The Magic Elixir

September 28, 2011

It seemed like as soon as soon as my mom was was diagnosed with a cancer more serious than my dad’s, the competition began.

My father lamented to my siblings how I would spend more time attending to my mother and taking her to doctor’s appointments. Nevermind my father’s wife was an excellent caretaker who managed all of this appointments and reports, he was still jealous.

My mother’s boyfriend was a real dud in the supportive department, not quite sure how to handle less than positive news. He discouraged her from getting an expensive private room after one surgery thinking she’d prefer to share a space with a woman allergic to flowers meaning none for my mom, hacking away one bed over. In another hospital shared room, he seemed to have spent more time chatting with the other patient and her visitor than with my mom. I’m sure it was his coping mechanism but at the time it was frustrating.

Equally aggravating was my father’s attitude about his curable caught early cancer. He’d make plans with me then bail or see if I could summon a sitter at last minute and dash uptown and cross town for a quick lunch. When I’d pass he’d count the number of lunches I shared with my mom forgetting that she would plan days in advance not only where we would eat lunch but what activities to do after the appointment.

My mom remained more positive about her life threatening cancer than my dad, rarely mentioning it and acting optimistically. Psychologically we believed she’d be okay so long as she did not exhaust all of her resources. There was some sort of magical mushroom a homeopathic doctor recommended, a sarcoma specialty hospital in Germany and one in Seattle, and this John of G-d figure in Brazil.

A reporter friend had covered a story on him and it seemed like a last case resort, but one we would explore if necessary. Unfortunately we never made it.

Fast forward two years and my father is hit with another more serious cancer. On his own he discovers the healer Juan de Dios and considers a trip to Brazil bringing up a host of conflicting feelings.

My father should get help.

It’s great that he is exploring all avenues for recovery.

I wish my mom could have visited Juan De Dios.

Why hasn’t my father reached out to my friend who reported on him several years ago?

My dad is asymptomatic; does his condition necessitate a visit to Brazil?

The healer came to the Omega Institute earlier this week and my dad had a chance to visit and be treated by Juan De Dios, an experience I am excited to hear him share. I guess I cannot avoid wondering if he will save my dad and if he could have saved my mom.

My mother’s Buddhist doctor says that we must live forward. The Christian one reminds me there are no what-ifs in medicine. The one whose religion I don’t know notes that my mom was really quite sick. And I tell myself that nobody gets out alive. Perhaps my dad’s experience wonders if I missed an opportunity to save my mom.


Family Business

September 26, 2011

I’ve always been insecure whenever someone asks me what I do. It’s been ages since I’ve had a nine to five job, which makes me lucky by so many standards. At first I supported myself by tutoring and allegedly pursuing my writing career on the side. And with my parents’ encouragement invested in real estate. But my dad always told me to downplay the real estate lest people get jealous. So for much of my twenties I described myself as an aspiring writer/ tutor.

I stopped tutoring after having my first child but continued with the real estate, no longer as shy about it perhaps because my husband’s friends were so successful or before children their fiances then wives had jobs with a title. I never felt comfortable calling myself a writer because I did not achieve the success I longed for (and still do). And since I do not work full time managing my property nor do I actively represent clients it feels disingenuous to refer to myself as a real estate broker.

When my daughter was born four years ago, my mother aware of my struggle commented, well now you don’t have to figure out what to do with yourself. A few years later I was filling out a preschool application that asked for mother’s employment and I called my mom. She intuitively knew the reason I was calling and we agreed that real estate manager was accurate and compelling enough.

Less than a year later my mom passed and I assumed the role of managing her real estate on behalf of my siblings. Again, it is not a full time job with some days requiring more work than others and I hesitate to define myself by this newfound responsibility. My mother owned and operated a bead store in addition to her investments and when people asked her what she did, she brought up the bead store, rarely commenting that she owned the building and the impetus for originally opening the store was a vacancy she was unsure how to fill.

I know I’m lucky that I do not *need* to work and I’m thrilled that I have an identity outside of my children even when work calls can interrupt our time together. Having my siblings for partners definitely complicates things but it must be better than at least some alternatives? I read Cleopatra: A Life and thought of the young Queen inheriting an empire, forced to marry her brothers, fearing a death ordered by her brothers and reminded myself that family businesses are double edged swords.

This post was inspired by Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff. As part of the From Left to Write I received a free copy.


September 26, 2011

There’s a great joke in the movie Old School. Vince Vaughn is about to say something inappropriate and he says to his son “ear muffs” and the child promptly covers his ears. If he is anything like I was, he probably strained to hear every detail.

Lately, I’d like to blatantly shut out some of the information people have been sharing with me, starting with horrifying stories of unborn babies or deliveries. I do not want to know about someone’s miscarriage. It may appear insensitive but it is precisely because I am so sensitive that I do not want to know. One person’s unsolicited story about a tragedy when she was seven months pregnant haunts me because it’s probably a fluke that happened to her that could easily happen to me.

My grandmother’s attendant’s niece is sick and every day she is late for work she updates my grandmother on her progress, surgeries and prognoses. My grandma in turn, would relate these stories to me. I listened politely the first time then had to say I do not want to know. I just don’t.

I was with a few moms sharing horror stories of our deliveries. My daughter’s birth was particularly awful, and one mom had to top it not with her story but with her girlfriends gruesome and painful delivery, the thought of which paralyzes me as I remember it. Thank you!

I’m happy to listen to my neighbor’s tribulations as she breaks up with her long term partner and father of her children. She thanked me for listening the other day because her sister’s are no longer tolerant. For them it’s probably frustrating to watch their sister struggle and still want to salvage what is left of what was a miserable relationship. They must hate seeing their sister beg the ex to work things out while forgetting his horrible behavior. I’m sure I would feel the same way if my sister lamented over the loss of a loser.

These sisters would potentially be more tolerant of hearing other people’s tragedies so long as they are not in a similar situation. And of course, if a friend was suffering I’d lend an ear, but I have no interest in doing so for these peripheral relationships/ encounters.

When my mom passed away people would tell me how they had lost a parent however recently or distantly. My sister and I agreed that we did not care, especially from people who were older. It was not the time or place for us to offer any sympathy, even if the person’s goal was empathy. Of course I find myself wanting to relay my loss to people who are suffering even knowing it could be counter intuitive. Hearing my dad talk about his depression with his aging mom, I remind him she is 97 and he 67 and this is inevitable. He says it doesn’t make it any easier.

All of these things are hard: miscarriages, illness, divorce, old age. So is life. And each of us do what we need to do function well. So if we/ I offend by not listening or requesting a change of subject, it’s part of my survival mechanism. And given my bulging belly, perhaps it’s the speaker’s responsibility to better screen her audience.

Nanny Upgrade

September 9, 2011

They say that the hormone surges during pregnancy parallel those of a teenager. While I’m no longer fighting with my parents, daily, or harnessing rising anger at my sister I’m still testy and impossible to please.

Over the past four years I’ve tolerated my children’s nanny – a term I despise because of the privilege it implies. Over these four years I’ve gone in waves of liking how great she is with my kids (she is), how flexible she is (which also leads to unavailability), to utterly resenting her presence in my house. After enough complaining I’ve decided to replace her.

The new nanny has a contract and a list of outlined responsibilities down to the minimum times she should wash her hands. She stayed with my family for a few days and seems caring with the kids, clean, open to direction and amenable. She’s definitely not perfect, who is, but I think/hope/believe it will be a huge improvement.

With three kids soon to inhabit my apartment I need someone more organized than my current nanny. And today is the day I let her go. I’m not looking forward to firing her, no matter how high class of a problem this is.

I thought about concocting a story as to why I’m letting her go, perhaps saying I am having a live-in even though there is hardly room for one or my husband wants someone that speaks better English, or his work schedule/ salary is changing, but will likely go with I need someone super early in the mornings. I’ll recommend her on my message board.

I hate confrontation, and disappointing people and this seems to be a cumulation of all things I’m not interested in doing.