Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Margaret & Bobby

     Margaret came into my work today looking for help.  It wasn't going to be difficult to do what she needed, but I had to make a phone call to get it done.  She apologized for the inconvenience, and as I put the phone to my ear, I told her I was sure she had more than enough going on in her life ... let me try to make something easier.  That's when she told me I didn't know the half of it, so I decided to hang up the phone and ask for the story.
     She said that her significant other had died two years ago, and she just couldn't move forward.  In fact, she had just come from her beloved's grave -  that's what she called him throughout our talk, her beloved Bobby.  As she started to cry, she looked up at the ceiling saying, "not now, Margaret, not now."  She said she was trying to sell their condo, but couldn't find anyone who would come close to the asking price.  Her health isn't good and she needs to sell it to take care of a variety of issues.  In fact, she told me that she was currently dealing with a urinary tract infection and had a hard time being able to afford the medicine.
     But every other thought she uttered kept bringing her back to her beloved.  She told me that they had had 22 years together, a true love affair.  One where he showed her daily how much he loved her and needed her.  She said he was quite romantic, with a smile that stopped her tears instantly.  She had been married before him for 25 years to a good man, but she said that was a marriage.  Not what she had with Bobby.  She said that her friends would ask her, how could he die and leave you ... you two were so in love.  Bobby was 89 when he died, she 10 years his junior.
     Eventually, there was a point in the conversation where it felt ok to make the call and get her situation resolved.  She thanked me immensely and rising to leave, took my hand in hers to say goodbye.  Her hands were so soft.  I thanked her for telling me her story, for telling me about Bobby and their love.  I told her that some people never get to experience such joy in their lives with someone who loves them completely, let alone have that for 22 years.  She smiled and left.  Then I went to the bathroom and wept.  I cried for Margaret, for my mother-in-law, for all the Margarets and their male analogs I've met in the last year, for love and loss and the unknown.  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Car Time

     Driving to work today, I started to think about seven years from now when I turn fifty.  I actually have a hard time grasping that concept, because in my head, I'm still half that age .  I'm in a good place physically, thanks to my urologist suggesting I triple my water intake to keep my kidneys happy and my amazing massage therapist who has eliminated the radiating pain from my back, making movement possible again.  Due to the water and the movement, I've lost a bit of weight, which is always a good thing.
     Yet, in the car, I couldn't get past that mile marker. It's not as though I feel some sense of lost possibilities when I hit that age.  As long as I have energy and breath, I will do whatever I want to do.  A new craft that intrigue me ... I'm trying it.  Is that something on the car that I can replace ... let me give it a whirl.  When we moved into this house, a small embankment wall beside the driveway was giving way.  I pulled the railroad ties out and built a concrete block wall (it's pretty, trust me) to replace it.  My point is not to brag, but to say as long as this brain works and the body cooperates, I'll figure out how to do it.
     But what I can't wrap my head around is what this life will look like without my babies around me.  In seven years, #1 will be 25, #2 will be 22 and #3 will be 15.  #1 will probably have figured out what her path in life will be by then.  She'll have finished school and might be on her own.  #2 will probably have finished school, exploring the world in front of him.  #3 will have finished her first draft on the constitution for her banana republic and what the military uniforms will look like.  As I've said before, the less I know, the better.  Although I do know that undoubtedly, there won't be three little people greeting me at the door.  That's the thought I couldn't get out of my head this morning.
     I know that if we've done our job, they will reach a point where they can function on their own in this big world.  I know that they have to have grown up lives and loves; they can't stay with me forever.  I'm not in any hurry for them to prove this ability.  My philosophy is you have plenty of time to do it all on your own, enjoy this time now - read and write as much as you want, teach yourself hobbies and crafts, learn who you are.  I'll feed you for as long as you want to eat my cooking.
     My mother used to say that she never understood the moms that used to be ecstatic at the start of school.  She always cried on our first day.  She would say, if you don't like having your kids around, why did you have them at all.  My kids are some of the best people I know on this planet.  Sure, sometimes I take extra time when I run errands or 10 minutes more in the bathroom with the door locked - mama needs a break, too - but otherwise I'd rather spend time with them.  I'm partial since they're half me, but they are incredible humans, simply marvelous.  Theoretically, when they've moved out, I'm supposed to live for me, but that feels foreign, unnatural.  Certainly, I'll be told that I'll adjust, but I haven't adjusted to mom's death after eight years, so I'm not thinking it's in the cards.
     Today is my youngest niece's birthday; my brother's youngest.  She is a glorious 1 year of age.  Her middle name is mom's name, Laurel.  I can write it, but I can't utter it without crying.  Looking at pictures of her today online was happy making.  It made me glad for my brother that he has a long time before their house will be empty.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Video Games

     I wholeheartedly believe in playing video games, both for myself and for the children.  Yes, it leads to the development of strategy, improves memory and fosters creativity, but for me at least, they also bring relaxation.  I laugh at that thought too, because mom used to complain about Frogger.  She'd say, "I can never get that fucking frog across the highway."  Game play certainly wasn't relaxing for her.
     When I was a preteen and teenager, we'd save quarters to play at the arcade - and I use that term loosely - at the front of the local grocery store.  There was a Ms. Pac Man that called to me, and a pinball machine that I bruised my right palm on once I learned you could slap the release for a faster shot instead of pulling it.  How can you pass up a pinball machine? The lights, the marvelous sounds, the adrenaline from keeping the ball in play ... it's heaven.
     When I went off to college, one of our friends off campus had a Nintendo.  During parties when everyone else was pairing off or climbing the fire escapes and generally having a drunk and debaucherous time, I was the moody girl with the bottle of Boone's Farm in front of the Nintendo willing Mario to finish each level.  As I look back on that time, another reason why those people were such good friends, and many brothers in the fraternity I later joined, was that they never gave me any grief about it.  The party just went on around me.  Also, I'll never drink Boone's Farm Sangria ever again.
     During the summers between school, my husband stayed at my mother's house with me.  We'd play shareware computer games that we picked up for a dollar a piece on the computer we set up in my brother's room.  When my husband and I moved to Texas, we were quite poor and living off very little, waiting for my student loan refund check to come.  We didn't have any furniture until a friend gave us a couch that came in pieces.  You put it together like a puzzle. We slept on a pile of blankets, ate at a low metal table that he liberated from a condemned building on campus, watched a tiny black and white TV that sat on his foot locker.  After the check came through, I bought a futon, a rocking chair, a color TV and stand, and a Nintendo 64.  Mario and I were together again.
     Long before we could afford a Playstation, I fell in love with Tomb Raider and Lara Croft on the computer.  I tried Myst, but it never really stuck.  I wanted adventure.  Years later, when we had finally saved up for a Playstation, he could play NBA Live promising the baby that he'd win the next game for her, and I could play ... whatever, as long as I got to 100% completion.  Our eldest likes certain games, but not as much as #2 and #3.  The boy has been playing religiously since he was 3 years old.  I used to hand him a disconnected controller so he could play beside me and not effect my outcome.  Eventually we would play together or separately, but always pushing each to be the first to finish a level.  We're always behind the most recent console by a couple generations, because I'm cheap, and I almost never trade my games in because you never know when you might want to play something again.
     #2 has to collect everything too, obsessive like his mother.  Now he likes the games where every time you finish the entire storyline, the difficulty ratchets up a notch ... so you finish it again.  That's my boy.  When he was six and broke his arm, we asked the doctor to put the cast on in such a way so he could still hold his controller.  I think we both would have been disconsolate if he couldn't play.  The youngest holds her own well on a console game or her tablet.  I like to believe it's improving her reading and planning skills, so when she's running her banana republic one day, she'll thank me.  We devour all the Lego games as a family.  Although Mario will always be dear to my heart, I've become quite fond of the Assassin's Creed games.  Nothing makes a long day at work more bearable than plugging in, pulling the cowl down to the edge of your eyes and dispatching some enemies in quick fashion.  For some reason, I find the efficiency of sharpened steel more comforting than bashing my head against bricks - which may be a weird metaphor for adulthood.  Or something I should embroider on a pillow.