Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fears from the past

"And you, of tender years,
Can't know the fears that your elders grew by..."
You may recognize the verse above from CSN&Y's song "Teach Your Children." It came to mind tonight, as I watch the coverage of the Democratic primary in West Virginia. As a political junkie, I have watched hours and hours of election coverage in the last four months, and I have become increasingly disturbed by a certain aspect of the commentary which has been repeated on an almost daily basis since Obama took the lead.
One after another, the commentators posit that the only way Hillary can win the nomination is if some catastrophe befalls Obama, some intervention, some unforeseen tragic event, some disaster. Now perhaps these folks mean nothing more by these references than some as yet undiscovered skeleton in Obama's closet or the possibility that he's arrested for DUI some night. But for those of us who lived through the tumult and tragedy of the 1968 election, these words have a sinister ring.
I think there is a certain irresponsibility in these words being repeated so often, given the charged nature of the campaign. Just today, the Washington Post reported that Obama's campaign workers have faced racist remarks, threats, and acts of vandalism. And then you have Rush Limbaugh urging his listeners to create chaos at the Democratic convention in Denver, saying "the dream end of this is that this keeps up to the convention and that we have a replay of Chicago 1968, with burning cars, protests, fires, literal riots, and all of that. "
When I went to an Obama rally in Dallas back in February, I was appalled that, by the time I got to the entrance of the arena, the security people had stopped doing security checks! Yep, we walked in an open door...no metal detectors, no security officers, nothing. I mean, we're talking DALLAS, folks! And this was right after the Kennedys had endorsed Obama and there had been so many comparisons to JFK. I was a nervous wreck during the rally...all I could think of was that some nut could have just walked in with a gun, with the idea in his head that if Obama wanted to be like Kennedy, he'd make it happen.
And I admit that I even have a fear of talking about this. The night Bobby Kennedy won the California primary in 1968, I watched the returns and watched him speak to the crowd. I remember thinking how easy it would be for someone to shoot him at that moment. I woke up the next day to learn that he had been assassinated.
So I wish all the political commentators would end the litany of "unforeseen events, disaster, catastrophe, intervention." I would suggest that they state things in a more specific way, such as "scandal" or "political gaffe" or whatever. I fear that constant talk of "disaster" will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


My friend Thom wrote a moving post for Mother's Day. As one of the folks who is acutely aware of the absence of his own mother, he wrote:

I truly wish you and your mother a wonderful day. Honor her, cherish her, and
let her know how much you love her. Whatever your relationship, she is the only
mother you will ever have, so get past the family crap and be good to her.

So I'd like to honor my mother here. My mother is 89 years old. As part of the "greatest generation," she grew up during the Great Depression and launched her adulthood during World War II. As I grow older, I am able to understand the tremendous force these events had on her life and her world view. Her mother was virtually a single parent, since my grandfather was a shell-shocked veteran of WWI, who spent most of his post-war life in a veteran's hospital psych ward. My grandmother supported the family by working as a teacher in a 2 room country school. When she began teaching, she didn't even have a high school diploma, but eventually she got her equivalency certificate, and went on to earn both a bachelor's and master's degree, while working full-time as a teacher. And I mean working full-time...she drove the country roads well before dawn, arriving early at the school to build a fire in the wood stove. She distributed food and clothing during the Great Depression and even gave the kids haircuts. With such a burden on her, she sent my mother to a boarding school as a "working student" in her teen years. I'm sure that had a great affect on my mother's personality. To this day, she is a very serious minded person. I sometimes wish she would "lighten up," but I well understand the source of her serious nature.

She and my father married in 1937 and had their first child in 1941, just before my father left for service in the Navy in WWII. So my mother was on her own with a young child for several years. After the war, she gladly settled into the traditional role of stay-at-home mom. I think she must have felt it was both a great luxury and a great responsibility to be able to do this, after her childhood experiences.

I won't get into the feminist politics...I just know that I benefitted from having her so involved in my life when I was a child. She sewed my clothes, led my Brownie troop, was my classroom room mother, etc. She was there when I got home from school every day.

So now she is on her own, after my dad died a year and a half ago. It's difficult, as she has lost her most of her eyesight in recent years, a situation which has caused her great frustration. While she still has most of her faculties, I see her slipping at times. It seems that her world is shrinking all the time. I often miss the parent I used to know. But I remind myself that I'm lucky to have her here still and that it is an honor to be able to pay her back in some small measure for all she did for me.

(By the way, in the photo above, my mother is the one on the left, with my grandmother in the middle and my aunt on the right.)

So once again it’s time to celebrate mothers. There are so many kinds of mothers…

There is the mother, who at the tender age of 16, has the wisdom to know that she is not ready to be a parent, so she makes an adoption plan for her unborn child.

There is the mother who burns her child in hot water, leaves his burns untreated, and, after two weeks of listening to him scream and cry, snaps and beats him into unconciousness. She serves a few months in jail, while he serves life without parole in the prison of paralysis and blindness.

There is the mother whose heroin addiction causes her child to be born with a severe birth defect.

There is the mother who pickles her baby’s brain in alcohol, neglects her infant, and then abandons her in the entryway of an apartment building, leaving permanent emotional scars.

There is the mother who cannot live with the stigma of a biracial child in a racist society, so she makes things easy on herself by getting rid of him, never giving a second thought to the devastation that 14 years in an orphanage will have on his soul or how that little boy rocks himself to sleep every night in his bed.

There are the two mothers who leave their disabled children in post offices or police stations in the middle of the night and then disappear…their children will never know their real names or even what day they were born.

There is the mother who walks out of the maternity hospital, leaving her disabled newborn behind to begin a lifetime in bleak institutions for “invalids.”

There is the mother who gives her second child up for adoption, knowing that she will probably never finish college if she has to raise two children.

There is the mother who is so out of touch with reality that she thinks she’s Tina Turner and doesn’t even know she’s pregnant…she willingly signs away her parental rights, saying, “I sho’ don’t need no baby.”

And there is the mother who gives these children a home, a family, a chance for an education and a normal life. She isn't perfect, but she does her best and it is good enough. But most of the children can’t forgive her her own mistakes…or those of those other mothers. For a long, long time she is devastated by their rejection. But finally she puts it behind her. She focuses her attention and energy on her work, the beauty in her life, her own elderly mother, and most of all the sons who were able to absorb her love and then reflect it back to her.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Unexpected visitor

Yesterday I walked out my front door to go see my afternoon patients, and I noticed a car sitting out in the street in front of my house. When the window was rolled down, I did a doubletake...in the passenger seat was my daughter Leslie, whom I haven't seen for about 2 1/2 years. She lives down on the Gulf coast of Texas, so it was totally unexpected to see her sitting there! I walked over and talked a bit, but I had to get to work, so she said that she'd try to get back to visit before she left town.

So she dropped by this afternoon with her fiance. We did a little catching up...and then it was time for me to go see patients. As I thought about my unexpected visitors, I felt oddly detached. There was a time when I would have had a much different reaction when this person who had cut me out of her life, who had told me she was "divorcing" me, who now calls another woman "mom," showed up at my door with a fiance twice her age. It's funny...I used to say that ADHD was genetic...you get it from your kids! (You see, I used to be a focused, fairly organized person, before living with 6 kids with ADHD.) Now I think it's fair to say that attachment disorder is contagious...you catch it from your kids. After so many betrayals of trust and so many rejections, I find myself feeling very detached from the kids who cut me out of their lives. I have no desire for any drama or conflict. So it was a pleasant visit, but hardly an emotional reunion. Some may think that sounds cold or heartless, but until you've lived day in and day out with kids with attachment disorder, you probably can't understand.
In an earlier post, I said that, even though many of my kids have rejected me, I do have the consolation of knowing that I gave my kids a chance for a normal life. This was Leslie in Korea at age 3. 'Nuff said...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Hiking the urban grasslands

Yesterday I took Banjo to his favorite place to hike. Tandy Hills is a 160 acre urban grasslands preserve, tucked just south of I-30, within view of downtown Fort Worth. As usual, we had the whole park to ourselves.
We begin at the top of our favorite trail.

Just imagine that this is what the Native Americans saw across the wide expanse of Texas.

The hues of the grass range from yellow to this rusty red.

This unusual wildflower caught my eye.

Glades were covered with a blanket of wildflowers.

We return to the top of the trail and look eastward.

On the way to our car, I saw this wildflower, which appears to be some sort of mega-dandelion, about 4 inches in diameter.

Back at home, Banjo rests up after his big adventure with his new buddy Boo.

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Saturday, May 03, 2008

So THIS is a midlife crisis!

I've tried to sit down several times this week to write a blog entry, but I can't seem to focus. Thoughts keep whirling through my mind. I try to pin one down long enough to get a handle on it, but...poof...it's gone! I have a lot on my mind right now. Now if you're a reader from my previous 360 blog, you know that I am (1) a worrier and (2) a bit on the morose side. So maybe this is just my typical morose worrying at play. But I'm thinking that this is my midlife crisis.

About 6 weeks ago or so, I fell down in the hallway at home and landed HARD on my knees. Since the surface is vinyl on top of concrete, there was nothing to cushion the fall. Since then I've had a lot of pain in my left knee, not so much when I'm walking, but when it's in one position for a period of time. I can't bear to flex it to sit cross legged on the floor. And that's a problem, since most of my therapy work is done on the floor. Meanwhile, that ongoing problem with mobility that I've had for several years has come back with a vengeance. The muscle cramping in my legs decreased when I stopped taking a medication that I'd been on for years (and I have a lot of anger that no doctor ever made the connection between this medication and many problems I had which were side effects of the medicine, including the muscle cramps, the high blood sugar, high triglycerides, and severe anxiety). But although the cramping has decreased, when I walk or stand for an extended period of time, my legs go numb and there is a tightness in my hips like spasticity. It was so bad when we went to the Main Street festival, that I thought I wasn't going to get back to my car!

Anyway, I don't want to bore you with my medical problems. My point is that I am beginning to get quite worried about how I will manage to keep doing this type of work until I'm 67 or 70. It simply has never hit me so realistically that it might not be possible to perform the physical demands of the job at some point...working on the floor, lifting kids, carrying equipment from house to house, etc. And if at some point I can't do the work, what will I do?

I'm also facing another aspect of the midlife crisis...having to consider that there are some things I've always wanted to do in my life that I might not be able to do. Living abroad, moving to the country, travelling, making a mark on the world...when I finally have the time, will I have the energy? And there are all the other limitations...the necessity of living someplace where Gabriel's and Marcus' needs can be met, the considerations of medical insurance and medical care, staying near my mother to help her as long as she's alive.

And right now I'm part of that sandwich generation...helping my mother and my disabled kids. I feel a lot of stress due to the fact that I want to do more to make Marcus' and Gabriel's lives fuller, and I feel like I'm not doing enough. I probably ought to do more to help my mother, but sometimes I have to admit it's a struggle because of the conflicting emotions I feel. It's difficult to watch a parent grow old and become less and less like a parent, to watch them become more and more self-centered as their world shrinks. I miss having a parent who acknowledges my birthday or cares if I don't feel well.

So I struggle. I know I have to do more than whine about all of this. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed that nothing gets done, because I don't know where to start. I think it's time to sit down and make some very methodical plans, to start charting a deliberate course, one step at a time. I feel like I've been drifting too long...