See Ya, 2011

For me, 2011 was definitely a year of ups and downs. Probably for many of you, too, but we’re talking about me here. It’s my blog, isn’t it?

The big change in my life last year was the loss of two family members: I lost a brother to a brain aneurism at the end of March, and cancer claimed my mother’s life in October. She had been fighting it  for several years, but once my brother passed, the fight went out of her. Children should never go before their parents.

She got to the point where she needed 24/7 care, so we all (the five remaining siblings) made the decision to put her in a “retirement community”. The last time I had a real conversation with her was the night she was transferred from the hospital.

(I haven’t mentioned that I currently live in eastern Pennsylvania, while the rest of the family lives in Northeast Ohio, save for one sister who lives in Northern California.)

On October 20, she fell and broke her hip. Because of her frail state, the medicos decided that any surgical procedure to fix her hip would probably kill her, so they just pumped her with morphine to keep her comfortable. The following Saturday, I drove out, my sister flew in. As these things are wont to happen, she knew all the kids were nearby, so she passed quietly in her sleep the morning of October 23.

There was a bit of silver lining to these dark clouds (other than the obvious one that my brother and mother were no longer suffering) in that their services brought together family members (my brother’s children from two marriages) that we hadn’t seen in 15 or so years. We still keep in touch, and one of my nephews is going to work with my California sister on some genealogical research concerning the family.

I also had my usual share of medical problems during the last twelve-month, including gall-badder removal surgery, and several steroid injections to treat various shoulder and leg ailments. On the plus side, I had no real serious health issues. I’m still in pretty decent shape for an old man.

Which reminds me: I hit the big 6-0 in 2011. No big deal. As Groucho said, “Anybody can get old. All you have to do is live long enough”. But I don’t feel old, damn it. Except in the mornings after my MMA training.

Another milestone was my 17-year-old son getting his driver’s license. Passed the test first try and all that. However, his new independence came at a price: I hardly see him any more. On alternate Fridays we used to go out to dinner at various places around the area; now he prefers hanging out with his friends. I don’t blame him; I was the same way.

That’s the gist of my 2011. Not everything, of course, but you don’t have the time, and I don’t have the energy.

Here’s hoping we all have a better 2012. “Here’s a toast to the future, A toast to the past, And a toast to our friends, far and near. May the future be pleasant; The past a bright dream; May our friends remain faithful and dear.”

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The Bad Son

I don’t even know where to start with this.

I guess the year 1951 is as good a place as any. That was the year I was born. Don’t know the circumstances surrounding that; the most credible story I’ve heard is that my mother was an  unmarried schoolteacher who got impregnated by some guy or other. I was put up for adoption right away. Before a month had passed I was taken in by the couple I always considered my parents.  I don’t know how old I was when they told me. Very young. It was never a big secret, like you see in various movies-of-the-week. I’ve never felt the urge to track down my birth parents; they didn’t want me, somebody else did. Yeah, yeah, I know, circumstances, morality in the ’50s, this argument, that argument. Doesn’t matter. The couple that adopted me didn’t think they would be able to have any kids of their own. Oops. I have three brothers and two sisters. And I’ve never spent a day thinking I wasn’t part of the family because I sprung from a different set of loins.

So time passed, as time is wont to do. My father turned out to be a dick. In my eyes, anyway. Maybe he wasn’t as bad as I remember him, but I think he probably was. He was a philanderer. He used to drop my brother and I off at a movie or concert or whatever and go out carousing, making sure we knew to tell Mom that he went to the movie or concert or whatever with us, grilling us about plot details and so forth. We complied. We were kids. We didn’t know better.

He left my mother when I was 15, remarrying twice before committing suicide in 1970 at the age of  43.

In the meantime, my mom was left with 5 kids to raise (I was trying to make it on my own at the time, but had to abandon that in ’74). She worked long hours as a waitress at various venues, including the Firestone Country Club. Trying to earn a living and support all those brats, who would be calling her at work at all hours because this one called another one a name, or wouldn’t let them watch a certain TV show, or various other life-threatening disasters that had to have her Solomon-like pronouncements immediately, if not sooner.

Eventually we all grew up (or at least older) and into our various individual lives: one sister a Mother figure dispensing holistic wisdom, another a gay activist. One brother a hopeless alcoholic, another in and out of trouble with the law, the third, by avoiding the rest of the family, came close to his goal of being a millionaire before he was forty. We’re all family, though, revolving around the solar gravity of our mother, who lets herself be taken advantage of, lets herself be walked on, but in the end can’t say “no” to any of her kids. They’re her damn children, after all.

I can say I was never one of the advantage-takers or walker-onners. I was something much worse. Despite her plucking me from a hospital and giving me a home when I was a month old, even though she reassured me throughout the years that I was no different to her than her natural-born children, despite the love and care she blessed me with, I wasn’t a very good son.

Oh, I wasn’t like certain of my brothers, who depend on her to this day to drive them to and from because they’ve had their license suspended pretty much for life. She never had to bail me out of jail or let me live with her because I blow all my money on vodka.

I committed the worst sin you can commit against a parent: I neglected to include her in my life. I got married the first time while I still lived in Ohio. For several years I lived less than 5 miles from her, and rarely went to visit her. Just because I was caught up in my own situation at the time. No big deal. I was married, things happened that didn’t pertain to her. So what? Right?

When I got married the second time, and that marriage produced a son, and we fell upon hard times, we moved to Pennsylvania because that’s where her parents lived. Her folks owned their own business, and were therefore able to help us out more than my mom, who was by this time retired. Oh, sure, she had remarried, but they were both retired. And something I feel bad about is that I never considered her husband as my stepfather, but just the guy she married. Maybe it was my age. I don’t know.

So I’ve been living here in Pennsylvania. Got divorced as a matter of course. My son is now 15. We don’t get back to Ohio much, maybe for a 4- or 5-day stretch during the summer. Too much going on, ya know? I call my mom occasionally, not as often as I should, but I’m not a phone guy. I don’t have much to say.

I put myself in her place occasionally. How am I going to feel when my son grows up and moves away and I hear from him maybe every other month, and see him 5 days a year if I’m lucky? Pretty crappy. I adore the kid and will miss him more than I can say when he’s gone. My mom probably thinks the same about me, since I’m not around like the rest of the crowd.

Like I said, when I do call, it doesn’t last very long. Called her yesterday, as a matter of fact. We talked for 5, maybe 10 minutes.  I didn’t have much to talk about except how nice the weather was over the holiday weekend. She asked about my son, what we’ve been doing, when we’re coming home to see her. She mentioned she had a doctor’s appointment today to get her asthma medicine represcripted.I said OK, talk to you again soon.

My sister called me about 20 minutes ago about the doctor appointment. Seems my mom’s lymphoma has reared up. She also has lung cancer. Doctor says she has a year at most.

My mother has a year to live, at most. Then she’ll be dead.

I don’t know how to end this.