the Caretaker

My mom is 75. Up until this year she worked. Not because she needs to, she just likes to be busy. Working with Special Needs children here in town gave her so much satisfaction. But, with Covid being what it is, and my health (I’m in the most vulnerable category there is), she took a leave of absence.
I hate that she had to do that, knowing that she did it for me.

She has been relentlessly puttering about the house looking for something to clean. Something to sew. Projects to complete. It’s confusing to me because she has a RV ready to go in the driveway, a boyfriend that is always telling her that she should quit working (she does not need the money) and travel with him, and she has me to watch her house should she choose to go someplace.

A month in and she hasn’t spent any additional time with her boyfriend and she has made zero effort to make any plans whatsoever. The other day I asked her about it.
“What, are you trying to get rid of me?”, she asked.
I explained to her that I just want her to enjoy her retirement, to take advantage of not having financial constraints, to do all of the things that I long to but can’t due to the rigorous demands of my dialysis schedule. We talked about it and she was uncharacteristically quiet. I got frustrated and asked her why again. She spun around with a face on that I haven’t seen in years.
“Bill, do you remember what happened 2 years ago?” You would be dead right now if I hadn’t been here!” She was on the edge of tears.

There it is. The truth comes out, and an inconvenient one at that. Despite all efforts to the contrary, beneath it all I am a burden to her.

My mother is a Caretaker. She cared for both of her parents during their decline and she, with little help from the Teamsters, VA and Medicare, cared for my father as he succumbed to Parkinson’s over an eight year period. It took almost everything out of her. She put her life on hold for him. Once he passed, I had hoped that her caretaking days are over. In her eyes, clearly they are not.

I can see why she feels this way. You never stop being a parent, no matter how old your children are. I can’t imagine how she felt to come upstairs to my loft, after calling my name several times with no answer, to find me on the floor unconscious. Does it matter that I was 53 years old at the time? No, she was terrified and thought her only child was dead. It changed her, she is burdened with walking around with that image in her head. And she’s afraid that if she goes away it could happen again.

I’m smarter now about being honest about my health. I tried to assure her that I know enough to call 911 if I am in trouble. But she is standing firm. It is what I love and hate about her.

I want to be so many things in life. A burden is not one of them. I wish I could erase that whole ordeal from her mind. But I can’t. It happened and in her eyes she is permanently vigilant in the event that it will again.

I’m forever the burden, she’s forever the caretaker. That’s what being a parent is. If you do it right, it never ends no matter how old they are.

The wayback machine

“Mr. Peabody, set the Wayback machine to 1976…”

Music is transformative. Music is time travel. The right song, as it drifts through the speakers, has countless beautiful memories clinging to it. I’ve gotten away from music for a long time. Apparently my grey hair dictated to me that talk radio about sports and politics was the only thing for me. Sure, it was intellectually stimulating, but nothing reminds me of how beautiful life is and was like music.

Today as I was driving back from the clinic I had the volume low on the car stereo. I was thinking about the morning while simultaneously planning my day when I heard a magical strumming of guitar faintly playing. I immediately turned it up to see if it was…YES it was Bob Seger’s Night Moves. I turned it up as loud as it can go.

Sooooooo many memories. I think I have been delighted every time this song ever came on the radio but today I went all the way back. Back to the days of AM Radio. I recalled the small transistor radio that only got 3 stations and working outside in the fall air when I was 11 years old. I vividly remember splitting wood in the cool afternoon air. I should have been cold but I was in a t shirt and jeans and the chill of the autumn air didn’t faze me. The older kids drove by with their car stereos blaring, the neighborhood kids of my age stopped by and asked me to join them in a football game. I declined. I wanted to get my work done just so that I could see the pleased look on my Dad’s face when he came home from work.

The neighborhood kids didn’t understand. Not only did I need to do my chores because we needed the wood to heat the house in the pending winter, but I also liked the work. I felt strong as I swung the 8 pound splitting maul. The cool afternoon breeze cooled my brow. I felt powerful. I was young and strong. I felt accomplished. And despite being alone, for much of my early years I suppose, I was never truly alone because I had the radio.

Do you remember the days before Pandora and Spotify? Before 6 disc changers and countless radio stations? Do you remember hitting the record button on the tape player when your favorite song came on? And did you curse out the DeeJay for talking over the introduction? Hearing Bob Seger belt out Night Moves brought it all back to me today and it has put me in a melancholy but wonderful place.

I crave the simpler times. The times before life sapped all of the youthful energy and optimism out of me. I miss the days when I had strength and endurance to spare. When the simple tasks of getting through my day didn’t leave me drained and in pain. I miss the days of having only thoughts of the future and waiting for my favorite song to come on the old Transistor radio. For all of the complexities of adult life, right now I would trade them all for the cool Autumn afternoons of October 1976.

Now if you’ll excuse me there are some songs that I want to search out and truly live out this moment.

I have to go work on some of my Night Moves…

Just friends

“Let’s just be friends…”. Undoubtedly the most unwelcome words for a guy to ever hear. Nice guys, and I’d like to think I am one, are cursed to hear those ugly words many times in life. I’ve certainly been kissed off more than my share by them. It ultimately feels like rejection, only covered in confectioner’s sugar to sweeten the taste.
Today, I think I would welcome those words.

Why did you have to take my note, after I caught the wedding ring and tried to pull it back? It would have been so much easier if you let me down easy that day. I was ready for it. Going into any situation you must be prepared for any outcome. I was poised for rejection, it’s my usual pose. I wasn’t prepared for you to want to get to know me “as friends”. I wasn’t prepared for you to pry your way through the very small wall of scar tissue that I call my heart and make me want you more. I wasn’t prepared to invest myself emotionally in you, to want to make up for the poor manner in which your husband treats you. You deserve better and it is my nature to want to give better to you. I want to take you away.

But I can’t.

I’m not financially secure. I’m in poor health. I have no place of my own. I am in no way an upgrade for you. You need security in the comforts of life that I cannot provide. If only good intentions were currency.

This will not end well, I just know it. I can let myself enjoy the waltz of the initial flirtation, getting to know you on a deeper level, to lie in bed thinking of those hungry, stolen kisses. But to what end? It’s just not fair to you. You deserve better.

5% of me is shouting down the other 95% of me to do the right thing. The blare of reason is the only thing loud enough to drown the raucous roar of my beating heart.
I want you.
I need you.
But you are not mine to take.

Until something changes on your end…please tell me you want to be “just friends”. I will hate it. I will fight it. But I know that I will learn to live with it. After all, It’s the only way this can end well.

Wait, don’t. I want to savor the moment for a while…

The Ring

“I like your jewelry. You have a very unique style.”
She put her hand to her ear as if to say speak up.
Fuckin’ masks.
I’m trying to make small talk through my mask, a plexiglass screen and her mask. I had to try, though. I was too intrigued not to. Lisa the pharmacy tech had been all I could think about since I first saw her.

Tan, blonde, a pretty smile, outgoing personality and awesome personal flair with the jewelry; an abundance of bracelets and rings and neckwear ranging from Native American themes to what I would find was her Grandmother’s ring on a chain about her supple neck. She reeked of individuality and she seemed to be about my age. I was smitten.

Over the course of several medication pickups (not a big deal I’m there all the time lately) I attempted to get to know her a bit. Last time I was there I sensed a twinkle in her eye when she saw me in line. I’m pretty bad at physical cues and I haven’t been laid since Obama’s first term but I do vaguely remember the dance of flirtation. I had to make a move.
Today, before I fired up the Fatboy to head to the pharmacy I decided that I would make a move. I feared public humiliation and I didn’t want to get her in trouble at work so I made a little note and tucked it into an envelope.
Hi. I think you’re amazing. If you’re not married, engaged, or dating, I’d like to take you out.
Name and phone #

When I approached the pharmacy I was excited to see that she was working today. She looked up and there was the twinkle again. Then another cashier summoned me from Lisa’s line. I obliged, only for Lisa to finish with her customer and jump over and offer to take care of me. I lowered my mask and said hello. As I did I pushed the envelope across the counter.
“You’re so sweet”, she said. As she grabbed it with her left hand I saw it. The friggin’ ring.
“I need that back. After seeing your ring finger I think I made a mistake”, I said.
“Nope”, she said. “I’m opening this.” I went home feeling somewhat defeated. I changed clothes and began doing some yard work. My phone chirped 2 hours later.
Hey! I feel the same way about you. Yes, sorry but I am married. I hope that’s ok I would like to get to know you as a person, even if it’s as friends. Is that ok? I could tell you my situation but you don’t want to hear about it.

We’ve been texting all day. Her last text was a pic of her in a bathing suit. What have I gotten myself into? I would never touch a married woman. But I like her sooooooo much.

Friggin’ ring.
Friggin’ luck.
Nothing is ever friggin’ easy.

I may have to end this before it starts

the green eyed monster

It’s funny when you figure something about someone and all of a sudden it just makes sense.

My cousin Mike, who I have written about before, is a Facebook junkie. It is not enough for him to be a know-it-all, he also has to be that guy that comments on every post. I love him to death, I really do, but even my kids have remarked to me that his constant comments are over the top because they really don’t know him that well (that is not his fault). I tell them to deal with it, he does it to everyone.

Everyone but me. He never comments on my posts.

Saturday I was installed as Worshipful Master of my Masonic Lodge (in Olde English ‘Worshipful’ means worthy of respect). With the exception of my children’s births and my wedding day, it was one of the biggest days of my life. I posted about 10 pics of the day, me with my kids individually and together, several of me and my Masonic brothers and made a post about it. Well over 125 people “liked” or commented on it. Not Mike.

I hadn’t noticed it before, this time it stood out. So I went back over my page and looked to see if he commented on previous posts. Nope. Nothing. NADA. It’s not an anomaly, it’s a pattern. Apparently he’s still jealous of me.

Still? You ask? Yes, still. I’m not sure what I have to be jealous of, I’m pretty sure I’m as broke and behind the 8 ball in life as he is. All I know is whenever something good happens to me he’s nowhere to be found if being happy for (or with) me is in order. It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances because what I do know is that I MAKE the good things in my life happen, it’s not circumstance, luck, or serendipity.

Flashback to 4 months ago sitting on the common of our old home town under the mighty oak:

“Can I tell you something?”, he said.
“By all means”, I said and took a bite of the Steak and Cheese sub we had just gone for.
“I didn’t go to your graduation party because I was pissed at you.”
“The Graduation party that I had in ’92 when I graduated College?” I asked. Perplexed.
“Yes”, he said. “I was annoyed that your parents paid for your college and I didn’t have such an opportunity.
Annoyed, I turned to him. “Well, you missed a fun party. And you’re wrong, idiot. I worked 55-60 hours a week and carried a full course load to graduate college. No help from Mom and Dad. How dare you assume that?”

He tried to make a case, but I told him that it was jealousy and it was petty. I was pissed.

So again, something good happens to me and he is nowhere to be found.

I think I see a pattern here.

random nuggets

If one were to notice someone’s absence it would be safe to assume that they haven’t been up to much. Much worth writing about, anyway. The opposite is true for me. It’s not that I have nothing to write about, it would be safe to say that I have too much. Where do I begin?

For a guy with nothing to do I’m pretty dang busy.

My detailing gig is taking off. Lots of word of mouth referrals from happy customers. I do a very meticulous job for a reasonable price and people appreciate it. It has supplemented my income a bit and I expect it to grow further. I actually say no to work now.

Dialysis is a drag and I have been feeling pretty crappy lately. I’m not worried about it, it happens every few months. I am really anemic right now and they don’t know why. I suppose I should be worried about that but I’m sure it will work out. It always does. My teflon coating is still intact. For now I just have to push through the moments of pain and weakness.

I was elected Master of my Masonic Lodge this past month. My term begins this month and I’m terrified. The amount of work involved in running a lodge is surprising but the motivating factor is that my brothers have entrusted me with leading them for the next year and I can’t let them down.

The family is great. The kids are thriving, the ex got a new job (for a person with Borderline Personality Disorder change is devastating so this is good news) and is doing better financially. Everyone is happy and crushing this thing we call life. Being a proud Dad has never been easier.

Well, I think I’m caught up now. Now that I’ve touched on the broad strokes, I’ll start to dig down on the small but beautiful details.

Namaste, y’all

Over the miles

I sat down yesterday morning to begin a post in continuation of the one I had previously published and I just couldn’t find my groove so I saved it as a draft and turned the computer off.
I’m glad I did because today I got a phone call from a dear friend and in the course of it not only did I figure out what I wanted to say but I found myself with a renewed interest in my blog.

I suppose it would be beneficial to first state that she is a fellow blogger. In every sense, she is the perfect person to having spoken to today. On so many levels. To begin with, I love the sound of her voice. In addition, she always makes me laugh. When I’m done laughing I then find myself with something to think about. Lastly, she always revives my faith in people.

You see, when I first started my blog I had very few readers and I really didn’t care. I was in a real bad place, I felt alone and at the very bottom. The blog was akin to the cliched Shrink’s Couch where I unburdened myself in relative obscurity and anonymity with the end result feeling as I’ve talked to someone. Then people started reading. They were drawn to my story. Not that I told it particularly well but because I was so unflinching and honest. In a world of fluff and bullshit I bared my ass to the internet and it resonated with some people. Soon enough I became actual friends with 3 of them and we got together for a day of conversation and dinner. I am proud to say that I am still communicating with all of them.

Today’s conversation was with a woman that I like to joke with about being the female version of me. Or I’m the male version of her. Whatever. Point is, she gets me. She knows me well and has a history of knowing when I am in need of a pick me up and she always reaches out. On this day, it wasn’t that I was not doing well but yea, something was bugging me and we got to the bottom of it. That is what a real friend does. Over the miles or right next door, a friend knows when you need them.
Thank you.

How did she inspire me to get back up and blogging again, you ask? She reminded me that in the beginning, before followers and stats were even a concern, I told my story. It was a story that enough people enjoyed or at least felt compelled to hear the rest of it. I thought I had told my story and I have been struggling for things to write about. Until today. This is my journal, my outlet, my place to tell my story that is still evolving, twisting and turning, and changing before my eyes. It is a journal.

As long as there are days in my life, my story still needs to be told. Hold on, shit’s gonna get bumpy around here.

the good stuff

Friends. A dumb show from the 90’s about a bunch of New Yorker’s whose lives I couldn’t give a shit about? No.
The often meaningless connections you make on social media so that you can have the opportunity to view every stupid meal they post for your viewing displeasure? No.
Those few people in your life that are always there for you and remind you in your darkest hour that you’re not alone? YES. A triumphant and resounding YES.

If valued and meaningful connections were currency I would be up there on Forbes’s list of wealthiest people. I am so fortunate to be at the age, or level of maturity if you will, that I recognize the value of quality over quantity in life.

I have an amazing circle, I call it my support network. Between my Masonic brothers, many of whom are as close to me as actual brothers, to my many friends dating back to High School, some amazing connections from jobs past and social groups like mountain bikers that despite my inability to ride remain my friends, to others that have just fortunately come into my life, I always have the luxury of being supported and propped up when too tired to stand. It’s not a huge circle, but it’s a good one.

It is not a one way street, I am a loyal and dedicated friend in return.

If you find yourself devoid of joy, wallowing in the negativity of today’s climate and feeling overwhelmed with the increasing darkness, there is a cure. Grab your phone and scroll through your contacts. Find a name that brings a smile to your face and call them. In the process of making their day brighter I can almost guarantee that they will make yours as well.

But don’t just use the phone, be available in person to those around you. Cell phones make us closer to those far away, but more distant to those next to us.

Just a thought, enjoy your Sunday and may you make a new friend or reconnect with a old one today. It just may make your day.

Be the change

People say things. Stupid things. All the time. If I wasn’t careful my eye rolling would cause a permanent medical condition. Fortunately I’m getting better at tuning them out.
With the exception of one phrase…I hate it.
“People suck.”
No. They. Don’t. Please stop.

I’ve posted about this before. But I need to again.

99% of people are good. It’s the 1% that make the news and if all we watch is the news, and not Main St. America then we are not going to know the truth. The truth is found in the local tavern, told over the back fence with neighbors, the local coffee shop, at the water cooler at work. People are for the most part good at heart, they are just easily manipulated because they are, at their very heart, Human. Humans make mistakes, we’re not perfect.

I have had a person donate a vital organ to me. I have seen people with only ten dollars in their pocket donate 5 of it to a charity dear to them. I’ve known people who have toiled in a soup kitchen or food pantry every single weekend of the year without looking for so much as a thank you. I could go on. But I won’t. You get the point.

If you can’t find a good person, then be one.

People do not suck. We need to stop saying it.

A ripple in the water

One of the most amazing thing about the internet is the connections that we make. I have made actual friendships, with the exception of the blessed few that I have met in person, that are real and meaningful. I am occasionally surprised and honored when a virtual friend or blogger notices my absence, which of late has been the rule, not the exception.
It is an honor none the less when someone notices when you are not around. I have to come clean as to why my posting on social media and the blogosphere has been so infrequent.

As Bruce Banner, AKA the Incredible Hulk, famously said…”You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

I’ve been in a bad place.

I have friends that share very different politics. One in particular is a polar opposite of me politically but I read him just the same.(You know who you are). He is a beacon of reason and open-mindedness despite his world view being maddening to me. He doesn’t judge me for mine, he allows me to be me.

The problem is, being me has been difficult lately. The social and political climate is infuriating to me and I hate how people are turning on one another. The anger and resentment at watching my friends, family and country embroiled in partisan and identity politics has been consuming me. I, like my beloved community, was drifting in the wrong direction. It made me angry and hostile and I found myself caught up in it.
I didn’t like the way I felt. I was tired.

Tired of politics.
Tired of the arguing.
Tired of people digging in.
Tired of open mouths and closed minds
Tired of blind hatred and senseless bigotry.
Tired of senseless destruction.
Tired of disinformation and agendas.
Tired of all of it.
Tired of being angry.

Then one day I caught myself.

I knelt down at the water’s edge and I prayed for tolerance and an abundance of reason to guide me. I further asked for the strength to be a beacon of light that others may follow before it all, everything that I love vanished before my eyes. Please God, take this anger from me. The weight is more than I can handle. Let me be the small stone that makes a ripple that slowly but persistently spreads over the turbulent waters.

I am but one person. But sometimes that is all that is required to start a revolution. Please people, let’s start a movement of restoring the basic values of dialogue, courtesy, tolerance and respect.

Believe what you believe but don’t cram it down another’s throat.
When someone is speaking, listen to learn not wait your turn to speak.
Converse with facts and educated opinion, not sound bites and increased volume.
React with a deep breath and carefully considered words.
Apply Respect as a value and a virtue, not as an option.
Talk over the backyard fence instead of making the fence taller.
Love each other.

If we don’t, everything we love is going to vanish before our eyes.