Baked goods, coffee, and books.
So first, I mentioned Phish. See, before this phase of my life, this living in Tennessee next door to my sister and her hubby and with my mom, I lived in Burlington, Vermont, home of the band Phish. There are certain things in one’s life that change everything. Phish was one of those things. Being born, having my brother die, giving birth to my son, and then years later, falling in love with Phish, are probably the most significant things that have happened to me. Until this current phase. From 1995 until 2004 when the band broke up, my life was very much all about Phish. I came into knowing them late in life. Most of the band’s fans were college kids. I was 41 or 42 when I was smitten. Since then, I’ve seen around 60 or so shows. A small number next to everyone else I know who is into them. And I’ve met the most wonderful people and it seems friends for life with many of them. So since my first blogging post here mentioned them, I thought I should expand a bit on why. For 15 or 16 years they were my life. Then they broke up.
My son was in college and had graduated and it was pretty apparent he wasn’t going to be moving back to Burlington, and with no Phish, and realizing my sister was down here dealing with both her disabled husband and an aging mom, well, my being in Vermont foot loose and fancy free just hardly seemed right. So I made a change. Quit my job and my Vermont life of 28 years and moved to Knoxville.
But long before Vermont, there was my family and growing up in Miami. We were all pretty much hippies of sorts. Dad the intellectual liberal, mom the hyper-religious, super justice oriented liberal, me, my brother, and my sister the coming of age hippies. Good times.
Tom got into playing guitar when he met Dion (of Abraham, Martin, and John fame) at an AA meeting that he was forced to attend to show the judge he was making an effort to turn his wayward ways around. He had been arrested a couple of times, once for handing out hippie leftist literature on the street, and then another time, after coming home from a trip out west, visiting the Haight, flipped out being back in Miami, did some acid, and ended up naked in a strangers house. He was also doing all he could to avoid the draft. All these things actually helped. He cut his hair, went to AA, met Dion, successfully avoided the draft, and started playing guitar.
He then moved to Boone, NC, and became a real mountain man, met some musicians, formed a band. Now I don’t know how they came up with the name for their band, today I suspect it would be considered rather racist. The name was Fried, Chicken and Watermelon. They were a bluegrass band with touches of rock and mixed in some Grateful Dead and whole lot of other great tunes, some traditional, some they wrote themselves.
I’m feeling moved to write this story because of the passing of Doc Watson yesterday. Doc was a presence in the Boone, Blowing Rock area, he and his son Merle. I remember visiting Tom once and walking into a music store and Doc was in there just picking away at his guitar. Tom said hey and that was that. The main connection to Doc and Merle is that after FC and W called it quits and then later after Tom died, 2 of the guys from the band joined up with Doc and Merle and were a part of his band….Joe Smothers and Mike Coleman. They were on at least one of Doc’s albums, Doc and the Boys. I’ve sort of cyberly stalked them through the years just out of interest, found out they were still playing with Doc and at Merle Fest. And Clay Buckner was the 4th member and apparently has a band called the Red Clay Ramblers, so its cool to see they are all still playing music. They were all so good.
And Tom’s birthday is coming up June 1st so that’s another reason I’m remembering things. Tom died one beautiful sunny Saturday at Elk Park Falls, N.C., where everyone was enjoying jumping from the falls into a giant swimming area and when he went to jump something went wrong and the pool claimed him. That was my 21st birthday.
So, the date thing.
Tom died on my 21st birthday, June 28th, 1975.
My grandmother died on January 27th, 1979, and my son was born, also on January 27th, 1981. That also happens to be the birthday of Jack, my brother in law.
My sister’s birthday is April 28th. Her son was born April 27th.
My dad died on March 28th.
So apparently 27 and 28 are important numbers for my family.
And now we are approaching another big number….this one is 90. On June 5th, mom turns 90. Her niece is coming in tonight. In a few days my nephew will be arriving and hopefully a day or two after that my son will arrive. Hoping for a fun time. These are the last remaining members of our family….the incredible shrinking family. I imagine there will be cake, ice cream, alcohol, and good times. Mix in a little stress and it will have all the elements of a family reunion.
Oh, and Phish came back in 2009.
It was Mother’s Day recently. Seems as good a place as any to start talking about mom. Mom’s life in general and then her life with me.
My sister commented some time ago about how its only the ‘personalities’ that get in the way of truly connecting with others, and I think with families that is especially true. We know and love each other, want to be kind and engaging and helpful. But sometimes the personalities of each of us just get on that last nerve of another. It can’t be helped really, I don’t think.
But to start things off, just the facts pretty much.
Mom was born Dorothy June Strubhar on June 5th, 1922, to Louis and Mary Strubhar in Normal, IL. There was some moving around, some time spent in North Dakota maybe?…and a lot of time growing up in Peoria.
There was Margaret and Dorothy…Margaret was 12 years older than mom. And mom was the child protegy. She was the precocious little composer, writing operas and operatas when she was 10 or something.
She was a straight A student her entire life, except for one B.
She received a full scholarship to Eastman School of Music.
She graduated, her father died, her sister got married, they all moved to Miami where her sister’s new hubby was from. I am not sure of the order of all of this, but this is the gist.
She got a job as the Music Director of WIOD or one of the other radio stations in Miami, where she met the dashing, intellectual, radio announcer/DJ at the station.
I wonder how mom would have turned out if she’d never met dad. Was her entering the land of oz inevitable or did dad ignite her brain with thoughts of a depth she had never quite pondered and that, in turn, was her doom?
Or her awakening. Who am I to judge?
We’ll answer the question who am I to judge in our next segment…..
In the meantime, we’ll flash forward a bunch of years, to where mom’s life was forced to take another new direction, north from Homestead, FL to Knoxville, TN
Welcome Hurricane Andrew…
i’m already feeling like this blog idea was a bad idea. i don’t know if i can keep this up. also, i feel like there are things i won’t be able to say because of who might read this.
be that as it may…
today i am exhausted. it is my day off. and it was spent waking up and taking care of some business for mom and then running her to an appointment. And its so hot out. And it isn’t even REALLY hot yet. The summers here in Knoxville make me miss Vermont so very much. Even though with this climate change even Burlington is hot far too often these days. but its better than here.
So anyway…..the whole reason I moved down here was to help out with mom since my sister has her husband who has Parkinson’s to deal with and it didn’t seem fair for her to have to deal with both an aging mother and her disabled husband all by herself. And then the house next door to her and Jack went up for sale. So here we are in our “happy little compound”, living next door to each other, helping each other out. She needs more physical help since Jack falls fairly often and he’s a big guy and sometimes its too much for one person to get him up.
Friday was such a day. This is Kathy’s super busy time with her job so she has to be gone a lot, so she texts me that he’s on the floor and wants me to go check on him. I was just waking up, so I get up get dressed go over there, and there he is on the floor in the kitchen. Fortunately, he still has strength in his arms, so after a lot of manipulating him around, getting him into a sitting up position, pushing him over to the counter so he can reach up and grab the sink, me pushing and pulling on him and trying to get a stool under him to get him up a little higher, and then finally he was able to pull himself up enough so I can slide the wheelchair under him. Success!! But it was a workout. He is of course bloody. He has more wounds all over his body than anyone I know. But he is a trooper, and he cleans himself up, I help him get situated, and then I get to go home to mom.
Now mom, she’s almost 90, but she is physically better off than Jack. She can walk on her own, do everything herself, and for that I am very grateful. But she is more challenging than Jack because she demands constant attention to the things she says and thinks. She never stops talking. She has become fretful over everything. She never used to be this way. I guess its part of the aging process? to become worried about everything? And she comments on every little thing I do. It never ends. Unless she’s caught up in one of her creative endeavors or is sleeping. If she’s not doing one of those things, she’s talking to me. I have no privacy. None. My every move is noted and often commented on.
Before I moved here, I lived alone once my son Gabe left and went to college. I’ve always loved living alone. I loved having Gabe with me, he did not demand my constant attention. Well, you know, except when he was a tiny guy. And of course when they are little, you love them and don’t mind so much. When its an old person, I dunno. For one thing, mom gets mean. But as I was saying, before my life here, I lived alone, and was a loner, and loved it. I had friends and I loved the occasional social gathering or going places with my best friends, but if I was on the go for 2 or 3 days in a row, I would want 2 or 3 weeks to myself to make up for it. I’ve always seemed to need or at least want a lot of alone time.
Needless to say, living down here has been a HUGE adjustment. Not only do I have a roommate (my mom) now who demands constant attention to every little thing she says and does, but living next door to my sister has its challenges as well. I know the same is true for her, because I’m sure I’m no treat a lot of the time. And we’ve pretty much adjusted to each other over time and seem to have found a good rhythm to our individual quirks. but its all definitely a change from my previous life in Vermont.
Change is good, right? Well, maybe. I know I’ve grown. I’m still loud and obnoxious, but I’m definitely learning to keep my mouth shut more often than not. And I bit the bullet and got on an antidepressant because the first year I lived here, between the changes of, well, just everything, and a new job that I hated, I think I cried almost every day. So with a little help from drugs and alcohol and just plain old adjusting, and a new job, things are much better now. we all seem to be working around each others personalities as best as we can.
And as time has gone on, I have found myself almost grateful to be here. Almost. : )
The things I notice about the aging process the most, at least in mom, is just how mean and critical she can be. She has always been critical, but now she gets MEAN. And I think a lot of that is her frustration with not being able to do the things she used to be able to do. And she feels like people treat her like she’s stupid, because she’s old and slow. She’s certainly not stupid. She’s super bright. Too bright for me most of the time. I’m not a big thinker. I tried it once, and didn’t much care for it. It made me depressed and manic. Now I just like to be here now and take things as they come and not dwell on things. Not mom. She dwells and frets over everything. I wish she could be like a regular old lady, enjoying her days reading or watching t.v. with the occasional social visit. But I guess that’s me I’m describing, not her. So she gets mean, and if you make the mistake of trying to help her, she bites your head off. She isn’t always difficult, often she’s a hoot and we make a good team. Not always difficult, but often.
My sister often says I have the bigger challenge, which kind of blows my mind, because living with Jack isn’t easy with him falling all the time. And Kathleen is like mom, has a similar creative constantly thinking brain. They are both right brainers. I’m a leftie, though I’m fairly balanced, but still I’m less of a dreamer and more of a realist and i’m fairly organized. Kathy has her head in the clouds a lot of the time and has a hard time remembering things which makes her life with Jack even more difficult because she has to remember to give him his meds and things. And her job is demanding and when the job requires a lot from her, everything else gets forgotten. Which is usually where I come in…picking up the slack.
Apparently, I’m good at cutting people slack and picking up the slack, whatever is needed.
And when things get really hard, there’s always drugs and alcohol.