This is a piece I wrote for a site run by a local writer, Life In 10 Minutes. You write for ten minutes and edit for ten minutes. The title is Always:
Today I read a piece by NPR Weekend edition Host Scott Simon titled “We Don’t Fully Grow Up Until We Lose Our Parents”. I had the sudden realization that my parents are gone. It comes to me like that. Every once in a while I have an “aha” moment. My parents are gone. I lost both of them to Alzheimer’s Disease. I lost them slowly for at least ten years before their bodies left this planet. When I think of them it’s typically Mom ironing my father’s shirts, the scent of spray starch in the kitchen, the Metropolitan Opera playing on a cheap radio and Mom singing along in her alto-soprano voice. The sound of a college football game in the background. Dad is fishing on the beach in the Outer Banks or dressed up and looking sharp in his “monkey suit”, as he called his tuxedo, before heading out to direct a concert band performance. My most recent memories of them when they were alive was when they were non-verbal, being fed by a nurse and wheelchair bound. That is never how I remember them. Not through defiance or any conscience choice. It just isn’t my “default memory”. It’s a strange thing, the body and the mind. I sat by my mother’s side when she died. The nurses wept when she passed. “She was our sweet, sweet Phyllis.” I, being attracted to minds more than appearances, thought to myself, I lost her eight or ten years ago. There is no actual point of loss. It occurs to me every once in a while that my parents bodies are gone but they are singing opera and fishing just like they always did.
I read an article about the numerous benefits of magnesium. According to the article 68% of Americans do not consume the recommended RDA. Magnesium is essential for mental health. A clinical trial concluded that magnesium supplementation relieved the subjects of major depression.
I decided to try it. I’m here to tell you my family is very grateful I discovered magnesium. I’m pretty sure it’s not placebo. I have had moments where I go from a volume of zero to eleven in five seconds. My goal is not to do that but when your teenagers set the woods on fire and there’s a copperhead on the way to putting out the fire yelling happens. Okay, that time the volume may have been at twenty-five.
Anyway, sometimes obnoxious teenagers and my fifty-three year old self do not get along. Exhibit A of why I believe magnesium is the shit:
My husband and I go out to dinner for our anniversary. We pray that the kids do not kill each other or set the woods on fire while they are left unattended. We remind ourselves that it rained a lot so the fire is not likely. Phew.
We return home after dinner. I walk into the master bathroom and water is pouring out of the bathtub. My daughter ran a bath and forgot about it. Historically, this would be a loud event. The volume emanating from me. I would flip out that it could have resulted in a major house flood. A very stupid house flood. But I was like, “Oh. Better turn off the water. I grab towels and throw them on the floor. Fortunately, there’s not too much water.
My daughter comes in the bathroom. She says, “Oh my god Mom I totally forgot about the bath. I’m so sorry.”
I say, “That’s okay honey. We all make mistakes. I’m so forgetful this could totally happen to me.” Then I give her a hug.
That right there is my clinical study that magnesium is the bomb. I float through the day like a dandelion flower blowing in the wind. I read some crazy article about Trump and my blood pressure does not go through the roof. Stupid drivers don’t piss me off anymore. I’m happier. I feel more authentically happy than I’ve ever felt in my life. My new motto is “Even if it feels like we’re doomed, don’t worry. Be happy.”
In case you are interested here is a link to the clinical trial:
It’s my eighteenth wedding anniversary. Twenty two years together. My son asked me today how we met. I say, “We were dancing to the band The Ululating Mummies. They were playing the song Lebanese Hillbilly Music.” Charles says, “Oh.” Like he was hoping we met while duel-parachuting down the Alps while sipping champagne.
What I wanted to say but I didn’t: “Kiddo, it takes a lot of work to make a relationship work. In the end we are all flawed humans. We need to lift each other up. Focus on the positive because I guarantee you will bring as much dysfunctional bullshit to the table as your counterpart. Fogiveness and empathy will take you a long way.”
My son reminded me of this story.
It’s the first time he started a forest fire. He’s around nine or ten years old. He decides to build a campfire next to the bamboo forest in our yard.
He thinks he put out the fire but the peat moss underneath catches fire. My husband calls me at work. “Charles started a fire in the bamboo forest.” I hang up and rush home. On the way home I ruminate that my son may grow up to be whatever bad thing they say about kids that start fires.
I pull into the driveway. The fire department is spraying down the fire. My husband is standing on the sidewalk with a stranger who is playing a bass hooked up to an amp. My husband says all cheery, “Hi. I listed this bass on Craigslist. The fire department says we’re lucky that the big pile of bamboo poles didn’t catch fire because they would have exploded.”
The stranger is playing the bass while my husband is telling the story. I’m thinking, “How is this my life? This is one for the book.”
My family visited my sister’s family last weekend. The ten of us are eating dinner at an upscale Italian restaurant in Manhattan.
After I finish my supper I feel a tiny tooth in the area where I had two teeth extracted about three weeks ago.
My nephew is discussing the latest Coen brother movie he just saw and loved.
My sister says she thinks the Coen brothers are weird.
I say at a post several glasses of wine volume, “I’ll tell you what’s weird. There’s a tiny tooth jutting out of my gums where I had two teeth extracted.”
The majority response is “Ewww.”
I’ve got my finger in my mouth obsessed with the tiny tooth that has suddenly appeared.
A few minutes later my sister, who is sitting at the opposite end of the table says at a mucho vino volume, “Says here bone fragments can surface after an extraction. It should resolve itself but if not go see your dentist.”
The diners nearby hate us.
My son says, “Let me see Mom.”
I open my mouth while he shines his phone flashlight into my mouth. The entire restaurant is staring at us.
We didn’t order dessert. We ordered a quick getaway.
Today the office had a Christmas party. I won the cubicle decorating contest. For that I got three lottery tickets that unfortunately are not worth enough for me to retire.
After everyone opened up their Secret Santa gifts each one announced what they got and who gave it to them.
There were many bottles of wine, chocolates, gift cards, tea…
Then there’s this thing that I would not lounge around in even if I was home alone. The recipient in the photo had to smile when it was her turn to announce her gift to the group. I’m pretty sure the unspoken consensus was, “Phew, glad I didn’t get that Secret Santa.”
Afterwards she says, “Girl, what the hell is this?”
An attorney I work with came back from court today. It was a hearing regarding a very naughty teenager that may have engaged in robbery and assault.
The judge says to the naughty teenager, “You’re a pretty boy. If you go to prison you’re going to be someone’s bitch.”
I’m like, “No you didn’t! Well, he’s got a point. Oh shit!”