Another Recognition

DIsability

Kim from I Tripped Over A Stone is keeping me busy, bestowing me the honor of the Disability Award. They say that plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery, so I will mimic what Kim mentioned in her piece, and refer to this as the disAbility Award. I’d much rather focus on the positive than the negative, and  view being saddled with Multiple Sclerosis as a bump in the road instead of letting it define me.

Part of the deal is to respond to ten questions Kim asked, and pass the gauntlet to other bloggers who live with disabilities. Many of the bloggers I know who fit that description have already been nominated, so I will pass on that one. Onto the questions:

What were the first symptoms you experienced?   I was on my treadmill and my leg literally stopped working. I couldn’t bend my knee, lift it, or control it whatsoever. It dangled like an overcooked strand of spaghetti, and I practically had to fall off the treadmill onto a nearby couch before I really injured myself. It was a surreal experience and freaky as hell. The symptoms disappeared completely shortly thereafter, and my mind was racing. I knew something very wrong had occurred, but could not fathom what it was. After the symptoms vanished, I didn’t tell a soul. After all, how could I possibly explain what just transpired? No physician could assess it without actually seeing it in action, so I decided to bury the incident. I ignored it, hoping and half-believing that it would never happen again. We know how that turned out.

Name one good thing that has come from of your chronic illness. Perspective. I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, and have a greater appreciation for everything that is good in my life.

What is the one thing that is believed to be accurate about your condition that isn’t? That is s tough one. MS is known as the snowflake disease because it affects everyone who suffers from it differently. Our combination of symptoms is as unique as our fingerprints, so I honestly can’t think of anything. If anyone who reads this can come up with something, please feel free to chime in.

What is the worse symptom you have to deal with? There are a number of them, but the worst has to be balance, or lack of it. I use a cane all the time, more for balance than anything else, although walking is not easy. But my balance is so bad that I can turn an ankle or fall down by just leaning in the wrong direction. I’m toast if I lose my center of gravity. Most folks would assume chronic pain would be number one on this list, but I fortunately have avoided that bugger for now. Hopefully it stays that way.

What advice would you give to someone who is newly diagnosed? Get a good neurologist who specializes in MS. Read as much as you can about the disease so you know what you might be dealing with. Be proactive in your treatment, and don’t be afraid to try anything. If you have the primary progressive variety of MS like me, remember that nothing you try will improve your symptoms over a long period of time or make them go away. The name of the game is to keep things stable and minimize or delay the pace and spread of the progression. I have been successful (so far) in that endeavor.  The symptoms have certainly progressed within my leg, but they still remain confined to that single limb after eleven years.

What is the one thing you miss doing before you were diagnosed? Going on long walks with my wife.

What is the one thing that helps you the most with your symptoms? Medical marijuana. If you want to read more about that, look here, here, here, and here.

Do you find the word disability offensive? Not in the least, primarily because it is a fact. I have a disability. Besides, disability is a hell of a lot better than handicapped. I despise that word.

Since your illness, what is the most important lesson you have learned about yourself? Although I have always felt this way, dealing with this disease has proven that I am a resilient, stubborn, tough (in a good way) upbeat, and half-glass-full kind of guy.

Do you celebrate the 4th of July? Of course! Besides, that also happens to be my mother-in-law’s birthday, and she lives with us.

Thanks again Kim. I am glad that we are part of each other’s respective tribes.

 

 

 

Virus

I had everything planned for this past weekend. Do some painting on the new house on Saturday, have a relaxing Father’s Day where I did very little as possible, take Monday off for my annual physical, do a few errands, then do some more work around the house site.

Well, the first part of that went according to plan, but when I woke up on Sunday, I had a raging sore throat and felt a little punky. I looked at my CPAP machine and discovered I had run out of water, which explained the sore throat, which went away after a cup of hot tea. But as K and I traveled to the cemetery to leave a Father’s Day plant on my Mom and Dad’s grave, a raspy cough settled in and my nose started burning. I figured it was a cold, and didn’t think too much of it because the last time I had a cold it was short lived, so I assumed this one would be too. Besides, it eliminated the temptation to do anything strenuous , and I was down for that because that doesn’t happen too often.

But when I woke up Monday morning I felt warm and sweaty, but attributed that to the cold. I ran two errands and delivered some stuff to the job site, but when I returned home, I felt really fatigued, but again figured it was a combination of the cold and the MS. Besides, I’d be seeing the doctor in a couple of hours and he’d assure me it was what I thought it was.

When they took my temp once I got into the exam room, the temp registered 100.8, and the doctor said my lungs, ears and sinuses were clear, that what I was dealing with was a virus, and that a lot of that was still going around. My instructions were to go home, drink a lot of fluids, take it easy, and let it run its course. So I went home, took a shower and hibernated in the spare bedroom, not wanting to share the joy. A few hours later I felt really hot, took my temp and looked at the digital display that read 102.3. Fuck!

So I took some aspirin, sweated like a pig for two hours, and felt infinitely better. The temp read 100.5 as I turned out the lights, and I figured that the worst was over. I’d stay home another day, lay low and be as good as new come dinner time. Unfortunately the thermometer was back up to 101 and change when I awoke in a sweat and has fluctuated been that and 102 all day. My nose burns but is clear, my cough is heavy, deep and dry, and my ribs are sore from the periodic coughing spasms.

All day long I haven’t ventured out of my room because I don’t want K to get this, since the house progress is more dependent on her than me, and am bored out of my fucking mind. Why else would I write something so mundane as describing this virus. It has been the most stimulating thing I have done all day.

The picture that started this post is what I have been staring at all day when I wasn’t watching Netflix. As you can see, it is cloudy, damp and dreary, which fits my mood perfectly. The frustrating thing is I don’t feel so sick where I can just sleep all day, but whenever I do anything I feel the heat rising.

Isn’t it interesting what you will watch on TV when you are so bored you want to scream? So far I have watched the documentary on Ted Bundy, who I knew nothing about (what a sick, evil fuck) some of the Ken Burns documentary on Vietnam Nam, and a documentary about Metallica that chronicled the band almost breaking up. Real cheerful stuff, I know, but like the weather, it fits my mood.

My MO is never to go to work when I am sick, and to let 24 hours pass when it comes to a fever. Based on that I am looking at another day isolated from everyone. It probably serves me right because one of the things I have been crowing about ever since I was diagnosed with MS, and that was 11 years ago, is that I rarely get sick anymore. I can count the number of times I have been sick on one hand. If memory serves me correctly, three days on the shelf will be the longest I have been down since then, and I have forgotten how much I hate being sick. I wouldn’t be in such a grumpy mood if this was going to be limited to one day. But I am looking at day 2 tomorrow, and I have no idea if there will be a day 3. If that happens, maybe I will suck on my vape pen all day long and let the MMJ mellow my angst. That will either kill me or cure me.

I have no idea how I will spend the day tomorrow, other than get up to pee every hour because I am pushing fluids. Maybe I will find something else to vent about. Meanwhile, thank you for indulging me. And send whatever positive vibes you can my way over the blogosphere.

I am really getting tired of this shit.

Two For The Price of One

Kim of  I Tripped Over a Stone fame nominated me for two blogger awards. The Blogger Recognition Award and the Sunshine Blogger Award. I appreciate her thinking of me and gladly accept both awards from a individual whose perseverance and blog I admire. Please take the time to check out her blog

I will let the Blogger recognition questions stand as is, and I will answer 11 new questions for the Sunshine Blogger Award. The rules ask that I nominate 11 other bloggers to receive BOTH of these awards, but I am going to pass on that since many of the people I would nominate have already been nominated by Kim or other bloggers in my tribe.

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AWARD RULES:

  • Thank the nominator, and publish a post on your blog about receiving the Blogger Recognition Award. Make sure to provide a link to the nominator’s blog in your post.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started. 
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Nominate 10-15 other bloggers for this award, and inform them of their nomination (going to pass on this one, see my previous comment).

I. How I got started

I wrote a novel a two years ago, and my agent gave me a laundry list of social media items she recommended I undertake to develop more of an on-line presence and to perhaps develop a following that would help entice publishers. The least onerous of these duties was starting a blog. I have Multiple Sclerosis, and so does the main character of my book, although it is not autobiographical, so most of the posts when I started involved some aspect of my MS experience. The subject matter expanded from there, once I started running out of new things to talk about, and the rest is history.

II. Two pieces of advice for new bloggers

Two pieces of advice…hmmmmmm.

  1. Be yourself and write what you feel. Writing from the heart is the easiest way to come up with ideas. This can be uncomfortable at times, but it can also be cathartic. It also helps develop a following. Be genuine, and don’t let the primary focus of your blog be for sales or self promotion. And no BS. Folks recognize that after a while, and it is a major turn-off.
  2. Read and Support Other Bloggers. People, most of them your fellow bloggers, will read and “like” your posts. Take the opportunity to read what they have to say, then follow those whose subject and writing you enjoy. “Like” their pieces so they know you are paying attention, and write comments as often as you can. You’ll become part of a network, or tribe, of other writers and develop friendships along the way. You will also be amazed at how many brilliant writers exist in the world.

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Award Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog so that others can find them.
  • Add the award logo to your blog.
  • List the rules.
  • Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
  • Nominate 11 bloggers for the award and ask them 11 new questions.
  • Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.

 

Kim’s Questions:

  1. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

An early bird all the way, although I don’t go to bed super early. The fact is I don’t get enough sleep.

2. What is your personal favorite post on your own blog that you’ve published up until today? (Link it!)

That’s a tough one as I have written over 100 pieces, and it is hard to claim a favorite. So the one I am going to mention is one I wrote about diets several months ago because this is the post that has received the most likes of all the ones I have written. I guess is struck a chord.

3. What time of day do you dread?

I really don’t “dread” any particular time of day. My least favorite is waking up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 every weekday morning to get ready for work (I’m an early bird, remember?). But at least it beats the alternative of not waking up.

4. Have you been on the vacation of your dreams or still planning it?

I am definitely the happy traveler. Have bag, will travel. Unfortunately, my spouse is the exact opposite, but I knew that going in. So my dream vacation will remain that way: a dream. Besides, travelling with MS has made travelling with much more complicated than ever. See this for details. I will add that that I have been to many major cities and most states within the continental US, and a few Caribbean islands. But the MS, as you can see if you read the link, has certainly curtailed my desire to explore. My favorite trip was to Anchorage, Alaska. They don’t call that state The Last Frontier for nothing, and I would highly recommend visiting it during the summer when it is light out most if not all of the time.

5. Name your dream car!

I’m not really a car guy, so I will channel my wife and name her dream car: A red 58 Corvette convertible.

6. If you see a penny on the ground, do you pick it up?

Sometimes.

7. If you could pick a book title (actual or fabricated) to describe your life over the past 10 years, what would it be?

Shit Happens.

8 What is the song title that best describes your life over the last 10 years?

Better Man, by Keb Mo. Look it up.

9. Ever thought of going vegan?

Never. I eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, beans and grains as it is, and don’t eat a lot of red meat. Maybe some day, but going completely vegan takes a lot of time I don’t currently have.

10. I have to know, do you still have a landline???

Yep, and probably always will. Call me a dinosaur.

11. BOUNS QUESTION: Do you always respond to these types of nominations.

Most of the time, but not always.

Taking A Break

break

The one thing I committed myself to when I started this blog was to post something every week. Every once in a while I would become inspired and post two or three times, but that was the exception. Friday was posting day, then come Wednesday or Thursday an idea would pop into my noggin or I’d consult the list of topics I keep for a rainy day. When that occurred I would start writing and editing, then post it whenever Friday rolled around. That has been the routine since the summer of 2017, and the stats tell me it has repeated itself 114 times.

That number is staggering to me, primarily because I didn’t think I had that much to say, or that anyone would be interested in reading anything I wrote. I was pleasantly surprised to learn otherwise, and an organic momentum developed where it felt like a part of me was missing if I didn’t tickle the keyboard at least once a week.

That streak may soon end.

I am giving myself permission to take a break this summer and abandon the weekly deadline, primarily because I am up to my eyeballs in work, both on the job and at home. Since I am a little obsessive-compulsive when it comes to sending something into the blogosphere, it typically takes a few hours a week for me to start, edit, then re-edit something before I am done. That amount of time has become in short supply lately, which has caused me to fall woefully behind reading and commenting on the blogs I follow.

The well is also running a little dry. I have one item left on my list of things to write about, but I’m not motivated to share it right now. Trying to come up with another topic that gets my juices flowing is fruitless because it feels like a lot of work, and would be like trying to force a square peg into a round hole.

The truth is I am tired and worn down. Between the job, the work surrounding the new house, and my writing, fatigue has set in, more mental than physical. I don’t think it’s the MS, although I have been prone to bouts of it on occasion, which is par for the course with this disease. Regardless, I can’t let this become the norm or I will be as useful as tits on a bull when I need to be at my energetic best when moving day approaches.

This is not goodbye. Far from it. I suspect I’ll go to an every other week schedule, although I could go longer between posts. It all depends on what I have to say and if I have the time and desire to share it. I’m not a fan of  re-blogging, but may resort to that rather than going a month without writing anything. Who knows, maybe I will use some of this time to begin the new novel.

All week long I have wondered if this lethargy is a temporary rut, and I’ll will wind up getting my second wind and post something next week and the week after that, etc. That has happened a number of times before. Perhaps it will, and I’ll feel silly about this meandering, whining dissertation. But I think not.

Guess we’ll find out together.

 

 

 

 

Unsettled

Unsettled

It has been a while since I’ve written about the new house, primarily because the process has been slow and steady.  I may have mentioned before that this is the third time we’ve done this, the last time having occurred almost twenty years ago, and each time reminds you of the the highs and lows that go with the territory of such an endeavor. I had forgotten about the myriad of decisions that have to be made, about the emotional swings, and how the progress can feel like it is zipping along one week, then slow to a snail’s pace the next.

Memories of the first house we built are near and dear to my heart, primarily because it was the first, but also because we fired the contractor before we were under roof. With the help of my father-in-law, a retired carpenter who could, with perhaps the exception of pouring a foundation, build a house from top to bottom, we became our own general contractors and finished the job in less than four months. That experience is a story in itself.

Each house is different, and this one has the distinction of K being the general contrtactor from the start, and because we started in late autumn.  It has been an interesting process so far. When we initially broke ground, it was easy to measure the progress because clearing the site, pouring the foundation and floors, framing the structure and installing the roof were all visable markers.

It was exciting to witness, but the project was still in its infancy, and didn’t feel real in many ways.  That may seem a little silly because the eyes don’t lie, and you could see the drawings on a blueprint come to life, but we were still making tweaks to the design, and the idea of actually moving felt distant, at least for me. True to form, I compartmentalized the entire concept of what I knew would eventually arrive. After all, why fret over something that isn’t imminent?

Since then, it hasn’t been as easy to chart the progress, yet the progress has been real and is now moving quickly. Once the shell was up, the roof on and the windows in, the indoor work began. Once that occurred, the structure really began to take shape, although it might not have appeared to looking at it from the outside. But as we speak, the inside has been competely framed, all of the interior plumbing has been roughed in and so has most of the electical wiring and interior duct-work.  The siding is more than half-way completed, and the deck that will also have a screened-in porch is almost done. Every time I go on site I see something new and different. You can see the rooms take shape, and see how everything fits. It is beginning to look like a real house, and I am beginning to think of our current home in the past tense.

We still have a ways to go. The garage floor needs to be poured, the sheet rock needs to go up, all the cabinetry and fixtures need to be installed, the finish carpentry needs to be completed, the heating system installed, the plumbing and electrical work finished, the floors installed, the walls painted, the driveways created and the exterior grading finished. But most of the decisions have been made in regards to the materials and subcontractors, and it is a matter of lining them up and getting them in. I am hoping that we will be able to move into the new place before July is over, but have no idea how realistic that goal is.

Nonetheless, the move is imminent, and therefore very real. As exciting as that prospect is, and as much as I want it to happen sooner than later, we are also in a state of limbo, and I find that very unsettling.

Why? Well, an endeavor like this has a lot of moving parts, and while you try to plan for the choreography of events that never ends, it never goes according to plan. There are always glitches and unexpected costs that need to be addressed. I knew from the beginning that as this project neared completion, the bills would begin to mount, and that things would be tight until we sold our current house. That has always been my hot-button, and it is on the verge of being pushed.

While the thought of being settled into a house that I know is well built and tailored to our specifications is comforting and brings a smile to my face, the idea of moving makes me want to curl into a fetal position. This will be our fifth move, but I was a lot younger, more able-bodied, and full of piss and vinegar during the previous four. Perhaps I was also a more naive about what the move actually entails: packing boxes,  unpacking boxes, setting up the new house, and getting the new lawn and landscaping established. I know better now.

Then there is the process of getting our current home ready for the market, which in my mind is worse than the actual move itself. We have some cosmetic work that needs to be done to make the house look its best, and have to inventory every single item we own, deciding what to keep, donate, pawn off or take to he dump. It is a time consuming, tedious and mind-numbing process. I am very impatient when it comes to this shit, and want to devote as little time as possible to it. I don’t want to debate the details of what stays or goes, so my impulse is to throw a lot of stuff away, consequences be damned! K attaches more emotion, sentimentality and careful thought to the process, so I am going to have to do my best to meet her half way and not become irritable as we comb through the history of our life in that place.

Once all that is done and the move is completed, the final hurdle is to sell the house for the price we want. I am feeling the pressure of time, because common sense dictates you want to sell your house during the peak selling seasons of spring or summer. Waiting until the fall or, God forbid, winter, would not be ideal. We’ll be up to our eyeballs in debt by then because we will be carrying what amounts to two mortgages, and when that occurs I will be a basket case of worry until the house is sold.

How the MS is going to factor into all of this is anyone’s guess. I know I don’t do well in the heat of the summer, which is theoretically when all of this will occur. I also know a lot of stress isn’t good either, but I don’t see how that can be avoided. I have no idea whether the MS is going to allow me to be as involved and engaged as I want to be and, assuming it does, what my body will feel like when this is over. This was not a factor before, and brings an another layer of anxiety to the process. I want to roll up my sleeves and do as much on site as I can instead of paying others to do it, but will my body allow it? I’ll probably be sucking on that vape pen quite a bit.

These were all realities last fall, but they were theortetical. It’s an entirely different ballgame when they are on your doorstep. Between dealing with the day to day issues of getting the house built, dealing with cost overruns and planning for the actual move, the new house has taken a life of its own and consumes most of our time and energy. The strain is worse on K than for me because she is the general contractor. She is on the front lines every day, and has to deal with a myriad of personalities and other crap that is too long and complicated to get into.  She is really good at this and has done a remarkable job, but it is sometimes painful to witness.

We are on the verge of entering the final stretch, where everything comes to a head. Critical mass is approaching where we prepare and transition from one place to another. I feel it approaching. It is an unstoppable force, a test of endurance, stamina and nerve.  The feeling is exciting and terrifying, exhilarating and draining.

Summer has always been my favorite season. I have always enjoyed this carefree time of year when when I’m lounging by the pool, enjoying evening fires on our patio, and hanging out in shorts, t-shirts and bare feet. I’m always saddened when September rolls around because I know the cold winter months will soon be approaching. I never imagined a day would come when I’d wish the summer away, but here we are.

I can’t wait for this to be over.

Route 60

Rt 60

When I wrote about turning sixty a couple of months ago, I talked about not obsessing about age, being on the home stretch of life, looking forward to retirement, and things of that nature.  All of that is and remains true, but something interesting has happened in the weeks that have followed, as I begin my voyage on Route 60 and beyond: I have become introspective about what that milestone means, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

This isn’t going to be a maudlin, woe is me lament, because I’m not sad, depressed or in any way discouraged. But for some reason a light bulb has gone on in my mind about life going forward, and I’ve embraced it.

I knew retirement was a place on life’s map I would eventually reach, but I never gave it much thought because it was beyond the horizon, not even a blip on the radar. It was more conceptual than real. Oh, I planned for it in terms of 401Ks and things of that nature, but it was more conceptual than real, out of sight and out of mind. Reaching my seventh decade has changed that narrative, and not in a bad way.

Once this house is built and we have moved, I suspect this will become the next big thing to actively plan for. I need to work for as long as I can because the MS makes me a heavy consumer of healthcare services, I want to keep my health insurance for long as possible, and get most if not all of the social security benefits I am eligible for, assuming it is still solvent. The time frame I’m working with is six years, and the one thing I have learned about aging is that time seems to pass a lot more quickly than it did in my youth. So it will be here before I know it.

There might have been a time when I looked at this scenario with doom and gloom. I could have viewed it as the beginning of the end, when I had one foot in the grave and another on a banana peel. I don’t see it that way now. Instead of it being the beginning of the end, I consider it the end of the beginning.

What is not to like about your time being your own, about not having to get up early to get ready for work? What  downside is there to planning ones day with stuff that you want to do, not stuff that you have to do. How can one not enjoy hanging out with your spouse and doing what you please. Granted, these years will also bring advancing age, and all the aches, pain and challenges that come with it, but I’m guessing they also bring a freedom that we only dream about when we are entrenched in a life dominated by kids, career and running a household.

I also know that being retired begins our final stretch of road in life, which can be unnerving. But that destination is like retirement was decades ago, a blip on the radar far beyond the horizon. So like the idea of retirement, I’ll mull that reality over when the time comes. My parents were both blessed with long life, passing at 96 and 92, so I am assuming longevity won’t skip a generation, the MS not withstanding. So maybe I’ll dwell on how much remains of that final stretch when I really am old. Like when I am in my eighties.

Meanwhile I am all in and looking forward to an empty nest to not having to shave if I don’t want to, and staying up as late as I want or sleeping in as much as I want. Maybe nothing will change as far as my grooming and sleeping habits are concerned, but it will be my choice.

I enjoy doing absolutely nothing, but that gets boring after a while, so I know K and I will need to find something to meaningfully occupy our time. I can see myself writing more, having all day at my disposal instead of the bits and pieces I grab now. The possibilities are endless, and I’m looking forward to having to having to make those decisions like a kid looks forward to seeing what Santa brought on Christmas eve. It’s a liberating thought.

Of course there is the issue of being able to afford retirement, but we have a good start on that front, and it will give me something else to plan for, which I enjoy doing. Even though I know the foundation in place will continue to grow, it’s hard to concentrate on that now as we burn through cash while the house is being built. I will focus on it like a laser beam once we are in the new house and have sold our current one. A clearer picture of our needs, and how much more can squirreled away while I remain a working slug, will emerge by then. There will no distractions or restrictions getting in the way of planning and preparing for building what we need to have our unfettered time together.

Six years should be more than enough to accomplish that. Getting reestablished in the new place is the first hurdle though, and that has created a separate vibe that grows as the house nears completion. More on that next week.

 

A Tribute to Mom(s)

Mom

I’ve been thinking about my Mom a lot these past few days, perhaps because Mothers Day is this weekend. September will mark the four year anniversary of her death, and it’s hard to believe she has been gone for that long.

I wasn’t devastated when she passed of a cerebral hemorrhage. Don’t get me wrong, I was sad and distraught, but she was in her nineties and blessed with pretty good health most of her life. Her end was a quick one and did not involve any suffering, which she always hoped for. So while her passing saddened me, I couldn’t help but be happy for her and the full life she enjoyed. She exited this world the way she wanted, and wouldn’t have to grieve over the death of my Dad any more, who had passed four months prior. They had been married for 58 years, and she was devastated by his passing, which surprised me a little because he annoyed her to no end, and they constantly fought like cats and dogs.

Mom was a paradox. My biggest supporter and biggest critic, I cared about her opinion more than any other but also hated her at times because they could be very blunt and, from the perspective of a kid and young adult, her words and tone were insensitive. I don’t doubt that the reason for any success I have achieved in life was because of her pushing, prodding, encouragement, and support to do my best, for never allowing me to do things half-assed, and her belief that I was capable of achieving anything.  There is also no question that she is the root of the self-doubt and insecurity that is my Achilles Heel.

I once heard someone describe their boss as a comfort and a curse, and the same could be said of Mom, although the balance of that is skewed heavily towards the comfort side, and the curse reference, while harsh, is from the perspective of a young boy. Mom could be rough and insulting, and not give two shits about what anyone might have thought or felt if she thought she was right about something. I suspect that was the product of her own insecurities and the tough road she had to navigate.

Her father, an alcoholic, abandoned his family when she was young, and she had to help my grandmother with running the house and helping raise her younger sister. Her first husband died of aplastic anemia shortly after they were married, leaving her with a young child, my half-brother, to raise by herself.  She also had to deal with a myriad of health issues my brother had that continued throughout his life.

Mom had come very close to alienating K and her family to the point of no return in the weeks leading up to our wedding, but subsequently realized the error of her ways and apologized, swallowing a heaping slice of humble pie in the process because she knew she was wrong, and that it was the right thing to do. Age was good to her in that sense. It mellowed her, and she showed her softer side more often. Perhaps Nidan’s arrival had something to do with that, as she was absolutely smitten with him, becoming his biggest supporter and confidant.

Somewhere along the way, we became good friends. Oh, she still had her moments, but by then I had my own life and family, and let those things slide. Having a child made me realize that no matter how old they get, they always remain your little boy or girl, and it’s difficult not to treat them that way. It’s hard to let go because you simply care too much.

I also understood that parents are just regular people, doing the best they can and often learning on the fly in terms of raising kids and running the business of a family. I learned how life’s pressures can seep into family life. Kids are frustrating as hell, and can be a real pain in the ass. Adding that to the mix of a particularly bad day/week/month can create a combustible mix. But I also realized that no matter how difficult, intimidating or mean parents might seem, their depth of their love is bottomless, and the intensity of it is blinding and pure. They will take a bullet for their kids without thinking twice.

Kids are inherently selfish and ego-centric, and don’t understand or care one iota about any pressures Mom or Dad are dealing with. In fact, they often aren’t even aware of them, especially if Mom and Dad do a good job of shielding them from it, which mine did. All we feel is their wrath, and don’t understand why. Perhaps this understanding and general maturation allowed me to cut her some slack.

It was a pleasure having an adult relationship and adult discussions with Mom, and getting to know her as a person, not this mythic figure. It was a comfort knowing that she always had my back, would always be there in times of need, and would continue to offer her guidance upon request. Well, at least most of the time. She was still my mother, after all, and she still couldn’t help offering unsolicited advice if she felt compelled, but I was better equipped to filter it. I learned to appreciated how smart, talented, creative and tenacious she was, and am happy I was able to enjoy that type of relationship for much longer than I ever expected.

Mom could make me happier and feel more confident than anyone in the world, but she  pissed me off faster and made me feel worthless more than anyone else I have ever known. She could be a pleasure to be around, but also make you want to run away screaming. There is no one, other than perhaps K, that I would rather have in my corner. Conversely, there is also no one whose shit list I would least like to be on.

We don’t choose our parents, but become the product of everything that is them: their good and bad, their beauty and warts, their ying and yang. I have no complaints, and feel truly blessed that Mom was in my life. In many ways, I miss her more now than I did almost four years ago. But I also know she never left me, because I am who I am because of her, and many of the philosophies I live by came from both her and Dad. I am an extension of them, and because of that they are never truly gone. I also see her picture that opened this post every day. It is one of my favorite pictures of her because she is at a stage of her life where anything was possible, it shows how stunningly beautiful she was, and because I wasn’t even a twinkle in her eye when it was taken.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom! I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day K. I love you too! You are a wonderful Mom, and partner in life. I’m lucky to have  you.

And Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms reading this post. May your special day be filled with the happiness and joy you deserve. You have a tough gig!