Soul, curled up, retreat
Brittle shell hides swaying womb
Orange, sand-blessed time.
Lovers cling, shadows
retreat, red velvet couches
Anger, sex, lying.
My goal in life, since I was five years old, was to become a mom. I thought getting pregnant would be natural and beautiful but it seemed we needed a little help. After two and a half years of painful shots, medication and an every day visit to the infertility clinic for blood work and ultra-sounds I finally was pregnant. I collapsed to my knees behind the closed-door in my stuffy office and kissed the dirty gray carpet in gratitude. I cried with happiness, one hand already covering my tiny belly.
My son was born and we called him Buddha baby, he never cried, he was always happy, a smiling, compassionate and outgoing kid. He was my miracle baby, my first born. I went to every baseball game for my son, sitting in the bleachers in the rain, and sneaking away to the car to warm myself up.
My daughter came, naturally, twenty-one months after her brother was born, screaming on top of her lungs as she entered the world. I remember going into her room and lifting this red-faced baby girl to my shoulders, she would take a deep breath and her whole body relaxed into my neck. I was her only source of comfort when she was a baby. I was there for every ballet lesson and dance recital, holding a bouquet of daisies, her favorite flower, in my arms like I was nestling a newborn baby‘s head.
I did everything for my kids and I loved doing it. This was the career I decided on and I wanted nothing more. I stayed home with them even when they got older because I knew they needed me during the tough middle school years. They would never admit it but they were happy to see me when they got home. Working moms called me “old-fashioned” but I didn’t care.
When I was 50, I went through menopause and my body fell apart. I was diagnosed first with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an auto- immune disease. When Synthroid, did not help me at all, I warily shuffled from one doctor to another, every bone and muscle and joint in my body screaming with agony. My internist had given up on me, she stormed out of the room while I was laying there on the exam table crying in pain. After visits to many different doctors I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I felt like I had the flu, every single day and night, with no fever, my personal definition of Fibromyalgia.
My life changed after that. I became the mom “before” I was sick and the mom “after.” I felt that I was no longer the mom you could always count on. I prefaced everything by saying “If I feel okay that day,” and “I’ll call you the morning of…” Luckily my children were fourteen and twelve but it was now Dad who got up, made breakfast and lunches and dinner. Me? I was asleep, always asleep and in pain.
I felt lost and sad for years, not being able, physically, to be the mom I once was. Now, I am dropped off at an entrance to anywhere we go like the handicapped patient I am. I sit alone, on a chair, when all the other parents and children go on a campus tour to see the entire campus. I cannot walk that far. I don’t want to be an embarrassment to my children or a burden for my husband. I want the kids to remember the mom I was before I was sick but I know they don’t. They probably just remember me as I am today. I am not the mom I was before my illness even though my heart remains unchanged. I am the mom that they have now and because of that I have tremendous guilt and a lot of residual, emotional pain.
I woke up this morning, not to the shrill blaring of my radio alarm clock, or to a shaken shoulder but when my eyes opened and turned to the window. It’s been a long few days and today I have nothing planned. I did a mental body check of all my ailments: Fibromyalgia aches and pains were present, my right leg still hurt but was manageable. My knee still throbbed from my recent fall on the icy pavement but my mood was good. I had ten hours of sleep and while the sun was not shining it could have been. There was no snow in the forecast, reason enough to celebrate.
I started driving to the supermarket, because food, comfort and love equals nurturing for me. I didn’t really need much except an idea of what to cook for tonight’s dinner and a destination. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the grocery store and new items celebrated my return. Marshmallow yellow chick peeps out the day after Valentine’s Day? Okay. A discounted box of chocolate covered cherries? I love those and I am not proud. Sugar cookies to make for my children and various treats for my dog, Callie’s, upcoming birthday in March. (shh! it’s a surprise party.)
I felt a little guilty because the simple, routine, “mom” things that I was able to do today, I did with less grief. As many of you know, my friend Dawn died on Friday night and after the wake and the funeral and some time, today I woke up void of a dark, painful shadow. Then I remembered Dawn’s family, her father and mother, her husband, her siblings and her three children not able to escape the haunting grief. I felt guilty for being relieved and it pains me to write this. I have been in their place before when my father died so I know, I truly KNOW what they are going through and how much it hurts and for how long. I grieve for my friend, the twinkling green-eyed Dawn, but not the same way her children, her husband and relatives are grieving. Not even close. I feel bad that I have the luxury of distraction.
Strolling through the market I decided what I would be making for dinner, ravioli with a thick marinara sauce that I add a small can of tomato paste to, a store-bought fresh pizza, mozzarella and tomato salad with basil with drizzled olive oil and a multigrain loaf of Italian bread, still warm to the touch from the bakery. It’s rare that my family eats at the same time these days but I feel happy with them just being home, together for a little while. Next year, with my son in college, it will all be very different.
That is why today, a simple trip to the supermarket and a walk through Target with a Starbucks gift card felt special. I bought a skinny vanilla latte with a shot of espresso to manage my afternoon weariness. The simple touching of my dog’s fur, and playing with her outside in the snow felt like a gift. An ordinary day at the supermarket felt, to me, like a five-day vacation to the Bahamas. It’s true that you don’t appreciate normalcy when you have been overwhelmed with an abnormal amount of grief and sorrow or horrible pain from any disease. A simple day that ends with a hot bath, sleepy eyes and a half-smile, is indeed, a miracle.
If you have never watched the show “Man vs. Food” don’t be surprised, and don’t be upset. I just stumbled upon it on the Travel Channel. I have to admit the first few minutes I was absolutely appalled. The premise is that this dude (and he is a dude) named Adam Richman goes all over the country doing food challenges. No, not challenges to cook, challenges to EAT. A lot. After the first fifteen minutes of being totally grossed out, I was unable to take my eyes away from the show I thought I hated. As I wrote my fellow foodie friend Paula, it’s enough to make you want to be a minimalist calorie counter.
The first thing that I saw was a spicy sushi challenge, escalating in heat and spice from one to ten, that seemed doable and innocent enough. It was just the amount of spice he could handle (I would still be on one). He was awarded a Master. Okay, I thought, not bad. Then came the: next challenge: and I kid you not, he had to eat (ok, he didn’t HAVE to), the 4 – 5 lb grilled cheese sandwich consisting of: 3 thick slices of bread, fried, 14 kinds of cheese., hand cut french fries, coleslaw and pickles. In one sitting. In case you were worried, there was no time limit, however he was trying to eat all of this under twenty minutes because then it would have been free! ( I could be mixing this up with the 12 burger patty challenge, sorry!) He looked like he was about to gag and I kind of wish he had thrown up but he didn’t. It wouldn’t be good for ratings or for the show. Darn.
There is always a crowd that cheers him on to overeat, (I mean reach his goal) “Go Adam, Go Adam, Come on Adam, do it,” they chant. It’s like one big frat party with food instead of kegs. The man is both a walking heart attack about to happen and stroke victim to be. Serious appetite he says? I say he should be the poster child for potential obesity and clogged arteries in America. It’s a sickening show yet I admit, I kept watching. It’s like the car crash mentality where you don’t want to see what happened but between your fingers, you are definitely looking.
Hysterically enough the show is sponsored by Cheerios, ” a smart way to lower cholesterol” and Zantac, an ad for antacid. Could this get funnier? (or sicker?) Now, Adam is attempting to eat something called a” Polish boy” and just watching it gave me an acid stomach and I reached for Tums. I couldn’t keep up with all the minute details but basically it was a boiled and then fried jumbo hot dog (on location in Cleveland), with french fries, spicy sauce, pork shoulder, more sauce, all on top of one another. Wait, I think i am forgetting something….right, there’s coleslaw too. “Do it for Cleveland baby, do it for Cleveland” people roared. “One more bite, one more bite” the audience chants and than applauds wildly when he has achieved his, um, goal, success (?) Once again, Adam is declared a champion. Go Adam!
Now Adam has 12 burgers one on top of another. He’s got himself a show where he travels around the country to challenge other people’s eating records. Really? He calls it ” the worlds greatest pig out spots”. My first question: Why? It’s gluttony, it is over the top, it’s somewhat entertaining in a sick way and it’s appalling.What kind of (mixed) message are we sending to the country? They say “victory is sweet”, but after watching this show, moderation is better.
I hope First Lady Michele Obama doesn’t see this show, actually, I kind of hope she does. Hello, Madam President? Please watch this show once (and once is enough) and tell us what you think. I’m dying to know. Finally, the show ended and it wasn’t a moment too soon. I found myself feeling greasy after watching all those fat food frames. I was annoyed with myself for watching the entire episode and again, I was a little happy to have seen it. What is wrong with me?
When the show was over, I needed a snack, a refreshing snack, “clean food”. I decided on a small, clear glass bowl of cold mandarin oranges in light syrup; it’s all I could eat and it tasted like heaven.
December 24, 2009
It was a long flight from Newark to Aruba yesterday, especially since our day started at 4am and did not end until after 9pm last night. It was our long awaited reward from two years of hell, especially for me. First, two contiguous years of medical maladies including but not limited:a misdiagnosed illness, an auto- immune disease, fibromyalgia, flu-like symptoms every day (without the temperature), a very badly sprained ankle,( started in February 2009) plantar fasciatis, and a torn ligament, excruciating back spasms…. ending, or at least lessening yesterday. After both a medical upheaval, a marriage upheaval (the whole summer of 2009) and surviving an extensive guilt from my mother about this trip, we are here; and it is good. It is good to be selfish sometimes when you know what you have been through and know what will keep you going. It is very, very good.
Don’t think, however, that the incredibly full flight was without adventure, it wasn’t. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to disconnect so abruptly from my malaise but ease out of it slowly because the flight was filled with screaming children,major turbulance and some lady, trying to get her bag from the overhead (over my head) compartment hurling my metal cane and smashing me in the eye, causing massive pain, red welts, and me thinking that the plane had just been bombed. A horrible passenger had a fight with the flight attendant and ended up shouting at her and giving her the finger. She was not saying “wait a minute.”
Once we got here, however, life was so very good. I eased into walking without a cane. We ate in the hotel for convenience sake last night and because we were so tired we thought we would pass out directly. I don’t remember much except having the fruit punch, a mixture of pineapple juice, red cranberry juice and orangey papaya juice; It was addictive. We stumbled into bed at 9pm, I don’t even remember putting my head on the pillow….
This morning we woke up, it was cloudy and my daughter cast a snarky attitude to the day, not seeing the promised sunshine. Luckily for us the wind changed and the sun, broiling in the sky, made several parts of us really sunburned. Tomorrow, we will use (even more) sunscreen. Life’s a bitch.
A walk on the beach felt good for me both physically and mentally. The sand is coarse, like kosher cooking salt, not smooth and shiny. The water, a perfect aquamarine was deliciously cool, salty and made me feel, as water always does, renewed. There are sharp inclines on the sand that are directly at the shore so it isn’t always easy to navigate, especially for me.
The pool was cool for some, never too cold f0r me and it had a swim-up bar, all frozen red-orange-pink drinks and large, light lime green margarita glasses rimmed with salt. Sunglasses, a book, a virgin iced tea and the palm trees. Water, sand, palm trees, a cooling breeze; these are the pure things that make me very happy; this is my kind of heaven.
We went to dinner at Smokey Joe’s BBQ place and then took a long albeit painful walk back to the hotel.. I’m stubborn, I know. I didn’t want to miss up the opportunity to take pictures of Jillian next to a fake Santa or Christmas lights on the palm trees. Our son, Tim, is staying at his friend Aaron’s grandmother’s beach house aka the mansion. I’m glad that after all this time he was able to go; it was important for me, that after years of changing plans, he could finally do this.
Now it’s another nibble of dessert: white coconut cake with fresh pineapple inside and Jillian and Dan’s gooey, rich , sweet chocolate cake. Chocolates on the pillow; aloe on my body, vacations make me so very happy. And, I do deserve it.