Tag Archives: friendship

Keeping a Running Tab On What Matters

candles

 

I love my birthday and if you’ve been around this site, you know I write about it pretty much every year.  Once every 365 days I make it a point to take a breather from reporting on the simultaneous brilliance and idiocy of my kids (Brag Alert: guess who made Honor Roll?!?  Right, the same kid who tried unclogging the toilet with a toilet BRUSH and snapped it in half, lodging that, too, into the pipes…) to focus on me.   Why not, right?  I don’t dwell on getting older and I don’t mind having to buy a monthly dose of brunette-in-a-box to keep everyone thinking I’m the sister of Dorian Grey.  Since a blog is like a real-time diary, I think it’s good for my kids to take a look every so often to see how cool their mom is.  So sure, with full aplomb I say yay me! once a year.

If I’m being 100% truthful, I’ve got a lot to knock on wood about.  My family is healthy, nobody’s got a parole officer yet and despite finding out I’m the same age as was Rue McClanahan when she started in The Golden Girls (Lord.  Now that was a moment), I feel good.   I feel smart, too, because I happen to surround myself with some pretty amazing friends.  Sure, it’s a magnificent thing (the whole you raise me up thing) but the downside of that is it’s really impossible to measure up much of the time.

We’re a tight-knit group We are blue collar bikers and white-collar workers and business owners and bartenders and nurses and everything else in between.  We are moms and dads, all with kids who are alternately perfect or colossal frickking asswipes, depending on the day.  We are beer drinkers.  We are patio and bar floor dancers (not Joe; he’s just a danger to super expensive equipment and sound systems, but he’s a super good time so we let him “dance”).  We are fiercely loyal.  Oddly enough (given the obscene amount of Coors Light and buffalo chicken dip) we are a collectively healthy crew.  We have marathoners among us.  And cross-fitters.  And spinners.  And (back pat) we are far from thirtysomethings.

So you see, we are a lot of super awesome and gigantically good things.

What we are not … is invulnerable to awful things happening out of the blue.

Some serious medical issues made their way into our tight circle since my last birthday and while not a direct hit to me personally – as we all know – the shock and awe of a horrible diagnosis for a close friend hits one’s core as if it had been.  So at the very least, this gateway to middle age has been an alarming wake-up call for my crew.

A couple of months ago I found myself at the start of Lent pondering the cliched what to give up dilemma.  I wrestled with the coffee and wine I didn’t want to live without for 40 days.  I felt selfish about that.  Then I thought about the dairy and the animal protein my doctor discourages.  I shuddered (thinking about bacon this time) and then felt selfish about that, too.

My thoughts wandered to my friends.  Right at that time we were all still reeling from the recent news of a massive heart attack that had befallen one of us.  Far more serious than we could ever fathom, we had found ourselves hearing the unimaginable phrase lucky to be alive for – absurdly — not even the first time.  This was the third time in a calendar year one of our healthy comrades was very seriously, very scarily out of commission.

I decided that rather than give up something, I would instead do something for Lent, something that would force me to stop taking my good health for granted.

So ever so quietly and without any Facebook fanfare, I started running.

Now, every person in the universe already knows that running is the most dreadful activity there is.  I’m here to report that – as a recipient of the 1978 Presidential Award in Physical Fitness for successfully running the 600 in the nationally prescribed time at Lenox Elementary School — probably the last time I ran, period —  this activity most  definitely, absolutely, positively STILL sucks just as much, all these years later.

 

But here’s the thing.  Within my tribe are a ridiculous number who run and (please sit down for this) they do it for fun.  While I was selfishly deliberating avoiding ice cream for a month, my good buddy was hauling around a portable defibrillator in case his heart stopped again.  Another love was being fitted for a post-mastectomy bra.  Both of these crazies would have given anything in the world to be running at that time. So for 40 days, as a private nod to them, I decided to at least try to do what they could not.  Remember me saying it is impossible to measure up to these people at times?  No lie there.

To keep myself from backing out of my Lenten promise, I registered for a 5k a month away.  That it was a town wide St. Patty’s Day fundraiser is, let’s just say, apropos.

The first time I went out I barely made it around the block.  I will spare you the details of the injured walrus I resembled but for certain the pain and fire inside my chest had me convinced I, too, might be needing a defibrillator.  I was awful.  And cumbersome.  And excruciatingly slow.  And yet …

… each day I went out and tried to run a little further than the day before.

Ever hear the expression easier said than done?  Yeah, there’s that. Popping out four babies?  Pfft.  Bring it.  This was the hardest thing I have ever attempted.

By Race Day it was a secret no more.  To the contrary it was a full-blown party (have I mentioned my group’s affinity for barley & hops?)  Some friends joined me at the starting gate; others waited at the finish line. I made myself a cute t-shirt, put on a rockin’ playlist and clocked my first 3.2 miles in my 51 years.

 

5k cover

 

It was amazing.  So was my tribe.

 

5k sign

 

5k group

 

Somewhere within this journey I got caught up in the milestones of running further and further.  Somewhere within this endorphin-laced insanity I also let my running friends talk me into joining them in another race:  a 26.2 marathon.  Unbelievably the words it’s only 4.3 miles lost their scope of science fiction so I next set a goal for hitting that a few weeks later.  It was hard to say no to a team that would be pretty damn special:  2 miracle friends – both lucky to be alive – would be running it, too.

5 days before my 52nd birthday I crossed that finish line, too.

 

26

 

A RACE

I enjoy and appreciate my birthday every year — seemingly more and more as the years fly by.  I think everyone should.  We are all spending more time than we’d ever like in hospitals and funeral homes.  Our parents are passing.  We’re worrying about our kids spreading their wings, or leaving or (worse) becoming adults.  Scouts honor:  the best part about getting older is finding out nothing really matters all that much.  It takes a while but we finally start to get it:  It’s not the end of the world if a kid flunks out of college, or has a baby before marriage or a spouse loses his job.

When we finally realize we’re all here temporarily it’s kinda sorta embarrassing looking back on all the hours we spent bitching about Little League playing time.

I have some pretty strong opinions on the pitfalls of middle age (most involve imploring Mariah Carey to stop – please – wearing lingerie in public) but hell, we’re all traveling that road.  The stress of aging is unavoidable.

I say give yourself – and your friends — a reason to celebrate.  Without or without sneakers.  But definitely with some beer.

(How do you like me now, kids?)  😉

group

 

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram. 

 

Missed the start of A Momoir?  Catch up here:

Chapter 1, Click here:   https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/07/29/a-collection-of-eyerolls-chapter-1-yes-billy-joel-we-will-all-go-down-together/

Chapter 2, Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/08/13/chapter-2-sometimes-kids-suck-a-lot/

Chapter 3, Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/09/22/chapter-3-sorry-were-tied-all-kids-are-filthy/

Chapter 4, Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2017/12/02/a-momoir-chapter-4-a-moms-plea-to-seth-rogen-enough-with-the-masturbation-already/

Chapter 5, Click here: https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/04/20/a-momoir-chapter-5-the-magnitude-of-the-middle-aged-mom/

Chapter 6:  Click here:  https://tinadrakakis.com/2018/08/24/a-momoir-chapter-6-im-not-always-like-you-mom-but-thats-okay/

 

 

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The Sisterhood of the Traveling Tube Socks

tube sox

The summer of 1981 may well be remembered for the lavish nuptials of the Princess of Wales but for me it will forever photograph the road trip of my lifetime:  five weeks, twenty-one states and the freedom that came with the unsupervised parenting that was well, 1981.  Move over Lady Di, at fifteen-years-old, I was clearly in a fairy tale situation of my own.

 

The opportunity came about rather simply.  My best friend, Kristi, and her family – an older sister and two teacher/parents – went cross country in their RV every summer.  Always somewhere different.  Always returning with exotic photos and strange souvenirs (think tchotchkes from The World’s Largest Ball of Yarn or postcards from Pike’s Peak).  Gooberish to many but always envy-inducing to a girl like me, who never went anywhere over summer vacations.  When my folks moved us to Long Island from the grimy borough of Queens, apparently THAT was to be our perpetual vacation.

 

Kristi’s family was all set to take off as planned but – serendipitously for me – Kristi’s sister failed English in her last term.  In order to graduate she needed to attend summer school and couldn’t go with them.  At first it was a monkey wrench:  being meticulous organizers Kristi’s parents had already planned out their five-week itinerary to the day – every meal was planned for four people, every attraction had been purchased for four attendees, every bathroom stop had been calculated to include four travelers requesting them.  It didn’t take long for two highly intelligent educators (and one persistent teenaged daughter) to find the perfect solution:  With spending money in my Velcro wallet, I packed up my Smurfs, hopped into Kristi’s sister’s place, and off we went.

 

Our forty-day trip would take us to the opposite coast of California and back, traveling a different course in each direction, allowing us to insert twenty-one brightly colored push-pins into the map of the United States.  It was more than I could wrap my brain around at the time.  Twenty-one states for a girl who had never even been to New Jersey.  Twenty-one states for a girl who still referred to Long Island as “the country.”   Twenty-one states that most people in the nation wouldn’t see half of in a lifetime.

 

I remember being unable to sleep the night before our ungodly early departure.  Grappling with nerves riddled with excitement and anxiety and anticipation I slept on the couch in the downstairs foyer, listening to albums on such low volume at times only a slight bass thumped from the speakers.  I couldn’t tell if it was fear of leaving my family for the first time or Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” that kept tears streaming down my cheeks through sunrise.

 

I was ready for a road trip.  At the close of the school year I’d been unceremoniously dumped by the (third) love of my life, who’d taken up with (sigh…) my tall, tanned, blonde friend.  I was ready to suck-face with strangers and make-out with as many Rick Springfield look-alikes  I could muster up from the George Washington Bridge to Mount Rushmore.  I’d packed enough cute terry-cloth shorts (you know, with the white stripes) and tube socks (with the colored stripes) to ensure it. Yep, I was ready.

 

While many details of the minutiae of the trip have been faded by other memories (and, okay, decades of equally great times, some perhaps involving alcohol) many moments of that summer still make for a funny story.  My fave:  an admission that while we were trekking across America we occasionally called friends back home — and charged the calls to the telephone numbers of people we didn’t particularly like.  For real.  Today, as a mature adult (with – God help me – teenagers) I shudder at the memory.  But it’s true.  Anyone who remembers B.C. times (before cells) will fully recall how people would actually have to speak to an operator when placing a call from a (gasp) public telephone booth.  My friend and I would innocently declare we’d like to charge the call to our own home number – and viola! – instantly a nemesis-left-behind got thrown under the bus (or rather, her parents did, on their next phone bill).  Simultaneously evil and brilliant. Shudder….

 

The number of hours (and money) we wiled away in campground arcades was unfathomable.  We had no internet, so we read books and wrote in diaries, traveling hours and days at a time past nothing but cornfields.  There were no I-Pods, so we stopped every few days to buy more “D” batteries for the cassette player that ran constantly.  There was no HDTV or DVDs, and when we went to see “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” we dreamt about it for days, hoping (and wishing and praying) that in our wild cross country adventure out to Hollywood we might actually sidle up next to Harrison Ford on an L.A freeway and tell him how much we loooooved him.

 

We were in the magnificent state of Washington when MTV’s little astronaut man debuted to stick a flag on the moon so we missed that but it turned out okay:  we were allowed to drink beer after taking an Olympia Brewery tour, which single-handedly made us the coolest freshman felons on this planet.

 

Throughout the steamy summer days we mastered Pac Man and Phoenix.  We shared a dog-eared copy of The Other Side of Midnight.  One night while driving through Idaho we witnessed an actual tornado.  We saw the Vegas strip, something my own mom never got to do.  We went through more national parks than I can name and staunchly passed on the toilet paper factory tour  (Kristi’s parents went alone and we stayed at the campsite to sneak more Olympia beer.  They duly pretended not to notice.)  We traveled through the Mojave Desert by nightfall to avoid triple digit temperatures.  We wore bandanas and cowboy hats and short-shorts and found boys to kiss outside the arcades in the moonlight.  None looked like soap opera pop singers but it didn’t matter. We lived like we were never going to return to our simple suburban lives and swore that our five weeks together would bond us like sisters.  It did.

 

In the weeks we were gone Kim Carnes’ gravelly “Bette Davis Eyes” had gotten its ass kicked by  the sap of Diana Ross and Lionel Richie.  The grueling “Endless Love” was being played by tri-state disc jockeys nonstop throughout the final leg of our journey back and it made coming home even sadder and more torturous.  Kristi and I cradled our cassette player between us and watched out the window in silence as our exit on Long Island’s  Southern State Parkway neared.

 

I was fifteen that summer, presently the age of my youngest child.  The idea catches my breath some days.  While times are different and perhaps more dangerous today, I can’t help but admit I’d give just about anything to have my own kids live five weeks like I did back in 1981.  It was extraordinary.  It was (according to my diary) a pissa.  It was living.

 

And should they ever have the great, great fortune to live it, there’d be a bonus for sure –these sneaky kids have their own phones today; it would be highly unlikely that irate parents would hunt me down for bogus phone call money.

 

Tina’s husband looks nothing like Rick Springfield…and she no longer wears terry shorts…. but she still loves beer. She and Kristi have been friends for forty years now.

tubesTina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was featured in the 2014 Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” Her work has been featured in NPR’s “This I Believe” radio series yet she places “Most Popular 1984” on top of her list of achievements.  (Next would be the home improvement reality TV show of 2003 but her kids won’t let her talk about that anymore).   A witty mother of four, she takes on cyberspace as @Eyerollingmom on Twitter and Eyerollingmom on Facebook. and@Eyerollingmom on Instagram.