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Monday, March 31, 2014

Pest Control

I went to the dermatologist recently and had that mole on my neck removed, the one my mother always called a beauty mark.  I remember when I first realized that it was back there.  I was just a child.

And now, it's gone.  Don't be sad.  I'm not.  Well, maybe I am, just a little.  I've had it since forever.  I think my neck really misses that mole on my neck.  Of course, it's hard for me to tell because my neck doesn't have a mouth and can't actually speak and share its feelings.  It just quietly rests on my shoulders, holding my head in place.

Then again, if my neck had a mouth, I'd probably have much bigger problems than that mole on my neck.  If my neck ever grows a mouth, I will definitely have it removed as soon as possible.  One mouth on me is more than enough.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

We Are Stars

Take my hand,
       Imaginary friend.
Let me show you
       What's inside my mind.

You are fun to be with,
       And I am yours forever.
I have a great idea.  You wait here!
       I will find out about the world
And place what I learn
       At your feet.

Choose what you like
       And let's pretend.
We are everything
       That interests us most.

There is so much
       To discover in play!
Help me dress for success.
I can become our dreams.

Love Birds

Thank you, God, for my girlfriends;
Such gorgeous, energetic birds!

They call to me with a pleasant song,
      that fills the day with music.
They perch themselves on the tree that is my life.
Together, we celebrate!

Thank you, God, for the strength to support them
      with a firm, cool place to rest.
On each branch and in every leaf, a bit of hope

And the chance to marvel at the beauty
      of these beloved creatures.

With shining eyes and bits of the world

      streaming from their feathers,
They pause in flight.
For a minute and through the years,
      building on what we share.
Together, we cherish the seasons.

Here I am, darlings!

And there, you go!
Darting here and there.
Just beautiful.

This friendship is fair and free.

Spread your wings and become the trees.
      Now, I am the bird.  Watch me!
Our love is the garden.

Thank you, God.

Knowing this love colors everything.

It All Adds Up...

I have a limited appreciation for math.  Of course,  I know it's a very important subject.  An adeptness at math is required to carry out many of our daily activities. Being able to figure percentages can come in handy when faced with sale prices and nutrition labels.  Road signs feature fractions that tell us the distance to our destination.  Recipes indicate how much of certain ingredients to include in various dishes.  Calculating monthly bills requires specific arithmetic skill.

I keep no secrets with regard to my statistical shortcomings.  I loathe math! Despite my inability to divide by anything higher than five, Desmond and Bro seem to be learning what's necessary in order for them to do well in school, secure decent jobs someday and make the world a better place.  We have one simple rule in this house concerning the homework.  David checks numbers, and I review the words.  I've always favored sentences and stories, anyway.  When situations involve math, I prefer to examine the motives.

Let's say Jack buys six new albums at the record store.  Susie borrows four of them, two of which she lends to Chad, a guy she knows from her job at Smashburger. Chad is creepy but he deals decent weed, and Susie hopes he can get her an ounce because she and her two best girlfriends are headed down the shore for Memorial Day weekend.  Chad is an unreliable resource.  Actually, he's an asshole.  He gets pulled over that night and DWI'd, his vehicle confiscated with Jack's music in the glove compartment.  Poor Jack hasn't even listened to Automatic For The People yet.  A month passes and every time Susie sees Jack, she crosses the street to avoid him.  Now, here's where the math comes in.  How many times is Susie going to treat Jack like shit before he finally realizes that she's just a bitch and has been since the second grade?

This neighborhood alone presents a myriad of challenges for the numerically impaired.  I get by, but just barely.  Five boxes of girl scout cookies cost twenty dollars, so that's a nice clean transaction.  I could easily polish off two dozen Samoas without flinching.  I can make correct change if we come across a lemonade stand.  The children have to be very young though, with only the vaguest conceptual grasp of money, in case I get flustered.  It could happen.  Pizzas are round, and they're generally cut into triangles.  This means I can invite six kids over for lunch, but Dave and I have to eat something else.

I clip my children's fingernails on Saturday evenings after they shower, ever since they were babies.  As toddlers, I'd sit them down with a basket full of plastic wind-up toys.  Cars, robots, fish, a donkey with collapsible legs, chattering teeth and an assortment of mice and frogs.  Both boys were so fascinated by these tiny contraptions.  On alternating weeks, I'd manage to get the toenails addressed as well - with very little fuss.
As my sons have gotten older and larger, we sit together on the edge of the bathtub.  They swing their big legs over mine, positioning their hooves above a wastebasket to catch the shrapnel.  It has become a purely administrative exchange.  Every now and again, Rory gives me a hard time.  He claims that I manhandle his digits.  He is full of baloney.  I am as gentle as I can be, a pedicurial foot soldier on the front lines in every sense of the word.  War is hell.
"Really, Mom.  I can do this myself," he suggests as he takes the little scissor and cuts vertically along the top of his nail, creating an impressive jagged effect.
"Nice fringe, Bro.  Can we just get this over with?"
"Fine, but don't be so rough," he begs.
"C'mon, already.  Man up."

"How many times a year do you think you clip my toenails?" he asked me last week as he hung over my shoulder, checking my progress.
"I'm not sure, Brother.  Let's figure it out.  There's 365 days in a year.  Divide that by 52 weeks and you get 7.  Add your current age, which is 9 and you have 16. Count the number of toes on each foot, multiply that by 2 and there's your answer.  I clip your toenails 26 times a year."
"It feels like more," he said.
"Don't I know it," I replied.

"Mom, you've gotta admit.  Dad's the smartest member of our family," Rory professes without hesitation.
I take no offense to this blanket statement.  David is a very bright guy, and I'm glad Rory recognizes his father's worth.  He is, after all, in charge of the math.  I don't know what I'd do without him.  Perhaps it is the fact that my husband has never clipped a child's toenails that has helped him retain his edge.
"You're right, Bro.  I admit it.  Dad is awesome."  I finish up with that last resistant pinky toe and send him on his way.
"Go find your brother.  It's his turn."

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Follow That Carrot!

Just so you know…
The Easter Contest is gonna be ridiculous!
Rabbits and chicks, chocolate and jelly beans.
This prize package has it all!

Don't miss out on this adorable opportunity.  Two chances to win.
Under the Networked Blog section to the right of this post, click the blue Follow This Blog button to be eligible.  It's that easy.
If you're already a follower, you're automatically in the drawing.
Admit it.  You'd love a fluffy bunny!  Who wouldn't?

Follow the blog.  Share it with friends.
Maybe you should even start praying you win.
It couldn't hurt.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Cannibal Resource


Okay, no more drinking.  Just drugs.
That has to count for something, doesn't it?

Only now, there is no lubricant.

Just startling, angular highs.
Joyless and terrifying.

I cannot eat or sit down.  My mind anticipates everything I'm about to do.  It thinks I am already doing it, but I'm not.  I am always moving, going nowhere.


There is virtually no sleep.  Shadows appear on every wall.  Dark images grow where my eyes rest.  They become weird shapes - insects, mostly.  Worms and beetles, moths with large wings.  This affects my driving.  I can't leave if I get too loaded.  I am stuck in the house.

   
*******

When David and I were a relatively new couple, we went to the Northshore Animal League in Port Washington and got ourselves a dog.  A cute little brown thing, perhaps a cross between a German Shepherd and a kangaroo.  Unapologetically rambunctious.  We named her Bubbles.


Bubbles was the sweetest animal in America.  She loved life and everything in it. Birds, cats, squirrels, other dogs - she longed to chase them and be friends.  All sights and sounds piqued her interest - feet sliding into shoes, doorbells on TV, keys, potato chips, the coffee maker.


Some dogs are maniacs if they can't blow off steam.  Bubbles would pace about the house, toenails clicking along the floor.  Tweeting, chirping and whining.  She chewed her feet nervously.  She shoved them into her own ears, scratching until she cried out.  She licked her snapper like she was in a trance.  She needed outlets for her energy.


Sometimes, I'd bring her with me when I was in the yard.  I'd position my beach chair under a tree and hook her leash to the armrest.  Together, we'd sit.  Two anxious girls, just trying to be in the world.

If the phone rang, I'd get up and go inside to answer it.  Upon my return, she'd be gone from our spot, having dragged the chair clear across the lawn and into the woods.  She couldn't help herself.  Running around was all she'd ever done.

I was Bubbles for many years.  A nice dog that just went nuts.

When I started going to AA, it was recommended that I try to improve my conscious contact with God.  At that point in time, all of my relationships were in jeopardy.  It seemed that every single person in my life was negatively impacted by my self-destructive excesses.  I really needed a reminder that God was also on the list of people who were annoyed and disappointed with me, like a giant hole in my head.

There was nothing purposeful about my wandering away from God.  It's not like I deliberately stopped having faith one day.  Little by little, I just quit thinking about Him.  I had other stuff on my mind.  I suppose I still believed, but we weren't hanging out much.  When we did, our conversations basically consisted of me, making wishes and begging for help because I was in trouble.  If God couldn't get me high or pay my way out of a jam, I just wasn't all that interested.


I went to those first few meetings, trying not to crawl out of my skin.  I was still doing speed, so it was tough to concentrate.  I tried praying, but I couldn't put my thoughts together.  I'm certain folks knew I was jacked up, but nobody hassled me. They smiled when they saw me again.

"Glad you're here, Mary."
"Keep coming back.  It gets easier."
I wanted to believe them, but I really didn't.  Not yet, anyway.

When I met with Dr. Korman, we talked about me trying to put the drugs down.  I was afraid.  I felt sad enough without the drink.  The situation remained this way for another two months.  I tried to convince myself I wasn't a drunk anymore.  Just a junkie.  Only one bad thing instead of two.  I lined the tiny area between rock and hard place with my own crap and covered it with leaves. It still stunk like shit.


During this time, I thought about God more frequently.  I wondered if He remembered me.  I wasn't sober yet, and I knew I couldn't get straight on my own. I started praying in a different way.  I quit trying to make manipulative deals.  I surrendered everything to God.  I put all of my decisions in His hands.


*******

March 26th, 2001 was a Monday.  It was the last day I got high.  When I finally shut my eyes, I slept so long, I pissed my bed.  I woke up, changed my pajama bottoms and laid a big towel on the mattress.  I went back to sleep.


That Thursday, I met with some terrific folks at St. Claire's in Boonton who eased me through my detox.  Within a week, my outlook began to improve.  I wouldn't say I was happy, but I did feel much better.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Four Years An Angel

The morning Big Mare had the feeding tube installed in her belly, we met briefly with the surgical team to discuss the procedure.  The tumor was lodged in her esophagus, like an immovable boulder.  No food could get past it.  Essentially, she was starving to death.  The feeding tube could bring nutrients right into her stomach.  In theory, she'd have a better chance of staying strong and fighting infection.  It didn't work out that way, but it sure was worth a try.
"You're down too much weight, Mrs. Dall," the doctor said.  "You need nourishment."
I could tell that my mother thought her surgeon was very handsome.
"Do you understand what's happening today?" he wanted to be sure.  Mom nodded her head, even though I knew she was confused.  "Do you have any questions before we begin?"
"What's gonna happen to Daddy?" she asked him.

"Do you want to call your father?"  The nurse looked at me.
"Nah, we're good.  He has TBI.  Mom's his caretaker."
"Oh."  She paused.  "Can he stay with you?" she inquired.
"I don't think so.  I'm not sure.  He's diabetic and uncooperative."
"Mary, don't let him eat jelly," my mother insisted.
"Look, I'll do what I can." I didn't want to fight with her.
"Promise me, Honey."
"Okay, Mom.  I got it.  No jelly."

"This is a shit storm, isn't it?" I asked the nurse.
"Yes, it is," she said.  "Are you ready?  Because it's coming."
"I think so." I answered .  What else could I say?
She squeezed my hand, and I let out a noise.  It was a small sound, the kind you might make when the needle goes in.

"Did you ever in your life?" Big Mare inquired, staring past us.
The nurse and I waited for her to continue with what sounded like an incomplete thought.
"I just spent four grand on new teeth.  Money right out the fucking window."

*******

My father had been at the Adult Day Care Center in town during the day.  The folks who worked there were terrific.  They enjoyed my Dad, as most folks do.  Since the accident, he is easy to please.  My mother was the only one who found him to be an intolerable drain.  Then again, my folks had a turbulent history.  Big Mare put a lot of time in, and she wasn't about to let all that resentment go.  In some civilizations, animosity is a valuable currency.
"He owes me," she would often say.
It's a shame that he never paid her back.  He had no idea there was a debt.

The women at Shepherd's Haven greeted me at the door.
"We're praying for Mary," Dawn proffered as she wrapped her arms around me.  I leaned in for an embrace from two ladies I barely knew.  It felt good.  They handed me a shopping bag filled with leftovers from lunch.
"Take care, Gene!"  They called to my Dad as I stuffed his big body into the car and fastened his seatbelt.  He waved.
"They're very nice," he said.
"You're a lucky motherfucker," I reminded him.
He laughed.  He thinks it's funny when I curse.

That evening, we got takeout from the pizzeria.  I ordered a pie for us, chicken parm for my Dad.  I cut my father's meat and tucked two big paper towels into the neckline of his shirt.  He ate his dinner, carefully chewing the cutlet on the side of his mouth where his teeth were still located.  He had three of them at the time. There's only one tooth left, and he manages pretty well.  It's incredible.  He's had the same tube of toothpaste for seven months.

Every once in awhile when my father is eating, he'll start to cough.  It's the scariest thing you'll ever hear.  It sounds as if he is choking to death and the end is imminent. 
"Gene, are you all right?  Can you breathe?"  I holler into his face.
"Yes," he'll say, clearing his throat.
"Here.  Drink something." I'll hand him a glass of water.
"Why?  I'm not thirsty."  He has a point.

David and I sat at the dining room table that night, discussing my father's future. Dad was right there with us, doing his word search puzzles.
"Is Grandpa gonna sleep over?" Desmond asked.
"No, Sweetheart.  Mommy's gonna bring him back to his house in a little bit.  I'll go get him in the morning, and we'll take him to his new place."
I looked over at my father.  No reaction.  

I slept like shit that night.  My heart and mind took turns worrying about my parents.  I envisioned her, dying alone in a hospital bed.  And him, wandering out onto Hamburg Turnpike, getting hit by a truck.

The next morning, I let myself into the apartment.  I found Dad in the bedroom, eating salad from a gallon size ziploc bag.
"How come you're back here?" I asked him.
"I'm having breakfast," he said.
"What are you, whacked out?  Give me that." I grabbed the wilted lettuce from his lap.  "C'mon, I'll make you some cereal."

My old man followed me into the kitchen.  He sat in his usual spot at the table, waiting for whatever.  I refused to see him as lost.  If I did, I wouldn't have been able to move, ever again.  I'd still be frozen in that spot.
"Where's your mother?" he asked.
"I told you.  She's at Chilton.  They had to put in a feeding tube, so she can… get food."  He couldn't really grasp what I meant.  I barely had words to explain what was happening to us.
"Is she coming back?"
"I don't know, Dad.  Do you want some juice?"
"That'd be nice," he said.

"Finish up here.  You need a shower.  We have to get going."  I tried urging him along.
"I'm spotless," he announced.  "And I'm already dressed."
"Dude, you're wearing pajamas and clothes.  Make up your fucking mind."

*******

Mom, today you are four years an angel.  I can't believe it.  The time passes quickly and also goes slow.  Occasionally, I wonder if now that you're settled up there in Heaven, maybe you want Dad with you again.  Sure, it's an abstract thought, and I'm not in a hurry to rush things along.  Whenever you're ready, I know I'll be okay with what happens.  And until then, we're doing just fine.





Saturday, March 15, 2014

Prompted

Creative writing prompts are a great way to encourage new material and help strengthen one's composition skills.  I enjoy this exercise because it's challenging, and I'm never quite sure where the words will take me.  Each thought promises endless fantastic adventure when you're Mary.  I should know because I wake up Mary every morning.  Some days are much longer than others.

Here's one:  Describe your life in ten words.  It sounds easy, but the more I think about it, I just don't know if I can do it.  I might crack under the confining pressure of the assignment.  Right off the bat, I find the parameters of such a request baffling and nearly impossible to justify.

If I had to describe my life in ten words… And there you go.  Immediately, you've got your ten words.  Exercise over.  See what I mean?  My torture is endless.

Maybe if I look at things differently.  Make a list of descriptive terms, instead.  Let's try that.  From this angle, I'd probably have a stronger start.

Okay.  Words like Happy and Joyful come to mind easily.  These are elements of speech that are fundamentally indicative of how I interpret the world and my place in it.  They do seem a bit bland, though.  How's about this?  We'll swap out Happy for Buoyant and trade in Joy for Mirth.  There, that's better.

Let's move on.  Eight words remain.  Here's where I start to consider the brevity of this undertaking.  Make smart choices, Mary.  Solid selections that accurately describe the intrinsic nature of your being.  Best look up the word intrinsic while you're at it.  Make sure you're using that one properly.

Intrinsic:  Belonging naturally, essential.
Yeah, okay.  We're good.
Have I mentioned Distracted?

Enthusiastic
, that's accurate.  Hopeful, another firm entry.  But. c'mon now.  No one's world consists exclusively of rainbows and lollipops.  It's unhealthy and sickening.  We should go deeper into the woods, beyond the doe and fawn that graze in sunlight by the opening in the trees…  There's gotta be something dark and sinister back there, chewing on the intestines of a less fortunate herbivore. Let's find it!

On second thought, we'd better not.  Excitable, yes.  Impulsive, no.

I love words.  They're all so magnificent.  Perhaps more than any other element, it is the mastery of language that sets us humans apart from the animal kingdom. For this reason, I'm quite certain I'd make a miserable cat.  Cats get one word. MEOW.  That's the question, the answer, the joke and the verdict.  It's the same for everything.  If I were a cat, I'd go crazy.  Only I'd spell krazy with a "k" just to get attention.  But who'd ever know?  My explanation would always be MEOW.  I'd be the loudest cat.  I am a loud girl.  I live a Loud life.

As humans, we have the ability to pass on knowledge and learn from more than just our own experiences.  I can talk and listen.  I can understand and empathize.  I am Friendly.

Words are powerful, but life is long and memory becomes fragile.  Words are more than merely sounds.  They must be preserved and shared in undiluted form.  So I write things down.  I enjoy being Communicative in this way.

I have one word left.
I will save it in my pocket.  It feels good to have something extra.