No Sex Just Cuddling (Previously published in BRAVA Magazine here)
One of my first trips alone, I was a college freshman busing it home for my first Thanksgiving break. Wide-eyed in the window seat; the ocean of sky overhead, a blanket of wheat beneath it and sidling up next to me an elderly man who, with a giant chunk of Cheetos in his teeth said, “Traveling alone?”
I talked to him far too long before the bus driver mercifully relocated him and plunked my backpack on the seat next to me. “Boundaries,” he said.
Maybe a year later, not yet 21, I drove to Vail, Colorado, in my silver Ford Granada. My plan was to figure it out when I got there. I spent my days applying for waitressing jobs in the morning, hanging by the pay phone (remember those?) in the bus station all afternoon and sleeping in my car every night. On the sixth day, a man my father’s age, after our lengthy conversation about the beauty of the mountains, said, “If you’re traveling alone, I’ll pay your college tuition to travel with me. No sex, just cuddling.”
“No thank you,” I said, just as the payphone rang, giving me a full-time nanny position and a whole summer in those mountains. I have always been polite in my horror even then. read more…
Instagrams: In Loving Memory
Memory is a confounding thing. I’m reminded of that every day as I sit with either my mother or my children. My mother has Alzheimer’s and can’t remember my name and my two teen girls have a kind of adolescent memory loss where they seem to recall only the worst parenting moments of their childhood. If I’m honest, I can’t decide which is worse: being forgotten altogether or being remembered only for infamy.
Recently, while eating soup one evening after a long quiet Sunday at home, my daughter said, “Remember when we were little…”
My heart leapt. My sweet daughter was about to impart a fond memory of her childhood. I went through the possibilities in my head. read more…
My Brother, Jealousy and Getting Over Ourselves
When I was twelve my family moved from one-hour outside of New York City to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and one-hour away from a JC-Penny’s. We were raised Presbyterian, but because we had the distinct hallow-eye’d look of Ann Frank and everyone else in the White Pine, looked very Scandinavian, we became the town’s diversity—before diversity was a good thing.
I coped by being careful and good and funny which was like an invisibility cloak in high school but as much as I tried to blend in, my older brother Ray stood out in the most threatening way possible for a good girl and that was as a bad boy.
At home we called him, Open Crab Face sandwich because I don’t think douche bag was a recognizable slur at that time. I used to say that my brother suffered from a case of severe assholishness, but I said it quietly and to myself because my father didn’t need any help pinpointing my brother’s shortcomings. read more…
I wrote this book about you.
Well, here’s how it goes with my new book I Like You Just Fine When You’re Not Around.
I’m holding the book and a person next to me reads the title and laughs. Then as if I’ve caught them doing something embarrassing like thinking something not so nice about someone in their life they look at me and say, “What is this about?”
I say, “It’s about a radio therapist whose mother has Alzheimer’s and she is alone in caring for her and her sister’s colicky newborn. Her life just unravels underneath her while she tries to solve a mystery hidden in her families past. They nod interested.
Then they squint their eyes and say, “But, who is this about?”1
I say, “The character Tig Monohan who was also in my last book The Dog year. She’s sassy and sure of herself until she’s not.”
They nod again, like I’m just not hearing them. They try a new tact. “What gave you the idea for this book?” read more…
Laughter and Alzheimer’s: Really?
I write about Alzheimer’s because, it seems, I can’t not write about Alzheimer’s. This wretched disease shows up, one way or another in so many of my essays, even when I don’t plan on it. There are times that I’m clearly writing about Alzheimer’s and the ravages of its footprint on people and family. Then, there are times I’m writing about memory and it’s purpose in our lives, as I did here when performing in the Listen To Your Mother series. I, somewhat humorously decide, in my reading, why we only remember fails of parenting-grace instead of the highlights of our childhood. There is a lot of laughter in that performance but it’s laughter borne of pain.
My grandmother had Alzheimer’s and now my mother does. Before my mother had Alzheimer’s she was a professor of gerontology and cared for the elderly through her nursing career. And, like mother like daughter, so am I.
There are two things I wanted to accomplish when writing about the plight that is Alzheimer’s. read more…
Life isn’t fair. It doesn’t keep score, track, or have any kind of real give-and-take order to it. We lose jobs even when we are good employees, we’re nice but we still get sick, we stub our toes, fall down, and forget to zipper our flies even though we didn’t flip off the person who tailed us all the way to Summer Fest.
It ain’t fair, the life.
Nope. It ain’t.
That’s the bad news.
Here’s the good news: Life isn’t fair.
Thank God, life isn’t fair. Because say it was fair, say we knew the rules: lose your temper and there is no more princess parking for you. Think an evil thought about your neighbor and boom, there goes your job promotion. Forget your Mom’s birthday and you can say ‘goodbye’ to winning the lottery.
What if there was a long list of tradeoffs printed somewhere?
Think how long it would have to be. Super long.
So long that before you did anything you’d have to Google behaviors, read the consequences and then decide if the deed was worth the cost. Pro and con aps would spring up. Ethics classes would be filled at the community college and a whole new bunch of coaches would be born and they would be called the Woulda-Coulda,-Shoulda coaches.
There would be paralysis.
An even worse scenario would be, that life is totally fair and you have to pay back all the wonderful things in your life with equal and opposite not wonderfulness. *Shivers. Moving on.
Instead we have this…. read more…
I Think Everything’s Funny And A Little Bit Sad
Last week, I met one of the elementary-school students my daughter tutors. We were in the produce section in the grocery store. Our conversation went like this.
Girl: “Hey are you Meghan’s Mom?”
Me with a playful grin: “Yes, how did you know?
Girl: You look like her but wayyyyy older.
Me: *grin fades. “Yes, I am older. So very much older. Yes. Old.”
Girl: “Meg says you write funny books.” (but the girl says it like she doesn’t believe it)
Me: “I do write funny books,” I insist. But, my books are kind of funny and sad.”
Girl: “Sad isn’t funny.”
Me: “Sometimes sad things are funny.”
Me: “Haven’t you ever laughed when someone falls over?”
Girl: “That’s not very nice.” read more…
There Are No Others: A More Excellent State of Being…hard but true.
Something happened that turned me from someone who cares about others to someone who cares for others
; from someone who lends a hand when asked to seeking out situations to offer a hand. Something so common, something millions had done before me, something that I should not get any congratulations. read more…