Happy birthday to me!
It has not been an easy year but this amazing woman reached this incredible milestone with the strength and dignity I’ve always admired in her. Facing tough setbacks in her nearly perfect health, she was undaunted by the changes in her. Her ever positive outlook on life has kept her moving and healing, but mostly is an inspiration to all of those who know her.
From the time I was small she taught me that I could be anything I wanted, something I have passed on to my daughters. Her help has allowed me to figure out my path and feel a sense of security.
This time living near my Mother has been a blessing after spending so many years apart. She has given me more than I can really express. And really without her decision so many years ago, when she knew adopting a little girl was something she needed to do, I’m not sure where I would be today.
Happy 90th Mama. I love you.
Many years ago I did something that most think was to help someone else, but it was really to help me. It was actually not a selfless move to save a part of the world, but to save a part of me.
The journey began when I decided I wanted to adopt a baby. I am adopted as some of you may recall. It was not an easy journey, as I had criteria that made constraints that other people adopting might not have through their paths. It was my goal to stay within the US and to maintain birth order (my husband at the time and I had a 3-year-old), so when approaching an adoption agency, they showed us the ‘blue book’ of the “waiting children”–it appeared as though this might be impossible. Either we would have to take on siblings of 4 or teenagers. Neither of these situations seemed fair to my daughter.
But then the social worker mentioned foster care: the backdoor to adoption. At that time, 51% of foster children got adopted by their foster parents. It seemed like a reasonable plan to me, especially since I was a stay at home Mom anyway.
I won’t go through it all, because this is not what this post is about. Suffice to say, we became foster parents, eventually to a 2-year-old girl: mentally challenged, but high functioning, emotionally rocked by her first 2 years and HIV positive.
That toddler is now my 25-year-old daughter and she just had my first grandchild today–a little boy.
It has been a rocky road all along. My 3-year-old (now almost 28) has had a rough relationship with her, which has worsened as an adult. The birth daughter that came after her, has a distant, but OK relationship. And this daughter’s life has been one challenge after another. While her health is way better than anyone would have predicted (they figured she wouldn’t live past 9 years old), she has met with prejudice, job losses, school bullies and lots of tears.
She has been with her partner for many years, a young man who is also mentally challenged, more so than she. When she announced her pregnancy, we were all pretty upset. They are poor, with no jobs, living in abject poverty. While we help, there is only so much you can help those who often do not believe they need it.There was great concern for the welfare of a baby coming into these circumstances.
But she was determined, and her determination has always been one of her greatest (and sometimes most frustrating) attributes.
So today he was born. The doctors have taken every precaution, and so has she, that this baby be born HIV free. My daughter has tried very hard to take care of herself and many around her have been helping to get her hooked up with the proper services so there will be the best possible outcome down the road.
It is so easy to be negative, but success can’t happen unless we believe it is possible. Sometimes I think that she never thought much about her HIV and just figured she would live a normal life, so she has. And I understand her desire for baby, someone who belongs to her through genes, looks like her and comes from her. I get it when no-one else in my family may understand this–because we both have that connection, that mutual disconnect from our birth heritage.
So on this day, I will celebrate her decision and her new baby, my grand-baby. Because her adoption wasn’t about fixing her, it was to rescue a part of me.
When I was a child, there was an ice-cream that I used to get from the truck that would come to the park near where I lived in NYC. It was the Good Humor truck, for those of you who might remember the familiar jingling of bells as it rolled slowly down the streets so the gathering children could get their 25 cents ready. This particular favorite of mine, was called an Eclair I think, because on the outside it had bits and pieces of nuts and maybe little pieces of chocolate; vanilla ice cream was the next layer which made up the largest part of the pop; but best and most special (and the best part) was the secret hunk of icy fudge-like chocolate inside. It wasn’t very big piece, but it was delicious (or so I recall) and had this particular texture that made it worth the wait.
I was never a kid to just bite into the thing just to get to the middle. I would savor the whole thing to make it last and then take my time with the special part. Funny, because I never had much patience in life–but with treasures, I did. Just like how I never tore into Christmas gifts, but would open them throughout the day…(my kids hated this about me).
Someone who has known me for a long time, when I explained where I am emotionally now and how I am conducting my day-to-day existence, said: that is not you at all! It gave me pause. What is me? Who am I really?
I’ve run most my 60 years in a frenetic and unfocused way; making decisions based on how my mood was or the wind was blowing. It felt like I was making rational choices at the time, but in retrospect, I see now it wasn’t the case at all. Rather I was a sailboat buffeted by the winds trying desperately to steer to the nearest coast. Each shore looked better than the last, but upon reaching them they felt uninhabitable.
Of course this meant those around me were riding those waves too and often were cast overboard. Many drowned, but some found their own lifeboats and floated on to better beaches…thank goodness.
It was nothing intentional. It just happened– it was the way I lived.But there was a part of me that knew it wasn’t working. Seeing the floundering of others hurt me, and my own inability to stand upright on this ever swelling craft was making me ill. At some point the ship must dock–in the deep recesses of my mind I knew this as truth.
So who is really me? I moved away from my comfort and have come to live in a place that is alien and barren to me, a desert devoid of water in which to sail. This was really unconscious on many levels, but I am starting to realize absolutely necessary to answer the question. Many spiritual treks to find ones true self include a time where one goes off on a quest: a solitary walk about or vision quest to discover what is real and what isn’t; what to keep and what to leave behind.
We go through life rather like that Good Humor ice cream pop: multi-layered with secret parts. Sometimes the secret parts are hidden to even to ourselves. There are bits and pieces we cover ourselves with that have rough edges or appeal, but it’s only the outside, a glamour…the part that faces the world at large. Dig deeper and maybe you will get to the soft part: it is white and can be colored by what we take in through the years we live. It protects the true gift: the sweet, central, secret core. This is the one we work for and may not know for years.
I’m stripping down the layers to find that me. I believe that is the real one, not the one that has faced the world so far. That was a mask I was unaware I wore. I believe my friend had it backward…what she knew was not me; what I am discovering now will be the real person I have had buried within. The visions of her were in my head longing to escape, but were trapped by my own shifting cage.
Someday she will be set free and sail for a place, heading into the sunrise. Docking at some distant land, she will know with full awareness and clarity, that all will be good.
There are certain moments in life where we are given a gift that sets us free. News that lifts us high and helps us to remember life is good and beautiful. Lately I have been given many of these moments and for them I am truly grateful.
It is so easy, with our fast paced, whirlwind lives, to take life for granted. To forget our connection to family and friends. We press on so hard into our daily tasks that we may not stop to look around us to see the wonders that abound. They are all around if we just take a second to see them.
Feeling compelled by life to have material wealth, we sometimes lose spiritual well-being. We take jobs that make us unhappy or keep people near us that really prove to have negative energy.
Because I am getting older and finally see the wisdom in serenity rather than money, my choices from now on will be very different.
This is my promise to myself.
As my Mother heals, I reflect on my good fortune to be able to be near her and help get her stronger. It is a blessing that such an awful thing can actually turn out to be something wonderful because it has bonded us so closely together. She is an amazing woman and together we are invincible.
And I also got a new lease on life today, which I will not take for granted. I’m grateful because I know that not everyone is as lucky as I am. I wish it could be so for all whom I love. But together we fight the good battle, and we’ll win anyway.
While I don’t like to admit it, I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older (and have embraced my gray hair) I’ve become invisible. In my younger life, I was never, ever an invisible person. Even when I felt then (unbeknownst to my then introverted self) that the crowds were getting a bit too much for me. Somehow I still stood out shall we say. My personality was somehow bigger than my small frame… even when I didn’t want it to be.
It was my big mouth I suppose: always standing up when I felt injustice was happening, or whispering an irreverence at inopportune moments. Or when I felt someone (preferably someone of authority) said something I felt stupid and needed to be put straight. Yep, I never held back, and usually got in trouble, bringing attention to myself and therefore was definitely not invisible.
Plus I was never, ever a follower. And in fact, usually a leader. Starting a trend maybe, like the first one to wear hot pants in my high school. To me, they were just cool. Or to bring cloth bags to the grocery store 40 years ago when everyone thought I was nuts. Or becoming a vegetarian about the same time because it simply made sense. And being the ‘class clown’ and ‘most inclined to argue’ also put me in the class of calling attention to myself–just like George Carlin so aptly said…Hey, look at me!
Did I need attention? I don’t know? I just know that I was an only child and loved school and my friends and loved to get into it with anyone who would participate in good debate or humor. Or I did some things simply because they made good sense to me and I believed they were right. It never occurred to me that not everyone felt the same way. In fact, it might be better if they didn’t.
So now that I’m 60, and suddenly a senior citizen–it seems so odd to say that because I still feel like a kid–and part of the class of people who most ignore. It feels crazy. Me, the person that most folks used to gather around and laugh with, or got yelled at, or who got sent to the principal’s office because I was so disruptive. Now I can’t even mange to worm my way into a conversation because it’s assumed I have nothing of value to say. It’s utterly amazing to me.
At least this is what I find among the folks where I work. It’s a mixed crowd of both young and middle aged…not too many my age. I’m in the hub where people come and go and I could just be a chair really. When they bring new people around, most times I don’t even get introduced. I find it rude really. The new gal that does my job in the evening is 27, pretty and has far more attention from folks (men and women mind you) fluttering around her in a couple of months than I do in nearly a year there.
Is it because our society doesn’t value age and wisdom? Certainly I have become less in need of the attention I once did. I’m more subdued and quiet and more observant. Maybe I don’t draw the attention any longer.
It’s quite interesting to watch the squabbles, the dances and cruelties. I’m proud to have joined the ranks of the wise ones actually. There’s humor sitting back while seeing those that make fools of themselves as I once did or listen to tales of woe and know how unimportant these things really are in the grand scheme of life.
I only hope I’ve taught my own daughters to treat their elders better than I am treated at work. And I hope I never acted in this way. We can certainly choose moments to be invisible, but no-one should make someone feel that way. We all have the same rights to be equally colorful, vibrant and brilliantly seen.
Once upon a time, many, many years ago–a little girl made a make-a-wish to go to Disney. It seemed like a pretty boring wish for her Mama, but she had her heart set on it (even though Mom tried to talk her into a more interesting wish), so the whole family was escorted to the ‘magical’ (plastic) world of Disneyland.
It was an odd trip for me (yes I was the Mama) and my other two daughters, going on a trip planned around a kid who wasn’t considered healthy. While my HIV positive daughter reveled in the attention, the rest of us noticed the “Alice In Wonderland” qualities of everything encountered. Sort of like a bad drug trip….
But she wouldn’t hear of doing anything different. It was Mickey or nothing! So there I was: trapped in the surreal world of Americana, with no vegetarian food in sight and our nights spent in a ‘special’ place designed for all the make-a-wish kids. It was like being in the ward of pediatric hospital gone carnival. Spooky to say the least. My oldest daughter hated it. Well, so did I…
Today, that daughter is alive and well and 25 years old. Her disease is under control. HIV is more like diabetes now a days really. It’s quite amazing. No real cure, but manageable.
Unfortunately, she still refuses to listen to me–like most kids of course, but for her, this can be a slippery slope. She’s pregnant and it’s not a great situation. Her life is no Disneyland. She did not find Prince Charming and she lives more like Cinderella still. It’s a very sad, and often scary situation.
She called today to say she had a car accident. Her fault, rear ending the person in front because of something careless on her part. I’ve been trying to coach her about straightening her life out to get ready for this new addition. But I’m more like the Cruella Deville than Mom…I get nowhere. So now she has no car along with the rest of her sad life.
Some things never change really….They do what they want when they are 5 or 25 but the choices they make at 25 can be much more damaging. Because now they are making choices for someone else.What if that baby was already in the car? Or what if she hit a child instead of another car? I get no replies when I ask these questions….
Decisions, decisions. Argh. It’s been 10 months since my move and that I’ve lived here. Yikes, time flies when you’re having fun, and even if you’re not. So as many of you know I’ve been struggling a bit with work, social life, the area etc. Even my apartment and the crazy landlady has been difficult.
And in my lease there was a clause where I had to let her know 60 days before the lease is up if I was staying on or going. That means I have to let her know within very short order if I’m moving….again. Ugh.
With everything I’ve felt since I’ve been here, this has given me a pit in my stomach. Yes, work is a tiny bit better, but it’s certainly not heaven. I’ll never feel that I love the area, but it’s tolerable. And I definitely decided that my landlady’s constant harassment is more than I can stand.
So the decision was: do I just move away completely or just to a different apartment? There are ups and downs with both choices. Family and friends are the main pull for maybe moving back where I used to be, especially now that one daughter is having a baby. But I came here to be closer to my Mom and try on a new set of wings, and one year doesn’t seem like much of chance to give it a go.
After talking with friends, sleeping on it, thinking hard I think I’ve made my decision. I need to move for sure because this place is isolating and too far from work. I’m thinking that maybe if I move closer and to a place where I can socialize more with folks from my job and neighbors, then maybe I won’t feel so down all the time.
This might help my whole outlook. Well, I hope so. The lack of friends is tough…even just one! I mean people are nice at work, but on weekends, there is nothing but crickets.
This is the plan anyway… Hey, this year, like most–sped by like the speed of light. If next September rolls by and I’m still feeling like it isn’t happening, then I cut my losses and figure out the next move.
This is what my co-worker posted on the white board about my birthday today! Happy birthday to me… ha ha, because I’m really 60 today and he likes to be funny. But with me dancing around and that post, plenty of folks knew today was the day that I tipped over into a new decade.
Usually I let these things slide, but since this one seemed fairly monumental to me, I let my mouth rip. I mean, sheesh, I recall feeling like my Grandma was way old when she was in her sixties! And wouldn’t you know, time just plundered on ahead and here I am! How the heck did that happen pray tell?
My high school friends and I have been scratching our heads (and looking in the mirrors) and wondering where all those years went. One of them just sent me a picture of my HS principal/geology teacher. For goodness sake, he’s 91 years old! He looked fantastic mind you, but 91 years old?! That’s nuts!
But even though I went to work, it’s been a great day so far. Some of my co-workers got me gifts….it was amazing and incredibly touching! Man, after 8 years of working at my old job, you had to die for anyone to pay attention. Two gals in the scheduling part of our OR came up behind me (very unusual) and I turned around from my desk. I said: wow, I’m being stalked by schedulers (I really had no idea what was going on). One is pretty serious, so she said: Yup, you made a really big mistake booking a case. My heart was pounding in my chest and I got so upset. Then the said: Happy Birthday, and they gave me the nicest gifts! I was shocked. It was so sweet!! Even my bosses got me something and another wonderful gal who gave me the book the other day.
And as I was leaving a bunch of them chimed in to a rendition of: Happy Birthday to you, you live in the zoo…. I changed it to: I work in the zoo… All in all, very touching. With hugs, fist bumps and all that…. So maybe I’m getting there and work is becoming more and more an accepting place.
On the home front, a huge package from a dear old friend, cards and best of all:
Calls from all three of my wonderful daughters! I even was remembered by someone I’ve been out of contact with for quite some time.
Mom and I will go out tomorrow to dinner too. I’m lucky to have this day, because it’s often a 3 day weekend. Yippee.
Let’s hope it’s a wonderful decade. Better than the last because that one was a bit tough. Now I’m really moving into the crone years: hopefully the wisdom will start to really come, the patience, the contentment and I’ll be walking the right path. Thanks to you all for you continued support on this blogging journey of mine!!