ON BEING NEEDY

Posted by on Jun 23, 2012 in family, husband, kids, my day, personal, pets, short story | 1 comment

Author’s note:  I was reading the following passage to my husband.  I’d written this a few years ago and was presenting this as prideful evidence that in the last few years, I’d improved dramatically.  “I am so much more well adjusted,” I bragged.  Husband number one cocked an eyebrow, “Um hum,” he said,  choking back a laugh and ending in a fit of coughing.  As I said, husband number one….

 

I think I may qualify as “needy.”  That is a psychological term I’ve been aware of for several years now.  We’re not talking “needy” as in, without assets, but “needy,” as in need of validation, reassurance and self esteem.  I’d never thought of myself as particularly “needy,” until last week.  Now, I am considering therapy.

It had been a particularly trying day.  I had made five trips, 17 miles each way, into town, twice completely, as it turned out, unnecessary.  My efforts to please, to be a good Mom, good daughter, good wife, good dog….whatever (still looking for the right word, “owner” doesn’t work), had been met by complete indifference.  It was one of those days when every time I turned around, someone needed something.  Right now!  Even the boys (ok, the dogs) were unhappy because we hadn’t walked.  I’d not met a single expectation.  No one cared about how hard I had tried.  No one!!!

Mom was in the hospital.  I had met with the doctors and talked to the nurses.  I had been to see Dad, fixed his lunch and done my best to soothe his anxiety about Mom.  Headed back into town from Dad’s house, I encountered my vagabond dog jogging up the road, where he had no business.  He was, evidently, fed up with waiting for his walk and going it on his own.  I returned him home, chastised him and left him, surly and truculent on the porch.  After all, he pointed out; it was my fault he had gone AWOL.  If I had met my responsibility, he would not have been walking on his own.  He was correct.  Obviously, I was unreasonable too.

I’d been to the grocery store, pharmacist, dry cleaners.  I’d bought food, prepared food; I’d picked up everything on everyone’s list.  I’d moved ungrateful children from point A to point B, and then back again; without a thank you.  The day was almost over.  I had not had a walk, the sure sign of a failed day.  Daughter #1 was angry because I protested at her request to be driven home after school and returned to town an hour later (five trips already, twenty  minutes each way, times five, equals… plus one more equals….)   This, to save her boy friend the inconvenience of driving ALL the way to our house to pick her up, and ALL the way back.  You must understand when I drive ALL the way back and forth it is not an inconvenience, it is a privilege.  Anyway, I’d knocked myself out getting everyone’s errands done, missed my walk, failed as a parent and as a daughter and I was running out of gas.  I hate getting gas.

I pulled into the gas station. I filled the car and entered the building to pay.  The cashier was a tall, burley kid with tattoos, a pony tail and several piercings.  Making change, he laconically asked, “How’s yur day?”  My eyes welled up with tears.  Oh my GOD!  Someone cared!!  I told him.  In a torrent of words, I poured out my fatigue, my disappointment, my concern about my mother.  In the warmth of that dear man’s tender concern, I almost cried in relief.  Here was a caring human being, someone who asked about me, about MY life, my day, someone who cared about ME.  I thanked him for his tender concern, his compassion, his warmth.   “Thank you for asking, thank you for caring,” I sniffed gratefully.  About that point, he interrupted to say, “Wow, Lady!  Most people just say, “fine.”

Shoot, now I have to find a new place to buy gas.  I can never, NEVER go back to that station!

 

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IT WAS UNDERSTOOD

Posted by on Jun 17, 2012 in family, kids, my day, personal, short story | 0 comments

“Dad, you’ve never said you loved me.”  My father’s steely blue/grey eyes met mine.  Several seconds passed, “I thought it was understood,” my Dad said dismissively.  At forty some years old, I had finally mustered the courage to broach this subject.  The conversation was over.

Five feet, eleven inches tall, rapier straight, Dad’s stature was in the balance of his hard, blue gaze.  Dad was a combat pilot in WWII and Korea.  By the time the Vietnam War occurred, he was too senior to fly but held one of the top administrative billets in the Pacific.  His men adored him for his fairness, but feared his unrelenting demand for excellence.  He demanded from them and from his children what he demanded of himself, perfection.

Dad studied engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.  My mother told me that Dad never took an exam.  The professors always suggested he take exam week off and go skiing.  Because Dad had never turned in a wrong answer, the professors knew he would get every answer correct.

Dad expected intelligence, dedication and perseverance from his children.  He must have been dismayed when his son and daughter did not show the proficiency he did for math and science.  When I was in grade school, my Mom begged me each night to let her help me with my homework before my Dad came home.  I never agreed.  Tonight, I would be better, tonight I would be smart, tonight he would not have reason to call me an idiot and walk away in disgust.  I never was better.  I never was smart enough.

Dad believed honor and honesty were a man’s (and his daughter’s) most valuable asset.  Reputation was all.  A social, moral or ethical lapse would be punishable by weeks of silence.  He never told us why he was angry.  I am sure he felt it was understood.  To this day, silence from someone I love sends me in to paradoxes of self doubt and grief.  The fear of not being good enough, not meeting expectations has followed me from childhood.  Somehow, the determination to keep tying has followed me too.

Dad could fix or build anything.  He did so with the same excellence and precision he did everything else in his life.  He loved kittens and cats.  Old ladies loved him.  Unfailingly courteous, perfectly correct, he maneuvered each social occasion with grace and charm.   He was comfortably at ease with Japanese business men at a dinner where geishas elegantly served and entertained, as he was in a Senator’s office. Dad was devastatingly handsome with a Clark Gable twinkle in his eyes and an amazing smile.  Women stared and became tongue tied in his presence.  To my amusement, embarrassment and dismay, my girl friends in college often commented on how gorgeous Dad was and raved about his perfect bearing.  I never saw my Dad acknowledge these gestures of admiration.  To do so, would have been unseemly and impolite to his family.

When I was ten, a girl in my fourth grade class was unbearably cruel to me.  Every night, my Dad would rub my back and tell me stories until I cried myself to sleep.  He listened to my woeful tales, but never offered words of advice.  Instead, Dad offered a story to indicate the important  behavior was mine, not my tormentors.

Dad died some ten years after I had observed he never said he loved me.  The last ten years of his life were hard ones beset with the hardships that go with advanced Parkinson’s disease.  He and my Mom agreed to move from San Diego to Jackson Hole, Wyoming where my husband and I lived.  Dad took gentle delight in his grand children’s growing achievements and never, to my knowledge, showed the disappointment in them he evidenced in me.  As his illness advanced and his reliance on me grew, he gracefully entrusted his finances and his medical security into my hands.  He did so with complete trust.   Dad never did say he loved me, it was understood.

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A MOUNTAIN LOVE AFFAIR; CHAPTER 6 SEASONS

Posted by on Jun 12, 2012 in a mountain love affair, family, husband, jackson hole, kids, personal | 0 comments

 

 

 

By the end of October, hiking at elevation gives way to watching the snow fall.  Another winter stalks in quietly from the North.  Out come the skis, we wax, we wait and hope for a good base.  We plan. Life in Jackson Hole is ruled by the month, by the weather.  Our lives change with the season, with the temperature, with the snow pack, with the day.

Spring in the Tetons is mud season.  It is good to get out of Dodge.  Not enough snow to play on, too much snow for hiking.  We flee to the sun.  We go to Hawaii or camping in Mexico.  We often run into someone from JH. at these spots of refuge. One year, camping by the gulf In Mexico, we see a couple of kids in flip flops climbing a scree covered mountain.  “Only someone from a place like Jackson would do that,” my husband remarked with a laugh.  He was right.  They were the Ottos from Otto Brother’s Brewery in Wilson.  The boys had been surfing in Mexico and one of them had been injured so they were heading back home.  The small scree covered hill was nothing to a kid from Wyoming, even an injured kid.

In Hawaii, we stop in a small interior village on the Big Island for an impromptu dinner after touring around the island for the day.  Some friends from Jackson are sitting in a dark, cozy corner booth.   I did not know they would be in Hawaii.  Jackson Hole is a small world.

One spring I went with friends for a 3 week walking tour of Provence, France and a few years later to Tuscany.  We take the girls on a three week tour and sailing trip with friends in Greece and Turkey.  It is good to be gone in the spring.  When we return, the world of the Tetons is no longer black and white.  Color is returning and migrating birds are winging in with raucous cries.  In a couple more months we will be able to get to elevation, to our canyons, to our lakes.  We wait. We hike the lower trails and plan.

When youngest daughter was a senior in high school, my husband bought another sail boat.   At 37 feet she is a few feet longer than the sailboat we built in the 70’s and a foot shorter than the one we built in the 80’s.  It is much easier to buy a sailboat than it is to build.  “Fidgity Feet” lived in Florida.  For the next many years, just as the first snowflake fell, my snow phobic husband  would announce, “There is a lot of work to be done on the boat before we can take her to the Bahamas.”  By the middle of October, he would be on the boat caring for her needs.  I was home caring for the teenager, while she was still at home, and my ailing parents.  The first year, Daughter #2 went with us to the Bahamas for three weeks during spring break.  She somehow managed to wrangle an extra week of vacation.  Once during college, she joined us again this time, earning eight credits for her trip.  She is a gifted negotiator.

I would meet my husband  in Florida or in the Bahamas depending on how my parents were doing and then, after Dad died, on how Mom was doing.  It was difficult to divide myself between children, parents and husband.  All of them needed me with them.  Even when the girls were in college, and away, it was still too long a distance.  I now tell my friends, who find themselves embarking on caring for aging parents, to be ready.  From that time on, they will always, always feel they are disappointing someone, even if it is only themselves.   There is the eternal push and pull for women.  Husbands, parents, children, everyone needing time, care and love in their own way.  It is impossible to fulfill every need, and therefore we fail.  Not in everyone’s eyes, but in our own.  Dad died the day before I returned home from the Bahamas one year.  My husband  had to stay with the boat.  Dealing alone with the grief of losing my father, my guilt at not being there when he passed, my mother’s anguish, my children’s sadness and relentless, constant decisions was brutal.

The boat had its delights.  Sailing in Florida is far different than sailing in the Pacific.  The shallow water surrounding the islands is tricky to navigate and we were thankful for the GPS unit we had on board.  This kind of navigation is a far cry from the sextant and charts we used in the 70s.  At times one of us had to be stationed on the bow, watching for coral and sandbars.  The consequences of hitting one would be far reaching.

We explored Miami and the East coast of Florida and we explored the islands of the Bahamas.  Beautiful weather, fabulous water, wonderful diving, the months on Fidgity were fun.   When I had to be home in Jackson while my husband  was on the boat, I skied and played in the snow.  I did my best to shovel the snow and keep the drive clear with the snow blower.  One year, after a particularly deep snow, I pulled out the snow blower, and mumbling under my breath, tried to get the darn thing started.  The snow was four feet deep and the drive a quarter mile long.  A snow shovel was not going to make it.  However, this was my husbands job and I was feeling quiet petulant about being left alone to deal, while the boat was getting all his attention.  I got the darn machine going and tackled the drive only to have it sputter to a halt.  Damn, out of gas.  I slogged through deep snow to the garage.   Red gas can, got it.  Funny thing though, the snow blower did not seem to like the gas at all.  The truculent beast refused to move.  Finally, I reached my husband on his cell phone.  He was basking in 80 degree weather but found time to listen to my complaint and offer advice.  In the course of the conversation we realized, instead of filling the gas tank with gasoline, I had filled it with kerosene.  The engine was not happy.  My patient guy sighed deeply and suggested I park the snow blower in the garage and he would care for it in the Spring.  Meanwhile, I still had a driveway covered in four feet of snow.  Such is life in the mountains.

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Clover is home!!

Posted by on Jun 3, 2012 in family, kids, my day, personal, pets, short story | 0 comments

Writers note This like it’s companion piece (TO KNOW HER IS TO LOVE HERE)  is from the archive.  It is useful, now and then, to take a look back to see how I have matured and improved.  Yeah, not so much.  Sigh!

Clover is home!!  Once again we hear the clatter of her tiny nails on the floor.  The long orange ribbon (attached to her back with duct tape) again dances across our paths and drapes out from under piles of unfolded clothing.  (DANG, I hope that is a pile of dirty clothes rather than a clean pile!  Well, it’s a kid room, chances are about even.)

Her Highness (as she has asked to be called) escaped her encampment last week, throwing our home into turmoil.  Somehow that rascal turtle managed to peel the tape securing the three foot identifying ribbon off her back and slip out of her outdoor cage.  Fooled by the reassuring presence of the ribbon, left protruding from under her favorite pile of sticks, we did not realize she was AWOL until hours after her great escape.  (Note to self: Never, never substitute packing tape for duct tape in matters of security.  Just won’t do.  Duct tape rules).

The sobbing, the drama, following Clovers disappearance ravished the family.  Search parties were organized.  Neighbors were notified.  Our poor thirteen year old spent anguished nights and days tearfully clutching Clover’s discarded ribbon and making signs to welcome Clover home should she return.  Our home was in mourning.  For over a week we combed the area day and night, hoping for a glimpse of that darling shell, those piercing black eyes…. It was A NIGHTMARE!!!

Time passed under a dark and penetrating gloom.  Would we never see that beautiful little face again?  Whatever had possessed her to leave the loving arms of her family?  Was she alright out there in the forest?  The doubts were constant and burdensome.  Where had we gone wrong?

Well, she’s home.  Her Highness was spotted by the neighbor’s fine, talented Jack Russell and returned to the loving embrace of her family a week after her tragic disappearance.  Joy filled the household.  We were all so happy to see her that I fear she is in danger of becoming more spoiled than she was when she left.  We are so overjoyed that I have even stopped complaining about turtle germs in my kitchen and the 17 year old is allowing Clover to have the run of her bedroom.  This is a big deal!  Clover has been banned from Daughter#1’s bedroom since day one.  Her Highness (wouldn’t you know) has declared this room to be her favorite.

We were never quite sure why Clover picked this particular room.  She may have heard Erin was going to college soon and kept checking to see if it was vacant.  Hey, that’s it!!  Believing Erin was off to college, Clover expected to be getting Erin’s room as her own.  When she continued to be forced into sharing Tara’s room, Her Highness decided to look for more suitable quarters and slipped her cage.  Whew, that has got to be the reason for her leaving.  Clover felt cheated out of her rightful inheritance!

I’d better get to work here!  I have a redecorating job to do!  Erin leaves for college in just a few weeks.  I must ask if Clover would prefer French Provençal, English Country or Danish Modern.

 

 

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TO KNOW HER IS TO LOVE HER

Posted by on May 21, 2012 in family, kids, my day, personal, pets, short story | 0 comments

NOTE:

THIS IS FROM A FEW YEARS BACK. I’VE BEEN GOING OVER SOME OLD NOTES AND STORIES.  MY INTENT WAS TO PROVE TO MYSELF THAT I HAVE EVOLVED.  SO……. MAYBE NOT!  WELL I’M OLDER IF NOT WISER.

Photo is Teton Range from Kelly Wyoming.  This was a lovely summer bike ride.

 

Today I am looking for a reality check.  I occasionally resort to a reality check as a means of verifying the state of my sanity.  It is not that I really doubt my sanity.  It is true; there has been the occasional inkling of a doubt.  Well, not doubt, really.  It’s just that when enough people in one week shout, “Are you crazy,” it seems wise to at least look into the issue. I do want to stress, however, the validity of the claim of my insanity has never, never been established.

I think I am fine.  Really, it was a cut and dried issue. I mean, if you knew Clover.  Well, suffice it to say, to know her is to love her.  Her personality is radiant.  Those intelligent and knowing eyes look right into your soul.  The darling way she pulls into her shell and then peers out at the world with that coy, sideways glance.  You can see. She had to be saved, at any cost!

It all started last summer when Daughter No. 2 brought home a box turtle.  Well, not just ANY box turtle.   We’ve already established her superiority.  Clover moved into the house while I was asleep on the watch.  Had I realized what was going on, I would have stopped the whole ridiculous thing.  Box turtles do not belong in the mountains where the temperature gets down to 30 degrees below zero, and turtles definitely don’t belong in my house.  As I said, I must have been asleep on the watch because, before I realized what had happened, Clover had taken up residency.

The ploy surrounding her arrival was alarmingly similar to the way we acquired Montana, aka, Monster Mutt.  I said “NO!” to that pup until I saw him.  He was sooooo cute!  Well, that is a different story.  Anyway, Clover is an above average turtle.  Clover stayed.

The real trouble started a few weeks after Cover moved in. My husband assures me it was not my fault, but I am guilt ridden that the elk meat I fed Her Highness (I started referring to Clover as Her Highness shortly after she took up residency…. and control) may have cause the illness.  I gather that turtles do not eat elk in the wild.  Anyhow, it was my fault.

Clover became lethargic and would not eat.  Our normally peppy royalty looked ill.  We rushed her to the vet who, surprisingly in the town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was not a reptile expert.  I needn’t go into all the details.  Suffice it to say, that for a month or so Clover, was on intravenous fluids (poor girl was dehydrated), antibiotics (intravenous), and oxygen.  Have you ever seen a turtle on oxygen or hooked up to an IV?  It is heartbreaking!

Our daughter was distraught.  A specialist was called in.  Newly, the kindly turtle guru dispensed valuable advice about disease, habitat, feeding and climate control.  The trips to the vet, the many anguished phone calls to Newly….it was a stressful time for us all.

Thanks to the ministrations of Dan, the vet, and Newly, the reptile expert, Clover survived and has resumed her position as benevolent ruler in our household.  I am so relieved at her recovery I am allowing her to roam the premises at will…. which is what she did anyway.   Well, there you have it.  I was asking for a reality check.  Some, my husband and parents among them, seem to feel I have gone off the deep end.  I ask you; does three hundred dollars seem too large a sum to save a life?

 

 

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WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Posted by on May 14, 2012 in family, kids, personal, short story | 0 comments

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

 

My daughter and I were in the midst of a conversation, recently, when I referred to her sister by one of my nicknames for her “Marmot.”  “Why,” asked Erin, does Tara have nicknames and I do not?  Erin’s eyes reflected the pain of her exclusion, the knowledge that I had not loved her enough to provide her with loving nicknames.   I felt terrible.  I searched my mind.  She was right.  I always referred to Erin, as Erin.  Tara on the other hand was Marmot, Petunia, Tarz, Tarzabelle, Bella, Tarzanna and now, YaYa, because that is what her niece calls her.

Shaken, I pondered this issue for weeks.  I had not been aware that I had a favorite. I thought I loved them equally.  But what else could this possibly mean?  One had nicknames, the other none.  I was a terrible mom.  Dejected and insecure, I asked my husband if he had noticed I played favorites.  He looked at me with genuine compassion and said no, but that he had noticed a hint of paranoia.  That’s Dougie, always helpful.

Oh, my gosh, I realized, Doug had a nick name too.  Annabelle had christened her 6’2”, 225 lb, bearded, grandfather, Dougie from the get go.  Dougie took it pretty well determining he had gotten off lightly.  Our daughters called him “Skipper “in reference to his life-long love of sailing, many boats and habit of taking off for months on the ocean.  He figured the three year old might have alternatively christened him “Skippy,” a fate worse than Dougie.  The upshot is that everyone calls Doug, Dougie, the kids, my friends, the neighbors….everyone.  I’m Boppie….that is a whole nuther story.  Erin was the only one without a nickname.

I was devastated.  Worse, my relationship with my daughter had been altered.   She had recognized the name disparity and now believed that she was held in less esteem than her sister.  Things were headed downhill….until….  One day while Erin, Annabelle and I were making dinner I addressed Annabelle as “Marsupial.”  Our girl drew herself up to her full height and responded haughtily, “MY NAME IS ANNABELLE!”  Suddenly it all came back to me.  Superimposed on the dark eyes and olive skin of my three year old granddaughter were the blue eyes and blond hair of her mother at three. I hear Erin’s young voice, “MY NAME IS ERIN,” she yells with dismissive anger.  Ah, yes!  Now, I remember.

“That is why you don’t have nicknames!” I shouted triumphantly,  “You said exactly the same thing!”   I immediately pointed out to my nickname-less daughter what a good mother I had been not to have given her nicknames.  I had been sensitive to my daughter’s needs and wishes, never again calling her by anything other than her given name.  Other mothers, I emphasized, might not have been so enlightened!  I was a truly wonderful and kind mother.  Erin rolled her eyes.  Ingrate!

Annabelle, aka:  Marsupial, Small Fry, Budda Belly, Belzer, Bella, Marmot, Small Toad… has grown up with a different fate.  Aware of how important it is to have nicknames imposed upon one by one’s loving family, I have not taken her request at all seriously.  She seems resigned to her fate and has not protested much lately.  In fact she is responding well to “Petunia.”

Realizing, of course, that I must make restitution to Erin for years and years of nickname neglect, I am putting a lot of thought into suitable monikers for the child.  I do not want to be hasty.  This will take time.

 

 

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