Tuesday, May 30, 2006
For me, Memorial Day Weekend has always meant the start of summer. The last weekend of May is the sign that days are officially longer, the sandy surf is open for the season and water ice is readily available for dessert. The Monday off typically includes a meal of hot dogs and hamburgers grilled to perfection over piping hot charcoal. You dab the grease from your lips with American flag napkins. Memorial Day simply marks the end of spring and the start of summer. It means nothing more. At least it didn’t until this year.
I didn’t arrange any plans for this holiday weekend. I’d thought about making a last minute journey to Old Saybrook, the beachside town where I spent many summers as a child. Even twenty-five years later, Connecticut is a warm and comfortable home away from home. From the lobster roll and season specific $5 t-shirt at Lenny & Joe’s to feeding the seagulls down by Saybrook Point, I find everything about this sleepy seaside town enjoyable.
But alas, I remained local. I had dinner plans with a friend on Friday night and there was little appeal to hitting the road early on Saturday morning. So here I stayed. Following a few hours of catching up at the Chestnut Grill, I parted ways with my friend and headed home. Feeling guilty from the not quite healthy salad, a bed of lettuce littered with avocado, grilled chicken, bacon and feta, I slipped into some exercise clothes and hit the treadmill. Time on that thing doesn’t remove all guilt but it does reduce it ever so slightly.
I flipped through the channels on the TV as I worked my way up in speed and incline. Eventually, I settled on an HBO documentary, Baghdad ER. I’d heard rumblings about this film but only through the media. I dropped the remote back into the slot specified for a water bottle and began paying attention.
When it comes to politics and the war, I have my opinions. But I tend to shy away from conversation about either. The bottom line is that everything I’ve concluded has been based on where I’m standing. In case you’re wondering, I’m standing in a nice sized one bedroom condo that’s nestled in a protected community where the worst crime my local police force deals with is under aged drinking and loitering at the WaWa. I know my opinions are shaped by the sheltered life I lead and therefore understand they aren’t necessarily well grounded.
Many years have passed since the war in Iraq commenced. The ongoing deaths and injuries of Americans makes the news but not in the sensational way as before. Unless, of course, the person killed is a reporter. That makes the front page every time. Otherwise, casualties are a mere blip in the rundown of worthwhile events to report, falling well below silly things like who is winning the basketball tournament and the umpteenth arrest specific to Natalee Holloway's disappearance.
I got off the treadmill and watched the remnants of the documentary from my sofa. There was sweat pouring down my brow and I was terribly thirsty. Nonetheless, I remained focused on the tragic reality splashed across my screen. I was invited into a world I honestly never knew existed. I’ve been ignorant to the war going on because I’ve been permitted to remain ignorant. This documentary reminded me of my complacency.
When the show concluded, I turned to my computer and started researching some topics the film had left me pondering. Shortly into my efforts, I submitted my information to adopt a platoon. For all that those men and women do, I think I can muster the strength to pen one letter a week and send one care package a month. Then I donated some air miles to Fisher House. I’d never before heard of this organization but probably because I’ve never lived a life within proximity of the military. Hey, at the end of the day, I wasn’t going to use those American Airline miles anyway. Might as well let a non-profit put them to use.
The last thing I did was sit down to write this post. I’m not one to push my uncertain and wavering political views on my friends let alone the three strangers who read my musings. But supporting the troops has nothing to do with supporting the war or Bush and his administration. It is the simple gesture of letting the men and women who get paid to put their lives on the line so that the people back here in the states, the ones who comfortably spent Memorial Day biting into a juicy burger, don’t have to. I've never served in the military. Absent a draft, I never will. And I honestly can't understand the draw to enlist. Nonetheless, I thoroughly appreciate what is provided to me by those who do enlist and it's about time I relayed my appreciation.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Around a year and half ago, I renewed my Passport. It was an exciting moment that involved mucho primp-o. The previous Passport renewal, I'd made the mistake of posing for the photo at the peak of a head cold. And for ten painful years, I was forced to hand over a legal document capturing a rather unsightly version of me while begging for access to foreign countries. That picture was so bad; I'm amazed I didn't get turned away at the border. Never again. This time around I was armed with every piece of make-up in my arsenal when I stopped by the local camera shop for a work-it-work-it-own-it attempt at a Passport photo.
A few weeks later, my new Passport arrived and at the risk of sounding narcissistic, I looked divine. Now I just needed to find a place to jet set off to so I could put it to use and fill the pages with stamps marking my journey through foreign lands. Fast forward eighteen months and my Passport hadn't yet strayed beyond my zip code. Forget about the country. I finally decided enough was enough. The time had officially come for me to put this new document to use. I sat down with my laptop to explore options. Have Passport, will travel.
“I think I know what I want for my Chanukah and birthday gifts,” I announced from the backseat.
“Gene, if you drop one more piece of popcorn in my car, I’m letting you out at the next light. Wall to wall carpeting?” my mom suggested, oh so subtly reminding me of my unfinished home project.
“Nah. I want to travel. Maybe just cash in the gifts and put it all towards a journey?”
“Gene, I wasn’t kidding about the popcorn. It's bad enough my car is going to smell like a movie theatre. Paige, that sounds great,” my mom replied.
“Yeah. I’ve been doing some research and I think I’m going to hit Peru on a volunteer excursion.”
And with that the car came to a halting stop. Not because of a red light or an unexpected squirrel darting across the street. My mom was so startled by my idea that the only reaction she had was utter shock. I pressed my hand against the back of the seat in front of me to avoid a concussion and my dad spilled popcorn all over his lap and feet.
“Nope. Sorry. I’m not subsidizing your travels to a country with civil unrest. Holy crap! Now all of the popcorn is on the floor.”
"Actually, Carol, it isn't all on the floor. See?" My dad dug his hand around the inside of the bag, retrieved a kernel and proudly popped it into his mouth. My mom and I both ignored him and returned to the third world matter at hand.
“You went to Peru!” I argued.
“Sure. I was in my twenties and had parents who didn't give a crap about my well being. Christ, I left the States with all of twenty dollars. But that isn't the issue. It was unsafe then and is only worse now. Let Angelina Jolie* travel there and adopt a kid. You? You need to find a different destination for a vacation.”
I went another ten minutes with my mom, relaying the excitement I had about volunteering in a remote town. That the intention was to experience an unfamiliar culture. That the organizers of the trip were well regarded, receiving high praise even from the New York Times. Plus, it wasn’t as if the State Department had tossed Peru on the don’t-even-think-of-going-there list. I eventually let out a sigh of disappointment, the equivalent of waving a white flag, and let the topic die.
All volunteer travel research was tucked away for another adventure and I began researching Paris. Maybe I’d make another trip to France, a country I adore and could never tire of. Sure the city had been torched a few months ago by angry residents but that's just the French being, well, French. As I poured over my safe travel options, the phone rang.
“Okay. My mom is renting a house in Portugal for July. I’m not going unless you come with,” Allison threatened.
“There isn’t any civil unrest in Portugal, is there?”
“Only between me and my family if you don’t come as the buffer.”
And with that I dusted off my Passport and ran out to buy some travel books. I relayed the new plans to my mom, noting a scheduled trip to Portugal with a nine day sidestep to Spain. She was so ecstatic that she insisted on covering the airfare. Then she went on and on about all of these places I should mention to Allison as possible stops along the way. Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona, Sevilla and a handful of other towns. I’m thrilled about my pending leap to Europe. But I’m not yet done with this volunteer vacation idea (I find out June 19th if I've been selected to participate in the efforts noted in the previous link). There are lots of pages in that Passport and I intend on marking every single one with a stamp from a different country.
* You've gotta love that there is an entire Adoption section to Angelina Jolie's profile.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
If I ever were struggling with a serious medical condition, I’d seek out the most reputable specialists in Philadelphia and beyond. Though the wait might be three months to get through the door, I’d call in favors. Health is all you have when you boil it down. There’s no time to spare when you’re trying to get yourself back on your feet. So, why is it then that I relied on one of the worst doctors to manage my well being for the last decade?
Back in the nineties, I felt fat. Shit, in 2006 I feel fat. But that’s another story for another time. My mom was on Fen-Phen, along with some other relatives. I tapped the source and ended up seeing Dr. Quack-Quack. It was great. I just strolled in once a month, got weighed, had blood drawn and left with a script of skinny pills that my insurance company paid for. Life was grand, or in my case, petite.
Within a few weeks of popping the meds, I started to lose weight. Two sizes at a time. I went from a 10 right down to a 6 and then to a 2 bordering on a 0. Yes, there is actually a size 0 on the racks. Talk about an ego boost to those who can fit into it and a basis for suicide for those who can’t.
Then friends started to get worried. One person threatened an intervention and another pulled my mom aside and noted my emaciated appearance. It is true that for a week or two, even the size 0 items were hanging a little loose. Before anyone got around to formally sitting me down, the FDA yanked the drugs because of some silly heart condition that could cause death. I went into crisis mode and started rationing my remaining stash.
Eventually, the well ran dry. I tried to replenish my supply via an online Mexican pharmacy but I just got too concerned. What if they sent me something wrong like heartworm medication for dogs and I died from it? What if Jose stole my credit card and bought himself a lovely little villa on the coast of Cabo San Lucas? The what-ifs trumped my desire to linger in the zero zone. Just as quickly as I lost the weight, I did double steps toward regaining, ultimately landing right where I'd begun.
Though there were other pills on the market, Dr. Quack-Quack eventually stopped providing weight management counseling altogether. I’m pretty sure someone above caught onto his act and threatened something major if he didn’t clean himself up. I always thought he wasn’t all that ethical. I know for a fact that there was no need to do blood work on a monthly basis. Dr. Quack-Quack was simply milking every fee he could, riding the wave of insecure women everywhere.
As much as I thought he sucked as a physician, I continued to see him. Finding a new doctor involves research and, worse yet, making an appt for a physical. No one will see you in dire straits if there isn’t a file already started on you. Trust me, I tried. So when I awoke one recent morning with a swollen throat, I called over to Dr. Quack-Quack and made an appointment. “Come right over!” the woman joyously proclaimed. And so I did.
“What seems to be the problem?” Dr. Quack-Quack asked.
“My throat feels swollen though not sore. And I’ve been a little foggy.”
“Uh huh. Uh huh. Deep breath. Good. I’m going to prescribe a Z-Pack and some Flonase to help out. You’ll be good as new in no time. By the way, let’s do some blood work.”
I agreed. Because once you hit your third decade, you’re supposed to do adult things like get annual physicals and check you cholesterol. I wish I could give credit to Dr. Quack-Quack for truly having my health at heart. In reality, I’m sure he just saw the opportunity to bill my insurance company one more fee. Maybe it’d pay for his lobster dinner at The Palm over the weekend. Who knows? His intentions might have been bad but the outcome was beneficial. And in my lame ass book, that counts for something. Correction, that counted for something.
Two weeks later, I got a follow up letter from Dr. Quack-Quack. It was all of five lines and read like this:
I hope you are feeling better since visiting the office. Your lab results are back. Your cholesterol is slightly elevated but can be managed with diet and exercise. Your thyroid levels are also slightly elevated but it’s probably from the hormones in the birth control pill you take. And you don’t have syphilis.
He didn’t note what cholesterol was off nor did he indicate how badly. Same goes for the thyroid levels. As for the syphilis, I was speechless. Has anyone had syphilis since the Tuskegee Study? Couldn’t he just have noted that all STD tests came back negative? In the end, it wasn’t worth seeking additional meaning to the meaningless letter. I picked up the phone and called Dr. Quack-Quack’s office to request a copy of the lab results. Then, I finally called a reputable doctor and made an appointment for a physical. Allow me to bid your tail feathers adieu, Dr. Quack-Quack.
Thursday, May 18, 2006
He’s sitting on his broken in, chocolate brown, leather armchair and I’ve just gotten up off my knees. I prop my ass on the edge of his coffee table, the same one I'd eyed the weekend before when I flipped past page 23 of the Pottery Barn Summer Catalog. I wink and flash a devilish grin when all of a sudden, he leans forward, pushes my knees apart with flattened palms and drops his head between my legs. Now it’s my turn to receive, to just relax. I lean back on my arms and then, weak in the elbows, lower myself down so that my back is on the tabletop.
“Ouch!” I yelp.
“Are you okay?” he stammers out in between tongue teases.
“Sorry, landed right on the sharp edge of one of those movies you thought we should watch. Oh my God! Is this a VHS? You know, they make porn on DVD's these days.”
I push the red plastic video out of the way and onto the floor so we can get back to the task at hand. My eyes close and I just focus on the sweet sensation of him doing his below the waist magic. Caught up in the moment, I throw one arm up over my head and stretch it out as if I’m reaching for something. Wait, what is that? Oh right. The bottle of Snapple I was drinking before it became clothing optional. Did I finish that? Feels like there's some tea lef – oh God that feels good. Is the cap back here too? My hand fumbles around in search of the lid. It’s gotta be back here somewhere.
Mid-reach, he taps a spot and I lose my train of thought. In a good way. I quickly forget about the silly open container interruption causing a minor panic attack about the possibility of spilling some muddy brown, peach, Snapple tea on his imported ivory area rug. I push my shoulders down into the table and slide them along the wood to arch my spine. As my bare skin drags across the tabletop, a very audible suction noise is made.
“I swear to God. That was my back,” I firmly and defensively announce in between giggles.
A muffled uh-huh comes from him. I suppose he knew the noise wasn’t from below the waist because, well, let's be frank here. He was right in the line of fire. I prop myself up on my elbows and watch the top of his head moving around. It adjusts a little here and a little there. Always with purpose. I extend one arm and loosely run my fingers through his hair. After a few seconds, I start to relax. I again lower myself down onto the table.
“Motherfucker! How many porn movies do you own?” I ask as I finagle another video out from under me. Oh, look. There’s that cap to the Snapple.
After a long and deep breath, I find myself now sitting upright and pulling his head out from between my legs. I look him straight in the eyes with my it's-me-not-you gaze for a few seconds before grabbing his head with both hands, pulling him into me and passionately kissing him. I take one last gentle bite of his lower lip. And as I move my mouth away from his, warm breathy words I so badly want to hear come from his mouth. Words I ache for, I crave, I need.
“Let’s go to the bedroom. Less interruptions for my girl.”
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
I had a little bit of a meltdown Sunday afternoon. With my mom out of town and my dad feeling under the weather, I spent most of my weekend's free time nursemaid-ing him or running errands local enough so that I could get back to the house if he needed something. It was a weekend defined by a short leash tethering me to a sicker than usual dad who was home alone while my mom headed south for a little bonding with her grandkids.
Saturday I stopped by the house twice. I was there for a few hours in the late afternoon. I called my dad's doctor to confirm that having uncomfortable hiccups for 48 hours didn't require an ER visit. I made him an egg and spooned some applesauce that he wouldn’t eat because his appetite was absent. And I otherwise lingered nearby with a pile of magazines just in case he needed something. I stopped by again at 12:30am. He asked me to. My dad was in his office at the house and the pills he takes at night were in the bedroom. He was too unsteady to walk the thirty feet that separated him from his medication, fearing a hiccup would send him crashing down. So, I stopped by to transport the meds from Point A to Point B. I was there again on Sunday to help him change out of the clothing he’d been in for 36 hours straight. And to tend to other, less appealing tasks that come with a sicker sick parent. How anyone could ever be drawn to the nursing profession is beyond me.
In the late afternoon on Sunday, I settled in for an hour of bliss at a local nail salon. I treated myself to both a manicure and pedicure, disappearing into a mindless haze. As I shuffled out the door afterwards, toes and fingers sprayed up and out to avoid scratches and nicks, I called my dad to check in. I couldn’t understand him all that well so I just said I’d try him back in a little bit. He beat me to the punch, ringing me one minute later.
“Can you (hiccup, moan) stay here to (hiccup, moan) night? Just if mom’s (hiccup, moan) flight gets canceled (hiccup, moan).”
I couldn’t do it. No matter how much I knew I should just agree to his request, I couldn’t. I’d had enough of the care-taking tasks for the last 48 hours. Or maybe it was for the last twenty-five years. Either way, I was done. I needed a break or I risked a breakdown. Plus, BoyToy was coming by at 10 o’clock for an overdue rendezvous. I needed to feel sexy, to feel attractive, to feel an orgasm from something other than my battery operated toy. So instead of just doing what I always do, I challenged my dad on the true necessity of sleeping at the house. I lied and said I was having dinner in a far northern burb with Joe and Barry. It sounded better than honestly admitting that I had plans to have meaningless sex with a flawed boy. The point was that I wouldn’t get to the house until late anyway. My dad eventually rescinded the sleepover request but not because he no longer wanted me present. More so because I'd argued against him just enough to make him feel like a burden.
Feeling like a total shit, I called my mom. I don’t know why I called her. Maybe to confirm her flight was scheduled to arrive as planned, thereby making the slumber party a non-issue? Maybe to find an alliance with someone who has forever shared the burden of being the local caretaker? After all of these years, I should have known I was about to walk head on into a judgment storm.
“He’s your father, Paige. And he never asks you to do anything. I can't believe you are being so difficult.”
True. He rarely asks me to do something. But then again, I usually just act before he can get the words “can you” out.
“You know what? I wasn’t looking to be told I’m being an unreasonable and selfish bitch. For whatever reason, I’m struggling a little with having a sick parent these days. Layering the MS with some other flu like thing, well, the timing just sucks.
“Oh. I’m so sorry the timing is off. That he got sick while I was away and you had to help out. What do you want me to do about it? I’m in an airport.”
“Fuck sorry about the timing. I’m sorry my dad is sick with MS. Period. Why do you have to be a martyr all the time? And I'm not apologizing for being human and having emotions.”
“You know what, Paige? He’s your father and you don't ask why when a family member asks for help. I expected more from you. But forget it. I’ll just call Karen and ask her to stay at the house tonight because you can’t.”
“Well, if you get in, it doesn’t matter. Just call me if your flight is delayed or canceled.”
“I’m not going to bother you. I’ll just call Karen or dad if things go awry. Consider yourself released. Enjoy your evening.”
And with that the conversation ended. I was now the disappointing daughter. The one who didn’t step up to the family plate when asked. I called Leslie, the person I should have rang the first time I needed to vent.
“Your mother is a fucking cunt whore.”
“Did you write that in her Mother's Day Card? And by the way, I think you mean your mother. I’m not owning her today. Anders, stop it!”
“Yeah, Anders. Your nutty Aunt needs to complain to your mommy about Meemah. You know her! She's the psycho wench who at seven months diagnosed you as autistic. Then she bought you a $500 trainset to make her feel less guilty. Nothing like unconditional love.”
“Don’t let it get to you. Just because she’s a martyr doesn’t mean you have to be. And, it isn’t like you don’t help out with dad. You spend eight hours a day, five days a week helping him. Good one, Olivia. No learning curve with this kid. That officially marks the fourth time in one hour that she’s knocked her head on the same cabinet knob. Sorry. Where was I? Oh right. Listen. I’m sorry I’m not there to help out. You do plenty and then some. Just try and ignore her.”
“Why is it quiet? Is Anders off setting the house on fire?”
“Nope. He's placidly sitting in front of the TV, zoned out to an episode of Dah-Dah-Dora. I’m such a great mom. Where’s my glass of Chardonnay? I better run and do something motherly with my kids before putting them to bed. Stop thinking about it.”
I hung up my phone and quietly sat in my parked car lingering in a spot in front of the nail salon. The radio was turned off, leaving the air from the vent as the only audible sound. The sun dipped behind a large cloud, rendering my sunglasses unncessary. But I didn't take them off. It was seven o’clock in the evening on Mother’s Day and at thirty-three years old, I suddenly found myself revisiting my adolescent idea of just running away. Nothing extreme that would make the national news or land me on the side of a milk carton. Something more along the lines of getting in my car and driving up to Maine for a few days of solitude and lobster. Or flying south to Florida for some downtime on a beach. My only interruption being the need to slather on some sunblock. You know, even Newark sounds appealing right about now. I stayed in that spot for a good hour just dreaming about where else I could be. Then I drove home and resumed the life I'd momentarily paused. I can't runaway. At least not today.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
I’m not vain but I look in the mirror at myself on a regular basis. When I brush my teeth, put on my make-up or wash my hands after going to the bathroom I’m inevitably in front of a mirror. So, let’s say I see myself anywhere from seven to ten times a day. With all of those random exposures to a mirror, why is that it can take me months to notice something?
The other morning, I saw a little wrinkle thing going on in the corners of my eyes. I’m not yet ready to acknowledge that I’m on the aging path to crow’s-feet. It's just a teeny wrinkle here and another teeny wrinkle there. Three or four in all. But suddenly, there they were. It isn’t like they appeared overnight. I’m sure they’d been there these last few months if not years. I suppose when you see the same thing day in and day out, the little details start to just fade into the background. When you least expect it, reality pipes up. Hey, you! Look! Over here! You’ve been avoiding something! Right???? Now you see it!
This sudden switch in what I see has happened with my dad and his health. For me, he’s always been sick. And while there has been a decline in his health, upgrading from a cane to a walker for example, the downward motion has been gradual and spread out over years and years. Then the other day, it hit me. He’s gotten worse.
Dependence on the walker has become imperative. Automobile designers rely on a low center of gravity when designing high performance cars. Doing so ensures that the car will hold the road at high speeds and sharp turns. My dad walks with his waist bent almost at a 90 degree angle thereby lowering his center of gravity. It isn't about speed or turns but the general goal of avoiding a topple. His torso is just about parallel to the ground when he maneuvers on foot between point A and point B. Before, when he’d stop to talk to me about something, he’d stand up straight, or at least straighter. Now he remains doubled over, his two hands firmly gripping the rubber coated arms of the walker. All of this leaning has led his back and stomach muscles to atrophy to the point that they no longer have the simple strength to hold him upright.
My dad's speech has always been impacted by his MS. He likes to say it's garbled. I always wondered how he landed on that word. It isn’t the easiest one to annunciate and annunciation is tough for him. He garbles garbled. I used to say his speech was slurred but that made him sound like a drunk and it also started to become inaccurate. It isn’t so much slurred as is falling apart. Sometimes he stutters and putters trying to get the word out. Other times he can’t manipulate his mouth to speak in a decipherable way. The speech issue is permanent but how hard it is to understand him comes and goes. The other day he spoke an entire sentence and it made perfect sense to him. I, on the other hand, felt like I was watching a foreign movie, my eyes looking around for some subtitles. I know my dad has also seen a difference in his speech. Sometimes he'd call the office over the weekend and leave himself a message. When he got in on Monday, he'd listen to it and see if he could understand himself. I guess one day my dad had a now-I-see-it moment because he hasn't left himself a test message in a long time.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that my dad's health has deteriorated. A decline is inevitable when medicine has failed to come up with a fingerprint for the disease, thereby making it pretty much impossible to find a cure. Sort of tough to provide an answer to an unknown question. But my dad has managed to maintain a level of activity that far exceeds everyone’s expectations. Even his neurologist is admittedly baffled by the fact that my dad is almost thirty years into the illness and is still mobile. He’s also probably shocked my dad isn’t dead yet but the neurologist has enough self-restraint to keep that thought to himself.
I went to dinner with Joe and Barry the other night. In the middle of dipping some chips into the freshly made guacamole, one of them asked how my dad was doing. For the first time in many years, I didn’t brush it off with a still-going-strong reply.
“Actually, he’s had a decline in recent months. Or maybe it isn’t necessarily recent but it’s recent to my eyes. Funny how that works. I spend at least eight hours a day with him and I'm only just now starting to see his body behaving differently. It’s been on my mind more than usual as of late. Fucking hate it. Sorry. Don't mean to be a downer.”
I munched on a crispy tortilla chip, biting the corner with the guacamole first. I needed to put something in my mouth to halt the words from coming out of it.
“I’ve always admired how you and your family have handled it all,” Barry warmly offered up.
“Well, you can’t control what you can’t control. But for the first time in a long time, it’s really pissing me off.” As I finished the last word, fighting back the lump in my throat, I noticed the waitress hovering behind Barry.
“How’s the guacamole? I love that stuff. Are you guys ready to order?”
“She’ll have a glass of the Sangria Blanco,” Joe said pointing a finger right at me, the only she at the table. “And we’re all having the Enchilada’s Mixtas.”
I’m still unsteadily settling into the now-I-see-it health status of my dad. But for those few hours, sipping Sangria, eating Enchiladas and hearing all about Joe and Barry’s pending cruise through Europe, the walker and the speech and the other shit that comes with a debilitating, incurable, neurological disease eating away at a parent’s body, well, I got a much needed break from seeing it.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Last Wednesday morning, the phone rang. Twice. The first time I was in the shower and having previously learned the hard way that running across hardwood floors with damp feet isn’t a good idea unless you're in the market for a concussion, I let it go to voicemail. I was toweling off when the phone rang again. I darted for the handset figuring it was my mom. I mean, no one else I know would stalk me in the early AM. She probably had something really important to ask like if Banana Republic had any white linen pants she might like on sale.
“Good morning,” said a groggy voice belonging to Boston Boy, a never met JDater from Beantown who sometimes provided intimate interaction from a distance.
“I can’t. Not now. I’m clean. And I have a job. Why can’t you call at normal hours of the day for phone sex?”
“You’re no fun. Come on. I'm already hard. And I know you’d rather play than work.”
He had a point. And so, with the phone in my hand, I retreated to my bedroom for a little morning action.
“So are you in med school?” I asked once the moans subsided. Last I knew, he’d abandoned his partner track job at a Boston firm to pursue his doctorly dreams.
“I can’t say.”
“Are you in Boston?”
“Actually, I’m in your neighborhood. At The Rittenhouse.”
“You’re lying. No one your age would book The Rittenhouse.”
“I told them I wasn’t coming unless they satisfied some requests.”
“I can’t say. Trust me. I’m in town. What are you doing later? My flight leaves at 10:30pm.”
“My night's booked solid. Need more notice than five hours. Are you here for an interview?”
“Are you practicing law again?”
“I can’t say. I got a call late the other night and was told to come to Philadelphia. I hopped a plane and landed here. It isn’t fun. In all seriousness, it's giving me an ulcer.”
“It’s a neutral spot.”
“What is going on?”
“I can’t tell you. But it isn’t good. Look in the paper tomorrow. You’ll probably see a picture of me in a big story. Heck, I’m not even checked in under my real name.”
“Will it make the New York Times? Color me a snob but I don’t bother with the local paper. Ever.”
“Not tomorrow but it might the day after.”
“Seriously, what is the deal? Are you somehow involved in a federal probe? Oh my God! Are you wearing a wire?”
“We don’t call it a wire. We call it a listening device.”
“Oops. I’m tired. Maybe I’ll call you when I get back home.”
“Which is where……”
“Can’t tell you. I’ve already said enough. Have a great day and thanks for the fun. You're better than I remembered. And I have a good memory.”
On that miscellaneous compliment, I put the handset back in the cradle, got dressed and headed to the office. My phone never rang later that night. The next morning, I checked the local newspaper. Nada. I sent Boston Boy an email saying I hoped he’d gotten home okay and that the vague drama was behind him. He responded, noting he was still in Philly. His short sentences capturing both an element of fear and an element of fatigue. I had no proof he was being honest but I had little reason to believe he'd be making any of it up. This is one of those straight laced guys. His idea of living on the edge was sleeping in on a weekday.
I didn’t write back and I haven’t heard from him since. My gut says I should lay low on this front. Something is clearly off and not in a good way. I mean, this guy is either in the witness protection program, has a good chance of ending up in the witness protection program or, based on his correction that a wire tap is actually known by those in the trade as a listening device, is in training to become the next International Man of Mystery. No matter what, nothing good can come from me getting tangled up in his present day, undercover web. So long, secret agent man.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Throughout the better part of my youth, I was subjected to unsolicited, unjustified and in no way constructive criticism from my mom. Actually, her commentary didn’t halt when I became an adult. I just stopped giving a shit, figuring I turned out pretty well. I mean, I don’t have track marks on my arm, I didn’t run off and join a cult and I know how to pair the latest fashion trends with last year’s leftovers. Blah, blah, blah to her “suggestions” as she so defines them.
“You know, your face is much prettier with you hair down. Why don't you take that ponytail out?”
“Would you like a gym membership for your birthday?”
"So-and-so's daughter had liposuction and was really happy with the results. Do you want me to make an appointement for you?"
“Do you really enjoy the work you do or are you just there because you have no other offers?”
“Now that the guy you liked asked you out again, maybe you should go spend some time on the treadmill.”
With time and therapy, I developed an inpenetratable steel exterior. Pow! Bam! Your silly ramblings can’t shatter my force field, mommy dearest! Shit. I spoke too soon.
A few years back, my dad and I sat down with an accountant and attorney to figure out how I could take the business over. He was ecstatic about the prospect of passing the torch and I was excited to know my future was more secure. I quickly learned what went on behind the curtain. There was a mortgage, salaries, snow removal and other pain in the ass expenses rolled into the package. I sat there silently calculating how much it cost to actually keep it all afloat. My stomach twisted into knots but I remained calm and pushed forward. After all, I’d be making a heck of a lot more money to offset the newfound expenses. Things moved forward until my mom got wind of it all. Firmly depress brake pedal here.
My mom doesn’t work in the business. Sure, she shuffled papers at the company something like twelve years ago. Oh, and she’s a shareholder but in the sense that there needed to be more than one officer to create the corporation. I think she owns five shares. Granted, this is more than I own but it’s nothing that gives her rights or privileges. Nonetheless, she was submitting a proxy vote regarding the pending take over.
“Listen. You’re not taking the business over. At least not if I have anything to say about it. The bottom line is you're incapable of running that business and I refuse to let my financial future be dependent on your limited skills.”
All of the comments that predated this one merely left little dings but these statements were the equivelant of totaling the relationship, permanently shaping and defining all future interaction. I refused to speak with my mom for no less than three months, ultimately agreeing to communication only in the presence of a therapist who could mediate. Some recovery occurred. But at the end of the day, I decided to forever keep her at a distance. I no longer suggest spending time together and when she does, I oftentimes politely decline claiming other commitments. With the invention of caller ID, I’ve become even more efficient at dodging my daughterly duties.
Every May, I find myself standing in front of the assortment of Mother’s Day cards in search of one that properly says what needs to be said. I’m not looking for anything rude or bitter, emotions that are utterly useless. I just want a simple card that doesn’t offer up any blatant lies.
I only hope I’m as great a mother to my children as you have been to me! (Yeah, not so much.)
Mom, I am who I am today because of all the things you did for me in my yesterdays! (True but the same could be said for the numerous therapists who helped undo your work.)
I can’t imagine having any other mom. You’re the best! (Actually, I tried to tap some other people but legal adoption wasn’t possible as long as you were in the picture.)
Happy Mother’s Day! (Perfect. And the words are really big, leaving just enough room for me to handwrite out a repetition of the card’s holiday wishes and sign my name.)
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
I love mint chocolate chip ice cream. There's always some version of it in my freezer. At the end of a hectic day, when the time has come to finally exhale, I treat myself to a scoop or two. The handful of times I’ve tried to deny myself the dessert in an attempt to lose weight, I’ve been miserable. I start craving ice cream in the early morning, salivating at the mere thought of it. Eventually, I cave and run over to Acme for a stash. And when the first taste gets to my mouth, the minty chocolate treat is better than I ever remembered. Confucius say: Sometimes not having something when you want it make you want it more.
Over time, I’ve applied my mint chocolate chip Zen philosophy to both the beginning and end of a relationship. At the beginning, you have to create some element of mystery. I mean, no one, regardless of gender, is turned on by someone who is always available. You start to question if this person has friends, interests or perhaps a life that involves an ankle bracelet and parole officer. On the flip side, at the end of a relationship, you need to create distance to evaluate whether the end was a good idea. Being apart will either make you realize you can’t live without or that you not only can live without but are also better off. That’s the extent of my dating game playing. Personally, I see it more as understanding psychology but some people might argue otherwise.
With that said, I was asked out the other week by a guy. He'd come across my online profile, liked what he saw and read and suggested a meeting. I accepted because he was different from what I was used to and different is sometimes good. We settled on a Sunday outing with the intention of finalizing things sometime before. I agree that 12:30pm the day of the rendezvous is technically “before” because there was still time left in the day and no activity had occurred. But having not heard from him up until then, I made other plans. Granted, they involved me and only me and could have been shuffled but I'd gotten so excited about sprawling out on a blanket and reading the Sunday New York Times cover to cover. I also was no longer up for being on and didn't have a desire to figure out how to flip the switch. Plus, isn't this the courting phase where we're all on our best behavior? I suggested we reschedule and he promptly proposed a Thursday night alternative. On both Monday and Tuesday night, he rang me to speak and make the plans more specific.
Date number one went so well that we made plans for date number two, again setting it up in a general sense for the following Thursday night with specifics to be figured out before. At 5:45pm on Thursday, my phone rang. He wanted to know what I wanted to do. This time, I just rolled with it. Our first date started late and ended later so I'd already taken the initiative and made a reservation for 9 o’clock in town at Amada. I shelved my mint chip psychology for the time being. After all, we had made plans, sorta kinda.
At the end of the second date, my interest had dwindled a little. There were significant differences that made me question if this was a person I’d want to befriend let alone bed. Let's see. He wants to have five kids. I'm not sure I want even one. And let's be honest. I'm thirty-three. It would take a medical miracle for me to pop out five kids. He also expressed some discomfort with gay men, adopting the military rule of don't ask don't tell. I don't know why it is that some straight men are so put off or threatened by gay men. No matter what, I love the ones in my life which in turn makes me dislike those with such ignorant beliefs. Seeing I don't shy away from speaking my mind I figured he too had noticed the same challenges.
Then he called. Twice. At 9pm on Saturday night, no less. I didn’t answer. Not because I was on a date. Instead, I was in the middle of picking out zucchini at Wholefoods. After awaking at 6am to spend the day in NYC furniture shopping with my mother, I stopped off to retrieve some fruit. I meant to just grab raspberries but ended up doing my general grocery shopping. We all know I couldn’t confess to where I was. Especially since my mommy was two aisles up sniffing cantaloupe. I’d sound lame. I’d sound pathetic. I let it go to voicemail. By not answering, he probably thought I was busy socializing. Too busy socializing to answer my phone. In other words, it was better to let him jump to a false conclusion because it was sure to be more impressive than my immediate reality.
By the time I stumbled through my apartment door, it was 10:30pm and I was wiped out. A long week followed by a long day in Manhattan drained me of all possible energy. I put away my groceries and retrieved the remnants of a cookie from City Bakery, all buttery and chocolaty. It smelled good but I just wasn't in the mood. I tossed it in the trash. Then I scooped some Turkey Hill Low-Fat Mint Cookies and Cream Yogurt into a small mug and curled onto my sofa. It was my first scoop all week long. And let me tell you, it tasted damn good.