Posted in Explaining the Strange Behavior, Family, Inside Lane, relationships

My Mother’s Keeper


You’ll notice I haven’t posted here since September of 2017. I hadn’t even realized that until I came to make this post, which works out because the reason I stopped posting is also the reason I’m coming to post today: My mom.

On Facebook, I’ve been sharing a lot of the journey I’ve been on with her declining mental health over the past two years, but especially the past three months, and I’ve had so many people reach out I decided to share with a wider audience.

So, let’s start in September of 2017 and I’ll get you up to speed.

Actually, let’s start in October of 2008, when my mother was recovering from colorectal cancer in my home and I realized I was not a nurse, I was not a natural-born caregiver, and my mom was a double-fisted handful of impossible to please when she’s ill. I mean, I already knew that last part. I had remembered that from my childhood. What was new was realizing that my patience level had changed.

In October of 2008, my son was three, my husband was working full time and going to school full time. I was also working a stressful, full-time job, caring for my little family, and then driving 1.5 hours every night ONE WAY to visit my mother in the hospital, until I brought her home after a series of events in the hospital nearly killed her.

I learned that I had the patience to be my son’s mother or the patience to be my mother’s caregiver, but I did not enough for both–and that’s probably the healthiest realization I’ve ever come to and set me up for success in the following years. I don’t feel bad about that. I have limits and I know what they are.

From 2008 through 2014, at intervals, I would ferry my mother to and from appointments in order to be the detail-keeper. I took her to the MRI appointment when she took 3x the dosage of valium they had suggested and then behaved so cruelly and so badly that I chose not to connect with her for a couple of weeks after I was sure she was back to normal. (She needed the MRI because in a bout of what was increasingly erratic behavior, she had “playfully” charged my son like a bull, tripped, and busted open my front door with her head, pile-driving my then-7-year-old first-grader into a flight of stairs. She hit the door so hard, it knocked out a chunk of drywall when it hit the wall. A couple of years later, while “playfully” grabbing at my son, she would trip, fall, and break her arm.)

In 2014, when she had open-heart surgery, I reprised my role of caregiver both before and after her hospital stay, and was there when she went absolutely apeshit in the ICU for three days. I stayed at her house with her to help her settle in and it was pure, unadulterated misery for both of us. I couldn’t do anything right for her, and she couldn’t find any relief. My mom suffered every emotional side-effect associated with open-heart surgery, without the willingness to do anything the doctor or I asked her to do.

When we made our 6-week return to the surgeon, my mom (whose recovery had been arduous and unending) admitted that she had stopped taking any of the medication that had been prescribed after surgery because she didn’t think she needed it, and I lost my shit. I sat through the surgeon berating me for not taking better care of her, and not making sure she was taking her medication (I would ask, she would say yes, that was that.) I sat through her truculent response to his insistence that she take her medicine. And, I sat through at least five red lights on our way home before I absolutely lost my shit.

I was furious that I had spent so much time and expended so much emotional energy into her health, only to have her scoff and say she could cure herself with herbs. I was enraged that I had missed important things with my son so I could sit by her side while she recovered since she was just going to kill herself with a refusal to cooperate with the doctor after the fact. I was livid about all the pieces I had been forced to pick up before and after her surgery, and what all I’d had to give up and do just to make her home habitable for when she returned from the hospital. I had poured money, time, sweat, and a lot of tears into her health. All she had to do was take some pills.

Of course, it’s much more complicated than that. It always is.

A transient ischemic attack (or, TIA), is what kicked off the ER visit that led to the heart surgery. Now, I know that a TIA can also kick off or kick up levels of Vascular Dementia. With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, I can see that in the weeks and months after the TIA, my mom’s mental health was never the same. I can see that she honestly could not understand the importance of her medication routine. I can see that the part of her mind that helped her plan for the future, and helped her reason was crippled. I can see that my mother’s current diagnosis of vascular dementia probably got its start in 2014–maybe earlier.

All I knew then was that my mother knew she had Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease, and she wasn’t willing to do the work to manage either issue, and I had a child to raise and a marriage to foster. I had to work, and I had my own physical and mental health issues to deal with. So, unless she needed me for transportation due to anesthesia (colonoscopies 2x a year) or wanted company at the doctor, I released her to her own healthcare. I worried, but I let go of responsibility.

Over the course of the next three years, I saw (but did not recognize) all the symptoms of dementia in my mother:

  • Confusion
  • Trouble paying attention and concentrating
  • Reduced ability to organize thoughts or actions
  • Decline in ability to analyze a situation, develop an effective plan and communicate that plan to others
  • Difficulty deciding what to do next
  • Problems with memory
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Unsteady gait
  • Sudden or frequent urge to urinate or inability to control passing urine
  • Depression or apathy

I started scouting senior living facilities because I was worried about her house falling down around her, and her not being able to manage or maintain it (and also because I plan in advance like I’m playing chess with Death), and I started trying to convince my mom that she needed to move.

We fought a lot. A LOT. Our usual daily communication dwindled because her behavior was so erratic and unsettling. She was not emotionally reliable, and I started pulling way back on the time she spent with my son because I felt like she was using him to fortify herself. It wasn’t healthy for him. She started asking him to lie for her, and that was the end of that. She thought I was mean and condescending. I thought she was stubborn and killing herself.

And that’s where we were in September of 2017, when after three days of her not answering her phone, I went to her house and found her wandering around pantsless and weeping.

And that’s the day I became my mother’s keeper.

Posted in Howling Sea Lane, Inside Lane

Falling off Bikes and DACA


Thor and I like riding our bikes. Last night, I skidded out on the downward slope of a gravel incline and went over my handlebars into a metal railing and tried to mop up all the rocks with my leg meat. As quickly as I could, I scrambled up and off the bike path, Thor hurrying to catch up and make sure I wasn’t too badly damaged. It was pretty grim.

I ended up looking like someone had taken a cheese grater to my legs, and forearms, and had to take off a sock to staunch the blood flow from the chunk I took out of my palm, but we rode another quarter mile to the water fountains where I could clean up some before heading back home. We were nearly three miles away from the house at that point, and I was not looking forward to the trek. But, what else do you do? No way out but through.

I told the kid, as blood ran down into a puddle in my shoe, making a squish sound as I pedaled, “If you’re going to bike regularly, eventually something like that is going to happen to you. I’m not going to lie. Right this second, I hurt like fuck, but we can’t stop. We have to keep going. And if you ever fall like that and you don’t have your phone, you can’t stop. You have to keep going no matter how bad it hurts. I want you to keep in mind what you saw me do, how I reacted, and I want you to not be afraid of falling or of getting back up.

You can’t just lie in the road because then you run the risk of someone hurting you worse by accident, and them getting hurt–you have to get up and get out of the way, then get home because otherwise, you can be the start of a bad domino effect.”

I told him about a couple of other falls I’d taken, bad enough that I had to walk my bike back home because both the bike and I were too wrecked to ride, trying to really impress that the important thing is making it back home before you break down.

We rode home, and I went into the bathroom and cried because…oh my god. So painful.

broken-bike

Jeff Sessions just announced the rescission of DACA, and for a lot of people, it’s like going over the handlebars of a swiftly moving bicycle. Teeth are coming out on impact with this one. It’s bad. It hurts like fuck. Let’s take a second to acknowledge that hurt, then let’s act. Let’s get out of the road. Let’s take off a sock and cover up the worst cuts. Let’s find a place to clean off. Then, let’s get back on the road and pedal like crazy toward home. Home being the place where children brought to this country, who have grown up in the US for all intents and purposes as much citizens as my own born-here baby, have assurances of continued safety and a path to legal citizenship.

Our next step is to contact our representatives in Congress and demand that they protect our Dreamers. And once we’ve done that, we can go into the bathroom and cry. Then, we’ve got to rinse and repeat until those children and adult-children are safe from being deported to countries they haven’t seen (for some) since infancy.

I just learned a fancy new way to accomplish this and started my love affair with the deliciously subversive sounding Resistbot.

Text the word “Resist” to 50409 and Resistbot will connect with you and help you contact your representatives. I asked my Senators, as a citizen of the United States and a proud Texan to strive to save DACA through congressional action. I asked them not to let our Dreamers down.

If you are reading this and you are a Dreamer, your bike might be too wrecked to get yourself home. Hop on mine. I’ll pedal. You rest until you feel strong enough to fight again. I know a bunch of people with bikes. We’ll work together for you.

 

 

 

Posted in Inside Lane

Walk Humbly with Your God


Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13

For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Romans 13:9

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25:40

You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Exodus 20:4

These are the scriptures that have been ringing in my ears as I watched the news coming out of Charlottesville, VA over the past few days. Walk humbly with your God, eschewing false idols/carved images, showing love to your fellow man–the kind of love you demand for yourself. The kind of love that would lay down its life that you might live free.

I’ve thought about those scriptures while watching people who call themselves Christians argue to maintain statues of men who were willing to die that other men might live enslaved, treated as animals or objects, to be bought and sold at the whim of a human master.

I watched a man commit murder over a statue.

I watched other men beat an unarmed man with flag poles over a statue.

And I have asked myself, where would Jesus have been in that crowd, and I’m afraid the answer is that he would have been either on the beating end of a flag pole or the hood ornament of a Dodge Challenger.

I was raised, making heroes of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. I was raised to have pride in my Southern heritage, and devotion to the idea that we, as an oppressed group, would surely rise again. I loved that flag. I loved that song. I loved being part and parcel of the romance of the Antebellum South.

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Tiny Lane on a visit to a plantation in Alabama, circa 1975.

Then I met people who thought differently. I talked and argued, made an ass of myself on a regular basis and kept saying things like, “I’m not a racist, but…” until something got through to me. I don’t know what it was. I can’t even tell you when it happened. I just woke up and something had gotten through my thick head and into my heart.

Maybe it was the birth of my son? Maybe it was the thought of every other mother out there. Maybe it was because I kept hearing the scripture about Rachel crying out for her children. Maybe it was realizing that if I’d been born enslaved, someone could have sold my son away from me and not even God in heaven could have kept it from happening. There is no romance in that notion. There is no romance to that world. There is nothing either sweet or nostalgic about a world whose beauty is made on the shredded backs of enslaved people.

As Thor and I were talking yesterday, we talked about statues and what they mean, and where they belong. We talked about how no matter how you slice it, no matter how many excuses or how many #notallsoutherners you throw at it, no matter how many points you can get across about the wrongdoings of the Union, the bottom line is that the Confederacy was fighting to protect an economy that was only possible through slave labor.

I asked him how he would like to work for no wages. Or how he would like to know that his parents could be sold off away from him at any time. Or how he would like to know that he was less valuable than a horse. Because no matter how many other reasons the South might have had to rise up, so long as they were protecting their right to tell a little boy he was a thing not a person, they were wrong. They were wrong.

And we shouldn’t celebrate men for fighting for the right to oppress other men, no matter how they treated their own slaves–and god the bile just rises up when I type that because there shouldn’t have been slaves to begin with, and no one should get a cookie for “freeing” his own.

We shouldn’t celebrate war period. But shame on us for insisting that we honor the politics that meant the deaths of so many brave men and women–because that’s what we’re ultimately doing. We’re celebrating the politics that forced people to choose sides when the right thing being done to begin with would have saved so much blood.

Celebrate and honor your heritage with honesty and with humility, and with the understanding that your story isn’t the only one worth telling. I am Southern. My roots run deep. I am not proud of our part of the mark on history left by slavery. But I am very proud of the individual people who make up my bootstrapping family with the understanding that what made our bootstrapping possible was the fact that we were white.

 

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Tiny Lane contemplates the decor.

 

I know I’m mostly preaching to the choir. It’s just important that the choir knows which pulpit I’m standing in. And if you happen to read this and are offended by it, I suggest you spend some quiet time asking yourself why and playing devil’s advocate with your own discomfort.

When I’m thinking about statues, I’m thinking about my kind-hearted, tender, little boy, and I’m wondering what it would mean to him to have to walk past a memorial honoring a man who was willing to die to protect the idea that my son (had he been born a Black child) was not a full human.

Think about that. Think about what it would mean to you to know that someone was willing to give his life so that you might be enslaved. Think about what it would mean to you to know that we were honoring someone who was willing to DIE so that someone else could own you. Really. Seriously. Think about that. That’s what we do to lovely, decent people all the time.

I’m wondering what it does to the psyches of little boys and girls everywhere, who grow up being told, “You’re equal,” but then have to walk into schools named for men who were willing to die to protect an institution that meant buying and selling them like animals or furniture.

I’m wondering what it does to the hearts of children to look up into the stone faces of men who, if the war had gone differently, were fighting to maintain the right to keep them in chains.

Why are we okay with sending those messages to our children?

And keep in mind that it isn’t just White Southerners who lost the war. Black Southerners lost it, too. What did we do, as a Southern Nation, to help the freed slaves find lives? We were too busy licking our own wounds and trying to survive, and some of us were buying sheets, and starting lynch mobs to do much other than nothing. We cannot, must not forget how we responded to those men, women, and children after the war. Remembering that in some states, like Texas, we didn’t even bother letting the slaves know they’d been emancipated.

Yes, many White people did good and valuable things. Let’s put up some statues of them if we need statues. Let’s put up some statues of abolitionists in the places of generals and failed presidents. If we have to have statues of white people, let’s find some decent ones.

And know that it pains me to trash talk Robert E. Lee because I have a very hard time not hero-worshipping him as a cross between Santa Claus and Jesus. But Santa never laid switches across a man’s back, or fought for his right to do it. And Jesus sure-as-shooting never took up a cross for anyone’s right to treat another man like a mule.

So, I’m going to stick to worshipping the dude who said that the greatest love is characterized by laying down our lives for our neighbors–sometimes the best way to lay down your life is to set aside your false idols and show love through humility.

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Tiny Lane bids you adieu.
Posted in Inside Lane

Dear Judy Blume


Dear Judy Blume,

 

My son started asking me some hard-to-answer questions recently. While I did my best to share what I thought was important for him to know—and maybe over-shared because that’s who I am, I also offered him books. “I can get you some books? You can read those, and then ask me any questions those don’t answer. Would that help?” Because our household reads like it is a tenet of faith, he jumped on that. Several dozen recommendations later, I picked the four books I thought would most benefit him.

 

Three were non-fiction books to deal with the facts, the diagrams, and the medical terminology. One was, Then Again, Maybe I Won’t. To deal with the human elements of growth and curiosity. The facts-of-life need the human element, like faith needs works.

 

I believe in books. I believe in the magic of sliding into someone else’s skin through words. I believe in the power of the fable. I believe in the transformative properties of a well-constructed narrative.

 

I met Tony Miglione when I was in elementary school—the new kid in the 3rd Grade classroom. Some of what he had to say was way above my head, and it was years before I understood all he was talking about, but a few things really stuck with me. I remembered the lesson he learned about treating waitstaff with respect. I remembered the lesson he learned about maintaining his own principles. I remembered how he struggled as the new kid, but managed to make his own way. And, I remembered how his family’s maid treated the situation when Tony found out about nocturnal emissions. I also always remembered that I should learn to pronounce someone’s full name. Tony Miglione taught me a lot.

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I met Margaret Simon a few months later, and she was my friend through a winter break at a daycare, where I spent my time pouring over her worries about religion, relatives, and her period. I remember reading slowly, hoping I could make the book last longer. I remember a grown-up marveling that I was so focused. Margaret gave me an idea of how to deal with insecurity. She helped me understand that we are all on our own timelines, and that is okay. She helped me feel better about my own family’s weird relationship with religion, and inspired me to seek.

 

Over the course of the next two years, I would meet Katherine Danziger, Jill Brenner, Deenie Fenner, and Davey Wexler, adding them to my close friendships with Peter Hatcher, and Sheila Tubman. I’d known Peter and Sheila for much longer—they were more like cousins. Older cousins, who would tell you things. Every one of those friends taught me about how to treat people, how to accept and appreciate myself, how to forgive, how to strive, and how to live closer to my own moral code. They also made me laugh, made me cry, and showed me how to hope.

 

My son met Peter and Sheila a long time ago. I was excited to introduce him to Tony, but I downplayed it. They needed to make their own love connection. It was disastrous when I tried to make him fall in love with Peter Pevensie. I think it’s going to work out between them because he’s been carrying the book everywhere he goes. He doesn’t want to miss a second with his new friend.

 

I’m looking forward to him discovering all my old friends. He’s a conscientious kid. I think he’ll hear what they have to say.

 

I wanted to thank you for giving Tony, and Margaret, and Peter, and Sheila, and Katherine, and Jill (Jill and I were total BFFs when I was in 4th Grade), and Deenie, and Davey voices.

 

Thank you for giving me those friends.

 

Thank you for giving them to my son.

 

Amen,

Lane

Posted in Inside Lane

A Word About Politics


A few years back, when I met Tamara, one of the first things I did was stalk her blog. Of course, the first thing I read has stuck with me since, and I think about it more often than you’d probably imagine.

You should read the whole piece, but I’ve pulled out the quotes that get me to the gist of where I want to be in this entry:

In English, I am sloppily verbose. I have a treasure trove of vocabulary at my disposal and search for just the right words to make my points. I use two, three, four different ones per idea with slightly different nuances to deliver the completeness of what I’m attempting to convey.

In French I am spartan. I have minimal command of the language. I have no nuances—everything I say is stated clearly and plainly. There is no subterfuge or verbal manipulations. I do not have the capacity for double entendre, coded language or farcical humor. If I want to express a new thought or idea, first I have to look up the words.

–slowly, slowly I began to learn. I started to collect a vocabulary. 

Now two years in, I still struggle–I regularly have to decide in terms of communicating: what are the words I need to know?

In conversation with a French friend who speaks no English, he observed this about me: “I thought when I met you, that you were not for real. I kept expecting you to not be so nice, to get angry or to do something mean. But you never did. You never get angry!”

“NO” I said. “I DO get angry! But I do not know the words. So I have to choose: Should I look up the words to express my anger? How important is it to me? Do I want to know how to fight or say mean things? I decided no. So then I stop being angry. Because I don’t know the words.”

 

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I don’t think I know the words I need in order to express how I feel about this year’s election results. I know the word “disappointed”, but it really doesn’t convey how I feel about people being able to watch a man mock the disabled and jeer at war veterans, and excuse his behavior enough to say, “Yes, that’s the man I want representing me to the world.”

I know the word “dubious” which is the word I ascribe to my feelings about the media suddenly revolting against the candidate at his use of the term “pussy”. THAT was what did it for you? See, I don’t believe that. I think you were just hoping for a hook to hang your horror on, after having laughed and applauded for so long. You wanted a speed bump for the roller coaster you’d switched on, so you could say you tried to stop it. I’ve been a woman in the United States of America for 45 years. I know better than to believe you care whether or not I’ve consented to a man grabbing me by the pussy.

I know the words “cognitive dissonance” because I feel their effects every time I say to myself, “It’s going to be okay,” and I realize that the only reason I can say that is because I am white, straight, cisgendered, middle-classed, and educated, with other white, straight, cisgendered, middle-classed family members to fall back on if we fail. I am not a hungry child, whose mother is working two jobs and still can’t afford daycare. I’m not an elderly person, living on the scraps of Social Security. I’m not a young adult whose parents brought me to this country as an undocumented infant, who has only ever known this nation as a homeland. I’m not a mother, looking at her black son, hoping he manages to avoid the police, or at least unlock the magic combination of submission and approval that will keep him alive when he’s pulled over for speeding. I’m not a soldier, who may have to go into actual battle because of a Twitter war.

I know the words riddikulus, obliviate, and expecto patronum, but none of those work for me.

I’ve been trying to find the right words for a post about this since before November 8. I haven’t known them, so I haven’t said them.

But, here are some other words I know. These are words I believe in. Words that do work for me.

Hope

Work

Compassion

Volunteer

Teach

Art

Comedy

Grassroots

Understanding

Family

Community

Progress

Democracy

Learn

Listen

Hear

Try

Try again

Try again, again

Get up

Keep going

Don’t stop ’til you get enough

Be the change you want to see

Work for what you want

Work smarter

Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you

Be kind

Heal the sick

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country

Love

I’m leaning in to the words I know best. I don’t have time to try to find the other ones.