Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Remembering My Mother

It is hard to believe my Mother has been gone sixteen years today.

I remember when my youngest sister, Delpha, called to tell me she had passed away  in her sleep. Apparently the paramedics were still at Mom and Delpha's apartment when Delpha called. I was so shocked by the news that I asked to speak to a paramedic to be sure that what Delpha had told  me was true.

After hanging up the phone I went into hysterics, crying and lying on the floor. My Mother wasn't  a  well woman, she had COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), a result of years of smoking, however, she wasn't in imminent danger of dying, or so I thought.

I had spoken to my Mother just two days before she died. It was Labor Day weekend approaching and I was planning a pool party and barbeque at my friend Mark's house on Saturday. When I talked to Mom I had invited her and Delpha to the party,  then she went on to say she wasn't up for coming over. I practically pleaded with her to come, offering to pick her and Delpha up and bring them back home after the gathering. I'll never forget what she said, "Please don't be mad at me if I don't go."

I told her I wouldn't be mad at her but that I thought she would have a good time and she would not have to lift a finger. I think one of the reasons she said "don't be mad at me" was because sometimes I had to be firm with her when she was contemplating making decisions I felt were unwise.

I'm not sure why but I had not been home to Indianapolis for two years but I had decided to come home for Labor Day weekend. As I do not believe in coincidences, I feel in retrospect that she passed away because finally all of he children were in town at the same time. My youngest sister had just turned twenty-one years old on August twelfth and I think Mom felt that her work as a mother was complete.

Another strange thing occurred a few monthes previous to Mom's passing. There was a photograph of my Mother that was taken in 1959 when she was twenty-one years old. She looks beautiful in the photo, dressed in a teal colored dress with her trademark red lipstick and painted nails. She had made copies of that photograph and had given or mailed a copy of it to all of her children.

My Mother did not have an easy life. I think her problems began in her childhood after the loss of her father when she was just thirteen years old.

My parents had a tumultuous relationship, having been married and divorced from each other twice. I feel as if my parents both loved each other and yet could not sustain a life living together. I'm sure my Father's alcoholism added a great strain to their marriages and the loss of a child at one year of age was more than their relationship could bear.

I also believe my Mother had longlasting  feelings  of guilt about giving custody of her first three children to my father. I now realize what a difficult decision that was for her and I wholeheartedly believe it was a sacrifice she made out of love for her children.

I'm not sure what my Mother's home life was like when she was growing up, but I have a feeling that there was not a lot of physical affection shown toward her from her Mother.

I think this lack of affection was passed down from her Mother to her and then to her children. I think it was difficult for my Mother to show physical affection. Consequently, showing physical affection has been an obstacle I have strived to overcome in my own life, as have my siblings to a greater or lesser degree.

My Mother was not a doting mother, we were not smothered with hugs, kisses and "I love yous" all the time, in fact,  rarely was that the case. I don't blame my Mother for this, I think she did the best she knew how to do.

After my parents second divorce, life became much harder for my Mom, physically, emotionally, and financially.

I have a portrait of my Mother that my youngest sister, Delpha, painted just a few monthes before Mom passed away. What I like most about the painting (which Delpha has so graciously given to me) is the despair etched in my Mother's face. She was exhausted by life, you can see it in her face in the painting, a true reflection of what she had endured in her life.

Ceratinly Mom had many happy moments in her life also. One of my favorite memories of being with her was a visit she made to Chicago in the mid-eighties to visit me and Michael. We took her and Delpha to the "Ripley"s Believe It or Not Museum." We were looking at a display case that housed  what they described as the world's smallest violin. Mom said "it is so small I can't even see it." Michael said to her "it's not down there it's up here." We roared with laughter because she was looking in the wrong place. When Mom laughed really hard, the laughter would make her eyes water, and this was one of those occasions. She laughed so hard it looked like she was crying. I love that memory, it still makes me smile.

In a way I am glad Mom wasn't around here physically to witness all that I have gone through medically which of course culminated in the loss of both of my legs. I would not have wanted her to add my physical burden to her already heavy load.

As I have stated before, I have a picture of my parents together that hangs in my bedroom. I talk to both of my parents all the time, asking for advice and for strength. I know their spirits are with me always, I take solace in knowing and feeling their spiritual presence.

Know Mom how much I Love and miss you on this sixteenth anniversary of your physical passing. Love, Glenn

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Out and About

  It has been a while since I have written, I apologize for that, it's just that I have been busy. Being busy is a good thing these days, it means I have things to do and places to go.

I was at my sister Rhonda's house for six days at the beginning of August. As always I had a great time, floating around the pool, soaking up the sun, and eating like a pig. My thoughtful brother-in-law, Peter, built a ramp in the garage for my wheelchair to make getting into their house easier. While I was in Indy I got to see two of my dear friends, Mark and Jena along with Jena's little boy, Hudson.

Bill, yes that Bill, has been very kind and thoughtful with regard to picking me up and making sure I get out of my condo. Bill and I went to the Andersonville Farmers Market a couple of weeks ago. This was my first real venture out into my neighborhood since the loss of my second leg. I will admit I was a little selfconscious about being in my wheelchair, but more about that later.

Bill and I have also been out to eat three times. I appreciate the time and effort he puts forth to help me get out to see and be seen by other people. We went to see the movie "The Help" at the Northbrook Mall, even though it was a lot of wheeling through the mall, we had a good time.

I know how this may sound but I feel it is necessary to share my feelings. I'm not sure whether the feelings of selfconsciousness I have are normal for people in my situation or if perhaps I am overreacting. I feel like people are staring at me because I am in a wheelchair. I realize that people see others in wheelchairs all the time and probably don't give it a second thought, however, when it is you that is in that wheelchair it changes your entire perspective. These feelings of selfconsciouness are perhaps because since the loss of my second leg, I haven't really been out in the public all that much.

I think this adjustment will take some getting used to. Now you may be wondering, why is he talking so much about the wheelchair, what happened to the goal of walking? That goal is being accomplished a little bit more each and every day, but as I have discussed in previous blogs, these things take time. In the meantime it would behoove me to begin to get out and try to socialize more, learn to become more comfortable in my new circumstances.

As we know sometimes I am hard on myself, not allowing myself to have feelings of loss and the sadness that goes along with loss. I attempt to share my feelings with you honestly at all times, and if I acted like going out in public in my wheelchair didn't bother me, that would not be the honest truth. It does bother me.

The question then becomes which bothers me most, not getting out and socializing or staying home too much? One of the reasons I started this blog was to share my feelings with my readers, to let you know how I feel about what is going on in my life and how I cope with this monumental loss of my lower extrementies. Having said that,  sometimes my feelings are not all that pleasant. One of the most benefical aspects of this blog is that it is a carthartic means by which to vent my feelings. I thank you for allowing me to do that, as I feel it is a healthy approach to living a happier and more meaningful life.

I know that what I am going through, with respect to being seen in public in my wheelchair may be hard for you to understand. Some may think I am overreacting, why should I care if people stare? The more likely scenerio is that people aren't really staring at all and if they are it is just a passing thought.

My friend Steve has said to me on more than one occasion that he wished he could see himself through other (not another) eyes because he would like to know what he would think about what he saw. Another friend of Steves said to him, "me too I want to know what others think of me." Steve said to him, "I don't care what others think about me, I care about what I think about myself."  I love the fact that Steve doesn't care what others think--I want to be more like Steve in that respect. I shouldn't care what others think, I should care most about what I think.

Suffice it to say I am glad to be out and about and once again it  is yet another aspect of my adjustment that will take some time.   


Saturday, August 6, 2011

What Does Walking Really Mean?

At my last physical therapy session, my physical therapist, Chris said that she had "caught up" on reading my blog. Of course she was, as she always is, very complimentary in her comments, however, she said that if she had read my blog and solely based on what I had written, she would be left with the opinion that I was unable to walk at all.

I think she got that impression because in much of my writing I refer to the word "walk" as if it were something I am going to accomplish in the future and not something I am accomplishing already. I take responsibility for that  impression because until she pointed this out to me, perhaps that IS how I am looking at the whole "walking thing."

I think it would  be of benefit to me if I changed not only the way I write about myself , but also how I feel about the whole concept of walking. It is true that I can stand up and I can move myself from one place to another while in an upright position, does that define walking? Previous to Chris' comments,  maybe I felt that I wasn't really walking because it is difficult and for now I am not walking as proficiently as I would like.

As I  have written about previously, I sometimes have a tendency to belittle my accomplishments, I suppose this whole personal concept I have of walking is an example of just that. My perception of walking and how I define it needs to be modified to reflect the accomplishments and give them their justifiable credit. Now this may all sound well and good, but I am not sure it will be as easy to implement in practice as it is to write about in words.

Sometimes the way we refer to a concept is a true reflection of how we really feel inside our own heads about that concept; given that precept, I feel some verbal as well as mental or intellectual restructuring may be not only required, but also be beneficial to improving my mental attitude and my performance in general.

I realize that most people, my age, and given my physical restraints are not able to do nearly as much as I am able to do. These declarations are not feelings that I am better than they are, far from it, but rather feelings  of appreciation and gratitude. When I refer to walking in the future tense and not the present tense than I am not acknowledging my appreciation, my accomplishments or expressing my gratitude. This is troubling to me and warrants closer examination, I want my writings and feelings to truly reflect how grateful and appreciative I really do feel inside.

Am I able to walk? Yes. Am I where I ultimately want to be? Not quite yet. Something a lot of people do not realize when you see someone who appears to walk well on one or two  prosthetic legs, is the fact that their accomplishments took a very long time to complete. As I have touched upon in previous blog entries, we have to be careful not to compare ourselves and our accomplishments to others. I know somewhere in this world there is a person in a similar situation as myself,  who probably wishes they were able to do what I am already able to do. This thought helps me put my life in it's proper perspective.

Thank you Chris for pointing out the fact that I am not referring to myself in the proper context that truly reflects my ability to walk and   acknowledges my accomplishments thus far.

Walking, what a wonderful gift we all take for granted. Walking, something I do and I appreciate being able to do, and hopefully my words and thoughts will reflect that appreciation in the future.