The Working Title Is…The Ache from a Journey Down Memory Lane

I traveled a million miles in my mind before I even got out of bed this morning, and there were four things that fueled my trip.

In fact, the title of this essay should be “My SUPER GROSS Morning with The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, The Big Sick and Princess Diana,” but that doesn’t flow very well.

Let me break down how my day started. I rolled over when the alarm went off and felt a little itch on my neck. This was not so surprising since my one mid-life crisis move so far has been deciding to grow my hair a little longer. For the first time since I was seven years old, I’m getting used to luscious locks that can almost be pulled into a ponytail. As I went to swipe the hair away, I grasped something in between my thumb and forefinger, and when my eyes finally focused, I saw a squished spider.

SUPER GROSS!

There was a god-forsaken spider on my neck. And I killed it with my bare hand.

Just to review for those of you skimming text quickly; a freakin’ spider was walking over my jugular and now his guts were smeared between my fingers.

Final review: Spider. Neck. Guts. Fingers. Super Gross.

I reacted as any grown woman would have…I screamed bloody murder and jumped out of bed wiping my hand on the carpet at warp speed. (After later review of the crime scene, he must have been pretty tiny because I could barely find any body parts to scoop up. But in the heat of the moment, I was a main character in the sequel to Arachnophobia.)

I continued to react, as any grown woman would have, trying to problem solve while sitting on the floor in the fetal position. I asked Siri, “Where can I get one of those giant plastic bubbles like John Travolta lived in back when I thought he was super good looking?”

I suppose my plan to spider-proof my room should have taken me straight to Amazon Prime rather than Siri. Instead, I spent the next ten minutes reading this twenty-year-old Houston Press article about David Vetter whose life story was the inspiration for the 1976 television drama starring John Travolta. And perhaps the inspiration for a less emotional, albeit hilarious, Seinfeld episode.

The Boy in the Plastic Bubble

The actual story is heartbreaking and could fuel debate on a host of topics related to medical ethics, parenting, savior siblings and HIPAA. What is not up for debate, however, is the fact that John Travolta’s path from Bubble Boy to Tony Manero and ultimately Vinnie Barbarino was the thing of which a young girl’s dreams were made.

As I read about David Vetter’s relationships with his caregivers and his family’s struggle to do the right thing, I was soon lost in reverie. My mind couldn’t help but recall the path our family took seven years ago with an army of caregivers searching to find out what was wrong with my husband and how to bring him to full health.

I make a painful walk down memory lane each year. It begins on Fathers’ Day when I recall being first worried something might be really wrong with my husband and ends in mid-August after the anniversary of his burial. This morning I found myself remembering how lost we felt as we searched for answers. I remembered specific meetings with healthcare professionals and discussions with family and friends who felt as helpless as we did.

And when I considered where we were at this point on Memory Lane, my thoughts turned to The Big Sick.

The Big Sick

If you have not yet seen this movie produced by Judd Apatow and directed by Michael Showalter, go now. Like, right now. You can finish reading this later.

The film is hilarious. I mean really, really funny. But it’s also beautiful and heart-wrenching and thought-provoking. It will have you talking for days about love and cultural tradition and interracial and interfaith relationships. And it will have you thinking about The X-Files and how tiny Holly Hunter is and if you could ever make it as a stand-up comedian.

If you have intimate knowledge of the word thoracentesis, it will make you shiver. If your mind’s eye holds an image of someone you love unconscious in a hospital bed and hooked up to machines, it will take your breath away. And if you’ve ever missed hearing that person’s voice so much that you sat in your car and replayed a voicemail over and over and over again, it will make you weep.

Cue the Royal Family.

Princess Diana

As I wiped a tear with my spider gut-free manicured hand featuring my go-to nail color which also happens to be that of the Royals, my thoughts turned to Princess Diana. This week, I watched the HBO special Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy.

It is recommended viewing for everyone, especially anyone who stayed up an entire summer night in 1981 dreaming of becoming a princess and wondering, “Who the heck gets married on a Wednesday?” Also recommended viewing for anyone who kept their kids home from school on an April 2011 morning while all wearing tiaras and cutting photos from Brides magazine and pasting them into wedding planning notebooks.

Prince William and Prince Harry shared very similar stories of a mother’s love and very different stories of facing and coping with loss. The documentary is a poignant journey down a painful memory lane.

As I stared at the television, I watched our memory lanes converge a bit. William and Harry were 15 and 12 when their mom died. Our daughters were 14 and 11 respectively, and just weeks away from their next birthdays, when their dad died.

So much of what these boys, now men, had to share resonated with me and echoed feelings my daughters have shared. Most comforting of all were continued feelings of the presence of a parent in your life many years after a far-too-early death and keeping memories alive for people who never even had the chance to meet that parent…people like spouses and children and grandchildren.

In the documentary, Prince William says, “There were times when you look to someone or something for strength, and I very much felt she was there for me.”

There is no doubt in my mind that is true.

As my walk down memory lane continues, happy memories soften the ache. And new memories and new experiences and new paths bring the girls and me such joy, just as Pat would have wanted.

Pat would have turned 50 on Friday. On that day, we will toast him and the positive, joyful, witty, calming influence he had on our lives. And continues to have. Everyday.

Who needs a plastic bubble when you’ve got all that?

kmp

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The Working Title Is…The Dirtiest of The Dirty Words

There are a number of words that, when uttered at a certain age, carried the punishment of a soapy mouth. Comedian George Carlin famously spoke of seven dirty words that were once verboten to say on television. As society evolved, or depending upon your perspective, deteriorated, the ban has since been lifted on some of the classics.

I will freely admit there are a few of those words that roll off my tongue like the saltiest of sailors. Certain situations demand a, “What the xxxx?”   Or a, “Are you xxxxxxx kidding me?”  And, of course the occasional, “xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxx, what xxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx with xxxx for brains came up with this xxxxxxx idea?” But that doozy was usually reserved for supervising craft related book reports or volunteering on fundraising committees.

There are a few words that are SO naughty that they render me speechless, leave me aghast and can even cause a tiny bit of throw up to unexpectedly appear in the back of my mouth.

In recent weeks, I have been hearing the dirtiest of dirty words repeatedly. People uttering it without shame, in full voice rather than hushed tones, and some have even had the audacity to say it directly to my face in what I can only interpret as a sure sign of Armageddon.

The dirtiest of the dirty words…..Fiftieth.

Arrrrrrgghhhhhhh.

Sure, they try and mollify my horror by sandwiching such a cuss between the words “Happy” and “Birthday,” but the pain of such a slur stings like a xxxxxxxxxxxx.

I was out to dinner with my wonderful in-laws a few weeks ago and the subject arose of the impending milestone anniversary of my birth. It was in the middle of this lovely meal that I had a devastating memory break through from its comfortable resting place deep within the recesses of my brain.

I was a guest at my future father-in-law’s surprise 50th birthday party.

Now get this straight…I love this family. I love my father-in-law as much as I loved my own Dad, but this memory sent me into fits of sweat and labored breathing.

I remember that party vividly. I remember feeling so fancy schmancy at the country club that I didn’t feel right ordering a beer, so I tried a Cabernet. (Note to self for future autobiography: drop pin here for pivotal turning point in liver function.)

But what I remember most about this party celebrating a man I deeply admire was… everybody was really, really old.

So how the xxxx can I be that same age?

Please, don’t waste your breath with platitudes…

  • Age is just a number.
  • It’s how you feel that matters.
  • Fifty is the new Thirty.
  • It’s better than the alternative.

I know all that xxxxxxxx is true. Especially that last one.

In her book Option B, Sheryl Sandberg writes that she will never again complain about another birthday after the unexpected death of her husband at the age of 47.

I can empathize with that statement. There has not been one decade in my life where I haven’t buried someone I loved at far too early an age. And after posting my essay, I’m No Sheryl Sandberg, Sheryl was kind enough to reach out to me. We had a lovely exchange of emails that left me incredibly moved by the depth of kindness displayed by this world-renowned business luminary.

Which makes it all the more awkward when the voices in my head scream, “I don’t give a rat’s xxx if Sheryl Sandberg maturely responds to our mutual young xxxxxxx widowhood with such xxxxxxx grace and sophistication. I AM STILL GOING TO XXXXXXX COMPLAIN ABOUT TURNING XXXXXXX FIFTY.

It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out why I’m struggling with this big xxx number. My life doesn’t look like I thought it would at Fifty. I sure as xxxx never thought I would mark this occasion without my husband or either parent beside me. But the pity party is short-lived because I am also reminded that I could never have predicted the multitude of blessings that would have been bestowed upon me in these Fifty years.

With a reversal of tone and content so severe from this foul-mouthed forty-nine year old that it would make even Kathy Griffin’s head spin, the reminder came to me while I sat in church on Sunday.

I share a birthday week with the Catholic Church who celebrated her’s on Pentecost. And she’s super old. I listened to how the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples and was reminded of the gifts the Holy Spirit brings us all…sometimes directly to us and sometimes through other people.

I was reminded about the f’in things that truly bring my life meaning…family, friends and faith. I see those gifts of the Holy Spirit at work—in and through the people I love—their counsel has brought me Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding and Right Judgment. Their love has brought me Courage and opened my eyes to Wonder and Awe. And because of them all, I feel immense Reverence for God. Despite the fact every once in a while a xxx xxxxxx might slip out while driving behind some xxxxxxx.

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.

Now fueled by these gifts and all the blessings in my life, I will move forward into the wonderful unknown of what is yet to come. But I’m NOT doing it as a xxxxxxx Fifty year old.

I’ve decided to go way, way old school. I think the ancient Romans had it right. They knew how to make Fifty look lithe and likable, lustrous and full of love and laughter.

So, in a few weeks, when I fill out the paperwork for my colonoscopy, it will look like this…

Age: L

You can go xxxx yourself Fifty. I’m going to languor in the lusciousness of L.

kmp

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