Monthly Archives: April 2010

Cheesefood Is Neither.

Obese children make me sad.  Make your kids eat real food.  Make them go outside and play.  Better yet, go outside and play with them.  Teach them how to cook.  Make it fun.  I say this out of love and concern, and as a very opinionated woman who never had a watermelon-sized human push through her girl parts.  So being child-free I am naturally full of opinions about children.  And recently I read that today’s children are the first generation (of Americans) who will have a shorter lifespan than their parents.  All because they are so overweight.

This ends up having to do with me of course.  I was an overweight kid and whenever my Uncle Dee called me “Miss Fat”, my feelings got hurt.  When I see fat kids, I wonder how they are holding up against all the teasing.

The last time that happened with Uncle Dee we were standing in the front yard at 205 Zuni Drive in Flagstaff, Arizona.  I was 9 years old.  Dee was visiting from Winslow where, to my mother’s disgust, he’d just married a 16-year old girl named Vickie.  I think he was nearly 30 at the time.  Mom correctly predicted they would divorce as soon as Vickie got a little older and “came into own personality.”

It was one of those windy, high desert days with a sun you expect to be searing but isn’t.  Too high up and too cold.  The constant whooshing of cars and semis going by on the highway a block or so away steadily eroded the windswept silence.  I can still smell the ponderosa pine, juniper trees and playground cinders.

Earlier that spring, Mom pissed off the neighbors by plowing up much of the front lawn and planting corn and beans.  The corn was now as tall as me and she sent me outside with a bowl to pick some ears for dinner.  We were having beans, rice, corn, salad and quesadillas again.

Uncle Dee teased me like he always did, following me out the front door, relentlessly.  I’d had enough of him.  And my body didn’t seem fat to me.  Yes, my clothes didn’t fit and my pants were always too short.  I don’t remember having clothes that fit unless mom made them and even those I seemed to grow out of in a matter of months.  I was just so tall, and getting taller all the time.

That day I wore a light blue jumper thing covered in white daisies that was too small, and some maryjane pumps for someone older than 9.  My feet were already a size 9 womens.  The shoes came from a second-hand store and I liked the way my feet looked in them.

Uncle Dee leaned against our the house and kept teasing me.  I shucked the corn because I didn’t want to make a mess inside, all the while getting madder and madder.  Finally I whirled around and said, “Well you’re tight Uncle Dee!”

Uncle Dee’s eyes grew big and he grabbed my arm, “Don’t ever say that, that’s a bad grown up word; do you even know what it means?”  “It means you’re stingy!”  I yelled as I twisted away from him, almost dropping the corn and running awkwardly into the house, the heels of my pumps sticking into what was left of the dry, dead lawn.

Mom laughed at how mad Dee was.  She was beautiful back then.  Dark, almost black hair, with her Mescalero Apache skin and her surprising green eyes.  She was a slim 6 feet tall, and men always noticed her in her Levis, Frye boots and nearly see-through men’s undershirt tank tops.  I wanted to be thin and look like her, and I wanted skin that tanned instead of burned and blistered in the Arizona sun.  Mostly I wanted to be grown up already so I could help her, because she wasn’t very happy and I thought I could change that.

We kids played outside all the time.  Mom threw out our television after one of her first acid trips.  She didn’t want her kids turning into zombies in front of the boob tube.  She said it wasn’t worth watching after Nixon had the Smothers Brothers and Rocky and Bullwinkle taken off the air.  And she didn’t let us eat junk food, although we sometimes snuck away with her graduate school friend, Steve Lehman, who we called “Lemo”, to the Dairy Queen for dipped ice cream cones.  I liked him because we were the same height and he was funny and talked to me like a normal person.  He never called me Miss Fat either.  Mom and Lemo were in Trig together at Northern Arizona University, the only students in their late 30s in the class.  She was a foot taller than he but they became fast friends.

Mom was puzzled about my chubbiness.  I knew it disappointed her.  I slimmed down here and there, but the chubbiness always reappeared.  Finally in my 20s I became thin for about 20 years and it was such a relief.  It seems a little silly now, but I’m glad I was thin when she died, so the last time she saw me she wouldn’t be disappointed with the way I looked.

After she died in December 1987 I searched for months for her, irrationally certain, as I gazed in the faces of people in the subways and streets of Manhattan, she would appear to me.  I just wanted to see her face one more time, to not forget what she looked like, in spite of photographs and recent memory.  Mostly I didn’t want her to be dead, so irrevocably gone.  But she was and I couldn’t find her in those faces.

So it is on cold spring days like today that I remember her putting us to work digging up that hard old dead sod, preparing the stubborn Arizona earth for the tiny corn and bean plants she was growing in egg cartons on the kitchen table, for the harvest ahead that eventually came.



Filed under Backstory

Our Bodies, Ourselves

I could write about the speculums and hand mirrors my mom sent my sister and me for Christmas one year when we were 14 and 15, but I think I’m going to have to write about my dad’s testicles instead.

About 20 years ago my dad had prostate cancer.  Following that diagnosis came a radical prostatectomy which resulted in incontinence, impotence, unresolved rage (OK, that was there before the cancer) and other issues.   But the cancer was gone, and has remained gone.  Dad tired of wearing Depends pretty quickly.  He researched what to do about the side effects of his surgery where some military butcher of a doctor snipped things he shouldn’t have, causing irreparable damage to Dad’s nether regions.  Dad decided to have a contraption installed “down there” that would enable his equipment to operate normally, if by normally one means one squeezes a testicle to tighten a urinary sphincter after peeing and does something similar to, um, have marital relations.

Dad had a many-houred operation to install his pump and urinary sphincter and they sort of worked for a number of years, then they didn’t but I’m hazy on the details.  I do know that around 1996, he decided to get another, more sophisticated set of equipment installed in his equipment.

For the re-install, he had to endure another operation, this one longer and more  excruciating and even worse, in Indianapolis.  Rather than follow the pre-op directions the night before surgery, he went out , according to his sister, and ate a big, bloody steak washed down by a few belts of scotch.  Aunt Cathy waited for him to get out of surgery and said he was in so much pain and in such terrible shape, with no plans to deal with himself post-op, that she made him come to her house in Chicago and recuperate.  Throughout this ordeal he did not let his kids know what was going on.

Once he was back on his feet  and mentioned the operation to me, I just assumed everything worked.  I did not ask him about his sex life, not being in the habit of that and not wanting to know, but he did seemed pleased about the almost as touchy a subject, his urine elimination.

Enter 201o.  On March 31, Dad drove from Palm Springs to Colorado arriving April 2.  He called to let me know he was having some “irritation down there.”  He sounded exhausted and not himself, so I asked what “irritation down there” meant.

“My testicles are swollen and I can barely urinate.”  “Dad, you need to go to the ER right away, or Urgent Care.  If it’s that bad, and you’re not peeing, your kidneys could back up and you’ll die.”  “Well Ree, I’m too tired from driving to go and the swelling will probably get better now that I’m off the road.”

I offered to drive an hour south and take him to Urgent Care.  Dad’s voice began to rise in irritation, “No, I’m going to bed, I’ll talk to you in a few days.”  He didn’t tell me he was already in bed.

The next day, Saturday, I called again, ever the dutiful daughter, but he refused to go to the ER or Urgent Care and said he’d see us for Easter dinner at my sister’s place.  His wife Carolyn got on the phone to let me know she was at her wit’s end and said he was in a lot more pain than he was letting on, dipping into her 5-year old bottle of Oxycontin with increasing frequency.

Easter arrived and Dad resurrected, driving north with Carolyn for the mid-afternoon celebration.  I thought he looked gray and fragile.  That might have been the altitude doing a number on his COPD but his drawn face filled with pain spoke volumes.  I noticed he was popping Oxycontin like M&Ms, so I mentioned his swollen testicles, although I thought I did it with daughterly tact.  Stubbornly he reiterated he would not go near an ER and “might go see Carolyn’s family doctor the next day.”  When I said he should call a urologist, he said, “This isn’t a small town problem.”  Nevermind we are in a large metropolitan area, known as Denver.  Also, why then go to a family doctor?

After he started to get angry, I remembered a phrase from a self-help group I attended for a while in New York City:  “If you can’t detach with love, detach with an axe.”  I love New York.

So I detached with a loving axe and went about my life for at least a few hours.  But the next day I was back on the phone and worried.  I fell into my role of toxic caretaker faster than a Japanese bullet train driven by meth addicts.  I would CONTROL this.  To do so I marshalled an army of his siblings, some of their progeny and my family and began a well oiled, less interesting version of A&E’s Intervention, minus the celebrities, drugs, sex and rock and roll, and featuring only Dad’s swollen testicles and shitty attitude.  I really needed Dr. Drew but mostly I needed that NYC self-help program to show me how to detach with an axe.

By the end of the day I was physically and emotionally exhausted, spent in that bone-weary, powerless way that sometimes, if I’m lucky, pushes me to teeter at the edge of surrender and prayer.  Sometimes I even choose to actually jump off that cliff, but faith has never been my strong suit.

As for Dad, Carolyn’s family doctor gave him some antibiotics and urged him to consult a urologist, because antibiotics don’t help the lack of peeing.  The doctor also gave him two referrals to urologists.  That was on Monday.  It is now Friday and no urologists have been called, Dad is still in bed most of the time, still in a lot of pain and is still not peeing enough.

But it’s his body, and he doesn’t want to talk about it or do much to heal it.  Maybe though he is discussing his pain and treatment options with someone.  I hope so.

I guess if there’s a lesson for me in all of this, it’s that his life is none of my business.  I may not understand choosing pain, but he may not understand it’s a choice either.  So time for me to focus on what’s in front of me rather than what I am projecting about him or anyone else, including myself.  And as usual, I must beware of the gravitational pull of the familiar, put away my Superwoman cape, and get back to being human.  And if I can’t detach with love maybe I can swing that Gospel Axe:  (see below)

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Filed under Faith

Am I A Cougar?

That is the question haunting me today.  I’ve continued with my low heart rate training a la Dr. Phil Maffetone and 6-time Hawaiian Ironman Champion Mark Allen.   I did another Maffetone Test, a 5-miler, that showed me my aerobic capacity has improved in the last 3 weeks, if only incrementally. I had to break into a walk more often than I’d like to admit to keep my max heart rate below 133 beats per minute (bpm).

Washington Park was full of happy, shiny people laughing and jogging and playing pick up basketball and soccer.  I imagined them all living in that faboosh neighborhood and I was the imposter.  Luckily around mile 2 it occurred to me this is a public park and I get to be there as a member of the public.

Only one of my mile splits was under 16 minutes per mile, but none were as long as my last set of mile splits 3 weeks ago, where the average was 16.64 minutes per mile.  According to the good doctor Maffetone, my aerobic capacity is therefore improving.  And that makes me full of hope for the feats of endurance looming in my future.  The first one is June 19, 2010, 7 weeks from today.

So on this beautiful evening filled with beautiful, privileged, white people running around the perimeter of the park, I slowed yet again to a walk to keep my heart rate down.  I walked for 20 yards or so, looking at my Garmin often to figure out when I could break into a run again without the damn heart rate monitor alarm going off.  When I looked up I saw some sort of late 20s-early 30s Man-God running towards me with a beautiful Purina Dog Chow commercial worthy Golden Retriever running beside him.  Man-God was scantily clad and in his own iPodded world, looking as vacant as an abandoned parking lot.  He didn’t see me.  But as he ran by me, while I was still walking, my fucking heart rate monitor alarm went off!  I looked around, paranoid, like I was exiting a confessional.  But my “sin” was only that my biology took over and my heart rate jumped at the sight of a beautiful human being.  Still, I was embarrassed.  So for the rest of the run I concentrated on dogs, not people.

I drove home feeling guilty, and thinking I should tell Fred.  First though, I decided to wear the heart rate monitor into the house hoping it would off upon seeing him.  I thought that was the least I could do; to prove to myself that I am simply alive and that I notice big, handsome men, one of whom I’m lucky enough to be married to.  Fred was home when I came in the garage door and sure enough, the heart rate monitor alarm sounded.  I was really relieved to find out I’m not a horrible, cheating, cougar slut.  I’m only human.  That’s good to know.


Filed under Here and Now, Redemption, Running