Sunday, September 12, 2010


Last night, my father asked me to come pick him up this morning and drive him to the hospital. His friends planned to join us in the late afternoon, take him out to dinner and drive him home. Maya woke up a bit early at 8:00 am, but I was able to bring her in bed to snuggle and nurse. Once again, Micah slept until after 9:30. At 9:40, I realized I had not yet heard from my father, so I called him to see what time he wanted me to leave for the hospital. I think I startled him...he was obviously in a deep sleep, and I felt terrible for waking him. He told me he would call back in a little while.

As DH and I started our day making breakfast for Micah, ducking as he threw the food back at us (please tell me that he'll eventually outgrow this stage?), and getting the kids and ourselves dressed, my father called back to say he would like me to pick him up around 12. Perfect timing! Once again, Micah was cracking me up today. At one point, Maya was in the swing crying while I tried to gather a few things together and finish dressing Micah. Micah started to point at Maya and say "baby," and then he started to grab at my shirt, trying to lift it up and pointing to my breasts yelling "boobies." He very clearly was telling me that the baby was crying and I should feed her, and he was insistent that I stop everything to take care of her. He is already becoming a protective big brother! At 11:30, we were all ready to go - I grabbed Maya and left to get my father while DH took Micah and went to services.

During the car ride up to the hospital, my father and I did a lot of reminiscing, and very little of it was focused on 9/11. My father told me that I write beautifully (thank you, Dad), and asked if I planned on turning this into a book. For the first time in a very long time, my father and I had a real conversation. I told him that I had always wanted to write a book, and shared with him one of my ideas. As is the case when my father decides to focus and pay attention...he understood the concept immediately. He compared it to a "routine" that he does in his class, and I smiled to be having such a good interaction with my father. For a few moments, my father talked to me about my mother, and I told him I was worried about him. Naturally, he deflected the conversation to talk about our upcoming break fast celebration. We started to get sentimental over Yom Kippur and how our family has celebrated break fast over the years. My father told me that no one "gets" him like my mother...and I quickly agreed because I feel the same way.

My mom is so much a part of me...she is the only person who knows me completely, and can predict how I will react and think about things. She knows my likes and dislikes, and in an instant, from just the sound of my voice or a quick glance, she knows exactly what I am thinking. I think I probably know her almost as well, and sometimes we feel so connected that we don't even need to communicate in sentences.

My Dad and I were talking about that connection, and I reminded him of the time I was in college, my freshman year, and I had a horrible night. I was up all night feeling agitated, and finally at 5:30 am, I called their house, certain that they would yell at me for waking them up. My mom answered the phone, and I told her that I couldn't sleep because I was worried about her. She responded by asking me how I knew she had spent the night in the hospital with heart palpitations (this was just before she was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse, a benign condition that gives her extra heartbeats).

I told my father that mom had mentioned wanting to get a dog. Up until now, my mom has been avoiding another dog because she said she could not handle loving and losing another one. She has often said that she will only get a dog when she is certain the dog will outlive her. I knew that was exactly what she was thinking when she told me she wanted a dog. I told my dad that since we wanted another puppy, too, when we all come home together, perhaps I would get a puppy and share her with my mom.

I then paused and asked him if he knew the story of "Snowflake." My father shook his head, so I told him that way back when, my mom and I were chatting about puppies. We talked about how I always liked descriptive names for dogs (like Nugget because she was chocolate brown and miniature like Hershey Nuggets). My mom talked about wanting a little white fluffball and I mentioned something about getting a black dog. While we were brainstorming names for a black dog, my mom and I both started laughing as we simultaneously shouted out "Snowflake!" Not everyone would understand why we would name a little black dog Snowflake. You see, my mom and I hate winter, cold, and snow, and both of us were thinking about how snow (especially in New York City) turns black from all the car grease and grit. Then, we became hysterical thinking about walking the little black dog around, and having people say "How cute! What is your dog's name?" and us responding "Snowflake!" We were laughing as we imagined the puzzled expressions that would run across their faces. Then, we became even more hysterical as we imagined them asking "Why Snowflake?" to which we planned to respond "Because she is black." To this day, whenever we see a little black dog, one or the other asks "Do you think that dog is named Snowflake?"

When we arrived at the hospital, my mom was sleepy again. Her lunch was in front of her, and she was barely eating. I was worried about her, and tried to encourage her to eat a bit more. She complained that her stomach was hurting...apparently, she is having some bowel issues and has been quite uncomfortable. She kept insisting to me that she has been eating too much, and she thought that it was causing all of her problems. Most of the next few hours were focused on trying to make my mom more comfortable. The nurses tried some medications and a number of other treatments, but nothing was working. Dad and I went down to the cafeteria at one point while they tried to help my mom, and when we came back up, my mom called me back into the room. She asked me to distract her from her discomfort during the treatments by reading this blog and your messages.

So, while my mom was being treated, I sat there and read to her. I repeatedly asked her if she wanted me to stop, but she kept shaking her head no. At one point, she complained about the pain...I told her that if she could talk me through pushing out a baby with no pain medication, I could be there to help her through this discomfort, too.

Finally, my mom started to feel some relief. I stepped back out because the baby was screaming and hungry, and they needed to clean my mom up and get her dressed for her occupational therapy. Donna, my mom's nurse for the day, came out to talk to us. We thanked her for her help, and commented about how wonderful the nurses at the hospital have been to us. We started to reminisce with her, and told her a few of our family stories. Here are a few that we shared:

1) Van Trip to Atlanta: At the end of my freshman year of college, my parents rented a van to drive down and pick me up. On the way down, my brother discovered that there were radio controls in the back seat where he was sitting. Over the course of several hours, he took it upon himself to...mess with Dad. Dad would put on talk radio, and my brother would change the station to rock. Dad would turn down the volume and my brother would slowly blast it. My father kept looking around, trying to figure out what was going on while my brother slyly pretended to sleep in the back seat. The entire time, my mom could see what was happening through the rear view mirror, and she never clued in my father. In fact, she made sure to yell at him a bit for good measure. Eventually, my brother couldn't hold back the laughter and finally fessed up to what he had been doing.

2) Clashing Colors. My mother is very particular about color. Small variations in color actually offend her eyes...she cannot stand when things that are meant to match are slightly different shades. I was about to leave for my first year of college, and my mother was making me crazy with all the color stuff. She did not like that my bed sheets did not match my tooth brush or some other weird point that I thought was ridiculous. I was feeling rather rebellious at the time, and my mother sent me and Dad out to Bed Bath and Beyond to pick up some milk crates for my room and some bath towels. Dad and I got there, and we quickly realized that there were a few different shades (probably different dye lots) of the blue milk crates...and we grinned at each other. We spent the next hour picking out 5 crates that were all clearly different shades of the same color. We then decided to pick out towels...and I decided that I did not want my towels to match. I picked out random shades of pink, blue and green (and to this day, I STILL don't have a matching set of towels). We had such a great time...and laughed even harder when we came home and showed my mother our purchases and saw the look on her face. She kept trying to get us to return everything and buy matching crates and a matching towel set, but we were resolute in our refusal to do so.

3) Tapes. Donna, my mom's nurse, mentioned that she used to record her children every year (back before the days when everyone had video cameras). It reminded me that when my brother was little, we had this little black and silver cassette recorder. He used to hit record and either tape the radio or hide it somewhere in the house to record people talking. I still have one of those tapes...he was in his room, listening to Michael Jackson on the radio. My mom comes in and explains to him that we are leaving soon, and asks him not to get undressed. She leaves the room, and my brother sits there singing along with the radio for another 5-10 minutes or so, and then my mom returns. She starts to tell him it is time to go, and then she lets out this long exasperated shriek of "Oh, no! I asked you not to get undressed because we are LEAVING now! Why did you take off your clothes?" My brother responds (and you can just *hear* how cute he was and imagine the little lopsided grin he gave) "I'm sorry, Mommy, I didn't know."

4) Wedding Crashers. Several times in the past few days we've told the story of how my parents met. You see, my father crashed my mom's friend's wedding, and was seated at the table with my mother. The short version of the story is that my father was friends with the bride's cousin, and he needed a ride to the wedding. The bride's cousin had been staying at my father's house for a few days, and he asked my father to drive him up and told him it would be okay to attend the wedding. The day after the wedding, a bunch of them decided to head up to the lake for the day, and my father had stopped off at my grandmother's house to invite my mom. My grandmother practically pushed my mom out the door, and even loaned her a bathing suit. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Donna thanked us for sharing our stories, then had to head back to work. There is one other thing I've been thinking about today...pulling teeth. I told my mother a few months ago that she needed to practice her tooth-pulling skills. Growing up, my mother was the resident "tooth-puller" - if any child we knew had a loose tooth, my mom was the only person around willing to yank it out. The tooth had to be fairly loose - she would test it to see if it was ready first. She would then have the child lay on her lap, and she would grab a washcloth or a paper towel, count to three, and then with one quick yank, there went the tooth. I always thought my mom would be yanking out my children's loose teeth.

While my mom was in therapy, four of her friends arrived. We were able to bring my mom out to the family lounge for a while to chat. She was very wiped out today...she wanted me to stand next to the chair so she could lean on me, I think for comfort. After a short visit, she wanted to return to her room. Two of her friends went back and had a nice long visit with her in her room, and I had a chance to chat a bit with the other two friends. I have to say, it has been wonderful to see so many familiar faces, and catch up with people I haven't seen in so long - the one upside to this awful mess.

While I was talking to my mom's friends, I expressed my concern that my mom up. She was very flat again today, and just doesn't seem to have that drive right now. I still don't know whether it is the cancer spreading and she is getting sleepier, or if it is simply the enormity of the situation hitting her and bringing her down.

Around 5:00, I went in to say goodbye to my mother for the day. I am hoping that tomorrow she will be feeling better and that perhaps some of her fight will come back. Perhaps the Provigil will kick in and boost her energy a bit.

All day today, I have continued to reminisce. My mom and I have a joke...I'm not certain how it started, but one day she thought it was funny to take the boring old phrase of "It's me" and change it up a bit. Instead, she started to say "Hi, it's Smee" (from Peter Pan). Over the years, I started to respond "No, it's Smee." My mother always ends our little routine by saying "How can you be Smee if I'm Smee?" The stupid little line always makes me laugh. Right now, it makes me wonder the exact can I be Smee if she ISN'T Smee?

I think I often see the world through my mom's eyes, and so many of the things I go and do, I also do for her. My mom has not had the opportunity to travel the way I have, and I often add elements to my trips so that she can live vicariously through me. When I went to Chicago a few years ago, I took the architectural boat tour there, mainly because my mom always wanted to go on it. I thought that if I could take pictures and tell her about it, it would almost be like she got a chance to go.

When DH and I were in South Africa for our honeymoon, we went to an elephant park to pet and feed the elephants, and I think the main reason we stopped there was because my mom told me that she wanted to see video of elephants. In fact, when we realized the video camera was dead, I made DH come back with me a second time the next day JUST so we could re-do the day and catch it on video for my mother.

Many people often mistake both my mother and me for serious people...but we both have this outrageously quirky side, that seems to come out most when we are together. We do the goofiest things. My best friend can attest to see, my mom had this knack for getting into one of her silly modes...pretty much any time I was on the phone with her in high school. Back in high school, most evenings my brother hid up in his bedroom watching tv and playing with his video games, my father sat in his office working on orders or meeting with customers, I took over the family room, watching tv and talking on the phone, and that either relegated my mom to the kitchen, with the small black and white tv and another phone line, or forced her to sit downstairs with me. Our house was a split level house - the kitchen, living room and dining room are all on the main floor, and the family room sits half a floor below. Occasionally, my mom would come to the top of the stairs in the foyer and glance down at me sitting on the couch in the family room. Usually, by this time she would be dressed in her pajamas...a long flannel nightgown and these blue fuzzy dearfoam slippers. I would take one look at my mom...and dissolve in laughter. Her eyes would sparkle, and I knew that she would not be satisfied until I was laughing with her.

Some days, she would pick up her nightgown and start dancing, can-can style, at the top of the stairs singing "I'm Chip, I'm Dale..." If I remember correctly, those were the only lyrics my mother could remember from the Chip and Dale television theme song, and she'd "lalala" the rest of the words. Out of curiosity, I looked them up online today:

I'm Chip...
I'm Dale...
We're just a couple of crazy rascals
Out to have some fun.
When Chip and Dale
Start cooking up some trouble
You can bet it gets well done.

Folks all say
We are the cutest two...
To tell the truth
I think so too!
I'm Chip...
I'm Dale...

Other nights, my mom would just sit next to me on the couch and start trying to tickle my one TOP SECRET tickle spot. Actually, she would start out by asking if she could tickle under my chin, or stick her finger in my ear. I'd look at her and say no, but the smile would start to creep across my face. She'd look back at me and say "But I wanna." Again, I'd shake my head no. "Please, Tessie, just for a second." Then she would tell me "I'm looking at your ear," which always causes me to scrunch up like a turtle to protect my ear. I have this one sensitive spot on my is a bit odd, but I can sense people when they stand in a way that puts any movement on that spot, and it sends shivers down my spine. Even when I am asleep, my mom could wake me up and have me jump sky high just by moving her fingers in a spot near my ear, even a few feet away. She used to love to come into my room in the middle of the night just to see if I'd really wake up and jump...and I did, every time.

My best friend hated when my mom would do that to me while I was on the phone...because our phone conversation inevitably had to stop since I couldn't stop laughing. I always loved it...there is no one else on earth who can make me laugh like that. I love that my mom and I can communicate with just a look. And I love that she knows what I am thinking without me needing to explain. I can just be me (or Smee) 100% of the time with her...cranky, bitchy, goofy or philosophical. I think perhaps that is why I ended up with DH...he loves the goofy part of my personality that so few people really get to see, and I can share these stories with him and he thinks they are funny, too. Most other people would just think our jokes are...well, odd.

Not much of an update, right? It is now 7:00 am, and I have to put away the computer and get ready for the day to begin. We are going to try and attend a birthday party for one of Micah's friends today before we head up to the hospital. I hope my mom is feeling better today, and perhaps a little perkier.

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