Present Tense

Cracking open…

eggWhat am I learning? That is my new mantra that is barely beating out “what am I feeling?”. I guess as I approach a sort of milestone birthday, it’s about time to begin asking myself some probing questions. I do have a journalism degree, after all.

What I’m learning is that it’s never too late for new reactions and behaviors to blossom; it often just requires a catalyst. The losses and challenges of the past 12 months have cracked me open and stuff like love, patience, empathy and generosity are oozing out and the more it oozes, the bigger the crack becomes.

My dog Chili died almost a year ago and that was a searing pain that brought me right to my knees. Then, my dad died in April and that knocked me completely off my axis. I had no idea that losing a parent could be so disorienting and shocking. I thought I was prepared. I wasn’t. You probably weren’t either.

Those deaths numbed me, but my mother cracked me open. Seeing her lose her husband and lover and companion of nearly 75 years drove an arrow deep into my heart. She relied on him so completely for her physical and emotional support and then in an afternoon, she was without him. Forever.

My husband and I are childless by choice. I have not regularly had to put someone else’s well being and needs above my own. That’s just an honest assessment. Yes, we’ve taken care of each other over the years. He had cancer. I’ve battle alcoholism, but it’s not the same as caring for a child. Or an elderly parent.

My mother will be 94 in a couple of weeks and the past month has been very difficult for her, with a couple of hospitalizations and now a rehab facility to get her strong enough to return to her assisted living facility. She has needed us in a way that I’ve never felt needed before.

I’ve cut up her food, cajoled her to eat, changed her diaper, helped her dress, undress, brush her teeth, advocated for her care, nagged health care providers, often on weekends. She has at times been so foggy about her circumstances that it scared the crap out of me. She asks the same questions over and over and I’ve patiently answered over and over. I’ve tried to reassure her that she’ll get better and ‘go home’. The hardest was when she woke up and groggily asked me why my dad wasn’t there.

Here’s the deal: I’ve never been patient, I’ve never been all that nurturing (to people…different story with my pets) and I’ve always run away from hard stuff like this. This time, I’m running toward it. Toward her. And I am getting so much out of being with her right now. The love and protection that I feel is nearly overwhelming and I have more clarity on so many things in my life, but the one thing that I am sure of is that we moved back to Michigan for a reason and this is it.

I bought our farm over the course of a weekend, with very little research or thought. I went back to Colorado and told my husband that I wanted to move back ‘home’. We put our house on the market, I informed my co-workers and bosses of my plans and we packed up and moved, even though I loved Colorado and I loved our place in the mountains.  There was no questioning this feeling that we had to go.

Something was compelling me home and I didn’t resist it, even though I didn’t quite understand it.  Now I get it. We spent more time with both of my parents over a six month period than we had in years. We spent Christmas and Thanksgiving with them and my dad got to see our little farm. He was so proud and then, he died and I’ve been here to help my mom transition to life without my dad and eventually to transition to join him.

It’s been so hard and it would have been so much easier to be in Colorado for all of this; far removed from all of the drama and dirty work.  Love shoved me home; love cracked me open like an egg and for that, I’m so grateful.

September 28, 2014 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

My Dad….

I got the call that my father passed away suddenly this afternoon.

This is the oldest Family Pic-1story on the planet. Death. Yet, it’s still so shocking. That’s really the only word that comes to mind. Shocking.

It’s the final destination for everyone and everything. It’s inevitable and common and….shocking.

My dad was 93 and in the true spirit of a stubborn, old, farmer he died in an accident. Not natural causes. One would think that at 93, some sort of organ failure would be the culprit. Not my dad.

He was so intent on getting his yard cleaned up after a long winter, that he apparently forgot all of the safety rules. Or maybe it was just a freak accident.  It gives me comfort to know that he was outside doing his favorite thing on a sunny day.

I know he would be kicking himself for leaving my mom. His tireless devotion to her made it possible for them to stay in their home all of this time. My mom is also 93, but no longer capable of caring for herself. She is frail and sort of foggy about time and events. He fussed over her and made sure that she took all of her pills and drank plenty of water. He had her on so many supplements that she was barely able to swallow them all. He wanted them both to live forever.

All of us assumed that my mom would be the first to pass, but feared that it would be my dad. This is the worst case scenario. Now, she has lost her caregiver and her life partner of over 70 years. My heart aches for her loss. I can’t imagine waking up next to someone for that many mornings and now suddenly, they are gone. She is the remaining half of a perfect pair.

So, tomorrow, I head home. To the house where I came of age and flew out the door at 19. This is the reason we moved back to Michigan. To be geographically close as death closed in on my parents. This is why I am here and I hope that I can offer love, aid and comfort to my mother and my family.

I loved my dad and he loved all of us.  Fiercely.  In a few days, I’ll be in a better place to eulogize him.  This is my stream of consciousness from an awful day.

Be well. Be grateful and never forget that life is finite.



April 9, 2014 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , | 56 Comments

More on letting go…

It’s nearly Christmas and for the first time in probably 15 years, I’ll be spending it with my family.  More specifically, with my 93 year-old parents.

While I’m looking forward to it, part of me dreads it.  My mom is getting foggier and my dad is finally starting to slow down.  The way to face your own mortality is to witness your parents’ aging process.

Spending time with them makes me grateful and uncomfortable; it’s a jumble of emotions.  Tenderness, irritation, impatience, grace, humor, clarity, guilt, love, regret.  Merry Christmas, eh?

I think that most of us are conflicted about our families, particularly if you left home and hometown, when you were young.  When we return to the nest, we return and revert to our family ‘roles’.  But, as our parents age, that doesn’t work any longer.  We take on new roles as caretakers, helpers and decision makers.  And that’s hard.

My parents still live on their own, in their house on 5 acres.  In the past couple of years, we’ve bought them a generator to get through the various storms that plague the Midwest.  We’ve encouraged them to think about downsizing into a retirement/assisted living facility.  This means that every time we visit, we’re sent home with a lot of ‘stuff’; some of it ours, much of it theirs that they can’t bear to throw away.

We all collect so much over the years; not just physical, but emotional, including a lot of scar tissue.  There comes a time to let it go.  To wish it well and send it on its way.  The last year has taught me much about letting go.

We moved and I said goodbye to a home and a place that I loved.  We’re in a whole new environment a couple of time zones away from the old life.  New people, new climate, new lifestyle, new city, new values, new problems.

We said goodbye to my beautiful and very much loved dog, Chili.  One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.  I’m still aching over that loss.

So, I have empathy for my elderly parents.  They are letting go of 93 years of memories, things, comfort, security.  Very hard for them and for us as their children.

Sometimes things are ripped from us, when we least expect it and sometimes it’s a long, painful, introspective process.  Either way, we eventually lose everything that we love and hold close.  The human condition.  Our biggest fear and our constant companion.  It is truth.

And so, I look forward to Christmas with the family and will remain in close contact with my sense of humor in dealing with this phase of life.  That’s something my parents, particularly my mom, instilled in me; in all of us.

I’ll also dig deep into my limited well of patience and understanding.  I’m somewhat deficient in those qualities and the past 6 months has unfortunately drained me even more.

But, I’m grateful. To be back in my home state, close to my parents, with a new life and home and puppy, while retaining some of the former life that has been so hard to release.

Be well.  Remember to be kind.  Surround yourselves with who and what you love during this holiday season.

December 22, 2013 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments


We all need approval.  From someone.  It’s part of our human make-up.  I’m just like everyone else in that department.  As a morning radio host, our job security relies almost entirely on the approval of our listeners.  Or at the very least, the attention of our listeners. They don’t have to like us to listen and trust me, I’ve heard from enough of them who DON’T like me over the years to know this is true.  With radio ratings, it’s all about quantity; size matters.  I just have faith that it also means that they like our show…and me.

But, I think that most of us strive for and crave the approval of those we love.  We particularly want to make our parents proud. It’s a delicate balance for parents, I suppose.  The fine line between blowing sunshine up your kids bums and truly expressing your pride in their accomplishments.  My parents were never the blow sunshine types.  Their philosophy is that you didn’t get congratulated for breathing; everything had to be earned.  Respect, good grades, money, privileges, awards.  They didn’t hand you ‘self-esteem’ you earned it and not just from them, but from the world at large.

To many, that sounds pretty hard core; to others, it sounds familiar.  That upbringing has served me well in many, many respects, but it also left me feeling as if I’ve lived up to most of my parents’ expectations, but never got the props from them.  I’ve often commented that my mom and dad have no concept of the professional success that I’ve achieved and I’ll be honest, it’s bothered me.  I’ve let it eat at me.  I’ve resented that they haven’t gushed about my fame and fortune enough to fill my needs.  And of course, I’ve felt guilty about that resentment because they gave me a pretty great start in life.  Resentment and guilt.  Add in a little anger and you’ve got the three legs for the stool of unhappiness:)

My mom turned 92 a couple of weeks ago and then this past week, I turned 53.  She can be sort of loopy on occasion, which I  find charming because it’s softened her a bit over the years.  Anyway, I picked up the mail and there was a large envelope from my parents. I could tell it was from them because she has taken to putting not one, but TWO return address stickers on all of her correspondence; one with her name and one with my dad’s.  It makes me smile every time.

I figured it was a birthday card, but what I found inside was a Valentine’s Day card from me to them.  I’d apparently sent it while away at college and I was moaning about the fact that I felt like an “orphan” because I never got any mail from my brothers and sisters.  I complained that my mom was the only one who cared about me.  It was very self-pitying and dramatic.  The type of thing that I figured would make my mom roll her eyes.

Inside the old card was a note dated 10/26/12 and here is what it said:

I ran across this special card from one of my much loved daughters.  I probably saved it because it really touched my heart; back when I was worried that you weren’t very happy and I wished so much that I could help you find something to help you find a happier, more fulfilling life.  Well, you finally did find it:  the “man of your dreams”, a fulfilling and successful career, your beloved dogs (how many through these years!)
We’re so pleased for you and wish you not only this Happy Birthday, but as many more as we’ve had.
               Much love,
            Mom and Dad

Mission accomplished.

November 3, 2012 Posted by | Musings | , , , , | 44 Comments

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