Friday, September 29, 2006


End of an era

I'm closing up my Tallahassee residence this weekend... I still have a few trips to Tampa Bay in my future, but I'm coming to the close of my Florida phase.

I came to Forida for just 6-12 months in 1997. My Dad had died the year previous, and it appeared that my Mother was dying. Her doctors didn't give her a year. She couldn't live
on her own anymore-- diabetes and kidney failure, emphysema and heart problems, the list
of drugs and ailments looked like a grocery list. I was living in Atlanta at the time. I tried to
convince her to come to live with me, but she wasn't buying any of it. My older brothers
had high-powered jobs and families and commitments elsewhere, so I packed up my stuff
and drove to Florida. Initially, I didn't even quit my job-- I took a leave of absence.

Well, Mom maybe never was very good at following doctor's orders, or maybe she just needed
someone to kvetch at every day to keep her heart going, but, for a while she got better after I came down to live here. After a few weeks, I accepted that the move was going to be permanent (or at least "for the duration" and the duration was going to be more than 6-12 months) and I tooka job working for the City of Clearwater. I made good friends there, became a part of the
community, and did both my full-time jobs-- teaching City employees to come to terms with their technology and caring for an elderly and increasingly ill parent-- pretty damn well for nearly five years.

I learned enough about geriatric medical care to run a nursing home.

And enough about my Mother to finally forgive her.

Life's not like the Hallmark channel. No third act perfect resolutions, but at least I can say, "Despite everything, I did what I promised Dad I'd do. I did what I thought was right. I did everything I could and I have no regrets." Would it have been nice if her last words to me had
been, "You were a good daughter" instead of "I never understood a single thing about you.
You were always a mystery to me. You were so different. You were never like the other kids."? Sure. But at least it was honest. I still mourn both the loss of my mother the person and the fact that we never had the kind of relationship that my friends have with their mothers. But I know that being the people we always were, it wasn't my fault. Or at least not MORE my fault than hers.

She died just a few days before Mother's Day.

Then one Sunday morning, just a couple of months after Mom died, I woke up sick and in more pain than I could ever imagine. After a couple of abortive attempts at self-care, I got into the car and drove to the emergency room. It was 10AM. It would take until 8PM to get a diagnosis, and the news was not good. Tumors, at least 2. Gangrene, because one of them had twisted inside my body and cut of the blood supply to both itself and to a couple of organs. Surgery. Major surgery ahead. Probably chemo. Probably radiation. Undoubtedly drugs for the rest of my life.

I was terrified and in shock. I never reallly thought about my own mortality very much, but suddenly I had to face the fact that this stuff could not just make me sick-- it could kill me.
I had sons just coming into manhood-- was I even going to get the chance to see them really come into their own, have families, careers, a life?

I lived through the next couple of months, made it through the surgery, the recovery, and some less than delightful follow-up treatment, and fiinally began to believe I wasn't going to die. My friends and family were helpful and kind, but the real battle wasn't physical, it was emotional. I was still greiving my Mom's death, my life had been turned completely upside down, and now this? I couldn't deal with any more.

My body healed. I went back to work. I had a performance review that had been delayed by my medical leave. A great review and a raise, isn't that nice?

Two weeks later I had another meeting with my director. Funding had been cut, and my job was being eliminated at the end of the year.

Great. Now what do I do?

The next parts of the story are pretty boring, but the upshot was that I eventually got my act back together. I found another job I liked, I made a little time to smell the roses, I saw my one son married and the birth of a daughter to my other son... and then in a crazy sequence of events, I suddenly had 2 sons and those families I wondered about (including three grandchildren) and I was living too far away to see them more than a couple times a year. It sucked.

I knew I had to make some changes. Even after I came to that conclusion, I dithered around about it for nearly 6 months. In my defense, I was working on a project that was originally supposed to be finished in 2005--- the current finish date for that project has been revised a few dozen times, but currently is now sometime in 2007. I wanted to see it through--- but with every extension and delay, I found myself more unhappy and more resentful of the fact that I was STILL 1500 miles from the people I loved, working in a city with an airport smaller than my high school. Finally, in August, I'd had enough. I stopped hanging up on the headhunters when they called me, and one of them dropped the perfect job into my lap.

I now have dinner with friends and family at least once a week. I still work hellacious hours, but there are treats at the end of the day--Brendan or Olivia on the phone, George or Michael to laugh with, the feel of Nathan's sturdy little body in my arms, shopping with Deb.....

I came to Florida to take care of Mom--- I'm leaving to take care of myself. Because in the end, who else is going to do it if I don't?


You made the right choices; when they were hard, when their outcomes sucked, and even when you might not have wanted to.

Besides, you arent old enough to retire and shouldnt be living in Florida yet anyways!
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