“How Fast Are You Going?”

Yesterday my parents and I were on our way home from the hospital after my mom’s major back surgery two weeks ago, and a subsequent rehab stint.  She was sitting in the front passenger seat, and due to restrictions from the surgeon, could not lean over to see the speedometer. My mom likes to have control of every situation. She is a worrier. As we were heading down the expressway towards their home she patted my leg and asked me, for the second time in 5 minutes, “How fast are you going?”  I was not speeding and there was no clear reason why she was asking, but she is my mother, and I have known her all my life.

After spending two weeks sitting in hospital rooms for long hours, making special meals due to her restricted diet and incessant worrying, and more time with my strong-willed mother than I am used to, I was reaching my limit.  In the end, that comment in the car was a reminder for me. I have seen how stress affects her and promised myself years ago that I would not do that to myself. Life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Appreciate what you have. Look for the positive side of everything. Find  beauty in the world.

My parents are only in their seventies, but at some point in the last few years I realized that my time with them is limited. Many of my friends have already lost their parents, so last night when I tucked them into bed, and I mean that literally, I felt pretty lucky. My dad was already laying down, and I finished helping my mom into the bed, covered her up, and turned off the lights. Oh, and I offered to read them a bedtime story, sadly they declined. For me, it was a moment I won’t forget. Coming full circle.  Role reversal at its finest.

In the wee hours of the night she called from the bedroom in a small voice….”help!” I stumbled out of bed to assist her in the journey to the bathroom, reminiscent of the kids’ younger years,  but for her I am a spotter of sorts. As I walked behind her to make sure her legs didn’t go out on her and held  on to a safety belt wrapped around her chest, she pushed her walker across the carpet while comparing the pile to a field of corn. Her arms were weak and it was tough work. We had to take breaks along the 30 foot trip for her to catch her breath, yet she was also impatient to get to the destination. In her rush, she was a terrible driver. Banging the walker into everything, she failed in her mission to allow my dad to sleep and she giggled all the way. She’s pretty cute in the middle of the night, making me laugh, and unknowingly saving herself just like a child does. When she starts giving me step-by-step instructions for a menial task today, I will remember those late night antics.

I will not let the little things get to me.  Instead, I will pick the moments  I never want to forget. These  are the memories I will treasure when they are gone.

Will you do the same?  “How fast are you going?”

 

 

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Hiding in the Bathroom

Let’s face it. We’ve all done it at one time or another. You just can’t handle it anymore, and you head into the bathroom for a few minutes of peace and quiet. It’s one of the few rooms in the house where you can lock the door, and convince all but the smallest of children, that it’s best to give you your privacy.   If your lucky, you can sneak in with a glass of wine and a good book. Turn on  the shower, and  up the music, to block out noise (and claim you couldn’t hear, if called), and you never know, you could get mommy-alone-time for…..and I may be overestimating……….10 minutes?!

For whatever reason, men do not have the same problem as us. No one follows them and sits outside the door. No one screams from another room, begging for their attention.  If this does happen, they ignore it, and it goes away. The persistence just isn’t there if it’s not the mom.  In my house, the men use this to their advantage.

Bill goes into the bathroom every morning to get ready for work. He takes his iPad with him, and listens to music, and reads his book. I’m pretty sure he has no intention of spending a long time in there, but he gets distracted. “I’ll just finish this chapter.” “Listen to _______ song.” “Hey! That reminds me of _______song.”    I have to strategically plan my bathroom usage around this habit. Do I go in before him? After him? Or do I just go in once I hear the shower water go on, and screw the privacy rule?!

When Brennan was little, if a situation came up where he was asked a question that made him feel uncomfortable, he would say “I have to go to the bathroom, ” and sprint away from said conversation. As he’s grown, it has continued in some form or another, and although he doesn’t actually leave conversations anymore, he won’t hesitate to avoid them before they begin. He uses this method to escape unwanted tasks, as well. When it comes time to unload the groceries, or put them away……nature calls. Time to vacuum……going into the bathroom may result in parents forgetting for a few more hours, and due to the fact that I can be absent -minded…it works!

Ethan doesn’t even try to hide the desire to flee. If I am going into his room to ask him questions he doesn’t want to answer, and he feels he can’t escape the conversation with half-hearted responses, he will push past me to relocate to the bathroom, and  will hide for as long as it takes, reading, or watching videos, until he feels the coast is clear. He is a stubborn kid, and can outlast the best of us, so this tactic works amazingly well.

After years of finding safe haven in this room, the boys have found that they LIKE hanging out in there, even when not avoiding the wrath of mom. Overall, I don’t mind, but even though we are lucky to have two bathrooms, we do not have an endless supply of hot water. There are nights I hear the boys’ bathroom door close, and I make a beeline for the upstairs bathroom, so I can take a HOT shower. Who would have thought that I would have to worry about my teenage BOYS  bathroom time more than my daughter’s?! No one warned me!

As I sit here writing this post, Brennan is in the bathroom, sucking every ounce of deliciously toasty water out of the hot water heater. He should be out in an hour or so. I will eventually go bang on the door and ask him to save me some hot water, and later I will take a less-than-satisfying lukewarm shower, while the family finds ways to need me, immediately……..if not sooner.

 

A Letter to my Dad……on Father’s Day

Where has the time gone,  Daddy?  Just yesterday, you were swinging me around in circles, in the gymnasium of our church. You were buying me toys from my favorite aisle at the grocery store. Giving me the plane ticket stubs I liked to collect from your business trips. Now my youngest child is older than I was then; in the blink of an eye.

This may surprise you, but when I was young, I was a little afraid of you. I think that’s  common for little girls. I’m not sure why, as you never really did anything to cause that fear. Maybe it was the build up that all moms create when they say, “Wait until your father gets home!” Honestly, I don’t remember that ever being said, or what I would have done to cause it, but I’m sure there were plenty of times. I remember in my teen years, when my mouth got ahead of my brain. Those times when your face got bright red in frustration. Your eyes got wide, and you stiffened your body; the “you might want to run” look. But it was never worse than a booming-voiced reprimand, and rare at that.

On the flip side, I have always felt very protective of you. You have always been a quiet man. I think I’ve worried that you would get hurt by someone or something, and keep your feelings bottled inside. My heart would hurt for you, when I felt you had been wronged. When I was the cause of the hurt, the guilt was overwhelming. When Bill and I forgot to do the father-daughter dance at our wedding. When I left to move to South Carolina, not long after that fight we had. It wasn’t because of you. I needed to start my life away from home. I’m sorry I used that as an excuse. To this day, it wears heavy on my conscience. I never want to hurt you. I will always look out for you. No one messes with my dad and gets away with it.

I remember when you had that chest pain scare, and spent several days in the hospital. I was so relieved when we found out it was nothing serious. You were hardly ever sick when I was growing up, and that event happened so long ago, that when you had the stroke last year, it was terrifying. You are my invincible dad. We have never really had to worry about your health. I can’t believe how long I have taken you for granted.

I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to spend some quality time with you in the last few years. Why does it  take so long for us to realize that we have never really asked our parent about their childhood? Why we have never delved farther than the basic family stories? I’m so happy that you have been able to share those memories with me. I love learning more about you, and your life before marriage and children. You had a daring side I would have never imagined. It makes me smile when I think about it.

Spending five weeks with you last fall was a gift from God. Second chances, and reminders, that our time together is precious, and unfortunately, limited. I am very thankful for those quiet, peaceful times where it’s just you and I, even though it has not been under the best circumstances, like your stroke, and mom’s surgeries. Everything happens for a reason, I guess. Sometimes good things come out of bad situations.

I feel blessed to have been able to create new memories with you. Our morning walks. Learning about the desert fauna and flora from you. In-and-Out Burger. It will forever be the restaurant that you introduced me to. It will forever remind me of you. I loved our lunchtime field trips when mom was in the hospital. When we would leave her to take a nap, while we got a bite to eat, and a few hours at a local museum, zoo, or garden. Just you and I, and some great memories.

Thank you, Dad, for all that you have done for me. For helping to mold me into the person I am today. For always making sure I had a roof over my head, clothes on my back, and food in my belly. For teaching me right from wrong, responsibility, and to always try my hardest. For loving me, and teaching me what love means.

Happy Father’s Day. I’m so lucky that you are my dad. I love you more than words can say. Don’t ever forget that. You mean the world to me.