Everybody Gets A Trophy

A dresser covered with two dozen trophies from basketball, soccer, rugby, baseball and football. Some personalized, most generic.

Baby Bear was instructed to clear out his room when he was home for the Christmas holidays. It was to prepare for the rehab of the upstairs. He bristled when I mentioned his Tipman A5.

“That’s the one thing I want. Why do you start with threatening that with the dump?”

He had a point. He wasn’t angry. More hurt, I think. While I was attempting to convey my ignorance of the importance of his stuff, he wasn’t feeling the urgency I expected. I went for the jugular. It was my test case. He wanted to keep it.

Honestly, this was not the best way to build momentum for an unwelcome project. Note to self: Need to work on my technique.

My own mother used to annoy me by keeping me solidly preserved in amber as my 18-year-old self. It was as if I were stuck with my permed hair, big belled Levis and a limited palette of Jack and Ginger and french onion soup for a fancy date. Forever. I don’t think that she ever really knew me after I left.

Not that she was trying to force me into a box. Not even that she was indifferent to me. It was more like she was unable to move her point of reference to the present. To where I was now.

Every time I’d see her it was always a slide backwards. Even when I married. Even when I had kids of my own. There was still a part of her that related to me as if I were my high school self. Even when I could no longer remember the references that were, to her, au courant. Over the years it became a dull annoyance, but still.

Baby Bear did a good job clearing out his stuff. He bagged stuff to donate and stuff to toss. He left some things behind with the instruction that the disposal of the remains was up to me. He knew that I would go through the kid and young adult books on the bookshelves. I already said that I couldn’t actually part with the legos.

He emptied out all of his drawers. No oversized cargo shorts, t-shirts with images that were no longer funny or school ties left. There was a pile of random phone and other small electronics chargers on the top of one dresser. On the other was an array of trophies.

There were maybe two or three thousand trophies. Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration. But for many years there were two seasons of soccer and one of basketball, each season ending with a requisite participation trophy. He did that for a bunch of years. Then there were camp trophies. And a science fair ribbon. And the Latin medals. And the football and  baseball markers. I think there was a letter for wrestling and rugby, too.

I looked at that display of accomplishment–because participation is an accomplishment, too–and wondered why they didn’t make it into a bag. Did he think they were important to me? Did he not want to be the one to physically let them go? But he did let them go. He was done with them. He took what he wanted and moved on.

I was using childhood tricks by poking Baby Bear with the one item I knew he wanted to keep. I was stuck in that oppositional place where I con him into an action. Actually, though, he’s beyond that. I looked around at the relatively little he left behind.

He lives seventeen hundred miles away. I think about him taking care of himself. Without my daily admonitions. He’s got this. He’s moved on. Me too.

I am renaming him again in this blog. Starting now, he’s Bear. Just Bear. He’ll always have a place to stay here. We are remodeling his room, which will remain his room. If he wants it.

Both Bear and Doc are on a growth trajectory. I’ll toss the trophies. He has other things to do.

Pomegranate Seeds

A flight of beer and a bowl of potato salad, beans and pulled pork. It was yum. Also, thanks Prisma!

My dad liked his potato salad with gravy. The potato salad came out of the fridge, especially since it had lots of creamy mayo. It was cold. And he liked it poured over with hot gravy. Like if the potatoes were hot and mixed with butter and milk. But they weren’t. They were cold. With mayo and raw onions and cooked eggs.

Everyone, other than him, thought it was pretty gross.

But it was Dad’s thing. Potato salad with gravy. It got to be so much a thing that when Mom made potato salad to accompany, say, burgers on the grill–served with condiments right from the fridge, like ketchup and yellow mustard and pickle relish and sliced onions and tomatoes–she would sometimes magic up some gravy for Dad. If you cooked, you know that there was some serious magic going on to make gravy when the meat was on the grill. And, by the way, Mom NEVER opened a can or jar of “gravy.” That gummy shit is a poor excuse for gravy. Even for potato salad.

Anyway, today, The Spouse asked me if I wanted to go to the auto store to get the battery for the Mini replaced. It was on warranty, and the Mini was frequently on no-go. I said yes.

The Spouse poked his head in the bathroom–I NEVER get any privacy around here–a few minutes later to admit that the errand was extremely dull and wondered why I would go. I said I’d go because I wanted to hang out. I gave The Beast a treat, and, along with the promise of new wiper blades for my car, we went to the auto store.

Me, being the clever Doc that I am, figured out the correct wiper blades and waited for The Spouse. And, while waiting, discovered that there was a yet to be tried brewery a mere four minutes drive away. Clearly, this was not going to be an extremely dull errand.

While at the beer makery, I spied the BBQ truck. The Spouse left the flights behind to have a tour of yet another set of stainless steel vats. I went to get the grub on the street from the truck.

As I studied the offerings chalked on the side of the truck, the very pleasant attendant asked if I had their BBQ Pearl.

“No,” I said.

“People really like it. It sounds weird but it’s the most popular. We layer mac and cheese with baked beans and pulled pork.”

“I know it’s weird, me not you, but I don’t really like mac and cheese.”

To her enormous credit, she did not make a disparaging face.

“Now, if it was like potato salad and beans and pork, I’d like that alot better.”

“I can make that!”

I realized I was channeling my Dad. The idea of hearty, hot food on top of potato salad was like gravy. And I said, “Yes.” I ate it as my Dad. And it was good.

I miss my Dad every day. Today I felt like I connected across the the lands of the living and the lands of those who have left. Over potato salad. And baked beans. And pulled pork.


Do the Mashed Potato

An erupting volcano. It looks hot. And dangerous.

When my mom would get mad, she would use her words–occasionally at a deafening volume. Usually, though, just at an extremely loud volume.

I really can’t remember exactly how she would get wound up. In my memories, she could blow at any time. She didn’t go zero to sixty. She was more like a rocket launch, minus the countdown. Or maybe an exploding mountain top that exposes roiling lava in a crater. Perhaps there were some seismic gurgles or telltale belches of ash, but we were too young, and then too self-absorbed, to predict the eruptions. We weren’t scientists with well calibrated instruments. We were the simple natives that managed the fallout as it occurred.

My dad was the usual target, but when the moon was right, nobody was excepted. The moon was a character in the drama. Her blasts seemed to be tied to hormones. Dad would stand in the garage and warn us before we’d walk into the blast furnace, whispering that she had her period.

Once she was on, it could be days before it was safe. She’d be so primed that the slightest slight could train her sight your way. When she’d blow, we would be very quiet. Don’t poke the bear.

This day the Goddess of Yelling was present. I think Dad was mowing the lawn. We were goofing around in the other room. Since we were kids, and we heard it all the time, we could sometimes be oblivious to the conflict. When we were called into dinner, we brought our foolishness with us.

Mom was yelling at Dad out in the back yard. We were laughing around the table. I threatened My Older Sib with mashed potatoes on my fork. She laughed and loaded her own. She drew it back. I dared her with a raised eyebrow. Her hand slipped and the potatoes catapulted past my right shoulder and landed with a horrifying plop on the rug in the next room.

Horrifying in a way that spawns shrieks of laughter that we could barely contain–but we had to because Mom was walking toward us. But worse, she was walking in her stocking feet toward the potato landmine. Oh God, if she stepped in it, we would be dead. We started to giggle. She didn’t know why we were laughing but she was not happy. She turned her ire to us.

I am sure she asked, in her outside voice, why we were laughing. We, of course, could not tell her. We were both terrified and dangerously amused. One step to her right and she would find out for herself. She was so angry that she started to stomp from one foot to the other, like the angry troll underneath the bridge that the Billy Goats Gruff crossed.

The closer her small white-socked feet came to the potatoes, the more excited we got. Not in a good way and not in a way we could control. “What was so funny?!?”

Big Sib burst out laughing. She had a clear view of our mother and her foot almost touched the food. I turned around and desperately started a long tale of what happened at school. Something in this train of thought had to be funny.

Most fortunately, she wasn’t interested in my narration and the the mad-hopping slowed. She turned, and we held our collective breath as her foot hung in the air over the mashed potatoes piled on the carpet. Everything seemed to stop, except for the giggles that we had to choke back down to their origin. Do. Not. Laugh. It is almost over.

She moved her foot forward above and then past the floor food and stepped away. It was over.

I don’t remember where she went, but I know that we had to remain at the table until the coast was clear. A furiously whispered argument followed on who would defuse the bomb. Big Sib thought it should be me. Her argument was that it was my fault since I, in the parlance of children, started it. I, on the other hand, was sure that it was her responsibility since she was the one who lost control of her fork which was the actual cause of the almost-disaster. Bottom line, neither of us wanted to get caught while cleaning it up.

As was typical, we likely came to the solution of sending in the rookie–the Youngest Sib. The logic was that she was least likely to get in trouble. Mom, at that time, usually spared her the venom. In fairness, she caught her share years later.

So goes my story about mashed potatoes. You know how you grow up and sit around with your folks and come clean about your childhood misadventures. Didn’t happen with this one.


I can’t really remember the beginning of this story. There have been so many versions of the beginning that I can’t quite place the proximate cause. And the initial what really isn’t important.

Where my memory–and this story–starts is driving up to Henry Ford Macomb Hospital on 19 Mile Road. It was dark, but that doesn’t mean too much in mid-December Michigan. If it was dark it could have been 5 pm, but I think it was closer to eight.

I don’t know if I checked into the hotel first, but I must have so I wouldn’t be distracted by that personal logistical detail of where I would sleep.

Although she’d been at Henry Ford Macomb before, I hadn’t. She had been abulanced to the ER the day before. There was confusion about whether she was getting admitted so I flew in to see what was happening.

I walked into the hospital to find her room. She didn’t have one. Somehow she was still in the ER and had been for 36 hours. The nice lady at the desk told me to get back in my car and drive around the hospital to the ER entrance. I asked if I could walk and she looked at me like I didn’t realize that I was in the Motor City where people do NOT walk when they could drive.

She was in an observation bay at the far end of the ER, a little bitty lump underneath a bunch of blankets that doubled her silhouette. She was asleep so I brushed a kiss on her wisps of white hair. Her skin was gray. I followed the IV to see that she was getting blood. To counteract that gray, I supposed.

There was a bunch of untouched food on the tray next to her and some empty blood bags.

This joint was a disaster. Patients in ER limbo for days. Improper biohazard handling. An impotent patient advocacy process. (Why would an organization create multiple ineffective avenues for remediation? You only need one ineffective procedure.)

She was surprised to see me when she woke up, except she really wasn’t. Waking up in a hospital bed is accompanied by a through-the-looking-glass haze, and, while I didn’t belong in this scene neither did she.

Her smile was weak, but it was sunny and I was so happy to be there: to advocate for her; to make the nurses really see her; to argue about a room with the moronic patient advocate; to steamroller through to the hospital president; and to get what she needed.

I was there to watch the miracle blood bring back the color in her cheeks and watch her lose her wilt. I sat with her for a few days. I held her hand. I made sure she ordered food and that she ate it. I positioned her poinsettia so she could remark again and again on how beautiful it was. I held her hand again, and rubbed her back. And she melted at the touch. I sat next to her with my computer on my lap so she would wake up and see me. We chit chatted about pretty much nothing.

I did this, I thought, for her. But when she peacefully died in her sleep in her own bed a short few weeks later, I knew that I had done it for me and that it was my hand melting when I touched hers.

How fortunate that the hospital was such a shit-show. I am grateful for a last intimate connection. I am happy that I was present with her and she with me. It was a good-bye that I didn’t recognize in that moment. But it was good.

Thinking about you, Mom, especially today, the anniversary of that last time you snuggled up in your bed and went to sleep. Sweet dreams.

Lavender’s Thursday Dilly Dilly

Bottle of Mrs. Meyer's lavender dish soap

Standing over the sink, washing the dinner dishes, I couldn’t think of what day it is. I knew what day I wanted it to be.

I switched to lavender scented dish soap two or three months back. It started with lavender candles, went to lavender counter cleaner and settled in with lavender dish soap.

The dish soap is my least favorite of my lavender infatuation, mostly because it smells like soapy lavender, and I have an irrational fear that it tastes like it smells and that the smell won’t rinse off. Irrational because I still think that thought after months of zero evidence that there is any residual taste or even smell of lavender. It rinses off just fine.

I made an amalgamation of leftovers in a bowl for dinner, so the dishes were primarily containers from the leftovers and some dishes and silverware. There were two round containers with screw on blue tops, one large cube with a snap blue top, and a glass rectangle with a clear top that you need to slap the edges hard to seal. The glass rectangle is heavy. My plan was to switch from the eventually disposable plastic containers to all glass, but the size options don’t meet my food storage needs. Also, they don’t stack as well.

I don’t know why I was so confused about the day, but I definitely struggled to tease it out. At first I thought that it was Thursday, but quickly realized I was a victim of wishful thinking. Yes, I wanted tomorrow to be Friday. Nope, today had to be Wednesday. I was pretty sure. I looked at the container lid in my hand and smelled the lavender smell. I counted the days I remembered this week and Wednesday seemed mostly right. I rinsed the lid. I volunteered to wash the dishes tonight because I wanted to have my hands in the warm water.

I took a step back and leaned toward the calendar. I looked and saw that Wednesday was the 13th. It seemed like today was the 13th. Was that right? Maybe it was the 14th?

I put the next well-rinsed container in the dish drainer. I picked up the plastic encased sponge and the next dish and strained my brain for a clue of what day it is. There was nothing–absolutely not one thing–that I could come up with that was routine, that was a marker for this day, whatever day it is. The water ran from the faucet as I put more soap on my sponge.

What day is it today?

My brain turned to my Mom’s trips to the hospital over the past few years. The nurse would lean in on her and say [loudly because my elderly Mom was hard of hearing and didn’t listen anyway], “HONEY, DO YOU KNOW WHAT DAY IT IS TODAY? WHAT YEAR?”

I used to think that was a dumb and unfair question. In the hospital one day is like another. There weren’t markers of time other than when meals are brought. If they wanted to know if she was confused, there would be fairer questions. Of course she’d get it wrong.

I stood there over the sink, sponge hanging off of my hand, brain starting to smoke as I turned my day over and inside out searching for an elusive cue. I looked into the running water and pushed fog away. I remembered that I cancelled our regular Thursday meeting today. A marker! It’s Thursday.

Which means tomorrow is, indeed, Friday.

I finished the dishes and wiped down the counter, grateful that there wasn’t a test today on today.

Bam Ba Lam

Old lady singing into a large microphone

“Oh, God!” said my high-school boyfriend.

Me: What?
HSBF: You know that song, ‘bam ba lam’?
Me: Yeah?
HSBF: It came on the radio today and MY MOM WAS SINGING IT!!!

Oh. The, Horror.

It was a little funny, except that I never met his mom. So I didn’t have much perspective. Come to think about it, I never met his dad. Or his brothers. In 30ish months of “going together,” with our ancestral homes separated by about a mile, I never met his people.

My mom introduced me to the Beatles. She would play Meet the Beatles and Introducing The Beatles. She had a bunch of old records we’d listen to, like Limbo Rock. I grew up with people listening to music. People had records and also listened to music on the radio. And sang along.

My folks gave me my first AM radio when I was about seven. I used to listen to CKLW [the motor ciiitttttyyy] like church. Detroit radio introduced me to the Stones, Supremes, Little Stevie, Smokey, Aretha, Clapton/Cream/Stevie W/Traffic, Zeppelin, The Who, Kiss, Prince, George Clinton and GrandMaster Flash.

When I was ten, I got my first turntable. It also had a radio that included FM! I bought my first LP–Elton John’s Greatest Hits. In high school I had a job in a record store. I always had music on–in the house, in the car, via my portable FM radio and eventually on my boombox.

On school mornings, I’d get up, pad into the kitchen and turn on the radio to eat breakfast. We’d listen to the AOR station (I’ll be the roundabout). I guess my Mom listened. She didn’t turn it off or tell us to turn it down. She’d be in the room, so I guess she listened or at least heard.

So, like who cares that your mom knows your song?

Maybe that’s why I didn’t know his mom and family. He cared that his mom knew his song. As if only we teens owned the public airwaves. As if it was unacceptable that his mom was part of that public. What if he was embarassed of his family? I didn’t know them so maybe they were embarrassing. That said, they couldn’t be much worse than mine, and he was over our house all the time. What if WE were the embarrassing ones–lacking even the most basic self-awareness that we were embarrassing?

I know that I resemble an embarrassment to my spawn. Rolling into the Boys and Girls Club after summer camp with Get Low blasting from the minivan is certainly cringe-worthy. Or when a millennial colleague caught me on my headphones and asked me what I was listening to. Don’t judge an old book by it’s cover, I say.

So I’m thinking about HSBF’s mom, enjoying music. And hope that she looked like this:

And for the record, these Black Betty induced memories were triggered as the Big Guy blared it from his phone, followed by some Creedence. He ain’t no fortunate son. He came by it honest.

Mother’s Day Anew

Estee Lauder Modern Muse gift with purchase

I got one of those gifts with purchase. That special bag filled with makeup goodies from the department store that makes you feel like you got something all the while pretending you didn’t get taken by them because you spent $17 on mascara and had to find something else to bring you up to the minimum purchase requirement. As an aside, the good news is, when you get old and are trying to hold visible age at bay, the products are much more expensive so you only need to buy one item. And you feel like you BETTER get something with that purchase.

The bag is pretty and a good size. The lipstick is in a shade I can wear (the only thing slightly worse than getting a shade that is hideous is getting a perfect shade that becomes your favorite and when you run out you don’t want to spend $22 on a tube of lipstick that they gave you for free). The eyeshadow kit is always the most fun. I play with the different combos of colors. I do one eye using a light hand and then do the other eye super dramatic. Then I usually wash it off and put the kit away and later wonder why I have so much junk.

I put the bag, eyeshadow, lipstick, cleanser and moisturizer in the bathroom. It will be out on the counter for a few weeks and then I’ll hide it.

I was clearing off the table to set it for dinner and found the fragrance that came in the kit. I didn’t put it in the bag. I’m weird about scent. I’ve been wearing the same fragrance for pretty much my entire adult life. And when I tried other perfumes, I’d go mad smelling myself all day. So back to the familiar.

I picked up the pretty, miniature bottle and thought that I’d bring it to my mother. I have been bringing her these “foo-foo” samples–especially on her too many trips to the hospital or rehab. Fancy eau de toilette is always a lift and a laugh.

As I fingered the bottle and briefly traversed that thought, I remembered that Mom is gone. Just like that. Boom. Jarred into reality.

I heard an ad on the radio about getting a gift for Mothers’ Day, and felt another tug. I don’t have a mom to give anything to anymore. Not since January.

Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I didn’t know Mothers’ Day was a holiday of pain. I guess that’s what happens. Crappy circle of life.

And Happy Mothers’ day, Mom. Miss you.