Uncle Marty, Cartoonist Dies

My sweet Uncle, Marty Murphy passed away Thursday, August 27, 2009 at his home in Los Angeles, CA. 

My family and I will always have fond memories of him and will miss him deeply.

Chooch

To read my other story about my favorite Uncle, please read Rubbed at The Edges

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Christmas Love

mother_and_child

 

You know there are some businesses that never close.  Hospitals, Public Works, Police and other service orientated companies.  Such was the case one Christmas Eve, 1988. 

I was working at Marionjoy Rehabilitation Center in Wheaton Illinois when the luck of the draw had me working Christmas Eve.  Usually, Marionjoy’s Pharmacy closed at 6pm but this night my boss and I were working on some unusual compounds and had to stay.  Needless to say I was not happy about this.  One hour dissolved into two hours and still I was at the Pharmacy.  I wanted to get home to my kids, I wanted to see them open presents and I actually wanted to have some Oyster Stew at my parents but I was missing it all. 

At 8pm my Boss said to make one more round through the hospital and I could go home.  Why bother?  Everything was ruined.  I missed all the fun. Big deal I could home – yeah me… 

Making my rounds, nursing my annoyed feelings, I entered the second floor.  The halls were quiet but I could hear muffled sounds of the nursing staff celebrating a Christmas Eve party.  Great! I thought.  I get a cold sandwich, they get canapés and EggNog. Hmmmph…. 

Turning to go back to the elevator after filling the drug cart, I heard a sound that I thought was Hi! Whipping my head around, I spied a little toddler girl in a playpen.  Standing there smiling at me was one of our latest arrivals from Marklund Children’s Home.  This little girl called Kathryn was severely brain injured at the hands of her Mother and was rehabilitating at the Center. 

Well, I could not turn away so I approached the playpen and she held her arms up to me.  I bent and picked her up, careful to not dislodge her feeding tube and found a rocker where I could sit with her.  I had planned to only spend a few moments until the nurses noticed she was still in her playpen, but I found myself talking to her. 

I spoke to that little girl for what seemed like hours. I rocked and sang a carol or two. After quite a while, I felt a nudge on my shoulder.  A nurse stood smiling and whispered, “I’ll take her now”.  I realized I had fallen asleep with Kathryn in my arms.  I glanced at my watch and saw that it was 11:30pm!  I had rocked myself to sleep with this precious child in my arms. The nurse said I looked so peaceful she did not want to wake me but little Kathryn needed her crib.  3 ½ hours I was with this sweet child.  And in those hours I forgot my annoyance, my selfish irritation and found a sense of peace that sometimes is rarely felt in the fast, fast world. 

Walking to my car, I realized that I had just been given the greatest gift from the most unusual place.  A little girl, wounded beyond comprehension, taught me what the true meaning of Christmas. Christmas isn’t about EggNog or presents or the occasional party.  It is about a small child that brings you love when you least expect it. 

Love, Peace and Serenity to you and your family.

A Short Trip on Route 66

This past weekend the Plumber convinced me that a short jaunt down to Springfield to see his buddy Rich would be just the ticket. Since I absolutely abhor riding the motorcycle on any type of speedway, multi-lane or super-highway he promised that it would be a leisurely trip down the famed Route 66. You know “get your kicks on Route 66”.

Not knowing what to expect, and knowing that the Plumber took this route many times in his solo adventures, I packed my extra pair of socks and jeans, grabbed my latest JD Robb novel and off we went – yes I have been known to read entire novels and fall asleep on the back of the Plumber’s motorcycle.

After a quick breakfast we were off to whiz through the town of Dwight. Affectionately called “Not Just A Bump in the Road” by its residents, Dwight is a quaint little town that boasts a Big Al’s Hot Dogs, which is one of the first things you see as you enter Dwight.
Still swimming gastrically in Biscuits and Gravy, I was unable to sample a Route 66 dog.

Soon you will pass Ambler’s Texaco Station.

Built in 1933, it later became The Marathon Oil Station and serviced travelers until 1998. The building is currently being restored by the community and will serve as visitor’s center.
Next up, my favorite Odell. Odell made the most of the Mother Road distinction and you can tell that it was quite the rambling town in its hey day! My favorite is the Standard Oil Station that now serves as the town’s historical center.

When you pull up, a man rambles out of his on-site trailer and shuffles up to open the museum. He waits patiently and quietly while you survey the museums goodies, which has an impressive display of refrigerator magnets, which I have been known to purchase.

Restaurant Tip? Try Old Log Cabin in Pontiac or my now ultimate favorite “Filling Station” in Lexington. What a surprise that was! We were starving and really could eat so we pulled into Filling Station and sat down. There was more Route 66 memorabilia that I had seen in the previous towns.

It seemed the owner who has owned the place for 26 years, bought everything up that had anything to do with Route 66. Anyway, I ordered the Chicken Fajita sandwich. Not expecting much I was floored when the server brought out a huge slice of Italian bread loaded with Fajita filling and sizzling from the broiled pounds of cheese on top. OMG! It was heaven on a plate!!! Of course, the Plumber ate half. Order it if you stop.
In Towanda or nearby in the never-ending fields of corn, there is a halfway decent looking biker bar- we got lost there. Try it and let me know how it works out for ya!
Bloomington/Normal. If there was ever a town that did not give a rats ass about history then this is it! The signs for Route 66 abruptly stop and you are sent on one helluva goose chase through subdivisions, ratty areas and fraternity houses. Skip this area! Bypass by going around and use I-55. You can pick up Route 66 right outside of town.
Funk’s Grove was set deep in forestland. And they have some kick butt maple syrup – I bought some in a really cool maple leaf bottle. But spell it SIRUP not syrup. Stop there and ask why – I’m not telling.

Atlanta is not and I repeat NOT to be confused with the Peachtree city. Talk about a “children of the corn” moment. We drove in to a deserted town where the only sound was a squeeking swing and past more bars then I think they are people. A dingy scary town with taverns and boarded up shops with no windows and rusty metal siding. Even the police station is falling apart. Stopped at an intersection in that very eerie town, all of a sudden, a bell tolled loudly right above out heads – we skedaddled as quickly as we could out of that place all the while I babbled about white blond, blue eyed children zombies coming out of the corn to sacrifice us.

Elkhart is pretty cute.

The town boasts the Talk of the Town café where we spent an hour sipping a pop and observing the townspeople. That poor little waitress was running the whole show and in flip-flops no less – ouch!

Well this is my slice of traveling the Mother Road. Hope you enjoyed it but I have get back to my book.

I’ll Tell Them

And you can tell everybody, this is your song…

I went to see the Sex and the City movie the other night with my dearest friend and after the movie we strolled a bit in the electrically charged night air of Chicago. This was our city F and me; it was our version of New York. And just like Miranda, Carrie, Samantha and Charlotte, we had many great nights as well as many lonely nights there as well.

At dinner that night, F and I were talking about life, loves and of course children and she said something to me that struck me as the true meaning of friendship. She asked if anything happened to her, who would tell her children who she really was. Not the typical “she was a wonderful person” but the real true meaning of who she was. The effusive giggler, the voracious reader, the rambunctious whirling dervish, the brave daredevil, the creative and poetic night owl; the sides that most people don’t have a chance to see.

I said I would tell. I would tell her son and soon to be second baby F all about the strength that flowed from her that had the power of a raging river. That she had the ability to look pain in the eye and tell it “not now” and soldier on. I would tell them how her childhood may have formed her but never, ever defined her. How she could dance the night away but also spend nights just enjoying the quietness of her surroundings That their Mother practiced the art of forgiveness and never gave up hope. That she knew the true meaning of friendship. 

So many of us hide certain aspects of our personality and those secrets are only spilled out in the presence of that one true friend. The friend that you can tell your story to and she will keep it locked away. A friend that never turns their back on you. A friend that knows when to pull you out of your own spinning life circus and also knows when to leave you in it; knowing that she will be there to dry the tears. And a friend that will fight for you to the bitter end because that is what she is; a true friend.

To be a true friend, you must be able to hold her secrets safely for her until the time that you need to let those that loved her know the real woman. I have a wealth of knowledge tucked away about F. My memory runs long and it runs very deep. I have stories that will show her children the real woman their Mother was. The one that I love so very much and will always be there for. I have her memorized in my mind. Even down to the shape of her hands and the serenity of her hugs. So your answer F? I will keep my promise, I’ll tell them

 I hope you don’t mind that I put down in words, how wonderful life is while you’re in the world….

Diagnosis Number 5 : Sick Girl

I was sitting in my Rheumatologist’s waiting yet again for a diagnosis to the latest weird pain and I happened upon a book from Amy Silverstein called Sick Girl and it spoke volumes to me for I too am a Sick Girl. Now beleaguered with diagnosis number 5, I am struggling with how this is affecting my life.

My life for the past 12 years has been a painful journey into discovering strength in myself as well as garnering the ability to steel myself against the inevitable withdrawal of support from a friend.

In Sick Girl, the author spoke of friends drifting away and the excuses were text book standards such as “I can’t stand seeing you this way” to just drifting out of a Sick Girls’s life. First come the non-answered phone messages to lack of emails to finally no contact at all.

So why do friends that at one time were chatting us up at the latest hotspot to being non-existent in your life? I can only assume that the reason is fear of their own mortality. I see that in some friends faces, I am a mirror to what could happen to them.

Because of this I find myself becoming cold to some people. I have stopped letting people into my life because I do not want to eventually see them go. I hate discussing my illnesses. I cringe at the pity in their sympathetic head nods and sometimes I feel like a fool because I just can’t do all the fun stuff anymore.

It is a fact in my life that because of my illnesses I tend to isolate myself because I do not want the pity. I do not want to see the fear in people’s eyes. And I certainly do not want the question “But how can you be sick? You look so normal” I also do not want to hear statements such as “Your medication is making you wacky.”

But am I a equally guilty participant in this mass exodus of friends? Of course I am. I struggle so hard to not appear sick. I want my circle of friends to think I can accomplish anything. But most of all, I want to not let my illnesses to overtake my life. But it does at times overwhelm me then I hide away and at times push people away.

Even tonight as I write, I wonder who is next to leave my life. I can only add some words of wisdom from a Sick Girl. Friend,I am really trying to hold myself together so please don’t leave this Sick Girl in your life. The struggle to appear normal is a daily achievement for me, I just do not want my illness to be center stage.

Do I sound defeated? Maybe but I am not. Do I dismiss those that care too easily? I know that you care but I do not want illness to define me. I want to let you know that just because I am a sick girl and I take 15 meds daily and I get tired easily, I want to hear about your life. Your friendship allows me to take a break from myself.

Please Stay.

Setting Myself Up

I live in this little fantasy world that upon awakening on the Holy Grail of Hallmark holidays, the doorbell rings and when I open the door my three sons stand on my stoop beaming with their surprise and their arms laden with flowers, boxes of candy and cards that would make a UFC fighter weep. As I usher them into my spotless living room, I remove my apron which is covered in flour because I have been baking cookies and I am swept away to a fabulous twenty five course brunch all along wearing a orchid corsage that my loving boys have presented to me.

Reality check! First I do not own an apron, I burn cookies and most Mother’s Day I have a running bet with myself of which child will forget that this is supposed to be “My” day! I constantly set myself up for disappointment every year. I think that maybe this year will be different instead of realizing that I take the blame for raising three very independent workaholics that usually by 5pm their time zone they realize that oops! Forgot to call. Sigh………

This year was somewhat of a surprise to me. Tim sent a card that arrived “before” Mother’s Day, he also called me at 10am this morning beating out my special son Robert, who I can count on calling at 6am to one up the other boys on timeliness. Steven called late in the afternoon, saying the only reason he remembered is that he said Happy Mother’s Day to 150 souls that ventured in his restaurant with their own orchid laden Moms in tow. Ashley got me a cuter then peaches card with a gift certificate to Borders Josh is MIA. Three out of Four ain’t bad.

So reviewing my Mothers Day it was actually pretty good this year. Although the skies decided that raining torrentially on my newly planted hostas was a good idea and my Doc thought this would be a good day to try out a new medication on his own personal guinea pig (Me!) which made me almost want to snooze into my Chicken Fajitas and I left my cell phone in the rain which rendered it only good to get messages, I would say that I had a decent Mom’s Day.

So do I really want the fantasy? Well kinda yeah. The fantasy ala Donna Reed is not a bad one. But I suppose I should be content with what I do receive on this day. Despite being pharmceutically comatose and a little sad, I do dream that one day ALL the boys will be home, that I can gather them in my arms and tell them I love them.

Today of all days and holidays in the year, I miss them more than ever.

Life Got In The Way

A undelivered Pampered Chef order languishes in my living room. A much anticipated theater project that has to be withdrawn from. Seeing cousins for the first time in thirty years. When did life get in the way?

I prided myself in the past of being able to multi-task with the best of the best but now I find myself more and more not being able to work that extra two hours or schedule multiple appointments. I find this new life distressing.

How did I let thirty years go by and not keep up with the close contact with my cousins that I dreamed I would do. At seventeen, leaning on my cousin Brian who helped me through a devastating event, I made the promises I was so sure to keep that I would never forget and always keep in touch. That we would remain best of friends. How empty that promise seems to me now. Gazing across the dinner table at Brian, I felt such deep sadness that I did not keep that promise. I regretted that I did not remain the “best of friends” with this amazing man. How shallow I must have appeared.

How do we as adults try to keep everything afloat in our lives when so many events, problems, and issues seem to keep us from the very things we enjoy the most. How could I have moved from crisis to crisis and find that the simple moments were brushed aside? Oh sure I can justify that I needed to spend the time as a mother to my boys who took up such amazing chunks of my life or that I needed time to find the real Chooch while stumbling across my own personal roadblocks.

But it all boils down to one statement. My life got in the way. Simple. Straightforward and somewhat self-absorbed as it is, the glaring truth is that we cast away our youthful promises on loftier pursuits. We need to make our money, establish our careers, raise our children to only toss them out on the world so that they too can experience the same wrapped up moments.

I didn’t expect when I had all my cousins around me that I would travel back to my seventeen year old days. I didn’t expect that it would seem just yesterday that I was sneaking that illicit Kools while pouring my heart and soul out. But now I know that I can’t afford to let my life get in the way. I must maintain contact of a more personal nature then just the occasional Christmas greeting or uninvolved email. I need my cousins. I need them in my life more than I ever would have imagined.

So even though I didn’t share my crazy youth, subdued thirties or my early discovering forties, I can go forth knowing that I have discovered a new set of friends in my cousins and that will enrich my life, which won’t get in the way.