Happy Mother’s Day!

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I had a nice long conversation with my mother for Mother’s Day this afternoon.

She’s doing pretty well, although she’s been coughing pretty much non-stop for the past couple days, and she’s worried that the pneumonia is back. She was a little confused about what day of the week it was, although she knew the date and wished me happy birthday.

It’s conversations like today, when I had to correct her on the day of the week, that make me realize that our dynamic is changing once again.

When I was young, she was my caretaker and my teacher. She did everything she could to expand my insatiable thirst for knowledge, allowing me to read the encyclopedia at the dining room table while prohibiting anything else that I might care to read (except there was so much to the encyclopedia I couldn’t help but read it – it took me a couple of years, but I read every word in the thing). When I was older, she was, to the best of her ability, my adviser, trying to help me grow into a man even though she wasn’t really sure of the best way to go about it sometimes. When I was an adult, she became one of my best friends. And now that she’s older, the tables are turning. I’m advising her nowadays and being the best caretaker that I can be from half a country away.

It’s a little painful and a little sad that this woman who I’ve been able to rely on for so many years is now becoming reliant on me. But I suppose it’s the way of things for this to happen.

A lot of times, we take mothers for granted. They cook and clean for us and raise us and do their best to help you be the best you that you can be and do so very many things for us throughout our lives, and we only ever stop to thank them for it all once a year.

My mother is of an age that I can’t take her for granted anymore. She’s starting to go downhill, and it won’t be too many more years before she’ll be gone. We’ve had our moments, because it wasn’t easy raising me, but she did the best she could. And I thanked her for that today. And I will throughout this coming year and all the years to come until I can’t thank her anymore.

If you’re a mother and reading this, you have my thanks for being such an integral part of preparing the next generation for life. Happy Mother’s Day to you.

On Mothers

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I’m very fortunate that, as I approach the age of 47, my mother is still with me. She’ll be 84 next month, and she lives in a skilled nursing facility. Arthritis has robbed her of the ability to walk or even stand some days and she had continual health problems that delayed her anticipated knee replacement surgery to the point that her surgeon no longer felt comfortable operating on her, so she’ll be in this condition for the rest of her life. As it stands right now, even if she were able to visit – she’s in North Carolina, where I was born – she couldn’t come stay with us, as we’re on the second floor and stairs are just something she can’t manage, even on her best days.

I’m thankful that she’s in this facility. She’d been in assisted living for some years before this and her experiences there was not good at best and abhorrent at worst. She’s finally in a place that takes care of her the way she needs to be taken care of, she’s continuing to work on her mobility in the hopes that it can be improved, and she has a roommate that she adores. I wish she were closer, though, because I miss my mother and I haven’t seen her in going on seven years now.

While her body is giving out – years of chronic bronchitis have evolved into COPD on top of the crippling arthritis in her knees – her mind is still as sharp as ever. She has her moments when she forgets things, but so do I, and it’s arguable who’s in a worse state in that regard. She’s shy when it comes to computers, but we’ve got a guardian angel there locally that looks in after her and her laptop (she just upgraded to Windows 10, and so far so good).

The fact remains, though, that she doesn’t have a lot of years left (though if she could survive on stubbornness and tenacity alone she’d still be kicking at 135), and I fear that she might not survive until I can make it out to see her at least once more. With my wife’s new benefits, getting the time off from work won’t be an issue, but affording the hotel rooms along the way and the three meals dining out would take us some time to save up for. And that frustrates me.

Mom did the best she could while raising me. She always did what she thought was right, and I will always be thankful for her support through the years. Raising a child with mental illness isn’t an easy thing, and I think she understood what I was going through less than I did – at least I was experiencing it first hand and could have put it into words if I were pressured – and that had to have been a nightmare for her and Dad alike.

I feel like in many ways I’ve either disappointed her by not being able to live up to my potential thanks to the many curve balls that life has thrown me, or let her down because I don’t earn enough to have her closer or visit her more or take better care of her. That’s something that I have to live with.

So Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m sorry I didn’t turn out the way you had hoped. I did the best I could with what I had, and there were so very many times that wasn’t enough to move me forward in life. Chances are good that because of that, the rest of my own life is going to be a very difficult struggle, very similar to what you’re going through on your own right now. I know you take this on yourself, that you believe it’s all you. It’s not. I want you to know that it’s not your fault that I turned out like this; there’s so many outside influences that conspired to make me the way I am that there will never be any one place to point a finger and say “it’s only because of you that I wound up this way.” I can’t say genetically which side of the family this has its roots in, so I can’t and won’t point a finger in either of your directions. I can’t honestly say that the way I was raised didn’t contribute to the situation either – I am the sum total of my genetic makeup and the experiences I have had throughout my life, and you are part of that experience, just as my school experiences and the hell I went through when I was 13 are. I know you blame yourself, so for what little part of this that is your contribution to the puzzle that is my mind, I forgive you for anything that you might have inadvertently done to exacerbate what was already there. You did your best, and that’s the part that I choose to focus on, rather than assigning blame where it’s impossible to do.

And for the part that you had control over – my moral compass, my sense of right and wrong, my desire to treat others well and do good with my life – you did an exceedingly good job, perhaps too good in some ways. (The game that I played frequently when I was staying with you in 2009 during your radiation treatment had a villain side, where you could play someone evil and dastardly, and you did such a good job instilling in me what was RIGHT and what was GOOD I barely ever played that half of the game – I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how to be that kind of person and I still can’t today.) I’m proud of those aspects of my life, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. When it comes down to it, having those core beliefs is far more important than anything you might have contributed to me having a rougher life than I would have liked. For that part of who I am, I cannot thank you enough.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I miss you.

A Very Merry Re-Birthday

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Today, my mother turns 21.

Now, let me explain how a 21-year-old can give birth to someone in their mid-forties.

It was early fall 1994, and my mother was complaining of a sore spot in her breast. She did self-exams, and found a tender place that felt like a lump. She went to her doctor, who didn’t think much of it, but scheduled a lumpectomy for her on October 12.

Mom went in, they did the lumpectomy, the doctor looked at it, decided it was benign, and stitched Mom back up. As per protocol, they sent the lump to pathology and sent mom to post-op for recovery.

The doctor got a call later from pathology, suggesting that he might want to reschedule her to get a larger margin around the site.

The lump was malignant. My mother had breast cancer.

Mom was a trooper, getting the larger margin excised and a full round of radiation treatments to be sure. She lost a total of fifteen minutes of work throughout the entire experience.

In 2009, she had a quasi-re-occurrence. They found a pre-cancerous lump and repeated the lumpectomy and radiation procedure. I traveled from Chicago to Raleigh to be with her during this time, and was there for about seven weeks.

Today marks the occasion of her becoming a 21-year breast cancer survivor.

My mother and I get along, mostly, though we have our moments when we don’t see eye to eye, like when I’m trying to do tech support for her long distance. I still love her to pieces and wish there were a way to spend more time with her as she moves into her 80s. She doesn’t have a ton of years left and I don’t see the opportunity arising to get her moved out here with us anytime soon.

But I’m thankful she’s on the other end of the line when I call still, and going strong.

Here’s to 21 more years, Mom. You deserve them. I love you.

June 6, 2015: Three Good Things

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1. I might be returning to a normal slate of healthcare professionals soon. I have an appointment with a new psychiatrist on Thursday.

2. My mother’s replacement phone came today. It’s charged and ready to be sent over to her.

3. I finished a book today, cutting my reading list down to five concurrent books I’m currently reading.

Progress is Progressing

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I saw my therapist today.

We had a good session. I mentioned that I completed last session’s homework and that it worked well, and we agreed that the next step is for the tool in question to be self-implemented, and done so earlier than my wife implemented it over the previous week.

We discussed my back problems, my relationship with Mom, my relationship with my daughter (okay, so, it was more like ten solid minutes of me openly and unashamedly bragging about her, but still, she was a topic of discussion), and my relationship with my new fitness log, the one my therapist turned me onto two sessions ago.

With the change in schedule, I’m finding that it’s becoming easier and easier to justify a fourth meal late at night, and that’s been blowing my caloric intake every day since the change. I’ve gained a couple pounds back, and so this week’s homework is to find a way to get that caloric intake back on track. I’m noticing that while I can easily skip items on my checklist and not have it affect me greatly, missing that calorie target really gets me down, and subsequent days I miss the mark exacerbate that situation.

We also set our first goal for therapy, which is related. My goal is to lose 15 pounds by Labor Day weekend. That’s a little over a pound a week, which I think is doable.

I also shared this blog with my therapist, so everyone behave and look busy. I have appearances to keep up now. (So kidding. I’m not going to start editing things now, though I won’t be going into a lot of detail about my therapy sessions as a general rule, only when the details are important for me to remember as time goes on. You might notice the new category for therapy posts as well. The Beatles theme continues.)

June 5, 2015: Three Good Things

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1. After telling my mother about the death of her sister-in-law, she seemed to take it fairly well, only breaking down once for a very short period of time. I did the best I could breaking the news to her gently and it seems to have been sufficient. (I’m not making bets on her having broken down once I got off the phone, though.)

2. LEGO Architecture build #7 is complete – the United Nations headquarters in New York. It joins the Guggenheim Museum, Big Ben, the Trevi Fountain, the Seattle Space Needle, the Empire State Building, and the Lincoln Memorial. I’ve always had an interest in architecture and this is a way I can enjoy architecture and still feel like a kid about it.

3. I had my first steak without salt tonight. Almost as flavorful as it was when I was salting the crap out of my food.

Bonus! I got everything done on the checklist except for exercise and stretching. Considering that I had planned today as a pass due to finding about my aunt’s death, I seem to have kept right on plugging through the day, though I admittedly slept through most of it. I’m over on my caloric intake for the day, so we’ll call that my pass.