Sunday, May 22, 2011

Too many chocolate bunnies

What is it about injuries and surgeries that make us want to show them off like well-deserved medals? When I was stung by a bee at the age of five, I couldn’t wait to show everyone my “scar” and let them know “I got STUNG BY A BEE!”

The desire to display life’s war wounds hasn’t gone away since I became an adult. A few weeks ago, on Easter, I may or may not have had one too many chocolate bunnies, mixed with the heads of a few Peeps, because I soon found myself suffering from chest pains. Gas was my first thought. Heart attack, was my second. But after moaning for what seemed like hours (probably minutes), I called Kaiser, described my post-Easter symptoms, and was told to get myself to the nearest hospital.

While the admitting clerk asked me questions, I moaned the answers, then was escorted into the ER, where they dressed me in a swatch of material with two arm holes in it, (leaving the back open for indecent exposure citations), hooked me up to an IV, and ran a bunch of tests. Not gas. Not a heart attack. I was experiencing an “acute gall bladder attack.” One of the tests revealed “billions and billions” of gall stones in my GB collection. How had that happened?

Didn’t matter, once they gave me drugs—I mean meds. (We took drugs in the sixties, we take meds in our sixties). The meds they gave me were way better than chocolate bunnies, and I drifted off to a land where there was no such thing as gall bladders. The surgery was scheduled for the next night. The doctor said he’d simply put me to sleep, poke four holes in my abdomen, and suck the annoying gall bladder out through a tube or something. I didn’t really listen. Just give me more meds and let me know when it’s over.

Surgery went well, according to everyone around me. My family came to visit—even the grandkids. I had my husband take my picture while I was in bed so I could send it to all my relatives and students and post it on Facebook.

After resting on the couch at home for a week, watching reruns of “House” and eating red Jell-o and showing off my scars to anyone who will look, including my grandkids and the man who mows our lawn, I’m back to normal. I’ve caught up on my emails, eaten all the mac and cheese in the house, tossed out my worn-out PJs, and finally washed my hair.

Friends have come out of the closet with their own gall bladder stories to make me feel better. Even my daughter-in-law had to have her gall bladder removed—six days after having a baby! So I can’t complain. Besides, there are no dietary restrictions after gall bladder surgery—except chocolate bunnies and Peep heads.

Still, I’m disappointed the doctor didn’t bother to suck out the extra fat I’ve been storing in my abdomen while he was in there getting my gall bladder. I would have gladly paid extra. Maybe when I have an appendicitis, I’ll remember to ask.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

My mother just turned 86. She’d kill me for telling you that. But I’m just glad she’s still around to toss out death threats. That kind of attitude is what got her through six decades of motherhood. She certainly deserves to celebrate Mother’s Day.

Mom was born a coal-miner’s daughter in West Virginia, the youngest of six siblings. She overcame that hard-scrabble life, thanks to the strength and encouragement of her own mother, who essentially raised her kids as a “single mom” before the term became common. Mother moved to the city, became a Big Band singer, met and married a G.I., and found herself a mom at the age of 23 on the Island of Okinawa. No Lamaze class. No epidural. No birthing room. Instant Mother’s Day.

When she and her growing family moved to the Bay Area, she became a stay-at-home mom, raising her three children without the help of parenting books, TV talk show advice, or mother support groups. She had to wing it. But she quickly learned how to make flour-and-water paste for all of our craft projects, flatten a hamburger patty to the size of a pancake, create Halloween costumes out of old clothes and crepe paper, learn the words to several Beatles songs, and whip up my favorite dessert—banana pudding.

After her kids were grown, she went back to school, got a couple of bachelor degrees (art and English), moved to Chico, and taught English for a number of years. She moved on to radio, hosting her own show that featured Big Band music on the local public station. When her kids weren’t visiting and bringing along kids of their own, she painted, wrote articles for the newspaper, worked on her book, read, and played music. After my dad died, Mom slowed down a bit, moved to Sacramento to be closer to her son, and took in several grand- and great-grandchildren who needed temporary housing.

She never stopped being a mom.

When I became a mother, I was lucky to have my Mom as a role model. I learned to make flour-and-water paste (until Elmer’s glue came up with a better solution.) I flattened my hamburgers (until McDonald’s did it for me.) I created Halloween costumes from scratch (until the kids insisted on the store-bought variety.) I learned most of the words to “Ice Ice Baby” (until the kids asked me to stop singing it.) And I made their favorite food—popovers (until the kids grew sick of them and begged me put down my spatula.)

Now I see my daughter Rebecca and daughter-in-law Sue becoming wonderful mothers. They’ve read all the parenting books, gone to all the classes, joined all the groups, but when it comes down to day-today mothering, I notice they follow their instincts, just like my mom had to do. When once the pacifier had to be sterilized, now it’s acceptable to wipe it off. When once the TV was forbidden, now Mickey drops by on occasion. When once meals were chopped broccoli, now a cookie is allowed. When once their kids wore spotless clothes, the outfits are now decorated in felt markers and Mom’s lipstick.

Today we celebrate Mother’s Day, in spite of the fact that every day is really Mother’s Day. Don’t you agree?