So, Mom, what exactly is sex anyway?"

But with a sinking feeling, I realized the day was coming when we would have to discuss all the really tough stuff about sex.

He looked up at me through his lashes and mumbled "I already know about abstinence Mom."

Husband smirked. If only it could be so easy. If only I could tell my children not to have sex until they're married and know without a doubt that they would obey that would make things a whole lot easier. But both Husband and I are pragmatists. We will teach them about birth control and preach the gospel of Trojan to them.

"Well, honey, there's a lot more to it than that, but I don't think we need to talk about it right now."

He was noticeably relieved.

"So, ummm, you still love me the most, right?"

I was teasing again. Sorta. Kinda. Not really.

I've always known that my boys would leave me one day, and that another woman would become their best friend and confidant. These puppy loves are a horrible precursor to losing my boys. I know they will always love me. But they won't always need me. And that is a terrible truth to face.

"What do you mean, Mom? I can't like, date you you know!"

He looked fainly nauseated at the thought.

"Well....let's say, we were in a burning building and you could only save one of us. Who would you choose?"

He didn't hesitate.

"Well, I don't think I could carry you Mom."

He was teasing. The smartass apple doesn't fall far from the tree. But I must have looked stricken because he hastened to reassure me.

"But, I could like, drag you or something!

Jesus, this dating thing is going to kill us both.

I think it will be easier with Diminutive One, whom, I suspect, will love 'em and leave 'em and never be the worse for it. least they can't get pregnant.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

In A Word

So, that last post...pretty over the top right?

If one was new to BAS, one might get the wrong impression from that, I suppose.

One might assume the author to be trashy, ill mannered, poorly educated, socially inept, or any number of other unfavorable qualities.

I've always known that people will judge you by the words you use because my mother did her best to impart that knowledge to my sisters and me. She knew we would judged because of our second hand clothes, our run down house, and the aging, rusty vehicles parked in our driveway. So she was determined that we would not validate those prejudices by speaking or behaving like vulgar, ill-bred hooligans.

She corrected our speech relentlessly. We would sigh impatiently, but then dutifully rephrase whatever it was we were trying to express in a more acceptable way. Then we would roll our eyes when she turned her back and proceed to use the most foul and shocking language we could muster up once she was out of earshot. For a while, this meant saying "fart" instead of "pass gas". But as we got older, the profanity got more colorful and creative.

And I'm sure she knew that. My poor mother. She must have thought all her effort was in vain. But not exactly. As with so many things in life, when I got older, I realized she was absolutely right.

So as I said, I knew how I was coming across when I was writing that post.

But I do strive to keep it real here, and that post was as real as it gets. And it felt SO good.

Words have power, which is why I really, really love them. They can vanquish an enemy. Mend a broken heart. Paint a picture. Inspire a nation. Right a wrong. And, they can achieve a kind of catharsis that is deeply satisfying. I felt much better after letting a few f bombs fly.

And yet, I do regret the impression I may have given with that post.

In real life, I have often been accused of speaking in a way that is pretentious. Snooty. High falutin'. Superior. If the worst thing anybody can say about me is that I use too many big words, then I can live with that. But I don't use big words to seem more sophisticated or intelligent than I am or other people are. It's because I really do adore them.

Why settle for "happy" when you could use something delicious like "convivial"?  Why "sad" when you can use "lachrymose"? Why use a workhorse word like "descriptive" when you can use something sublime like "evocative".  There is such a huge array of just makes me happy to know that there are infinite possibilities when it comes to describing a sunset, a kiss, a storm, an emotion. It gives me deep, abiding satisfaction to do that in a way that is unexpected, beautiful and meaningful.

And I also know that words can serve a very valuable purpose when I need them to. I have opened doors that might have otherwise been closed to me, simply because I can articulate thoughts and feelings in a certain way. It's a useful skill and one that I have used often. I interview well, for example. Not just because I can use big words, but also because I have learned to tailor my own speech to match that of the interviewer. Studies have shown that an interviewer chooses candidates not only according to how qualified they may be for the position, but also, how easily they can envision themselves being friends with the potential employee. In my experience, this is absolutely true.

So yes, I truly love words. I respect them. I employ them at every opportunity.

But I am also very pragmatic about them

I just don't get all outraged or affronted when one of my kids drops an F bomb. I probably should, for the very reasons I described in the beginning of this post. But honestly, I have bigger fish to fry and also, I would rather my kids let loose with a string of swear words than to punch somebody. Knowing how cathartic it is for myself, why would I deny them the same? I know a lot of people who would probably be a lot less tightly wound if they would just let fly with a few really well chosen profanities.

Also, I know that THOSE kinds of words are essentially...harmless. I find the word "fuck" infinitely less offensive than the word "fag" or "nigger" or "cunt". I really don't mind the C word in relation to anatomy, because again, it's only a label, but when used in reference to women, it carries with it extremely misogynistic connotations. Which I guess, illustrates the fact that context is everything.

Or is it? Hate speech is hate speech, I believe. If it is wrong for one group to use it, then it is wrong for every group to use it.

Once, my oldest son, who absolutely idolized the child who lived across the street, used the N word in the same way he had heard that child use it. The backlash was swift and harsh. And he was completely confused. He had no idea why it was an appropriate word for that child and his friends of a similar hue, but wrong for him. I, for the life of me, could not explain it to him in a way that made sense. We cannot lessen the impact of a certain kind of word or erase centuries of abuse, oppression and inhumanity associated with it....simply by repurposing it.

So, gay men, calling your other gay friends fags, queers and queens is still disrespectful and wrong. Women, calling each other hos and bitches still wrong. People of color, calling each other nigga,...yep, wrong.

The power in these words cannot be shifted. They will always be harmful and hateful, in every context, for every person.

See, I love words so much, I even love writing about why I love them. I even love writing about bad words. Or, words with bad intentions.

So if I gave the impression with my last post that I am not the eloquent and urbane writer you heard me to be (that's a little self directed sarcasm, btw. Hard to read tone on a computer screen)....please don't run away. I was just having a really bad day. And I hope, that by being genuine here at BAS, my readers can appreciate and relate to me on a level that perhaps is a smidge more meaningful than is usually true in this medium. 

And that's not just a bunch of self serving bloviation.

Love that word, was just looking for a way to work it into this post.

Have a convivial weekend my peeps. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

WARNING: A Whole FUCKLOAD of profanity....

....because it's like therapy for me so deal with it Pollyanna.

So...for a variety of reasons, I am currently mad at the world. Seriously, if you inhabit "the world", you are on my shit list today.

And I'm fantasizing about running away. Remember that woman who was in the news recently for reappearing after vanishing without a trace eleven years ago? She dropped off her kids at school, left dinner defrosting on the counter, laundry tumbling dry....and disappeared.

OH. MY. GOD. YEEESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS. I wish had that woman's balls. She just couldn't deal, so she skedaddled.

And folks, that really sums it up. I just can't deal any more. For twenty years, I have put everybody's needs above my own. And I am so tired. So, so, so tired.

Fed up.

Pissed off.

Dis. Fucking. Gruntled.

I have two teenagers in my house, one of whom is a legal adult and thinks he has the wisdom and experience to conduct his life as he sees fit. Even though he lives in my house. Eats my food. Enjoys my internet, cellphone and cable television. Even though there is no way he could provide these things for himself. The other is just very, very, very fifteen. And unfortunately, Asperger's ups the puberty quotient about 110%.

Let's be clear. I know this is a phase. It's age appropriate behavior for the most part although I'm sure some are better and some are worse. I know I went through it too and I'm quite sure my mother was tempted to strangle me in my sleep as well. But that doesn't make it any easier to be treated day in and day out as though you exist only to serve their needs, and get absolutely nothing in return. To have your home, your belongings and your wallet appropriated, as if this is just the way it should be. To get complaints and protests and half assed effort when you ask for any help.


Me: "Please don't take my brush. It's the only one I have and when I'm hurrying to get ready for work, it's really annoying to have to go looking for it." 

Kid #1: "Okay."

Me (next day): Where is my brush?????

Kid #1: "In my car."

Me: "I asked you not to take it!"

Kid #1: "I needed it."

Or this one....

Kid #2: Can I have one of your water things?

Me: "No, those are expensive and I only bought a couple to treat myself this week."

Kid #2: "Okay".

Me: (next day) "What happened to all my flavored water?"

Kid #2. "I only drank one".

Those are small things. But a multitude of small things piling up day in and day out, all spell.......


It's not robbing a bank. It's not knocking someone up. It's not drinking and driving. But it's complete and total lack of regard for anything I say, anything I feel, anything I need. It's a total lack of concern, caring, and consideration for the one person who has always and forever put their needs above her own, since the day they were born. 

It's upsetting. 

Oh I all are full of advice. You shouldn't let them get away with that!  We should take away this. We should remove that. We should stop allowing the other. We must discipline our children!

Save it. We've tried it all. We are not those Dr. Phil parents. We set limits. We impose consequences. We punish and ground and take away privileges. We are not patsies. And you may find this hard to believe, but someday, despite your best efforts, your kids will act like assholes too. Somebody once told me this is a purposeful thing on the part of evolution. It's necessary for them to act like assholes so we will shove them out of the nest and not be sad when we seem them plummeting to their doom.

We'll be all..."Good. Little fucker deserved a broken beak."

Which makes perfect sense. And in that respect, you have to kind of marvel at the simple brilliance of it.

Nevertheless. I'm over it. O.V. E.R. it.

So...just like when Mary Pautz and I were nine and we decided to run away to her garage attic to put the fear of God into our parents...I'm thinking about running away.

I don't even remember why we ran away. I'm sure there was some horrible, horrible transgression on the part of my parents. I wasn't allowed to watch Three's Company because my mother thought it promoted an immoral lifestyle. That really chapped my ass. So maybe it was that. Maybe it was because she wouldn't let me wear high heeled Candies for my third grade class picture. No, no wait....I remember. It's because she wouldn't let me send my babysitting money to the Sean Cassidy fan club. I wiped asses and noses for that money. I thought that I was well within my nine year old rights to buy Sean Cassidy's love with it if I so chose.

But I digress.

Tonight, things came to a head and I lost my shit big time. And then I left all of them to marinate in the aftermath and I went to soak in a hot tub. And while I was in there, I was fantasizing about how to engineer my escape.

I thought....I can go to Wisconsin. I can live in my Mom's house. I can....

Wait. I have no car. I have no job. I have no way to take care of myself. And the ONE person who would say..."It doesn't matter. Just come home. We'll figure it out." gone. The ONE  person who has consistently put MY needs before her own always and without gone. The ONE person who unquestionably cared about me more than gone.

And then the mad left.

And I cried for an hour.

Because that's a really sucky thing to realize. That nobody will ever love you like that again. Ever.

I don't even know how to end this. I guess that's it. Just that really horrible truth.


(I sort of feel a little better now. Funny how the blatant and repeated use of  the word FUCK will calm a bitch down, innit?)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rain and Pain Revisited

I have a confession to make.

Sometimes? I stalk myself.

Which means...sometimes I dig deep into my blog archives to remind myself that once upon a time, I wrote stuff worth reading. Because sometimes, and this also falls under the confession umbrella, I worry that maybe I've already written the greatest stuff my brain can muster up and there just isn't any more left. I do it to assure myself that if I did it then, I can do it now.

So today I ran across this. WOW. I wrote this piece five years ago; waaaaaaaaay back before we discovered that Diminutive One had Asperger's. See...I knew, even then, that there was something more than "Spirited". I just didn't know what or how much or if it could be fixed. But it's strange how that knowledge does not change the sentiments I expressed in this piece. It's only defined them a little bit and perhaps made them more legitimate in the eyes of the world. I'm not crazy and neither is my kid.

It's kind of weird to read old stuff. It's almost like traveling back in time.We all put a lot of  baggage behind us in order to get out of bed everyday and experience new stuff that then has to be put behind us as well. Some of that is probably best left in the past, but some of it, I think, can lend perspective to the present and future. But it is a little eerie to delve back into your own psyche. back with me and enjoy.

No Rain and a Mother's Pain

Last Mother's Day, I received an iPod from my wonderful husband children, and I quickly set about trying to make up for all the years I was held prisoner by my children's musical tastes. Thankfully we escaped the Wiggles craze by the skin of our teeth, but I had my own cross to bear in the form of a leering purple dinosaur.

If you have an iPod, you know that iTunes will make recommendations based on music you've already downloaded. Since I'm still kind of a neophyte when it comes to popular music in the new millenium, the suggestions are welcome. I often find that they are very accurate in matching music to my taste.

Recently I downloaded "No Rain" by Blind Melon on the sage advice of iTunes. I immediately liked it, and I've played at least seven times in a row every day for the last week. Then I watched the video on YouTube, and found the lead singer very charasmatic and compelling in a quirky and eccentric kind of way.

I was sold on Blind Melon and decided that I needed to find more music by this band.

Imagine my surprise to find that the lead singer died of a cocaine overdose 12 years ago.

12 years ago I had a brand new baby (my first) and my focus was on sleep, keeping my breasts from exploding in public, and keeping my infant alive, which, at the time, seemed like a ridiculously tall order for someone as obviously as inept as I. The point is, popular music was about as low down on my list of priorities as intercourse.

So, though the Bee girl did spark a curious deja vu, and though I'm sure his sad and sordid demise was reported on the news, the name Shannon Hoon meant nothing to me. Thus, the information passed through the internal filter that rejected anything not immediately pertaining to sleep, boob expolosions, and the care and feeding one very small and very helpless infant.

For for some reason, I was inordinately and inexplicably bummed out by the death of some musician I wasn't even aware of a week ago, and who has not been on this earth for twelve years.

Indulging my natural tendency towards nosiness, I Googled (funny how that word has become part of our cultural lexicon) his name and began reading.

I was immediately struck by how descriptions of him were eerily similar to how I would describe my youngest, spirited Diminutive One.

Now, I'm a writer, and as such, I have natural predilection for artistic exaggeration. But I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that the hair on my arms stood up as I read, and a chill slithered down my spine.

He is described as being larger than life, as having an expansive personality and an insatiable appetite for things he loved. He lived a life of excess, not just in terms of addiction, but in every respect. He was, by all accounts, a born performer, a natural and undisputed frontman. He was his own man with his own ideas.

These traits, though they contributed to a kind genius that is still talked about by other artists, are the very same that made him difficult to be around at times. He could be inflexible. Moody. Uncommunicative. And was impossible to be angry with him. Because, as one of his former bandmates said "Not a day went by that he didn't do something amazing." He was "A tyrant and an angel."

Jesus, what a waste.

I have always felt, with that peculiar brand of maternal presentiment, that Diminutive One was bound for greatness. Because I can't believe a spark that burns that hot and bright was meant to languish in a life of mediocrity. But I have also feared that such a spark can only burn so long before it consumes itself in a catacylsm of brilliance, madness, and voracity.

My Diminutive One is sometimes exhausting to be around, even when he isn't being particularly contrary or defiant. There is such energy and spirit and character to him, that it cannot be sustained unless it feeds on those around him. He can crack your bones and suck out the marrow with his presence, leaving you feeling empty, defeated and diminished.

But there are times that the dazzling beauty of him will lift you higher than you ever thought possible. Those are the times that I fear for him the most, because I fear the loss of it with a cold, icy dread.

I think Shannon's mother must have been ripped apart by his ignoble death. Surely someone who lived so enormously should have died in the manner set forth by the heroes of our childhood. Surely someone such as he should have exited in a blaze of perfect, dignified, sublime glory. But I think that perhaps she expected it, like she probably also suspected that he would be not leave this world without having changed it.

It's a kind of pain I hesitate to imagine, and one that I can't help contemplating.

I guess that's what it is to be the mother of a child like that. We hope for the best, expect the worst and try like hell not to wish away the moments that may be all too few.

If you have a Spirited Child, I want to tell you...don't waste time wishing for what can never be. Your child and mine will never be the quiet one, the well-mannered one, the "good" one. Celebrate them for what they are, in all their bigness, because living small is not in the cards for them.

And we, as their mothers, can only watch and hope, and sometimes guide. It's a deep ache to be sure, always wondering what will become of them, but it's also a sweet pain knowing that whatever comes, it will not be ordinary.

Our children will make their mark on this world

(Also worth of the comments, left by "Anonymous" said, "'re one of THOSE Mommies."  Not sure exactly what that was supposed to imply, but, regardless, I'm sure the answer is yes. Asswipe.)

Sunday, June 09, 2013

A Different Kind of No More

From the moment we arrived, I had been dreading our departure.

I dreaded all the departures. For twenty-five years I had been coming and going from my childhood home. You would think it would get easier over time. But it never did. If anything, it only got harder, especially after my Mom got sick. I had researched her illness of course. Dr. Google told me that her life expectancy after diagnosis was fifteen years. And they flew by with a swiftness that was unrelenting. My efforts to savor, catalogue and chronicle every moment in an effort to slow the passage of time was rather like trying to stop a locomotive by grabbing hold and digging in my heels. Futile. Absolutely futile. Especially from 900 miles away.

It had always been there you see. Even when I was grown up and had a home of my was always there waiting. I could always go back. I always had a place. It gave me the peace and the security that I needed to stay centered here in the land of I don't belong. Some of that evaporated when my Mom died. She had always been a problem solver. She never waited around for things to sort themselves out. She had weathered some incredibly difficult life experiences and emerged battered and weary, but never beaten. So I knew that regardless of what life threw at me, that house would shelter me, and she would help me muddle through. 

Even though I still have a father and a wonderfully supportive husband, I felt utterly lost when she died. Something about losing your Mom makes you feel terribly unbalanced and alone. But as long as the house was there, my Mom wasn't as profoundly gone as she would have been otherwise. Gone, yes, but still very much in evidence.

But, as we all know, the only constant in life is change. And change things did. My Dad met a woman and got married. Understandably, she was not inclined to live in my Mom's house. So the house is up for sale and this past week I travelled home for the final time to divide up the household belongings and the personal items of my mother's that remain there.

Her wedding dress is in a box with her dried and crumbling bouquet, the just married sign, the cake topper and all the collapsible tissue paper decorations from the reception. In others boxes were the baby clothes we wore and the baby clothes she wore. Doll clothes sewn by her mother. Letters from Korea written by her brother. Silk pajamas from a Japanese pen pal. A carton of family documents dating back to the 1800's. Plaster plaques she painted when we were born, each one inscribed with names, birth dates and birth weights. A multitude of incredibly detailed cross stitches. And so much more.

All those things hold inestimable sentimental value to all three of us for obvious reasons. But even the mundane utilitarian items are significant. My Dad couldn't understand why we agonized over butter dishes, gravy boats and nondescript kitchen bowls. He stood by looking bemused as we struggled to let go of things that seemed perfectly ordinary to him. But a gravy boat is 40 Thanksgiving dinners. A butter dish is 40 mornings of toast crumbs and chaos. The bowls are 40 years of cookie dough, cake batter and meatloaf. And 40 years of admonishments for eating it raw.

Those ordinary items were ever present on the landscape of our lives with her. And now, they are all we have left.

Deciding what to do with the things was exhausting and emotionally draining. But we got through it together. And now I can breathe a little easier knowing they are safe.

Friday night my sisters and I and our respective families gathered together around the enormous oak table in the dining room for the last time. I had intended for us to have a grand meal like the one my mother would have orchestrated on such an occasion. But we were simply too weary. So we ordered pizza, a rare treat for us these days, but one that went largely unappreciated by the adults. We were all too aware of the finality.

I didn't sleep that night, knowing what was coming. I stared at the ceiling of my old room, remembering and watching the hours on the clock tick by.  At 3 am I gave up and got out of bed. I wandered through rooms now stripped of everything that made them a home. Each and every one advertised her absence with it's blankness. I realized, with relief, that I felt strangely detached. That was good. That was easier. But the worst was yet to come.

My mother's customary spot in the kitchen was in front of the sink where she could gaze out at her garden.   For forty years she stood there; warden, sentinel, hostess. In the silent but not silent dark of old houses, I took her place. The yard too was dark, but a glimmer of white caught my eye. Her beloved peonies, which have normally come and gone by this time of year, had steadfastly refused to bloom due to the unseasonably cold weather. I had hoped they would flower while I was there, as I rarely got to see them in full bloom, but they remained stubbornly closed. The glimmer was an open bud, two, three, four.

I left the kitchen and ventured out into the damp grass. Their fragrance was still faint, but it was there. Only the white ones were blooming and only a few buds on each bush tested the promise of spring. But one bloom was fully open; full, lush and creamy white. I stroked the silky petals and thought briefly of snipping it to take with me.

But I couldn't clip that brave bud. So I simply whispered to it. "Good bye Mom."

A few hours later, my family had been rousted from bed and the first fingers of dawn were beginning to streak across the sky.

It was time to leave.

I thought if I did it fast, like a band-aid, it would hurt less. After only a moment of hesitation, I pulled the door shut. It clicked, locking me out of childhood. No more you can come home any time. No more Mom will make it better. No more escape into Sean Cassidy daydreams.

Drive, I said to my husband. Drive away. And he did.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Secondhand People

The smell registers first. It's not offensive, exactly. It's that of disuse and slow decay. It's the smell of thrift shops, used bookstores and museums. It smells of lack; sunlight fresh air and habitation.

But there are people here. They spill into hallways, litter common areas and huddle in sunny spots. Some drift, some amble, some meander, some roll. There is not much purpose in their progress. They simply seek to fill the days with something other than sleeping and remembering. They are broken, they are used up, they are worn out.

Still...they think and breathe and feel. They are not yet disposable. Just dispensable.

But there is no market for second hand people. Once they were respected and admired. Once they loved and were loved. Once they were the the backbone of their communities and this country. Once they fought for all the things we take for granted today. But they no longer have any value in a society that prizes youth, beauty, vigor .and productivity. They cannot be repurposed or refurbished or recycled.

They have no they come here. And they are the lucky ones.

Unease dribbles down my backbone, as it always does when confronted with frailty, vulnerability, or mortality. Its pools at the base of my spine becomes a ball of chilly dread. It's hard for me to breathe in a place like this. But the tanks and canulas and coughs remind me I must. So I do. Deeply.

My guide is cheerful, like the murals that mask the gray of cinderblock walls. They are everywhere. She chatters and twitters and greets the residents by name. She feeds us bits and pieces of their life stories. She catalogues their missing limbs and maladies. She is not a resident. She can leave any time she pleases and this, I think, fuels her desperate delight. As it would mine.

We take turns wheeling her husband of 65 years around the facility. His hair is white and his voice tremulous with age. He is still big and he still looks deceptively strong. But this man strapping man who once carried me on his shoulders with ease...cannot rise from his chair unassisted. It seems impossible that the tickle monster, piggyback giver, popcorn popper, boogey monster chaser and deerslayer still exist somewhere inside.

It hurts to see him so....diminished. I don't like to think of him that way because I don't like to think of myself that way. It scares me far more than any other kind of disaster. For what can be more disastrous than the loss of autonomy, dignity, independence and sanity? Nothing, I think. Nothing. And everyone in this place is living what I fear the most.

I would avoid it if I could. But I know there isn't much time left. 

During our visit, I see flashes of the man I once knew; silly and cheeky and wry. It reminds me that he's not really gone. Yet. And the same is true of all those seemingly vacant people milling around the halls. They look so empty, but really they are brimming over. It makes me feel both better and worse. Better to realize there is something left inside those worn out and broken bodies. Worse to realize that so many of their stories may never be told. 

We are German people. We are stoic. We are not comfortable with flowery sentiment or displays of affection. But when we leave, I hug them both long and hard. Despite my heritage, it is hard to let go.

I take a last glance back before stepping outside.

My secondhand people are smiling. They are not vacant. They are not diminished. They are not less. She kisses his bald head and he beams up at her. They are happy.

I turn to see a woman at the window looking out over the calm, clear water, listening to big band music on an iPad. Her head sways gently from side to side. A group of men play cards to her left. Their movements are slow, but their laughter is quick. I look back at my secondhand people, who are now on their way into the dining hall. She greets other secondhand people and calls them by name. One man waves a bandaged stump in reply. They all laugh.

I begin to see that my own fears have clouded my vision. Maybe this isn't just a warehouse. Perhaps it is a haven and a respite. Perhaps it's a tranquil stop on the last leg of a harried and hectic journey. Perhaps it's comfort and security and rest.

My heart though still heavy, lightens just a bit. I leave knowing my secondhand people are safe and comfortable and I can forget for a while that this might be the last time. And I can stop worrying about my own secondhand fate.

There are worse things. 


This is the place we visited. It was really quite impressive despite my initial unfavorable impression of the place. It was clean and very well run, with lots of amenities. I'm glad places like this exist.