Two Little Girls in Green Dresses and…

This is about two little girls in green dresses, families, a school dance and how it changed lives, and its reverberations.

Amazingly, at least to me, this story starts 50 years ago.

I grew up in Levittown in the era of large families.  It was a time of stricter Catholicism and an innocent optimism. Birth control was restricted and popping a pill was not yet a common thing. There were these huge, iconic families with children in every grade. People said that Levittown looked alike.  It wasn’t the houses.  It was the children, families of  little rubber stamps.  About 10 years ago, I went to a party of Levittown people.  One of the men asked, “Do you know who I am?”  An interesting question that I have heard throughout the years. There were at least 3 – 4 of them, one older than me, one my age, one my brother’s “You are one of the P brothers.”  We all laughed and he told me which one he was.  He was my age.

Another family was the Gs.  I don’t know how many there were but there was my age and brackets. B had a crush on  me when he was in kindergarten and I must have been in third grade.  Upon seeing me at a reunion decades later, he asked, “Don’t you feel anything between us?” “Yes, I do.  Your wife.”  His brother T was/is my age.  The family was large, popular and unbridled.  I remember Mrs. G writing a letter to the local paper about her children being able to look into what passed for a strip club at the time, at 9:30 at night!  My thought was why were they out then when that was my bedtime.  T was popular and arrogant with that teenage boy swagger.

He was part of a crowd of those boys.  Every school has them, in every year.  They band together in their adorable cuteness.  Girls love them, for the most part unrequitedly.  Teachers pander to them in order for their classes to be unencumbered with chaos and testosterone. They rule the halls, the classrooms and the schoolyards for that brief, shining moment in their lives.  It’s been my experience, for the most part, that those charmed boys and girls, once school is behind us, morph into fatness, polyester and, for the guys, baldness. I had liked T in 2nd and 3rd grade but outgrew it.  By the time junior high school rolled around, I steered clear of him and those boys. They weren’t part of my world and I didn’t want them to be.

I met Sue(no initials here, we share the same name) in the fall of 9th grade. She had transferred from Catholic school.  We were introduced because we had the same name. 9th grade is a cusp between the child and the young adult.  We shared a name so we must have similarities. Well, we did both have brown hair, wore glasses and were “nice” girls.

There was a holiday dance that year.  These were simple affairs. It was in the cafeteria.  There may have been crepe paper.  The lighting was dimmed.  There were records with pop tunes.  I had attended the end of school dance the previous spring, worn white lipstick for the first time and had had fun with my friends.  We were nerds although the term was not in use then.  I believe we were known as  weirdos.  We were the advanced class and in many cases had known each other all our lives.  When you grow up as closely as that, you have a defined role and place.  However, there was still the remote possibility that things might change. A dance held magic, unnamed possibilities for a girl like me.  Glamour was an undercurrent. It was still the era where girls could not wear pants, let alone jeans to school.  Mini skirts had arrived but were not yet micro. 

The afternoon of the dance, E asked me if I wanted to go?  Sure. I didn’t take it as a date.  My first real date happened on the last day of 11th grade. I had known E since we were both  7.  He was funny and nice.  He liked comic books.  He was thin but was gaining a bit of weight  He was blond.  I don’t particularly care for blond guys.  Apparently, E saw it as a date, as I found out later.  We were driven separately.  In those days, once you arrived at the dance, you stayed.  Your coats were taken and left in the gym.  It was only E and I from our regular set that night.  As soon as the coats were locked and we entered the cafeteria, E had a severe asthma attack and had to go home. This apparently was brought on by the pressure of the “date”.  Instead of telling a teacher, we had come together which would have allowed me to call my parents and leave; I was adolescent, awkward. embarrassed and found myself to a folding metal chair at the edge of the dance floor.

I had been excited about going to this dance. It was an occasion.  Since, it was late notice, my mother let me wear her green sheath. Since it was hers,  I felt it was the height of sophistication.  She gave me a long chain necklace with green stones.  I had graduated from white lipstick to pearlized pink.  I have always had my own specific sense of style. In my mind’s eye, I was adult and glamorous. Teenagers at that time in Levittown went to Mays Department Stores for their clothes.  Everyone wore the same thing.  This was not me.  It accentuated my differences. The houses may not have been the same but at times, it appeared the people were uniform.  So, there I was in my version of sophistication, sitting on the edge of the dance floor, counting the hours and minutes until I could escape.  Counting the minutes is something that I later learned from Sue to do correctly.  A group of about three of those boys approached.  The only one I remember after all these years was the ringleader, T.  Those boys mocked me, asked me to dance, grabbed at me, made apelike motions.  It was awful.  I sat there, mortified. The chaperones didn’t materialize.  A was a stocky boy.  Boys are not fat.  A was middle of the road.  He was smart. A was also brave.  He stepped up to those boys.  “Leave her alone.  Just leave her alone.” They were stunned. And then, Sue swept in.  “You are in a green dress, so am I.  C’mon and dance with us.”  Sue was in a moss green chiffon dress that had been cut down, if I remember, from a wedding. An age of glamor, mystery and possibility. Two little girls in green dresses;  she led me by the hand to a circle of girls dancing .  The evening eventually ended.  I went home, cried hysterically and threw up.  My parents declared I was never to go to another dance again.  I never did until I reached college.

the green dress

It was the start of a decades long friendship for Sue and I.  She has taught me so much about how to live my life.  I carry those lessons with me. Counting the time lets me cope with infusions and MRIs.  Okay, I also sleep through MRIs. She taught me about connecting to life and to others.  Reaching out and being brave can change a life.

We ran into A at a reunion some years back and thanked him for that evening.  He remembered! He also remembered that he was slightly scared because he, too had to go against those boys.  It was the right thing to do. He is still a lovely man.

T is in my life.  We saw each other at our 10th reunion.  We spoke.  I met his wife.  He was adult as was I. Years later and I don’t remember how, he asked me to read a play he was writing and subsequently had produced.  He knew that I read tons and attended lots of theater.  We became distant friends on Facebook.

All three of us have faced  significant health issues and situations.  It has been a true and deep comfort to share with people who knew you when and before. We weren’t always broken.  When we talk, I picture us as we used to be. We are young and healthy.

T is now my health insurance broker yet we speak of many things.  “Of shoes — and ships — and sealingwax —. Of cabbages — and kings —. And why the sea is boiling hot —. And whether pigs have wings.”  We have a common past.  It’s not only a shared geographic past but of a certain time and place, a shared youth.  We have never spoken of that dance.  I don’t even believe he remembers it.  We talk of people.  And if you are reading this T, this is what I want to say, not what I should say. We have had conversations around that topic. I love that my life moved on and can still include that boy.

I recently came across that green dress.  Yes, I still have it although I had forgotten.  It looks so tiny.  It’s hard to imagine my mother wearing it; let alone me.  I kept it for all it represented to me – sophistication, pain, strength, deep and abiding friendship.  Two little girls in green dresses at a dance  and a lifetime.

Valentine Venting and….

I have never been particularly fond of Valentine’s Day. My parents were completely unsentimental. I can remember being shocked when I was about 4 or 5 that Daddy came home with candy for Mommy and me. My mother didn’t particularly like chocolate or sweets. I was not allowed. Our chocolate and candy consumption was strictly monitored. I was an odd child without tons of friends so the card exchange was always scary for me.

I remember in college not even checking my mail freshman year and by then I was cute and popular. The next day I found someone had left me a rose.

In our 16 years together my husband has given me two stuffed animals. I hate stuffed animals. My late ex-husband gave me Russell Stover chocolates the year we were married which I believe he ate. Joe, the man I lived with after that did give me chocs but also called me Gordita. So, so much for that.

Kevin, who has been the love of my life, didn’t really do it. Though I do remember one year buying a red flapperesque dress and going out for Japanese food.  It was a charming, small restaurant.  I felt pretty and sophisticated.

Valentine’s this year was horrid. My first thought on waking was the Parkland shooting anniversary.  My relationship with the holiday as always been ambivalent.  These children do not have that luxury.  It will be a day of sadness and death.  Did anyone in your high school class die?  You are supposed to be invincible at that age.  Worse, did they die of something other than illness?  Someone in my class did and we still talk and muse about it decades later.  I cannot begin to imagine the pain these kids are in and will be in, along with others their age that the day was completely altered forever.

There’s still the personal. I have been unexpectedly blue all week.. As part of selling the house, I have been decluttering so this wee kI went through tons of paper. I found that I was diagnosed with this condition 10 years ago. I should be grateful but I am not feeling it. It was February and I was about to teach a class.  As I recall, I was getting ready (I was a technical trainer) and was fiddling with AV equipment and plugs and was underneath desks.  The doctor rang, said you have PPMS.  I went back to my plugs and taught my class.  I thought it was the good kind.  Ok, so if I look at my “progression”, I am in good shape.  Me, being me, I am not.  I was so confident and oblivious.  I hate how my world has become confined.  I swore that would never happen and it did.  I am battling back.

The realtor had a realtors’ open house on Valentine’s. Everyone who came said the house was worth much, much less. This is devastating and hard to believe. I was able to go upstairs for the first time in months and understand. It’s a wreck but one that can be fixed. Of course, struggling upstairs didn’t help. It took forever and tons out of me.  It was scary.  However, it was better than last time when I had to go down on my butt and then struggle and crawl to stand.

Now, as to Kevin, he is in a nursing home in another state and has paranoia and Parkinson’s.Postal Old Girlfriends, Postal and RituxanI am trying to ring him every Thursday. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Kev.” “You are two days late.” “No, today is February 14.” From there the conversation totally devolved. I can’t even repeat it as it made no sense whatsoever. For example, he said something about my car and I told him I drive a Buick now. He told me he was surprised I bought a Swiss car.We always helped each other with cars.  There is so much we have shared over the years.  When Buster the Biker unceremoniously dumped me, he arrived with a stack of blues cds.  I held him when he cried several months later when the woman he had been seeing for years, went back to her husband.   I always tell him I love him when I call. We have known each other since 1984 and supported each other through good times and bad. It has been like a marriage.  We have been a constant in each other’s lives.  Valentine’s, he did not understand what I said. It was the start of spring training and even that produced nonsense.  He used to walk 8 miles a day for his job and when it was light, catch a round of golf.  After we definitively broke up, if one of us wanted to see the other, we’d head to the beach.  Either one of us was likely to be there.  The beach has a four mile walk. It didn’t matter who was where, the other one was, we’d turn around and walk the rest of the way, anywhere from 2 -8 miles.  Now, we both can barely walk.  Ironic, isn’t it?  My heart is broken.

I have a friend who is 95. I was speaking to her this week and long before it became popular, she told me I was unusual as I was so resilient. I didn’t understand.  I thought everyone just tried to stand up again until they could.  Many years ago, I worked for a man who used to say about me, “The child does not understand the concept of NO.”  And indeed, I have not.  I integrated a primarily all male university.  I have worked in all male companies/industries.  I have changed industries.  I have been David and gone up against a corporate Goliath.  I though I ignored my diagnosis and kept fighting.  She told me again this week about my gift.  It sounds good on paper and when I look back.  It’s never felt like resiliency or grit.  It has felt that I have lived my life as a Joe Palooka punching bag; one of those toys with the weighted bottoms that when it is hit, it pops right back up again and again.

ocean waves.jpgKevin and I loved the beach, all year round.  I have likened life to the beach and the ocean.  After Hurricane Gloria, we rode down to the beach.  We laughed at ourselves as we did so.  We wanted to make sure it was still there.  There were huge waves crashing against a diminished shore. The sea was calm within a few days. The sea is like that, sometimes calm and clear, other times waves knock you off your feet.  The waves can erode your shore or build it up. I guess I just have to wait for that wave to catch me again and build me up.

Anniversaries and Losses

July marks several anniversaries for me.

July 3, 2000 found me starting a new job at the omnipotent megalith hereafter known as The Bank.  I have told this story in a blog before.  Whilst I was in orientation with the HR person, I was informed there was no early leave at The Bank.  My initial thought was , “Why are they talking about retirement when this is my first day?”  I found out that since July 4 was a holiday, I could not leave early.  Really?  My manager sent me home at half past two o’clock.  My plan was to stay a year.   I live outside of NYC but NYC is my place to work.  Unfortunately, most people have a bad sense of both geography and commutation.  It takes me less time to get into the City than people who live in the other boroughs.  I needed a year back in to quash the naysayers.  Overall, I was there more or less for 15 years!  My mother used to say, “Do two, maybe three, strive for five.”  My parents were totally anti-corporate which also means no pension, no benefits.  I started.  I hated it.  I tried to get another job immediately.  The Bank had surveillance cameras throughout its offices.  No one knew if they really worked.  I am sure they must have as literally hundreds of millions of cash and checks passed through there daily.  When I first started there people could actually make cash deposits.  I remember seeing a 25 million dollar check being casually processed.  Back to the cameras.  So, every morning I would look up at a camera and carefully enunciate. “I hate working here.”  No luck.  I went on a business trip to California with my manager and his manager.  I am a technical trainer so I was training the staff on how to use technology that did everything a real teller in a bank could.  Due to space limitations, the managers had to be in the room with me.  They loved my approach.  In a last ditch effort, I told the senior manager that most days I felt like a square peg in a round hole.  He told me he felt the same way.  So, instead of becoming my ticket out, it became my ticket in.

2001 arrived and I made ready to move on. September 11 happened.  And here are parts of the reason I never liked The Bank.  NYC on September 11 was an odd place to be .  I was in Midtown but no knew what was really happening. People started leaving.  The Bank’s policy was to never expense employee meals unless travelling.  Even then they had a global policy of $45 daily for everything if you w ere travelling.  By the afternoon, one of the managers said he would buy pizza for everyone still there in our department.  He was admonished and advised he would not be reimbursed.  I ventured back into NYC on the 13th.  I had been due to teach a class on loans.  I felt that needed to be placed on hold as people adjusted to our changing world. I went to the floor where the students sat.  It was just past 9 A.M.  And the first day back in Midtown for many of us.  You could have heard a pin drop as people sat at their desks, heads down, working furiously.  I still refused to teach the class.

I worked in the IT area and was hired specifically for my non-techie self.  Someone there told me I would like “The Big Bang”.  It’s because some of the people were just like that.  Despite all this, I stayed even after my group was let go.  I was brought back as a consultant for another 11 years.  It worked.  I was mostly on my own.  Despite the lack of benefits, I made nice money.  Almost too much money as it were because it was difficult to get something similar.  I worked alternate hours 7:30 – 4:00 or 4:30.  Eventually, I worked  7:30 – 3:30 but I was always available before and after hours.  In fact, due to my West Coast following, I took calls and emails till 9:30 or so. I also worked remotely on Fridays as commuting became dangerous for me.  I also worked remotely in bad or hot weather.  This was the job where my mobility began to give out.  My standard line (feel free to use as you see fit) was, “It’s not contagious. It’s not cancer.  It’s not terminal.  And, there is nothing wrong with my brain.”  For the OMG! OMG What happened to you crowd, I would laugh. “I am just falling apart.”

It all ended badly.  My reasonable accommodation was removed.  I was made a truly insulting offer to become an employee which was totally unacceptable.

I struggled to find work.  I was a woman of a certain age who had been at a company too long and walked with a cane and the spectral leg aka brace.  Hey, my canes were seasonal and pretty.  I finally found another position more than a year later.  Enormous pay cut and more responsibility and work.  So, this represents another July anniversary.  On July 14 last year, Bastille Day, Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite,;  I walked out. I could still do that.  I had the misfortune to work for a mean girl from high school.  I loved the company and the people.  It hurts.  I had more personal interactions there in 5 months than I had in the 15 at the Bank.  People miss me both places.

My feeling, rational or not, is that losing these two positions has severely impacted my health.  And I hate the phrase, “losing a job”.  I know where it is.  It’s not lost.  At the Bank, I walked 10,000 easily and often.  The building was a city block and I walked to Grand Central , walked through Times Square Station and then Penn.  The next job had much less walking but phenomenal people.

So, this week I am marking a year without working.  I have become officially disabled and un officially retired.  This is so not what I wanted or envisioned.  It’s hard.  I miss getting dressed – clothing is my life. I miss people.  I have been demoted to a walker.  It hurts me to look at it.

All losses are relative.  July was bad before the Bank.  If you have read me before, you know I have left a swath of dead boyfriends and other lovers behind me.  Bobby was one of my favorites.  Once, I was asked in therapy, of all the guys I had been involved with, who would I have liked to marry.  Immediate answer – Bobby! Uh, a small problem, bisexual?  Well, he left me for a man. But… But we went to the same school and bore similar scars; we liked to cook and eat out; we loved to shop; we loved Dylan’s Black Diamond Bay; we walked in Washington Square on warm evenings; we loved to go to the movies and theater. Big missed hint and clue:  We saw American Gigolo three times and we had to get tickets to Bent.  He died of AIDS before his 30th birthday which was July 7.  It’s hard to imagine that he’s been gone longer than he was here.  I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral as his parents blamed me for his death.  He used to tell me if he ever married me, it would kill his parents.

July 7 also marks the day my childhood friend, Julie died.  Again, way young.  She died around 40.  She was real and funny and loyal. You always knew where you stood with her.  She arranged for her father to take the photos for my first wedding because I hate those forced, frozen, fixed photos.   Her husband had diabetes.  She used to tell him, “Chuckles, I am going to dance on your grave when you die ’cause you didn’t take care of yourself.”  Ovarian cancer.

So, to put it in perspective, what’s the big deal with not being able to walk.  How can I possibly measure not working against not living?  Well, it’s my pity party and no one else is invited.  Mourning is mourning. Respect  for all deaths and departures.  And then?  Then there is summer and its warmth.

Crashing

Well, the doctor did tell me to use the walker, at least till I meet with the rehab specialist.  I rang this week and he doesn’t accept my insurance,  However, he will see me at a clinic.  Tom doesn’t like that but we are just going to have to suck it up and go.

I have been unable to go to the gym this week as Tom is on another binge.  Aside from  the fact that the gym and liquor store are in the same center, he’s been too drunk to really go out in public.  It is what it is.  So, as an alternate measure and part of my plan anyway, I have been doing the stair stepper as much as possible.  The  most I’ve reached is 6600 steps, not enough.

So, what I did on Thursday, was lock the room door.  It is the only room in the house with a door.  This allowed me to do some thinking, writing, reading and even watch programs that I like while I did the stepper. I did get a bit wobbly.  Tom spent most of the day passed out.  After 5, I unlocked the door.  Dunno why.  Just did.  And years ago, he did destroy the door so it’s not like it means anything except symbolically.

The last few weeks I have felt myself deteriorating.  Ever optimistic, I have tried to attribute it to the intense stress that I have been under as well as the lack of activity.  In order for me to take control, I took the walker out from behind the door yesterday.  I need to practice with it before I use it outside and frankly, I needed the extra support.  I almost  never use the spectral leg or cane in the house but I guess life is beginning to change.  I struggled not to weep.  How did this ever come to pass? How can I consider this a viable option?

It happens sometime after you become an    adult.  You walk down the street and see a reflection in a window.  Who is that adult that resembles you if you were grown up?  Wait a minute!  It’s you and you are grown up.  The next step is inevitable.  You catch sight of yourself and….  Yes, I see a little, fragile, misshapen old lady.  How the hell did that happen?

It’s after 5 and I felt a bit weakish.  I didn’t have the cane in my tiny room.  I went to sit down and somehow I didn’t sit on the chair correctly, lost my balance and fell.  I fall well but still make all kinds of noises along the way down.  Tom had been passed out in the other room.  He rushed in bloodshot eyes and all.  This man does not wake up well in the best of times.  I was flat on my back on the floor.  There’s an upside to everything.  Due to drunkenness, I had  a bag filled with bags of tea on the floor.  It was supposed to have been taken upstairs and out of the way.  I can no longer go upstairs without help so it was lying there.  Lucky!  My head hit tea instead of the floor.  So there I was.  I wasn’t hurt but couldn’t move.  This is a man with three sisters and I think he might have played with dolls or maybe not because he has no concept of how real limbs work.  I literally can’t sit up.  First order of business is to get me upright.  He pulled but I have no strength at all apparently in my core.  I slid back down.  It took awhile to explain I needed something to hold onto to keep me in a seated position.  We get there.  Next step is get me to stand or into a chair. Ha!  This is when I discovered my right leg  no longer works.  It cannot bend .   I cannot even cry.  Picture this.  Sometimes, I have problems getting out of the tub.  I lift my right leg with my arm.  If it doesn’t stay up, Tom comes in and lifts it for me.   I explained to Tom that we were going to have to do the same action but not in the tub.  He was still fuddled. Back to I do not have doll limbs.  The video would have gone viral.  Somehow, we got both legs bent.  Then  I flipped over like a bug.  Somehow, I managed to pull myself up onto the chair.  Tom stumbled back to bed.

This was a pretty devastating evening.  I knew I had deteriorated but not to this point.  I guess I need to buy one of those I’ve fallen and can’t get up devices.  I am so scared and frightened.  I WILL NOT BE IMMOBILE.  I WILL DANCE AGAIN.   I must be delusional.  The only thing to do is fight harder  Someone just told me today, in another matter, that my persistence paid off.  I guess I need to keep it up.  I am losing strength all around and crashing

Lucky 13

 

Yesterday was my 13th wedding anniversary.  I was in the hospital with Tom from 7:30 a.m. till 8:30 at night.  Our original plan had been to drive out East and either have a nice lunch out there or cash in on a restaurant card the kids gave us for Christmas.  Instead, Tom’s been in the hospital since Monday afternoon.

We had no idea thirteen years ago that this is where we’d be. We said our vows in front of a justice of the peace who knew me from volunteer work.  She gave me a lecture on how she disagreed with the public policy  position of the organization.  Then we did our vows.  It included something along the lines of in sickness and in health, richer or poorer, better or worse.  Of course, we said Yes.  Who really understands what that means? Well, we were older so we were not dewy eyed innocents.  We knew that life would hold challenges.

13 years is a not a long time in the scheme of things but we have really beaten up those vows; each and every one of them.

Life with both of us has been challenging.  He has supported me through the death of both of my parents; the dissolution of my childhood home; the loss of three jobs and of course, my continuing physical deterioration.

On his side, his rampant and destructive alcoholism; cancer; hernia and now this cardiac situation.

Monday, we went to the ER for what we thought would be a meds adjustment and maybe Valium.  Instead, a four day hospital stay with two procedures.  Yesterday morning he had a tee.  A scope was put down his throat to see if there were any clots in his lungs that could dislodge.  He came out of that one convinced he was vacuuming the car. Indeed, when he was released today, one of the first things he has done is vacuum!  Lucky me, I have a house husband. In the afternoon, he had a cardiac ablation. Fun for anniversary.

Truth be told, I don’t hold much with anniversaries.  He is the sentimental one.

I never wanted to have my parents’ lives.  Joke’s on me.  I do.  I was so frightened this week.  Normally, I am your best person in an emergency and I still was calm and collected for everyone.  Here’s the thing – when my father died suddenly and unexpectedly, my mother kept on saying “Daddy had a really good omelet for breakfast.”  Well, you know how they say things about your parents’ deaths stick with you?  Sunday night, we had had the best dinner with Justin and Lisa – good food, laughter, conversations.  My mind kept on howling – just like Daddy.

Another way in which I am the same is hiding things.  I am a firm believer in transparency as my parents withheld information on my grandmother’s health.  I never trusted them again.  I share medical details about me and T to his kids.  We found out after my father died how the two of them conspired to shield us about my mother’s condition.  She had dementia.  I found we have done the same with my walking.  It’s not as if they don’t know I have difficulties but in the house I usually don’t wear the spectral leg or use a cane.  On the few occasions we have been out, they know I walk arm in arm with their Dad.  They had no idea how much difficulties I have getting in and  out of the house.  Of course, when I am stressed I am worse.  I have started to have problems with my hands.  I needed help buckling my seatbelt.  Everyone was great to me but I realized how much we have been dissembling.

As you know I was seriously contemplating divorce earlier this year.  Financial considerations stopped me. He thought I couldn’t do it because I literally couldn’t live without  him.  He ties my shoes, fixes my hair, helps with zippers and buttons.  As they say, “needs must”.  I put on my own shoes, dressed and undressed myself and did my hair.  Fed the cats, cleaned their litter. I can do it.  I did not fall.  Stumbled a few times but no falls.  So what if it took me ten minutes to put on my macrame sandals and spectral leg and it involved bent paper clips and pliers!  Don’t ask.

I know I am a control freak.  I acknowledge that one of  the reasons I married him was when he was in trouble I wanted legal standing.  I was never one of those girls with wedding plans. I used to dream of a house and children but no man.  I used to be told it couldn’t be done.  I am a boomer which explains the attitude.

This week made me realize that even though I can be on my own, I don’t want to be right now.  Pondering how we really did do our vows.  There’s work ahead.  There is a lot of pain and anger on each side.

 

Old Girlfriends, Postal and Rituxan

What a difference a day makes!  An update on the postal situation from yesterday.  I placed calls to his landlord, psychologist and the VA.  The VA was helpful.  No calls from the others by 4 p.m. so I call K back.  He’s very cryptic and said the situation has been settled for $400.  He doesn’t sound right.  “Are you on drugs?”  “Of course.”  I finally am able to get his cousin’s name and phone number out of him.  Bombshell.  K has checked himself out of facility and told them and cousin that he is coming to live with me.  This is not possible on so many levels.  He appears to grasp this and states his intent is to check into one of the cheap, tawdry motels on Montauk or Sunrise.  In fact, there is one within walking distance of my house that I call the Pedophile Motel as a year or so before we moved in there were legal issues as it appeared the town and county were housing all the pedophiles there. Alright, I tell him we’ll deal and get him situated.  I tell him that I have called the landlord and will call him again.  My husband is livid over the situation and thinks the landlord has K’s belongings.  He wants to drive over, get everything before it’s tossed then drop the dime on the illegal rental.  K says don’t call him again.  He’s spoken to him today and landlord was very cold. He also tells me to say nothing of his plan to his cousin. Now whilst I am having this conversation with K on my landline, I hear other calls coming in and my cell is ringing too.  I see one call on the cell is my neurologist so husband picks that one up.

I hang up and see the landlord has called me.  I ring back.  Wow.  K has played us all.  I worked for years on a phone so I am really good with voices and lies.  Landlord is a straight up guy.  After I saw K just before Labor Day weekend, he rapidly deteriorated and was falling several times a day.  It culminated, ironically, enough on September 11, when landlord S’s children heard yelling. K had fallen facedown for 10 hours.  K was refusing help.  S told him paramedics or police.  He was hospitalized for 5 or 6 days.  During his episode, he had crystallization of his blood.  K was released to an assisted living/rehab facility.  Ironically, my husband and I drive by there all the time.  He was there until the end of September when the insurance ran out.  The cousin P was called.  The facility told him that K could walk 160 feet with a walker.  However, he had degenerated so much during this period that he was not allowed to use the bathroom on his own.  S had looked into the apartment with a view to making it handicapped accessible.  K had lived there almost 11 years.  Apparently, he has not had control of his urine or bowel for sometime.  The apartment/room needed fumigation and a new floor.  S also determined that he could not assume the responsibility nor have his children exposed to the consequences of falling,  S drove him to the cousin P in Maryland.  He had to help him in the bathroom on the way down.

The first night at the cousin’s he fell repeatedly.  The cousin called an ambulance.

I have a call into the cousin.  The cousin takes care of his nephew who as far as I can ascertain on the phone has at minimum a significant speech impediment.  I call twice leaving messages.

In the meantime, the psychologist has left a message for me on my cell.  All three of these men know of me as an old girlfriend, not my name,  just an old girlfriend.  The psychologist, B, and I have quite the conversation.  He has treated K for years.  In fact, he has retired and is very old.  He sounds ancient on the phone.

B never knew that I knew K at the time of the original postal  incident.  I had to go into therapy because of it.  I couldn’t handle it and left K for someone else.  K stalked me and threatened me when he found out.  I know, atrocious taste in men.  At that time in the late 80’s, there wasn’t the awareness or sensitivity to domestic violence there is now.  The police told me there was nothing they could do until he actually hurt me.  Their suggestion was for me to move.  In Suffolk county at that time there was a rash of domestic killings in a few months. I know because my girl friends, their mothers and my parents all cut out the clippings for me.  And yes, I went back into therapy once his meds were stabilized and I started interacting and seeing him again.

I give B the cousin, the landlord and the facility numbers as I explain he will have more weight than I do.

 

P calls back.  “Thank G-d you called.  I have been trying to get K to give me your name, number and address!”  He told K that he wanted to talk to me before he dropped him here  today. K has even told him I have been married twice.  P questions whether my husband will accept him.  K refuses to give up my address but instead tells P how to get my house from his room.

We have a most illuminating conversation.  P also knew of me as the old girlfriend, no name.  But he knew of my diagnosis, my two marriages and that I went to Hopkins.  Unless people tick me off, I don’t usually tell them I went to Hopkins but say I went to college in Baltimore.  I did the same yesterday and all three men said “Yeah, I knew you went to Hopkins.”  P found out from me the truth of the postal incident.  No, he didn’t hit 3 -4 guys.  They did try to provoke him to do so but instead his blood pressure rose so high he nearly stroked out and was taken out by ambulance.  I thought K’s father and mother were both evil and I do not use that term lightly.  K is older than me and his teachers reported the father for child abuse.  In that era you could just about kill your kids.  There were 6 brothers.  At least two are dead and one has been institutionalized for years.  Despite this K kept in touch with his father who ended up living in an SRO.  When he died, his mother refused to have anything to do with the burial.  Only one brother came.  That’s one of my gripes against the mother.  She was a lay minister in the Catholic church and would not separate or divorce the father.  She sacrificed her sons.  I do not believe in that kind of G-d.  P told me as soon as they were old enough each son beat the father up.  K broke his jaw.  He also shared my opinion of the mother and told me more stories about her.

All three men and I shared stories of K’s increasing paranoia and remoteness. I bought a computer for K once when I had a huge bonus.  Good fortune is meant to be shared.  A few years later he returned it to me saying it was broken,  Maybe,  but apparently was truly paranoid about it.  He wouldn’t use one at the library either.  He only recently had a cellphone and I believe it was through a program.  Caller ID displayed LI Spinal Foundation.

P can’t fight him any more and told K he will take him anywhere he wants to go.  He will leave him at a motel, wait an hour and call 911.  I beg him to let me know and I will call if necessary.

Oh, and the call my husband answered on my cell?  It’s my doctor’s office asking me to come in today.  I have been approved for the Rituxan.  I don’t even register this or remember it till after 8 p.m.  This is huge.  This drug could literally change my life. I can’t even process this.  I keep on forgetting!

 

My husband wakes in a rage this morning.  How could anyone dump K?  I repeat our 911 plan.  Smack forehead.  Of course, the police will come before ambulance.  We anticipate his resistance and see jail in his future or else due to late father’s influence (top police lieutenant) K being able to stay in motel to die.  He was able to get out of a traffic incident this summer dropping names.

I call the VA again this morning.  They suggest the cousin drive him directly there.  He is technically homeless and they have a shelter on the property.

The Catholic hospital nearest me said if there were mental health issues, they couldn’t take him.

I call the psychologist.  He has had no luck with the cousin.  He said P was adamant K was going to New York.  He and his wife also had the same serious reservations about the 911 plan.  B then revealed that K was so paranoid that for five years he would only meet B at diners or restaurants away from where they both lived.  His opinion was that K cannot survive in a group situation. Also, none of us must have any guilt   as we all have done much more than could be expected.  We are all good people.

At ten of two this afternoon, the phone rang.  It was P.  He went to get K at 8 and asked where are we going?  K said I’ll let you know in 4 hours.  P refused.  They went to 7 -11 for an hour and a half.  For now sanity has prevailed and K has agreed to stay and sign on a contract to live there. He says he doesn’t want to die in Maryland.  The cousin says who wants to die?

We all agree that this is very sad.  It is.  I agree we all tried to do the best we could. But I am looking at it another way.  We have all known K for decades.  We knew of each other – the old girlfriend, the cousin, the shrink, the landlord.  He reduced us  all to the role he wanted us to have in his life. We all do that.  K is just more extreme about it due to his emotional issues.

Ok, not guilt but I am so questioning myself.  How did I let myself so eagerly be a part of this.  K and I never officially lived together.  I have been married twice, lived with someone and had numerous affairs.  Through all this we have been constants in each other’s lives.  We have been “in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer.”  I need to process what it means.  I sense that somewhere along the way, we all failed him.  And I, I failed myself.  Why can’t I let go?  Why have I maintained a relationship with a man capable of hurting me physically? All relationships involve hurt.

If this crisis had not occurred, we all would still be in our roles.  How do we as a society perpetuate these situations?  We are all so close and yet so distant.

Postal

I need to get this out.  Consider it a rant, vent and reflection.

I have been worried out of my mind about my postal worker.  We argued at the end of August about his buying a car.  Yes, ok, I get it.  I have bad taste in men.  We have been friendly since 1984.  About 15 years ago, we agreed we should have married but since we didn’t, it really did work out.

Given that , we have never really argued.  We would separate.  Well, we did have a major fight somewhere around 1986 but it sorted.  I never stood up to him until the end of August over the car. Since he has Parkinson’s and mini strokes, limited income, my feeling was that he shouldn’t drive and could use taxis.

Now, my birthday is end September and he always, always calls me, sends me a card, drops by or gives me a present whether I  have been married or living with someone else. Freaked my landlord out once when they came home and found flowers on the steps.  Maybe not on the exact date but within a week.  This time nothing but I know he’s stubborn and not well.  K is paranoid, for real.  He will not answer unless he knows who is calling.  Also, since the 80’s he always has a piece of music for voicemail.  When I left him for real in 1988,  he had Fine Young Cannibals “Good Thing”  for weeks.  There is no music and the memory is full.

We have always been there for each other.  He came over with blues CDs and Clapton when Buster the Biker dumped me (just before current husband).  And he was a drug and alcohol counselor when he was in the army so he has been very helpful to me as I have been on this journey with my husband. I have listened to him and held him as he has cried over breakups and his father’s death.

As I continued to be unable to reach him, I became increasingly upset.  This is one of the reasons I stand by my husband.  He called all the local hospitals for me last week.  No results.  We were about to do a drive by his home today and contact the police.

Yesterday, late afternoon the cellphone rang with a number in Baltimore.  Ah, another IRS scam, I thought.  Voice mail! From K.  But it’s weird.  There is someone in the background with an accent who seems to be telling him what to say and the callback number is different.  I know he has a cousin in Maryland but I begin to freak.  I rang him back. Someone else answers the phone.  It sounds like he says he is a medical resident, whatever that means.  A twisted tale.  Somehow, K  decided to live with his cousin in Baltimore but now he’s in assisted living?  I saw him at the end of August and whilst he had issues walking, he was competent and functional.  His story is garbled and makes little sense. He says he woke in his cousin’s house and crashed into things. This would be normal as he has definitive mobility issues and has been living in a room for about 10 years.  The cousin called the paramedics and he was hospitalized for 5 -6 days.  He was sent to assisted living.  He is complaining about the food.  He says that they are charging him $5500 a month. On his credit card!  Now, K  has been on postal disability since 1988.  His monthly income is much, much less than that.  We live in metro NYC area so there is no way he has that kind of savings.  He tells me that he has to charge it.  I ask him where he is.  Someone puts the brochure in front of him.  He has difficulty reading it but I get the name.  This whole conversation is a torturous process , clearly not helped by my berating him as to why he didn’t let me know he was leaving.

He is a Vietnam era vet.  He also should be a Medicaid candidate.  This whole thing smells and stinks to me.  I keep on telling him he has to get me on his HIPAA.  He is a Luddite and I get the distinct impression he does not know what I am talking about.   Even though we have been friends for over 30 years, I have no standing.  LOL, that’s the reason I married my current husband – to have standing!

I also explain I am extremely limited as to what I can do on a Sunday.  He gives me his landlord’s name and part of his phone number but also says the guy is a Jets fan and won’t pick up the phone.  I also have his psychologist’s number.  Again, no one knows me.  I knew his first psychologist.  I ask if he talks about me.  He thinks so.

So, this morning I call the VA, landlord, psychologist.  The VA can’t give me any information except to agree that it’s wrong and my best bet is to get a power of attorney.  He is in another state.  His cousin’s name is too common as are his brothers.  No callbacks  yet from landlord or psychologist. I gave them the number K gave me.  I asked K what the number is and get a garbled explanation of patching through landline.

I do know where he was living and my husband says we will go there tomorrow.  Husband is concerned about K’s stuff, too.

My college boyfriend is a public defender in MD.  I speak to him every other year or so. I call him and he calls me back immediately.  He confirms my instincts appear to be right; he knows the neighborhood where this assisted living place and confirms it’s in a bad place; and I need to get the POA to truly advocate for K.

So, here’s another thing.  The attorney and I go back over 40 years and K and I over 30.  K and I always reach out to each other in times of trouble.  The attorney called me a few years back because he could see something was wrong from my handwriting on the Christmas card.  He also was nuts after 9/11 because he couldn’t find me.  When he finally reached me several weeks later, he sobbed.  I hold my relationships.  I was surprised this morning that my husband said it’s a good thing.  He usually mocks me.  I am not sure what it means.  Ties that bind?

I believe in the divine and wonder if I am not working right now so that I can help.  Worse case scenario, we know that I’ll drive down.

I am tired of being strong and responsible.

What is love at the end of the day?

It’s not ringing right  for me.  Has anyone had a similar experience with forced assisted living? Scam? Suggestions?