Saturday, December 30, 2006

Bigger Than a Bread Box

When my parents decided to divorce in March of my sophomore year in high school, I was angry and sad. Everything I was taught about love, marriage and the family unit seemed to be a lie. My two older sister were already in college so I felt very alone. I was angry my parents didn't wait until I left for college to divorce. When I found out my father was having an affair, I was angry with men. When my Dad took me to see his new apartment, I let the flood gates open. My anger was unleashed and my Dad couldn't stop my hateful spewing. He ended up getting out of the car until I calmed down.

Nothing prepared me for the emotions I would feel in May when my Mom casually mentioned she was going to bring a friend home after work. I thought it was going to be a girlfriend from her dental office; Connie, Janet or Bea. When a Mustang 5.0, green convertible pulled up in our driveway, I thought one of my friends got a hot car. Some old guy gets out and my Mom prances to the door. She introduces me to her new friend, "This is Bob". I was shocked. It was only two months since my Dad had moved out and my Mom was already on the rebound. My parents were players!

Bob only stayed for a drink that evening. When he walked into the living room, he must of sensed which chair was my Dad's because he didn't sit in his throne. I guess it was pretty obvious. Dad had a huge recliner, right next to the stereo and fireplace. I never once saw Bob sit in Dad's chair. I didn't pay much attention to him that night because I thought he was just a passing fling. I thought my Mom had temporarily lost her mind from the stress of the divorce.

Mom started going out "with friends" more and more on the weekends. Which really didn't bother me because it gave me more free time to get into trouble. Several Friday nights she'd call me and say she was going to spend the night with the office girls. One time I asked her who? Which office friend? She said, "Bea". I said, "Yeah, B as in B-O-B spells Bob!" She 'fessed up and came clean. I guess after that, she felt like it time for me to have a relationship with him.

My sister Val finally came home from college for the summer. At least I had someone who understood what I was going through. When she got home, she was able to see how differently Mom was acting. She'd lost a bunch of weight, she was on the phone all the time and she bought new clothes, even a pair of jeans! Because Mom is short, she decided to roll up her jeans. Like in thick, Huckle Berry Finn, I'm walking through the creek cuffs. I tried to tell her it wasn't cool but she was in her new love lala land.

I felt like she was a hypocrite when she was talking on the phone for hours every night she didn't see Bob. She would get so mad at me for wasting time talking to my friends on the phone. Sometimes, I'd hear her giggling like a school girl. I decided to eavesdrop on her conversations. If I picked up the phone just right, hit speaker and mute at the same time, she never knew I was listening. When Val came home, I showed her my trick. We were sitting in the basement, listening to the love birds chattering. They'd sometimes talk in baby voices. Bob says in a baby Bob voice, "I got you a little present." My Mom asks in her best two year old voice, "Is is bigger than a bread box?" I couldn't contain myself. I look at Val and imitate Mom, "What the fuck? Is it bigger than a bread box? What the hell is a bread box?" My mistake. "Michelle, are you on the phone, listening? Hang up and get up here right now." When I put it on speaker, I had forgot to hit mute too. I got busted.

They decided to take Val and I to play tennis and have lunch one summer Saturday. We were going to play doubles, me and Val vs. Mom and Bob. We were determined to kick lover boy's booty. They made a point and did a happy dance together and kissed. I let it go. The next point they made, the same thing. Over and over again. It was like tennis court make out. Val warned them, "Okay, Mom! Can you guys do that in private? We are trying to play a game here!" The next time they were sucking face on the court Val decided to serve and beamed Bob right in the back. I fell down on the clay and about pissed my pants. Game over.

Val had to return to college and finish her senior year. Once a week, I had to go to dinner with them. Bob always had to drive us around in his pimpin' Mustang convertible. Once, after dinner, we were sitting at a stop light and they are kissing right in front of me. Obviously, Bob was enjoying it a little too much and let his foot slip off the clutch. We rolled forward and bumped the car in front of us. There was no damage done to his beloved Mustang but I was quick to point out he needed to be paying attention to driving, not making out with Mom. He could of killed us for Godsakes!

How I dreaded riding in that car during nice weather. He'd have the top down and I was always stuck in the back. Mom thought she was Marilyn Monroe with a silk scarf wrapped around her head. The first time I sat in the back with the top down, my hair was loose. It took me almost a half hour to get the tangles out of my hair after that ride. I had to braid my hair every time I was made to ride in his hot rod car. I was Pippi Longstockings and they thought they were Bogey and Bacall.

They were happy though, it's probably the happiest I have ever seen Mom in my life. I think the public display of affections bothered me so much because I never once saw my parents hug or kiss. I ended up leaving my Mom and moving to NC with my Dad and his girlfriend the winter of my junior year. I was probably being spiteful, I felt hurt because it seemed that Bob was the most important thing in my Mom's world. Little did I know, I was jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

My life with my Dad and his girlfriend was worse than watching Mom and Bob make out. One hundred times worse because my Dad and his girlfriend fought a lot. The beginning of my senior year, I was diagnosed with lymphoma. I needed my Mom more then ever but I had strained our relationship. Bob drove her down several times during my treatment to be with me. Our relationship started to heal and I came to love and respect Bob too.

My Mom decided to move down to NC when she retired. She and Bob bought a house on a golf course only 40 minutes away from me. Don and I spent time with them playing golf, shopping and going to dinner. Only a year after they moved here to retire, Bob was diagnosed with lung cancer. It seemed so unfair, Bob had worked hard for 68 years and was just beginning to enjoy his retirement with Mom.

Bob's prognosis wasn't good. Cancer had invaded his lungs and bones. He started chemo and lost his thick head of hair. My Mom had always loved his hair. After chemo, they did another CT scan and it wasn't working. The cancer had spread to his brain. He tried radiation but the tumors just kept growing. Finally, his oncologist told him they couldn't do anymore. I think that is the worse news for anyone to hear. You are beyond help.

I think when Bob heard that news, he gave up. He slowly stopped eating. He went from a sandwich and soup to just soup, then to only crackers and eventually he would eat nothing. I saw him wasting away before my eyes. Hospice was called in and everyday a nurse would come to check up on him. Nobody could get him to eat. Looking back, I think Bob refused to let cancer kill him. He wanted to have some sort of control so he starved himself. It wasn't easy to watch a healthy 190 pound man to waste away to 100 pounds to skin and bones. I never would force him to eat, I'd offer him food like apple sauce or popsicles but I wouldn't fight with him. I respected his choice and tried to give him the dignity he deserved.

My Mom kind of turned into a zombie. She was in auto pilot, going through the days but not really living and feeling. I don't remember her crying. The two most difficult days I remember is when they brought the hospital bed in and when we had to put Bob in diapers. The day they brought the hospital bed in Mom and I decided it should be in the sun room. It was a bright and cheery place that we could all sit with him in and keep him company. We got it set up and I bought some new sheets for it that said, "Happy Camper". We went into the bedroom and helped Bob walk into the sun room. It was a hard, slow walk because the cancer was in his bones and every step was painful. When he saw the bed, I saw defeat in his eyes. My heart ached. I still think the bed was the best decision because he wasn't so alone in the bedroom all the time.

When it came to the point that we had to put Bob into diapers, it was heartbreaking just to change them. To move his body would cause him such pain he would cry out in loud moans. There where times I though about overdosing him with morphine. He had liquid morphine we'd drop into his mouth every few hours. My Mom was falling apart watching the man she loved so much die a slow and painful death. I think we treat our pets better. When they are dying, we take them to the vet to be euthanized. I felt so helpless. I knew this was a no win situation.

My oldest sister came one weekend to be with Mom and Bob. We were all in the sun room with him and I noticed his fingertips were dark. I looked at his toes and knees and they were almost blue. I knew his time was near. Bob had stopped talking almost two weeks prior. The last thing he said to me was, "I love you, Sugar." He had always called me Sugar. I told my Mom and sister I didn't think he had much longer. I held his hand and was finally able to cry. I cried and told him how proud I was that he was so strong, he had fought so very hard but it was okay to go now. I told him Mom would be okay, I would take good care of her, he wasn't to worry. When I looked up, I saw tears streaming down his cheeks. Even though he couldn't talk, he could still hear me. And finally, I said, "Sugar loves you and always will." He died about thirty minutes later. We were there holding and loving him as he took his last breath.

Even though my Mom went through a horrible loss, I am thankful she got to experience true love. There will never be another "B" as is B-O-B, Bob.


At 2:42 PM, Blogger Laurie said...

Thank you for sharing such a moving story.

My mother recently lost her significant other. He had a heart attack. But he has cancer previously and she was always afraid it would recur. She thought that in time she would be in the same situation as your mother, watching her loved one slowly die. I am somewhat thankful that she did not have to watch him suffer through that. His death was sudden and painful but it could have been much worse.

You are a natural storyteller. Thank you for sharing a little bit of you.

At 4:18 PM, Blogger 21st Century Mom said...

That is such a sweet story. Bittersweet but sweet.

I went through that same experience with my Mom (not the BOB part, just the dying of cancer part) and was so grateful for the hospice people who told us to just let her stop eating if that's what she wanted to do.

I'm so glad you got to touch Bob's heart before he died. What a comfort that must have been to him as well as to you and your Mom.

At 4:35 PM, Blogger nancytoby said...

What a sweet story! Damn, you made me cry.

You're a wonderful writer!!

At 5:35 AM, Blogger Julia said...

Made me cry too...You write very well btw - I was seeing it as a screenplay. Happy New Year Mojo!

At 10:58 AM, Blogger Brett said...

Great post. Happy New Year!

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Jill said...

I remember being a real little "bitch" when my mom would bring new boyfriends home. I was very jealous of the love she would give them, but didn't seem to give me.

Sometimes mothers know what is best, though - and bring someone into our lives who can touch us in ways we never knew. I am glad that is what happened with B-O-B.

And you are right - we are able to treat our pets better than people. There should be dignity in death, especially if you want it.

At 4:24 PM, Blogger Bolder said...

a wonderful tribute.

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