Can You Fall Out of Love with…Your Mother?

Mother’s Day. With mine gone since November of 1998, I don’t feel much about this day any more. Reading Facebook posts and other social media makes me think my feeling, or lack of, is odd.

But my relationship with my mother was contentious from the very beginning.

I went to the people I know as my parents initially to be a foster child. After 6 foster homes within the family in six months. To be sheltered until my first adoptive father could recover from the sudden death of the woman with whom he adopted  me.

At age 2, my first memory is of a woman in a Jackie Kennedy suit and pillbox hat trying to take my doll away as she sent me to bed for a nap. MY doll. One of the only things that had come with me through those six months of bouncing around. I was as determined not to give it up as she was to take it from me.

I don’t remember who “won” but this standoff set the tone for our relationship throughout our lives together.

And there was more. Abuse, “benign” neglect, rooted in the depths of what I’ve come to believe to be her own chronic, clinical depression.

All of this in hindsight. I couldn’t begin to come to grips with it as a young adult. I wrestled with the task of choosing a Mother’s Day card each year. Every one extolling the loving virtues of Mom. Patience, tolerance, caring, blahblahblah.

I started choosing pretty blank cards and writing a note because I felt a hypocrite doing anything else. I cared about my Mom, I think I remembered loving her but with all that had gone between us, I coudn’t go for the sappy greeting card stuff.

I’m writing this because my husband threw away some leftover Easter ham today. There’s some frozen and I thought maybe I could make ham hash. Which led me to thinking of the time my Mom tried to make some. She worked inside all day as the rest of us…Dad, my brother, and, my grandfather worked outside, smelling the luscious smells from the kitchen.

On sampling it, our eager facrs froze. It. Was. Terrible. We all kept eating until my brother took a taste, and lacking some social skills at his young age, spit it out with an exclamation of disgust.

At which point, we all laughed. We laughed at my Mom. Trying so hard, and failing depite her effort. And we laughed.

As I remember this today, I feel sad for her. She was laughed at as a child in school and here we were, her family, laughing at her, too.

I think I did fall out of love with my Mom some time in my adolescence. The abuse looms larger some days than others, along with the question “why?”

So I know it’s possible. To fall out of love with your Mother. But I feel sympathy and tenderness for her. For her own struggles, young and old. And I hope that’s enough for the path of our Souls for now.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.


On Falling Off the Planet Since August

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything here. I fell off the planet when I got hired by a fire department and started training as a dispatcher on August 11th. I’ve got a lot on my mind but there’s also a “no personal access” internet policy at work so my long hours alone overnight when there are no emergency calls will have to be filled by writing longhand **GASP** and transcribing to the e-world at a later time. Until I can figure out what type of tool will serve me best…and how to carry wireless access to the internet around with me! In the meantime, the “Baby Veronica” story is simultaneously tugging at my heartstrings and making my head spin. I have every intention of addressing that from the perspective I hold as having been shipped around to different homes after my first adoption, then being adopted again…starting at age 18 months….and how that early life experience has echoed across my years. I weep for Baby Veronica. More later. Right now the siren song of vacuum and toilet brush call as I prep my home for a “showing” that may or may not happen in 4 hours. And the beat goes on………..

I Remember…….

I’m locked in a struggle. This woman, wearing a very Jackie Kennedy-esque suit–pale yellow–wants me to take a nap. I have a doll, with a plastic curlyque curl on it’s forehead, clutched in my hands. I want to take it to bed with me. She, of the suit, and also a pillbox hat, wants to take it away. She thinks it’s unsanitary. Also that I’ll be spoiled if she lets me do what I want, which is to take the doll with me for a nap, instead of what she wants. We’re in a semi-darkened room, curtains drawn. The room is non-descript, a bedroom in a tract house in a bedroom community. Like all the other tract houses around it, this bedroom is square, has a small closet along the right side of the room in relation to coming in the door. The woman and I are standing next to the bed, she with her back to the door, me facing her.

This is what I believe is my first memory. I see it in my mind’s eye as if watching a movie. I don’t know whether it’s a true memory or something my subconscious has concocted over the years to exist as the defining moment of my relationship with my mother. She became my mother, after first having been foster to me, the last in a series of fosters from the time I was 18 months to the age of 2. Our relationship was adversarial until about two weeks before she died. I wonder if I made that scene up to explain how it was we came to be locked in struggle all of our lives together. But it rings true, somehow. I can feel the heavy air, the silence around us as we stare each other down. My desperation to not let go of that doll, the one constant thing with me, that was MINE, as I moved from home to home within my first adoptive parents’ extended family.

Yes, this is it. My first memory.

This is written in response to the weekly writing challenge, to check it out, and others….the link is below:

Out of the Old and Into the New or “If this is the start of a new adventure, why do I feel so sad?”

I’m taking a page out of Madonna’s playbook and reinventing myself. At 54. And, you know, without all the glamour, fame, and fortune. Not that I had those things to begin with after twenty-odd years in local television news. On the tech side, as a director/tech director. We’re the men and women who, over the span of their careers, have found themselves “suddenly” doing what up to five people used to do….but from one chair–just like everyone else these days.

Sure, it was fun to meet Bobby Orr on his way to the studio, playing “Pied Piper” to a bunch of kids about to tape a kids’ sports show. Jimmy Tingle has had me in stitches while he was on-air and I was in the controlroom on more occasions than I can remember. Meeting Peter Jennings and David Brinkley–and running audio in my very early TV days on location for ABC World News Tonight and Good Morning America– during the heyday of New Hampshire’s relevance as a primary state during a presidential election still gives me chills.

But I also watched the live feed for days while Worcester firefighters searched for the remains of their brothers, killed in the Worcester Cold Storage Fire. And went up with live pictures of them bringing each one out of the rubble in solemn procession. I got in “The Chair” just before the first Tower came down on 9/11, a staid and respected journalist on set unable to utter anything other than, “Good God.” On the flip side of the dark things I’ve been party to bringing you ….I was in “The Chair” when they got Bomber #2 (who’s name shall remain unwritten by me for all the rest of my days), our reporter and photographer so close to where he was hiding we could hear the police shouting, “, come out, we know you’re hurt. Come out, we’ll help you.” The spontaneous eruption of cheering and clapping among the assembled crowd as law enforcement left the area brought me to my feet in the controlroom, cheering, too.

And maybe it’s these things that pointed me in my new direction. I know I’ve been a compulsive helper all my life, organizing care and being a patient advocate for friends and family. Through both parents having lung cancer at the same time. A treasured uncle who succumbed to complications from emphysema. A mother-in-law diagnosed with lung cancer who lost her battle, too. I’ve wanted a career change for nearly a decade and the search for a new niche, where my uber multi-tasking skills and desire to help could be put to use has finally come to fruition.

And it’s a job I’ve been wanting to do full time since I got a part time taste of it several years ago. I’m excited for the change. And yet, 23 years is a long time to do the same thing. Many of those years with the same people. I’m finally not so shy with them any more. Not afraid of not being good enough, because I know I am. In the last year and a half of being in the same place full time instead of sporadically freelancing, I feel attached to these people. The people with whom I’ve been “in the trenches”…. with whom I’ve shared long hours in “The Chair”, horrific scenes, scrambling to get on with breaking news, the strain of the back-breaking multi-tasking, the “do more with less” management style workers face all over the USA. One day, years ago, a crew member of mine had a grand mal seizure just before we went to air. I got my arms around his torso and eased him down just as he started convulsing. When I told my Dad how emotional I felt he said, “It’s like combat. You’re in the trenches with those people every day. And you come to love them.”

And so I do.

And I’ll miss them. At the same time, where am I going? Into a different trenches with some of the same challenges, and a whole host of new people I’ll come to love. And instead of bringing people pictures of horrible scenes, I’ll be sending people the help they need. I’m going to start my third career, proudly, as a Fire/EMS Dispatcher next month.

Bittersweet Memory or “How Melissa Ferrick Reminded Me of This.”

30th May 2013

Last night I had the great fun to direct a livestreaming performance of Melissa Ferrick and her band after directing an interview that went almost an hour at Redstar Union. Check this place out: Awesome stuff!

Before the show, I met Melissa and showed her the autographed copy of “Everything I Need” that I’d won and she’d autographed oh-so-many-years ago. I thought it had been in the early ’90s but she reminded me that it came out in 1998. I remember going to that show with my best friend but until Melissa reminded me of the year, I hadn’t remembered this:

The show was in October, a couple weeks or so after my Mom had been diagnosed with lung cancer. I was going to stay with my folks after the show and help my Mom with housework, whatever she needed, the next day. When I got home, my Mom was on the couch — too weak to move. I called an ambulance, told the crew my Mom was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and had a growth the size of a lime in her left lung.

Off to the hospital we went, me in my car with the dog — who’d never been to my parents’ house before that day. He was a nervous sort when there was change so I figured he’d be better off camped out in the parking lot with his blanket and squeaky toy.

My Mom was seen by an ER doc who called my Dad and me out of the room to look at the chest x-ray they’d taken. Two weeks beforehand, my Mom’s doc had said, “We’re going to fight this, Helen.” Four steps ahead of my father, I intercepted the ER doc saying, “Well, you know this is terminal.” I nearly stomped on his foot and mouthed the words, “HE DOESN’T KNOW!” and jerked my thumb toward my chest to indicate my Dad behind me. The doc reddened and quickly changed tack.

But that was the first moment I had any inkling that my Mom wasn’t going to survive. The night I came home flying on Melissa Ferrick’s music and her hit song, “Everything I Need.”