Posted in Inside Lane

Geezer Love

When my parents split up, my mother fell to pieces. I spent literal years mopping up tears and offering sympathy, empathy, and listening to things no daughter should ever have to hear. She swore she would never love again. My father was the one and only, and if she couldn’t have him, she would have no one. No one! Augh! Dramatic flounce!

She would never love again, never trust again, never even look at another man–she swore it. And, for the better part of 27 years, she kept her word. Then, one day in 2018, I went to pick her up from Independent Living to take her to lunch and she announced that she was engaged.

I knew my mom had been sitting with a man at lunch and dinner meals, and had forgone the company of her regular little crew of blue-hairs for his. I figured she had some feelings for him, but it was really beyond my capacity of belief to even imagine she was falling in love. Especially since all of this happened over the course of 3 weeks.
So, my mom told me she wanted to marry this dude, and I said great. Because… Well, at that point she seemed lucid enough to make that kind of decision. She couldn’t manage her finances, but the heart wants what it wants, and it’s not like I could keep them apart anyway. They lived down the hall from each other, and more often than not, my mom was at his place, soaking up the sunshine of his smile.
I’m going to long story short you here and tell you that things fell apart spectacularly in another month, leaving my mother devastated, broken-hearted, and as sure she would never love again as she had been in 1991.
I was not prepared to deal with my mother’s love life. I tried to be encouraging and happy for her, but also keep my feet on the ground for her because there’s that old saying, “fast flames flame out fast.”
It was weirdly like parenting a young teen. Neither of these people could drive. Neither had jobs, or control of their finances. It was like two kids at boarding school, who met in the dining room and hooked up in their dorm rooms after classes. And, neither had full executive function. The problem solving, long-term planning parts of their brains were both kaput.
But, they were in looooooooooooove, and as handsy and grossly horny as high schoolers. I was so not prepared to see a man gnawing on my elderly mother’s face and groping her boob. It was like two sock puppets trying to ingest one another.
As ill-prepared as I was for the romance, the breakup was a blitzkrieg assault on all my skills. It had been almost 30 years since my mom had kissed a man, and she’d fallen hard and fast for this one, who couldn’t keep his hands off of her. Then suddenly, he hated her laugh, hated her voice, hated that she wasn’t from Texas, hated that she didn’t like to be outside, thought she might be planning to steal his money, and…five minutes later, he just wanted to be friends and talk to her about the other women he fancied, and called her ten times a day just to talk and tell her he loved her.
I was not prepared to be my mother’s girlfriend and sounding board, or to pick up her broken pieces…again. She fell into depression and didn’t want to go downstairs to eat because he was there. She didn’t want to face her friends because she was afraid they had gossiped about her. And, she floundered around in the fear that she was unloveable and inherently flawed. You know, the same things we all fear when we have a breakup, only the “hopeful” part of her brain was also calcified.
Ultimately, even after he moved to a different community this dude kept calling her and stringing her along. Maybe they could work it out. Maybe things would get better. Maybe they could still get married. Until, after we toured the community where he lived and we ran into him, and he called me to say that my mother had the wrong idea and he didn’t want her to live anywhere near him.
He called me again when she didn’t answer her phone for 48 hours (because she was in the hospital recovering from a stroke and I had ignored 20 dials from him) to ask me to BREAK UP WITH HER FOR HIM.
I did this by blocking his phone number.
When I moved her into the new community I eyeballed the ratio of men to women and kind of hoped we’d be safe from romance. I am stupidly naive. She’s been there for 2.5 weeks and she has a boyfriend.
She had pointed him out to me on Saturday and said, I kid you not, “that’s a cowboy I’d like to ride.” I changed the subject because do not want. Do. Not. Want.
I discovered that the feeling might be mutual when the man’s daughter and WIFE introduced themselves to me last night, and told me that he and my mother had become “partners”. He doesn’t remember he’s married, you see. His wife seemed very pleased for him. His daughter did not.
I think I smiled at them? Then, I got my mother out of the common room and hid in her room with her until I saw them leave.
I’m still not ready for this, but I know more than I did last time. Also, when my son starts dating, I’ve got this under my belt and might be a better help to him.
That said, here’s what I learned when your Old wants to get married:
  • Finances can be a deal-breaker. This is what ultimately shut it down for Mom and her swain. He was receiving his deceased wife’s pension, and if he remarried, that part of his income would go away.
  • Benefits can improve. If my mom had married this guy, her SSI benefit would have increased. But, benefits can also decrease because with things like Medicaid, as the household income rises, the amount of the benefit falls.
  • It’s less expensive to share housing, obviously. While it would have cost one of the then-happy couple $2700 a month to live in my mom’s apartment, adding another body to the household would only have increased the rent by $800, so they would both have benefitted from a reduction in cost of living.
  • But if you think blending families is hard when you have small kids, imagine trying to do it when your kids are the ones pushing your wheelchair. Then, you’ve got all the moving pieces of estate planning, wills, and medical directives, and who will run the joint finances. You might end up with a smart, organized kid who hires an attorney to protect her parent’s finances and hers and her siblings’ inheritance, or you might end up with a kid like me who says, “Can’t we just sign a deal that says you guys keep all your stuff, and my mom keeps all her stuff, and when one of them dies, they just revert to where they were today?” (Hope you have the one who lawyers up. She’s probably a lot smarter and less naive.)
  • You’re going to have to manage your own emotions, and you might have to manage it like your parent is your child. Give them the freedom to love and be loved, but be there to protect their interests. Your Old is still a person, and people want to be loved. If they can find someone who makes them happy, be happy for them. Wise like a serpent, harmless as a dove.
  • And, be prepared to talk to your Old about STDs. I did have this conversation with my mother and it was awful for both of us, but I’d rather be embarrassed for 15 minutes than have to have her swabbed for chlamydia.
Posted in relationships

So Here’s the Deal with all the Love Talk…

I may have taught my son to say Hooker while watching American Idol. But jiminey crickets! You don’t sing Here Comes the Sun like you just stepped out of a big, pink wad of bubble gum! B and I were wondering if it was the Michael Jackson half of the Beatles catalog being butchered tonight? I suspect, yes.

I’m spending a lot of thought on relationships because a close family friend is going through a rather acrimonious divorce. We speak about it frequently, so it stays on my mind. I think the hardest part is that the man in question was always, until he suddenly wasn’t, a wonderful, upstanding man of great character. In the twenty-five years I knew him–no, twenty-three because I don’t know this guy who manifested two years ago–he was my go-to manfriend for advice and help. But something happened somewhere, and he isn’t that man anymore.

I am not naive. I know that every relationship is only temporary, if only because everyone dies eventually. As Cher sang it, sooner or later, we all sleep alone. And I know that people change. Some people have nervous breakdowns, some people have strokes, some people develop dementia. Some people hear from god. Some people just get bored.

When all the big names started getting divorced at KCM and EMIC, I think I became immune to shock when people split. I also became very dogmatic about relationships being a daily decision and a daily choice. I was reading an interview with supermodel Yasmin Le Bon* the other day, and something she said stuck with me. I’ve been mulling it over and over since. When asked if there had been a lot of changes in her relationship with her husband over the past twenty-five years of marriage, she said

Of course, relationships change, and that’s the beautiful thing about them. Even now they change, even if it’s in a really serious way. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many people separating and divorcing after being married for a long time. And it’s really surprising to me. The only thing I know is that I’m happy and that at any moment I choose to be with him. I don’t know what will come next. All I can tell you is that Simon makes me laugh. When you care for someone so much and they make you laugh so much, you simply want to do everything with them.

The emphasis is mine, of course.

I really believe that long-term relationships are built on little choices we make daily.

When I got married, I had never lived with a man before. I had barely lived with a roommate. I had a lot of learning to do! I was a doted on, only child, and it wasn’t until I moved into my marital home that I realized just how doted on I had been. It was a huge adjustment going from being the center of the universe at home, to being just the other person on the sofa.

It was a huge adjustment going from my family and their copious praise–and listen, when I say copious, I mean it. My mother, my grandparents, my adopted family (including the divorcing couple), and my friends are all very free with praise. I don’t think I went a day between 0 and Married without someone telling me I was beautiful, and brilliant, and wonderful, and talented, and priceless. I married a man who is perfectly happy without talking for days. And I married a man who figures I just know he thinks I’m the bees knees, otherwise, he wouldn’t have married me. Duh. We can go weeks without him complimenting me. THAT was an adjustment.

Okay, I’m still adjusting to that. I like words. Lots and lots of words. Sometimes I feel very sorry for myself. So, when I need to hear words of validation from B, I tell him. (Or I call my mom, and she tells me how perfect I am. I try to do this as a last resort, though. One day, my mom will be gone, and I need to find ways to fill those gaps so that I’m not in a dangerous emotional state the first time I ask B to tell me something nice and he says, “Uh…you’re pretty?”)

My relationship philosophy works like this: My marriage is my life-job. I intend to be in this job for the rest of my life. Just like any job, if I expect success, I need to take pride in the quality of the work I produce, and I need to pay close attention to the market. I have to provide excellent customer service, but I also have to be aware of the bottom line, and when customer service and the bottom line aren’t mutually beneficial, I need to figure out what will keep me in the black. I have a responsibility to live up to a standard. If I am doing the best job possible, I will see results.

But I also understand that sometimes a worker does everything possible, and the customer, or the market just don’t respond. There are hiccups in the economy, natural disasters, terrorist attacks…any number of things can shut down your business without you having done a single thing wrong. All you can do is your best, so that when you go to sleep at night, you know you have been the type of person you wouldn’t mind waking up with.

When it comes to making big decisions about how I will act, react, or behave myself, I do my level best to run everything through my motivation checker first. James 3:17, But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated [sic], full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. If my desired actions, reactions, behaviors can make it through that filter, I go ahead. If they don’t, well, crap. I have to start over again.

Every choice counts.

I promise I won’t be harping on this forever. I’m just writing out a broken heart. I miss the man who walked me down the aisle at my wedding. I’ll miss that man forever. Not nearly as much as his wife will, though. God bless them both.

*My friend Nancy built and maintains this beautiful website all by herself. She is so talented–she amazes me.

Posted in Uncategorized

Twu Wove

“Mawwage. Mawwage is what bwings us together today.”  –Impressive Clergyman, The Princess Bride
I waited a long time to get married.  Prior to meeting B, I had one near miss.  I am thankful every day for having dodged that bullet.  As far as I am concerned, that two other poor women married that sucker is proof that God does have favorites, and I am one of them.  But, I waited a long time.
While I was single and hoping, I heard a lot of advice about dating.  There were the advocates of online matchmaking (dating websites, web forums, chat groups), group dating, blind dating, and not dating at all (and trusting God to drop the man of your dreams on your doorstep.)  I think I got a lecture from and about every one of them.
There were also those who advocated making a list of what you wanted in a man, and trusting the Universe, or God, or The Secret, to bring him to you, right down to the part in his hair.  I made a list, but I could never decide what he should look like.  My list kept getting longer and longer, and I was feeling more and more ridiculous.  I mean, the list isn’t a bad idea because it helps you figure out what is important to you in a relationship, but hair color just isn’t a big deal, and I didn’t care what he did for a living, so long as I didn’t have to support him.
I was finally exasperated with my list and narrowed it down to this:  I want to marry a man with whom I can be 100% myself, without feeling shy or embarrassed, or like I should change.  He should feel the same way around me.
After all, what is better than that friend who loves you exactly as you are, and who doesn’t mind if you forget where Singapore is once and a while?  Nothing.
B, Andy, Scott, and Mark, somewhere between 2001--2002

When I met B, I liked him instantly.  He seemed very comfortable in his own skin, wasn’t putting on airs or trying to be anything he wasn’t, and he had a group of friends to be envied.  We met at Mark’s NYE party on December 31, 2001.  We had our first date 23 days later on January 24, 2002.  Exactly two years later, we married each other.

Today, B and I spent the day with Thor, sitting in the middle of a creek.  We had to hike out to a low point first, then we waded out hip deep to find a rock, and we sat down in a tangle of legs and wet clothes, leaning against each others backs, and we listened to the world go by.  It was one of those perfect days.  Just the three of us together, doing something silly.  Days like today make me love him even more.

I used to be afraid that if anyone ever really got to know me, it would be impossible for them to like me, much less love me.  I used to be afraid that when B had lived with me long enough, and found out enough about me, he would leave.  Somewhere in the last year, he made magic happen.  I’m not afraid of that anymore.  I’m not afraid of myself anymore.  It’s a lot bigger than it sounds in print.  I found out that at my worst, I’m really not so bad.  And in striving to be my most livable best, I’ve become better.

I married a man who let me be 100% myself, and in doing so, I’ve grown 100% comfortable in my own skin.  Frankly, I think that’s the best you can get out of marriage.