Electronic Birthdays

This is how birthdays are for me: Today my sister and a friend sent me a happy birthday text and my oldest daughter said, “Happy birthday, Mom.” (My youngest is with her father, so I am not sure if I’ll get to talk to her today or not.) The chiropractor I saw in Portland sent me a personal email yesterday. It was nice because I could tell he actually wrote it. Then this morning, in addition to sister, friend, and child, I got two form emails from two dermatologists I saw 3 or 4 years ago, and a form text from the chiropractor I see here in town. It says “msg&data rates may apply.” It’s so pathetic it is almost funny. Might they? Might I have to pay Verizon because of a form text telling me some computer was glad I was born?

Thankfully I have unlimited texting so I won’t have to pay more than I already do for the service, but it’s a pretty sad state of affairs that this is what the world has come to. I don’t have facebook anymore. Too many reasons not to. However, when I did, I turned off the birthday feature because it bothered me that I would get 20 happy birthday messages on facebook and not one phone call or face to face interaction from humans I know. I know there are those who would say I should be grateful for the 20 happy birthday messages, but I felt like they were not much really. Facebook tells users it is someone’s birthday so they don’t have to expend more effort that it takes to type a little post. Honestly a text has more meaning to me than a facebook post.

In years past I have been upset that no one remembered or cared about my birthday. Then last year a lot of people remembered and either called or texted. It was nice, but also a little unnerving to me. I’m not sure why. I didn’t really like the attention. It’s something of a paradox; I want people to remember that I am alive and that I was born, but I don’t want them to draw attention to it. I know, I’m weird.

This year, no one seems to remember (not even Mum, but she doesn’t remember her own birthday let alone mine, so it’s not like I’m unusual), and I honestly don’t mind. I just find it interesting that there are all these companies that have turned my birthday into a marketing ploy. Dr. Herold in Portland knows I’m not going to be driving to Portland for a chiro session, so his email does not feel like a marketing ploy at all. He is really nice and we have had many non-chiropractor conversations, so I know his happy birthday is more than just a way to get himself business. While typing this, a text came in from a woman I have known since I was a baby. She remembered too. She is so sweet.

So much of today’s world seems to be a stand in for real life. Get a text. Get an email. Get a notice on facebook. Of all the birthday interactions I have had thus far today, only one has been with a human interacting with me as a human. And now this is how things are. No wonder I feel so isolated all of the time. Even when it’s easier, a lot of people I know will text rather than call.

Well, wonders never cease. My mom interrupted this little — whatever it is — by calling to wish me a happy birthday. Wonders never cease because she has stroke dementia. Sometimes she is remarkably lucid. Others, not so much. Lately the not so much outweighs the lucid by about 4 to 1. I have tried calling her multiple times over the last couple of weeks.  She doesn’t notice her phone ringing. She doesn’t notice messages. I thought for sure she had no idea it was my birthday. She forgot last year. In any case, she did it. I love her. I hope she’s around next year for the next one.

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A Dispiriting Decline

When one hits the age where things begin happening to their parents in the decline of old age, it is dispiriting. I see my mother declining and I’m not sure she will last the year. I can’t tell her this. She actually believes she is going to live into her hundreds, as many of our older relatives have. The difference between those long-lived ancestors, though, is that they were very active. My mother is not. She is not active. She has arthritic knees. She sits a lot. She ignores advice that tells her movement is better for arthritis and general well-being. She also has sleep apnea but refuses to wear her sleep apnea machine. She has now had a stroke. They say it came from plaque in her arteries. They want to give her drugs (after scraping the arteries clean), but tell her exercise is best. She won’t exercise. The sleep apnea may also have contributed, but she won’t use the machine. What was the point of going to the sleep clinic and figuring out she has sleep apnea if she won’t use the machine to help the sleep apnea? They said she had some of the worst sleep apnea they had ever seen. Not treating it can cause heart attacks and strokes. Does she want another stroke? Is she trying to kill herself by doing nothing?

I stand aside and watch this decline. It is disheartening, and as I said before, dispiriting. One cannot control another or make them do what they won’t do. I want to scream: Just get up and walk down your driveway, already! (The driveway is a mile long.) Yet this would be futile.

Fue Tile. Futile. Dispiriting. Disheartening. All these magnificent little words. I love the words. I do not love how their meanings affect me.

After I wrote this, I asked my mom directly about not using her sleep apnea equipment. She said that her sleep apnea went away because she slept on her side. I asked my friend Debbie, who is somewhat of an expert on sleep apnea, and she said that if she didn’t have the central system sleep apnea, it is possible that it did go away. I hope this is true. I know my mom did not get told by a physician that it was gone, but perhaps it did. Perhaps it did not cause her stroke.

Sweetheart

My daughter and I were leaving New Seasons, the grocery near our house. My angel trailed behind me chatting up everyone she saw. She is such a sparkly little person. A fellow was getting into the car next to mine. She told him she just “loved” his hat, it was so “beautiful,” then she turned on her million dollar smile and waved.

He was enchanted. His face lit up in a smile. He turned to me and said, “Your daughter is a sweetheart. She is just a total sweetheart.” Then he said, “You must be a sweetheart too, to have a sweetheart like her.” Well, that just warmed my heart. I’m truly blessed. I get to have this sweetheart in my life. She does make me sweeter. I’m grateful for her every day.

Isabel’s Thought for the Morning

This morning I was wiping down the kitchen counters, picking up clutter, moving here and there. Isabel was sitting at the dining table eating her cereal. She turned to me and said, “Maybe our dreams are real life, and real life is our dream.” Yes, Isabel. I’ve considered that myself. I love living with a five year old. They get you out of the space of business as usual and remind you of imaginative possibilities.

I’m Glad I’m not from a Crime Syndicate Family

I’m so glad I wasn’t born into a crime syndicate family.  I suppose had I been born into a crime syndicate family that perhaps I might not be aware how much the stress of the violence and constant disruption was harming me

I’m sitting here typing this and it sounds like a cat is growling outside my window.  However I got up (got cold) and went and stood out there, but couldn’t hear anything.  I leaned over to determine whether the moaning sounds might be some kind of deep whistle emanating from Isabel in her sleep, but it wasn’t.  No.  Definitely sounds like cat moan.  I have no idea what it could be that I can hear it in my house and not outside, which is where it would have to be.  I even checked upstairs and in the basement.  Silence.  Distraction.

My primary point isn’t the cat moan.  It is supposed to be my gratitude that I’m not from a crime syndicate family.  My family had enough problems without adding the stress of constant crime and murder and disappearing relatives and all that.  I’ve spent most of my adult life reconnecting the disconnected parts of myself, becoming whole, examining patterns from the past and working to change blind spot reactions and all that.  The result is that I’m beginning to see the splits all around me.  If I had been born into a crime syndicate family (I’m going to call it a CSF for short), I likely would not have these insights without having experienced some incredible trauma, and even then, it would have been really difficult.  In this regard, I’m so grateful to my family for only traumatizing me a little bit, in their own blind-spot way.

If I had been born into a CSF, I probably would have had to go live in Australia or some kind of witness protection program.  That would be rough in any circumstance, but imagine it from the perspective of a person who grew up in a CSF.  You have no normal moral compass.  You realize something is wrong, turn against the family, and have to be put into witness protection, whereby you are forced to live in some other place with strangers, etc., and act like a normal person, only you aren’t.  You’re used to seeing people handle problems with revenge and whatnot. Someone cuts in front of you in line at the grocery and you want to knock them in the head and throw them in the trunk, but you can’t, or you might get put in jail, whereupon the family would have you killed for turning snitch. Or the head hitting and trunking might end up on the news, at which point your protection isn’t so secret anymore.  Being in witness protection as one raised in a CSF is simply fraught with peril.  Perhaps there is some moral code if you grew up with the boss, and could see when the boss was lenient or whatever.  But what if you grew up in one of the lesser families, one where revenge and drug use were rampant.  Maybe because you were allowed to watch movies or something and you could see that others weren’t like your family.  Or maybe because a school teacher or counselor was kind to you, you figured out there was an alternative, but really you have no idea.  Or worse, you just turn against the family to save your own ass from jail.  Real issues there.  And then you get to go into witness protection.  That would be tough. It really isn’t something I would want in my life, that’s for sure.

I got this all typed up and then I was typing up the tags and picked “Crime syndicate family,” but I’ll bet I’m the only person with that tag on any posts.  That would be cool.  The only person in the whole wide world with CSF for a tag.  Awesome.

Generational Differences

This essay was published on Huffington Post, and can be seen here.

When I was a child, we played outside, rode bikes without helmets, we rode in cars without booster seats, and our parents didn’t organize and supervise play dates.

This is a popular meme making the rounds on social media. It’s usually accompanied by a photo of some kid jumping something enormous on a Big Wheel with no helmet, hair flying maniacally, face full of joy. The implication of course is that today’s children are too coddled. The Atlantic just did a big article on this subject (See here). The article was good. It focused on helicopter parents and people who won’t let their children do anything with risk.

But I think it’s a mistake to revere the way things used to be. When I was a child…keep reading by clicking here.

The Bratty Puppy

Tonight my daughter, while studying for finals this week, was cuddling in her bed with George the puppy, work splayed out about her. George was under the covers sound asleep. Milla needed to go to the bathroom. She rose, set her papers aside, went upstairs and used the facilities, after which she returned to her room.

On the surface, it appeared nothing had changed. However, when she sat down, she could not locate her algebra study sheet anywhere. Finally, after searching futilely for several minutes, she discovered the sheet shredded under her bed cover, George snoozing soundly next to it.

For real. The dog ate her homework. I saw the shreds. He got up while she was gone for three minutes, shredded the damn thing, then curled up and went back to sleep.

Remarkable.