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Relaxation is not something I do well, but lately I’ve been trying to honor the commandment for Sunday rest. I told my oldest daughter about it and she said sarcastically, “Oh, yes, I’ve heard of that concept, Mom; most people call it a weekend!”
It’s not that I do my doctor job on Sundays – I stopped that a long time ago – it’s that I don’t necessarily rest. Neil used to ask me regularly to sit down and relax, but there was always something that had to be done. Sometimes people ask me now, “How can you have so much to do? You live by yourself most of the time when the girls are at school.” That’s true, but there’s even more to do around the house now that I am the only one doing it!
Armed with the plan to accept Sunday rest as a gift from God, I made a list of all the things I could do to relax. I’ll read all those journals on my bedside table, take a walk, call my mom, write some letters. Then it occurred to me that making a list wasn’t really embracing the spirit of rest. Ok, I thought, no list. No plan whatsoever, I’ll just see what the day brings.
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Most of you know the story of how Neil and I met the first time in the Emergency Department. You may not know the rest of the story, but it’s a good reminder about how stubborn streaks can get us into trouble.
The second time Neil and I saw each other was at a wedding. His restaurant manager was marrying my daughter’s nanny. It was a beautiful outdoor wedding, the bride glowing, the groom ecstatic, and my sweet daughter having the time of her life as the flower girl. After the ceremony, while the bridal party was taking pictures, I wandered over to where Neil sat in the bright sunshine.
I said hello and asked if he remembered me, and he admitted that he didn’t. His version of the story was that next I asked, ‘Would a hypodermic needle up your nose remind you?” I don’t think I ever said the phrase “hypodermic needle’ in my life – only TV doctors do, so I am sure he was wrong. Continue reading →
Neil and I had some rough spots over the years. What marriage doesn’t? We tend to suppress those memories or gloss over them in time with a more favorable lens. Recently, I went to a concert that forced me to confront one of those memories.
Twenty some years ago, Neil and I planned to attend a concert at that particular lovely outdoor venue called Lime Kiln Theater. It’s made up of several different stages hewn out of ancient quarry rocks and man-made refreshment stands where you can buy beer or a glass of wine. The gates open early so people can bring picnics and relax under the stars before the show. I didn’t get off work that evening until 8 pm, so Neil suggested I meet him there. He got there at least an hour before me and started “relaxing.” He was very drunk by the time I arrived.
He slept in his seat through the whole first half of the concert. He snored forcefully once or twice, but a quick jab with my elbow took care of that. In the middle of the second set, he woke up and loudly announced that it was time to go. Embarrassed, I quietly shuffled along behind him, hunched over so I didn’t obstruct anyone’s view of the show. We left the audience area and had slowly climbed about half way up the path that leads to the parking lot, when Neil decided to take a nap. Yes, right there in the middle of the pine straw path, he laid down on his side, curled into a little ball with his face on a rock and told me, “Night night.”
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It’s hard for a perfectionist to live with ‘good enough’ but it’s even harder for most people to live with a perfectionist. Neil and I had different ways of doing things. I always folded towels into trifolds; Neil folded them however they fit in the drawer. I washed the dishes right after dinner; Neil washed them before bed, or even worse, before breakfast. I can’t even count how many arguments we had about whether the toilet paper should unroll from the top or the bottom. It was hard for me to relinquish control of the household when I went to work, just as I am sure it was hard for Neil to always be under my watchful eye.
One night I came home after a long shift in the ER and crept upstairs to kiss the girls tonight. I saw a strange chunk of hair on the steps, but didn’t pay much attention to it. I set it on the handrail to throw away on my way back down. My two youngest daughters shared a bedroom back then, and both were sleeping soundly as I tiptoed in and blessed their foreheads. I checked my oldest and blessed her, too. All was peaceful and quiet as I went in to the bathroom, until I noticed what I thought was a mouse behind the standing towel rack. It turned out to be another chunk of hair. I didn’t scream loud enough to wake the girls but I did get Neil’s attention downstairs. Continue reading →
When I went to bed on December 27, 1996, with Neil reading quietly in bed beside me, I had no idea that Jordan would be born the next day, or how much drama would be involved in her arrival. After struggling with preterm labor for two months, dealing with medicines, bedrest, and frequent doctor visits, I should have known things wouldn’t suddenly become easy.
Neil and I woke up leisurely to weather that promised to be unseasonable warm, and then sipped coffee in the living room, admiring our enormous Christmas tree. As I got up to refill our mugs, my water broke, and after the initial shock, it was a relief to know the time had really come to go to the hospital.
As we drove the hour to the medical center in Roanoke, the contractions started coming hard and strong. I distracted myself by singing along with the radio. When Celine Dion’s powerful voice noted, “It’s all coming back to me now,” I belted the words loudly right along with her, thinking it was ironic that I had forgotten until then how painful labor really was. Continue reading →
The smaller of my two cats is Kitty Girl. She appeared on our fenced-in patio shortly after sunrise one hot summer morning. I was awake early that day, sipping coffee at the picnic table, and saw a flash of black and white inside the flower box. At first I panicked, thinking it was a skunk. I studied it for a minute, and deciding it was too small to cause much damage, went over to investigate. Peering into the box, I couldn’t tell what I was seeing. It was a tiny blob of coarse dirty fur, and when I reached out to poke it I heard an almost imperceptible meow. Within a few seconds, the ugliest kitten I’d ever seen unrolled itself and looked at me with a combination of curiosity and desperation. Fleas hopped all over her, and yellow green drainage from her swollen eyes matted her face. I brought her inside, cleaned her up, treated her eyes, and fell in love with the perky, petite cat I call Kitty Girl.
Fast forward 13 years. Kitty Girl is no longer an ugly duckling. She is a dainty, lively, sweet cat who loves adventure and has used up at least six of her nine lives with exploits.
Once she wandered about a quarter mile away and climbed a tree. She was stuck there for three days and we were resigned to the idea that she died. Unwilling to accept that, Jackie and a search party of eight-year-old friends set out to find her. Continue reading →
Shots fired. That was the message on my cell phone at 3:30 in the morning from the instant alert program at my daughter’s college. As I forced my eyes to focus on the little screen, the next message came: three people injured; police on scene. It gave the address of the incident, too, and it was the corner by my daughter’s apartment building. Now I was wide awake. I read the update again, and quickly called my daughter. She didn’t answer, which wasn’t unusual, so I sent a text. I waited a few minutes, and still got no answer. I said a fervent prayer for her safety, and then a miracle happened: I went back to sleep.
When I woke up the next morning there was a message from my daughter reporting she was fine and that she hadn’t even seen my text until she woke up to go to the bathroom. She hadn’t heard any police sirens or shots during the night and her roommates were also home safe. I couldn’t decide whether to be proud of myself for going back to sleep or ashamed.
Then the negative self-talk started. What kind a person goes back to sleep after a message like that? Who doesn’t get up and pace the floor worried sick about their child? Continue reading →