Monthly Archives: October 2010


Last night, I received news that has shaken me to my core.  There is just no other way to describe it.  A young man who my son played baseball with ended his life.  He was 20 years old.  What?  How can this be? We haven’t seen this young man in about 2 years, since high school baseball.  And yet, I can still see his face, smiling from ear to ear, joking around with my boy.  I can see the way his eyes would light up when he pitched well, and the way he would hang his head when he didn’t.

We first met this wonderful young man seven years ago, when he and my son were in Pony League.  He was a pitcher and back up catcher when needed.  My son was a catcher.  They got along well.  And he was the kind of kid who always had a smile on his face.

And I can’t believe I am writing about one of my son’s teammates using the word was. I just can’t come to grips with this.  And I am not related to, or even a close friend of, this family.  But there was just always something I liked about that kid.  He was special.  He would always say hi to my Nick, and give him a high 5. He would never walk by Nick without greeting him, and no matter how he played, he always spoke with anybody who approached him to tell him how great he performed.  He was kind.

What the hell happened?!?

This is not supposed to happen to kids just starting their lives.  What could have been so bad that he couldn’t see past that moment?

He was surrounded by people who loved him.  I saw his grandparents within the past year and they were beaming about how wonderful he was doing in college, what a great kid he was.  I was so happy to hear that.  He looked like he was heading in the right direction.

But what steered him off course?

My son just saw him less than 2 months ago.  They chatted and all seemed fine.

He is the first of my son’s friends to die.


And then I thought, “Oh God..if him…could my son?”

I have hugged Matthew stronger in the past twenty-four hours than I have in a long time.   I keep sending him texts, calling him…letting him know how much I love him.  I keep telling him that there is nothing that he can’t come to me about.  And I am terrified that my son could think of taking his life as an option now.

And I know there are no guarantees, yet that doesn’t stop me from wanting one.  I keep thinking about what his parents are going through right now….all of the questions, and they all begin with “why?”

Why would he do this?

Why didn’t he turn to his parents for help?

Why didn’t he see that it wouldn’t always seem so dark?

Why didn’t he know how much his leaving would hurt those around him?

Why didn’t anyone see this coming?

And every question leads me back to what I know.  I know that life is precious.  I know I am blessed to have these three sons that I have.  I know I have to tell them every day how much they are loved and how wonderful they really are.

And I know that every minute I have with them is a gift, and I better be sure not to waste a single moment.





Filed under Baseball, Mourning

All About Frances aka Nanny

On the date of her death, her name was, I believe, Frances Anderson Lang.  At one point she was known as Frances Christine Anderson.  But Christine was not on her birth certificate, nor on any legal documents.  I once asked her about it, and she stated that she was teased for not having a middle name, so she gave herself the moniker.  She was forever trying to fit in.  She was my grandmother, my Nanny, because that’s the name my eldest sister called her.  She was, up until the last years of her life, hell on high water.  She was a rebel.  She was difficult.  She was kind.  She was insane.

And, she was born on this day, 102 years ago.  She lived until a couple of months past her 97th birthday.   My grandmother was a paradox.  She wasn’t good.   And she wasn’t inherently evil.  She had a tough life in a lot of ways.  And I don’t think she ever completely understood how to deal with it.  She took her pain out on those around her.  She blamed me for my mother’s suicide, and she once threw a toaster oven at my grandfather because it wasn’t a Sunbeam for pity’s sake. She could spew venom and hate.  She could also nurture and love and show amazing kindness.  To the day of her death, I never really understood her.

But I am trying to.

She was born in 1908, the youngest of 4 girls.  She was a late addition to the family, born in Coffeeville, Kansas.  I was always told that there was a huge age difference between her and the eldest, Alta.  Actually, they were but ten years apart and there were two other girls between them.  There is also some vague memory of an older brother (though I am quite unsure) who died young.  But that could have been an uncle or a cousin I heard about.

Why do we never pay enough attention to our elders’ stories until they are no longer able to share them with us?

She almost died when she was an infant.  I can’t remember the name of the illness. But I do remember that my Aunt Alta told me that because she almost died they all treated her with kid gloves, and did way too much for her.  Aunt Alta said it was their fault Nanny was so….difficult.  I know that she was given elocution lessons from the time she was a school girl, so that she never had a southern drawl.  She was sent away to boarding school when she was a teenager.  I remember being told the reason was because her mother was too frail to care for her.  But that doesn’t sound like it was the real reason, as her mother lived until she was in her late 90’s.

I know that she met my grandfather at this boarding school, while in the middle of a prank.  Actually, she was in the process of stealing molasses from the cafeteria, and climbing out the window when he approached.  He helped her down.  They shared a cigarette later on their first date.  She wanted to show how worldly she was and swore she always smoked.  She had never taken a puff before in her life.  She coughed and choked uncontrollably after the first puff, and my grandfather, in between fits of laughter, called her “Tuffy” because she was obviously so dang tough.   He called her this until the day he died, fifty years later.  He loved her.  He honestly loved her.  I know this because he put up with her for over 50 years.  No easy task.

After they married when she was just 17, they tried to have children.   They tried, and tried.  She became pregnant rather easily.  It was the carrying a child to term that seemed to elude her.  Sixteen years after they were married, in 1941, my mother was born.  She was the joy of my grandmother’s life.  She was my grandmother’s heart.  My grandmother had suffered through three miscarriages and would suffer through at least one more that I know of.  When my mother was ten years old my grandmother gave birth to a beautiful baby boy…who died hours after his premature birth.  To say this broke my grandmother would be an understatement.  It forever changed her relationship with her surviving child.

But Nanny rarely talked about her “lost” children.  She instead gave as much as she could to my mother–dance lessons, girl scouts, shopping trips, the love of music and art and fine dining.  On top of this, she and my grandfather gave my mother something she loved–a violin.  And my grandmother was never more proud of my mom than when she was playing her violin.  The sad fact of the matter is once my mom put down that violin, when she dropped out of St. Mary’s College of Notre Dame, she never picked it up again.  But I heard countless times how beautiful my mother played, how special she was for her musical talent.

But with her leaving school, she also left my grandparents, and more importantly, my Nanny.  She had been born and raised in Boise, Idaho.  After dropping out of college, she ran.  Away from my grandparents.  She wanted freedom.  She was tired of being the center of my grandmother’s universe.  She ran to California and met my father.  And I don’t think my grandmother ever truly forgave her.

My grandmother and my mother had a crazy dysfunctional relationship.  They loved each other very much.  They were both alcoholics, so they drank, laughed and cried together.  And they drove each other mad.  My mother, while being the center of my grandmother’s universe, was never quite perfect enough for her.  And my grandmother smothered my mother incessantly.  I remember countless times the phone ringing and my mother crying out, “If that’s Nanny, I am NOT here.”  All of us grew used to lying to Nanny.

What did Nanny teach me?  She taught me how to play Solitaire, Gin Rummy, and that there was more to life than trying to find a man(surprising, since she couldn’t seem to be long without one.)

Who was she, truly?  She was a proud catholic.  She was intelligent.  Republican.  She taught Yoga until well into her 70’s.  She lost her one true love, my Papa Glen, to lung cancer when they were approaching their 50th anniversary.  She lost my mother to suicide 15 years later.  I sometimes wonder how she even went on living after my mother died.

When she was about 93, and wearing a skirt, a man approached her in a bar and asked if anyone ever told her she had nice legs.  Her response?  “Only all my life.”  That was Nanny.   Once, she and my mother were walking down the main drag in Boise, Idaho when my mom was 16, and a car full of teenage boys drove by, whooping and whistling.  My grandmother remarked, “Why, I am old enough to be their mother!”  My mom said, “They weren’t whistling at you mother.”  She was always pretty vain.  And insecure.  For years, she swore that she was 40 years old and my mother was 30.  Once we could do the math and knew a bit about biology, she let that lie go.

She helped me through my parent’s divorce.  She was a shoulder to cry on.  She was fiercely protective of my mom, and never let me bad mouth her…and that was how it should have been.  I miss her.  On this day, 102 years after her birth, I miss her.

She was complicated.  She was Nanny…and I love and miss her still.


Filed under Family

I Hate Working!! Outside the home, that is…

I hate loathe working…outside the home.  Since I went back to work almost four years ago, when the boys were 16, 12, and 2 years old, I have had a love-hate relationship with my job.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I love my boys.  I hate my job.  There were times, in the beginning, that I loved my job.  It wasn’t the work I enjoyed so much as being around adults for more than a drive-thru conversation.  I worked with some pretty fun, nice people.  Of course, there were a few knuckleheads  (aren’t there always?)

Then, a change took place.

When I first returned to the workforce I did it to help make ends meet, not to pay any major bills.  I could take or leave the job really.  It was just to help out for a while.

Then, our car took a huge dump.  And so, after pouring more than $1000 into repair bills inside of a month, we decided we had to buy a new car.  But, because of Nick’s wheelchair, and the endless miles we knew we would have to put on a car traveling to and from baseball games, not to mention doctor visits, IEP’s, etc. we needed a car we could rely on.  So, we bit the bullet, bought a brand new beautiful van that met all of our needs…and had a payment to prove it.

Only one slight problem.

Now, I need my job.  Now, my job is no longer to make ends meet, but to keep us from going under even further financially.  And I work like a dog five days a week outside the home, getting little sleep, and feeling like the worst mother on the planet.

Monday through Friday, I am the mom who is just trying to get by.  I am trying not to scream at my children for doing–of all things–making noise!  I am trying to make sure the homework gets done, they get something to eat, maybe even bathed (gasp!) The dishes barely get done, the house by Friday looks like a family of chimpanzees have taken up permanent residence, and don’t even get me started on the yard!

And the worst part of the entire situation is that my husband and I get to spend–maybe–an hour together.  We have opposing schedules…when he gets home from work, I leave for work….when I get home from work, he is only a couple of very short hours from getting ready for work.

We are both, 99% of the time, exhausted.

On the weekends, we recover.  We all sleep in on Saturday(unless some crazy neighbor decides to mow their lawn at the crack of dawn, which invariably happens), we clean up the house a bit, are a bit lazy, and then we begin to dread Monday.

By Sunday night, I am in prepare mode.  Prepare for the horrific week I am about to have at work, prepare for the lack of sleep I get during the week, prepare to somehow make it through the week with some semblance of sanity.

I don’t know how single moms do it.  My husband, God love him, is amazing.  He helps out in more ways than I can count, yet I still feel like my boys are getting the short end of the stick because I have to work the schedule I work.

Over the last four years I have missed more of Nick’s doctor appointments, dental appointments, etc, than I care to admit.  He hasn’t gotten the care he deserves because we are just trying to make it through each day as best as we can.

So, now, I am trying to find a way to quit my job…without putting more strain on my husband.  Is it possible??  I ask myself this question just about every day.  Every Monday I am tempted to walk in, tell them I have had enough..and walk out with a smile.  Then, I get my son’s tuition bill, or the ER bill I still haven’t been able to pay, or the 1931 plumbing in this house gives out, and I feel stuck.

Is it possible to be a good mother to Nick and my other two boys when I am so distracted, exhausted and overwhelmed all the time?  It sure doesn’t feel like it.

So, for now, I work….at home and on “the job” and I pray every day for wisdom…and that my boys somehow manage to thrive in the middle of this chaos.


Filed under Uncategorized