Kickboxing? At 60?

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“Kickboxing? Are you crazy?”

At least I didn’t ask – Are you out of your ever-loving mind? Those words are closer to the actual ones that bolted through my brain when Mary asked me if I wanted to try out a new exercise activity with her.

“I found a free ten-day pass for a place in Keller. Ten days, all the sessions you want…for free!” She dangled the free part in front of me, knowing that I enjoy a chance to save money when I can.

What Mary didn’t understand was that I’m not so much into the physical exercise part of the equation. She’s spent most of the past year or so that we’ve worked together participating in several different exercise regimes. 5K walks – I can’t count how many she and her husband have finished. The numbers a lot larger than the two that I’ve done in my entire life. Camp Gladiator is another one that she’s done for some time – exercising in different parking lots with groups of people, using weights and balls, and all sorts of nefarious torture devices.

Nope. Not for me. I’m more of a yoga gal. Quiet. Serene. Slow movements. Soft, mellow music drifting through the background. Sweet and spicy incense wafting through the air. Peace and zen. That’s me. That’s my kind of physical exercise.

Not punching, kicking, aggressive fighting movements. Hard hitting rock and roll reverberating throughout the room. Sweat pouring down my face. Heart pounding. The smacks of gloves hitting punching bags echoing about the room.

Never in a million years did that image even tempt me. You probably couldn’t have even paid me to give kickboxing a try.

But, Mary dangled ‘free’ in front of me, and I grabbed for the bait. Besides, it was spending time with a friend. I decided to humor her. After all, what did I have to lose, besides a few hours of my time? And it was only 30-minute workouts each visit. That made it easy to schedule into a full week. I’d try it out. I’d go with her a few times and after the ten days were up, if I didn’t like it, I never had to try it again.

Imagine my surprise when I fell in love with kickboxing. On the first visit even.

Now to be honest, I didn’t embrace this new activity while I was there. We met at 9Round Keller, where there’s nine stations set up and we all rotate between the stations – only three minutes at each one.

Piece of cake.

Ha!

Some of those three minute segments were the longest and hardest three minutes I’d endured since…well, since I don’t know when. My heart pounded so hard on some of the stations I thought it would burst through my chest. Jump roping? For three minutes? I discovered it wasn’t possible. I made it about a minute before I had to stop and gather my breath. I found out that jump roping isn’t as easy when you’re not a ten-year old girl with boundless energy and enthusiasm. Things had changed in the past fifty years.

By the time we left, I barely dragged myself through the door. I probably would have tried to strangle poor Mary. Except I couldn’t muster up the energy or the gumption to move my arms towards her throat. Getting my feet out the door and moving in the direction of the car was the sole goal in my mind.

Mary offered to buy me something to drink at Starbucks. I think it was a consolation prize for going through with the horrendous torment of the past thirty minutes. I followed her down the street and enjoyed sitting – just sitting, no activity required, while enjoying an icy concoction with green tea and fresh berries. An hour later as we went to leave, I learned that it was even harder to move my legs. That three minute session with the squats involved? I would relive that painful experience in so many ways over the next three days. I found out later that night that bending to clean cat boxes has never caused such agony. I almost joked with Mary about having her carry me out to my car. But, I was having trouble being humorous about this whole kickboxing thing.

And then, on the drive home, about half way between the Starbucks and my house, I realized that I felt good. Tired, yes. Sore, exquisitely so. But despite the painful parts of the afternoon – I felt marvelous.

By the time I got home, I’d already decided. I’m continuing this.

Three days later I joined Mary and two of her other friends for another morning at my new favorite place. Thank goodness they switch up the activities of each station every day. I still had to struggle with the jump roping part, but at least the dreaded squats weren’t on the itinerary for the day. Again, by the time I got home I was marveling about how good I felt. I felt better than I had for months. Usually, getting home after a long day I have to sit and close my eyes for about thirty minutes. That night I was rocking around the house. I was in motion and getting things done. By bedtime I was still zooming around.

Another session the next morning kept me fired up.

I remember a while back, my sister and I were talking about exercise. I told her that I didn’t need to exercise. I’m on my feet all day at work. My work days, depending on what season we’re in run from five to ten hour days. All on my feet. All moving. Never still. “That’s not cardio,” my sister replied. “That doesn’t get your heart rate up.”

Well, darn. Don’t you hate it when you have to admit that your younger sister was right about something? Obviously she was and I was lacking in the cardio department. Even more obviously, it was something my body needs.

The free ten day pass is over. Now I’m in the wait-three-more-days-before-payday mode so I can go join. We’re past the free point. Now a little cash is involved for me to continue with my unexpected new obsession. But this one I can easily justify. Seeing how much better I felt after only a few sessions, I know that this is best for my health. I figure that I can either shell out a few dollars now, for kickboxing…or I can pay it out later – in much larger amounts, to doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies. The choice is mine and I’ll pick paying now rather than supplementing a doctor’s Porsche payment later on down the road.

And the best part? It’s not an either or. I don’t have to lose being a Yoga gal to participate with this more active routine. I can do both. Two sessions of kickboxing a week, with a day of the peace and zen of yoga. Then my heart, circulation, and body is happy, and my emotions and spirit are blissful too. It’s the best of both worlds. I’ll be the healthiest, most zenful 60-year old bopping around this town.

Now, just to remember which hand is jab and which hand is cross.

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The ‘R’ Word

The ‘R’ Word

An excerpt from Embracing 60, releasing Fall 2018

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We were about four hours into our long-overdue lunch get-together when I noticed an odd occurrence. “Oh my goodness! Do you realize that in our thirty-plus year’s friendship, this is the first time ‘retirement’ has entered our conversation?”

To be fair, between two retail work schedules and family commitments, Bev and I don’t get together very often. It’s not uncommon for two years to pass before we can find all the stars aligned to give us a free afternoon to spend together and catch up.

Actually, it’s a miracle that we can even meet up for lunch as seldom as we do, considering the thousands of miles that could be between us. Bev’s an old friend from California. Okay – she’s not an ‘old’ friend. Two years younger than me, she’s technically a ‘younger’ friend. But since I’ve known her for over half of my life, let’s call her a ‘long-time’ friend, then.

I met Bev back in my much younger days, at the young whipper-snapper age of about twenty-four. I attended a small neighborhood church and Bev was the pastor’s daughter-in-law. She and Nick had a little girl first, Lynette. When I followed a year or so later with a little boy, Christopher, Bev filled me in on all the parenting snafus I’d run up against.

I still remember as we chatted one Sunday morning and I bemoaned the terrible-two’s that Christopher was just starting. “Just wait,” she warned me. “The three’s are even worse.”

She was right.

She and Nick added another little girl to their family, Danielle, and I added another little boy, Justin. After Justin was born, I went back to college two days a week. Chris went to preschool, but Justin was too young for day care so Bev watched him those two days. We couldn’t count how the number of times that Bev and I got together in southern California to commiserate with each other.

And now…our grandchildren are older than our kids were when we’d get together for some ‘Mommy friend time’ and let the four kids play together.

In 1993, Bev and Nick changed up the equation and added another little boy to their family. When Curtis was about six months old, they departed from The Golden State and moved to the Lone Star State. For many years, between working and raising families, occasional Christmas cards and birthday cards were our only communication.

Then in 2008, a new relationship moved me to Texas also. Now I don’t live very far from Fort Worth. I’m far enough away that it’s not that easy to get together, but its close enough that it’s not impossible.

Now, when we do manage to fit in an afternoon of lunch and wandering the shops, we don’t discuss potty training, or breaking up sibling disagreements. We don’t talk about fighting with children about getting homework done or cleaning their rooms. Now our children are in the midst of those struggles. Bev and I share stories about the grandkids. (And maybe chuckle a little at the paybacks our children are getting now.) We wander the shops and slather our arms with various scented lotions. We find goodies to drop in our basket – usually more things for our grandkids, sisters, or mothers than for ourselves. We chatter mile-a-minute, stepping right back into our friendship as if we’d never had any lapses.

But today was the first time that retirement entered our conversation. More than once. Not that we’re quite there yet. But we’re close enough that’s we see it approaching on the horizon. And, we’re both realizing that we’re not prepared for it yet. (Can we have another 20 years, please, pretty please?) We talk of insurance and whether Medicare will still be around when we reach that point in the next five to seven years. We touch on arthritis and how diet affects it, and my friend Connie who had bilateral knee replacements this past year. And this subtle, yet there, shift in our topics seems a little odd.

Would I step back in time thirty years to when we were getting to know each other and muddling through the years of young motherhood? Those years when we felt like we’d set adrift with our only compass being the friends we had that were in the same place in life? Not a chance.

It’s the cycle of life. We slowly slide into the next spot, the one our mothers before us filled, and our grandmothers before them. Although we’re further along the road on this journey than we were thirty years ago, we still have moments of joy and elation, and find there are still a few potholes that threaten to momentarily derail us. But I determined that as long as I can traipse through this journey wearing a necklace composed of the jewels of good and treasured friends, all is good. Even on those days when the unexpected ‘R’ word enters our conversations and catches us by surprise.

 

 

Rambling to a Tee #SOCS

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Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “T, tea, tee.” Theme your post around “tea” or “tee,” or find a word that starts with “T” and talk about that. Bonus points if you manage to incorporate all three. Enjoy!

(Stream of Consciousness Saturday writing is just writing – little to no planning, and no editing – so, please excuse an glaring grammatical errors or other nonsense in today’s post.)

 

A nice cup of terrific tea suits me to a tee. There. All done. Can I have my bonus points now? Do we get even more bonus points if we use all three in the same sentence?

Let’s just get this part out of the way and get to writing – because I have no idea where I’d even want to go with these prompts. I know its stream of consciousness writing and we’re supposed to do this with minimal planning. But still, it seems like I should have some sort of idea of even a vague destination.

I’ve got nada.

I really shouldn’t even be doing this particular post. My list of all the things I need to complete this weekend far exceeds what I’ll probably end up getting done. My weekly newsletter – that’s not too bad. It doesn’t take much time. The workbook I need to complete for a four week class that starts Tuesday…well, that’s the top priority, but it seems I’ve hit a wall of resistance with this one. I don’t even know why. The class was my idea. I proposed it and a library accepted it. Why should I be resisting one of my own ideas? Then there’s the Good Old Days submission I’m working on. The deadline is here and I’ve only got the story roughly started. I have three Chicken Soup for the Soul pieces I’m working on. I’m determined to get another acceptance from them. This goal is turning out to be more challenging. I think I’ve sent them nine or ten (possibly more??) submissions in the past two years and am hearing crickets.

What else is on the list?

Oh yes. I need to be working on a handout for a library presentation that’s coming up in two weeks. I have a week to add to a short story that I want to take to my writer’s group for critique. I need to set up a sale on my web page for an offer that another author and I are working on. And…

Yet, here I am writing this. But I haven’t participated with Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday for too long and that’s something I was enjoying. (Along with her One-Liner Wednesday which I missed the last week or two too.)

Why do I do this?

Do you do it too? Take on too many commitments? Load up your schedule with more tasks than you can humanly complete? Do we think we’re Wonder Woman (or Super Man) and can accomplish it all?

writing-923882__340I sense a larger problem here. Is it procrastination? Trying to keep from being bored? Trying to make up for lost time, thinking I can magically achieve ‘it all’ now? Is it turning 60 and realizing that I’m far, far from where I wanted to be at this age? I think I need to dig deeper on this one – some meditation and journaling seems in order. But…two more items to add to the daily list.

Oh my, I feel like I’m spinning in circles and not accomplishing any purpose here. See what happens when there’s no plan and no structure? This wandering missive is nothing I’d take to my writer’s group – that’s for sure! (Plus they’d be sure to point out the many clichés used today!)

So I think I’ll wrap up this babbling, incoherent post – go make myself a cup of tea, toast myself for crossing one item off of Saturday’s to-do list, and celebrate that despite the deadlines and the list that is never complete, a writing life suits me to a tee.

Do I get extra brownie points for using the prompts twice? Even if they don’t really relate to the post? And…can I spend these points anywhere? Can I cash them in for a really cool prize? (But hey, even if the bonus points aren’t redeemable, I just added 700 words to my monthly word count, and that’s a prize in itself. Right?)

Banishing the Curmudgeon

Banishing the Curmudgeon

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A small boy that lives down the street did something tonight that vats of lotion and vials of extra-potency vitamins haven’t been able to do. He banished a curmudgeon. One minute it was there, residing inside my body. The next…*POOF*…vanished!

Today had been a long day. It was only an eight hour work day, but I had to drive to three different stores to get those hours – on a day that hit 104°. At home I discovered that I’d forgotten to take anything out of the freezer for dinner and I simply didn’t feel like messing with anything in the kitchen anyway. So my better half (probably in the interest of their own safety!) offered to have something delivered.

That was a wonderful solution. Except, we’ve been having internet connection problems since a storm had rolled through north Texas a week ago. It’s almost been like the old dial-up days, when and if we were graced with being able to get a connection. After almost 30 minutes of in-and-out service, trying to see different restaurant menu options that we could have delivered, we finally decided that I’d just drive to Taco Bell a mile away and get it.

I finally left the house, at almost 8 p.m. and on top of being tired and cranky – now I was hungry, too.

I got in the car and saw that a slew of neighborhood children were riding bicycles up and down the street. In a pack from side to side. The youngest, who looked to be about five-years old, was quite a bit on the wobbly side.

Grumbling to myself, I backed out slowly and very carefully. By now the little hoodlums were about two houses down. They’re really not hoodlums. They’re all too young for that. It’s just that I was feeling old and crotchety at the moment. I’ve only just turned sixty a month ago, but I felt like I was the old codger at the end of the block, out in the front yard waving their cane at all the boisterous neighborhood children.

Down the street I drove, about ten miles per hour, if that. I drove exceptionally slowly so that if any of them fell, or decided to dash across in front of me, I’d be able to stop.

Yep. I was feeling old right. And, did I mention the cranky part?

All the children were on bicycles except one. One little barefoot boy, probably six or seven years old, took off running along the side of the street, as if he was racing me. At the slow pace I drove, he just about beat me. It was neck and neck. He raced along and I poked along (still worried about him making a sudden jog in front of me).

He sped along as fast as his little legs could go for about the length of two houses. Then suddenly he stopped, looked up, threw me the sweetest grin, and waved.

Poof. The elderly, cranky old lady who had been inhabiting my body vanished in an instant. A grin and a wave from a sweet, innocent child that I don’t even know removed about fifty years from my life and I was suddenly a carefree ten-year-old racing a friend down the street.

All those creams and lotions that tote their claims about removing years? All those extra-strength, high potency vitamins that promise youth and vitality? They’re all worthless. I discovered that none of them work as well as one young grin.

I’m looking forward to another race tomorrow. You can tell by the grin on my own face, even if it’s lined with a few more wrinkles than my young friend’s face is.

C’Mon Guys…I’m a 60-year old Woman

C’Mon Guys…I’m a 60-year old Woman

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Huff and puff, huff and puff. Pant – pant – pant. Sweat. Wipe brow. Huff and puff some more.

In case you couldn’t tell – that’s me mowing the yard.

I haven’t been in charge of the lawns until last spring. I was the one in charge of flower bed, gardens, and the ‘pretty’ garden work. I didn’t mow. Until the mowing rider went out three years ago. Getting a way to get the mower in to the repair shop just wasn’t working, so two years ago we paid a lawn service to mow the front yard every other week when they were mowing our neighbor’s yard. The price was right. Since they were already here, they only charged us $20. Overall, since we only need to mow about six months of the year, it was just over $200. And they did a magnificent job. They flew in with their fancy equipment, mowed and weed edged and were done in about 15 minutes. If they lagged.

But, the back yard was a disaster with almost waist high grass all summer.

Last spring, I decided to change the yard maintenance process. I’d picked up a few extra store hours and was going to have a slightly larger check. So I decided to use the extra funds and buy an inexpensive push mower. For a little less than we’d paid the lawn mowing company the year before, I could mow all year – front and back.

And, I’d benefit from a little extra cardio-workout. All without having to pay for a gym membership.

Did I mention we have a half acre?

Adding in this extra task wasn’t bad. The first time out it took me two mornings and over four hours of mowing because the young spring grass had leaped almost overnight to calf high growth. But once it was cut down, it was easy to maintain. One morning I’ll cut the front, which usually takes a little over an hour. The next morning I’ll cut the back, which takes a bit longer, about an hour and a half. I get a good workout at least four days a month and am excited about feeling physically healthy and stronger from this new way to commune with nature.

This spring, going into the second year of use from the new push mower, the front yard portion of my mowing changed a little bit. We now have two new renters on each side of us. And even though two men, younger than myself, are mowing, they seem to have a difficult time telling where the property line is between our properties.

I first noticed it on the property to the west of us. He’d mowed first, but left a swath about a foot and a half wide on his side of the grass unmowed. No big deal. I just made two or three extra passes with the mower and got his portion of the unmowed grass done with ours.

Two weeks later – the same thing.

Next time too. This gentleman really doesn’t seem to pay very close attention to where our two back fences divide the property.

Then the summer heat hit.

On these days where the Texas heat is easily into the 90’s and often hits the 100-degree mark, I definitely don’t mow in the afternoon. I save it for a morning I’m home during the week, or for the weekend. And now it takes a little longer, because I have to break the task into two. I’ll mow half and by then I’m huffing and puffing so hard – yes, the cardio part of the activity is definitely working – so for my own health and safety, I stop and take a break. I’ll down some water, sit in the shade and let the heart rate calm down a tad. As much as I enjoy it, I don’t intend on stroking out in the process either.

A week after my 60th birthday, I went out to mow the front. The house on the west mowed about two feet short of the property line — again. And now the house on the east had joined in. They were easily three feet – if not four – short of coming up to where the property line was.

It’s hot. Even in the morning. I’m barely going to be able to get my own portion of the yard done. And these two younger men – both with riding mowers to boot – are expecting me to mow wider and catch what they didn’t?

I stood out in the front ranting to myself. C’Mon guys! What in the world are you thinking? You’re both younger. You both have riding mowers. And you’re expecting me – a SIXTY-YEAR OLD woman to cut some of your grass too? Really?

And then I burst into laughter myself. Because I realized that as much as I have been dreading turning this un-magical number 60, as soon as I needed to pull out the ‘60-years old card’ for my benefit, I sure did!

So you know what I did?

I mowed our portion of lawn. I left the unmowed patches on their portion of lawns uncut.

And you know what?

It worked.

The next time they cut their grass up to the property lines. I don’t know if it was because they’d realized they’d been slacking, or if they’d caught a glimpse of a slightly hysterical slightly older woman out front laughing uncontrollably.

Maybe this getting older isn’t so bad after all.

I’m learning to find more humor in my own actions and reactions. I’m learning to see benefits in the inevitable ageing process. And I’m also learning that sometimes we need to set boundaries with others – which is beneficial in itself – no matter the age.

Grandma Jones’ Kitchen

Vintage Daze

Two weeks ago I visited my dad in northwest Arkansas for a late Father’s Day celebration. My sister was there too and we had the chance to spend a day and drive around the Harrison/Bergman/Myrtle area in search of family history. We wanted to see the train trestle that Papa Goss, our great-grandfather, helped build in the 1930’s. Although we didn’t know enough of the area that we could get close to the Bergman area where Grandma Jones grew up (and Papa had his still in the holler), we still felt close to her as we drove the hills that she was born in a hundred years ago.

IMG_2241[1]We stopped at York Cemetery where great-grandma Goss (Mary Iona Logan Goss) is buried, alongside Grandma’s little brother (Thomas Claude) that died a week before his first birthday, before Grandma Jones was born. According to the family tales, everyone was out working…

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One Liner Wednesday

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Sharing a thought for One Liner Wednesday:

positive thoughtIt’s fun and easy to participate with One Liner Wednesday. Check out how here.

Adding Joy #MLSTL

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At the beginning of 2018 I wrote these words about choosing three words for 2018 – Authentic, Action, and Joyful.

As I sat scrolling through my emails, I read an email about a lady that switched from choosing one word to focus on in the new year – to three words, as recommended by Chris Brogan.

What a great idea! For several years I’ve read of people choosing one word. But with my Gemini spirit trying to travel in a multitude of directions, choosing just one never seemed to quite fit what my goals were for the year. If many different writing and career goals weren’t enough, when you add in the additional layers of mind-body-spirit that I’d like to improve, I never found one word to do the whole job.

I like the three word idea. The three words I’m choosing on for 2018 are ‘Authentic‘, ‘Action‘, and ‘Joyful.’ These three words will encompass my goals for the year, both in business and in my personal life.

Here we are starting July and the year is half way over. Each day I see these three words that are on a Post-It note on my monitor. Yet…I don’t really ‘see’ these word each day. Do you have the same problem – once something is in a place for a bit, you never really see it? Oh, a few times a week I notice it, but usually it become invisible for most of the time I spend in front of the computer screen.

As we’re halfway through the year, I ponder about how well I’ve incorporated these three words into my life so far in 2018. I’m happy with authentic. I think that a majority of my decisions and actions have been authentic with the true person I am. I’m happy with action. I’ve made some huge strides this year towards the goals I’ve set for myself. Joyful? Now on that one I’m not as pleased with my progress. The past two month especially, have been crazy and frantic as I’ve made steps towards where I want to be in life with this turning of the meter going to 60. Yet joyful has been painfully absent from too many of my days.

Luckily there’s still half a year ahead of us. Now I need to make a conscious effort to incorporate more joy into every day.

Have you ever had a ‘word of the year?’ Were you able to consistently incorporate it into you daily life? What was the words you’ve chosen?

Wise Words for One Liner Wedneday

As it’s been a busy work week, and I can’t think of any cute or humorous ‘one-line’ incidents to share with you, I’m going with my easy out and sharing one line of a thought that’s inspirational to me.

For One-Liner Wednesday…

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One-Liner Wednesday is a regular feature on Linda G. Hill’s page. It’s easy to participate and the rules are few. Check it out here.

The Son of My Heart – Excerpt from Mothers of Angels

“…people die twice: when they physically die,
and when we stop telling stories about them.”

Carol LaChapelle, from Finding Your Voice Telling Your Stories

This has been a favorite quote of mine for many years. I used to think of it as I’d write my ancestors stories, feeling a satisfaction that I was keeping their memories alive. But the people we want to keep alive in this one small way aren’t always our ancestors. Sometimes they’re our children.

In Mothers of Angels, due to be released at the end of the month, over twenty authors gather in a collaborated effort to pay tribute to children that have gone from this earthly plane far too soon. Some were children that never drew breath, or lived long enough to learn what sandy soil feels like beneath a bare foot. Others brightened their family’s lives – yet were taken when they were still learning to live the life of a growing child, never getting the chance to become an adult, to drive, to vote, to get a job and earn a living. Other tales are shared of children that became adults – in the turning-18, legal sense – yet, they too never had the chance to show the world what they could become. Our babies, no matter their age, no matter if they had children of their own, are still are babies. They aren’t supposed to die before we do.

Despite the pain we feel as parents that lost our angels too soon, despite the difficult journey we travel as we learn to live and love again, beauty remains from the short lives of our angels. We remember their smiles, their cheerfulness, and their sweet spirits. They left tracks on our hearts. They leave the world with lessons and a legacy.

As parents, we learn to live with a new normal. Our lives will never be the same. We all grieve differently. The circumstances of each child’s death are all different. Tips and advice for newly grieving parents are included in this book, along with resources for further help and consolation.

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Through the month of May, you can get your copy of Mothers of Angels at a special pre-publication price of $9.99 (regularly priced $15.99) or get a PDF for $4.99 the week of May 28th, before the book is available on Amazon.

Here is an excerpt from Mothers of Angels, The Son of My Heart.

 

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In Memory of
Mark Aland Gloyd
November 25, 1981 – December 28, 2004

The Son of My Heart

By Trisha Faye

The beginning of the end is so vivid in my memory. The rest of the journey as we watched Mark’s young life trail to a close isn’t near as clear – most likely because I’ve semi-blocked out the painful months that followed.

Mark became my son the easy way. I didn’t birth him. I didn’t potty train him. I didn’t teach him how to tie his shoes. When I met Mark, he was 16 years old and already driving. Another plus. I didn’t have to navigate the treacherous waters of being a parent of a just learning driver!

This third son of mine was just older than my two boys. One of my favorite pictures is Mark starting to back out of the driveway on the first day of school. Chris, was a freshman that year and Mark drove them both to the high school. Justin was still in junior high and had to suffer by walking the few blocks to the junior high. In the picture, Chris throws up his hands in mock embarrassment – Oh no! Mom’s taking another picture. Meanwhile, Mark, enjoying his role of chauffeur was grinning from ear to ear.

Thus began the journey of Mark blending right into this family of sorts. Older than my boys for a few years, with his youthful zest for life and his spirit, he and the boys soon bonded into my trio of offspring. He and Chris being closer in age were especially close, while Justin was closer in age to Mark’s sisters.

Mark was his dad’s Mini-Me. Those two were so close. I remember back and it’s just like yesterday when he’d amble into the house, harassing his dad – most often on purpose, just to see if he could get a rise out of Dennis. Mark was a Police Explorer for many years and loved every moment of it. His favorite show was COPS and Walker: Texas Ranger. I couldn’t begin to count the hours that he and his dad sat on the sofa watching every episode they could. All I need to hear is a few bars and ‘bad boys…bad boys…what’cha gonna do?’ comes hurling through my mind, taking me back to the years before the horror.

The beginning of the end. Chris had graduated by this time and moved in with his dad, Greg; the two working together as electricians. They took Mark on, who basked in his new role of learning the electrical trade. With the early mornings required at construction sites, Mark often spent most of the week there to avoid the hour-long drive up and down the hill to his grandparents.

In August 2005, Mark got sick. He was so sick he couldn’t work and couldn’t even drive to come visit his dad and I. His dad, Chris and Greg all urged Mark to go to the doctor. Stubborn kid. He wouldn’t go. After a few more days, Greg called me. “Mark needs to get to a doctor.”

I called Mark’s cell phone. “Your dad and I are coming to pick you up. We’re taking you to Urgent Care.”

He couldn’t argue with me. Sick boys can’t argue with their mama’s – even if we’re not the one that gave birth to them. We carted him to Urgent Care where the diagnosis was a kidney infection, potentially more serious because he only had one kidney. The doctor prescribed medication and he had to go to his primary doctor the next day. The primary doctor gave him another prescription and then wanted some lab work done after 4-5 days

Since we lived a block from the hospital, the night before Mark’s blood work, he spent the night with us. That early evening Dennis and I were sitting on the front porch chatting while Mark showered. I heard the screen door open and looked up to see a bare-chested young man standing there in his boxer shorts.

“Is one leg bigger than the other?” he asked.

I swiveled my head and about fell off my chair. His left leg looked like a telephone pole.

Instead of the routine blood work, Mark ended up at the hospital having a battery of tests done. It turned out that he had a large tumor in his left, upper thigh. The mass had put pressure on a vein, which formed a “rather large” blood clot, which caused the swelling. They inserted a filter for the blood clot and started blood thinners. Less than 24-hours later we got the devastating news that the tumor was malignant and the lives of three families changed in an instant.

Cancer is not a death sentence anymore. Many people survive and thrive and live to an old age after a cancer diagnosis. And many don’t. Mark was one of the statistics. In August he was a young man. By Christmas of that year, the family was taking turns spending time with him in the hospital, knowing he wouldn’t make it to the approaching New Year. Just barely after midnight on December 27th, Mark’s mom, his dad, and I sat around him holding his hands until his struggle was over, a month after his 23rd birthday. He fought for four months. The longest months – and the shortest months – of our lives.

Fortunately for us, we had the best support possible. My friend Becky, lost her precious Sarah at the young age of 24 just three years earlier. She and Herlin were amazing. They knew what to do. They knew what to say. They knew what not to say. Immediate family and other close friends were also terrific. I don’t know how people without an emotional support system get through trauma like this by themselves.

But yet, even with all the pain, tears, and grief, there were still a few who didn’t understand. “But he’s not your real son,” I heard more than once. A year later I refused to go to the work Christmas party, because the one year anniversary, marked by a major holiday, was just as painful as if we were experiencing this loss and death for the first time. And there were those few who still didn’t get it. I’d like to be mean and think ‘Wait until it happens to you. Then you’ll understand.’ But I can’t. I couldn’t wish this on anyone.

It was many years before I could find joy in Christmas again. Chris got a tattoo on his arm honoring Mark. After all his years of being the big brother, he finally got a big brother – and then he lost him.

In 2012, a friend went through her files of emails that she’d kept. She painstakingly cut her email address out the copies and returned the emails to her friends. In the stack she gave to me, I found a few emails that I’d sent her in 2004 as we were traveling this rocky path with Mark. It was interesting to see a lot of the details that I’d pushed out of my mind.

On December 22, 2004, I’d updated her on what was happening. I won’t share it all here. But on December 3rd, he’d finished another round of chemo. On December 8th, things took a turn for the worse. Back to the hospital we went. Another surgery. More transfusions. Then to isolation. Then to ICU.

With all this going on, we still had four other children to think of, my two sons and Dennis’ two daughters. They were devastated too, but as parents, you still try to make things ‘normal.’ At the end of the email I closed with:

“We did get a tree Monday afternoon, although it’s still sitting there undecorated. There are packages wrapped, but no holiday decorations other than my string of Christmas cards draped across the wall. It appears to be Christmas, and the calendar pages say that it will be here in three more days…but it just doesn’t seem to be Christmas. Regardless of all the “STUFF” (and you know I really meant another word) that we’re going through over here, we are thinking of you all and wishing you all the best. Thank you for your support over the past few months and we appreciate all those that have kept us in your prayers. It really has helped to have so many shoulders through all this.”

Life does go on, whether we want it to or not. At first, you don’t see how it’s possible. I remember the morning after my brother died at age 35. I remember waking up and seeing the sunshine and thinking, ‘How dare it! How dare the sun continues to shine on a day like today?’ But it does. And we go on. One step in front of the other. And now, it’s been 14 years since Mark’s soul left his earthly body.

Yet all it takes is one song, one television program, a COPS show, an unexpected rerun of Walker: Texas Ranger. I remember the passing gas and bathroom jokes he used to make in typical boyhood fashion. Or I hear a Fleetwood Mac song and remember the day when Mark walked in the house (early 2000-something) so excited about this ‘new’ band he’d just heard…and there I am – sent right back in time to the days before the unthinkable happened.

I lost my son. I didn’t carry him in my belly for nine months. I didn’t watch him learn to toddle around. I wasn’t there for his first day of kindergarten. But he was still my son, my third son that I got the easy way. He stole my heart and will have a piece of it for the rest of my life. Until I see you again one day, (singing along) you ‘bad boy…bad boy…’

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