Mountains of Kindnesses

I’m just getting ready to spend a little mom time with the boys this morning when the phone rings. I answered as soon as I see that 603 area code. It’s Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital.

“Hello?” I try to keep the shake out of my voice. I’m trying to remember what tests we’ve had run for Thing1 recently. But it’s not about any test, at least not any that Thing1 has taken recently.

“Hi, this is Susan,“ I don’t need her to tell me whose office she’s from. We’ve been in contact constantly over the last few weeks. She’s calling to make sure the medication approval went through on the pharmacy end and that we have received and given the first dose. It’s a checkup on the insurance company’s and the pharmacy’s test of following through.

Susan and her colleagues have been warriors for my son for the last month, tirelessly shuttling information back-and-forth between the doctors and the insurance company, re-submitting claims as often as they have to in order for him to get the drug and the dosage he needs. As I talk with her, she talks about strategies they use, and I realize this woman who went to nursing school to learn the intricacies of the human body and how to take care of it does this dozens of times each day for the rest of the pediatric patients that visit their practice.

We talk more. She asks about Thing1’s college plans. She makes a note to make sure the student disability services at his school has documentation for his disorder to make sure that he can stay healthy and on track with his future. She is so casual about the mountain of kindnesses, and I can tell she sees it as just another extension of taking care of her patients.

It is.

But I’ve come to see the nurses’ devotions to their patients’ financial ability to get the needed treatment, the efforts to keep a life limited disease from being the new normal, as nothing less than heroic.

In with the New and the Old

Snow’s dairy bar in Arlington, VT has been our post-gardening, post-Saturday tee ball game, post-chore ritual since Thing1 took his first at bat. Summer hasn’t truly began until we’ve had our first corndog or Sunday, complete with Wilcox dairy ice cream (the first Vermont ice cream).

Just standing next to it snow, the original owner passed away a couple years ago, and his kids took it over for a summer before selling it to a new owner. When it was for sale, there a few concerns that a new owner would bring a lot changes to a beloved institution.

 Thing1’s girlfriend started working there a few years ago, and he knew she would be working there yesterday when we went out for lunch, probably why he was so happy about the choice. When we got there, we found her and, on the menu, all our old favorites. We also discovered a few new items – more potential favorites – had found their way onto the giant boards and their lists of fried delights and ice cream.

Like Bogie and Claude Rains walking into a cloud shrouded horizon, the merging of old and the new could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship and the end of yet another diet.

Gratuitously Yours

I’d like to say that I’m too an committed an artist to post gratuitous cat pics, but anyone who’s held me back from adopting yet another porch kitty will tell you that statement wouldn’t be authentic.

Gentleman Jim joined me in the mornings when I don’t have to get up too early. He makes an excellent wedge, keeping my foot in place so I can tap on my tablet keyboard.

For a while, when I watched him chasing after Katie-the-wonder-dog, I thought he wanted to be a dog. Then we watched him chasing after his littermate as she worked to single-handedly decimate the mouse population in our yard, and we thought he wanted to be a hunter. But it’s in the mornings when he’s lounging on my feet, demanding Thing1 continue scratching his head, that we realize he knows his true calling is to be served with love and obedience.

A Secretly Real Identity

The paunchy gal here is a figurine brought to me years ago from Mexico by a friend. He must have seen a resemblance, but in all fairness, she’s actually a little less paunchy than I am. She’s taken up residence on our new deck. Before the deck, our weedy patio hid her exposed body, but I like that she’s now shamelessly sunning herself, embracing life and the world, not hiding in fear among the weeds, and definitely not worrying if society will disapprove of her brazenness.

Anyone who’s read this blog for more than a few months at a time, knows I have a penchant for redecorating. I change banners and colors. Sometimes it focuses more on painting and then on cartoons and back again to writing with pictures. So, you won’t be too surprised to read that I’m thinking about a new banner.

What may be surprising is that, unlike previous PickingMyBattles banners, this one may include my brazen friend and also may not have more than a tiny a tip of the hat to the bad parenting and even worse housekeeping that have driven so many posts over the years.

Thing1 was still nursing when he started toddling. He went through the crawling stage and the pulling-himself-up stages. Then he’d reach out for our hands and walks with us for guidance.

And then he didn’t reach out. He figured it out, and our help was no longer needed.

For that.

And then he didn’t need to nurse, and he took another step away.

And now he’s getting ready to take a giant step away. Thing2 is taking some of the same steps as he starts middle school and finds his own identity.

And I’m questioning mine.

‘Mom’ was, for a long time, the primary (and sometime only) way I identified myself, and I was happy about it. I didn’t like myself before Thing1 was born. Being his mom, meeting his needs changed my perceptions about boys, about the world and about myself.

But there was a person there before he was born. That person evolved, but she’s still there.

She’s still bi-polar as hell, still eating too much and the owner of a bleeding heart. She’s no longer afraid of hard work or committing to others. She’s a techie, an artist and a writer. And she’s demanding to be as much a part of my identity as the person my kids know just as ‘Mom’.

There is no such thing as ‘just a mom.’ That phrase strips motherhood of the depth of its responsibility and meaning as thoroughly as it reduces women to one of the other popular one-dimensional labels of angels or whores. I’m a bit of all of them and more.

There are still battles to be fought on behalf of Thing1 and Thing2. Thing1’s hair trigger colon still threatens his independence while Thing2’s creativity combined with his pack-rat sensibility could give new meaning to Vermont’s image as ‘the Green Mountain state’ with more of a green glow. I’m grateful to be the one fighting along side them. They’ve helped me see how much stories about family do matter as much as – maybe even more than – the stories about politicians and generals. I will always write those because they are the stories about people coming together, they are ultimately stories about hope.

But there are otherbattles, my battles, to fight as well – battles for creativity and a life of contribution and meaning beyond the laundry pile. They are just as important, and all of those battles can only be won by embracing every aspect of my identity – the loving mom, the bleeding-heart angel and even what the world may see as the bi-polar whore.

They are what combine to make what any seasoned veteran truly is — a fighter.