Archive for February, 2014

#Hyannis Half Marathon: The Aftermath.

February 23, 2014

I walked the Hyannis Half Marathon today. My time was a disaster (I finished last; by almost an hour). I’m never going to be able to run because of various orthopedic maladies. Right now, my body feels better than when I did the Philadelphia Half Marathon last fall: I was on pace to break that time by an hour. What happened? Put it this way: I have more respect for any high level athlete who plays through a cold, bronchitis or the flu than before. The last 4 miles were torture. But here is where I ran into kindness. It was obvious I was struggling. I was wearing a University of Tennessee dry-weave shirt. Marathon (it was a combined Marathon, Half-Marathon and Marathon Relay) would turn back and yell: You have it! Keep going. Don’t stop and my favorite “Come on Volunteer! You can do it!”. These are people who can still speak after running 22 miles. I was stopping every 200-300 yards to cough my head off. One runner STOPPED to make sure I was ok. At mile 11, I let a few tears slide out. I could feel a blister, I was coughing and damn it there was a hill! There was no way I was quitting with only 2 (ish) miles left. Marathoners, half-marathoners and wanna be’s (that would be me) are nice. They encourage, they yell support and then? After running 13.1 or 26.2 miles, a group stands and cheers for the stragglers.

When I crossed to the last turn, the 3 guys who passed me twice and called me Tennessee were standing there with their friends. They yelled “we told you we’d wait for you at the end!” I’ll probably walk at Hyannis next year (unless, of course, I have a re-run of a vicious cold). From the volunteers who didn’t leave, to the people in the area who stood out between water stops with water/Gatorade, I had fun. It might take my lungs a bit to heal. But if you want to meet a nice group of people? Lace them up. Because sometimes even dead last can feel like winning.

Yahoo!  I did it!

Yahoo! I did it!

Dear USPS, perhaps you should NOT JUDGE

February 20, 2014

There was a nasty note in my mailbox when I got home: mail being held at post office. You need to do a better job of getting your mail. REALLY? Maybe I called them; maybe I forgot. I know I had every intention to call the post office. I went to the counter to pick up my mail; I handed over my license and apologized. I explained my mother passed away and thought I had called requesting a hold.

The mail clerk returned. She told me the carrier felt I hadn’t been picking up my mail enough in the past two weeks. I said again, my mom died, I had to fly home. It won’t happen again. She replied “the carrier said this was going on for two weeks.”

Over the line. I’d like to say it’s because I’m exhausted. I’d love to attribute it to just having a bad day. But nope. In that moment it was too much of not being listened to over something that probably happens a bit in the life of the USPS.

I pointed to the stack of mail: exactly 49 items of mail accumulated over a 16 day period, roughly 3 items of mail per day. I said do you think this is an unreasonable amount of mail for 2 weeks. I continued. You can tell the mail carrier that he won’t have to worry about me not picking up my mail in a “timely” manner again: I highly doubt I’ll get a phone call saying my mother is dead and I need to fly across the country. But if I do, the first thing I’ll do is stop by to let you know.

I sorted the mail in the lobby: 17 pieces of real mail. 16 days. Yeah. I feel the angst for the US mail carrier. Glad the mail carriers of my hometown and those who work in the office feel the need to tell me all about how I don’t pick up my mail. And they wonder why the USPS isn’t exactly appreciated?

Getting sick and other such dramas

February 19, 2014

It’s been a little over two weeks since my mom died. I’m fine at work. I become distracted by my excel tables, reports and general amusement. And then it stops. My last two commutes have been snowy messes which passes the time. My cats seem to be glad to see me (ok two of them . . . Sir Fluffy Butt remembers the cone and runs. He’s not afraid, just smart).

The bad thing? Aside from the unknown path of not knowing how I’ll feel hour to hour? I’m getting sick. It’s more a combination of digging out my car for two hours with help from a friend who rescued me from the Logan Express parking lot snow pile and the stress I’ve been under. It doesn’t matter how impractical it’s always been, when I’m sick I want my mom and chicken and dumplings. Never mind the decades that have passed since that happened, that is what I want. As I feel like I’m swallowing razors and itching my ears, I know I’m treading on dangerous ground. I know my Dad, brother and my sister would feign interest in my illness, it’s not the same as my Mom calling to make sure I gargled (I never did) and all of her other home remedies. The reality is I just want to curl up and sleep. I want my mom to know I’m sick and pity me (ok, she never really did).

I know in my heart that my mom died the way she wanted: quickly, at home with only my dad. Part of me (ok, a huge part) wishes we had the chance as a family to say good bye. Would it make it less sucky? I don’t know. Maybe we did at Christmas without knowing it. For all of the travel misadventures of my family, we were all at my sister’s for three days. We had fun. We poked fun at each other. We played some Wii dance game. We laughed. A lot.

I move from numb to angry and back again. Except I’m not really angry. The anger comes when I hear the debates about the efficacy of mammograms. A mammogram gave my mom 17 years. Cancer sucks. It is exhausting. I know my mom is finally pain free and at peace. It just sucks to be left behind.

I’m supposed to walk the Hyannis Half Marathon this weekend. My mom was all excited about it because it goes by the Kennedy compound and she wanted a picture. Who knows? Maybe I will.

Goodbye Mom. We will miss you.

February 15, 2014

Here is the eulogy I mostly delivered at today’s service of my mother’s life. Sometimes being an adult sucks.

On behalf of my siblings, Sarah and Nathan , their spouses Don and Evie , the grandchildren Donald, Patrick, Kathryn, Emily and Lauren and Evan , we wish to thank you for the love and support you have shown our parents throughout course of our mother’s battle with breast cancer. As the Boston daughter, I was often asked by my friends why I did not have my mother seek treatment at Dana-Farber in Boston or Sloan-Kettering in New York. I truly and honestly believe that the care my mother received at the University of Tennessee hospital by Dr. Timothy Pinella, her primary nurse Ruth Borden and countless others including Merritt Brakebill was equal to or better than the care she could have received in Boston. For this, I am truly grateful.

Cancer never defined my mother. Approximately 15 years ago, we received the crushing news that my mother had a 3% chance of survival after one year with the return of her cancer. As her children and probably her spouse, sister, mother, in-laws, nieces, nephews all tried to wrap our heads around the probability, my mother in her mom way simply told Dr. Pinella “I don’t have time to die, I have grandchildren.”

While others may have faced the odds presented with complacency, my mother fought cancer. In my eyes, she won. She continued to teach through chemo and radiation and she learned. She learned and re-instilled into her now adult children the lesson of a cancer diagnosis. Learn what is important: and if it isn’t important, it doesn’t matter. For her, this was simply her family, her faith and teaching. I’ve reached the decision that being a teacher must be like being a mother: you never give up the role.

Others will speak and have spoken about my mother as an educator: To me, she was simply, complexly Mom. Looking back through the pictures that were shown in the fellowship hall with my siblings; we laughed at the bad 80’s hair, the horrific 70’s plaids and discovered our parents as a couple before they had kids and cried at the pictures of graduations, weddings and baptisms.

Sorting through wedding pictures from nearly fifty years ago, I am reminded how my parents lived out their wedding vows: for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, sickness and in health, to love and cherish. Dad, she loved you. She loved telling the story of how, in vanity, she didn’t wear her glasses at her wedding and couldn’t see when you stuck out your thumb instead of your ring finger and the minister smacked you. She couldn’t stay mad (for very long) if you winked at her. She took great pride in causing the great Philadelphia Phillies collapse of 1964 and reveled in the fact that Yankees triumphed in the 2011 World Series over the Phillies. As hard as it is for your control freak daughter to admit, mom died how she wanted: at home with only you by her side. You were truly the love of her life as she was yours. As parents, you taught us the most important lessons: family, faith, service and the love of college sports.

Sarah and Don, Mom marveled at your ability to raise your family, volunteer, work in time consuming demanding jobs. Sarah called me and said “oh, Don just made a big mistake, he told me he wanted to collect cast iron. What’s going to happen when mom finds out?” Don, Mom took pride in converting you into a cast iron collecting college football fan. I think it’s time you raise the white flag of surrender; you’ve been assimilated. Sarah, mom was amazed at your ability to teach Kindergarten to Algebra II and just about every subject in between. Seeing you and Don as a couple, is like looking back at Mom and Dad. You have faced the challenges set forth in wedding vows and as a couple have met them. She was so proud of you. She admired your ability to be calm in the face of adversity and take one step at a time. It is a skill I wish I had. She told me this fall you two were probably the proudest parents in the state after Donald, Patrick and Kathryn lead worship: I know she was probably the proudest grandmother on the planet that day.

Nathan and Evie, well, let’s face it. Mom bought Nathan at a garage sale and then got mad when I sold him to a friend for some baseball cards and jacks. She made me take you back AND grounded me. Evie, I told somebody this week that the only s who can sing are the ones who married into the family. She loves the fact that you and Crystal sang today. She appreciated how grounded you were by your faith. Nathan, you totally inherited the rabid live and die with your team football mentality. She loved laughing at your Saturday antics and she never quite got how you became such a rabid UT fan especially when there was a perfectly good team located up I-75 in Columbus. She was thrilled that you took Evan to the Horseshoe last year for his first Ohio State home game.

Donald, Patrick, Kathryn, Emily, Lauren and Evan, Grandma loved you with everything she had.

Donald, Grandma always shook her head in amazement at you. From your helping any kid with homework, to standing up for your beliefs she was proud of the young man you’ve become. Her favorite stories of you, though, are from when you were a toddler: when you tried to mow the grass with your toy mower and you couldn’t quite figure out why the grass wasn’t getting mowed, to cutting your own hair because your head was hot and playing all positions in a one person football game, she was always impressed with how you managed to stay occupied.

Patrick, Grandma loved your inquisitive curiosity. She had so much fun finding odd ball treasures for Patrick’s collection (I mean, how many grandmothers would buy a blow dart?). Your voracious reading is just like Grandma. She loved your explorations in linguistics and vocabulary. She would often tell people about one of your teacher’s making a “Patrick vocabulary list”. She always laughed when remembering how I caught you climbing up a ladder to the roof and when I asked the 4 year Patrick what he was doing, I was promptly told “Climbing down”.

Kathryn, you are your mother’s daughter. Your mother was her mother’s daughter. I think, by extension, that makes you grandma. Grandma loved your fierce competitiveness. Your glare cracked her up. From the time you could glare, you glared: from not wanting to share kiwi, to a server taking your plate too early or simply clearing the table after dinner, we all know the glare. Somebody, usually your mom, could get Grandma to stop glaring. Nobody has been able to stop the Kathryn glare. Grandma marveled your adventures at Russian and Chinese camps. She loved watching you play softball. You have amazing artistic ability. She probably told everybody she knew that your carving won an award at the Oklahoma State Fair.

Emily, you are a fireball of energy that Grandma loved to enjoy. She called me last summer to tell me you cartwheeled UP the hill from Tic-Toc without getting hurt! She told me she didn’t think she could turn that many cartwheels ever. She was so impressed with the dress you made last summer.

Lauren, Grandma loved your library. She loved how organized your lists were. She made lists and thought it was the best way to stay organized. She loved the letters you wrote Grandpa. You are a much better letter writer than Grandma (and she’d always remind me how busy you were when I kept saying ‘Lauren owes me a letter’).

Evan, Grandma loved how you thought everything was awesome. She smiled every time you shrieked with enthusiasm. Your joy and happiness makes everybody happy. That is very special and Grandma loved it.

Emily, Lauren and Evan: Grandma loved Camp Chaos. She loved playing cards (she did not like losing to the kids), watching the dance competitions of kids versus adults (I think she secretly cheered for the kids’ teams since she didn’t dance) and having you at her house playing, laughing and breaking some of the rules. I know that Grandpa will be great at leading Camp Chaos this summer. Take turns, but each day one of you needs to make sure he wears his hat while working in the garden.

You six are her legacy. Continue to stand up for what is right as your parents have taught you. Do justice and love with all your heart.

Dad, Sarah, Don, Nathan, Evie, Donald, Patrick, Kathryn, Emily, Lauren, Evan and all of those who loved my mom, in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss that I was reminded of by my cousin Matt, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” We aren’t quite there yet. But we are working on it and that is all my mother would ask as a parent and an educator. Via con dios, Mom, go with God.