Friday, October 28, 2016

The Season Of Mourning

   October is a difficult month for me. Even though I love the crisp fall mornings, the abundance of pumpkins, and the fact that my birthday is celebrated on the 15th, it's also a time that I'm reminded of the sister I lost.

     Cherie was the oldest of the four children in our family, and I was the youngest, but the six year gap in our ages never bothered her. My sister carted me around on her hip, let me play with her pet parakeets and snuck food into my room whenever I was banned from the dinner table for talking back to my parents. Those tiny care packages wrapped in paper napkins were offerings of love and sympathy from a sister who knew all too well the wrath of parental punishment.

     So much of my childhood was spent in my sister's room. We shared hours together cutting out patterns for Betsy McCall Paper Dolls, drawing Arabian horses on her giant sketch pad, and singing along to her Herman's Hermits albums. She taught me how to play Crazy Eights and War, and sometimes our marathon card games lasted long past my bedtime. Her room was my sanctuary; a peaceful place that smelled of sandalwood incense, leather, and fresh paint from her art set. Every inch of wall was covered with posters of Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, peace signs and slogans protesting the Vietnam War. At night, she'd turn on a black light that made the patterns on her psychedelic posters come alive in the eerie blue glow from the lamp. We told stories in the dark and dreamed of faraway places where mythical creatures lived. And in that dim blue light, we made promises to be there for one anther no matter what happened in the future.

     Our relationship evolved the way long term friendships do----with immeasurable trust and a strong sense of loyalty toward one another. We fought occasionally as all siblings do, but neither one of us carried a grudge. All it took was a joke or a funny face, and within minutes we'd be laughing over the absurdity of the argument. She understood me better than most, and never judged me for my failings. She always had my back and defended me at every turn. We often joked that we were the black sheep of the family----so different from our siblings and parents, but in truth, it's what bonded us from the beginning.

     Once we grew older, got married and had families, I didn't see Cherie as much. We were both caught up in work and raising our families with little time to visit one another. Her life was not an easy one; she went through two difficult divorces and ended up raising a son mostly by herself. Over the years she developed an eating disorder, along with several other health issues that appeared as a result of her obesity. I knew she was broken, but I didn't know how to fix her. I was battling my own eating disorder demons, and the painful reality of seeing myself in my sister's struggles was more than I could handle. I stood by helplessly as she spiraled downward into a vicious cycle of yo-yo dieting and emotional binge eating. It frustrated and frightened me to the point that I avoided her invitations to get together, especially if the outing involved food.

     Now I'm left with guilt and a deep sense of regret for turning away from the woman who was once my best friend. We knew each other so well, yet I ignored all the warning signs. It was too painful to acknowledge that my sister was slowly killing herself. She was lonely and unhappy, but I pretended not to see it because it was easier to live in denial. I blindly convinced myself that she would realize how much she had to live for, and that she'd seek professional help before spinning completely out of control.

     In 2009, Cherie succumbed to pneumonia during the early hours of Halloween. I hovered over her hospital bed when she was in a coma and prayed that she would open her eyes. Even during her final moments, I refused to believe that she would never wake up. I thought of all the things we needed to do together, and promised her that once she was well enough to leave the hospital, that I would take her up on her invitations to feed the hummingbirds at Butterfly World, sip margaritas at our favorite Mexican restaurant, bake cinnamon rolls together in her kitchen and do "movie nights" once a month to watch all the classics from her extensive video collection.

     Her heart gave out as I stood by her bed, and the shrill buzz from the hospital monitor after she passed away still haunts me to this day. The tears I shed were not from sorrow, but anger. Anger at her for giving up too soon, and anger at myself for not keeping my childhood promise to be there for her whenever she needed me.

     Although it has been seven years, the grief still lingers. Cherie was so many parts of me, and now that she's gone, it feels as if I've undergone a partial amputation of my heart. The wound will heal in time, but the scar it leaves behind will be a reminder of the gentle spirit that once graced my life with a love that only a sister can understand.

This fall as I watch the leaves turn to golden hues and scatter across the sky, I think of Cherie. And I will never, ever stop missing her.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Fly On The Wall In Snarksville

     Welcome to a new edition of Fly On The Wall group blog postings, hosted by Karen of Baking In A Tornado. Today, seven bloggers are opening the doors to their homes so that you can get a glimpse of their private lives as if you were a fly on their wall.

     This month has been all about spending time with loved ones as our backyard is being transformed into a magical place for family and friends (pictures soon to follow). Listening in on the conversations around me is always a good way to gather fodder for these FOTW posts, but my family knows what I'm up to when they see me scribbling notes during dinner. Here are a few bits and pieces of conversation that I snagged from these gatherings:

"I'm not upset or too anxious-----I'm taking prescription medication to help me relax."
"Too bad it's not working."

"There's some leftover steak in the fridge if you're hungry."
"No thanks. I still have a couple of hooves in me from last night's dinner."

"I need to change the channel to something less scary than this presidential debate. I'm switching over to watch American Horror Story. Definitely less frightening."

"We're in a restaurant for God's sake, please stop farting!"
"I can't help it if the owner called me in to defog the place. My gas is lethal enough to kill the cockroaches."

"Having Carpal Tunnel in both wrists really sucks. I have to wear a brace on each one. My arms look the robot's arms on Lost In Space. 'Warning, warning, Will Robinson---Carpal Tunnel ahead. Danger, danger!'"

ME: "Look at that giant harvest moon!"
SON: "What is it harvesting?"
ME: "Your brain cells."
HUBS: "That will be a small harvest...."

"What on earth was that horrible screaming I heard outside?"
"I don't know but it sounded like someone stepped on a cat."

"I ate so much food at dinner that my belly button is now an outie."

"Our granddaughter is afraid to use the bathroom at night because she said she's scared she'll see a 'conch' roach."
"Tell her that 'conch' roaches only exist in Key West."

"They're selling Smart Water here. How much should I buy?"
"A case, because you're gonna need to swim in that stuff in order for it to work...."

     It's all fun and games at the Doyle house until someone has to deal with gastrointestinal issues. But at least it keeps the cockroaches away.....

Buzz around, see what you think, then click on these links for a peek into some other homes:

Baking In A Tornado                   http://www.
Menopausal Mother               
Spatulas on Parade                     http://spatulasonparade.                        
Searching for Sanity                    http://singlemumplusone.                         
Never Ever Give Up Hope             http://batteredhope.blogspot. com                         
Dinosaur Superhero Mommy     
A Little Piece of Peace                 http://little-piece-of-peace.              

Friday, October 7, 2016

Seven Ways I'm Aging That No One Warned Me About

When I was in my early twenties, I spent the majority of my nights club hopping and dancing to Madonna until 4:00 a.m. I drank an obscene amount of rum concoctions and still made it to work each morning without a hangover. I felt unstoppable, and from my young perspective, "middle-aged" was a dirty word synonymous with orthotic sandals, naps, and flower print muumuus that looked like they were sewn from a shower curtain. I pitied the women at the grocery store who were my mother's age-----their carts stocked with probiotic yogurts and pain relievers, a fatigued look in their eyes as they perused the vitamin supplement aisle. I couldn't imagine how dull their lives must be and swore I'd to never become like them. 

Until I hit my fifties. 

The changes were subtle at first.....squinting at a menu, plucking a lone grey hair from my head, and discovering a little less wiggle room in my favorite pair of jeans. The mirror was not kind, reminding me each morning that I was beginning to look more and more like those women in the grocery store. One morning when I glanced at my reflection, I hardly recognized the exhausted woman in the rumpled bathrobe staring back at me. 

Dear God, I was becoming my mother! 

No one warned me that once the outer changes started, the inner changes would soon follow in the race to transform me into a middle-aged woman. I wish I had known in my twenties what would become inevitable once I hit my fifties: 

Diminishing eyesight: At first I blamed the bad lighting in my bedroom when I struggled to read the small print in my novels. Then I blamed the book manufacturers---surely they'd shrunk the words on the page to microscopic print similar to the clauses at the bottom of an insurance policy that no one ever reads.
     But once I began squinting at road signs, I knew it was time to consult an optometrist for a pair of reading glasses. I dreaded the eye exam, but it was either that or live the rest of my life with the vision of a mole.

Dry skin: I never used heavy moisturizers or concealers on my skin because my complexion had always been supple and smooth when I was young. It's no coincidence that after the birth of my fourth child, the first set of frown lines appeared on my forehead. This was soon followed by a small cluster of age spots along my jaw and a ring of neck creases similar to the folds on an accordion. I began slathering my skin nightly with creams that were as heavy as wall spackle to fill my wrinkles and avoid a massive collagen meltdown. Despite these efforts, I still live in perpetual fear that after all the years I spent sun tanning by a pool during my teens, I'll end up with a face like a Shar-pei.

Muscle aches and pains: When I was younger, the only pain reliever I needed was a few aspirin to chase away a mild headache. Today, my medicine cabinet resembles a Walgreens pharmacy. It's stocked not only with aspirin but anti-inflammatory medication, analgesic ointments for sore muscles, heartburn pills, and a variety of remedies for upset stomach, diarrhea, and constipation. The heating pad that once sat unused in my closet is often retrieved for my lower back pain after a session at the gym. But the real sign that I've officially entered middle age is the fact that I have to rub arthritis cream on my knees, then  strap velco braces on them before heading out to Zumba class each morning.

Weight gain: It started after a family trip to Disney World. I noticed my shorts were a little snug after vacation, but figured I could easily drop the extra five pounds by sacrificing my weekly indulgence of caramel frappuccinos. When I didn't see immediate results, I cut back on my food portions and removed sugar from my diet. Sadly, none of these tactics worked, so I bought yoga pants in bulk and wore loose-fitting shirts that could double as pop-up tents if I was ever stranded in the woods. I now realize the wisdom of elderly women in elastic waistband shorts; it's smarter to choose comfort over style once you reach a certain age.

Hangovers: In college, I could hold my own in the beer drinking contests that were popular at nightly keg parties on campus. I was proud of the fact that I could put away more shots of tequila than any of my male friends and still wake the next morning without feeling like crap.
     Now all it takes is a glass or two of chardonnay the night before and I wake looking like I've joined the ranks of The Walking Dead. On mornings like that, it's nearly impossible to perform a simple task such as dropping a slice of bread into the toaster when my stomach is churning and my head feels like someone's using a jack hammer on my skull.

Fatigue: I once had the stamina of the Energizer bunny. But after years of chasing four toddlers around the house and running a taxi service for them in my minivan, I am TIRED. I've become immune to caffeine, and the only cure for my fatigue is a midday nap. The nights of dining out and dancing until dawn have been replaced with Netflix marathons and lights out at 10:00 p.m.
     Another change since I've gotten older? Sleep wins over sex nine times out of ten.

Gravity: I never needed a push-up bra or waist trimmer when I was in my twenties. Everything was firm and cellulite-free. Nowadays I have quite a collection of Spanx in my drawer along with heavy duty support bras in every color of the rainbow.
     My fanny is also beginning to sag like two wet sand bags, which explains why I've been paying extra attention to those infomercials for Brazilian butt lifts and sales on padded jeans designed to raise the derriere.

But it's not all bad. Getting older has its advantages. I'm wiser and less impulsive in my decision making. Years of experience have taught me not to rush through life and to savor the moment. I appreciate the little things more and stress less. I'm also one step closer to retirement and to becoming an AARP member with some great senior discounts.

I may be picking up a few more wrinkles along the way, but that's okay. These little lines by my eyes and mouth are a merit badge that I proudly wear, earned from years of laughter and a life well lived.





Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...