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…

Enough

I can’t believe that I am actually reading tweets and FB posts from people hoping that our President and First Lady die of the Coronavirus. What is honestly wrong with people? Such unadulterated hatred is unfathomable to me and it marks a new low in our civilization…and I am speaking loosely here.

This is not a political post. I rarely post anything political on here, for the same reasons that I don’t post my politics on FB. My politics are my own and I don’t try nor do I expect anyone to follow suit or come over to “my side”. There are no sides, only our God-given and Constitutionally guaranteed rights to a individual and protected voice. You can feel however you want but I draw the line at forcing your beliefs on me. That includes hateful speech.

I was the least biggest fan Barack Obama ever had. It had nothing to do with the color of his skin, I strongly questioned his character and his politics. I never once wished harm upon him, I just patiently waited for his term to be over. I respected the office. What happened to that?

The word humanity cannot exist without the word “human”. The word humanity implies distinct qualities only attributed to mankind. The ability to reason, to empathize, to love, to show kindness; most but not all of these things qualities that the lower species are supposedly incapable of. I have begun to question our propensity for Humanity when I see people blindly attacking each other and wishing death upon them.

We’re better than this, people.

Or are we?

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

Serendipity moment

“You will always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
I love this quote. It transcends sports and applies to all walks of life. Life is a numbers game and the more attempts you make the better your odds of success. As it applies to my dating life, I am batting 0.0%. Admittedly, I haven’t taken many shots or swings but I have whiffed like Charlie Freakin’ Brown so far.
2 crazy chicks and one quiet one with a boyfriend.
I give up.
Single is fine. Single is good. Single is easy. It’s the lifestyle that best suits me. Funny, now matter how many ways I say it, it’s a lie. I hate being single.

I thought about renewing my Match profile but that was a miserable experience the first time around and I was glad to cancel it when it expired. If I liked them they didn’t like me and vice versa. The few that did like me…well I hate to be superficial but the pictures really didn’t do it for me. I’ll leave it at that. The rest, the ones that swiped and kept going, I know why they did that. The words “financially secure” were missing.

I get it, money is important. Being “secure” is important. Having your own place is a must and living with your mother is a serious turn off. Even if I got past that, my brutally honest Match profile doesn’t include the terms “dialysis patient”, which I’m sure would be a real “deal-sealer” over a first date cocktail.
“Why be so honest?” one friend asked me. It’s easier. I like to get it out of the way.

Goddamn, Bella. Why did you have to fuck me up so? You made me feel things that I had forgotten how to feel. Yearning, heartache, desire, intimacy, a fire in my loins and a fire in my belly. All of those things that my loveless marriage stomped out like the remnants of a campfire. I had done so well without feeling those things for so long, I had convinced myself that I didn’t need them. Only to be awakened and painfully unrequited. As Meatloaf once lamented, I was all revved up and no place to go.
Now I want those things again. Alas, I fear it is not to be.

I need to focus on my health. I need to just get a hobby. I need to spend my money on my motorcycle. I need to spend time with friends. They’re safe, I don’t feel the pain of rejection when a friend doesn’t call me for a few days, weeks or months. I need to get the idea of a relationship out of my head, it’s just not going to happen.
If I keep telling myself this, eventually I’ll believe it.

Now, Universe are you listening? I am putting it out there that I don’t need or want a woman in my life. Now would you please see to it that I find it in the last place that I look at a moment when I least expect it? I think it’s called Serendipity. Yeah, I need that.

That, I think, is the only way it’s going to happen.

I’m getting better at this

The text came through last night.
“We REALLY have to talk.”
My first reaction was a silly one. I thought to myself noone really NEEDS to talk. My second reaction was to marvel at how silly and funny I am. But my third reaction was a little more profound. I realized that I was faced with what will certainly be another in a long string of rejections as I walk the path towards finding a soulmate and, amazingly, I don’t care.
I’m getting better at this.

It’s been a long time coming. Everyone knew she wasn’t going to come around. Especially her. To her credit, she wasn’t the aggressor. I was. I thought that I could make her feel things she said she wasn’t ready for. I couldn’t. And by the contents of her cryptic text she is probably going to tell me tonight.
I’m ready.
So ready she doesn’t even need to say it. But she will.
“Let’s be friends.”
I almost want to text her not to bother. There is very little chance that I am wrong about the impending conversation and that she is going to profess her undying love for me. Not the way things have been lately. I know the signs. But I suppose I should let her get it out. It may make her feel better to tell me everything that I did wrong over the last few months. Why deny her the process? Let her dump me.
I’m getting really good at being on the other end of that conversation.
In fact, I’m a fucking PRO.

I think it’s time to rip the old heart out of my chest and hang it on a hook. Save the next one the trouble. That may be the only way to keep it from further damage. I’ll hang my dick next to it, after all I’m not using that either. I think I’m done.
If I never hear the words “let’s be friends” again it will be too soon. I have enough fucking friends.

What do I need a woman for anyway?
I have internet porn to poorly stand in for actual intimacy.
I have television to remind me what a relationship looks like.
I have friends to be jealous of for their health, wealth and success.
I have my motorcycle to take to bars to eat and drink alone, comfortable that I will not be approached by strange women.
I now have no reason to shave my beard or dress up.
I can refine my greatest skill…being alone.

Perfect

The “Friend Zone”

I’ve been away. For way too long.

You know it’s been awhile when other bloggers reach out to you in the comments section to see if you’re ok. It’s quite the testament to the blogosphere when that happens. It occurred to me that, given my readers’ familiarity with my health issues, people assumed the worst. So I am here to tell you that I am doing physically well and still the best specimen in the clinic, although that isn’t saying a hell of a lot. Emotionally…not so much.

Like most great stories, this one starts with “About a girl…”

I met her through a friend. The bestie of my buddies new wife. When I met her she had a boyfriend. With this news I kept a careful, yet smitten eye on her. As luck, fate or divine providence would have it, she broke up with her guy the night that I met her. I was cautiously excited. A few days later the friend request came in. Soon, we were talking on the phone every night. She wanted us to get to know each other. So we did.

In what I now think of as a dumb move, I asked her to have dinner. That’s where it went south. Why?, you may ask. The answer is simple, I thought it was a date and she didn’t.

We had a great time. We had a wonderful conversation over dinner. She told me a lot about herself. In particular she spoke of how she wasn’t ready for a relationship. She said it so many times that I should have listened.
I didn’t.
I must have thought that I could “turn” her with my unrelenting charm. As the evening went on, I thought I had changed her mind. What had really happened is that she drank enough wine to temporarily knock down her walls. Experiencing emotions I hadn’t experienced in years, I failed to recognize that it was the booze talking.

The next day was awkward. The one after that even more so. I quickly learned that there were two of her. The drunk one had a far more favorable opinion of me. Sober girl was pushing back. Hard.

She wasn’t ready. That’s the takeaway. We’ve seen each other several times. In this Virus crazy world, going out is difficult. I mostly went to her house and stayed in the guest room. Mostly, we texted and talked on the phone. I have to say, I lit up whenever I saw a text from her. I was smitten. Until I noticed that I was always the one initiating conversation.

I began to scrutinize her responses and her language. I noticed that any attempts at intimacy, ranging from “I miss you”, and “you’re special to me” were met with a generic “thank you”. I asked her about it finally. She wasn’t able to address such comments because she’s not ready. She knew that I was in a different place than her and asked me if we could just “hang out” and let her figure out if she wants a relationship. It wasn’t ideal but I wanted to spend time with her. So I agreed.

We hung out a bit in recent weeks. Occasionally I slipped up and treated her like a girlfriend. The pushback was incredible. And frustrating. I was firmly stuck in the “friend zone” and that’s where I think I’m going to stay.

The girl she is when she drinks loves me. She’s affectionate and lovable. Sober girl apparently feels different.

Thursday night I told her it wasn’t working for me. I don’t know where we are headed now. We haven’t talked since. I really don’t know how I feel about it. But the confusion and mixed messages have consumed my life for months.

I should have listened.

I’m crazy about her but I have to prepare for life without her.

She’s not ready.

The sewing machine and the curio cabinet


This is part of a small series but it can also stand on its own. If you would like to catch up it would honor me, the first post is called Inconspicuous absence and the second the 4th of July.

Once it was determined that my drunk Uncle was not to be calmed down by anyone, I was grabbed by the arm and we quickly left. I had absolutely no idea what had happened but what I did know was that it wasn’t good.I certainly didn’t know that it would be the most formative moment of my childhood.

Now that you’re caught up, here we go.

The Sewing machine

Have you ever seen a TV show in which the scene is a car pulling away and all you see is a child in the rear view looking out the rear window in disbelief, exaggerated by hands in the window?
Well, that was me.
I had just been ripped out of one of my favorite places after watching my father get into a shouting match and endure an expletive-laden verbal onslaught over something that he was as confused about as I. Of course, he at least knew what the accusation was. I myself did not. Until mom sat me down.

My drunk uncle had accused my father of stealing a rare gold coin.

The whole thing was incomprehensible to me. There were two glaring improbabilities of this situation. First of all, my father was not a thief. Nobody would ever believe that. Additionally, I don’t believe that he ever had it. If he did, he would of drank or gambled it away. Yet, he pursued his campaign against my family with fury, vitriol and astounding longevity. It would be years of threats against us and his family should they betray him and have contact with us.

I felt awful for my father and I was angry on behalf of him. He was deeply hurt and it was hard for me to watch as he processed it. I was also sad that I had lost my childhood hangout and most important, I had lost access to my cousin Mike. It felt as if I had lost my best friend. To make it worse, I had no idea at that time how long it would go on or how bad it would get. What I did know was that my Uncle wasn’t letting it go. His anger and resentment would begin with forbidding his wife and kids from speaking to any of us, the punishment was explicitly clear. He would beat them. He threatened to kill my father. Months would turn into years and his anger never subsided. It would result in my father eventually filing a restraining order against my uncle.

A little about Uncle John. I have tried up to this point to write this as if my cousins were reading it. I want above all to be fair. In that vein, perhaps it is a little unfair to call him my “drunk uncle.” It would be more fair and accurate to call him “that drunk, wife-beating, child-abusing rapist piece of shit Uncle.”

A father of six, Johnny (John Jr), Debbie, Cindy, Greg, Laurie, and Mike, he was a controlling “I’m home, my dinner had better be on the table or there will be hell to pay” alpha asshole. The first anecdote to illustrate this that comes to mind is a story my mother once told me.

My mother is a gifted seamstress. Margie, after years of watching my mother make her own clothes finally asked her to teach her how to sew. My mother loaned her one of her many sewing machines to use. One fall afternoon, as they were at the table sewing, my uncle came home from work. After he stopped at the local watering hole first, of course. He had a pretty good glow on. He entered the kitchen, ignored my mother as he always did, and demanded to know where his dinner was. Margie politely and cautiously told him that she lost track of time and that she would get it in a minute. My uncle picked up the sewing machine in front of her and threw it across the room, shattering a curio cabinet and many of the curios within. Margie stood in horrified disbelief, my mother fled the house and quickly drove home.
It was no accident that the POS picked the curio cabinet as a target. It was a hand me down to Margie and it was dear to her. They were very poor, there weren’t a lot of nice things in the house. He meant to hurt her.
He succeeded.

This pales in comparison to the many beatings he gave her. It was also no surprise to find out later that he sexually abused at least two of his daughters on multiple occasions. I certainly remember the beating he gave Mike when he found out that he and I had secretly gotten together for a game of basketball. Mike shrugged it off. I was horrified.

It was the last time we got together until Middle school. My Uncle couldn’t do anything about that.

A year into middle school my Uncle died. He came home shitfaced one night, began yelling at everyone in sight, when he collapsed on the floor. A massive aneurism had gone to his brain.

I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t elated at the news.


The 4th of July

This is part 2 of a series. It can stand on it’s own or you can honor me by checking out yesterday’s post

Railroad Ave

My home town was incorporated in 1853 but the area was first settled in 1651. The building that is now the Town Hall has an enormous carved granite plaque on its walls dedicated to its founding fathers. My family is represented by 4 brave men, 3 of which died in the Civil War. Equally represented on the wall are the Smith’s (not their real names).

My family was always a presence in town, the Smith’s spread out all over Metropolitan Boston as aggressively as they proliferated in town. It was only inevitable that the two families would one day merge.

In the late 1940’s my Grandparents on my father’s side, along with a few cousins all moved to an uninhabited stretch of land along the abandoned Railroad tracks behind the Fire Station. It was an undesirable lot of land in many ways. On either side of the tracks was wetland that was prone to flooding every Spring. The ground was soft and needed to be fortified to build on. The insects were abominable in the summer. The Fire whistle on the nearby station was devastatingly loud. But the prospect of one family owning a whole street was attractive. Despite the family legacy of my family in town, we weren’t a family of wealth or influence. We were poor. 4 modest dwellings soon went up as 3 cousins I barely knew, and my Grandparents set up residence.

Railroad Avenue was born.

By the time I was born in 1965 my Grandparents had long since moved to the other side of town. Grandpa was forced into early retirement, sick with Emphysema from a lifetime of smoking cigarettes. He wasn’t able to afford the maintenance of a house. Ellie, my father’s youngest sister moved with them and assumed the role of caretaker. Her other sister Margie took over the house with her new husband, my uncle John and would have 6 children. My father had moved out when he joined the Army in 1960.

My parents purchased a home barely 2 miles from Railroad Ave in 1964. Dad was an Oil Burner repair man/Oil delivery driver for a fuel company that coincidentally marked the entrance to Railroad Ave. He would work there until it closed in 1970. Until that point, my earliest memories consisted of my mom and I meeting him after work and walking down Railroad Ave where we would hang out with my cousins. It was a happy time for me, my earliest memories are of playing with my youngest cousin Mike, who was my age. Learning to ride a bike on the puddle-ridden dirt road of Railroad Ave remains one of my happiest moments. The many cheers of the large group of beloved family members still echo in my head. This would be indicative of most warm summer days of my childhood. Until July 4th, 1974 when it all came crashing down.

July 4th was a standing holiday on Railroad Ave. Despite being avid campers in the summer we were always there. Family and friends showed up with coolers of beer, armloads of food and enough fireworks to level the town. For nine-year old me, it was the best day of the year. We ran around like heathens, played wiffleball and watched the legendary horseshoe tournament that almost always came down to my dad and one of my older cousins.

On this particular 4th of July the horseshoe tournament was interrupted by my uncle John, who came tearing out of the house yelling for my father. When he located him, he pushed my dad and began screaming about how my dad “stole it.” When pressed for details and a rational explanation he continued to attempt to fight my father, who fended him off admirably. A shouting match ensued, sides were taken and the day was inexplicably ruined for all. Once it was determined that my drunk Uncle was not to be calmed down by anyone, I was grabbed by the arm and we quickly left. I had absolutely no idea what had happened but what I did know was that it wasn’t good.

I certainly didn’t know that it would be the most formative moment of my childhood.