Thursday, January 29, 2015

Not waiting for the other one to drop

For the longest time, Nick has been having foot problems.

Or rather, an ankle problem. It is one problem, singular, and it is in his ankle. In fact, I've been incorrectly asking him, "How's your foot feeling?" for years. And he's always like, "It's not my foot. It's my ankle."

But in my mind it's his foot problem.

Which I'm sure is annoying, right? I mean, what if my rib hurt, and he kept being like, "How's your boob today?"

And I'd be all, "Don't you listen to me, asshole? It's my rib, not my boob."

And he'd be all, "Close enough. So how is it?"


So he's had this persistent problem way down towards the bottom of his body. And one podiatrist gave him anti-inflammatory meds, which helped with pain, but then once he stopped taking them, it started hurting again.

And he didn't want to go back, because the guy is in Virginia and it's inconvenient and I was all find a new damn doctor who won't just throw pills at you. In DC. He finally did.

The issue, it seems, is that he has a torn Achilles. His Achilles has been achillen' him.

So now he has a boot. A big grey plastic boot. He doesn't have to sleep in it, but he has to wear it all the time otherwise. And it is helping. No more pain.

He said it gets a lot of looks on the street, which I find surprising, as I myself think it kind of blends with his grey pinstripe suits. I no longer notice it much.

I called him yesterday at the office, as he was getting ready to head out to catch a plane to Miami.

I know it is my issue, and I own it, but if Nick is flying I have to talk to him like 50 times before he goes. Especially right before they make you turn off your phones. I say I love you I love you I love you. And I save messages.

So first I had to ask him about the Everglades and if Miami is north or south of them, because my geography is terrible and so is my paranoia. Even if you survive the crash, you've got alligators, Burmese pythons, lightening sand, ROUSes...

He knew exactly what I was after. North. Whew.

Then I asked how he was doing and he said, "Fine. It's only overnight so I'm not bringing much."

Had he remembered things like toothbrush and such? Yes.

"Really, now I'm just trying to figure out which shoe to wear."

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Size matters

If you are from Texas, I have unintentionally been misleading you.

I have a new friend, Andrea, and when she met Nick, the first thing she said was, "You're not that big!"

Which is along the lines of things that I tend to say and then there is an awkward pause.

And there was.

Nick looked at her, and he looked at me and I shrugged, and so then I looked at her and we had this funny little looking-at triangle. And then she said, "I read Lisa's blog and she's always talking about how enormous you are!"

Nick said, "Oh."

Because what can you say? "I am so!"?

(Nick had an old girlfriend who once introduced him to a friend of hers at a party with, "You'll like each other. You're both tall." And then she walked away, leaving the tall men to their own devices. It is both a strange and awkward way to start a conversation and is now my preferred line for introductions of tall friends.)

So I said, in defense of Nick's enormity or more importantly, my veracity, "Well, compared to me he's enormous!"

She explained, "It's not that he's not tall. It's just that I'm from Texas."

You think you pull your boots on right and wear your hat so well...

Monday, January 26, 2015

An age-five defense of Taylor Swift

Shake it off, Jordan!
I would never have predicted all the dancing with children, but oh, we have a lot of dance parties. We dance at home, we dance in public. We boogie down the sidewalk. We dance in our seats in the car.

Lately Taylor Swift is our music of choice at home.

She's also who we listen to on the rare occasion that we're in the car. So we hear the same three or four songs over and over and over. Fortunately, when I like something, I have a high tolerance for repetition.

We start with Blank Space. Always. Sometimes we get as far as Shake It Off. Once, when we drove to Maryland, we got to the end of the CD! Well, actually, we had to sit in the car outside our house to wait for that last song to end.

Jordan can sing along. India knows little bits here and there.

(Sadly for them, as you know, their mother is one to sing "lonely Starbucks lovers" until she finds out it's "a long list of ex-lovers" so I am not to correct them in their interpretations.)

My Jordan, he really listens. Seriously. You should hear him sing, "'Cause darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream..."

And they ask questions! They listen and they ask!

"Why the worst is yet to come? Why screaming crying perfect storm?" "She said 'hate'! We don't say hate. Hate is a wrinkle word. Why she said 'hate hate hate', Mama?"

So then I try to explain. Like, with the haters gonna hate, "Mean people are always going to say mean things. You shouldn't listen to them, because they're just trying to make you feel bad." (Teachable moment!)

And in Blank Space, "She's just pretending to be a crazy person and do bad things. It's not real. It's just a story for the song."

So the other day, when Jordan heard the line, "Midnight, You come and pick me up, no headlights. Long drive..."

He said, "Midnight! No headlights! Why she's driving with no headlights?"

And I said, "Well, if it's midnight and there are no headlights, they're being sneaky. They don't want anyone to know."

And then I remembered that these are lessons he's learning, right?

So I said, "But! It's a very bad thing to do! We would NEVER drive in the dark with no headlights. You wouldn't be able to see where you were going. You could get in an accident. It is SO DANGEROUS to drive at night with no headlights!"

And Jordan said, "Mama, I think she's just saying it for the song. Taylor Swift doesn't really drive with no headlights. She wouldn't do that."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I hope you never need any of this information

Last night I got the kind of email that makes me cry, and the kind I get with some regularity. A friend wrote to say that a friend of his had died by suicide.

We all have a thing, I suppose. And suicide, it turns out, is mine. And actually, it was my thing before my dad died, because he took his life on his seventh attempt. And the six prior were no jokes. A number of you lived through the 2007 attempt with me. It was terrible.

His psychiatrist told us that the severity of my dad's attempts and the fact that he lived through them made him almost believe in God.

But although suicide was something I knew a lot about because of personal experience, I knew nothing about prevention. I knew nothing about healing. I knew nothing about the resources that were available that could've helped my family, even before my dad died. That could possibly have kept my brother from abandoning us.

I have some strong personal feelings here.

So my friend, he was wondering if I had thoughts on what to say to the spouse, who he doesn't know well. And if I could suggest any resources.

Resources first, because that is easy.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the organization to which many of you have contributed by supporting my overnight walks, has incredible resources. And by resources I mean both literature and people. Without exception, the staff and volunteers I've encountered have been incredibly kind and thoughtful and gentle.

On their website is a whole section called Coping With Suicide Loss. I told my friend to start there, and look at Where Do I Begin? And Find Support. Because support makes a tremendous difference.

Suicide is different kind of loss than diseases like cancer or ALS. These may be painful and senseless losses, but they are not stigmatized. And the person who died didn't deliberately end their own life. Didn't "want" to die. (I say "want" because to many people that's how suicide seems. A choice.)

Those left behind from other types of death are not left with the same sense of deliberate abandonment that can accompany suicide. How could you leave us? Didn't you love us enough?

With suicide, you are left with the feeling that there must have been something you could have done to change the outcome. You're left with guilt. You should have known. You had a feeling. You somehow let this happen. So many of my dad's friends and colleagues have said this to me.

Surely they could've done or said something that would've changed things, and he would still be here.

Magnify this by a million and this is how I felt.

And while I am saying this, it's important to mention prevention. There are warning signs. There are questions you can ask, things you can do if you are worried about someone. And it is always better to risk offending the person by asking.

If you are scared, for yourself or another person, and you don't know what to do, call the Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Ask for help.

Now, what to say to the grieving friend? You do not have to say much, I said. Say something supportive. Something like, "I'm sorry for your loss, and if you would ever like to talk, or to get a drink or take a walk or anything, please know I'm here."

Too many people say nothing. Or they say, "I'm sorry for your loss." And then when they find out the cause of death, they avoid you. Because at that point, they do not know what to say.

You're alone and devastated because your loved one has died, and then you're even more alone because people don't know how to talk to you. Suicide is still so stigmatized that the ones left behind might feel ashamed, might be scared of being judged, scared of having their loved one judged.

Now, when I read about a death and see the words "died suddenly" with no explanation, I am almost certain it is suicide.

After my dad died I sent in an obituary to the Washington Post for their consideration. You know how they run a couple big obituaries with a picture? He was an interesting character with an international career, and you never know where they are in the news cycle.

The woman who called me said it sounded interesting but, "You didn't note the cause of death."

And I said, "It was suicide. But my mom doesn't want it in the paper."

And she said, "We have to say the cause of death."

So I said, "Then don't bother."

Now I believe I would say, "Then say suicide. We are devastated, but we are not ashamed."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Cause in my head there’s a greyhound station where I send my thoughts to far off destinations

I remember years ago looking at my high school website. People had written in with updates on their lives: marriages, kids, accomplishments at work.

And I thought, what would I write? I'm not married, have no kids, and have no notable accomplishments. I'm Nothing notable.

So I wrote nothing.

This is exactly how I feel right now. Except that I'm married and I have two kids. But recently someone asked me what was new and I was all, uh? Um? We had fish sticks instead of chicken nuggets for dinner?

It's not negative, it's just not notable. So much of life isn't notable. Until it is.

Nick's grandfather died in the wee hours of the first day of the year. This year, he'd have been 100. He'd lived a big life, and it was past time.

One of the highlights of his life was being on a WWII minesweeper. He wound up as captain after all the officers above him had been killed. He said when the war was over, they were told to get rid of all their ammunition. So they drank liquor and exploded things all the way home. Most fun he'd ever had.

I don't suppose you could ever recreate that.

He had declined greatly in recent years, to the point where he needed round-the-clock care just to stay alive. Which isn't living.

Because of him, and because it is the biggest number he can begin to grasp, Jordan is very preoccupied with 100.

"Mama, who is going to get to 100 first? You or me?"

I tell him I will get there 40 years before him. I do not tell him how unlikely this seems. I do not tell him how my nose prickles and I have to fight back tears when I think of not being able to be there for the entirety of his life. But this is what we hope, you know? That our kids live fully and outlive us.

In December, a first grader in his school died. The school sent an email home telling us, with guidelines for talking to kids about death.

We didn't think Jordan knew him, so we didn't mention it. We waited to see what he'd do. And he told us that one of the kids at his school had died. We talked about how he was sick, and how sometimes that happens, but not very often.

I was worried that Jordan would fret about dying, but that doesn't seem to have happened.

One day he said that one of his friends told him that John (not the real name of the child who passed) was up in outer space floating around. I didn't correct him, because it's kind of a nice thought, and I suppose it's someone's interpretation of Heaven.

In fact, I bet my dad wouldn't mind if he were up in outer space, floating around. He'd have liked to go.

Me, if I had the opportunity to take a rocket to space, I wouldn't do it. I know it's actually so full, but the dark emptiness of no oxygen, no light, these are what press on me. The darkness scares me. I've listened to Space Oddity too many times.

I don't want to leave the sun and the air, even for a grand adventure.

Years ago I had a boyfriend who was a submariner, and he took Betty and me on a tour of his submarine. It was extraordinary. And in the end, we got to look through the periscope.

And Betty said, "Oh! It's even better than the zoom on my camera!"

Pretty much.