Family

Solitaire with Yoda

cards

Dear Dad,

I taught Yoda how to play solitaire last night. He was bugging me to play cards with him and I just needed some time to work a quiet word puzzle, so Bashert suggested I teach him how to play. At first, he was not really interested; too complicated and boring he said then he started to catch on. I think it helped to tell him you taught me how to play and that I was playing with him, that clever boy.

Funny, the things that stick in one’s mind. I remember it was when we lived in Phoenix, in the second house that you taught me to play. That made me about the same age Yoda is now: eleven. You taught me to play left handed despite the superstitious attempts of your teachers to overcome your natural left handedness, some of it still shone through. I never corrected that even though the rest of the world seemed to play in the other direction. This is the way my Dad taught me, so this is the way it is played. I showed Yoda the same.

It took him a minute to catch on – how to build the cards down and up at the same time and to read the entire board – but he got it. The kid can play a mean game of chess, so I thought this wouldn’t be too much of a stretch for him. A few more games and he will see the strategy involved.

I told Yoda, it’s always good to know how to play a game of solitaire with real cards. I told him of how I was stuck in an airport for six hours in the days before portable electronics. After I finished off the book I brought for reading on the plane, I didn’t want to pay airport prices for anything else and people watching only goes so far when you are by yourself. Cards to the rescue.

That story led to other stories and before you know it, we were all laughing and having a splendid time without all the distractions of the television or computers. It was a warm, cozy and fun time. I hope it’s one he remembers down the line.

I ended up teaching him a couple of different games of solitaire besides our old standard, Klondike. He really took to Aces Up. I think because I told him that it could be really frustrating to win. Klondike has about a one in four win ratio, with Aces Up the ratio is a bit wider. He read that as a challenge, I believe. He didn’t win, but he didn’t get frustrated either. I loved that.

He hasn’t given up on learning to shuffle. His hands are almost big enough to handle a full sized deck and he is a hair’s breath away from getting it down. So many things we take for granted until we see someone learning it for the first time.

Thank you, Dad for taking the time to teach me.

Never Hide Again

Pride balloons        As this day, this “National Coming Out” day comes to a close here in America. I am reminded of something Bashert and I promised ourselves about 16 years ago; we will never hide again.

You see, Bashert’s first ‘real’ job after graduating from college was teaching art at a local, private high school. Thing is, this private high school was also a Catholic school, complete with their very own nun and moral turpitude contract clauses. Bashert could not reveal the fact that not only was she living in ‘sin’, she was also living in sin with a woman. So, for the first year of our relationship, we lived in hiding.

Every morning before Bashert left for work, she took the ring off her finger. It broke my heart each time. We were careful not to be seen too close together when out and about town. There was many a time I took off for other parts when one of her students or their parents were spotted. Even as far away as Atlanta, we had to watch out. We ran into a student of hers up there in a jewelry store, of all places. We became professional level dodgers.

Why did we do this? Fear. Bashert was our only means of support. I was still in school with no job. Our livelihood depended upon her livelihood and she could be fired for being openly gay.

After a year of this exhausting life in the closet, Bashert said she didn’t want to hide anymore. She couldn’t stand all the avoiding and having to take a ‘beard’ (false male date) to school functions. So, we quietly began living our lives in the open. Well, sort of. She still took her ring off and I just became an unnamed entity in Bashert’s life: her unspoken partner, her ‘friend’. I attended fund raisers and didn’t leave her side when kids or their parents came up to her. I helped with community projects and we attended Pride festivities in Atlanta. We went to dinners with other faculty. Some knew our relationship, others chose not to acknowledge it and others didn’t like it a bit.

What did this cost us? The least thing was a keyed car. The biggest thing was her job. At the end of that school year, the principal stated that there wasn’t enough money to continue the art program. They were cutting back and didn’t need a full time art teacher for the next year. Her contract was not renewed. Next fall, the art program was suddenly back on – with another teacher.

It was that year, we told ourselves no more hiding. If we lived in the closet and shamed ourselves, how were we to expect others to treat us with any dignity or understanding? How could be expect my daughter to accept us as the family we were if we didn’t set the example? We decided then and there to just be us. No fancy or dramatic coming outs, no topless marching in the Pride parade (although eventually I did get to ride in the Dykes on Bikes segment thanks to some very good friends who owned motorcycles at the time). Nope, we just went about our lives as matter of fact. And for the most part it was okay and became more and more natural as we practiced what we preached.

The only other time we shied away from the full truth was when I went to work. I got a part time job at the local library. I didn’t really go back into hiding or so I told myself: Bashert and I continued to live in the open outside of my job, I just didn’t talk about it at work.

This was my second time working at the county library, the first being 20 years earlier and with many of the same people. From what they knew, I was no different from that young student, except a good bit older and greyer. As said, I didn’t talk about my present outside life.

I worked there two years before the rumours and comments began. Of course, a lot of it probably had to do with the timing of Yoda’s birth. Not many ‘roommates’ get that excited about the other roommate’s pregnancy and birth. I took my vacation around Yoda’s birth for goodness sake and kept a picture of Bashert and him on my desk – not so subtle.

One coworker kept dropping the hint that she loved watching the HBO show “Queer As Folk”. If I hadn’t been so exhausted from now working two part time jobs and having a newborn and a teenager in the house, I might have recognized an ally, but I was pretty blind.

Another coworker, actually, my boss at the time kept making side comments as to how she was grossed out by seeing two women kiss on television. These were never made quite in my full presence, but as I was passing through the room or loud enough so that I could hear them through the doors in my area next to hers. I got that picture.

Why didn’t I stand up? Why didn’t I fight back? One reason alone – fear. At this point, I was the sole means of support. I needed my two part time jobs and I lived in a state and worked for a county government where I was not protected under the law. I could be fired for being gay. Money won out, plain and simple.

I was fortunate enough to be offered a full time position at my other job not too long after Yoda was born. At that job, I was protected under their anti-discrimination policies. I said goodbye to library and the last time I ever avoided the truth of my family.

Bashert and I reaffirmed our stance with each other after my stint at the library. No job was worth lying about ourselves even if it was by omission. Yoda and Nene would not know parents who were together, yet separate. We were a family and took our place in the world.

For the last ten of almost 18 years, Bashert and I have just lived our lives, no fanfare, no dramatics, just matter of fact. We are lucky. Despite a few, short rough patches in other family relationships and our initial forays in the job market, we have met with few who deny our place. Yoda’s school and friends know he has two moms. Nene has grown proud of her relationship with Bashert and considers her a stepmom of the best character. My job continues to support and expand their anti-discrimination policies and Bashert is now a substitute teacher for the same government that could have fired me ten years ago.

It did get better and we have kept our promise to each other; we will never hide again.

Breakfast at McD’s

place-setting-compToday I returned to the doctor’s office for my lab work. I need a big girl sticker for just returning after Tuesday’s misadventures in waiting. But this time the wait was reasonable, my appointment was a 8am, first on the list, so I was willing to give them the 10 minutes for set up time. Twenty minutes overall wasn’t too bad (I was early again).

Dr. M. told me that the tests being done get the best results if I fast and stay hydrated. I took that to mean that not only was blood being drawn, but also the good ol’ pee in a cup thing. So, I gulped a nice, large thermos of ice water on the way over to the office. Turns out the hydration was just for getting a good vein. I ended up hungry, but full if you get my drift.

Since the blood drawing (sounds rather Medieval doesn’t it, blood drawing…), anyway, since that didn’t take very long, I figured I could wait until I found a breakfast place to relieve my hunger and bladder. The less time spent in a place where sick people congregate, the better – especially in a place where you know they will have touched the same things you will.

I really didn’t want to stop at a fast food place. I thought I owed it to myself to have at least a decent egg and toast breakfast. But time and nature have their own ways and my nature call became rather urgent just as I was coming up on, you guessed it, MacDonald’s.

I succumbed to the lure of the golden arches and it’s usually clean bathrooms. What the heck, their iced coffee isn’t that bad. I pulled in and parked across from the door and walked in. I first hit the facilities, which thankfully, were in lovely order. Next, I moved to find something on the menu that didn’t seem to scream, “You are eating crap!”

All the cute little pictures above the counter seemed to feature some version of a biscuit sandwich. I wanted at the very least, pancakes. I questioned the woman behind the counter. “All you seem to have are biscuit sandwiches. I want pancakes.” She replied, “You can get a McGriddle with an egg and bacon.” I asked what a “McGriddle” was. She said it’s like two pancakes with the syrup inside served with an egg, cheese and bacon. I thought okay, it’s not Denny’s, but it will do. I placed the order.

What came back to me was a biscuit sandwich. Seems I should have paid attention to the ‘like’ portion of her statement. Oh, well. I asked for a fork so that I could take the sandwich apart and pretend that I was having the breakfast I ordered. (I did not eat the bacon. I rather figured it did not come from a turkey.)

My doctor’s office is located about 15 miles or so from where I live in town. The county where it is situated is developing and has quite a few businesses popping up all around. The countryside is fast becoming a quasi-urban/suburban area. Many of the residents, however, are still very rural. They are the ones who grew up on the former farms and country roads now being overtaken. The McDonald’s that chose me is also in this same rural/suburban crossroads and the clientele showed this with clusters of older folks speaking with deep, Georgia southern accents.

Not wanting to sit at one of the single barstool type places, I took a booth seat next to a group of three older gentlemen, who were deep in swapping stories. Expecting to hear tales of hunting or local politics, I was pleasantly surprised to hear what they were discussing – their families, more specifically, special family vacations! It was all so sweet.

One gentleman, who I shall call Mr. Buttonup, was treating his coffee clutch brethren with the tales of how he and his family used to take vacations in the mountains and tell ghost stories around the campfire. He laughed and laughed telling the tale of how he and his wife took turns inventing outlandish stories that took place “right on this very spot.” He added with a smile on his face that it never took long for everyone to end up in the same big bed for the night.

Another gentleman, Mr. GreenPolo, told of his inexpensive vacation at the beach. “Best time we ever had and all for under $300!” His companions were very impressed. “We walked the beaches for miles, it was just wonderful.” They all agreed that one could not get such a vacation for $300 nowadays. And at that they began to talk about moseying along.

My heart jumped a little when I realized they were about to leave for it had struck me a little into their conversations that they were all about my Dad’s age. I was eavesdropping with a wistful ear and wanted their stories to go on. It was so pleasant to hear these men teasing back and forth and regaling each other with stories, not of hunting, or business deals, but of times spent with their families. It was if I was listening to my Dad again. I wanted to thank them for that little piece of joy they had just given me.

As they started to leave, I called out to Mr. Buttonup, “Sir, if I may…” and I explained that I had lost my father this year and that their conversations about their families had truly touched me. I apologized for listening in, but I thanked them for letting me in for just a moment even if they didn’t realize they did.

Mr. Buttonup said I was most welcome and Mr. GreenPolo asked what I said. Apparently, he was a bit hard of hearing. (I guess that was one of the reasons I could hear them so clearly; they were compensating for Mr. G.) Mr. B told him the short version of what I said and they both smiled. Mr. B asked if I was from there and I told him no, I was only on this side of town for an appointment. Then he said I was welcome to come back anytime, they met almost every morning right there. That made me smile.

I may not have gotten what I wanted this morning, but I sure got what I needed. I cried a little after they left, both for what they had given me and for what I will never have again, but in the end I was left with a smile. Someone knew I needed that little slice of love even if it came wrapped in a fast food breakfast biscuit. Thanks, Dad. I love you, too.

Waiting & Cussing

lonely carI hate it when I get tired and irritated and run out of words. When I run out of words, I resort to cussing. Mind you, I’m talking cussing, not swearing. There is a difference. Swearing, in my humble opinion is a higher art form than cussing. Swearing involves creative thought, a unique combination of well put together words to form an expressive and descriptive, yet negative picture. For example:

“Mother of pearl and golden dams, that hurt!”

Cussing on the other hand, it more earthy, immediate and guttural:

“Hell’s bells and g*d dammit, that hurt!”

There are no well thought out variations; no, it’s just a bam! there you are sort of thing. Visceral and heartfelt cussing is brought out when there is no time or filter.  To me, it has it’s place in one’s freedom of expression and I have no shame nor sorrow to say I am verbally proficient, but it is also the bottom rung of word symbolism and yesterday I sank that low in writing. For that, I am embarrassed (especially if my mother reads it).

Let us recreate the scene:

As you may or may not know, I am still having issues with my right foot and ankle. I have seen doctor after doctor to find out why my poor ankle and foot swell to the point of tightness and pain and why my ankle will give me acute shooting agony at odd times. Ultrasound, MRIs, x-rays: all reveal nothing, except the things I do not have. The last orthopedic specialist recommended I be tested for soft tissue diseases and see a vascular specialist. Money doesn’t grow on trees, so why shell out for yet another specialist if I can get some of that done at the local level, you know? That is how I ended up at my general practice doctor’s office.

 
So there I was at my GP’s. I signed in a cheerful 20 minutes early, thinking in a strangely optimistic way that this would help slide me right into my 4:15pm appointment. Now, that’s not as foolish as it sounds because this was happening at my other appointments for the past few weeks, so I had reason to be hopeful. Well, those hopes were soon to be dashed in a slow, torturous tunnel of time.

 
I was tired, nervous, and on edge. This ankle thing has been going on for quite some time and it’s costing me a lot in many ways. Chronic pain does something to people and by people, I mean me. I am grumpy, short tempered, and tense. I end up taking a lot of meds to help take the edge off and by that virtue, I end up losing time at work. (Goodness knows, I don’t want to have to go through a urine test at work for this!) I’m also losing valuable good time with my family, especially Yoda, who is growing up and away by the day. I’m distracted, well, you get the picture. I was ready to get the appointment going so I could get my labs done and be on my way.

 
As I sat working my crossword puzzle and surreptitiously observing the others in the waiting room, I kept hearing name after name being called back, all but mine. I think I knew I was in trouble when a fellow waiting room occupant not only ran out the internal battery of her Kindle, but also the emergency battery and began searching for an outlet. By 4:45, I was ready to bust. The woman behind the counter said, with a verbal pat on the head, that it shouldn’t be too much more time. It is too laugh.
My eyes were bleary from working crosswords, I played through the paltry assortment of games on my phone, and ran out of people to observe because I was the only one left. The religious MUZAK was taking on ominous tones of brainwashing. God’s happy music was starting to sound a bit on the Stepford side. If the reason for my visit was not so important to me, I would have walked a long time ago. It was now 5pm.

 
At last my name was called to the magic ‘back’, but told that it would still be a wait.  I left home over two hours ago and have been waiting an hour and 15 minutes. Insert internal screaming here.

 
I entertained myself in the exam room with more magazines, but that didn’t last long. I swiped a couple of tongue depressors and had a wooden sword fight with myself. I took a latex glove and blew it up to make a chicken. I paced a little to stave off the sleep that threatened. I allowed myself to get beyond frustration and what is a modern person to do about that? I posted it to FaceBook.

 
This is where the written cussing took place. All out in public. Yep, the best place in the world to display a total lack of verbal creativity and show that I really should have joined the Navy that day in the recruiter’s office so long ago. I ended my short little rant with the mother of all four letter combinations. Yes, I dropped the ‘f-bomb’ on public media. Really swift.

 
You know if you post a photo and comment it on it via mobile, you can’t edit the comment? Found that out a little too late. So there it sat, four little rudely combined members of the alphabet for the world (or at least the twelve people who read my FB page) to see. I think that began to bother more than the continued waiting.

 
I am not a prude by any means, as I said I am very proficient in verbal cussing, have been since a young age. I used to get in trouble in elementary school (yes, me) for gratuitous usage of foul language. Perhaps that is where my love for words began – trying to find the alternates. Or perhaps it’s where I learned that words have power – to change, to mark, to delineate, to shame or raise up. Next time and I am sure there will be a next time, I will stick with swearing (at least in public). It is much less worrisome, at least to me, but if you perchance do see me slip up and bring out the verbal trash again, please note the dire circumstances said expletives are surrounded by and do not judge too harshly.

 
Oh, and by the way, I did not get out of the doctor’s office until 6:20pm. Gosh darn it.

Lullaby

Naptime2    I am very weary these days, struggling to stay afloat in a sea of grief and stress. It is difficult to find a safe shore to rest upon and when by chance I do find a moment to lie my head down, anxiety churns the waters. So tonight I thought perhaps I could try a story of a lullabies – lullabies that eased weary souls a long time ago.

When my daughter Nene was an infant, she was at first calmed by the old standard by Brahms, but as she grew into toddlerhood, she began to prefer more rousing  tunes. She had a strange proclivity toward military anthems and Linda Ronstadt’s, “You’re No Good.”

I remember one particularly grouchy afternoon at my grandmother’s home. Nene could not be cajoled or convinced into thinking anything other than the world was coming to an end and she had to meet it with her lungs giving full voice to her song of woe. My grandmother, mom, and I were stretching to our respective wit’s end. Four generations of women were about to implode and bring Nene’s prediction to fruition.

When the tension and noise finally reached ‘this will drive out the armed fanatics holed up in the house’ level, my mom asked if there was anything else to try. I said well, it sounds odd, but we can try the “Marine’s Hymn.” Mama and Mom looked at me like I was nuts, but at this point it was that or actually call in the Marines. So, I started in with, “From the halls of Montezuma…” And it worked!

Mama and Mom started chiming in and Nene fell into a stupor that would have won a prize on “America’s Funniest Videos.” By the time we finished “Anchors Away”, she was out, lolled over in her little yellow walker. Always her own, that kid.

Sixteen or so years later, Yoda was a completely different story. He definitely preferred the more melodic, slow tempo themes. Often I would hum as smoothly and dolce as I could muster the Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah,” or a quiet version of some folk song culled from my memory of “Sing Along with Mitch.” But the one song that would always close the deal, was “Little Red Caboose.”

Now if you Google this song, you will more than likely be bombarded with versions containing inane adults wearing engineer outfits and singing the lyrics in an over the top Barney fashion. The version I sang was one I found in my collection of old 45rpm single records – a slow spiritual, one sung or hummed right gives the slow, rhythmic rocking of a train moving down the tracks. It was a perfect tune for an active and sensory issued baby.

One afternoon while Yoda and I were out visiting my parents, he had reached his infant tolerance for sociability and began to fuss. So, at that point I swaddled him up tight and removed myself to the dining area to try and calm him down before it went over the top. I could recognized the signs a wee better with the second child…

My Mom stepped off to I don’t know where, to give us space to work I guess. My Dad went to sit in his chair in the living room, not too far from where I was sitting with Yoda. I began to run through my repertoire of songs and then moved in with the closer of “Caboose.”

I rocked, sang, and the hummed for about 5 minutes and the little guy finally settled into a nice little nap. I could even hear a small snore. I smiled and listened again. This wasn’t Yoda’s snargle (what we had termed his breathing issue common to baby boys when born small – another story). I turned my ear to the sound again and realized that my Dad had fallen asleep!

When it came time for me to leave my parents’ house that afternoon and I went over to say goodbye to Dad, he pulled me in and thanked me. When I asked what for, he said it had been a very long time since anyone had sung him to sleep.

Eleven years have gone by and it still brings a smile to my face to remember the time I sang a lullaby to my Dad.

Sleep well, Deddy-O, sleep well.

Let’s Go For A Ride

Dad_motorcycleIn the late 1960s, our neighbor Mr. Lynn introduced my Dad and brother Stavro to the exciting world of motorcycles and they fell in love. Soon our two car garage was filled with all manner and makes of bikes: dirt bikes, street bikes, minibikes and even a couple of mopeds (the kind that have pedals to start the motor).

Our weekends soon consisted of family day trips out to the Phoenix desert to ride until it became dark. Round and round we’d go, racing through dry river beds and over cracking dusty roads. I remember stopping only to eat lunch and gaze at the beautiful brown Arizona mountains. Even at that young age I was filled with an awe for their dangerous majesty. I love the memory of those times.

Sometimes the urge to ride couldn’t wait until the weekend and Dad would pull out a street bike and take me for a quick ride after he came home from work. At that time, there were still pockets of places we could take a mini-desert ride inside the city. Phoenix was still sitting on the edge of the mega city it was to become.

On one particular evening, Dad said, “Let’s go!” Never willing to pass up a ride, I climbed on the back of the motorcycle, safely wrapped my arms around his waist, hooked my fingers tightly into his belt loops and off we rode heading for the empty lots between two neighborhoods. We slipped past the bar recently planted to keep cars out and into the wilds of Phoenix suburbia we rode. We did our usual circuit and then Dad hit the little mounds of dirt to make me bounce and laugh. I laughed so hard, I was breathless, but with a child’s enthusiasm kept urging, “Again, Dad, again!” It was on one of those last go rounds that I happened to look behind us. Someone else was out for a ride and closing on us fast. He had lights mounted on his bike.

Hello, Officer.

I tapped Dad on the stomach to gain his attention and motioned for him to look behind. “I think he wants us to stop.” Seems the last bastion of space we could ride free in the city was now under police state and some non-motorcycle loving resident ratted us out.

We left our little haven with a blue slip of disappointment. Dad was a bit embarrassed to have to admit to Mom about the ticket we received, but of course nine-year-old little me thought it hilarious and kind of scary exciting. It didn’t occur to me that our evening rides in the last little oasis were over. In a child’s mind things last forever. But of course, they don’t.

Stavro traveled to Phoenix a couple years ago and visited our old haunts. The empty lots are filled with houses. The desert we rode upon is swallowed up by urban sprawl. The dusty roads and river beds paved over. The beautiful brown mountains in the distance are now crowded up to their bases and shaded with pollution.

And my Dad is gone.

I know that Dad would want me to keep pushing onward, to stay on the bike and keep riding, even taking the chance of seeing the lights flashing behind me again. He was proud of me for taking on some pretty bouncy and terrifying mountains throughout my life and conquering them. He never failed to tell me that.

What I failed to tell him was that in my heart I always had my arms around his waist, with my fingers hooked into his belt loops knowing that if I held on tight enough, just over the next hill was the promise of breathless joy and laughter. There would be an open space to ride free and say, “Let’s go!”

But there will never be another evening ride. No more, “agains.” Grown-ups know these things and that’s the hard part.

I’m trying Dad, but without you the motor is terribly hard to start.

Depression/Suicide: Robin was not alone

COne of the things I hold dear from the week my Dad died is his comment to me that he was proud of me and that he was glad to have “his Sam back.” You see, for a long moment in time no one was sure if they would ever have me back.

Normally, I don’t speak of those times very much and especially not to strangers. It is not that I am ashamed, but rather a life long sense of shyness and privacy holds me back. When taking a psychology class in high school, we students were asked to use one word to describe ourselves; my word: private. It is a hard thing to overcome, but with this sudden and disturbing death of Robin Williams, I somehow feel compelled to reach out. Bashert says no one can tell a story as well as one who has experienced it. As the Talmud says, “Save one life, save the world entire.” or as a friend said last night, “Untreated depression is a terminal illness.”

So big breath….

I hail from a nice, middle-class family – the iconic midcentury family: two parents (each of the opposite sex), three other siblings (two older, one younger) and a rotating menagerie of pets. By the time I came along my parents owed their own home and we had a plethora of extended family. My Dad supported the family financially and my Mom supported us all at home. As I said, iconic. Get it? All American Family. Nice people.

But it doesn’t mean anything to the black hole that is Depression.

Using that crystal clear vision know as hindsight, my dance with Depression began early in life, but it didn’t become a slow dangerous tango until the early 90s when I entered my thirties. It was then I no longer had the lead over my own life. Depression slowly took control and by 1996, I was a knife blade’s edge and one signature away from either taking a heavily escorted ride to Milledgeville, Georgia or finding out for sure what happens after we cease to exist in this form.

Another big breath…

Written descriptions can never really reveal the desperation, the depth of despair that clinical Depression brings. So I am going to give something that I have never given before – a glimpse inside my mind of those dark days – an entry from my journals. I have changed names and left out a few references because they concern specific people whom I do not wish to reveal.

As you read these words, remember – I have loving parents, siblings, friends and doctors surrounding me, supporting me. Depression does not care.

11 July 96:

My well of resources is about dry. I’ve managed to hold on until now. Bits and pieces of saving grace have fed my hopes, but I can’t seem to comprehend anything of grace now.

Monday, I checked into a motel because I couldn’t bring myself to return to the house – the questions – the outrage, the suggestions, the sympathy. Too much, too much. I couldn’t be with anyone. I didn’t want to be with myself.

I’ve been on a downward slide for a long time. I’ve told you and others, but everyone seems to think they know me. That I have this powerful inner strength to help carry me through. I’ve said it in words and shown it in deeds. I’m dying.

My inner strength is used up. I’m tired and I want the pain to stop. I’m trapped and very much alone. People say wait to see what tomorrow brings; don’t let the bastards win; it’s a no-win situation, blah, blah, blah…I’ve used the words myself [remember ‘R’?]. It’s all crap when you’re on this side. She should have called the cops. I have many layers and I’ve reached one that doesn’t give a shit about promises, loyalty, or trust. It will be soon. My anger and despair are calling for rest.

I’ve begun making the lists of things to take care of – things that needs to be tied up. Sometimes it makes me queasy, but mostly it gives me calm. So much tension to be (sic) releaved.

My new little knife has become a comfort token. I’ve taken it with me everywhere. It even stays in my hand all night long. It gives a pleasant warmth.

I wonder if any sleep will come tonight? I’ve started my program of aspirin. It would be nice to rest…pack up your troubles in your ol’ kit bag and smile, smile, smile…

Depression is not just sadness. It is a deep, soul sucking despair that cares for nothing but ending the pain. It doesn’t care that you have a spouse or children that depend on you or parents that worry about you. It doesn’t care that you have fame and fortune or not. IT JUST DOESN’T CARE. It is a never ending darkness that steals joy and wonder from inside. Outside the world may seem fine, but inside? Inside there is nothing but the hunger for escape. One does not simply pull up your bootstraps and move on.

It takes a massive amount of effort and energy to combat Depression. The person with Depression is not the only one who wears out. It is frustrating and painful for all concerned. Depression is a sneaky jerk and can trick even the most experienced eye. I was lucky and had some very stubborn people in my corner, who just wouldn’t give up on me no matter how I far I fell, faked it, or pushed away. There is no ‘cure’ for Depression, only recovery. It is a lifetime battle often fought minute by minute.

Depression is a mental illness that needs more exposure and not by more loss. If you or someone you love is suffering, please, please get help. We don’t need anymore poster children.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1.800.273.8255

http://www.buzzfeed.com/laraparker/things-you-shouldnt-say-to-someone-struggling-with-depress

To Dad, Love Sam

Nature Boy – eden ahbez

There was a boy
A very strange, enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea
A little shy and sad of eye
But very wise was he

And then one day,
One magic day he passed my way
While we spoke of many things
Fools and Kings
This he said to me

The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved in return.

Once upon a time, in a previous lifetime when I was falling apart to come together, I was obsessed with playing cards. Solitaire was my constant companion; I played hour after hour, shuffling and reshuffling, black on red, red on black – a coping mechanism to soothe and wait for the world to make sense again.
In my present life, I do not play cards that often. Instead, I collect them. Each deck I acquire, either from a place visited or just an old, interesting design, reinforces the awareness of how far I have traveled. They are markers of all dark things conquered – trophies.
Nowadays, I use many distractions, FB, Pinterest, old videos, but mostly I’m found with my nose stuck in a crossword puzzle book. Codewords, cryptograms, syllacrostics and the occasional word find are my solace and escape today. They keep my mind awake and numb at the same time. They are also a touchstone to my Dad. “Great for waiting,” he said.
That’s what I brought to him in the hospital: a crossword puzzle book. Something to pass the time between the alphabet barrage of testing: EEG, ECG, EKG, CT,  PT, EIEIO…
Dad was not the best speller in the world, so sometimes his solutions to crosswords were a bit inventive. We think it has to do with the fact that he really should have been left handed, but back in the 30s left handedness was still seen as well, suspect – especially back in the dirt farm area Dad came from. The teachers tied down his left arm so that he would learn to do all with his right hand. It worked to a point. He ended up ambidextrous – I play cards and use a computer mouse left handed thanks to him – but his spelling was always lousy.
I was lucky to pass the time in conversation, as well as, work a puzzle or two with him that week. The talks were long overdue. We talked and talked for hours. I kept asking if he wanted to rest, but he kept declining, saying he wanted to chat.
We spoke of his love for literature and science. We pondered the energy of the universe – that energy is neither created or destroyed – and how he thought there is ancient energy all around us. He asked to borrow some of my archaeology books so that he could learn more. He said the subject always fascinated him – proper archaeology, too, not paleontology. We talked of passing age milestones; the psychological sense of relief both my sister and I felt when we successfully passed the age of 21, the age his sister was killed by a drunk driver. We talked about the new home Bashert and I just closed on and the things we were going to have to do to our fixer-upper, including the floor.
Dad told me that when he worked for Taylor Furniture as a young man, he hated when people would come in to look at flooring because he would have to move entire rolls of linoleum around from the back of the store to the front sidewalk and then back again. He would go “find” something else to do when he heard anyone mention flooring. That’s my Dad; work smarter, not harder.
We laughed at silly things and I kidded him about wanting his comb, so he could pretty himself up for the nurses. But he had eyes for only one person. Mom.
Mom, his favorite subject. He kept coming back to her. He told me that there was a beautiful nurse on the floor, but that she had nothing on Mom. Even when he was all woozy and waking up from one of the tests he went through, his first thoughts were of her. He wanted to go home because he, “missed his girl.”
On the Friday of his week in the hospital, he finally fell to sleep after Mom and my sister Calico Nell arrived. I guess he felt comfortable with Mom there. I visited with Mom and CN for a bit and then left, giving Dad’s toe a little squeeze as to not wake him, but to let him know I was going. I whispered love and that I really enjoyed talking to him about everything and that I would see him later.
CN told me the next day that Dad was upset that he didn’t get to say goodbye. I thought about calling, but she told me that Mom was visiting on her own for the first time. The weather had been so dicey the rest of the week, CN was driving her in to visit. I didn’t want to disturb their time together. Let him have those moments with ‘his girl’. I’m glad I made that decision. I had my time.
Dad died that night. Massive heart failure due to previously unknown, plaque filled arteries. He died of a broken heart and ours broke in the process.
I’ve had my head stuck in word puzzles ever since. Two months, now. Concentration on anything else hurts too much. Between bereavement, foot ailments and my own discovered hypertension, work has been a struggle. Our house, while coming along is still in flux. Schoolwork sits untouched, unread, unfinished, unwritten. But damn it, I have conquered the Dell no-clue, codeword puzzle. In ink.
Each book I finish stands in a stack, another legion of trophies to mark the passing of dark places. I am not sure how high the stack will have to be before most of the darkness fades, but for now it’s great for waiting.
I love you Dad.

Hello. My Name is Epidural. My Water has Broken. Prepare to Birth: Baby Chpt 16 Part 2

J&EOnce settled in our room, the reality of the situation finally hit Bashert and she began to cry. I was scared for her, but all I could do was be there. My heart was breaking for her, that is, until my patience wore out. Once the contractions started again in earnest, Bashert began to panic. The level of pain she was in was not what she had bargained for and she wanted her epidural NOW. I may not remember many things with extreme clarity, but her face when Nice Labor Nurse told her the contraction level she just experienced was only a seven? Wowzers. “Only a seven, only a SEVEN? What is the highest?” she asked the nurse. Nice Labor Nurse replied, “Ten.” Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy, that was it for Bashert. Never, ever tell Bashert what the side effects or the upper limits are of something that involves her health in any way. She will suddenly be included in the top 0.001% of all people who had that reaction. Seriously. Ask her.

Nice Labor Nurse left the room after dropping that innocent little bomb and Bashert had another contraction. After it was over she asked me to check the monitor, “That was a ten, right?” I looked at the screen reading, “Nope, Babe, still a seven.” She was ready to throw in the towel. In between each contraction it was “Where is he? Why isn’t he here. How much longer? Please go ask them to get him here.” I was ready throw in the towel. I knew the guy was on his way in so I stepped out into the hallway pretending to talk to the nurses. I stayed in the quiet for just a minute or so and then with energy somewhat restored, I headed back into the battle zone. “He’s on his way up. It won’t be long now,” I lied through my teeth. But it was just enough to ease her mind a bit. All in all from the time we hit the birthing room to the time the guy arrived was only really only about twenty minutes, an eternity to Bashert.

The epidural procedure was interesting. Bashert was, for once in her life, impatient for someone to administer drugs through a needle. Her fear of all things needle was legendary. Needles bent at the touch of her overly tensed skin. Not really, but I remember countless times of having to hold her hand or cover her tear filled eyes for a simple blood drawing. I had fear in my heart for this going down well. But Bashert was desperate, so there was hope.

We sat her up on the bed and she leaned on me for support while the doctor began the procedure. Nenè, who had been dozing on the couch sat up to see what was going on. She was seated behind Bashert’s back. When the doctor pulled out the syringe and needle to be used for the epidural, Nenè’s eyes widened and mouthed, “Oh, wow!” She held her hands up miming the length of the needle as if showing the size of a prize winning fish. I smiled at her and let my eyes tell her in no uncertain terms was she to let Bashert know what was really going on behind her back.

The entire time the anesthesiologist was working he and I were trying to figure out from where we knew each other. It was so funny. Bashert is always the one who runs into people she knows. Really. She can leave the country and still meet someone she went to grade school with and here I was trading possible common places with her savior, the anesthesiologist. This reversal was a great distraction even though we never did make the connection. As Bashert says, “It was bashert.”

The transformation was heaven. For the first time in at least two months she could relax her body. It was like watching those psychedelic movies from the sixties where someone is tripping out and watching their hand float in front of their eyes. She was sooooo chilled. It was nice for us all. The anxiety level in the room decreased immediately and we all soon fell asleep. Most of us anyway.

Bashert, obviously had the bed. Nenè claimed the couch. That left the hard rolling chair for me. It was convenient to sit next to the bed and be able hold Bashert’s hand and talk softly with her; however, a comfy La-Z Boy it was not. When I could no longer stay awake, I pulled the chair up next to the bed as close as I could and folded my arms over the edge of the bed to rest my head. I can be a heavy sleeper, but every move that night translated to a very edgy Cee waking up at full alert. Man, I was tired. And stiff.

At some point during the night, the monitoring device Bashert was wearing ceased to make its beeping noises. Somehow that penetrated Bashert’s euphoric epidural haze and she woke me in a panic. She was terrified that something had happened to the baby. Since none of the nursing staff had rushed into the room at that point, I figured that nothing too bad was going on. They do tend to react in an emergency situation, you know. Anyway, I took a look at the monitor and I could still see the baby’s heart rate and the seismic waves of Bashert’s contractions, so we figured that either the sound had given up the ghost or someone had turned down the volume. Either way just seeing that little heart graphic pounding away was a relief.

Time seemed to have stopped in our hospital room. It was always just ‘now’. So when Dr. Ken and Nice Labor Nurse came in to tell Bashert it was time to really start pushing, I really had no clue as to the real time of the night. It was just now time to push. Bashert was not too happy about it since she was enjoying her first real night’s sleep in such a while, but trouper that she is, she complied. And promptly started feeling sick.

In our house, nausea is enemy number one when it comes to illness. We treat Phenergan® like white gold. Its wonderful magical powers to relieve a horribly upset stomach is priceless. So when Bashert began to feel sick to her stomach, she figured some of the lovely stuff would be in order. Oh, no…not this close to delivery. They did not want to introduce anything new with any hint of a sedative effect at this point. Bashert’s face was quite the study of disappointment when Nice Labor Nurse handed her the ubiquitous kidney shaped plastic bowl.

On and on the ‘now’ of the night moved. The contraction monitor stopped working, but Bashert could feel the oncoming contractions in a disassociated kind of way. There were no longer levels of measure, they were just contractions. This was a good thing because Dr. Ken was not pleased at the rate of Bashert’s progression considering the meconium in the amniotic fluid. He ordered the administration of oxytocin to speed things up a bit. Things plucked along nicely until Nice Labor Nurse backed off the oxytocin to slow us up again. Seeing our confusion, she told us that there was another mother on the floor in labor emergency. We would have to wait a little longer to see our son.

Activity in our room began again in earnest when a new labor nurse walked into the room. It was shift change. I looked at Bashert and she at me. Eyebrows raised in unison, we both whispered, “Oh, my g-d. Our baby is going to be delivered by Barbie!” I kid you not, Nurse Barbie had bleached blonde hair, nails painted fire engine red and more make-up on than Honey-Boo-Boo. We were scared witless.

Thankfully, our fears were immediately allayed. Nurse Barbie swept into the room and took charge. “Let’s get this baby into the world!” Nurse Barbie was confident and assuring. Bashert and I shrugged and went with it. The oxytocin drip was restarted and things went to town. Soon I could see little Yoda’s head crowning. Talk about surreal! I had never seen a birth, not even did I watch Nenè being born – the reality of it was too much for me, yeah, it is not like the sanitized stuff seen on television, not by a long shot. I was excited, scared, fascinated and freaked out all at the same time.

It was the weirdest thing to be able to reach down and lightly touch his head. The same head I had rubbed those late nights through Bashert’s abdomen. It was so strange to touch him and realize that he would soon no longer be part of only Bashert, but be part of the world. It really is an overwhelming thing to experience. I finally realized why the other partner is the one crying at the baby’s birth. The intimacy of the relationship between birth mother and her baby cannot be denied; it is a symbiotic relationship (not to spoil the moment but it is actually a parasitic relationship, but really? Ick.) The relationship for us on the other side of the uterus is a more etherial one until we actually get to see, hear, and feel the little one. The abstract is no more.

In preparation for Yoda’s birth and subsequent baby naming ceremony and during her creative textile spurt, Bashert made a kippah (yarmulke) for him. It was a tiny little thing about 3 inches round. We had fun making bets as to whether Yoda would have enough hair to use Velcro to hold it in place or if we would have to tape it to his bald head. When I saw Yoda’s head full of black hair begin to emerge, I leaned up and whispered to Bashert, “Velcro.” Poor thing, she looked at me like I was nuts. I could tell she was thinking “What in the hell are you talking about – I’m a bit busy here.”

Dr. Ken interceded by telling us the baby was coming. I looked back down and he was delivering Yoda, but stopped. I looked closer. The umbilical cord had wrapped around the baby’s neck, twice. Dr. Ken carefully slipped his fingers underneath the coils and cut them away. It happened fast and in slow motion all at once. My anticipation (and admittedly some dread) about being able to cut the cord was dashed, but the safety of the baby absolutely came first. After the cord was loosened Dr. Ken helped slide the rest of the baby out into the world. Quietly.

He did not not want Yoda to cry yet because of the meconium. If Yoda cried there would be the chance that he would aspirate it and that would be a bad thing. So as soon as he was fully out, the other attending Nice Nurse whisked Yoda away to the little portioned off area to make sure he had not done so anyway. The quiet was unsettling. The wait was unsettling. It seemed that from the beginning of this journey all we did was wait. I held on to Bashert but could not take my eyes from the concentrated work Other Nice Nurse was doing. When that first plaintive, mewling cry came out into the room, there was a collective breath released. All was going to be okay.

Other Nice Nurse, kept trying to get a diaper on Yoda to bring him over to us, but each time she did, the little booger pooped. Four diapers later, he was finally put into Bashert’s arms. Our barely six pound, little boy had finally made it.  Delivered by Ken and Barbie, our Judah Kol, the voice of Judaea had arrived. He looked like Curious George after losing a street fight, but he was here and our wait was finally over.

Judah over shoulder

Hello. My Name is Epidural. My Water has Broken. Prepare to Birth: Baby Chpt. 16, Part I

J&EThe five minute ride to the hospital is a blur. I do remember slowing to a roll to let Bashert and Nenè off at the front door, peeling off to the parking garage and then running, yes, running back to the hospital. Back then I was a good 30, 40, okay, 50 pounds lighter and could well, you know, run. Even still, I was out of breath and sweating like a glass of iced tea by the time I finally located them up on the third floor triage area in a curtained off area.

Now as our luck would have it, Todd and Marge Chester arrived at the hospital at the same time as Bashert and Nenè were entering. Apparently the ride up in the elevator was quite the hoot (see bashert04 on the side link for her telling). I got to experience the latter part of that comedy of errors.

When I arrived on the triage floor, Bashert was in obvious pain and dripping wet. Mrs. Chester – Margo – on the other hand was bright and cheerful, flitting about chirping to everyone that she just knew her water had broken. I got a good look at Margo. She was tall and thin and wearing skinny designer jeans with high heeled boots. The thought of pregnancy had not even crossed her body’s mind yet.

Triage Nurse was in the common area passing on information in a loud stage whisper. “Mrs. Chester in exam area one is here because her water has broken. Ms. Bedlam-Smith in exam area two thinks her water has broken.” That was it for Bashert. All the anxiety and pain lifted any filters she had left at that point. She grabbed my hand and said in a very not whisper, “Thinks? She ‘thinks’ her water broke? I’ve got Niagara Falls between my legs and I ‘think’ my water broke?” Momma-to-be was not a happy camper. This did not bode well for our rapidly approaching birthing experience.

We could hear Triage Nurse making nice with the Chesters. “Let’s get you checked out, okay, Honey?” For crying out loud even I could see that Margo was dry as a bone and looked less pregnant than I did! Meanwhile, as they were checking out dear Margo, poor Bashert was lying on the exam table shivering, sodden and scared. All I could do was be with her and try to take her mind off of things until the doctor arrived.

I heard Triage Nurse start in with her stage whisper again explaining the various states of the women on the floor. When she got to Bashert, she again said, “She thinks her water has broken.” This time Bashert did not hold back at all, “Will you stop saying that! I don’t think my water has broken; I know my water has broken!” I could hear the bass voice of the doctor quietly responding to Triage Nurse. Thank goodness he finally got there. It did not take long after to get things straightened out as to who was actually birthing a baby that night. The doctor sent Todd and Margo off into the night to ponder how many stock options they could wrangle before their next dry run at childbirth.

You will notice that I used the pronoun “he” in reference to the doctor. Please recall that OBwan warned us that she would be out of town over the weekend. What night was this? Right. Saturday night equaled no OBwan. Bashert and I had joked early on about the “lesbians” ending up with a drop-dead gorgeous doctor on call when she went into labor. Guess what – the doctor on call that  weekend turned out to be the living, blue-eyed embodiment of Ken. Even through her pain and fear Bashert had to laugh at that one.

Dr. Ken turned out to be very nice. Once he quickly cleared up the whole Todd and Margo thing he turned his full attention to Bashert. He was kind and reassuring and most of all he was able to put Triage Nurse in her place with a dazzling smile.

You see, Bashert does not do pain. Bashert’s middle name is Epidural. First name on the admittance forms: Epidural. From day one of our prenatal visits with OBwan it was clear that Bashert would be getting an epidural. OBwan, herself a three times over mom at this point, agreed whole-heartedly and made extensive notes in the file to that effect. Big bold letters: Bashert gets an epidural as soon as possible. Apparently, Triage Nurse did not think this was a good idea.

After Dr. Ken examined Bashert and gave us the news that there was meconium (baby poop) in the amniotic fluid and she needed to deliver in the next twelve hours, Bashert asked about the epidural. Well, little miss Triage Nurse, stepped up and interrupted, “Oh, no, you don’t want to do that! It will just slow things down.” All I could do was look at her with “Wha?” stamped on my face.

Dr. Ken let her have her say and then turned to Bashert directly, did the toe squeeze, flashed a smile and asked her if the epidural is what she wanted. I believe if she had not been having a contraction at the time, her response would have raised the roof, “YES!” Dr. Ken then said that he would make all the arrangements and they would make her as comfortable as possible until the arrival of the anesthesiologist. Triage Nurse huffed and finally went away. One stone, two birds. Bashert relaxed as well as she could for the moment. Her epidural was on its way.

Now that Dr. Ken had given the official declaration that Bashert really was in labor, we were moved to the actual birthing room. It was a relief to get away from the confusion and craziness of the triage area. The birthing room felt incredibly spacious after all three of us being squashed in the exam area. Even with the little area that was portioned off for working on the babies after they were born, there was quite a lot of leg room. Here there was a bed, a couch, a hard chair and the usual assortment of medical machines burping and whirring. We actually had access to a private bathroom which was great. Nenè set herself up on the couch and began dozing. Bashert and I were alone for the first time since we sat down to watch Sir Elton so many hours ago.