Tag Archives: Health

When the Sandwich Generation Loses Bread: Now What?

sandwich

Now that my step-father has passed away, I am parent-less. It very well may be that the idea of this is more unsettling than the actuality of it.

 

As many adult children will concur, when a parent is sick it is all consuming.  Your own life becomes a secondary area of maintenance.  You rely on spouses and friends and neighbors to ensure everyone is fed and transported while you tend to your beloved mom or dad or, in this case, step-dad (which puts a slightly different spin on things, which I’ll get to in a bit).

 

Illness, even while happening at a snail’s pace, oddly blurs through your life at a breakneck speed.   But when illness has taken its ultimate toll and you’re done plowing through arrangements and funerals and logistics and planning … it’s still some time before you notice the finality of events.

 

Suddenly one day you’re no longer worrying about a sick parent.  Or any parent.  And it’s kind of a weird thing.  As a parent, with parents, I had many roles.  Now, not so much.

 

When you do focus on your family again you might notice – really notice – that your kids are taller, or your dog’s fatter or your home’s exterior paint looks pretty crappy.  You can move forward and tend to things you hadn’t given much thought to in a long, long time.

 

It’s a new page in a new chapter.

 

And it startles me that the act of putting together photo boards for a wake makes me realize how few pictures I’ve actually taken the time to print out of late.  Damn Facebook.

 

The short story, still chock full of irony, is that my mom passed away almost three years ago, leaving behind her husband, my step-father – a man 20 years older, in failing health, and completely in the throes of elderly entitlement and negative outlook.  He was pushing 90 at the time of her death and had lived the life of a quintessential old school husband – completely assuming that any female in the room might be happy to fix him a plate of food or gladly accept the wad of cash (his salary) that he’d hand over in exchange for taking care of him completely.

 

Saddled with the reality that he could no sooner walk to the mailbox than live alone, there was more than one occasion when my sister and I looked at each other with a “wtf?” glare of disbelief.  My mother had a wicked sense of humor.  (Well played, Mom, well played.)  We took care of him from the minute she was gone and (with great patience) journeyed with him for two years, nine months and nine days until he was able to get to where he really wanted to be;  back by her side.

 

He came into our lives while we were ensconced in adolescence, a knight in shining armor to a single mother of three children, and we treated him with the indifference any teenager might have.  So long as he didn’t interfere with our Friday nights in the Burger King parking lot, what did we care who he was or what he did?

 

But what he did was nothing short of amazing.

 

He put my mother on a pedestal for more than 30 years.  He taught us to drive.  He absorbed every icy shout of “YOU’RE NOT MY FATHER!” we could hurl.  And with every infuriating and bigoted nuance of his personality (“…please stop calling them colored people, it’s been frowned upon for a long time now…”) we came to love him deeply.

 

He walked my sister and I down the aisle.

 

He was present for the births of 10 grandchildren.

 

He never gave up on the Mets.

 

He ate 4 Eggo waffles with his coffee every morning before 6am, securing  the adored “Grandpa Eggo” into our vernacular for always.

 

And yes, with his nifty black glasses on, he resembled Carl Frederickson from the movie “UP.”

 

We will forever smile at that.

 

He was a kind and decent man and lived a full life with the woman of his dreams and a family that embraced him.  I am not saddened that he’s gone because while putting on a brave face, he has been lost and aimless and miserable living in a world without my mom. But I can’t help but be a bit melancholy, though, because in times like these, our own mortality blazes in our minds.

 

Cheers to a man who brought smiles to so many.

 

And apologies to my children, who now have a mom that can fully devote every ounce of her attention on them … and their schoolwork … and the state of their bedrooms … and their behavior … and their curfews … and …

 

UP

 

Tina Drakakis blogs at Eyerollingmom and was just featured in the Boston production of “Listen to Your Mother: Giving Motherhood a Microphone.” She takes on the cyberspace @Eyerollingmom  and Eyerollingmom.

 

 

Why Xmas Cards Need Punchlines

My "New Year's" card from a few years ago. Too crazed to pull off a Xmas shoot, I bribed & threatened to get this shot. My crew STILL holds a grudge ... can't imagine why ....

My “New Year’s” card from a few years ago. Too crazed to pull off a Xmas shoot, I bribed & threatened to get this shot. My crew STILL holds a grudge … can’t imagine why .

 

I have chosen to NOT send out Christmas cards this year.  Again.  Last year I just couldn’t muster up the desire and the year before I thought it would simply be a nice respite.

Whaddaya know.  I think I may have stumbled onto a new favorite tradition.

I’ve spent many a snarky blog mocking Christmas letters (and – why don’t we simply put me on the express track to Hell – Christmas photos as well. Come on, you know you do, too.  I just say it out loud.  Shrug.)

But I really do love my idea of the Why-Can’t-We-All-Just-Be-A-Wee-Bit-Honest? anti-Christmas letter.  I wish they all sounded like mine:

I’d say with blatant bragging that my kids didn’t turn into trolls throughout the year and were still, in fact, good looking.  (Naturally if No-Shave November didn’t find my son looking like Wolverine I could’ve secured proof of this over Thanksgiving weekend when we were all together but no such luck.)

I’d reveal that I am secretly thrilled when my oldest son is at college … because his proclivity to starting his day at 3:30 to do errands when he’s home makes my hair fall out.

I’d express delight that my college-bound, environmentally impassioned daughter is poised to save the world one dolphin or blade of grass at a time … yet would rather hug a tree than any of her brothers … and that kinda sorta makes me mental.

I’d report that my middle-school sons are doing well in their school and sporting endeavors … but that their inability to decode and decipher common phrases like “Take you shoes off before coming in” and “Hang up that towel” worries me immeasurably.

I’d boast about my husband’s year of health and weight loss (again, not really a loss when it’s found by someone else, eh?) but to even the score I would definitely get in a few digs about my perpetually broken kitchen pendant light.  I’d then probably put it in print that I am holding firm on getting my downstairs painted this spring (and that this task will far take precedence over – pick one – a new snow blower, lawnmower and/or Patriots season tickets.  So there.)

I’d ramble on about our family vacation to Disney with a great group of friends and then embarrassingly admit I lost my youngest son within 5 minutes of entering the happiest place on Earth.  Yes.  Party of 14 people.  Lost child.  5 flippin minutes.

I’d divulge funny details about my job (that I love)  in an alternative middle/high school (Really?  I’m complaining about wet towels at home?  Really???) but then I’d share the far from humorous reality of having to keep the doors locked there now.

 

Scary times.

It’s best to just remember that our lives – and our livelihoods —  are merely temporary.

 

Why not laugh a little and focus on the daily, smaller smiles because really — one day real soon I may be missing those wet towels on the floor, right?

 

My family is healthy and my life is full of love and friends and laughter.  (And recycling.  Lots and lots of recycling because – haven’t you heard —  my daughter has turned into the Conservation Nazi.)

 

So, as I sit here watching “The Sound of Music”  (singing every word to “Climb Every Mountain” because, my gaaaaawd,  Mrs. Cazzaza made us sing it in elementary school,  I wish everyone the same:

 

Health, love, and (of course) recycling.

And laughter.

Lots and lots of laughter.

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

 

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The Thinking Girl’s Thong

Look, Mom.”  My 13-year-old daughter’s eyes shone with a sort of mischief as she called me in from the hallway.  I stood in her doorway and watched as she opened her top drawer and proceeded to hold up the teeniest, tiniest thong I’d ever seen. Momentarily halted (“DON’T TASE ME, BRO!”), I just blinked. I’m assuming my face froze unnaturally (or maybe I just dropped the laundry basket, I can’t remember) because she added quickly, “Don’t worry, I got it on sale.” Good God. How was my head supposed to explode off my neck when she was following my cardinal rule? I drew a breath, nodded and did what any other mom would do: turned on my heel and left. I needed a mom moment. For sure.

It’s not that I feel seventh grade is entirely too early for thongs (I do), and it’s not that I don’t particularly see the need for invisible panty lines in middle school (I don’t). The bigger issue, as I see it, is the undeniable and intrinsic empowerment of a thong. Any female that’s ever donned one knows there’s a hell of a lot more going on than invisible panty lines. It’s as if there’s a secret sexual revolution going on in your pants. I guess I wasn’t expecting a thong—and everything that comes with it —  in middle school and worse–– from her.

She’s hip. She gets it (only mothers of teenagers who don’t get it fully understand this phrase. Trust me, my eldest teenager, a boy, does not get it. That’s an entirely different article…). But my savvy, sassy daughter? She’s confident. And reflective. And beautiful. Not beautiful in the kum-ba-ya sense that “all kids are beautiful,” but beautiful enough that our friends nod knowingly and offer “yeah, good luck with that” condolences or “got the shotgun ready?” inquiries whenever she whisks through the room. The truth is she doesn’t need a thong. I only wish she knew that.

My daughter might disagree (quite loudly, I imagine) but I happen to think I’m a fairly cool mom. My hair’s not stuck in a time warp, I tend to favor high heels with just about anything and I’m incredibly adept at the muffin-top-camouflage. Still, even the coolest parent will grimace when their baby girl wants to be sexy. I’m not a soapbox-standing mom who’s going to blame the demise of teenage morals on MTV or say the world’s going to hell in a handbasket because some emaciated Barbie traded her bikini top for peanut butter on Survivor. I know sex is everywhere we turn, but I also know I’ve instilled some pretty good values into my little girl’s head. So why the sudden need for the inner strength of sexuality?

Having been a teenager myself, I remember the gradual ascent of provocative dress. In junior high, my Nautical Blue eyeliner was smuggled into the roller rink undetected in my Jordache pocket and was wiped clean off my face before pick up hours later. In high school, weekend club-hopping called for white anklets and cotton-candy-colored pumps paired with denim mini skirts (Hello… Long Island in the ’80s? I was far from alone). I understand the glorious burst of self-esteem that comes from feeling sensual. But the image of a sexy pink string just visible over the tiny waistband of my daughter’s jeans just might send me over the edge. This is so not Nautical Blue eyeliner.

My inability to come up with an intelligent (or any, for that matter) response was eating at me. Clearly this was some type of mother-daughter milestone that shouldn’t be dismissed with some dropped laundry. I fretted for hours while my daughter easily resumed her life, humming effortlessly without noticing the elephant in the room (the irony being that our particular elephant was the size of a Band-Aid). If she felt the need to be secretly sexy, I didn’t want to deny her the nourishment that her self-image might need at this particular moment in adolescence. At the same time, I didn’t want to send her father to the emergency room should he catch a glimpse of it for the first time one night at Chili’s.

Right before I turned in for bed, I noticed her light was still on (of course it was; parents of teenagers already know their children turn into vampires after their 12th birthday. I haven’t stayed up past my two older kids since the season finale of Lost). She looked up at me, questioningly. Here was our big moment. I cleared my throat.

“The thong?” I asked plainly. It was as if she had to remember.

“Yeah?” She seemed unaffected, like I was inquiring about chorus practice or where she’d left my curling iron.

“If I ever see it, I will take a scissor to it.”

She didn’t skip a beat and went back to her textbook. “Got it.”

And that was that.

I imagine June Cleaver might have spent a bit more than 11 seconds on the entire interaction, but I know my point got across. Some things work best when hidden. And some feelings of empowerment are meant to be savored—privately.

 

 

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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/