Old Pie And Erma Bombeck

This weekend I had not one but two people describe me as an “Erma Bombeck” type, except more cussy. At the time, I thought they were talking about my writing (ahem) but after today, I’m wondering if they weren’t describing me in appearance.

I’ve realized that I’ve become Everyone’s Mother. Truthfully. I’m yours and yours. Likely yours. Let me explain.

I turned 43 in January. It didn’t really bother me much. I figure on a really good day, if it’s overcast, a bit foggy, at dusk and you are standing 30 feet away, I can easily pass for 42. I’ve hit “That Age“. That matronly, oh-so-unshaggable age. Where everyone except the 60 to 70 year-old crowd thinks of me as a barren field that never needs plowing. Of course, my husband is not included in that, as he is mandated by our vows and in the eyes of god to throw the stick at me on occasion. If I’m not too tired. But to the rest, I’m old pie.

On the rare (oh so rare) occasion that I actually catch some myopic, possibly drunk man checking me out, two thoughts go through my head. The first is “I must have put my bra on over my shirt again” and the second is “Do I have a booger flapping out of my nostril?”.

I’m fine with it. Really. With the age comes the shift in thinking as well as behavior. I have no problem doing the shirt tag tuck on you. Mentioning that your fly is open. Letting you know that you have a little something on the corner of your mouth. I might even wipe it off for you. When I meet or talk to young men I think to myself, “Oh he’s such a nice young man! I hope my boy turns out like him!!!” See? Motherly. Matronly. I’m an Erma.

This afternoon, I stopped for gas. As I was pumping fuel, a man on a motorcycle pulled up. I’ve always had a bike interest so I glanced over, in my head thinking “Please let it be an old Triumph! Please!” It backfired and stalled and he said “Son-of-a” and stopped because he saw my middle-aged mommish face.

As I went to pay, this big 6″5″ leather clad, bearded biker chap followed me in. While I was waiting for my transaction, the cashier asked him if he had his discount card, to which he replied that he didn’t. I turned and smacked him across the shoulder and said in my best lecturey mom voice (complete with finger wag) “You’ve got to get one! Five cents off a litre!” He stammered something about he gets gas all over the place (Oh really? Me too!), to which I shook my head, frowned and said “That’s no excuse!” And as I walked out the door (which he held open) he said “Have a nice day!” To which I responded, and I quote, “You too, my dear! Have a safe ride!” He was probably around 30 and a badass. But to him, I was Mom. An Erma.

Holy mother of God, it’s like looking in a mirror!!!

I give you one of Erma’s quotes on aging: “The only reason I would take up jogging is so I could hear heavy breathing again.”

The hubby just walked by, glanced at me working on this and said “Where’d you get the black and white photo of yourself? It looks good.”

I’m not sure whether to play fetch with him or give the stick to the dog to gnaw on.

Erma. Me. Yeah.

Will Gratitude Give Me Less Back Pain?

In the past month, my body has been trying to kill me.

I’ve had two weeks of hormonal hell, which harkened back to the bad old days of teenage angst. It was so severe I actually phoned my yoga guru, who also happens to be my massage therapist. She suggested  that this was perhaps due to repressed memories that are linked to my depression. I told her I thought it was that my ovaries have a vendetta against me and that they were in the middle of a Coup to overrun my brain. To which she replied, “Yes. That, too.” (She’s fairly awesome.)

The full moon came and screwed things up even more. While walking to my car, I planted my left foot squarely on a patch of ice. Lefty shot out from under me impossibly fast as the rest of my body swung around and pinwheeled in what I can only imagine was a ballet-like twirl of which Mikhail Baryshnikov would be envious. And it hurt.

Immediately my back and hips went into spasm while my tailbone thoughtfully tried to find a new home somewhere near my lungs.

I  plodded on with life. Maybe bitched and moaned a bit. Well okay, I complained like hell as I wandered around and kept my family fed and watered in a semi-hunchback posture. But I did it. Because I’m a trooper. Pain? Phhhht! Fuck pain. I have me some shit to do!!!!!!!

The next day I felt better after some rest and anti-inflammatory drugs. I almost ran around the house, getting things done, only cussing occasionally. In the midst of my “This Place Is A Hell Hole” cleaning spree, I got my foot tangled in the curtains, tripped myself, did a dance which attracted the whole household’s attention and whammed my hip solidly on a table.

My ever sympathetic husband watched from his easy chair and calmly said “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

I don’t hold it against him. The man is desensitized to my flailings.

Another night and more drugs. I decided that even in my pain, I am a hero, and we need groceries! I threw on my cape (otherwise known as my  robe) and stoically made it to the store. Weirdly, I saw 7 other women in the produce section doing the lean-over-the-cart-in-back-pain shuffle on that very day. We all gave each other the nostril salute, as if to reassure each other we were, in fact, good mothers, even though every step was punctuated with the words “Ow! Sonofabitch!” I felt less alone.

I arrived home and with bags in hand stepped carefully out of the car. Hmm. Not too bad. As I made my way around the front of the car, a piece of ice threw itself under my right foot and had me slip to the point I truly thought my vagina was broken. At my age, the splits with a back bend? Really not  a good idea.

The second thought that went through my mind (the first was MOTHERFUCKER!)  was that somehow, the universe was going to magically cure my back pain as I had wrenched myself in the exact opposite direction as I had the first time! Yay! Tailbone fixed! Yay! Not even close.

I put in a frantic call to my massage therapist. When I told her what had happened, she was silent for a moment before she said “What the fuck is wrong with you?” I replied “I don’t know! I’m unbalanced!” “To which she said “I’ll bet you’ve heard that before, huh?” (I sort of love her even more after that.)

I went for a massage and she got me all straightened out. She also droned on about the mind/body connection and that if we let our past and fears dictate blah, blah, blah… I stopped listening to her. The pain went away. For a few days anyway. Then I got a cold. And a cold sore.

Take a moment. Are you imagining my battered, hunchback, snotful, swollen lipped self? It’s not pretty, is it?

Around that time, I saw Dr. Andrew Weil on Dr. Oz. (Does it seem like there is a shitload of Dr.s on television these days? Are they cheaper than  actors or are they bad Dr.s? Like the accidental amputation kind?) Dr. Weil says that if you write in a gratitude journal every day for two weeks you can add something like thirty-seven years to your life expectancy or something. What ever. It’s worth a shot.

Today, I am grateful for the fact that I didn’t clothesline myself on the towel bar when I tripped as I got out of the shower.

That even after making supper and using a knife, I have all my digits.

Grateful that while unloading the dishwasher I didn’t fall into it.

Very grateful that the guy whose foot I tromped on in BestBuy didn’t punch me in the throat. (I think he kinda wanted to.)

And I am especially grateful that I didn’t rip off my baby toe when I stubbed it in the middle of the night. Even though it bled all over, to the point I actually wondered if I was peeing on my foot when I went to the toilet.

There. Gratitude journal started. It wasn’t too hard. Start small, right?

And, Dear God, please don’t let me fall down for any reason this week.

I don’t think my tailbone or my massage therapist could handle it.

Different, Not Less

I feel obligated to write this. It may be different from everything else of mine you’ve read, but it needs to be written. And I need to purge.

A while back, I wrote about my Uncle Brad. https://onlyoddduck.wordpress.com/Brad If you’ll remember, he has cognitive impairments, autistic symptoms, hearing loss, and now is going blind. I saw him briefly at Christmas. This is his story, in honour of him. This is also a cautionary tale and a call to arms for anyone with a loved one who may be differently- abled.

My grandmother did the best she could for Brad. There wasn’t the knowledge and expertise that there is now, 30 years ago. She moved off of her beloved farm into the city, just to get Brad a bit more help. As I’ve said before, he never was given a concrete or specific diagnosis. I recall once, when he was in his teens, a diagnosis of “Emotionally Disturbed”. To me that smacks of Autism, yet also makes no sense. Like I said, we’ve learned a lot.

He lived with his mom, went to school until the age of 21. He had a job at a recycling depot. He was functional. He wasn’t “one of them”. I think my grandma’s mortification possibly prevented him from getting more assistance and training in life skills. But I don’t begrudge her anything. She did the best she could with the knowledge she had at the time. Plus, he could be so “normal”. He was just Brad.

Then she died. He was 33. He’d never lived on his own and had only ever had his family for support. What now?

He tried to live on his own with my mom and dad for support. I’d help when I could, but I lived in another city an hour and a half away. I remember, he would obsessively clean the house after work. It was as if he thought if the house was clean, he’d be seen as capable and could stay there. Yet he’d wash a dish and turn the faucet on all the way to hot, so hard, he would have to phone my folks to drive over and turn it off. Once I found him trying to clean something off of a table top with a screwdriver. Brad also couldn’t sleep through the night. His OCD would have him getting up at all hours, to check that the door was locked.

It finally came to a point that he needed to live in a group home, for his own safety. The town where he lives found him a spot in a new supported living group home. The operator of this home had no qualifications or training, however she had a daughter who was schizophrenic. Apparently this qualified her to get money from the government and have 4 extra disabled folks living in her house. Now, here’s the interesting thing.

Did you know that if you have a mentally disabled person living in your house, you get less money than if you have a mentally ill person living in your house? Yeah, me either.

Brad has always told himself jokes. He’s always talked a bit under his breath to himself. It’s part of who he is. I tell myself jokes all the time. I talk to myself all the time. But because of this woman’s ‘expertise’ in mental illness, she decided to convince a psychiatrist that Brad was delusional and having auditory and visual hallucinations. That he was potentially dangerous. Just like that, he went from being disabled to being a mental health patient.

And his group home operator? She got herself an extra $700 dollars a month. He was put on pills. Lots of them. In the psychiatric industry, we call them chemical restraints.

He was drugged when I’d go to pick him up. To the point of bladder and bowel control problems. He was dirty. His clothes were filthy. As I was working in mental health at the time, I about lost my mind. He moved. As fast as we could do it. As an aside, that lady? She ran her home unimpeded until she left town several years later.

In the last 10 years, Brad hasn’t been unmedicated. I believe he is still under the psychiatric umbrella. He now lives in a group home that is very well staffed, clean and comfortable. He’s well liked and well looked after. He is a different man than a decade ago, but for all intents and purposes, he is happy. He still tells himself jokes. But the people who care for him make him speak up so that they can hear.

The point of all this? When I saw him at christmas, I realized that he is aging far more rapidly than you and I. He will need more care than can be provided to him, sooner rather than later. All that is available where he lives are regular long-term care facilities. I’ve worked in them. It will be absolutely the wrong place for him. Trust me when I say the chemical restraints will just get tighter. A drugged, bedridden patient is much easier to care for than one like Brad.

My folks are aging. He lived with them as long as he could. They haven’t the stamina to have him back. Their health should be their priority. Rightly so.

It falls to me. To that end, a couple of years ago I started phoning around to see what steps I needed to take. I was told by a lovely lady who has made this her life’s work that it was going to be an uphill and unhappy battle. As she put it, “In this country, one province does not want another province’s retarded people”. She told me that I would probably not be able to get funding for him here and that to the powers that be, it was my problem, not theirs. She also told me to never move him into my home, because I would never be able to get him out. Meaning, if this government knew he was here, they would move at a snail’s pace to keep him here. Not their problem, right?

I’m not sure what will happen in the future. My husband and I have discussed it. We both understand that having my Brad rotting in an old folks home 5 hours away would be unthinkable. My mother knows it, too. She also knows that when she passes, I will be his voice.

Here’s my voice. We must remember that above all, anyone with a disability or disorder is not less human than we are. They are to be accorded the same dignity and treatment without question. We must realize that family, who are most often advocates for those that can’t speak for themselves, will pass on. As a human society, we must protect these folks in their age, as we would want to be protected. We must demand that there are facilities for the aged that are specifically designed for people who are mentally disabled. Psychiatric hospitals are not the answer.

I’m so tired of knowing of people who’ve slipped through the cracks. I’m so tired of worrying. I’m tired of people being labelled as nothing. He is my loved one. He is my Brad. He didn’t do anything wrong. He’s here. Just like your loved ones.

We need to get our governments in this game. Before it’s too late.

“I am different, not less.” Temple Grandin

Boobs and Birthdays

I turned 43 last week. Forty three. Fortythree. fortythree.furtytree.forryhree.

You know, if you say it enough times, it stops making sense.

I don’t particularly care about my age. It’s one year closer to death. Big deal.

I have a few wrinkles, more grey hair than I ever did. So what? I’ve earned every one of them. I’m all for passing the beauty torch on to the younglings that can handle the pressure. I did my turn.

But my boobs! My god, my boobs.

Now, I’ve never been a well endowed girl, and as I was a tomboy, they just got in the way. Alas, I’ve gained some weight in the past couple of years. Consequently, I’ve developed what my mother delicately refers to as a “rack”. And those things are just a pain in the ass.

Here’s my issue. Every birthday, I swear they drop an inch. It’s like they hate getting older and are moving south. Like retirees. Except south is towards my belt.

Fuck.

Last year at christmas, my mom and I were cuddled on the couch. She’s a rubber. You know the ones? They can’t just sit, they have to rub some part of you until the skin wears away and there is a bloody gaping hole where they’ve left the mark of their affection. The dogs like it. I don’t.

So she’s rubbing my arm, and I told her to stop. She asked me why. I said, “Mom, you’re kind of rubbing my nipple”. She jolted, howled with laughter and said “Jesus! Why is it by your elbow?”

Oh mom. I wish I knew.

A few weeks before christmas, our lovely neighbours called us at about 6 p.m. and said “We’re in our pajamas. And drinking. Come for pajama drinks.” Excuse me, but how badass is it to have folks in your life you feel so comfortable with that you can have drinks in your pajamas? PAJAMA DRINKS,PEOPLE!!!! Actually, it sounds a wee bit kinky, but these weren’t our orgy neighbours so we felt safe.

About half way through the evening, my friend Dee gave me a friendly stomach tickle. (Wait. This does sound kinky.) Anyway, it was one of those mom-love-ya grabs us mommies do, but sadly I had to tell her that what she’d thought was my side was actually my boob. I flustered the poor woman for a bit until I explained that now when I sit down, the girls tend to hover oh so gently to rest on my lap. An honest mistake.

Fuck.

I just don’t know why they’ve decided to become long and tubular. I thought that only happened to National Geographic tribal naked women. I’ve been so misled.

I’m already losing my navel behind them. “Where’s my navel? Oh wait, it’s right here, behind my boob. Duh.” What’s next, tucking them into my socks?

I’ve thought about getting them pierced. Not for any reason other than to slip a chain through one, lace around my neck and attach it to the other piercing. Kind of like a poor mans breast lift.  Might work.

But this is my advice to all the younglings. Don’t pierce your boobs! Don’t ever add weight to something thats going to sag naturally anyway.

As for me. It might just be time to buy a really good bra I can wear all the time. Do they come in tubular sizes?