Somehow We Made It Out Alive… Part 1

Man, where do I even start… First off, thank you God, literally, for getting my grandmother safely to and from Albuquerque this past week. She is 95 years old y’all—95! That’s five years away from 100! And she got on a plane! Technically she got on four planes total, with layovers, there and back. After the first night with her I’m blown away she’s still alive, and that’s just on the ground, without any airplanes to increase any odds of, oh I don’t know, getting sucked out of a window due to engine parts falling off. Yes, we flew Southwest. And we flew on a brand new plane on the way back!

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The first night there she woke me up in the middle of the night yelling from her bedroom because she’d fallen out of her bed—and this was before we even got to the airport. I’d flown from Baltimore to my hometown in Georgia so that we could fly together the next day to visit my sister and her family out West. Grandma has been fussing to go there ever since they moved there two years ago. So there I am, deep in sleep, when I realize a couple minutes later that I’m not home in my own bed hearing some psycho couple in the parking lot yelling at each other (that happens in my hood on occasion). They seem to think no one can hear them? Or more likely they really could give a darn because they’re so angry and drunk. I never did that when I was drinking. 😉 …But then I realize it’s Grandma yelling, so I run into her room and there she is, all of four foot nine, crumpled in a little ball on the floor by her bed, struggling to get up.

“Don’t move, Grandma! I’m calling 911!” I run to go get the portable phone, dial 911, run back into her room and she’s already climbing up her bed onto her feet. She wasn’t wearing her hearing aids so she couldn’t hear a word I’d said. She has a portable toilet next to her bed in case she needs to pee in the middle of the night—she lives alone y’all!!!–and she’d knocked it over, urine all over the floor, I’m stepping all in it, cleaning it up, and she gets up like a toddler, nothing broken or fractured, business as usual. It was about 2:30 in the morning.

My dad was due to pick us up around six A.M. to drive us to the Atlanta airport, which is the busiest airport in the world, so it’s like going to Tokyo for my dad and grandma. I spent the rest of the night wondering if we should cancel the trip, surely this was a terrible mistake and what was I thinking, saying yes to taking someone who’s almost a hundred years old across the country on an airplane? She claimed her doctor said it was okay, but I was beginning to wonder if that was a lie she’d told because she was hell-bent on getting to New Mexico to see her favorite granddaughter and great grandkids. My dad shrugged it off in his usual manner, like it was an everyday occurrence. Eh she’ll be aight.

Well she seemed fine, was walking fine, nothing hurt, nothing appeared to be broken or fractured. So off we went, and on the way there my dad almost killed us by running into an 18-wheeler on the interstate, and again I’m just blown away that he and my grandma have survived this long into their lives. (Meanwhile my mother literally dropped dead one day three weeks after getting a clean bill of health from the doctor. But hey! I’m not resentful!) It’s dark outside and Daddy’s talking about how he needs to get a cataract removed, meanwhile we’re plowing full speed ahead towards a slowly-moving truck that probably has explosive gasoline in it, inching its way onto the highway, taking up all lanes right in front of my dad, and I’m like Daddy! Brakes! for the 25th time, and he’s like Oh I didn’t see it…

Grandma and I made it to the airport alive somehow, and they set her up with a wheelchair there, and a woman to push her, while I hold all of our carry-ons and purses. I’d hoped we’d get one of those ATVs they used to drive around in the airport but maybe they did away with those? I did not see them this time, but I just remembered that when I’d come back from London back in 2000, I’d had emergency eye surgery while I was over there (surprise! partially detached retina), and my mom had called the airline to ask them to help me due to my one-eyed status. They’d swooped me up as soon as I exited the plane, ready with a wheelchair, and at some point we switched to an ATV, maybe after they’d gathered my things?, and we plowed through the airport faster than an SUV-driving soccer mom (no offense, and love to all the moms out there!).

So I’d hoped we’d get the royal treatment like that this time, but that was all pre-9/11, and now it’s every woman and child for themselves, so what happened next was we got to security and all hell broke loose. I had this crazy notion that they’d allow an old lady and her granddaughter through some tunnel where all the other wheelchair-riding folks go, streamlining us ahead of everyone else, and they did put us ahead of everyone, kinda. What they do is take you through a different line and then they just park you right in front of everyone else who’s been waiting in line, right at the x-ray machine and conveyor belt, so that you have to awkwardly thrust yourself in front of some able-bodied senior citizen who is not happy you just cut in front of them. At this point Grandma is still in a wheelchair and people are everywhere okay, lines coming out the wazoo, and we’re just waiting for some direction from the wheelchair-pusher lady from Southwest with the Caribbean accent I cannot understand who’s given me no direction whatsoever so far. I’m assuming the lady will be with my grandma the whole time, so I walk through the x-ray machine, come out to the other side, turn around, and no Grandma. People streaming everywhere and still no sign of Grandma. I have lost Grandma.

So I’m looking everywhere, no sign of Grandma or the Southwest lady, and then I see her, Grandma, getting frisked by Atlanta airport security. I’m rushing up to her so she can see me, and at the same time a big tall dude with dreads yells, “Who is with this lady?”

That would be me I tell him, and he’s like, “You need to stay with her! She is very confused…”

Oh no he didn’t.

Excuse me?” Hand flies up like talk to the hand, mister. “I thought she was with her!” I yell right back, pointing at the mean Southwest lady who’d left my grandma alone. “That’s why I called in advance (twice!) and asked for help!” I don’t even care anymore, I’m like the drunk couple in the parking lot, fighting in public for all the world to see.

Meanwhile Grandma is oblivious, thank God, and not traumatized as I am watching this whole thing. Luckily she was too dazed for it to sink in that they’d confiscated her cosmetics that for some reason she saw pertinent to bring in her carry-on. This is how I know I’m my grandmother’s granddaughter. She must’ve brought 25 different containers, several of them full-sized, of various cosmetics, because you never know when you’ll need to apply toner on an airplane? It sunk in later though, and I guarantee you she’ll never stop complaining about how they’d taken all of her Merle Norman make-up, expensive stuff too, and how she still just does not understand why they’d do that, what could anyone do with cleansing cream for gosh sakes? Are you gonna blow up the plane with that? We explained to her that since 9/11 they have to be extra careful and people can make explosives out of common household items but to her that just sounded like blah blah blah. And I don’t blame her. I’d be mad too. And I blamed myself for not helping her pack her carry-on. She hasn’t flown since 2002, and she probably doesn’t remember it.

I could go on and on in detail about all of the various harrowing experiences that followed but suffice it to say I had to help her in the airplane bathroom by standing with the door open while the flight attendant stood guard and just pray that she didn’t fall down in there or bump her head on anything.

By the time we made it to my sister Lacey’s house, Grandma and I were both worn out. Unfortunately the bed in Lacey’s spare room sits high, and Grandma had trouble getting in and out of it. Lacey, her husband and I discussed pros and cons of various sleeping arrangements: the air mattress on the floor? Take the box spring out to lower the bed? Finally we decided on the latter option, but not after Grandma had tried the air mattress, which she could not get out of, and Mark had to pick her up out of it. At one point later the next day Grandma decided to get on the air mattress anyway, and Mark had to come to her rescue again.

That night after we got Grandma safely in bed, Lacey and I just looked at each other, shaking our heads. Sigh. This was a terrible, terrible mistake.

To be continued…

Home

Home sweet home.

Being in Georgia this week was like being in another universe. I visited my dad and grandma, and it was Grandma’s birthday, so we went to dinner one night with my aunts and uncles too. Luckily my oldest and best friend visited her family at the same time, and having her there made it so much more bearable. Overall the trip was successful, but my dad and I had an uncomfortable conversation that’s all I can really think about.

First I’ll tell you the good stuff: he actually asked for and listened to my nutrition advice, he was generally pleasant, he didn’t drink, and he was fairly easygoing (for him anyway). The first night I was there we went out to dinner with the rest of the family, and they all wanted me to be like some kind of drill sergeant barking at him what to eat and what not to eat. My uncle sat between us so he could boast about how healthy he is due to his own healthy lifestyle habits compared to how unhealthy my dad is due to his terrible eating and lack of exercise. Looking back on it I wish I’d taken up for my dad but I did what I do which is I complimented my uncle on his efforts and didn’t really say anything about my dad. I certainly didn’t insult him but I didn’t take up for him either, and I wish I had.

Afterwards I asked my dad why he wasn’t going bowling with the rest of them later (as was their plan) and he said he didn’t want to hear his brother brag about how healthy he is compared to my dad, who has type II diabetes and coronary heart disease. It’s not easy changing lifelong eating habits, and no one wants to hear how great everyone else is doing due to their lifestyle factors when they’re in ill health for the same reason. A nutritionist won’t get far shaming someone for their eating habits, and that’s just not my style anyway.

More good stuff happened: I cooked for my dad, his wife, my grandma, and best friend, and they all really liked my food. It was fairly healthy compared to what they’re used to–I didn’t want to make it too strange for my family, who prefer fried food and overcooked vegetables, so I breaded the baked flounder and put some Old Bay in there.

Then my dad actually asked questions about nutrition, and they all wanted to know what chia seeds and quinoa are. It was all so foreign to them but they were open to it, which was amazing. It was so nice that he respected what I had to say.

He still seems disappointed in my life choices. He brought up what he brings up every time I talk to him or see him, which is this: Why didn’t you and your sisters major in math or the sciences in college? Why don’t you get a job with the government up there in DC? And then he talks about all the benefits that he’d gotten as a chemist working at the air force base. And I told him what I always told him: I tried getting a government job when I moved here and no one hired me, it’s very hard to get a government job, I didn’t know back then to major in the sciences, I thought a liberal arts degree was enough, I didn’t know what to do or how to do it. He will then bring up that he told us back then to major in math or the sciences. I do remember him suggesting that I become either an architect or an engineer when I was in seventh grade and had gotten an award for getting the highest grade in my class for both math and art. The math one was a fluke because I’m not that great at math. But I didn’t know what an architect or an engineer was or what they did, or why I should become one. I didn’t understand why that would be important, and what the alternative was. I don’t want to play victim, but it’s not like he got really involved in my life or even took me to tour colleges like other kids’ parents did.

So then I asked him point blank: Are you disappointed in us?

He said that no, he was just baffled.

So I said, Well it sure sounds like you are.

I guessed he was worried about our financial futures, and I told him we’re doing just fine, and we’ll be just fine. I pointed out that I’ve been taking care of myself since I was 18, and it seemed like a surprise to him despite the fact that I’ve told him this before. I don’t know who he thought was taking care of me. Bills and rent/mortgage was split down the middle when I was married, and I didn’t get any kind of money for my divorces.

Daddy wanted to know how much my school tuition is, and I said, A lot. I didn’t want to get scorned for borrowing more money when I already owe on my previous student loans. I figured I’ll be paying on it forever, and I’ll be working forever too, so why not do something I’m happy with? And I hope to God I’m happy with my career when this is all over.

Maybe he feels guilty or else he knows he doesn’t have any money to leave us so he’s worried about how we’ll get along. He’s not worried about my sister who’s married, but he’s worried about my other sister and me. I asked him: Do you think I’m not doing anything now? He admitted that indeed I am going to school but I learned that he thinks I won’t make much money doing that. If I ever “make anything” of myself in his eyes, he probably won’t be alive to see it because his health is deteriorating and he isn’t doing much to try to reverse or slow the progress.

It all makes me kind of sad now, reflecting back on it. It was supposed to be sort of an amends trip, though I didn’t really have a plan on that, and should’ve talked to my sponsor about it beforehand. I guess I made my living amends by going there and spending time with him, and I felt it was important to speak my mind. There’s more but I don’t feel like writing about it right now.

In spite of that, it was a good trip. It wasn’t much different than any other time I’ve been there, except everyone’s gotten older, slower, and more achy. No one can hear anything; everyone needs hearing aids. I honestly cannot remember the last time I was there. I know I was there in 2010, and I’m pretty sure I went once or twice after that, but I can’t remember it.

Being in Georgia made me grateful that I don’t live there anymore—no offense to any Georgia readers. Atlanta was fine, north Georgia is pretty, I love Savannah, but still I can’t see living in Georgia again. I did enjoy some delicious biscuits and collard greens though!

I’m so happy to be back in Maryland, back to my chosen family. One of my good friends picked me up at the airport, and tonight we’re going to the movies, tomorrow I’ll go to a meeting and the diner with my other close friends.

It’s so good to be home.

Peace and love,

TCH

One Day at a Time

Lately I feel like my old self, and I don’t like it. Not my old old self, the one who felt borderline suicidal and drank to drown my feelings, just my regular old self, the one who felt pretty okay most days but not deliriously happy every day like I did when I was taking Prozac. I get that feeling deliriously happy is not natural, but I liked it, gosh darnit.

I’ve been busy even after school let out a couple weeks ago, mostly with my new boyfriend, Mark, who I’ve told y’all about. Our relationship has become more comfortable and familiar, and he’s brought out parts of me that needed to come out, such as the importance of using my voice. He encourages me to speak my mind, and has no problem if I’m unhappy with something, even if that includes something about him or our relationship. It’s so refreshing.

And he’s the only guy I’ve ever met who I feel would be a great dad. The only one. Honestly.

The idea of having kids terrifies me. I’m almost 42 years old. I’ve been tired my whole life—at least until I discovered Rebbl coffee reishi drinks which are AMAZING btw and have NO sugar (you have to get the reishi one). And the thought of having even one kid exhausts me. But do I really want to miss out on that huge part of life? And honestly y’all, the thought of any change in my life terrifies me—especially this upcoming career change.

Right now I won’t go into the details about it all because I’d just be feeding the wolf that wants to spiral out of control down a path of an unknown future that probably won’t even happen. It’s just hard not to project into the future and want to know how this is all going to play out. But I will say this: for me it’s hard to imagine having both a kid and a husband. When I was a kid I imagined a future as a single woman living as a writer in NYC. Now that I’m older and prefer the—well, the suburbs really—I’ve imagined my future with a partner, hopefully a husband but a live-in boyfriend would probably be okay as long as I had faith that he’d stay with me. My fear of abandonment gets triggered easily, and my heart hurts to imagine the reality that there are no guarantees, even if you’re married… Anyway, I’ve also imagined a future in which I have one kid and live as a single parent. And I’ve imagined a future in which I focus on my career—but let’s be real, I’m not that ambitious, so really what I mean is, I imagine a future in which I’m single and focus my free time on me time doing whatever the hell I want with my life (which in reality would be me looking for a boyfriend).

Because the thing is, I don’t know how anyone does it. I honestly do not know how anyone does anything. Personally, I’m juggling a full time job, part time graduate school, a relationship, a social life (which has dwindled down to one or two nights a week), not going to the gym ever lately, and AA (which these days is about one or two meetings a week), and one night a week of going to meditation. How the hell do other people go to AA meetings every night? How do people have children? Actual careers? And what about those people who do all of those things: a job, a spouse, children, and for some, AA. And how do those people keep their house clean?

So I’m doing what I have learned to do, from AA actually, which is to put my faith in a higher power and take it one day at a time. What is it I want to do today? Today I want to see my boyfriend and take care of him because he has a cold. I don’t know if that means I’ll be doing the same thing 10 or 20 years from now, or if I’ll be doing the same for my own child 5 years from now, or if I’ll just get a cat.

I’m off to work. My room is a mess. Maybe it will get cleaned tomorrow, maybe not.

Peace, Love, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Etc.

TCH

Update: Stents, Video Games, Alcoholism, Etc.

Tuesday I leave for Georgia because my dad will be having stents put in his heart, and they don’t know until they go in there if he’ll need bypass surgery. Stents are more routine now than in past decades, but he’s the most unhealthy person I know, so I’d be surprised if they did not need to do bypass surgery, or if things didn’t look so good when they go in. He quit drinking in January, which is a miracle to me, and tells me he must’ve been a heavy drinker all these years, and not an alcoholic, a distinction that used to baffle me, but starting not to so much anymore. He quit drinking because his doctor told him to. Easy as that. I can’t imagine it being that easy for me but then I’d never really tried to quit, except that one time I quit for 17 whole days, and it ended in disaster at the company holiday party where I lasted a whole hour before getting wasted and making an ass out of myself. Everyone was like, Wow you’re really different when you drink. And it was not a compliment.

Y’all know I hate going to Georgia, and I’m not that close to my dad, though I do love him, of course. He’s my father. I can’t not go; it’s out of the question.

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Daddy has diabetes that he doesn’t really manage very well, ie, he doesn’t watch his diet or exercise, and he just takes medication. The doctor wanted to put the stents in right away but he refused because he wants to watch the Georgia-Florida game tomorrow. Lord help us all.

On the relationship front, figuring Mark out has been a fun puzzle for me. I’m learning that he seems to be a nice guy though a bit immature and inexperienced with relationships, which is fine with me. He’s very sweet, and doesn’t seem to be jaded. He likes to play video games, which I think he was embarrassed about, but I’m like, I’m just glad you’re not the leader of a sex cult. If video games is your vice, play all day please. Out of all the other sick, disturbing shit I’ve heard that some men get into, I’d be grateful to have a guy that plays video games. I’ll even play video games with him. For real. My roommate has a cool game with this badass woman hunter who shoots a bow and arrow and it’s all very Hunger Games which I love.

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I have class this weekend and a lot of studying to do, and now I’ve got to get to work, so I’ll sign off but just wanted to let y’all know what’s going on with me. My life is super busy lately, and I’m mildly stressed about it, but will figure out a good routine soon.

PS: I stopped going to CODA for reasons I don’t have time to get into now. More on that later, but I’ll be focusing more on AA instead.

Peace and love,

TCH

The Eye of God

This time a year ago I would’ve been sitting in my room, writing, oblivious to what would unfold 12 hours later, when my sister would call me at work to tell me that our mother had had a stroke and that the outcome did not look good. That was the worst day of my life.

Today I’m driving back to North Carolina again, this time to visit my stepdad, my sister, my best friend, and then tomorrow to South Carolina to visit my dad and his wife. Tomorrow we’ll look at the eclipse, a once-in-a-lifetime, awe-inspiring event. I think it’s so cool that tomorrow is the anniversary of mom’s death. I read in this article in which an eclipse enthusiast, Rick Brown, describes the solar eclipse as the “eye of God.”

Yesterday I came across this article that was in my school’s newsletter from tinybuddha.com. A good reminder to have gratitude. The negativity I sometimes find  engulfed in does not serve me, or anyone else. It just sets in my brain and keeps me down. What I like about this article is the idea of taking something that bothers me, and seeing the positives of it. Even if my job doesn’t pay much, I’m good at it, and I like my job, which is more than I can say for 99% all my other jobs. When I feel alone, I must remember that I have family and friends who love me, and who I love. Last night I got to hang out with my friends, and today I get to visit my family for a few days. I may be slightly stressed about visiting my family, but how lucky am I to have family. And I include my stepdad and best friend in that, and I love them all very much.

Now I hope to God for my dad’s sake alone that there’s not a cloud in the sky when this eclipse comes tomorrow because my father has been planning for this event—I kid you not—for about five years now. He rented a cabin years ago, bought the glasses and everything. He determined on a map the latitude and longitude of exactly where we need to be for maximum visibility, and he has a backup plan for where we can go if it’s cloudy (not sure how that will he, but he does have a backup plan).

In light of recent events–and just because–I’m mildly anxious about visiting my family next week. My dad loves Robert E. Lee and the Confederate South, though I will say in his favor he doesn’t love the slavery and racism of it. Probably like many Southerners he dismisses that crucial piece of history as being something white people just did at the time. I’m not saying it’s okay or that I agree with it, because I do not, and for the record, I do not love Robert E. Lee and I’m glad the South did not win. However, I do not want to get into a discussion or argument about it with my dad (or anyone else), nor do I want to hear him rant. An innocent person got killed, many others injured, and Trump’s reaction(s) was/were horribly inappropriate, and that’s just my two cents. But again, I’m not interested in talking about this with my dad, who’s crushed that people want to take down memorials of his hero. I love my dad. We just don’t see eye to eye on most subjects. He’s a bit of an Archie Bunker, but he’s endearing and quirky in his way. And he’s my father.

School starts back soon and my free time won’t be free anymore, so I’ve had a bit of the end-of-the-summer blues these past few days. But isn’t this a wonderful time in my life, right now? My job’s not that stressful, and I get to learn so much every day. Now I get to see the eclipse, which my dad planned for, making it so easy for me. Otherwise, I’d have stayed home and probably worked. I’d have missed out on this.

I miss the people who once were in my life but are no longer anymore. But I believe I’ll see my mom again one day, and she lives forever in my heart, today. As for my ex-boyfriend, who I loved more than any other guy I’ve ever dated or married–and there have been a lot–I know that one day I will find someone I love just as much or more, and who will love me the same. Right now is time to focus on me. On learning and growing. School. Spirituality.

I know this post is all over the place, and I want to write more, but I haven’t even started packing, and I don’t want it to be dark out by the time I get to the middle of nowhere western North Carolina tonight. Everyone on this side of the country seems to be driving to South Carolina today so traffic will probably be heavy.

I just want to say one last thing. It’s significant to me that my mom died a year ago tomorrow, the day of the solar eclipse. What a powerful time for the one-year anniversary of her death. Not that her death is anything to be celebrated, but rather, her life is. Rest in peace, Mom. You’ll be forever loved.

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