My Letter to the One That Got Away

There is a monthly show at Joe’s Pub called Women of Letters. It’s a literary salon where, according to their website, “women come together on stage to celebrate the lost art of letter-writing.” This past month, I had the opportunity to perform on that stage alongside some of the most incredible women I’ve ever encountered, including Joan Juliet Buck, former editor of French Vogue, and Suzanne “duh-duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh-duh” Vega. It was insane.

I’m the giant on the far right.

One of the magical parts of Women of Letters is that they don’t allow recording of any kind during the show. That way they create a safe space where performers can say whatever they like, knowing a video isn’t going to show up on YouTube the next day.

However. If you wanna publish what you wrote, you totally can.

The story I shared wouldn’t have happened without this blog, so even though I wavered a little (I think you’ll see why), I’m posting my letter here to complete the circle.

Women of Letters NYC, April 2017: To the One That Got Away

Hey, Mom,

I know it’s been a while since we talked, but I just can’t stop thinking about that last thing you said to me…


Do you remember that? Just one word. “Heartbroken,” then you left without giving me a chance to find out exactly what you meant.

Of course, I get you were saying you were heartbroken and that I was the one responsible, but which specific heartbreak are we talking about here?

I’m guessing maybe the blog, but can that really be it? I’d apologized so many times. I’d even cried on your belly and begged for forgiveness just the week before. “Please Mommy, we don’t have much time.”

I hadn’t called you Mommy since I was 12.

And all you said back was, “You’ll never know how much you hurt me.” Which still blows me away. I mean, let’s be real. What kind of mother does that? Do you know how hard it is to accept that you literally decided you’d rather die before forgiving me for a few blog posts?

You probably do. And based on the 40 years we had together, my guess is that somewhere you’re high fiving yourself for making the perfect exit.

Okay. I get that it was really fucked up of me to write about your pill addiction online, especially those “From the Cot” posts where I talked about staying in the hospital while you detoxed. But like I told you the night you broke our 2-year silence after your doctor suggested you get your affairs in order … I was scared and I was angry and I was acting out.

I really am sorry I hurt you so much.

At least I took the posts down, right? Granted, it was after you (and the rest of the family) found them, but still. Beyond going back in time, what could I have done?

You remember that Precious Moments doll you got me after I gave the baby up for adoption? It was the angel one I’d been wanting for so long and your note read, “Nothing you could ever do could change the love I have for you.”

You wrote that to me two days after I’d woken you up in the middle of the night to tell you that not only was I pregnant, but that I was also in labor and needed a ride to the hospital RIGHT. NOW.

For the record … I still don’t get how you lived with me that entire time without ever noticing your 19-year-old was with child, but I guess that’s not the point.

The point is, you found out I was having a baby, you watched me have the baby, and then you helped me sign away my rights to that baby all in the span of two days. And still your instinct was to reassure me of your unconditional love.

Nothing I could ever do.

Of course, that was also 1990. At the time, the worst thing you could imagine me doing was killing somebody and even that, you promised, could never overshadow your love for me. It would be a full decade before you could fathom I’d ever have the ability to out your drug problems to our entire family, and the world at large, via a thing called the Internet.

Still, I don’t believe that’s the heartbreak you were talking about when you stared straight at me with that infamous evil eye of yours and forced out the only word you’d said in days. I suppose you didn’t want there to be any question about whether you died at peace because you most certainly did not.

You were heartbroken and I swear to god I believe you purposely chose that as your last word to make sure I never forgot it.

As much as I’d like to think it was the blog that broke your heart, I know it was what happened the day before you died that dropped the final ash in your cremation urn. So, I wanna explain my side.  

That day, I’d been home for three weeks, clearing out your belongings as if you were already dead, poring through the piles of garbage you’d hoarded over the years, and cleaning up after your uncared-for menagerie of cats and dogs. At least I had mama cat handling the litter of kittens in the linen closet. It’s terrible to admit but, I was kinda happy when I found the head of the one she ate. And part of me hoped she’d eat more to thin the herd.

On top of all that, the septic tank at the house had gotten so full, we couldn’t wash laundry and flush the toilet at the same time. Otherwise, the tub would start to overflow with 30 years of our family’s shit.

I’ve never related more to an inanimate object in my entire life.

That day—the one before you died—you and I were home alone. You, morphine-d out on a hospital bed in the living room where the sofa used to be, and me in the back of the house sorting through mementos of a life with a mom who’d begun a descent into depression and drug addiction during my teens.

Each plastic bag of clothes to donate, or trash to throw out that I carried past your catatonic body was a symbol of how I’d never have the nurturing mother I’d seen on TV and at my friends’ houses.

I remember the only noises in the room being your respirator and your gurgling from the fluid on your lungs. Then my voice. I haven’t been able to pinpoint what finally made me snap. Maybe I found another junk drawer filled with cheese wrappers, or a fresh pile of dog shit in the hallway. Maybe that was the day I found your unsigned will where you’d made a point to note that you had left me out on purpose.

Whatever it was, all I know is that before I realized the gravity of what was happening, I was standing over your not-quite-dead body unleashing decades of anger and resentment, taking full advantage of the hospice nurse’s comment that even though you couldn’t respond, you could definitely hear what I was saying. She meant it as a warning. I took it as an opportunity.

And I know I took it too far.

In addition to airing every grievance I’d ever had with you, I told you your body was shot this go round, you were never going to recover, and that you should just cross on over and give it another try in your next lifetime. I quoted fucking Poltergeist.

“Go to the light, Carol Ann. Go to the light.”

What must it have felt like to hear your daughter tell you to just die already, knowing she 100% meant it, while not being able to respond because you were incapacitated from narcotics and the general business of dying? Of course your last word was heartbroken. What else would it have been?

You know, the crazy thing is, even after weeks of watching your body decay and planning the logistical parts of your death, I still had hope we’d find a way to work things out emotionally, which I didn’t fully understand until you finally died and I knew for sure we were out of chances.

I miss you, Mom. And I so regret that we ran out of time to make things right between us. But. At the same time, I’m so grateful you left when—and how—you did. The truth is, as hard as losing you has been, it’s also given me a chance find myself. I’m a storyteller and performer now and so many of my pieces center around our relationship, how I wish we’d understood each other better while you were here, and how I’d never be the writer or the woman I’ve become if you still were.

Thank you for all of it.

Love, Susan


*Seriously. Women of Letters is hands down my all-time favorite storytelling(ish) show. Do yourself a favor … and plan ahead cause this shiz sells out every month – frequently 4 weeks+ in advance.

Living in the Moment

I slept in that Friday morning because I knew it was going to be a hard day.

Erica was already at work when I got up, so I pulled on some clothes and headed out to get coffee.

When I got home, I sat on the couch a while and thought about my friend B. She says she doesn’t keep track of death anniversaries, which I think is actually a very cool concept. But, with Mom’s being in December along with the rest of the events, I really don’t see how I can get around it.

The month starts with a trio of birthdays: Grandma’s on the 8th, mine on the 9th and Mom’s on the 11th. My estranged Daddy’s birthday is on the 23rd and of course there’s JC on the 25th – which I have always taken issue with because of that hateful phrase, “This is for your birthday and Christmas.” Now there’s Mom’s death as well. So, as you can imagine, December’s not my favorite month.

When I woke up on the 2nd anniversary of Mom’s death, I looked up in the corner of the loft where her spirit tends to hang out.

“Mornin’ Mom,” I yawned, “Here we go.”

As I learned the first time around, death day is filled with memories of being in Georgia, moving Mom to the nursing home, signing DNR paperwork with my sister, and later fighting to remove a foam-tipped swab from between Mom’s clenched teeth when she realized where she was.

Up until that morning, Mom had been basically catatonic for days and that was without our dosing her with liquid morphine. She wasn’t eating, she wasn’t responding, she was wearing a diaper.

“Honey, I’ve seen ’em last 3 or 4 years like this,” the Hospice nurse had told us earlier that week.

“Fuck that,” I mouthed at my sister, A. I had only been home for three weeks and I could not fathom what she and my niece had already been through. First of all, their living room had been turned into a virtual care unit. Mom was laid out in a hospital bed where the sofa used to be. My grandma’s old bedside table had been moved in to serve as a holding station for all of Mom’s meds and the never ending supply of little lotion bottles that were delivered to us in pink hospital bins with matching vomit troughs.

There was an oxygen tank was stationed at the head of the bed with a tube running directly from it, through a regulator, into my mother’s nose – or more often, her eyebrows because she was constantly pawing at her face to pull it away from her nostrils. Just beyond her feet was Christmas. There was a beautiful tree, tons of brightly wrapped presents, Santa figurines, a garland-draped window … and the white candle we had started burning each day in hopes that it would lead her towards the light.

After the nurse left that day, A and I started making plans. We needed help with Mom so that A could get her shit in order before Erica and I returned to NYC. Thanks to the Hospice program, we were able to find a bed nearby where Mom could stay for 30 days while A prepared for a possible 3 or 4 years with her in the living room care unit.

The morning the ambulance arrived, Mom decided to wake up.

“It’s like she knew they pulled up in the front yard,” A told me later as we talked on the phone.

We all met that afternoon at the nursing home to check Mom in and make sure she was okay. Niece V and Erica stayed with Mom while A and I met with the administrators. Piles of papers were signed, directives were given to the floor staff: no needles in her right arm, careful with the sores in her mouth. We went back to the room and someone suggested we try giving Mom a milkshake. She hadn’t eaten in days and we knew that she was a sucker for Dairy Queen.

Erica & I went to the drive-thru. “Large banana shake, extra thick, please.” When we got back, A dripped ice cream into Mom’s mouth with a straw while I put away the clothes and medical supplies we brought with us. She had been in and out of lucidity all day and it was the first time we got her to smile.

I started explaining where she was, that the nursing home was only a temporary situation, and that we would have her back home soon. She couldn’t speak very well by that point, but she had no problem expressing how pissed off she was. She gritted her teeth and glared at me.

“Are you scared?” I asked.

She nodded and gave me a look that I had only seen once before – on the face of a man who believed he was about to drown in the Mediterranean.

I tried again to explain what was going on. “You’re at Golden Living Center in Tifton. You’ll only be here for a few weeks while A makes some arrangements to take care of you back at home. This isn’t forever. You’ll just be here a little while. I promise.”

I moved to the end of the bed and started rubbing her feet while Erica, A, V and I talked about our plans for that night. Mom moaned a little “that feels good” sound. I smiled back at her and joked, “You’re not so mad now, are you?”

She snatched her feet away from me to show that she was.

A and V decided to head back to Fitzgerald. Erica and I were going to have dinner then return to the nursing home to stay with Mom until visiting hours were over.

“Mama. We’re going to go for a little bit, but we’ll be right back. A & V are going home. Erica and I are grabbing food and will be back in about an hour. Do you understand?”

She gathered as much air as she could into her fluid-filled lungs. “Heartbroken,” she forced out in a raspy hiss.

I sighed and turned to walk out the door. A & V said their goodbyes. Erica gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“See you later, Barbara.”

Erica and I had a flight back home the next day so, the four of us decided to hang out at our hotel for a little while. We’d only been there about 30 minutes when A got a phone call.

The nursing home says she’s unresponsive and they’re taking her to the emergency room. Thinking they meant catatonic like she had been the week prior, I told A to relax and finish her drink before we got back in the cars.

“I can’t take it, we’ve got to go now.”

When the nurse led us into a private waiting room, I fell into the plush leather sofa and looked up at everyone.

“Maybe it’s because they know us,” someone offered hopefully – referring to the fact that Mom had just the year prior worked as a nurse in the same hospital.

I shook my head. “It’s bad news, guys. The fancy room is always bad news.”

After the ER doctor talked with us, I held Erica’s hand as I made the necessary phone calls to family and close friends. V & A went to see Mom.

“Prepare yourself. It’s fucking awful,” A reported when they came back in the room.

On the way to the ER, I ran into Mom’s regular doctor whom she had worked with before becoming a nurse.

“I’m so sorry, Susan.”

“I don’t understand. We signed a DNR.”

Apparently the paperwork hadn’t had time to process so she was intubated and hooked up to a billion machines. When we walked through the curtain, I crumbled.

“Oh, Mommy. Mommy, I’m so sorry.” I sobbed and laid my face on her chest. She was so frail and thin. Her mouth hung open, full of plastic tubing. I kept touching her body – her bony shoulders, her hands, her face. “Mommy … Mommy.” Erica cried quietly next to me as I became conscious of the nurse who was in the room.

“Did you know her?”

“Yeah, we did clinicals together.”

“I’m so sorry,” I offered in an attempt to make him feel better.

We spent the rest of the night in a room on the ICU floor.

Everyone took turns holding Mom’s hands and we watched numbers on the machines that kept track of her ever-declining systems. I quizzed nurses on what they meant and I got a very loving, “Don’t worry about numbers honey. Be with your Mama now.”

Mom’s best friend S and her husband J showed up at some point and became glued to the various monitors as well. Collectively we decided we should keep track of her respirations and blood pressure, mainly because those were the only things we recognized. Around midnight, we made the decision to remove the breathing tube.

Believing that the initial improvement in Mom’s blood pressure was a sign that their prayers had been answered, S and J left around 1 AM. Soon after, a night nurse came in to give Mom some pain medication and I caught his arm when he turned to leave.

“Please. Explain what the numbers mean. I need to know.”

He had been monitoring Mom through a small window from a desk outside, and I guess he understood my need to prepare and be better able to predict when she was going to go. He explained that although we were watching Mom’s BP and respirations, it was actually her oxygen saturation level we should keep an eye on. He went as far as to tell me the normal range and the percentage to watch for to know it was almost over.

I sat vigil by Mom’s bed while my sister, niece and Erica napped restlessly on flat sofa cushions in the corner of the room under blankets and sheets the nurse brought in after he explained oxygen saturation to me.

Curled in a stiff arm chair, I laid my head on the bed next to Mom’s feet and counted minutes between SaOreadings. Occasionally V, would sit up and ask what the number was. Our night nurse watched from his window and from time to time would come in to ask me if I needed anything. “Anything at all.” I told him he had already done so much more than he could imagine. Eventually I drifted off to sleep, my head by Mom’s feet and my arm stretched out so I could hold onto her fingers.

Around 4 AM I woke up in pain from sleeping bent over the arm of the chair and squeezed in next to Erica on the floor. I gave everyone the report – still 72%.

Moments later it was 6:30 and our night nurse said that Mom’s numbers had dropped dramatically in the prior hour. We were below 30% and it was almost time. We all got up and took our place in chairs around her bed. Everyone quietly cried and V took a picture with her phone of her hand holding Mom’s for the last time. Without telling me, Erica did the same thing of mine on the other side of the bed.

For the first time in almost twelve hours, I stopped paying attention to monitors and did my best to be present in the last moments I had with a mom who was alive.

Instead, I watched the clock.

And at 7:28 AM, on December 29, 2010, a nurse put a stethoscope to my mom’s chest and said, “I’m sorry. She’s gone.”

When I met Erica for dinner that Friday night in 2012, I sat down and started to give her the report. “I cried a few times, talked to her a lot, but I didn’t have a huge breakdown like last year. Pretty good progress, eh?”

“Yeah boo, I just hope you make it through tomorrow.”

Turns out, Friday was the 28th.

“Oh goody. Can’t wait to do it all again.”


BK is in the House

I never realized that my city and my mom shared the same initials until almost a year after she died. And it’s weird to me because I used to forge her signature a lot, so you think I might have noticed once I moved to Brooklyn and started incorporating BK into my personal vernacular.  You know, as in:

“So, Susan where do you live?”

“BK, yo. What’s up?”

That spells "blood" - I am fiercely hood.

I say forge because that’s the technical term, but Mom knew I did it. She was actually pretty impressed with my ability to copy other people’s signatures as it reflected that a little part of her was inside of me. For many years after we moved to Fitzgerald, Mom worked as a legal secretary and part of her job was to be able to sign the attorney’s names for them. That way she could type, process and file court documents without ever having to bother a lawyer. It was an efficient way of handling the routine clients, if not the most ethical practice when it came to operating a law firm.

To save time at home, Mom handed her personal signature duties over to me. She let me sign my own report cards, initial tests and notes from my teachers, write my own absence excuses, and I filled out and signed her checks when I needed to get cash. I naturally had a similar writing style to Mom, but there were a few letters that I had to work at to get. I remember practicing her signature over and over at my grandma’s dining room table to get the capital B and K just right. Mom would see my notebooks and give me feedback on my progress. “Oh, this one’s pretty good,” or, “See here?” taking the pen from my hand and demonstrating, “The K’s actually more like this.”

I got really good at imitating Mom’s handwriting and took care of all the paperwork duties until I finished college and was no longer asked for my mom’s information along with my own on official documents. After that, I never really needed the skill again. But still, more than ten years later when I sign my own name, I sometimes slip and use Mom’s capital K.

Now that she’s gone, I can’t see or write or say BK without thinking of her. And now that I’m in the throes of DPC Year Two, I can barely type this sentence because I keep breaking down and sobbing after every fourth word. Sigh. I miss her, you guys.

What really sucks about missing her, besides the non-stop breakdown-o-rama that has become my life, is there’s such a huge part of me that knows I never really had her to begin with — at least not in the way I needed her. And now that she’s gone, I know for sure that it’s never going to happen.


Guess Who’s Back …

I got a comment on my last post that read: You’re back and pro-f-ing-lific! Don’t know whats gotten into you but, I love it.

I was totally thrilled to see that at least one of my billions of adoring fans was still reading my stuff. You know, I feel like I’m coming back and I’m glad that someone else noticed. As far as the “what’s gotten into me” part, the honest truth of the matter is that Mom died and I can finally post here freely without worrying about what she’s going to think.

While she was still alive and had Internet service, Mom was literally obsessed with my blog and according to reports from my sister and niece, there was a time when it was practically all she could talk or think about. Of course, she was the not so elegant star in several posts, so one could understand her being consumed with thoughts about what I might write next. The thing is, as soon as I found out she was on constant stand by waiting for my next posting, I stopped writing about her or anyone else in the family.

Her obsession, however, continued.

Apparently she read the posts about herself over and over, and even though years passed and I removed all family-related postings from Southern Discomforts and she and I hashed the entire incident out time after time (once we began speaking again after a 2-year hiatus), she just could not stop obsessing about the fact that I had written about her … or let go of her anger about what I wrote.

Knowing she was out there, waiting for me to post something unsavory (but true, god dammit) about her was one thing. I could totally avoid writing about that stuff. But, when I found out that her obsession had spread from focusing on posts about her and the family to every thing I ever wrote, I froze up. I had a tiny Mom in my head constantly scrutinizing every word I tried to write, every story I wanted to tell, and effectively shutting me down from creating much more than the occasional “Why I Love Brooklyn” post and even then, I hated the idea that she was there waiting for it to show up.

In spite of the fact that I’ve obviously got no problem sharing my stories with the billions of potential readers who could stumble across my little domain at any time, I had a huge problem with my Mom reading my online journal. As a kid, she would dig through my room on a regular basis and read any and every thing she could find – diaries, notes from friends, cards – and would then punish me for things she’d discover in them.

We had an ongoing fight for years about whether she was justified in stripping me of all privacy (my words, obviously) and she never gave up her, “I’m your mother. I can do whatever I want,” stance. So, when I heard about how engrossed she had become in my writing once again, I just couldn’t separate her reading my published work on the blog from her violating my privacy by reading my diaries as a kid.

Now, believe me, I see how fucked up this is and how much it sucks that I pretty much waited for my mom to die before allowing myself to write freely and honestly again. It’s obviously not how I would have chosen it to go down, and it certainly wasn’t planned, but facts is facts and the honest truth of this particular matter is that some of my best material comes from my worst experiences.

Prepare yourselves for greatness.

Stick a Fork in Me

I don’t think my Zoloft is working. Does anyone know whether it’s the kind of drug to which one builds up a tolerance? Granted, there are days when I forget to take it, but more than not, I’m pretty regular with it.

Erica tells me that it’s not supposed to cut off all emotions. And if that’s true, what exactly is the point?

Of course, it’s been a trying few weeks for me. The whole family found the blog (Hi everyone!) and the word from my sister is that I have been anointed with the end-all, be-all punishment of Southerners.

Susan. They all read it. And they are done with you.

My family has always had their ways of being done with someone — none of which involves direct confrontation (except the year I ruined Christmas — I’ll tell you that one later).

Perhaps the most infamous of the line of the “Done With” in our family was my great Uncle Elzie. As a young boy, Elzie decided to run off to California in search of his dream to be a movie star. Family rumor has it that he actually made it into a couple of films, though I couldn’t find him on IMDB. I am, however, pretty sure that this rumor is the only reason the family kept talking about him during holidays after he was done with.

You know, we’ve got kin who was in the movies

That and as a warning to the youngsters to not betray the family lest you become done with as well.

Uncle Elzie’s most vicious crime was that after he left for California he reportedly never returned. Not for Christmas, Easter, Homecoming at the Baptist Church. Nothing. He deserted his Mama and Fitzgerald completely. All because that selfish bastard wanted a life of his own. The only acceptable way you can move away from home in my family is if you return for visits as often as humanly possible. (Because it’s always so pleasant when we all get together.) And, more importantly, you should never succeed too much, lest you become uppity or think you’re better than everyone else.

Now. My take on Uncle Elzie is this: I don’t know him, or his Mama, so I’m not sure what the deal is there. Maybe she sucked. Or, maybe they loved each other and they talked on the phone twice a day and enjoyed their wonderful long-distance relationship. What I do know is that Elzie had a loving wife who visited us once with photos and stories and did her best to get Elzie back into the fold. The family was super nice and sat through the stories and photos and as soon as she left the conversation went straight to how Elzie betrayed everyone.

I secretly envied Uncle Elzie. His story seemed so exotic and exciting. And for me, in a world where the only options I knew I had were to either teach, type or raise babies, Uncle Elzie gave me hope.

Uncle Elzie, if you’re out there, know that even though I never met you, I loved you. Thanks for the inspiration.

I made it.

Horoscopes and Blogging

I don’t know what it is with this blogging thing. Either I struggle to come up with something to write about, or I don’t have enough time to write everything and still keep things current. Now, I know I tell old stories a lot, but that’s from years ago. Telling an old story from last week just seems weird to me.

Of course. Now that I write that, the fact that it seems weird to me is weird to me.

Anyway. I have a lot to say lately. Right now I would like to talk about today’s horoscope. (This is a great example of a story that just wouldn’t feel right if I were telling it in, say, July.)

Do you fucking believe that? What kind of bullshit horoscope is that? Smoking Baby has mistaken me for Job (Juh-long O-buh) and is going so far as to poke at me from the Metro’s puzzle page. You know how much that puzzle page means to me. Plus, if you’re up to date on the blog, you know that I recently broke up with my mother, and I am positive that she was offended. If not by the actual breakup, then certainly by the incidents I mentioned during the breakup. At the very least she was offended by my language.

But the thing is:

Well the things are:

1) Sagittarians are infamous for their bluntness and for saying things with a tone that is frequently misinterpreted. We spend a lot of time either feeling guilty about hurting someone’s feelings, apologizing for hurting someone’s feelings, or unintentionally hurting someone’s feelings. So, in one way this can be seen as the Metro astrologer lady just being lazy. Because, on any given day that I’ve interacted with other people, there is a 1 in 5 chance that I’ve offended one of them without meaning to, or even realizing it. Being offended is disappointing. Ergo — lame ass horoscope.

2) My mother is also a Sagittarian. I wonder if she read her horoscope today.

Oprah Does It Again

So. I’m in my pit of despair today. Just feeling really shitty and worried and morose and wallowing in it. If I had been at home alone, I swear I would have put on an old Cure album and cried into my pillow. I am completely at a loss with what to do with the current family situation. Again. I swear. If she weren’t my mom, I’d be like, “This chick is nothing but drama, and I don’t need it.” And I’d be out. But she’s my mom. And there are different rules for moms. Frustrating.

A friend of mine, DP, from Fitzgerald was in town recently and she has known my mom for years. I was going through the saga and she said, “You know. I always felt that there was just something not right with her.” I’ve had another old friend tell me the same thing. Honestly, it makes me feel better — like I’m not crazy. When DP told me what she thought, I started squealing. “Right? Right? It’s not just me!”

Now my sister and I are getting a lot closer and of course I am addicted to my niece so I can never get fully away. Though, it just occurred to me that maybe this is what Mom and Amy need. I’ve always been in the middle of their bullshit one way or another. Either Mom was telling Amy to be more like me, which made Amy hate me. Or, Mom was telling me what a piece of shit Amy was, making me hate Amy. And I am pretty sure that Mom’s conversations with Amy were very similar to the ones she had with me. So, Amy has really never had much of a leg to stand on. It’s like Mom’s been gaslighting her into believing she’s incapable of any amount of success or happiness for that matter and Amy has just been beaten into submission. The family was really just the three of us, so it was kind of two to one. Not that I wasn’t being duped as well.

Now that I’m out of the picture, they have to deal with each other. Mom is very aware of my stance on all issues at hand, and therefore unless she meets my conditions (a recovery program) she and I have nothing more to say to each other. I still speak with Amy frequently, and do my best to support her. It’s nice being on her side. She’s nothing like what Mom said.

Sorry. I tend to go on tangents. And that one seemed like a good one — a breakthrough for me in a way. Thanks for sharing the moment.

Back to Oprah. This is what I wanted to tell you about and it does relate in a way. So, I’m watching Oprah and it’s a rerun of the Cris Karr interview — the woman who did the Crazy, Sexy, Cancer documentary. Cris is talking about how she’s learned to live in the moment and she says, “Isn’t worrying praying for what you don’t want?”

And a lightbulb went off. Bells started to ring. Whatever cheesy metaphor you choose … the point is, I had a breakthrough. Worrying is praying for what you don’t want. I swear it’s so brilliant, I’m going to put it on a T-shirt.

Smoking Baby Dammit.

I believe all of you have been introduced to my HP (Higher Power), Smoking Baby. He is a miracle worker. I like him because he’s sweet and benevolent, but he’s got that edge. I’m sure as soon as he’s of age, he will get a bad ass tattoo and a motorcycle. He advocates peace and love but isn’t opposed to some good old toilet humor.

Erica and I have started using him in conversations where we both feel we need to be heard. No SB in your hand, no words out of your mouth. We used it for the first time last week when we were having an argument and just kept going around and around because we both tend to interrupt as if we already know what the other one is going to say. Very unproductive. I got the SB idea and it worked like a charm. I love SB.

Unfortunately, SB has taken a day off. I just got a call from my sister. This is never good news.Mom, who is not talking to me because she has taken possession over the breakup. You know how in high school you break up with someone and then you find out they’re all over the place telling people they broke up with you? Yeah.

Well today, I find out through my sister that today Mom is starting radiation again. There’s a what they’re referring to as a “spot” on her lung. I’m guessing “spot” is a Southern euphemism for tumor. I don’t know. Poor Amy is absolutely tortured right now. She has been trying to move on with her own life, taking care of her daughter and now she’s re-immersed in Mom guilt because of her latest illness. I’m trying to help Amy see that Mom’s new cancer doesn’t get her off the hook for endangering her granddaughter with her pill issues, but it’s hard for her. Especially being there in the same town.


I, of course, am taking it all in stride and counting on my HP SB to take care of everything. Remember, I’m the one going to meetings.

Pretend I’m in Mexico.

Hi people. I fell down again. Honest to Smoking Baby, I fell down. Again.

This is my knee:I was walking home from my Al-Anon meeting and I stepped on one of those plastic folder things you put in a Trapper Keeper. It was just like the skating incident but slalom. A nice boy poked his head out of the bodega door to ask, “Lady. Are you okay?” (Fucker. It was like when I went back to Italy and the waiter called me Signora instead of Signorina.) The three kids behind me giggled for about three blocks. Not the point of the story. Just thought you’d like to know.

So. I get home tonight (with my broken head, ass and knee, in order of altitude) and I’m in a pensive mood. A and V left today after a four day visit. We spent almost the entire time not speaking about Mom, except for E’s occasional slip up about something crazy Mom did or how we had a wacko family or something. Something about V makes you forget that she’s a kid. She’s acts as if she’s much more mature emotionally than she is and you start to talk around her as if she’s an adult. Then there are times when you’re talking to her about how crazy things have been lately and she’ll break your heart with, “Oh, I’m so used to it by now. I’ve seen it all.”

Sorry. Is that too sullen a thought? I had a friend tell me recently that my blog was too heavy for him. (But without the hip verbiage.) I can’t help it. And I don’t think of my stories as sullen or morose. It’s just what’s going on.

Anyway, I came home tonight after my meeting and I asked E for a night alone. I assured her that it was only because I just needed to process some stuff on my own and I took off. (It’s my first time ever asking for some space in the five years we’ve been together. I am learning so much!)

“Pretend I’m in Mexico. I’ll see you later.”
“Okay! I’ll watch the L Word.”

I do have to admit, I was disappointed in her lack of disapointment.

Anyway. I grabbed a bottle of wine, my laptop and I headed for the loft. I’m at the end of this seven-engine train of family shit and I’m tired. I have gotten through the intervention and the sister visit. I just left an eye opening Al-Anon meeting and I wanna just be alone. With all of you.

You know. I’m writing down all of this stuff you’re reading, and I recognize that when I post here, I’m not making a journal entry. I truly know that I’m writing for an audience (of millions), but there’s still this sense of anonymity that comes from the fact that instead of speaking, I am typing. And it is more anonymous than physically writing because you hit save or send and it’s over. There’s nothing tangible left over to prove it ever happened. And there’s something about that that allows me to write freely about things I would usually never broadcast. Especially considering the fact that there are already members of my family reading on a regular basis, and as soon as that Oprah deal comes through (Oprah, can you hear me? Oprah, can you feel me in the night?), Mom will find out (if not earlier) and there’s a part of me that is terrified of that. But there’s also a part of me that feels that, as Dr. Drew said on Celebrity Rehab, “You are only as sick as your secrets.” And, my people, I am tired of being sick. When I was in Georgia for the latest drama, I opened to my Mom up about things I’ve never confronted her on … and in front of her brother.
It rocked.

Mom later told me, “I remember what you said in the hospital. I can’t believe you would talk to me like that. And in front of B. I am so embarassed.” I, enlightened Princess that I am, replied, “I am sorry that I hurt your feelings, but that doesn’t mean what I said wasn’t true.”

Right on, Princess.

People, I am taking care of myself these days. And, to be honest, it’s a fucking chore. Not only do I have a lot of family baggage to deal with, I am unpracticed at self-love … however. Watch out! I’m on a crash-course and it’s only a matter of time before I’m writing (and performing) cheers for myself.

So, thanks for reading. And, to those friends of mine who are only finding out what’s happening to me through the blog although you’ve called and written, I’m sorry. I’m a little overwhelmed right now but am working it out. I’ll holla at ya when I’ll be more fun to talk to. (Or when I get the cheers ready … Guh-oooohhh PRINCESS!)

Patient #4606 aka Patient #7928

I realize that for the benefit of her experience, I should probably be addressing this question to Martha Stewart. But you know how I feel about Oprah – all-knowing talk show Queen that she is — and I don’t want to chance hurting her feelings by asking Martha a question to which she, omnipotent Oprah, would know the answer to.

So, O, what is the proper etiquette for thanking intervention participants? Do I send thank you cards? Flowers? Wine and Xanax?

Turns out Mom is deeply, clinically depressed as verified by the finest General Practitioner in all of Fitzgerald, Georgia. (How long have I been telling you people this? Why won’t anyone listen to me?) To combat her depression, Mom started using too much of her prescription medication. Now, let’s run down the litany of complaints and concerns I have had about Mommy since I started posting about her on this blog.

Delirium, falling, constant fear of dying, constant self-diagnoses of a variety of very scary cancers, losing ridiculous amounts of weight, breaking multiple bones in a very short time (who besides a nine-year-old boy does this?), not knowing what day it is, atrial fibrulation and her insane tolerance for pain pills.

What else can I say besides, “Duh”?

When I got the call from A, my sister, about Mom’s recent fall and busted head/staples incident, I declared that I would no longer be party to the lies and secrets our family has treasured for so long. I called both of my uncles, told them everything, then I went directly to one of Mom’s multiple doctors with detailed information on what Mom was taking and in what quantities. Together, we all talked her into checking herself into a psychiatric hospital for a few days.

She has since been released and is doing well. She has a degree of clarity for the first time in many, many years and she gained the ability to empathise with crack heads and cutters. She understands that she is not a bad person, she has an illness and we’re on the Road to Recovery.

My family and friends pulled together for me in ways I couldn’t believe. Although I have no cell service in Ben Hill and the surrounding counties in South Georgia, when I got back to AT&T country, I had over fifteen messages of love and encouragement. I also received multiple emails, text messages and one honest-to-god handwritten letter in the mail. I also got the funniest invitation to a Super Bowl party ever from a friend who didn’t know what was happening, but who helped me feel better anyway.

I’m back in Brooklyn but am taking a few days to decompress so that I can remember what my real life is like. My people, I have eaten more McDonald’s food in the past week and a half than I have in the past five years and I was forced to shop at Wal-Mart repeatedly because, in the country, there are no other options.

I am tired, I feel fat and greasy and I feel I should be wearing a hairshirt airbrushed with the phrase, “I am a loser who supported Wal-Mart.”

Until I get the call from Oprah, I’d like some feedback on what you think I should do regarding the thank you notes. I checked and they had nothing.