Wednesday, January 29, 2014

an introvert at the resort

My husband is sitting at a pool bar in Montego Bay. I approach him trying to balance all my swim items precariously in my arms and announce, "I'm moving down to the  beach. The people sitting next to me at the pool are getting obnoxious." He doesn't look up from his Sports Illustrated. He knows I will make this announcement several times today. Resort life is hard on introverts. Actually, only three kinds of people do well at these places. One, alcoholics. Two, people who get anxiety attacks if they aren't having a conversation with someone every fifteen minutes. And three, a combination of the first two.

I scan the little inlet looking out over the ocean. Two hefty guys are snoring in beach chairs. The one guy's shirt says, I ATE MY TWIN IN THE WOMB. Womb? Who says womb anymore? Are we living in the Old Testament? And the other fellow's shirt says, I DIDN'T CLIMB TO THE TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN TO BECOME A VEGETARIAN. We are so thankful that printed text t-shirts are the norm these days so we can identify our fellow cretins and their faults in just a few printed words. So I will move away from these womb-spouting carnivores and try the other side of the beach. My eyes fall upon a group of Italian women all laughing and whooping and gesturing in a way that only Italians can gesture. I yearn for the private solitude of my living room couch.

Yep, pretty much the whole day.

 I see that offensive fashion choice, the speedo male swim suit still has not died. I don't know why European men find it necessary to exhibit the bulging outlines of their testicles. And all that body hair.

Most of my beach mates are from Midwestern states and a lot from Canada. I know, same thing.  Nope, you never see anybody here from Hawaii. I am affectionate of all things Canadian this week as my Kessler's whisky has not yet been introduced on this fair island. So I'm sipping on something called Canadian Mist and I'm feeling all warm and well cared for.

Big Dave is currently in the pool holding a strawberry daiquiri and picking out team mates for the pool Olympics activity. They all seem to be large-breasted women, their sunburned orbs bobbing and bouncing in the turquoise pool water. Sadly he will realize too late that people with this physical endowment move very slowly in shoulder-high water and the race will be lost.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

waiting for my daughter

I am waiting for my daughter to come tell me she is leaving her husband. I have two old friends who remind me of my girl and they are intelligent, gentle human beings. They work and volunteer in humanitarian fields but they had difficulties choosing life partners. They have been married multiple times to jackasses who lack the realization they are jackasses.  My daughter is like them.

I don't mean to put the spotlight on me but I can't stop feeling terribly awful about all this. Usually, I allow myself one day of self-pity and then dismiss it but this is not happening. I cry while I pick through the broccoli stalks at the supermarket.

There are three children involved and we know they will not go untouched. Years ago my own divorce left my kids staring out their classroom windows, confused and alone. One of the teachers had the stupidity to call my eight-year-old son on the carpet for this behavior putting his desk next to hers facing his school mates. She was a jackass, too and I wasted no time telling her. I was a nice person up until that moment.

I need a distraction and decide to see a movie. I pick Gravity.

Sandra Bullock, weird name, is in a space pod and she realizes there is no fuel and despite all her heroism and intellectual capacity she is doomed. She's too scared to wait around for the oxygen to be depleted so she shuts down the tanks and lays back to die. Suddenly her flight companion played by George Clooney is at the window banging to be let in. We thought he was dead being shot out into the void earlier in the movie but then he opens the pod door and and climbs in next to Sandra. Why isn't she sucked out? Why isn't her skull crushed into frozen red meat like the other dead astronauts? But there's Clooney with a bottle of vodka he picked up from a Russian satellite station telling her it's not hopeless. He says they can use the launch jets to shoot them over to the Chinese space station and eventually home. Space is a veritable United Nations it seems. He's telling her she needs to get her life back. After her young daughter's death all she does is work and drive around at night and listen to the radio.

I'm starting to feeling better about Sandra's situation and my own life and then there's my mother's voice in my head for crying out loud saying, " those boys will be all right, they will be in a better environment." I know this is what she would have told me if she were alive. If she were alive.

I'm convinced all that's left of my mother is in a brown cardboard box, her ashes from the University hospital, sitting on the top of my bookshelf. I will not see her again. I am an academic and a scientist and it's not going to happen. And maybe Sandra and I invented our own saving moments to get past it, to get past whatever makes us stare out the window and do nothing to save ourselves. So anyway, that's the story. I'm going to be fine. We're all going to be fine.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

and i'm not a crier

Since the moment my eldest son was born he has been trying to get away from me. Not that I was an ogre of a mother although I did hide in the closet a few times when those kids became overwhelming. I figured if I scared them enough they would cease their irritating behaviors. It worked a total of two times, smart little buggers.

I have a picture on my bureau, a twenty-something me in flowered hippie clothing and a waist-length pony tail.  I am holding Jason, all of eighteen months. He is wiggling on my lap, a tiny ball clasped in his baby fist. Over the years so many people have told me what an adorable picture, this little flower child mother and her boy.  I'm the only one who knows that he was trying to get off my lap and play with that ball.

He was always older than his years, more like a seasoned Buddhist monk than a Sesame Street-taught brat, too burdened and inwardly directed if you ask me. In third grade his assignment was to write an autobiography.

Seriously? What could eight-year-olds possibly have to report. In his essay Jason included the comment,"my mother says I should get a sense of humor." I can't get away with anything.

As a teen he was the rebel with a cause which was to punish his confused divorced parents in new and interesting ways. I could tell the depth of his hormone-fueled angst by how large the hoop was in his pierced ear. He hung with some of the wealthier kids in his class who lived in the super-sized houses on the outskirts of town. I could fit my downtown apartment in half of their garages. I drove him to a party at one of those houses and he asked me to park my sad old Chevette with the hole in the floor a couple of blocks from the residence. Up went my hand fast and furious making contact with his cheek. "I'm not your fucking servant!" I screamed. The first and last time I cursed at him. He called me an hour later wanting to come home from that party, not feeling well.

I still feel guilty about that. My daughter would say, don't go there Mom, in that Generation X tone, part irritation, part geniune concern. There are large stretches of time between our visits due to the choices he makes in home bases. Today he is in Yonezawa, Japan teaching English to Japanese people like every other American in that country. It is odd to me this obsession Japanese culture has with my native tongue because they make it damn difficult for any American to live within their borders. I guess that Hiroshima thing makes it difficult to forgive and forget.

Jason and I see each other yearly and our conversation starts up pretty much where it left off, that's how comfortable it is. Two old souls, this mother and son. You can't ask for much more than that. I laid my head on his shoulder and wept when he left today.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


I am at work and I am wearing a mask. My residents, their brains riddled with dementia stare quietly at me. They are trying to decide whether they know me.  Hearing my voice may signal recognition and safety. After all I have spoken to them for hundreds of hours.
 But where is the rest of my face? Does the white surgical mask represent authority and knowledge? They seem amused.
We have Influenza A in the building, a strain not represented in the vaccine administered two months ago. Ten confirmed cases on my floor, several hospitalizations. My son is arriving from Japan tomorrow. I'm not taking any chances. This mask is itchy and hot.

There is a meatless shepherd's pie in my fridge that required four hours of chopping stuff. Healthy meals seem to involve a lot of chopping.  My son is vegan but we always say things could be worse. He could be Republican or an insurance agent or in prison but vegan is not easy. He eats nothing with a face, nothing with parents, you know the drill.  The inside of my fridge looks like a Farmers' Market. And then there's the tofu, hummus and almond paste. Big Dave can't find any room for his Kentucky Fried Chicken leftovers and I say BACK OFF!  You cannot taint the purity of my refrigerator with your grease.

We have just picked the boy up in Rockford. He has been traveling almost 24 hours, planes, trains and automobiles and a couple of buses. I believe Steve Martin and John Candy were sitting in the seats behind him.
He will give me a hard time while he is here. If I use a paper plate he will yell, "quit killing the trees!" and don't get me started on his reaction when I put Ethanol in my car. But I will feel healthy and light as I eat his vegan diet.  I will have a week of no demon animal fat weighing me down. And I will produce some monumental and majestic farts.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

that did not happen

My old Chevy is sputtering and complaining as I turn her key on this -12 degree early morn. I am on the way to the hospital to sit and wait for my 89-year-old father to have his bladder cancer surgery, his third occurrence. I turn into Micky D's and ask for the biggest, baddest Diet Coke they have, light on the ice. I will need help maintaining any level of alertness.

Dad's already in bed, his small bony shoulders poking through the hospital gown designed for a large professional football player. He's all of 141 pounds, takes only Tylenol for medication and exercises religiously. His diet is stellar and if I ate as much fiber as he does I wouldn' t be able to leave the house. Which really wouldn't bother me.

The surgery was predicted to last two hours but after thirty minutes the receptionist tells us the doc wants to speak to us. Jesus Christ they've killed him I think and the muscles in my shoulders constrict. We follow the middle-aged lady with the football helmet hair into a little room with a dry erase board and several kleenex boxes. But it's all right, the surgeon says, Sonny and his monastic lifestyle once again win the race. The old man sped through the procedure and he is on the mend..

We're back in the waiting room, my sister and I, and I'm watching a woman in a Green Bay Packer sweatshirt and puffy bangs reminiscent of 1988 eating a giant heap of tator tots in a styrofoam container. The fried food smell at this early hour is playing havoc with my stomach so I start making fun of the other waiters which is not a difficult thing in the Midwest. We beg for ridicule, our flat nasal accents, our love of denim and white New Balance athletic shoes and let's not forget our main food staple, ranch dressing.

My brother, jolly Dave arrives and plants himself between us. He's a solidly muscular guy and my sister and I are sitting on a very small love seat designed for two, so now we are seriously compromised for space. The other waiters are whispering and watching us, especially when we start giggling and taking selfies. Hey guys, I comment to my siblings, we are sitting ridiculously close. "We're Mormon," squeals my brother,"and this is my harem." We're just really crazy happy the old man is okay. I notice an elderly neighbor of mine sitting off to the side and I wave weakly. It never ends.

Dad is slurping down jello and checking the expiration date on the container. He is chiding the nurse for not having 100% whole wheat bread when he ordered his peanut butter sandwich. Sonny, still dopey from all that sleepy juice says to me, I have a lot of burning in my penis. Okay, my father did not just say that word to me. I have a few simple rules in my life and that's one of them.