Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hey! It could have been worse!

Not the easiest Thanksgiving due to husband-induced anxiety, but today I'm grateful that:
1. I had a calm happy day with my children and husband safe around me.
2. No one was hospitalized and my husband's foot didn't explode or otherwise act up any wildly dramatic fashion.
3. My husband has tenure so we don't have to worry about losing job, house, or medical insurance.
4. There is such a thing as Tofurkey so that my newly, but not deeply, vegetarian teens could have something approaching the regular old Thanksgiving dinner that they wanted.
5. All the food, including the turkey and the Tofurkey, got done at the same time so we could all sit down together to eat. Often we're not that well organized and synchronized.
6. My teens seem to be growing out of their hormonally insane phase and were actually really nice company today. They even played cards with their younger sister during the day and hung out and chatted with their dad after dinner (while the youngest and I waltzed around the living room to Christmas music).

So, a good day.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Whack a symptom

Remember that game, Whack-a-mole, where you smack down one mole with a mallet and another pops up nearby? Ah, my husband, my husband, my husband - love of my life and a veritable whack-a-mole of new and mysterious symptoms. Before his recent surgery he had headaches. Every day. For a year. ("Stress," he told me. "Just stress.") He had massages, physical therapy, practically everything but an exorcism. Till he had a ten-hour surgery which solved the headaches.

Now his foot is hurting. And he's been to physical therapy, to a podiatrist, and a doctor of orthotics. Yesterday the pain was so bad that couldn't stand on it. So I took him to the hospital where he had a jillion tests, including a nuclear (!) bone scan. So after a day of post-traumatic stressing out (which I treated with the nonmedical version of valium - Hagen Daaz), I'm a little calmer and waiting, once again, for test results. If it was anyone else it would be arthritis or gout. With him, who knows? I just hope they don't amputate. I kid. Sort of.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Phantom family

(Image from marcoa84's wonderful flickr file.)

In fantasy and science fiction, one of the classic back drops is of parallel universes colliding. Parallel universes, for those of you not familiar with the genre, are created when there's a crisis in the life of a person or planet. The different possible outcomes create different universes. Well, I collided with my own parallel universe recently. I spent last weekend with my mother, helping her sort through things in her storeroom so she could downsize (thank you Bush et al. for demolishing her investment account). As we were working, she casually said what a shame it was about the drinking water in south east Virginia having been tainted when I lived there and causing all those miscarriages. I was absolutely stunned. It turns out that the water in the area where I lived when I had my multiple miscarriages had extremely high levels trihalomethanes, a byproduct of over chlorination. They have been found to cause "fetal deaths [and] spontaneous abortions --pregnancies that terminate spontaneously before the end of the 20th week of gestation." The article I found added dryly, but not incorrectly that "In addition, of course, many of these 30,000 fetal deaths precipitated a personal crisis for the parents." I'll say. (For more on that see my earlier posting Selina says. But a quick list of the effects of miscarriage on me, at least, would include inexpressible grief, depression, anxiety during all further pregnancies, sense of inadequacy as a woman.)

So there, in that storeroom, fittingly filled with junk from my past, I had a vision of the woman I would have been had I not lived in that place, drunk that water (the pregnancy books tell you not to drink juice because you'll gain too much weight, but do drink LOTS of water ladies!), and had those miscarriages. Who would she have been, that woman that I'm not? She would have had babies easily, as I expected to, as you're supposed to. She would have felt that her body worked rather than feeling, yet again, like a failure. She would have been a good mother, as I am, but she would have been less afraid to let her children roam free because she wouldn't have had that tiny hidden part that was always afraid they'd be taken from her. She would have been more complacent than I am, but she would have been nice, someone I would have liked but always felt a little separate from.

Of course, each significant event in our lives builds the base that supports and shapes everything that follows it. So the person I am now is unimaginable without the many things, good and bad, that followed from those miscarriages - the adoption of my twins, the diagnosis of my daughter's autism, the nervous breakdown that followed that, the birth of my youngest. It would be a betrayal of myself and everything that I've learned, of the children that I have and love so very much, to wish my life were different. And I don't. I like who I am now. I'm a complex, compassionate person, and a good friend who is not afraid of anyone's pain or grief. But I can't help thinking about that woman that I didn't get to be, and wondering what those babies I didn't get to have would have been like as they grew. Without ever having known them, I miss them and, like a phantom limb that aches untouchably, that life I never had.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Prop 8

Gather 'round my children, while I tell you a fairy tale with a happy and a sad ending. Long ago, in 1978, when I was a dewey-eyed young haglet, there was a proposition on the California ballot that would have banned gays and lesbians from teaching in California's schools. Harvey Milk was a city supervisor then, and campaigned actively against it. After Prop 6 was defeated, jubilant crowds gathered at the San Francisco civic center where Harvey and Mayor Moscone gave speeches. Mayor Moscone said, “This is your night. No on 6 will be emblazoned upon the principles of San Francisco, liberty and freedom for all, forever.” There's the happy ending. The sad ending, of course, is that, not long after that happy night, a right-winger, threatened by this triumph of good sense and humanity, shot and killed both Harvey Milk and the mayor in their offices.

I'm not the first or the last to wish that Harvey could have been alive this year - he would have been the grand old gay of the Castro - to campaign against prop 8 and help defeat it. But I do believe that someday this silly nation will come to its senses and realize that it is very simply wrong to legislate who and how we choose to love. There is little enough of that precious commodity in our world, that to restrict and repress it makes us all poorer.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008



Election day and I'm all dewey-eyed

When I was a girl, living in Laos, I couldn't distinguish between the sound of thunder and the sound of gunfire. This was because the general who was sometimes in control of the government lived behind us and, every now and then, his house would be surrounded by men with guns, fighting would break out, and he'd be out of power in a coup d'etat. Cutting off the head - that's what coup d'etat means - of the body politic. So I have personal experience of the transfer of political power being brought about by guns, and I was remembering this as I stood in line to vote today. The sidewalk was lined with all stripes of political signs - Obama, McCain, and even that fruitcake Nader - and it made me extraordinarily proud to be living in a country where we fight it out with signs and words. Now I know that this country is far from perfect. But I also know that, at the end of this Fall day - under clear blue skies and lacey red and yellow leaves - power will change hands. Yet no one in line with me held a gun. No one was shot. Everyone was calm and civil. I voted freely for the candidate of my choice - the party not in power - and walked safely home. What a very wonderful day.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

How the campaigns look on the ground in Western PA

Apologies to those of you who aren't Americans. We are a nation obsessed and, like a bad dinner guest, our conversation will - until Tuesday - return over and over to our tedious monomania. That being said, here I go!

Pundits are saying that Western Pennsylvania, where I live, is going to be a bellwether area in the election. So yesterday, when I went into town to get some more Obama signs (because, really, one sign on your front lawn isn't clear enough, is it?) I walked past the local McCain office. It was CLOSED - empty and locked up tight, not even one lonely volunteer answering the phones. On the weekend before the election. The Obama office, however, was packed with volunteers who were working the phones and organizing the push to get-out-the-vote.

This doesn't mean I'm feeling complacent. Any Democrat who hasn't been on a continuous Valium drip for the past eight years won't have a shred of complacency in them till the last vote is nailed down and John McCain gives his concession speech. But this did cheer me up immensely.