The sins of the mothers, and the daughters, and letting the past stay where it belongs.

Did you ever believe you were completely over a past hurt, only to have it slap you in the face again, out of the blue?

I thought I was truly over the hurt my mother could cause me. Throughout life, and then after her death, when I discovered how little she really cared about how she was leaving things when she died, she had the ability to really cut me with her words.

She was always extremely ignorant about all the things I had to do in order to keep her at home; from dealing with her bills, her house, her health, diet – everything. I could have taken the easy route when she told me she was afraid to live alone, and decided she needed to be in a nursing home. She was adamant that she could still be mostly independent, and that all she needed was to be in the apartment in our first floor. She felt safe with us nearby, so I readily agreed. I wanted her to be happy, and so we did this without a single hesitation.

It was hard; she had congestive heart failure, diabetes, and high blood pressure. She was in the beginning stages of macular degeneration. Mere months after moving into her apartment, she fell on the afternoon of Halloween and broke her hip. We spent the afternoon in the ER; I raced home at 5:30 to hand out candy with The Male Sibling Unit while my daughter took my grandson trick-or-treating, then went back to the ER to sit, until they finally admitted her. That Halloween was a horror in so many different ways; we made jokes about the cliché of her breaking a hip, but deep inside, I wondered if this signaled the beginning of some sort of end.

The end would not come for 5 more years, but those years were a blur; work, work, pay double bills; attempt to get her to go out and socialize and have a life beyond the walls of her apartment and her computer; try to keep her from eating food that could kill her; policing what others brought into the house for her because she could be so persuasive, telling unknowing friends and family members that I selfishly denied her and that she was “allowed” to have things like

An Arby’s Reuben

Beer

Candy bars

McDonald’s milkshakes

Whopper malt balls

You name it, she would wheedle it. I have never discovered who the male culprit was who brought her beer, which my daughter found hiding in her closet underneath a pile of clothes; I suspect it was my enabling, alcoholic, piece of shite father. She would only admit, sullenly, that “a friend” brought it to her. It was a constant battle; we could not keep The Male Sibling Unit’s Christmas or Easter candy in her apartment for her to gift him because she would unapologetically consume every bit of it, forcing me to spend more money on replacements at the last minute. I learned my lesson after the first couple of times and stopped letting her have any control over it.

Throughout those years, she would act like a child, demanding her own way, fighting against my efforts to see to it that she ate right; I would buy her sugar-free candy and remind her that she needed to eat only a few pieces a day. She would agree, then promptly binge it.

Do you know what happens when someone binges on two or three bags of sugar-free candy?

There is a shit storm. A literal shit storm. All over her bed, the floor, over to her commode we kept in her room so that accidents could be avoided. My daughter was her home health aide; she was paid, by the state, to care for her and was the only person my mother would agree to allow to care for her. On those mornings after a candy binge, my daughter’s lips would press into a thin, terse slash on her face and she would be short-tempered all day. Hell, I’d be a tsunami of black hate if I had to clean up pools of shit, too. 

(As an aside: I will never do that to my family. If my bowels become that loose and my ambulation so poor that 4 feet is too far to travel before I create a mudslide, put my damned old, wrinkly ass in a nursing home, please.  You have it in writing on the internet, and everyone knows that nothing ever truly goes away on the internet.)

I would look, constantly, for healthy, delicious alternatives, cook recipes, buy special foods she loved. None of this was cheap and her $57 a month in food stamps didn’t get us through 2 days, let alone a month. Diabetes assures that eating is not a cheap endeavor.

I navigated the strict parameters of her finances; in order to qualify for help in the home and other, assorted medical supplies, she was not permitted to keep savings or own anything considered income. Her house? Had to go. No one wanted to buy it, and so it went back to the bank. Her car? Had to go. If anyone can explain to me how a car is somehow considered “income”, I would be all ears. She basically needed to be destitute in order to qualify for home health care, oxygen, a commode, a wheelchair, walker, diapers, and cases of Ensure Glucerna. Don’t get me started on the bullshit hoops we must jump through in this dumpster fire of a healthcare system and the care of senior citizens because you just fucking know  that I will find a way to blame Donald Trump even though he was not the President in 2007; because if he can go off like a demented, batshit, modern-day King George every hour on Twitter then he deserves everything he gets. She  didn’t want to be in a nursing home; this was the price.

Some might ask, “Why not let her do as she wished? She was a grown woman.” Well, she may have been, but I was ever-conscious of her decline, both physically and mentally. When you become caretaker of your parent, it is a fucked-up, ass-backwards relationship in which you become the parent and the parent becomes the child. The petulant, stubborn, sometimes bratty child. She insisted she would behave; she wanted to. I would be transported back to the day we found her in her house, slowly turning blue, groaning and clammy and cold, and how it took the ambulance ages (2 minutes) to get there.

How I arrived behind the ambulance at the ER and made my way back to the room she was in, only to find her vascular surgeon, who was on call, slamming his fist into her chest, shouting, “Come ON, dammit!” while a cardiologist and nurses hooked her up to machines. I must have made a noise, because a nurse looked up and rushed out to walk me back to my husband in the waiting room.

How she lay, intubated, for a week in the ICU before she was stable enough to have a pacemaker implanted. She spent another week there, recovering from her ordeal.

I, on the other hand, didn’t have the privilege of recovering. What was seen could never be unseen, and for almost six years, I doggedly tried to keep that scenario from happening again.

Until it did, that day in September 2012, when I took one look at her face and her condition and knew, in my gut, that this was it. Oh, I denied it all weekend, but that knowledge in my gut was a hard, cold stone; I knew that as bad as the first time had been and how hard I tried to hold her life together while attempting to also live mine, this time was It.

It took a long time to forgive myself; I felt that I had failed her somehow. All of that sacrifice, all that hard work; it had all been for nothing. I couldn’t save her.

Learning to forgive myself and to let myself off the hook was a battle I almost lost. It has taken 4 years to get to this point of grace.

Tonight, I was looking for a couple of my old, porcelain dolls because I want to reinvent them into ghoulish, Annabelle-esque pieces of art. In a storage bin, where I was looking for a shoe that had come off one of the dolls, I found a stationary tablet.

In it was a letter my mother had been writing to a man she met online; she was notorious for her online romances and this guy had been in “our” lives for years. That he was my age was weird as shit; he lived in Scotland and came to visit once, right after she broke her hip. He apparently had never had a girlfriend and had anger issues; one of her friends related these things to me and said that he had lived with his mother until her death and that my mother represented a relationship similar to that, albeit all romantical and shit.

Creepy as fuck, huh? A true Eeeewwww factor. But, the heart wants what it wants and they seemed to make each other happy. She was happy.

Except when she wasn’t, and was telling him and anyone else who might listen that I controlled her life and that she would be much happier on her own. Reminding her that she had made the choice to move in with us and that her total of about $400 a month in Social Security and food stamps didn’t go very far with utilities, groceries, and various other expenses? It wasn’t worth the black scowl she would shoot at me before she turned her face toward her computer screen and was once again lost in the world of Yahoo Messenger. We bought most of her groceries, paid for her TV, internet, and even added a line on our cell phone plan for her. All she needed to do was profess a desire for something and I would do whatever it took to make it happen. Spend $100 on gifts for her Scottish boyfriend and then mail them to Edinburgh? No problemo.

So, in this tablet, I found the letter to her man, and, as usual, it contained criticisms of me and her musing that she could just “take her house back” and he could just “move here” and they could live together. This was about a year before she died. Now, her house was gone, and not “gettable” and living “on her own” was impossible without the loss of all the services that helped sustain her life. $400 a month wasn’t going to keep her afloat; let’s not even get into the near-impossibility of this man being able to get a visa to live in romantic harmony with a woman old enough to be his mother.

My head knows all of this.

Tell that to my heart; the muscle that contracted painfully when I saw her beloved handwriting tearing me to pieces in that efficient way she had. I read the handwriting I’ve known since birth and adored, because it was hers; it was so neat, graceful, and lovely. It was crafted by her hand, which was utterly soft and delicately feminine; the hand I held to my face after she forced me, by her own resistance to put her wishes in writing (oh, the irony), to decide to let her die. The hand I bathed with my tears that seemed to be wrung out from my heart. I felt drenched in guilt for telling them to turn off the machines. My skin fairly reeked of that sour cowardice; my clothes were dipped in its stench. Everything I had done all those years had come down to this final evening, in a hospital 100 miles away from home; away from her two cats, whose hearts were broken when she did not come home; and a Scottish boyfriend, who faded away after about two months of communication following her death. I wonder if he replaced her eventually; I wonder if his damaged heart is still broken. 

In her own hand, she denigrated me again, from the grave. That the handwriting deteriorated as I read the page was telling; toward the end, her eyesight was really faltering.I doubt she even realized that her beautiful handwriting was but chicken scratch toward the bottom of the page. 

 I should be able to take this with a grain of salt, because I know she was not well, and she did admit that she had been extremely critical of me in the months before her death.

I should be able to get over this. And I know that l will. But right now? It hurts. I don’t want to hurt right now, when I’m crawling out of the chasm that Depression throws me into. In my head, it’s just words on a piece of paper, phantom scrawls of a narcissistic woman not in her right mind at the end of her life. It cannot physically harm me, and that tablet can be thrown away, or burned, and forgotten.

Tell that to this daughter’s heart, though.

Well, shit. 

Today was a massive waste of time. It’s so odd how things can go from totally perfect to totally fucked up in the space of 10 hours. 

Yesterday, The Husband and I took two of our granddaughters to Erie (henceforth known as The Big City for purposes of telling the story). They’re at critical ages right now: Cam is 13 and a newly-hatched teenager (though she has almost always been older than she seems, which is both a blessing and a curse and a kind of prerequisite for a child who grows up with a parent in the military) and Abygail is nearly 11. They are genuinely good girls and not just because this Nana says so; the best thing about being a grandparent is that you have the unique ability and opportunity to see your spawns’ spawns objectively, and yet you can leave all manner of the consequences of disobedience mostly to their parents, who have the final say in that sort of thing. Those jokes about “What happens at Grandma’s stays at Grandma’s” and “If Mommy says no and Daddy says no, ask Grandma” might be true in other families, but in ours, we really do attempt to stay out of the decisions about the rearing of the grandkids. Oh, we will offer up advice if asked, but just as I made a promise to my kids that I would never be That Kind of Mother-in-Law to their spouses, I have tried to be the kind of grandparent who isn’t meddlesome. I trust them to raise their children and I think it shows in our relationship. 

So, we took the girls to The Big City because things have been very busy for their mom and dad; there are two little brothers, one with some ongoing medical issues that cause a lot of stress and worry, and the other begins kindergarten this Fall. Mom is also just entering her second trimester of pregnancy (grandchild #13, y’all) and Dad is the newly-minted General Manager at our medical cannabis dispensary, a field that is ever-changing, evolving, and definitely growing. Life has been hectic for them and finding the time and the energy to shuttle two girls to try on school clothes was going to be hard for them. The Husband suggested, a couple of weeks ago, that our girls were so good and so deserving  of a splurge that we should offer to take on that task for their parents.

 Now, do not get me started on the emotional churn that suggestion put me into;  The Husband is not their biological grandfather, but nothing about that matters even the slightest. He has been in my life for 20 years and we’ll be marking 15 years of marriage on Wednesday, so he has been essentially it  for as long as all the grands have been alive. Someday, I will tell the tale of the first marriage that gave me the gift of my five, fabulous children. Trust me for now in my assurance to you that they were the only good thing that came of that union.  Anyway, that The Husband came up with this idea before I had even a thought about it is important stuff. He has never tried to insinuate himself into my kids’ lives or be The Father, choosing instead to be a source of solid, unwavering, unquestionable reliability. Whereas the biological person is/was a never-ending source of disappointment and complete unreliability (as well as unlimited embarassment and quite possibly the sickest, evilest person I know) and who demanded a price for every, single thing he ever did for his children, The Husband  only asks for respect, and never audibly. His actions deserve it, and while they may have been the typical teenagers who took some things for granted at times, as adults, they are grateful and mature enough to maintain that respect. Along with that respect has come love and trust. It is the one thing I always wanted for my children: that they know that unwavering, steadfast devotion from not just one, but two parents. And the grands? They deserve to just bask in our love for them. 

We had a blast in The Big City; contrary to popular belief, school clothes shopping does not need to incite the desire to slit one’s throat. As we stood in line at the checkout of one store, an exasperated father took three small children in hand and uttered a terse, “We’ll be in the car” to his wife and stomped past us, exclaiming “Whoever came up with the idea of school clothes shopping should be shot.” I raised my eyebrows at The Husband and wondered just what had been so terrible for this guy that he wished death upon the first parent who had ever decided that their kid needed a whole, new wardrobe for the school year. I mean, is there an alternative? Kids grow, and fast. Buying clothes kind of comes with the territory. The buying of the clothes never drove me insane; the  budgeting did. And he didn’t stick around for the grand total, which might have driven him over the edge. No, sitting in a hot car with whining kids was preferable to that. Whatever, dude. You know, having kids is not a requirement in this life, but you chose the path; now you get to stand in long lines in stores to buy their school clothes and must-have gifts for birthdays and Christmas. I have to wonder if he had been buying stuff for himself if he would have been so impatient. 

After the stores had been combed and money spent, two exhausted girls did not want to roam the entire Mall in search of whatever it is girls like to look for; they wanted to veg in the car and see Lake Erie. They were entranced by some of the huge, mansion-like homes and buildings in the city, so we took them to some lake shore neighborhoods so they could exclaim, “People really live like this?!?”   Yeah, girls, they do, and if Nana and Grandpa ever win the lottery, so will we. Then, we dipped our toes into the lake. 

The water was really warm.

As I stood, looking out at the horizon, I thought that this day could not have turned out more perfect. This was truly the stuff; the memory-making stuff. I was happy, they were happy, and the man I married had been spontaneously enveloped in hugs in the middle of a store from two granddaughters who were ecstatic that he had come up with this little adventure just for them. It was glue, that display of affection; up until then, I know they were still in the process of really knowing him. Most of their lives had been lived apart from us, on military bases. I am just naturally more hands-on, though when they were babies and home for visits, he diapered, rocked, and held them, too. I didn’t need this for me; I needed it for them and for him. And it was a watershed moment. If I could have made tears, they would have leaked all over my face and then I’d have had some ‘splaining  to do. 

Tears, though. The lack thereof contributed to the tone of this  overall waste of a day. It also refocused me on my inability to be who I wish I could be; a contributing member of society. I have not worked for 15 months now, because of these eyes. That there is no diagnosis except dry eye syndrome is frustrating. No, it’s not terminal. It sounds silly, doesn’t it, that dry eyes could limit a person the way it has me. It has, though, in a dozen little ways that, if taken as a whole, is pretty debilitating. 

My eyes are cloudy first thing in the morning and I have to put warm compresses on them in order to be able to see. 

They ache in that tired, I’ve been up for 18 hours way, all the time. 

There are whole days when they feel like they have sand in them. Those are the bad days, because those are the days when I invariably succumb and rub them, scratching my corneas. 

I need to re-wet them with drops an average of four times an hour, every hour, which makes me a slave to a little, white bottle. How I hate that bottle. 

I am light-sensitive and sensitive to moving air. I wear sunglasses that cover my glasses even inside when it’s bad. I keep the house dim for that reason. 

My depth-perception has gone the way of my tears: it’s just not there anymore. 

It is impossible for an optometrist to write me an RX for glasses. They get as close as they can, but not exact. 

The fact that I must add drops to my eyes every fifteen minutes or so makes finding any sort of employment difficult. Is there a job where an employer is going to put up with me sticking my fingers into my eyes? Most people shudder and say, “Eewww.”

These pissholes in the snow make me wonder why I even exist. My neck? The pain of degenerative disc disease and that bullshit has been a part of my life for 52 years. I grew up living with it. Give me that pain any day of the week over these bullshit fucking eyes. Depression? I attempt to kick its ass every day.  I mostly succeed, but then things like these eyes, a broken cell phone,  a little argument with The Husband over what I should do about these eyes, and the pressing issues of home ownership of a never-ending suckhole of money that a 160 year-old house is gives Depression a sliver of light through an unlocked door and then I am thinking, “What purpose do I serve except to be a drain on everyone?” And then the thoughts come in through the door and I don’t want them, but I do take comfort in them because I know them and their objective: to make it all stop. There would be no more eye bullshit. No more anger and worry over a broken cell phone. No more trying to figure out how to afford home repairs on one income because of the eye bullshit. No more guilt because we’re a one income house and I am not contributing and that makes me feel like a piece of garbage after almost 40 years of busting my ass in one job or another so that I could always contribute. No more wishing I had a condition that would be covered by disability even though the very idea of that rises the bile in my throat in this, the country where people who don’t pull their own weight are reviled. 

Just like that, Depression gets through the door and begins trying to convince me that the pain of life is curable. It brings up every mistake, every hurt, every critical error I have ever commited that resulted in pain for someone else and I try to cover my ears but it all comes from within. And it hurts.  And I sit, in my solitude, and make mental lists over and over to persuade myself that this too, shall pass. It’s hard, though, when you’re alone. It’s hard when the last thing you ever want to do is hurt anyone but that’s all you seem to do, just by existing. I mean, aren’t we all really expendable? It’s just a matter of time before we have to leave this world. Life is a terminal disease.

So I am asking myself tonight, how did a perfect day with three people I adore so much fold itself over and then open up to this day where I am reminded, once again, that I’m growing tired of Depression and the fight? My dark passenger, to borrow from Dexter Morgan,  exhausts me.  The debris that is thrown into my path slows down my escape from Depression’s grip. 

I need to find a way to be worthy of escape from Depression’s clutches. I’m open to suggestions.  I’m hoping to wake up in the morning and smell kitty breath and taste coffee and to think, ” Oh, thankfully that’s past.” I know, in my heart, that I am blessed. I know, in my heart, that I have people who love me. I know, in my heart, that couples have stupid arguments and cell phones break and houses need new roofs and I know, in my heart, that I don’t want to feel like a useless drain on everyone else. 

My head, though. My fucking head. I don’t want or need pity. I don’t want or need anyone to say they are there for me. What I want and need is to get out of my own head. I’ve written this to illustrate to myself that even when the darkness overtakes me, I can send up flares for  me to see. This is Depression. This is the ugliness that is me in the throes of It. 

Maybe tomorrow, it will seem extreme. Tonight, nothing really matters. 

The shit has hit the elliptical.

I know that lately, I’ve been very serious here. I mean, it’s hard to ignore the fact that my country is a dumpster fire, and that so many systems in place seem to be failing us: healthcare, justice, government, education – the whole gamut. It’s dangerous to get groceries, and not because when you see the total, your blood pressure skyrockets into stroke territory, or you wonder if maybe you might need to resort to a life of crime just to be able to eat. Situational awareness means identifying every, single angry, young, white male you see in public and wondering if he just published his manifesto calling for the white race to rise up to defeat the brown man or published a kill list of every girl who refused to fuck him, and is now grabbing a frozen burrito for sustenance before he straps on and mows down a bunch of innocent people doing the same thing you are: just living their lives.

There! In my roundabout, socially-conscious way of reminding you that I do not think any of this is okay and asking why have we not taken to the streets, I got to it. Life. That’s the subject here. And I’m going to attempt to do it in a light-hearted way. Because shit has been on the heavy side.

Literally, shit has been on the heavy side. On Monday morning, I came down with what can only be characterized as the END OF DAYS FOR MY COLON. I had risen at butt-crack of dawn o’clock to feed my starving cats, who routinely choose the largest of them to sit on my chest and just stare at my face while the littlest nuzzles my closed eyes and meows plaintively. All was well then, and I settled back down for a couple of additional hours of rest.

Something wicked this way comes.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re dreaming about something, and throughout the dream, you realize that your stomach is very, very upset. We all know that horrible feeling that comes before an explosive outburst either at the North entry/exit or at the Southern exit (or entry, if that’s your jam, although it needs to be established right here that mine is exclusively Exit Only and yes OF COURSE, I am experienced in the ways of butthole pleasures, and no, I don’t find them horrific; just too much work and I don’t think pleasure should ever feel like work) or that perfect storm: both. You’re trying to sleep but you know that as soon as you open your eyes, it will be a race to the bathroom/kitchen sink/garbage can; the distance versus need will be quickly deduced by your sleep-muddied, pain-filled, cramping legs and you will lurch to that destination, praying that you won’t be surprised by both exits as you grip the sink or clutch the toilet bowl and your guts evacuate the premises. Sometimes you know the whole building is going to be evacuated and you have time to grab some kind of catch-all to hold on your lap once you reach the commode: an empty bowl, your purse, a potted plant, or maybe you’re one of those perfect, always fucking prepared people who have a decorative puke bucket sitting beside their toilet that matches the shower curtain beautifully. By the way? Fuck you, you Pinterest-loving cow. You make the rest of us look like Neanderthals and we’re just tired of it.

A cow found on Pinterest; not to be mistaken for a Pinterest-loving cow.

This was me, Monday morning. In my particular evacuation situation, the fire was most decidely sending the evacuation to the South exit, though I began to wish for a Northern one as the stomach cramps continued, and continued, and continued. Many desperate words of bargaining were uttered that day; I lacked the strength to actually shove my fingers down my throat. Throughout the day, I lay, prone, on the couch, hoping for a reprieve and trying desperately to consume a Powerade. The Male Sibling Unit had walked down to the store for me and purchased two of the sports drinks, then quickly deposited them in the fridge before getting the hell out of Dodge. He is not good in a crisis and I wanted to minimize his exposure. The only thing worse than having the stomach flu is if The Male Sibling Unit gets the stomach flu. He will stand in the doorway of his room and whimper and whoop: “Uh, uh, uh!” Then he will go into the bathroom and stand over the toilet, crying, “No, no, no. I donwantto.” And then barf all over the toilet and floor. Do not ask me to describe the horrors of a double-exit situation. Hazmat must be called, and then there are months of counseling.

The husband went to the store and got me some chicken ramen and ginger ale when he got up for work, per my request. I drank some broth and took two sips of the ginger ale, thinking “Maybe yes?”

“Definitely no,” My stomach replied. I tried sleeping that night, but my stomach wasn’t having it. I began to wonder if this was an ulcer starting, because my consumption of pain meds has been high lately, and I have resorted to Nsaids and aspirin, which are big no-nos due to my peptic ulcer disease. What can I say? When you hurt, you hurt. I’d done it sparingly, but maybe I’d fucked up. I texted the husband, who was working, and asked him to bring me home some Prevacid. When he arrived home Tuesday morning, I was a mess. He said, “If you need to go to the ER” and I ripped his lips off and threw them into the corner as I clawed desperately at the pill box. He resisted kissing my forehead (no lips) and retreated to sleep. I took two pills and fell into a merciful 3 hours of unconsciousness. When I awoke, it was a little calmer down South, and so I began to try and drink the Powerade I had begun consuming the day before but still had not yet gotten to the halfway mark. The trips to the bathroom continued, and with every mouthful of liquid, I would be wracked with new cramps. My entire gut was being assaulted by one of those old-fashioned wringer washers.

I cried. I contorted. I rocked. I bargained with my large intestine and offered it gifts. Then, I passed out. About 90 minutes later, I awoke mid-spasm, convinced that I had stopped breathing. My heart was beating so hard at this point that it felt like I had ran a 5k. The only problem with that? There was no sweat. None. I’ve worked in healthcare; I know the signs of dehydration. I had them in spades. For one, lucid moment, I thought, “Bitch? You’re in serious trouble.” Then the delusions took over and I thought I could call 911 and then somehow meet them at the door, which was locked. That way I wouldn’t bother anyone in my family, although the ambulance might wake up the neighbors, but fuck them, anyway. Then, I thought, maybe I could ride it out until the husband arrived home at about 8 :30am? That was only about 8 hours. My delusional brain, who for once was acting in my best interest, brought forth the idea that people who get too dehydrated go into cardiac arrest.

This brings me to another relevant subject: cardiac health. You know what one of the biggest symptoms of heart attack in women is? It’s not the clutching of the chest and staggering around dramatically, calling out “Olivia! I’m coming, Olivia!”

It’s flu-like symptoms.

Yeah, it did cross my mind throughout the two days of hell. I have the family history; by my age, my mother was well on her way to a congestive heart failure diagnosis, which was official before she was 60. She was already a Type 2 diabetic. I have none of these things, but menopause has inflicted upon me the gift that keeps on giving (pounds, specifically): a metabolism at a near-standstill. Menopause can go stand over there with Perfect Pinterest cow and the neighbors, because fuck you, Menopause. In short, I need to get off my fluffy ass and defluff, and now. That perfectly good, gym-quality elliptical I found, discarded, at the side of the road by my son’s apartment in early May and dragged uphill and have yet to actually use judges me every day. And I say fuck you, elliptical, as I think about how clever I was to make little deep-fried cheesecakes ahead of time and stock them into the freezer. I’m gonna have to eat those words and not the cheesecake.

So anyway, for those two days, that thought – maybe I’m having a cardiac event – played on repeat in the back of my mind. In my usual, procrastinating way (a quality I save only for myself and not others, because I still operate under the misguided belief that somehow the health of everyone else – even a Facebook friend I may have never even met – is more important than my own) I pushed down that fear. Until it began to use a hammer to knock down the door that I had closed it behind. I had another moment of clarity: “Get a hold of husband” and I was delusional enough to forget exactly how. I hurriedly sent off a text to him, knowing he might not get it for some time, and cried a little, and then remembered the refrigerator magnet. On it was a contact number for him in case of emergency. I staggered out to get it and then back to lay on the bed, wondering which extension was better, because there were two. It is humorous me now to recall this with perfect clarity. Thanks, brain, for showing me just how ridiculous I am. Oh, and fuck you, too. Finally, I chose the first, dialed, squeaked his name to the person who answered the phone, and waited. When he got on, all I could say was, “I gotta go,” and whimpered as he assured me he’d just gotten my text and he was on his way. I thought to myself, “Well, no turning back now. If it’s a heart attack, you’re about to own it.”

Thank the merciful, suffering Christ, it wasn’t. I knew that when they took my blood pressure and hooked me up to the pulse-ox. I could calm down a bit more then, despite the fact that two midgets were at that moment using my intestine as a jump rope while a third jumped on my stomach. In football cleats.When the nurse put in an IV and started the first of three bags of fluid, and then administered anti-nausea medication intravenously before she administered my first-ever dose of dilaudid, or “Hospital Heroin” because that shit is EXACTLY like you see heroin addicts on TV after they shoot up; I felt almost serene. While these machinations were happening, I closed my eyes and listened to the music coming over the speaker in the hallway; the staff had on some Sirius XM channel that played all early 2000s rock and pop. It was both nostalgic and horrible to be laying there, held hostage by the sounds of Smash Mouth, Nickelback, Semisonic, and Sugar Ray. Before she took me to sedated heaven, “Learn To Fly” by The Foo Fighters came on, and I tried not to cry, because all I could think about was that I love them so much and it was so wonderful to hear them and know that I wasn’t going to code and never hear them again. Because that? Would be heartbreaking. I made a vow to myself then that growing older wasn’t going to kill me until I was good and ready.

Dave Grohl, I love you.

It’s been a slow climb out of gastroenteritis hell; Zofran has been my friend, along with little anti-diarrhea pills and fluids, fluids, alllllll the fluids. It has never taken me a week to recover; I blame this on Donald Trump because why the fuck not? He’s responsible for the current shitshow, so why not blame him for my shitshow?

I could have gone on a rant about people who don’t wash their fucking hands but that’s been done, hasn’t it?

Instead, I’m eyeing up that elliptical, forking my fingers from my eyes to it, silently saying, “You and me, fucker,” and checking the prices of blenders because one can’t make green smoothies without one. The next time I shit my brains out of my colon, it will be because there was too much spinach in the mixture and my flax seed measurement was off.

You and me, bitch.

Because fuck you, heart disease.

I am so tired of writing these political blogs.

“Breaking News: We have an Active Shooter.”

Just another day in the United States.

In less than a 24-hour period, 29 people are dead and 42 are injured after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. Less than a week ago, 3 were killed and 13 wounded in a shooting in Gilroy, California.

This marks a year where so far, there have been at least 32 mass shootings, defined as three or more killings in a single episode, in this country.

It is only the beginning of August. We have five months to go.

Each shooter fit a certain demographic in these cases; in fact, in most of them. The American Mass Murderer is a single, young, white, male who identifies as a Conservative.

El Paso’a shooter, who looks like any, other shooter: young, white, pissed.

Conservative is perhaps too broad a characterization. A more concise, better description is that he is a Trump supporter.And oh boy, he is filled with hate. Certainly, he is twisted with mental instability and maybe even groomed by years of bullying, of being an outcast; a loner. He is probably that newish type of young male: an incel. He probably acted out in bizarre ways for months leading up to these tragedies: coveting guns, and violence, and publishing manifestos on social media, and photos of himself with guns, and Old Glory, wearing a MAGA hat.

The result of such ravings are devastating. They aren’t the bizarre rants of an angry, young adult who’s frustrated by his friends, his circumstances, or because Mommy and Daddy don’t love him enough; a continuation of the teenaged angst we all know and recognize because the rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so. (Very recent research has found that adult and teen brains work differently. Adults think with their prefrontal cortex, the brain’s rational part.)

If only it were that simple.

This kind of anger and irrational thought may be borne as the result of some sort of chemical imbalance within the brain, but it certainly needs fuel with which to grow. While many angry, young people – raised by angry, older people – may agree with the vitriol spewed by a petulant, mean-spirited bully who managed to get himself elected into the highest office in the land, they don’t run out and begin shooting people. They may talk big, racist, prejudicial, bigoted talk and they may even gather at rallies to chant things like “Lock her up!” and “Send her back!” while their smug, tangerine leader eggs them on, but they don’t take it to that next horrific, final level by mowing down innocent fellow Americans.

Those young, adult, white males who carry out their Final Solutions have lots and lots of venom that has been built up within their systems by an increasingly frenzied, relentless narrative of hate coming from an unsecured cell phone, wielded by an unhinged septugenarian.

Are we going to normalize this, like we are normalizing the crazed rants, filled with divisive hate, that our Fascist leader publishes via dozens of tweets every day?Is anything about that normal? Please. Tell me why you think it is. Tell me why the things he says aren’t racist, or suggestive, or just downright inflammatory. Tell me that his words haven’t emboldened the angry, racist, young, white, male supporters of his. I’ll wait.

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously, OK? Just knock the hell … I promise you I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise.” – Trump, on Feb. 1, 2016, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

“He’s walking out with big high-fives, smiling, laughing. I’d like to punch him in the face, I’ll tell you.” – Trump later that month, in Las Vegas

“When you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just seen them thrown in, rough. I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice. When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head you know, the way you put their hand over [their head]. Like, ‘Don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody, don’t hit their head.’ I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’ ” – Trump, to Police, in 2017

“Any guy that can do a body slam, he is my type!” – Trump, at a Montana Rally for Republicans, referring to Rep. Greg Gianforte, who allegedly body slammed a reporter back when he was initially running for his congressional seat in 2017

“Even in elementary school, I was a very assertive, aggressive kid. In the second grade I actually gave a teacher a black eye — I punched my music teacher because I didn’t think he knew anything about music and I almost got expelled. I’m not proud of that but it’s clear evidence that even early on I had a tendency to stand up and make my opinions known in a very forceful way. The difference now is that I like to use my brain instead of my fists.” – Trump in The Art of the Deal, 1987

“You know what else they say about my people? The polls, they say I have the most loyal people. Did you ever see that? Where I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible,” – Trump, Sioux Falls

Explain to me how these are the words of a sane person tasked with running a country. Then tell me that the country isn’t 1940s-era Germany or North Korea or nearly any Middle Eastern country.

Tell me that this is the United States of America. Tell me that this is what we believe, and stand for, and that God wanted this man to lead our country because “he is the only one who can”.

Tell me that his words, and the hate he has whipped into a frenzy in this country, are not responsible for 32 instances of slaughter in 7 months. Sure, it was happening before he was elected, but the one difference between the sorrowful confusion of then and now is that we actually had a man in office who was PRESIDENTIAL. Who spoke with measured eloquence, with rational words meant to comfort and calm, not to incite and jeer. He may not have had the answers to the increasing violence, but he damn sure wasn’t the cause.

I would give anything to feel safe again. I would give anything to see my President and be filled with reassurance that he was competent, fair, balanced, and just. I would give anything to be proud of my country again.

I truly believe we are leaderless. And that is a terrifying, lonely feeling.