Saturday, December 29, 2007
On the phone, X asked if I could pick up something for him from the store. Sure, I was always happy to help. What did he want?
"I want a 12-pack of beer."
"Uhhhh....Are you sure it's OK for you to have beer? What about that thickener you have to add to all your beverages?"
"Oh- didn't I tell you? The doctor said that carbonated beverages are fine for me now."
"Did the doctor say the word 'beer'?"
"Yes, it's FINE!!!"
This is where the conflict started to set in. X's family thinks he's an alcoholic. When he first became ill a year ago and had to be taken to the hospital, he nearly died. I was told by the family that it was the alcohol which had brought him to such a physical state.
I knew that the family would not want X to have alcohol. I guess I am obligated to honor the family's wishes, not X's wishes. When an older adult reaches a state of health which requires long-term care, it appears that the person loses control of his life. The younger family member who has been given Power of Attorney is the one who takes over control of the older person's life.
X, mind you, is mentally sharp as a tack, and at age 74, is not exactly ancient. He has his own room in the assisted living facility. Three meals a day are served in the dining room, which is a huge benefit for this widower who doesn't know his way around the kitchen. I'm not sure why, but he doesn't seem to be allowed to drive.
His family, along with the pastor of his church, seem utterly convinced that X should not be allowed to have alcohol. If obesity was X's problem, would they be limiting his food, I wonder? If lack of exercise was X's problem, would they have him on a strict daily exercise regimen? Is it really right for human beings to control other human beings when they reach a certain age or level of vulnerability?
Would I want a family member controlling me if I were in X's situation? Hell, no! If I'm dying of some chronic condition and some doctor says I can't have ice cream, I hope my son will bring me the ice cream anyway- I've already told him that. Even if my ice cream intake is viewed as suicidal, bring it on. Whose business is it besides my own?
If X's intake of beer is viewed as suicidal by his controllers, well, so what? Each decision we make day in and day out is either life-giving (like exercising) or life-threatening (like drinking Coke). X's life choices are none of my business (and none of his family's business).
So I decided to deliver the beer to X. In the grocery store, as luck would have it, I ran into a friend. I was embarrassed about the tarnishing of my goody-two-shoes image as I struggled with the large, unwieldy package of beer at the checkout. Still unsure of my decision, I felt obligated to explain myself.
"Well, Betty, the assisted living facility is responsible if anything happens to X. You really should ask them if the beer's OK. You don't want to end up in trouble if something happens..."
Oh, boy. X's simple request was rapidly turning into a complex dilemma. But I had purchased the beer and was on my way to the assisted living place.
Imagine my surprise when the gentleman exiting as I entered the facility happened to be X's pastor, whom I recognised from a prior encounter! I tripped over the threshold, causing the beer box to rip its way out of its paper bag. His eyes bulged as he offered help and then started to recognise me. He gasped audibly.
"Ohhhh....so YOU'RE the 'important meeting' that X had to get rid of me for......Are you taking BEER to him?????"
Feigning ignorance, I looked at him with confusion. "Is he not supposed to have it? He assured me it was allowed...."
The all-knowing pastor shook his head. "He's tried to get me to bring booze, he's tried his family, now you.....he's alcoholic, and he lies to get the stuff. Go ask the staff here about it."
Feeling like a criminal, I looked around in the building for some authority figure to consult with, just because I'd been exposed and now felt that I needed their permission (if I could miraculously obtain it).
Finally I ran into an elderly resident doing her laps around the hallways. I asked her if anybody worked here on Saturday. She took me into the kitchen. I felt hopeful at the sight of these rather laid-back kitchen workers, and in fact the first one who answered my question said that residents are allowed to have beer in their fridges.
Then another one said, "Well, we'd better call the family to make sure there's no issue we don't know about..."
Well, the phone call didn't go well. X's daughter-in-law laid down the law- no booze for X. He might die from it, after all. And in the society we live in, I suppose I could be held resonsible for his death if it happened to occur after he enjoyed a cold one.
Well, I have to play by other people's rules in this case, but let it be known that my motto is this:
LIVE AND LET LIVE.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
A lot of the usual stress was alleviated by the fact that The Child's father has been out of the picture for 2007, with the exception of one supervised visit taking place in a facility set up for such purposes. That one session was cut short because the father openly defied the rules by bad-mouthing me to The Child and by discussing the court case with The Child. His behavior was so remarkably belligerent and offensive that the facility's manager refused to allow the father back for any subsequent sessions. Thus, except for my worrying about what might happen and when, it's been a year of unusual peace. Early in 2008, the case goes to trial. But that's a different year......
My belief is that every child benefits immeasurably from the influence of a reasonable father. I am my child's advocate.
Throughout this year, The Child and I have enjoyed perfect health (with a couple of insignificant glitches here and there) and my goal is to appreciate that. I wish everyone in my life had been so blessed; we lost The Child's first babysitter/nanny in March. Gloria, the smartest woman I've ever known, had had been my surrogate mother, and she had proudly referred to The Child as her grandson. What an honor. Now I feel as though I've lost two mothers....yet I was fortunate to have had two.
Another loss was that of my dear friend who used to stop by my house whenever he was on his way to the senior center next door. A retired chemist, he was one of the first people I'd met in this city. Like Gloria, he was one of the few people who really tried to make me and The Child feel like part of his family. I didn't usually think of him this way, but I guess it's obvious now that he was my surrogate father. I very much miss the fatherly advice he gave me- something I lacked from my biological father.
The amazing thing about both Harold and Gloria is that neither of them had any need for me. They each had several adult children of their own, and Harold was still very happily married. They were loving people who exemplified the belief in abundance.
I attended The Child's winter concert yesterday at his school. I was struck by one girl in the front row who smiled through the entire gig. How sad that she stood out as being "the ONE who smiled"! Many thoughts went through my mind as I focused on her. Was she a "people pleaser?" Was she mentally impaired? (Not my finest moment.) Was she born happy? I had been thinking a lot lately about the concept of innate tendencies and personalities and ways of being in the world.....(having a child brings up such questions)....did this girl realize what a gift she was offering to the people around her? My eyes filled with tears, and then focused on Jonah, the boy in my son's class whose father was killed last week in a horrific trucking accident. Jonah appeared to be one of the most joyous children on that stage. He literally danced his way from the chorus risers to his hand drum for the drumming group presentation. He told my son that day (yesterday) that it was the happiest day of his life. He was a demonstration of miraculous healing and resiliency, and of the power of music to soothe the soul.2007 was the year that I took my house off the market in an apparent act of giving up on my dreams. I use the word "apparent" because I still have some degree of confusion over why I can't have what I want, which is a huge, beautiful restored Victorian house in the downtown neighborhood which I have obsessed over for years. In a twist of irony, The Child's school relocated this year to that very neighborhood. It's near torture for me to have to drive through my beloved neighborhood on a daily basis, yet it's also a pleasant treat, especially with the gorgeous Victorians all decked out for Christmas.
This past summer I had a reunion with my number one college professor. No wonder he was the perfect teacher, I thought. He has a certain way of being in this world- thoughtful, gentle, all-knowing, fatherly...he almost seems connected to a Higher Source. There were times when he looked as if he was channeling, seriously.
This past year I have tried to operate from appreciation mode. I have been more aware of the gifts some people offer, such as smiles, surrogate parenting, gentleness, joy. So it seems that my main theme for this past year has been to examine our various ways of being in this world. We're each born with certain tendencies, for sure, but we have options, too, especially once we hit adulthood. I wonder how I present myself to the world....maybe that will be the theme of 2008.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Well, yes: loose dogs. This city is one of the few left on the planet which lacks leash laws. There is one oft-neglected and little-known law which states that "off-leash dogs must be under the control of their owners at all times." Yeah, right.
It is only in the delusional minds of their owners that the dogs frequenting this park are under control. When I first moved here, I was shocked to discover that dog owners not only let their dogs race through the park unattended, they also thought nothing of allowing their dogs onto my property where they often terrorized my 4 year old son.
At the entrances to the park there are signs beseeching dog owners to clean up after their pets. Right! Once the animals are set loose, they take off like bats out of hell, so that even if their owners did intend to clean up after them, it would be impossible. The dogs are rarely within 50 yards of their owners. (I've seen dog owners just stand in the parking lot while their dogs take off on an adventure, unattended.)
During my first year living here, I yelled at several of these dog owners, many of whom were serial offenders. I told them that they were being inconsiderate of other people, including those who kept their dogs on leashes (who constantly had to fight off the loose dogs). I also mentioned that they were breaking the law by failing (miserably) to control their dogs.
It didn't take me long to see that I was wasting my breath. The dog owners simply blew me off, sometimes in very obnoxious ways. Fighting against them just raised my blood pressure. It didn't change the behavior of the dogs or their owners.
This is the entrance into the park from my property. That's my Chihuahua entering the park. I walk my dog on a leash out of respect for others. I'm able to pick up my dog's droppings because I'm right there at the other end of the leash. My house has no fenced yard, so I have to walk the dog several times a day. It would be nice if I didn't have to worry about the loose dogs- sometimes I get lucky, and other times I see the dogs coming, and I scurry back into the house, having learned not to fight. I choose flight over fight.
The other day, however, I was rushing the dog outdoors right before leaving for work when two of the most enormous dogs I've ever seen suddenly appeared out of nowhere. I heard the sounds of dogs growling and snarling, and I was so surprised by the whole thing that I don't even know if the noise was coming from my dog or the others. After being stunned silent for a few moments, I yelled out to the 2 dog owners 50 yards away, "COME ON!!!! YOU"RE NOT BEING FAIR TO OTHER PEOPLE!!!"
They looked at me as if I were from Mars and the man bellowed, "WHATS YER PROBLEM, LADY?"
"THERE HAPPENS TO BE A LAW IN THIS CITY WHICH REQUIRES YOUR LOOSE DOGS TO BE TOTALLY UNDER YOUR CONTROL AT ALL TIMES!!! IS THIS WHAT YOU CONSIDER CONTROL?"
"OK, LET'S SEE WHAT THE POLICE HAVE TO SAY ABOUT IT!"
"GO AHEAD! CALL THE POLICE!" they hollered as they walked away rapidly.
"YOU'RE COWARDS!" (OK, this was not my finest moment, but I resort to name-calling only in hopeless situations.)
Readers, I ask you: is it me, or are such dog owners out of line?
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I tried to act nonchalant, but the idea of socializing amongst neighbors is unnerving to me. The question is, do I fit in? A counselor I was seeing a few years ago suggested that I was seeking somewhere to belong, and heaven knows I have put a tremendous amount of time into assessing which neighborhood I really wanted to live (belong) in.
This neighborhood comprises retirees to a large extent. There's a simple reason for that: the houses were built in the late 1950's/early 1960's, and these people bought the houses to raise their families in. They've stayed, enjoying the park location, and now they're in their 70's, 80's and 90's. My particular house has experienced more turnover- I'm its 4th owner, I think.
Did I fit in? Well, I didn't stand out. That's a start.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
The dark spots on the land are not signs of unattended dogs- they're leaves which weren't ready to fall when the raking humans thought they should. Snowfall is not usually peppered with leaves, which I interpret as another sign of this garden's reluctance to let go.
The warmer temperature today creates the effect of a spring thaw- last night's snowman has already bit the dust. The garden appears to be getting its way.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
My assignment is to write about my experience of his character, good and bad. When I met X, I noticed that he seemed larger than life. He had to stand out, being confidant and cocky. Yet I sensed something "shady" about him. My best friend at the time (WHY WHY WHY didn't I listen to her??!!!!) said, "Beware. X is BAD NEWS. He'll use you up, wad you into a ball, and throw you away."
But he was good-looking, undeniably good-looking. I am a sucker for cute guys. Character be damned. I want the cute guy.
X was a gifted speaker, natural-born story teller. He loved to "hold court." I was a good listener, thus, we were a perfect match. Every once in a while the notion would sneak into my mind that it was all about X, never about me.
Actually, it WAS about me some of the time. Periodically he would launch a brutal attack on my character, accusing me of being weak, needy, clingy, incompetent, unworthy, gamy, dishonest, you name it.
And meanwhile, we had certain money-related issues going on. He announced a few months into the relationship that he was moving in with me. (I had never invited him.) After he did indeed move in, he failed to offer to pay any expenses, preferring free room and board instead. I lacked the courage to speak up and ask him to pay his share of the expenses. Once he asked for a "loan" of $500- he'd pay me right back. This was several years ago and I still haven't been paid back. But that was nothing......
My mother, unfortunately, was dying of cancer. He told me I was wrong to want to travel halfway across the country to be with her, and she died asking for me, wondering where I was. When she died, he valiantly offered to fly to upstate NY with me to attend her funeral. What a thoughtful gesture. When we returned from the funeral, he presented me with a bill of several hundred dollars to cover his expenses incurred due to my mother's funeral. I paid it.
Shortly thereafter, he moved to Montana. We broke up then, but once he got there he called and asked me to visit. The short-notice airline ticket to Montana cost $1,200. My friend D drove me to the airport for my trip to Montana. While he drove, D yelled at me about how stupid I was being, about how X was using me and abusing me. I had never before seen D so mad. But I went anyway, and it got worse.
X decided during my visit that it was nice to have me and my money around, so he offered to let me stay with him for a year in Montana if I would give him $7,000. I immediately said yes, and took a year off work, without pay, using up my life's savings to support us in Montana (AFTER I had already handed over the 7,000).
To sum up his character as I experienced it, I'd say he was very controlling and self-centered. He used me and never admitted it or addressed it, even though he was quick to take my personal inventory. I was not only a money source to him- I was also like a slave in many ways, placed on earth to serve him. He came off like a guru, a leader, a ruler, a superior. On the positive side, he really is a gifted speaker and story-teller, almost to the point of being charismatic. He really seemed to value honesty and at times displayed brutal honesty. (However, his ability to see his own faults or how he hurt people was limited.) He is smarter than most people and strives very hard to live a spiritual life. His sense of adventure led him to the wilderness of Montana, where he now seems to live the life he wanted, although surprise, surprise, he finds himself running from one disastrous relationship to the next. It seems that there is some sort of mental impediment which prevents him from seeing his wrongs, because he really does appear to be trying sincerely to live a life of integrity, and he thinks he is. If I showed him this post, he would be dumbfounded. I know this from the few times I did feebly try to let him know about the things that bothered me. He seems utterly unable to see his own shortcomings, and bulldozes me if I dare stand up to him. He is a talented, intelligent, adventurous spiritual seeker who talks a lot and took advantage of me in many ways. Although insightful, he can't see his own issues. He enjoys power and control and tends to be self-centered.
But he was good-looking, undeniably good-looking.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Something unusual happened today. I gave a work-related presentation to a group of well-to-do people. It was very well received and as I left the building, an older gentleman offered to help carry my props to my car. As we approached my car he said, "You know, you have a wonderful personality. I don't know if you have any idea how entertaining and engaging you are. I am surprised - often, people in your field are quite introverted."
Well, as soon as he spoke those words, my father's erroneous message from so many years ago was erased. It's not that I now think I'm superior- it's just that the damage is fixed.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Speculation abounds. Could it be the stimulation of the city which somehow stirs its population to want to live? Are the cultural offerings so enticing that New Yorkers are inspired to stay alive to indulge? Or is it the city-wide ban on trans fats?
I'm sure it'll be a few years before the studies are published, but the obvious conclusion of many people, including myself, is that NYC's longevity factor is directly related to the way its people transport themselves. Few New Yorkers own cars. Why would they? Mass transit is readily available, and the city is wonderfully walkable. And anyone who's been there knows how fast New Yorkers walk and talk. It's that "New York minute" phenomenon. It serves them well.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
This downtown is vibrant and alive every day and night. People really do live in this downtown; we know this because grocery stores can be found here. Stores abound- big ones like Nordstrom, and small independent boutiques, along with a staggering array of restaurants, coffee shops and cafes.
Who needs a car? There are so many alternatives: walking, biking, light rail, streetcars, busses, and even a monorail (like a ski lift). The air is cleaner, the streets are safer, the people are thinner.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
I have a theory. Above is a photo of my car, a tiny subcompact, nowadays considered ridiculously too small for anyone with kids. It would be virtually impossible for me to accidentally leave a human of any size in that car. First of all, even a baby would take up a sizable percentage of available space in the vehicle. A baby is more noticeable in a Mini Cooper than in a Hummer, just as a cork is more noticeable in a bathtub than in an ocean.
My car, of which I'm becoming increasingly more proud than ashamed, is old fashioned. (The Child remarked in all seriousness that I should have entered it in the local antique car show.) To open or close this car, one must actually stand beside it, facing its windows, and insert a key. The adult in charge of this car is not allowed to rush off, locking it from afar to the fanfare of bells and whistles. My child sits behind me in my car, and if I had ever tried to lock it with him inside, he would have been blatantly visible to me as I stood there fussing with my old fashioned lock and key.
As I read the story of the recent tragedy, I found myself wondering what type of vehicle the grieving mother had been driving. How massive must her machine have been to hide her child?! I don't blame her- she most likely drives what society drives, and I've heard that we're choosing behemoths again, now that gas prices have slipped a bit.
Recently another type of vehicular tragedy took place in my own neighborhood. A woman was backing her enormous SUV out of a parking space after her child's pre-school class. The vehicle sits so high off the road that she did not see the three year old boy behind her, even though she checked her rear-view mirror. Her vehicle hit and killed the little boy.
Again, my vehicle, being very low to the ground, does provide better visibility in such situations. Even a toddler could be visible behind my car. (I'm not cocky though- I always park in such a way that I can drive forward out of my parking space, not having to back out.)
I think that our gas-guzzling habits are hurting us in more ways than we are addressing. I can't change the world, but I can express my opinion and do my part to defy vehicle worship.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
The above photo was taken today in my living room. As you can see, my birthday is off to a good start, with today being only Saturday. I have already received 2 cards for Tuesday's birthday: one from my best friend in NY whom I met in 7th grade, and the other, the smaller of the two, is from what's left of my biological family. The zinnias are from myself; I bought them at a farmer's market downtown yesterday.
Today happens to be the birthday of a 4th grader named Ian. He is The Child's former best friend. This morning when I was out buying corn on the cob I ran into Ethan, one of The Child's classmates. Ethan wanted to know where The Child was, and I explained that 2 of our adult friends had taken The Child to a waterpark. Then Ethan wanted to know why the Child wasn't going to be attending Ian's overnight birthday party today, and I said that The Child had not been invited.
A healthy-minded, well-adjusted adult parent would not become undone by the fact that her Child had been snubbed for a birthday party to which many other kids from school had been invited. I know this. And I am completely undone.
Rejection just sucks; there's no way around it. It's bad enough that The Child has been mysteriously left out of a party for his close friend who has been our guest many times, but why do I have to take this personally? Is he somehow being excluded because of me? Have I raised a social reject? Or does this ring a bell, dredging up memories of my own painfully lonely childhood? Maybe someday I'll have such an incredibly strong sense of self worth that I will not be affected by the absence of party invitations for The Child, but I'm not there yet- I'm not even on that planet.
And in the case of my birthday, there's no party, so there's no lack of invitation to worry about, thankfully. But there's still the profound disappointment which I first felt the year that my mother died. On my birthday the year that she died, I was hit by the realization that nobody would ever care about me as much as she did. I did have a boyfriend that year, but I've always chosen men unwisely. He picked a horrible fight with me on that birthday, and I received no cards or gifts from anyone. My biological family had disintegrated after my mother's death- they felt nothing but resentment toward me even though I paid for the funeral (she had left her tiny "estate" of a couple thousand dollars to me). There were no birthday wishes coming from them.
To make matters worse, my mother used to spoil me. I was her youngest, and I was the one she became good buddies with. She showered me with thoughtful, appropriate gifts on my birthday, Christmas, Easter, and even Valentine's Day. The woman was a shopper- no, she was SHOPPER- which was good for me, because I was NOT. She even used to buy my clothing, and my current wardrobe reflects her absence.
I miss the presents, and the ones I receive now I hold dear. My friends Doug and Cathy gave me two wrapped gifts for Christmas last year, and I have yet to open them. It's important to me to know that I still have two unopened gifts available.
Thus, I now suffer immeasurably on such occasions as my birthday. Again, that missing Sense of Self Worth could save me, I assume. But who wants to feel alone? I am grateful for the friends who do remember my birthday, definitely, but something bothers me. I do feel as if I'm moderately important to several people, yes. And a Child depends upon me, yes. But I am not the main focus of anybody's life now.
The Wise Answer to my problem is this: Become the main focus of your own life, Betty.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Wednesday, August 08, 2007
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Our house is situated on the park where today's festivities took place; thus, many of our neighbors hosted parties. Maybe next year, after the child custody case is settled and life is simpler, The Child and I will host a party. Until then, we're better off just rolling with the punches, so to speak.
After the thunderous storm this afternoon, we walked to the soggy soccer fields where huge inflatable games were set up for children. The Child played happily, we hung around with friends from his school, we ate ice cream cones, pizza and funnel cakes, then he got a henna tattoo of the Japanese symbol for "sky."
The Child wanted stink bombs from a vendor in the park. So be it. They were less expensive than most of the things he asks for. He's still upset with me because I refused to take him to the super duper blowout fireworks display last night downtown along with millions of other revellers. Hopefully the stink bombs took the edge off his disappointment. He asked for a whip too (why were they selling whips at a family celebration?) but I drew the line.
On July 4, 2007 I learned a new skill (firework photography), enjoyed an outing in our very own park, socialized, finished some paperwork for court during the storm, and got to hang out with one very cool kid who didn't tantrum when I said no to the whip.
Monday, June 25, 2007
Here we proceed through downtown Johnson City. Young Betty walked these streets many, many times. Take note of the bike lane on the right side of the road. Ever so cool. Betty never drove a car here until now, and it's because pedestrians and bicyclists are expected and respected, unlike in the much larger city where Betty lives now.
Here The Child is seen indulging in a free merry-go-round ride. Are they called "merry-go-rounds" elsewhere? I really don't know. We also refer to pizza as "hot pie" in this part of NY state. And "spiedies", unknown to most of the country, are a local specialty, first presented by Italian immigrants and now featured in most local restaurants.