Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The kids are alright

I have to tell you... There are days I feel weepy; that is, like weeping for no apparent reason. I feel that way as I write this. I begin a thought, and tears leek from my eyes. What kind of thought? Any kind. It's snowing...weep. It stopped snowing...weep. It looks like it might snow again... And so on.

I accept it as is and so does Sheri. It can be a little awkward when someone who doesn't know me that well asks what they thought was a simple question, and I have to answer through tears, pausing to collect myself enough to finish the answer.

Today, even though it doesn't feel like it, the weeping may be related to the fact that my daughters, Jennifer and Alison, visited us for a couple of days and left this morning to go back to their own families and challenges. We always refer to them as the girls, by the way, always have. The fact that Jennifer is in her mid-forties and Alison in her early forties doesn't change anything.

I am tremendously proud of both of them. They are terrific moms, kind and generous. Jennifer is a pastor's wife and deals with the responsibilities that entails. Alison is is involved in her kids' schools parent-teacher organization, and has served on a local library board. So both are giving back to their communities.

Sheri and I have been cocooned in dealing with my cancer since the beginning. Friends have helped. Jen, Alison and my stepdaughter Kristie have been involved of course, but from a distance, because they have their own lives to live. Kristie is in San Francisco, but will be here when the timing is right to help me and her mom, though if we asked her to be here tomorrow, we have no doubt she would be.

It was important for the girls to be here, though, because we wanted them to see what my cancer and its treatment look like. There are good days and bad days, and now they know what that actually means. My energy level fades in and out as the day goes along. They saw that. It isn't especially scary or upsetting, it's just what happens. They know that now, firsthand. Sheri and I are no longer the only ones who understand.

And we laughed... a lot (weep). We made jokes at each other's expense, as we always have, and laughed. We talked about my treatment in greater depth so they could get a better sense of what was going to be happening. But we did that within hours of their arrival and it never really came up again. It didn't have to. Again, my illness is only a portion of who I am. We gave it the appropriate amount of attention, and then moved on to talk about other things.

It was a joy having them here. So maybe it shouldn't come as a surprise that I am weepy today.

The thing about still thinking of them as girls brought me right back to when I visited my mother ins Scotland three years ago. I hadn't been back there since we left in April 1963. My mother, who was 89 at the time, was quite sick and I wanted to visit her when she was still able to function at a high level and we could enjoy our time together. Which we did. Except...

I had rented a car while I was there so we visit some of the places I remembered as a kid, and just generally be able to get around. One night I decided to go out by myself. An organization I belong to here had a number of clubs there and I wanted to see if they conducted themselves in the same manner. Off I went, telling my mother I would be home by 9 pm.

There was virtually no difference in the way the group conducted itself, except- and this would become important- their meetings lasted a half-hour longer, so I didn't get home till 9:30.

I walked in the house to find my mother standing in the corner by one of the front windows, spring-loaded and ready to fly across the room, which is what she did.

“Wherrrre have you been?”

“At the meeting I told you about.” It sounded lame even to me, but I was the only truth I had.

“Och aye. And de ye ken what time it is?!?!?!” I assumed it was rhetorical, which it must have been because she didn't wait for an answer. “Ye should have been home half an hour ago. I've been worried sick, so ah have.” She seemed to be on a roll now. I just stood there feeling smaller and smaller. “It's dark oot. Ye don't know yer way around anymore. Yer no used to driving on the other side of the road...”

She paused for breath and I offered the only defense I had. “I tried to call you, but the cell phones here are really different and I had all kinds of trouble.”

“Did ye get thrrrough?” I admitted that, obviously I hadn't. “Well it disne count then does it?” The thought is now going through my head that I am a 60-year old man and I can feel indignation getting ready to make an untimely appearance. Fortunately, I remembered, 60 or not, I was and always had been the baby of my family and stood there and took it like the 7-year old my mother was addressing.

She eventually ran out of steam, but the next morning I woke to her telling my cousin, “So. Ye'll never guess what Lord Muck did last night!” Whereupon, I heard all my indiscretions repeated and then repeated again when she called her friend of 71 years to let her know what Lord Muck had done.


There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”