Thursday, April 30, 2009

Of Love Amidst Allergies

I rolled over in bed this morning, in that state-of-mind somewhere between so blissful slumber and alarm clock annoyance. I was greeted with a light kiss. I nuzzled closer, reaching instinctively to stroke his soft hair.

"Good morning, baby," I whispered groggily. Ringo thumped his tail in return.

(Yes, Ringo, my golden retriever-mix. Wait, where exactly did you think this story was headed?)

Ringo jumped off the bed, in anticipation of his morning ritual. The disruption sent two of the three cats piled at the end of my bed scattering.

I sighed. What part of "pet allergies" did this menagerie not understand?

I wasn't always allergic to cats and dogs. My lifelong allergies encompassed nearly every kind of weed, grass and tree in God's good kingdom, along with the dust found in amazing abundance throughout my house. But cats and dogs? Those are a recent addition to my repertoire of allergens.

"Remind me," the allergist said, as he analyzed the results of my last skin scratch test. "Do you have any pets?"

"Don't even say it," I warned him, anticipating his next words.

"Well, you're allergic to cats and dogs." He paused. "And cows."

I was momentarily disappointed about the cows. I've always thought they were rather adorable creatures, with those somber, big brown eyes. (My carnivore tastes aside, thank you, because I care not to dwell on my hypocritical nature.)

So, I'd never adopt a cow as a pet, I thought. OK, fine.

But cats and dogs? That was a bit of a problem, because currently a total of five of them live in my house. And not just live here. No, they own the place. They roam at their leisure through every room, and sleep in my bedroom. When I run errands, the dog is my co-pilot. (Dog is God spelled backward. A coincidence? I think not.)

Consequently, their dander and fur is everywhere I sit and breathe, even with impeccable housecleaning habits (of which, sadly, I will never be accused).

Despite the doctor's advice to: a) get rid of them, or b) keep them outdoors, or c) keep them out of my bedroom and living areas, my allergies have had no impact whatsoever on my pets.

I, on the other hand, am now getting allergy shots. In both arms, twice a week, for four to five months, tapering off to bi-weekly, for another four to five years.

But natural aversion to needles aside, I'll do that. Because besides the great joy my pets have given me, I've given them something too: a commitment to love them and to care for them. It's a commitment all responsible pet owners make. I'll do it until the day they each pass into the Great Backyard in the Sky. Even if I do so with a recurring sinus infection.

A little allergy issue? Meh. I can cope with that.

After all, there were days I swore I was allergic to my teenage sons. And as much as I was tempted, I didn't send them packing either.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Making the Best of the Worst

Last week, a friend confided in me that she and her husband were divorcing. He's already moved out and, amidst the logistics of hiring lawyers and figuring finances, they are discussing the painful point of custody of their young daughter.

Ah, married bliss. Sadly, how fleeting it too often is.

Making the best of a bad situation generally means an amicable arrangement of shared custody. A child's need and love for both parents, of course, should take precedence over all other matters. (Barring cases of neglect or abuse, subjects for writers willing to tackle far more tragic topics than I am.)

Even so, my heart wrenched as I recalled the first few evenings of sending my own kids off to their father's new house. What would I possibly do with myself? Sure I had friends. I had hobbies. Before, I'd always relished those rare opportunities of an evening to myself. But these imposed nights of solitude, three times a week? I would be lonely. I would be lost. I would be...

Wait. This wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, I learned, after just a few weeks. Funny, how I filled the time, how I learned to be independent, how I soon stopped crying every time they drove away.

Not that I didn't miss them when they were gone. The phone calls were frequent. The recaps of their time away were met with a combination of interest and envy.

But still. I learned to cope and eventually learned to enjoy the nights without my children, just like I learned to enjoy the nights with them--which contained their own set of challenges.

For those entering this strange and scary territory of new singlehood, I offer the following (men should modify the recipe, as needed):

Top Ten Things to Do on the First Night by Yourself

10) Order a pizza with toppings he always vetoed.
9) Eat popcorn for dinner.
8) Let loose at Target.
7) Watch the entire first season of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
6) Call a sympathetic friend with an also less-than-perfect life.
5) Wear sweats and your favorite slippers, and go sans makeup, (but do not look in a mirror).
4) Go for an endorphin-building run, then devour a pint of Ben and Jerry's.
3) Lie in bed and shop from catalogs by phone.
2) Make a list of all the women you know who are not quite as smart or good-looking as you.
1) Open a bottle of wine and begin writing your memoirs (embellishing only slightly).

Enjoy the best that life has to offer. Endure the worst. And when possible, do it in your sweats, eating a black olive and pepperoni pizza.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The "Last" Things on My Mind

I’m exhausted after an all day rowing regatta. Not that I went anywhere near a boat myself. (Um, no, can you say Aquatic Catastrophe?)

I spent the day watching Son #2 rowing boats. He rowed in five races in a seven-hour period. A fairly exhausting affair for me, sitting in the sun on the shoreline, watching him. But him? Meh. He handled it pretty damn well, even on the mere two hours of sleep he got last night.

In the early days of his rowing career, he’d have rested up, gone to bed at a respectable hour. But given the choice last night of sleeping or attending a prom and the now required event of “after prom,” well, is there any choice to be made, for a high school senior?

Not that it was his last high school dance ever. No, that one is tonight. Another prom, with another female friend (never an actual DATE, according to him), from another high school, which will also run until just mere hours before sunrise.

This one, from which he will also return with a flushed face and bleary eyes from hours of innocent fun (oh, so unlike those unsupervised “after prom” events of yesteryear), this one will be his last.

His last high school dance. This revelation will stream through his thoughts. In between laughing at a friend’s crude jokes on the corner of the dance floor and managing an awkward slow dance in a stiffly fitting tuxedo, he will pause and think, “This one is my LAST."

And while he’s living these bittersweet experiences of late-senior year, I’m right there with him.

Rising from bed at 3:30 this morning to drive him to Columbus (just as he was walking through the door from last night’s dance), I greeted the two-hour dark highway drive with a different attitude than I had for any regatta over the past four years. It was accompanied by none of my usual bitching and moaning (though he fell promptly asleep in the car and would have been oblivious to it anyway). No, this drive was different. This was my last early morning to get up and make a long drive to spend a long day cheering him on in an activity of which, four years ago, I had no understanding let alone any interest. A few regattas remain, but this was the last to require that very early morning sacrifice of me (and “sacrifice” is no overstatement for those who know what a morning person I am NOT).

I found myself wishing he were awake on the drive. Not that he would have been the wittiest and most intelligent conversationalist, given his all-nighter event. But I—I had so much to say, about all the “last” things that were on my mind.

I was remembering the last high school mother-son dance, and how proud I was that he was the one doing the pulling toward the dance floor. I was recalling his last mock trial event, which I sadly missed but which I eagerly relived through his relay of the team’s victory. And I was already looking ahead to the last time we would be together in his high school, as he crosses the stage in a cap and gown and is handed that roll of parchment signifying the end of one era and beginning of another.

The “last” things are even more significant to me now, because Son #2 is MY last. His older brother has already moved out (though not necessarily moved on, because they do come back, don’t they, especially when they still live in town and want a good meal)?

In just four months, though, I will officially be an empty-nester. My emotions run fairly fluid. Shall I celebrate or sob? Right now, my inclination is alternating between the two.

Who knows how I’ll actually feel when I hear them call my youngest son’s name at his graduation ceremony, or when I drop him off at his (yet undetermined) college campus, drive away, and have to count down the weeks before I see him again. I’ll either be celebrating or sobbing. Likely, a combination of both. For some time to come.

But worrying about a happy but overtired young man arriving safely home after a dance at 4 a.m.? No, I’ll be sound asleep most nights, from here on out. Because that, thankfully, will be the last thing on my mind.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Let There Be Words...

OK, due to much encouragement (um, from one drunk stranger in a bar), I've started a blog. Does anyone care? Post yes or no. Don't post if you're apathetic, because really, why would you bother?

Please note what you'd like most to read here:
  • witty observations
  • serious contemplations
  • nonsensical ramblings
  • all of the above

I can do any or all, dependent upon my mood or the amount of alcohol recently consumed. I have countless thoughts and opinions on life and associated issues. Some are nearly relevant. I'm happy to share. We'll talk soon, yes?

I'll do my best to accommodate the bulk of my readers.