Training Wheels

We both hate the phone. My mom and I. Always have, even as teenagers, but my phone conversations with her were the longest I’ve ever or will ever have. She listens with 100 percent acceptance, bringing a freedom to ramble without judgement. With no clue she’s doing so, her voice downshifts my racing mind to a calm neutral.

She’s a no-nonsense nurse, and as such, the ultimate purveyor of monosyllable advice. Ideal mom qualities for a hypochondriac, or anyone really. When my mechanically inclined, then first grader pulled the school fire alarm to see how it worked, I called her. She breathed in a serious gust of air, then, without missing a beat, said to bring him to the local firehouse. “He’ll see what happens when someone pulls a fire alarm.” Instantly, I had a plan of action and felt slightly less sucky as a mom.


She suffered a stroke almost a year ago. Her speech was most affected, so our Sunday morning calls are short and frustrating for her. She’s got the same thoughts that want to come out of her brain. The same ones I’m yearning to hear. They just don’t translate through her mouth.

At my parents’ house, mornings are spent swapping sections of the Philadelphia Inquirer. My dad once said if the paper stopped publishing, they may as well put him in the ground. While careful not to disrupt my dad’s piles of read and unread sections, we read the paper, interrupt each other’s reading to comment on what we’re in the middle of, and my dad and son do the jumble together. The morning paper, mom’s banana bread and dad’s fried bologna and eggs are what weekends at their house mean to me now.max and dad 6 19 16 jumble

Someone who would polish off multiple books in a week, my mom now struggles to finish a couple paragraphs from the front page. I try to remember to curb my impulse to interrupt with thoughts on what I’m reading. But, that’s how we connect. She’s one person I can look in the eye and not look away.

She’s still here, and for that I’m eternally grateful. How young people wake up and go on every day after the death of a parent seems a strength that goes far beyond super hero. I can’t imagine the last few decades without my mom to turn to for advice on everything from career, to parenting and now menopause. It’s too bleak to consider.

But, little by little there’s a greater force sliding that landing pad out from under me. I’m a grey-haired, 53-year-old woman riding a bike with loose training wheels. Their screws have come loose, but I cling to them, less ready than ever for them to fall away.

I know I’m not alone in my desire to have my mom by my side for eternity. It just seems such a lonely task flying solo without her. I get that I’ve been blessed to live a lifetime buoyed by support and love. But, the problem with having a mature oak tree to lean on your whole life is that when it’s gone, you’re left naked in the clearing.

My Rant For Young Lincoln and Against Shutting Up

Blurry photo of protesters I stumbled across last Wednesday night. Far too excited to focus.

Feeling pent up with intense mixture of emotions that threaten to burst me from the inside out. So I write. Like Bruce Springsteen and liberal optimists everywhere, I never thought we’d be living in a country where the majority of people prefer a President with KKK ties, who brags about grope-entitling money and power, openly mocks a disabled reporter, picks a climate-change denying Vice President who wants to overturn Roe V. Wade and the legalization of gay marriage. My husband is black and my kids mixed race. So, his selection today of a man with such a vitriolic resume as his chief strategist fills me up with even more anger and emptiness than I thought possible.

I want to scream but I don’t know what to say or who to say it to. Where are we going? Isn’t someone going to put on the brakes? Was Ashton Kutcher in on this? Will we all wake up tomorrow to a meme of his dimple-creased smile with “Pranked You ALL” written over it?

Until that unlikely event, anyone that doesn’t want our country moving to the hard right needs to dig in their heels and fight. F- moving to Canada. It’s a great country with a lovely prime minister, yes. But it’s not ours. This one is.

And we’re not rolling over to ‘accept’ the election result and now Cabinet appointments that feel like a turn signal leading us straight back to the 1950’s. Those years may have been banner ones for straight, white men, but not so much for anyone else.

To those who ask protesters to stop whining because they’re further dividing the nation – exactly what country are you living in? I’m 51 years old. I accidentally walked through a protest rally in NYC last week one day after the election result, and it was one of the most energizing experiences of my life. The protesters I saw were young, fired up, and committed to a fight far larger than themselves. They’re not sitting mournfully at home accepting their fate but complaining to friends. That’s whining. They know they have power.

A friend asked for advice in what to say to her 12-year old son who said the new President “doesn’t like him because he has special needs and makes fun of people with special needs.”

This is a kid that, despite his various challenges, ran for class president last year and has solid family support. If this is what he’s feeling, consider what it’s like to be a child in any way ‘other’ these days with a family that provides no refuge from the stares or snide comments but perhaps encourages them.

Yes, such a family would clearly have their own issues, but that’s a hard thing to grasp as an adult, let alone when you’re 12.

The powerful Lincoln.

I would tell him we all have pain. Every person you see passing you on your tree-lined street has been through some major struggle in their lives. Even Trump. Even Melania.

His challenges are just on the outside, whereas ‘typical’ people tend to store them on the inside. And as such, he’s stronger than the rest of us. He has to be. We can hide vulnerability. He can’t.

It’s kids like him that will show us the way. We just need to listen. Unleash your gifts and insight on the world, Lincoln. And while you’re at it, run again for class president. And again. We need your voice now more than ever. Believe me, it will inspire others to use their own. You’ve already inspired me.