Blindsided

My mother has always had a special way of taking her children’s minds off their troubles.

Like the time I called to complain at length about how sleep deprived I was, and only after it dawned on me that I rarely managed to get in touch with her in the afternoon, did she mention that she was getting all the laundry done for the week because she’d spent the early morning—as in 4am early—at the animal shelter scooping cat boxes and running dogs and was scheduled to close at one of her Curves locations that night.

Or like the time she said, “Ow” over the phone in the middle of my rant about how stressed I was and then, when I asked if one of the cats had stepped on her, said that she’d pulled her biopsy scar—the one I didn’t know she had because I hadn’t known about the lump—while climbing a ladder to get a toy one of the neighbor kids had launched into a tree.

So I really should have known better when I called my folks yesterday to catch up on the news and to describe my latest migraine, which had just knocked me for a 36-hour loop of throbbing, nauseating pain.

“ . . . but it seems to be getting better,” I said.  “I can see without all the sparklies and my tunnel vision has nearly cleared up. And breakfast is staying down nicely, which is a big relief.

“I’ll bet,” Mom said.

“So, how are you two?”

“Fine,” Dad said. “Took some scouts out for an orientation, so I’m feeling that.”

“I have eye surgery scheduled for Thursday,” Mom said, like she might mention a routine, if inconvenient, dentist’s appointment.

“Eye surgery?” I asked, after a pause.

“Yeah. It’s my third, so I’d kind of  like it all to be over.”

“Third?” I said, my mouth going on by itself, as it tends to do when my brain stalls.  “You only have two eyes, Mom.  How can you have surgery on a third one?”

She snorted. “My third surgery.  I’ve already had one on each, but this is on the left one again.”

“Why?”  I asked. “For what?”

“Glaucoma.”

“Oh. Is that bad?” I asked, hoping it wasn’t. “Or is like Dad’s cataracts?  Or . . . ?”

“It’s not good,” she said.  “The first surgeries were to drain my eyes, and when I mentioned to the doctor that the drains must not have worked, he said, “Oh, yes, they did!” So it’s pretty bad.”

“So . . . if this surgery works . . . “

“Then I’ll be fine for a while.  If it doesn’t, I’ll be blind in my left eye.  And they’re watching my right one closely, because the same thing is going to happen. Just a matter of time.”

“Oh.”

“Yep.”  She chuckled.  “If things don’t go as planned, I’ll just get a white cane and a cup—“

“No you won’t,” I said, my own coping mechanism snapping into place.  “You’ll get a service dog.  You know you want one. In fact, you probably signed up for one already.”

“Not quite,” she said, laughing.  “But you’re right.”

“Admit it—you’ll be disappointed if the surgery works and you can’t get a new dog out of it.”

“Well . .  .”

“I told her no more big dogs after Philander’s gone,” Dad said.  “But she found a way around it.”

The call ended with laughter and I love you’s and a promise that someone would call me on Friday.

And then I went into the bedroom and lay down in the cool dark and thought about my mother going blind.

I stayed up until 4:30am, thinking.

About my green-eyed mother who weaves beautiful art baskets and volunteers at the no-kill animal shelter, and travels, and teaches Zumba and takes metric tons of photos and reads serial romances by the double handful.

My mother, whose offer to take us on an Alaskan cruise this summer—one we’d had to pass up because of difficulties that seem like sheer laziness now—had, in retrospect, a more urgent ring to it than I’d noticed at the time.

My mother, who didn’t tell me a goddamn thing about glaucoma or surgeries or eyeballs  for months.

Not word one.

That doesn’t sit well.  I mean, maybe I couldn’t have done much, maybe but I could have listened to her fears or rage or rants.

But that’s about me.  This isn’t about me.

Maybe she wanted to get her feet under her first, scream and cry, where no one could hear—I can understand that.  I’m sure she didn’t want anyone to worry, and I can understand that, too.

And even though sparing one’s loved ones—traditional on both sides and by marriage—tends to backfire in a big, dramatic, guilt-ridden way, this time . . .

This time, I think it may have worked.

The guilt is still there—it may not be completely rational to think I should have known from two states away that something was wrong, but that’s never stopped me.

But I’m not worried.

Not really.

I don’t want Mom to be in pain of any kind, and I’m sorry this is happening to someone I love so, so much—and, to lapse into selfishness for a second, facing reminders of the mortality of one’s parents is never a walk in the psychological park—but again, this situation isn’t about me.

It’s about Mom.

And going blind—if it happens, when it happens, whatever happens—won’t be the end of her world.

That conversation up there?  That wasn’t just whistling, as they say, in the dark.

I’ve known the woman all my life, and if she wants to, she’ll learn to weave by touch.  She’ll take her future service dog—and Dad—and keep traveling all over the world, swimming with sea creatures and zip lining off mountains—with Dad, not the dog . . .  probably—and continuing eploring and enjoy different places by scent and taste and weather and people.

She’ll rope me into finding her audiobooks and risqué radio plays.  She’ll Zumba with that white cane sh mentioned and laugh when she smacks the sound system off the shelf and not give a good goddamn, except to say that she really wished she hadn’t, because Dad doesn’t know how to fix it.

And she can already scoop cat boxes blindfolded—how risky can the rest really be?

My brave, impossible, stubborn mother isn’t going to slow down one tiny bit.

She’ll just regroup and reroute, like she’s been doing all her life.

So as much as I wish this wasn’t happening and that I could make it all go away, and I really, really hope she won’t be in any pain at all and that everything will go perfectly on Thursday, I’m not worried.

Not for her—and not for me, either.

Because when I get to the point where I’m casually mentioning my major surgeries to my kids in the most infuriating way possible—and I will—Mom will already have shown me how to keep going.

Like she always has.

Happy Flag Day, Mom!

Birthday Cake
  (with deepest apologies  to George M. Cohan)

You’re a grand old Mom
You’re a wonderful Mom
Whom troubles and travels can’t faze.
You’re the sanest of
The family I love*
A home for cat rescues and strays.
My heart beats true
When I think of you
And that’s neither a boast nor a brag.
Should e’r your birthday be forgot
Just look for the grand old flag

You’re a grand old Mom
You’re a marvelous Mom
Funny, supportive and kind.
You know the fix
For your grandkids’ tricks—
You’re there when I near lose my mind.
My heart beats true
When I think of you
You’re so worth a boast and a brag
Should e’r your birthday be forgot
Keep your eye on the grand old flag
I forgive you for the occasion’l nag
Keep your eye on the grand old flag

(and Happy Birthday, too!)

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*You get to judge how far that one will get you . . .

Fiftieth Flowers

My parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary was yesterday.

Fifty.  Years.  Y’all.

I’ve written about my folks here before, about how extremely cool they are, and how I have a lot of prep work to do if I’m supposed to emulate their idea of “retirement,” which so far is roughly twice as active as my “working” years.   I’ve also mentioned their courtship, which was unique in many respects and also might explain a few things about my own ideas of romance.*

So how do you indicate how happy you are that two of the most amazing people you know have managed to stay married, to each other, for fifty years?  And how pleased you are that they stuck to it at least for the first ten, because otherwise you wouldn’t be here to express that happiness?

One traditional way is with an enormous party.

But to be painfully honest, even with guest lists provided by their schools, I have trouble planning two-hour pre-packaged Activity Center birthday parties for the children who live with me.  So engineering a fiftieth anniversary blow-out from two states away was never going to happen.

Luckily, my parents aren’t enormous party people in any sense of that phrase, bless them from the depths of my social ineptness.

Another tradition is to send something suitably fabulous for the occasion.  But what?

Most of the family thought an edible arrangement of chocolate-dipped fruit on stems would be perfect—and it would be.

But odds were Mom and Dad wouldn’t be at home for the delivery, because they’re the busiest people I know, which means the delivery person would leave it at the front door,** except my parents never use the front door, so the delivery would sit there for heaven knows how long, even if I told them to look out for it.  Plus, their house is surrounded by woods containing, as they do, woodland creatures who would literally jump—fangs out, claws extended—at the chance to snack on chocolate-covered pineapple daisies.

And having celebratory food items delivered to one of Mom’s Curves locations seems . . . wrong.

Flowers then. Even I could manage to order flowers.

So I did, online, after going over several websites that convinced me gold has become a terrible metal to associate with a marriage, unless that marriage is plastic, overpriced, and/or tackier than you could possibly imagine.  If that’s the secret to a long-lasting relationship, I don’t even want to know.

Instead, I found this a week ago:

Color Your Day with SunshinePerfect.

It was available in my parent’s area for a Sunday delivery, so I ordered it, added a message, received confirmation, and went on my merry way.***

What with one thing and another on Sunday, I didn’t check my phone until late afternoon.    I had three voice mails.

The first was from the flower shop—as you were probably expecting, because I rule at this foreshadowing stuff—saying that my delivery couldn’t be made because the specific arrangement wouldn’t be available until Monday and to please call as soon as possible.  The second was a repeat, except in tone, which was more of a please call us please, our reputation is at stake, here, lady, please.

While I rummaged around  my e-mail messages for my order confirmation number, I listened to the last message, expecting an ultimatum, possibly with tears.

Instead, it was my parents, telling me how gorgeous the flowers were and how much they loved them, and me.

Okay.

I called Mom and Dad.  “You got the flowers!”  I said.

“Yes!” they both said.  “They’re wonderful,” Mom said.  “We love them.”

“Great!  Um . . . What do they look like?”

“Well, they have these colorful things called petals, arranged mostly in loose circles” Dad said, “and they’re on these long green things called stems . . .”^

Mom intervened, thank heavens, and described the arrangement—which sounds complicated and lovely, though perhaps not very yellow—and confirmed that our names were on the card.

And I may have scored a couple extra The Thought That Counts points when I described what it should  have looked like.

Whew!

Mom and Dad had a great anniversary—it was one of the few they’ve actually spent together, apparently, which may be the actual answer to marital longevity—and decided on a mutual gift to each other.

“We figured out that in fifty years, we’ve only had three mattresses, including the old, sprung one we started with,” Mom said.  “It’s probably about time.”

I told ’em to enjoy it, but that I didn’t need any details about how, please.^^  Some secrets to marital happiness I prefer to work out on my own.

But at least I know what I’ll be sending them on their anniversary twenty-five years from now:^^^ a new mattress with a diamond pattern in the stitching.

There.  Done!~

_____________________

*Nature and nurture both had a crack at that one, believe me.

**Because Philander Chase, Mom and Dad’s dog,  has staked out the back door as his personal “You Shall Not Pass” territory, anyway—think Gandalf and the Balrog, except reversed—and few delivery people or meter readers want to challenge him on this.  He’s of uncertain lineage, except we’re pretty sure all of his ancestors were Very Large and Loud. No idea if the sock-eating thing is nature or nurture, but Phi has a way of indicating that he might take the foot as well, for extra protein.  Sweet dog.  Probably.

***I did, however, leave a message on Mom and Dad’s answering machine, warning them to keep an eye on the front porch.  I don’t trust deer any more than I trust raccoons.

^Dad’s sense of humor is an area that tends to veer right off the nature v. nurture debate smack into the dread of heredity.

^^See?

^^^For those of you who just said, “Wait a minute,” I invite you to click all the links about my folks that I’ve scattered through this one.  If anyone can make it to their seventy-fifth anniversary, they can and will, in the most casual and natural manner possible, and why all the fuss?

~Still won’t want any details, though.  Just sayin’

Wearable Tahiti

At one point during my parent’s last Thanksgiving visit, Jane ran up to me and said, “MomGrandpa and Grandma are going diving for black pearls next week!  In the ocean!” and charged off again.

Five minutes later, Dad walked into the kitchen.

“Hey, Dad.  Jane says you and Mom are going deep sea pearl diving next week.”

“That’s not true,” he said.  “We’re going in early February.”

And they did.

I can’t imagine that anyone who has read previous posts about my parents could be surprised by this.

Or my the package that arrived yesterday, addressed to Jane, Sunny, Sarah, and Watson Wesson.*

Inside, were these:

??????????

Jane and Sunny both received a long string of pale shells and a mother-of-pearl teardrop.  The exquisite cowrie shell is Watson’s.  And my gift is the flower—a hibiscus, maybe?—with the beautiful black pearl.

Pearl in the Hibiscus

We were collectively overwhelmed.  The children had to be forcibly removed from their finery at bedtime and Janie put eyeprints all over my pendant.

It’s supposed to snow today, but my parents have given us a little French Polynesian warmth to hold us until Spring.

And I got a blog post out of it!

Now, that’s generosity.

_________________________

*Watson was surprised, but she wasn’t aware of my parents’ tendency towards spontaneous, unofficial adoptions.

Random Thursday: It’s all Relative

Been an odd week at Chez Wesson, all told—though I’m not telling all of it.

Yet.

_________________________

Let’s Give Mommy an Earmworm:  Sunny

Singing this under my breath all day wouldn’t be so bad, if I worked in Youth Services.

I don’t.

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Invisible Fairy Gardens

When my folks arrived to take the kids to Six Flags last month, Mom showed me photos of the old herb garden.  What was once a clump of wildly overgrown, half-buried half-barrels is now an area of raised beds and neat plantings—though I noticed St. Francis of Assisi is still being strangled by the mint.*

To the right of that longsuffering, if fresh-smelling, saint is Mom’s fairy garden, of which she is very proud.

It features an upright log with a driftwoody sort of top and a small door at the bottom.  There is a pathway.  There are toadstools.  There is patio furniture. There are gnomes.

It is excellent.

It is also invisible, because I couldn’t pull the photos off her camera for some reason and decided just last night, that I could use them for today’s post.   I called Dad, explained how to send an attachment, and after a while, received an iPhoto file that he thought might actually be all the photos on Mom’s camera and which completely baffled my laptop when I tried to get it open, even with the recommended software.

My husband suggested that Watson might be able to open it on her iPad, so I forwarded her the file and sent her a head-up text before remembering that she has trouble getting a connection on her Virginia-based phone, especially when she’s in my MIL’s guest room (ie, the back basement).

I could  have gone down to see her, but I’m essentially lazy and a few minutes later, my MIL came up for a book she’d left, anyway, so I asked her to ask Watson to look at her e-mail, but only if Watson wasn’t asleep already because it really wasn’t an emergency.

Apparently, this translated into intercepting Watson on the way to the bathroom and telling her I needed her right away.

So Watson and I had a very quick conversation which was half apology on my part and half yes, okay, hurry up and tell me what you need, please on hers.  She told me to forward it to another e-mail address and disappeared.

Fifteen minutes later or so, I received an e-mail that said she couldn’t get it open, either.

So, I sent Dad an e-mail thanking him for the effort along with another stab at explaining how to attach a photo using an e-mail system with which I wasn’t familiar on an operating system I don’t use, because I’m a librarian and have had some experience in explanations of this kind.**

The explanations aren’t always successful, b either way, at the posting of this, he hasn’t yet replied.  You’d think he had a life that didn’t revolve around me, or something . . .

And that’s why there aren’t any images of Mom’s fantastic fairy garden today—but as the entire family was involved, barring the kids and the cat, I thought I’d mention it, anyway.

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Let’s Give Mommy an Earmworm:  Janie

She has it memorized.

And she’s sung it so often that I am psychologically conditioned to respond with the next line whenever I hear:

“Da da DA dada, ChickEN!”

And everyone in the family knows this.

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Watsonisms, or Yeah, that one’s my fault

My sister-in-law, aka Watson, has brought more to our lives than a truly massive DVD collection, mad cooking skillz, a dog the size of a pit pony, and a general willingness to schlep her nieces to softball games.

She’s also brought a whole range of infectious sayings.  Usually, it’s one of the kids, but we’ve all pretty much picked these up, barring my husband, who just shakes his head:

Kiss my grits — shorthanded over the months to “See those grits?” and then “Griiii-iiiits.”

It’s all gravy — presumably to go with the grits, but I’m afraid to ask.

Easy, killer — hilarious when five-year old Sunny says this to her older sister.

And what did we learn? — yesterday, or so I’m told, Sunny grabbed Janie’s nose and let go just as Janie took a mock swing at her.  Janie punched herself in the face and sat there stunned as her favorite aunt raised an eyebrow and said what came naturally.

Really?  Really?  — yeah, that’s apparently where I picked that up.  I’d wondered . . .

Dude  — more of a reintroduction, really (really?), but she showed us that a complete conversation could be had with a single word:

It’s all good — See “It’s all gravy.”

‘Sup pup? — because it drives Janie crazy, that’s why.

It was Meeeeee!”  (must be said in a high-pitched voice with enthusiastic Wallace*** hands) —- the explanation for this one involves a sports bike group, an SBD,^ and a six-foot tall Hungarian model.  I’m sure you can work out the rest.

Klassy with a Capital K— follows naturally from the previous one, doesn’t it?

Yeah, that one’s my fault — See “Easy Killer”

Ha!  That one wasn’t me! — translation:  hey, I’m  not the one who dropped the frozen peas all over the kitchen floor and said that word in front of ’em.
It’s a small price to pay for her company, I suppose . . . even if she also sends me things like this, instead of images of fairy gardens:

funny puns - A View of the Milky Way From the Surface of Mars
It’s a view of the Milky Way from the surface of Mars.  Really.

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Strings Attached

My husband introduces me to the coolest stuff: cult movies, Metallica, skiing, the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, weightlifting, Wallace and Gromit (by the way), Apocalyptica, marriage, Terry Pratchett—or maybe those last ones were me?

But this one was definitely his:

Thanks, love.

__________________________

* Which appears to be the tradition in every herb garden I’ve seen in which he makes an appearance, even if the gardener never planted mint in the first place.  I can’t tell if this is due to reverence or jealousy on the part of the floral world.

** And have also developed a sort of what-the-heck pessimism that looks a lot like optimism if you don’t’ work with the public as extensively as I do.

*** From Wallace and Gromit.  Imagine him saying, “Cheese, Gromit!  We’ll go where there’s cheese!

^Silent But Deadly