Saturday, August 06, 2005

Thirty-Four

She was 34 years old, 134 pounds, a mother of three and the wife of an assistant vice principal. She had short, thin wavy hair and a smile that could light up a room. She could knit Barbie clothes, make doll hats out of Styrofoam cups and heal a wounded heart with a hug. Her name was Jenny, but I called her “Mom”. At 34, she found herself on the cold, cement floor of our basement, with no knowledge of why she had fallen or how long she had been unconscious. The CAT scan gave the ultimate in reasons: a brain tumor. She fought hard, unwavering, valiantly, for 13 years. Years filled with triumphs, victories it would seem, times of high hopes when the word “remission” infused our vocabularies. But always, great sorrows followed. Grand mal seizures were always the best indicator that things were not going well again. At the end of it all, she had the life maximum of chemo and radiation that any person can survive. She had lived through two brain surgeries and outlived all the other patients in the experimental program by years. She was, according to her doctor, a miracle. She lived to see me get married. My wedding day was the last time I saw my mother alert, mobile and truly happy. Within a month she was bed ridden; within three she was gone.

I was in 6th grade at the time of that first fall and was pulled out of class to be told that a neighbor would be driving my sister and me home from school. The neighbor was the one to tell me my mom was in the hospital and in that second my entire life changed. Everything changed. I learned in that exact second what it meant to only have today and this moment. While I was blessed with 13 more years with my mom, there was never a single day that we took for granted after that. Each and every turn was a mystery and surviving was a gift. I thank God for those 13 years. I thank God for all the opportunities I was able to take again and again to show my mother how much I loved her, to learn from her, to listen to her. I have been told I see the world as black and white. More than once in my life I have broken off a friendship with someone who seemed to live as if time is of no consequence. People who lived as if perhaps tomorrow, or tomorrow’s tomorrow, they might stop and give pause to things that bring meaning to life, but not today. Today is all that we are promised. Today is all that I know I have. I will live all my today’s as if I may never have a tomorrow. I turned 34 today. 4 days before the 12th anniversary of her passing. I cannot imagine facing today what my mother faced at this young age. I could only hope to embrace it with the faith, courage and strength that she demonstrated to everyone that knew her. In the legacy of things my mother left with me I unwaveringly defend my need to see the world as finite. I will show people how much I care at every single turn. I will leave this earth with nothing left unsaid, with no questions weighing in on the hearts and minds of those I love. I will spend my days and my time on the things that are most important to me. I will not let my heart be drug down by those who do not feel passionately about living. Through her example, I will always know that life is not to be taken for granted.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Wet Nap Anyone?

Each night, when I crawl into bed, my dog goes to the dining room and eats. He snarfs his entire bowl of food, drinks a gallon of water and then comes to bed. He won’t eat when I’m not home and only indulges when he is certain I will be home for awhile. My vet says it’s common in pets. It’s an abandonment issue. They want to make sure you are there and not going anywhere before they feel safe enough to go about the regular things in life like eating. My dog and I have a lot in common. I will not eat wings on a first date. He might take me to the coolest sports bar for the game of the year and we might have incredible conversation but I will not eat wings. They are too messy. I’d have to eat with my hands and lick the sauce off my fingers. I’d try too hard to balance eating the wings without sticking the whole thing in my mouth to get every morsel. It’s too intimate. It’s too delicate. It leaves me feeling too vulnerable. He might think I’m too girlie if I eat them too neatly. He might think I’m gross if I eat them like the boys. I love to eat with my hands. I love meals where the table is full of people and full of dishes and everyone reaches and passes and indulges until they ache. Fajitas is one of my favorite family meals. I love everyone sitting around together, casually creating their own perfect bite, reaching across, over, dipping, spreading, saucing… and then eating with their hands. I tend to talk with my hands and on fajita night, that means with food in tow. I’m not the right ethnicity to fold a fajita correctly so once I pick it up, there is NO setting it down. That means I will gesticulate with grilled chicken and salsa along for the ride. Fajita night is not for date night. If a date is successful enough to be invited over for dinner it will not be fajitas. It’s familiar, and it takes me a long while to feel comfortable enough to eat with such casualness in front of someone I’m trying to impress. Dripping sour cream and salsa from a tight grip on a tortilla is not attractive early on in a relationship. It is safe to say that I will sleep with someone before I will eat messy food with them. It just feels like a similar vulnerability. I suppose it is safe to say that if someone makes it to the point where I share hot wings during the game, or cook them up fajitas and margaritas that they should sincerely feel privileged and know that our relationship has reached the next level. It took my dog 2 years to be able to eat when I wasn’t home. I hope it doesn’t take that long to reach a similar point in my relationships. I look forward to the day when the table is again full of people, full of food and when I sit with rice on my cheek and salsa dripping from my hand, I hope he looks across the table and winks a knowing wink at me knowing how special I think he is.