A Tragedy For Those Who Feel

20160505_093829-1Copyright Rob Radikal

I’m a terribly optimistic person. I try to find the silver lining. And, sometimes, I make inappropriate jokes when things get serious. Case in point – a family friend of ours lost her husband last year. When I saw her and asked how she was doing, she seemed a little melancholy, but she was experiencing the anger part of the process. It seemed that he had spent a shit-ton of money in the months before cancer took his life, unbeknownst to her, and she was left to clean up the mess. She was angry. She told me how his ashes were sitting there in that box, and she was so mad at him if she had a baseball ball bat she’d beat the shit out of that box. And then I said it. It just slipped out. I said, good thing you weren’t wielding a vacuum cleaner. (Yes – I DID.) She blinked at me and I said – OMG, I’m sorry. That was SO WRONG. And then she burst into laughter, hugged me, and thanked me for making her laugh. Phew. Dodged a bullet there.

Anyway, back to the silver lining. I’m usually pretty good about it. I don’t let depression take me down, and God knows I’ve many good reasons why it should have. I have learned the hard way, however, not to say things that would sound dismissive when a friend is going through a tough time. To say I’ve had to train myself to think before I speak in those situations is an understatement. You know those kinds of statements – like when your kid has diabetes and someone says, well at least she doesn’t have cancer. On the surface, yeah – at least she’s not fighting an enemy with [potentially] no cure. Oh yeah – she kind of is. But I’m not here to whine about diabetes today.

If you are any kind of sensitive person and you watch the news or spend any time on social media, sooner or later the monster is going to get you. Enough of the terrorist attacks and children being shot in the street, or military personnel killed in duty, or animals being abused/abandoned, or children dying of undiagnosed T1 diabetes, music legends passing away, earthquakes and tsunamis in third world countries, contaminated water in Detroit, healthcare and pharmaceutical debacles, our presidential choices …. Need I go on?

It’s getting to me. I’m feeling sad and tearful. My kids fighting with each other, the screaming over one of them standing in the other’s doorway, the nasty tone of Veruca’s voice when she’s acting like an indignant teenager – and my overdue recognition that she was running high or having a low on some of those occasions. But it’s not about diabetes today. The other day when I picked Opac up from weight-training, he got in the car and – like any 15-year-old boy – started being obnoxious. Veruca, in turn, got indignant.

Opac said, you know what Veruca is good at?

Before I could shut it down (knowing it wasn’t going to end well), Veruca spit back, I don’t care what you think, OPAC.  This is how the majority of conversations between these two go lately.

At this point I interjected, I know what she’s REALLY good at, preparing to launch my snarky humor into the conversation. She’s really good at a bad attitude. But Opac was two steps ahead of me, like always, and interrupted my groove with – getting bad grades.

Oh Jesus Mary and Joseph. I was driving, and I wanted to reach around and grab him by the neck. I know the top two things you don’t tease Veruca about – her grades, and her weight. (For the record, she’s a skinny little peanut built just like her mother, and falling below the 5oth percentile across the board.)

Veruca does not get bad grades, Opac.

Yes I do. Except for stupid math. Now she’s agreeing with him, except in math where she’s currently doing well. I don’t remember what he said next, or what I might have said to diffuse the nuclear bomb inside the car, but Veruca turned around and said,

Not everyone can get straight A’s like YOU, Opac!!  But now her face was red and the tears welled up in her eyes. She was so hurt. And I wanted to kill him. Because he, too, is like his mother and hasn’t matured enough nor mastered the skill of knowing when to shut the hell up. He started arguing with her that he doesn’t have straight A’s this quarter because he has a B in his Engineering class. Yeah – that’s helpful.

Right now these arguments really get to me. I’ve had the conversation too many times with him about how girls are extremely sensitive about their bodies and self-image (just like boys can be) and it’s never funny or okay to joke about or use the word “fat.” He acknowledges this, but his obnoxious boy side has diarrhea of the mouth sometimes. Anyway – I yelled at him about his insensitivity and the commentary about grades – and the car fell silent. Back at home, in private, I calmly told him about her academic struggles and he said he didn’t know, he assumed her grades were really good too. Well, they’re not. The whole thing left me feeling drained and emotional, which only added to my overall melancholy of late.

I’ve been trying really hard not to worry over my mom being sick with pneumonia for the last 10 days, or focus on my frustration over this generation of Millennials and their blatant disregard for integrity (another story for another post). The latter makes me feel old. I’m trying not to worry about Pi, our 15-year-old dog, whose general condition is fading rapidly away.

Yesterday Todd woke me from a dream I was having about being sick to kiss me goodbye. When I sat up with my heavy head, I actually was sick. I do not have time for this shit. I tried to rest most of the day in preparation for the drive north for the kids to see their dad. I got a text from restaurant friends that they were coming in last night with their Golden – who I’ve been dying to meet. I was excited.

This little dog – little because she’s not even as big as my Golden was at 6 months – has prosthetics on her hind legs. She was rescued from a kennel when she was a puppy – where her back feet were frozen to the ground. The first time I heard this story I was simultaneously sad and certifiably homicidal.

Needless to say, there she was, this soft bundle of raucous energy and love, jumping around, her prosthetics tapping on the floor. There was so much JOY in Purdy – so named after the double-amputee Olympic snowboarder, Amy Purdy. She sat on my feet and leaned against my legs and I just felt the most incredible surge of love and hope. She didn’t walk with grace, but rather with a joyful hop as her back legs carried her through the dining room. Purdy doesn’t know she’s handicapped, she’s just so damn happy to be alive and loved.

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