Tag Archives: family

Open Heart Surgery Opened My Heart

heart surgery


Nobody likes to see their parent’s lying in hospital beds, hooked up to blinking, ticking, and pumping machines, with a breathing tube down their esophagus.

Such was the scene this week when my daddio had open heart surgery; double bypass yo.

We had known about the surgery for a month, and my family went about their business, doing their work, and going to work, with little discussion about the impending surgery and what it would mean. Maybe it was a good thing- no time for dwelling, minds occupied and all that jazz (hands).

On D-day, I met my parents at the hospital at a very early 6:30AM. As we waited for my dad to be admitted, my mother played scrabble on her Kindle, and I engaged my dad in a conversation about potential stocks to buy and the latest comments made by the idiots running for President; neither subjects I was especially interested in, especially at the butt crack of dawn. I had to talk, and my dad had to make suggestions and offer his opinions. It’s what we do when we’re nervous.

After 45 minutes of listening to Little People, Big World, loudly play in the background, my father’s name was called and he was brought back to a room to change his clothes. In his absence, my mother and I discussed where we were going to eat lunch, once the procedure was in full bloom, and we had four or five hours to kill.

My brother arrived a little while later, and before he even sat down, he started complaining about the traffic on the Hutchinson Parkway, wondering why there were so many people having surgery, (evidenced by the crowded waiting room), and upset that my mother didn’t stop off for her coffee (that she was now jones-ing for) on their way into the hospital; like my brother had. That’s what he did when he was nervous.

Fifteen or so minutes later, the three of us were brought in to see my father. He was sitting in a large medical recliner, which my mother said would be great for the house– just cause. He was stylishly dressed in his hospital apparel; gown, robe and grippy socks. It was quite the ensemble.

Topics were bandied about, jokes told, sarcasm, critiques and judgements about this or that, and this one and that one. My mother plucked my brother’s ear hair with tweezers that she pulled from her purse, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. I snapped photos for posterity (or blackmail) and we laughed. Hard.

That was until my father brought up what I had dreaded ever hearing from him. “If anything happens, please take care of your mother, and please be kind to each another.”

My brother and my mother brushed it off, not wanting to entertain his directive; but I was different. I wanted him to have peace of mind before his chest was cracked open. I’m funny that way. I assured him that we would all be okay, and that he didn’t have anything to worry about.

Of course my brother and I would take care of our mother. In some ways, that had already begun. And as much as my brother and I never got along, and don’t have much of a relationship today, I know that I can count on him, and I hope that he feels the same about me.

There was a brief moment, lasting less than a minute, when silence permeated the room. This was it. The four of us. This was how we started, before the extended family, husbands, wives, friends, and grandchildren; and this could potentially be where it ended. And something about that calmed me. This was how it was supposed to be.

These three people, with their many, many, many, flaws, were my family… god help me.


Teenage sex

Is Teenage Sex Happening Under Your Roof?


REPOST… All new on Tuesday!

Would you let your teenage daughter, and her boyfriend, sleep together in your house with the potential of teenage sex also happening in your house? Would you even let her boyfriend sleep over?

A few years back, my boyfriend’s teenage daughter asked us if her teenage boyfriend, could spend the night. The first thing I thought of was that they were going to have teenage sex. My boyfriend knew where I stood on the topic. No f’in way!

After a bit of cajoling and guilt, I caved. We set him up in the basement on a futon. We also made it perfectly clear that this was not to become a habit. For me, the issue falls under the broad category of boundaries (mine) and speaks to the idea of respect, and what I’m comfortable with. We’re not running a brothel here people.

When I was a senior in high school, I asked my mens group attendee, consciousness raising meeting host, grass-toking, Kerouac reading, Woodstock foregoing because the traffic was going to be too intense, parents if my boyfriend could sleep over. It was after nine o’clock and he only had his permit. They agreed but I could tell that they weren’t excited about the idea.

He slept in the guest room down the hall. In the middle of the night, my boyfriend tiptoed the 50 feet down to my bedroom, and climbed into bed with me. We thought we’d pulled one over on my folks and felt oh, so grown up.

The next morning, we all met in the kitchen for breakfast. My boyfriend and I looked at each other, and then caught a glimpse of my mother’s face. Her look screamed disrespect, disappointment and two-bit hussy. Under breath but loud enough for me to hear she said, “How dare you.”

What could I say? I was royally embarrassed and I felt like a child. I was a child. Maybe that was the point. I had betrayed their trust in the most sordid and humiliating way. If there was anything that I held near and dear to my heart, and which remains the same today, is my unwavering respect for my parents.

This incident affected me deeply and from that moment on, I have gone out of my way (almost to a fault) to do the right thing and to never put my parents, or anyone that I care about, in an uncompromising or uncomfortable position.

Now, with my boyfriend’s children, I must see to it that it is I who is never put in an uncompromising or uncomfortable position. Ah, the circle of life. I know that the children aren’t mine, in the biblical sense, and I know that, just because I was a disrespectful hussy, it does not mean that the Girlfriend Mom daughter will be. I have my mothers steely look seared into my brain, and that alone ensures that there won’t be any sneaking down hallways, or co-ed sleepovers.

I know that this is a process, like everything else in this relationship. I’m confident that, as I become more comfortable around the kids, that my sphincter will release its grip. images-1

Girlfriend Mom- 1, Ex-Wife-0


I need to take a moment and give names to those that I am constantly writing and ranting about. From now on my boyfriend will be called, Reny (short for Renaldo) the GM daughter is Laura, and the GM son is Luke. Yes, that was done intentionally and yes, I think it’s hysterical. Move on.

It was Luke’s 8th grade graduation last week and the night before the big event, Reny and I were talking about what time the ceremony was. Can I say for the record that I don’t remember having an 8th grade graduation.

I do remember the 8th grade dance. My best friend and I ran around the halls, outside of the gym, where the dance was taking place, wreaking havoc on unsuspecting classmates in strapless dresses, throwing tiny things at them. On one occasion, pulling down a girl’s tube top, top. I’m pretty sure that it was my friend who committed this heinous, and sort of gay curious, offense. I wouldn’t have had the balls, or interest.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, graduation. I asked Reny if we needed tickets. Somewhere in the back of my mind, where I store unimportant information, I remembered that most graduations require tickets. He didn’t think so but he sent a text to the ex and asked.

I love Reny dearly, deeply and madly, but when it comes to being on top of things (get your mind out of the gutter) as far as it relates to school, he’s not exactly top in his class. It is usually I, the Girlfriend Mom, who knows little to nothing about such things, that has to remind him.

The ex said that we did need tickets and that she received hers in the mail and had gotten one for Reny and Laura. I got bubkis. I know. Sigh. Tears. Whatev! I told Reny that I would be upset if I didn’t get to go. Oh, and the ex made sure to also text that she was sorry but the school was only giving tickets to family because of space. Ooh, nice one, well played. That was going to leave a mark.

I asked Reny if he would call the school in the morning and see if he could get another ticket. He felt bad for me but he didn’t know what to do with those feelings, so he took laissez-faire behind door number one. These situations are awkward all around and we try to avoid them but sometimes it’s just beyond our control.

The morning came and I asked him if he had called the school. They hadn’t opened yet. About an hour later, he had to go to a meeting, and asked me if I wanted to call the school myself. If not, he’d do it from the car. I said that I’d have it and kissed him good-bye. I was on a mission and I dug in my heels.

The woman on the phone couldn’t have bee nicer when I told her that I was the… wait for it… STEPMOM and needed a ticket. I didn’t want to have to explain why and how I was the Girlfriend Mom. She can read the book. She apologized for the dearth of tickets and put my name on a waiting list. She was calling families to see if everyone was using theirs. I would be notified in a few hours if a ticket became available.

As I went about my day, I thought about why going to the graduation was important to me. I wanted Luke to know that I cared and that this was what significant people in his life do. I’ve been around for seven years and although we only see each other every other weekend, I am significant. I know that as a 14-year old, he’s probably not processing things like I am, or at all, but perhaps down the road, he’ll remember that the GM was there.

Through the GM process, I continue to test myself. I stick a toe into a situation and I see how it feels. There was a time early on, when I was afraid to even do that. It’s difficult to completely let go of the dreams that we had for ourselves and the lives that we thought that we wanted. I am learning to relax, loosen up on the reins and walk into the deep end.

Back to graduation.


I got a call in the early afternoon from the principal letting me know that I had scored a golden ticket. That’s how it felt. I was getting a manicure at the time and I shared my joyous news with Denise, my manicurist. I don’t want you to think that I’m all about my nails because I’m not. It’s just a coincidence that I mentioned my nails above and now when I heard the good news.

Anyhoo, he said that I either had to go to the middle school and pick up the ticket or I could ask one of my parent friends who’s also picking up extra tickets, to pick mine up for me. He started rattling off names of the moms. I giggled to myself and pondered whether I should tell him that I didn’t do much (or any) socializing with the other moms. I told him that I would drive over and get it myself.

When I got home, I told Reny that I had scored a ticket. He was glad. He smiled when he  told me that his ex would be surprised when she saw me. I told him that I was counting on it.

When we got to the ceremony and I saw the ex, there was a huge ass part of me that wanted to be all, “Oh, yeah. Didn’t get one for the GM? No problemo. You can’t keep me away. Ya know why? Ya know why? Because I am family. So eat it.”

The funny thing is, we all sat together. Laura sat between her parents and I sat on the other side of Reny. Everyone was as sweet as apple sauce. The processed kind, not the organic, no sugar kind. We smiled and laughed at how the girls dressed like hoochie mama’s and we all took pictures. You would’ve thought that we were besties.

These potentially awkward and uncomfortable encounters ask me, and any other GM or Stepmom, to step it up and rise above. It’s not always easy, but there is a lot of power in owning a situation and doing what you have to do to feel true to yourself. Even if that means driving an hour to get a ticket that no one thought to get for you in the first place because you’re a second class citizen and not family and then walking into a gym, without anyone asking to hand over your golden ticket.

I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner… And staying for a month?!

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner… and staying for a month?!

If you guessed a dapper black man named Sidney Poitier, sadly, you’d be wrong. Great guess… still wrong. The answer: my boyfriend’s 18 year-old daughter. Ah!

She lives in a dorm at school in NYC and has off until January 17th. What the f’ is up with our educational system? I do not remember having a month off when I was in college. A few months ago, she asked if she could live with us, instead of her mother(issues) when she’s on vacation and over the summer. What could we say. “Of course.” Of course my “Of course” was uttered through clenched teeth and a forced smile.

I like my boyfriend’s daughter. We get along quite well, do stuff together and I think she likes me. What’s not to like? My apprehension, hesitation and internal wig out, has more to do with that old stand by, “I didn’t sign up for this.” Like every other child related event that’s been hurled at my head, this too will take time to process.

I’m not used to having another body around. Another body that doesn’t know how to put dishes in the dishwasher. Another body that takes my nail polish and doesn’t return it. Another body that is a messy eater. Another body that didn’t know to knock before entering a closed door. Another body lurking around the house, so that now I can’t lurk around the house naked. Another body sleeping in the room next door, so now my boyfriend and I have to keep the television on to drown out the noise when we do sexy stuff. Oh, and believe you me, there’s noise.

I know that this is yet another piece of the Girlfriend Mom puzzle, but I was just getting used to soccer Sundays. I wasn’t expecting to live with a child for more than 48 hours every other weekend. I didn’t see this one coming.

In the short time that she’s been with us, I’ve learned a lot about myself. And really, who needs that?! When the four of us played board games over the Christmas break, I felt like a stepmom in a Lifetime movie, for the first time in five years. I was the odd man out, the one that didn’t belong. The non-blood relation. I glanced over at the three of them and their profound closeness, wafted in the air. I felt a million miles away.

I try to convey to my boyfriend that what he and his kids have been used to with their mother, is naturally going to be a different dynamic with me. I’m not their mother. They’re not my kids. Sometimes I’m uncomfortable with the familiarity that they share. I’m traveling in foreign territory without a GPS system, and often I don’t know why I’m feeling the way that I do.

I cannot move any faster than my feelings will allow. Perhaps it’s simply a question of time and patience. I’m honoring, not judging. Wow, that got serious quickly. Moving on.

Why do the kids have to take showers in our bathroom? They have a brand new gorgeous one to use. I don’t understand (just one in a long list of things I don’t understand) Is it because they see it as a treat? Do they feel closer to their dad? The question I ask myself is, “Why does it ruffle my feathers?”

I lived alone for a long time before I moved in with my boyfriend. I’m used to my privacy and not having to share, unless I wanted to. For crying out loud, my boyfriend and I are still learning to live with each another. Now you add a child to the mix, without having the benefit of years of practice, and poof! disruption of routine, rhythm, style and wet towels on the bathroom floor.

Change doesn’t come easily for a lot of people (especially my mother) and apparently this kind of change doesn’t come easily to me either. I can uproot myself from a 16-year stint in Los Angeles, selling everything from fork to car, and move to Prague, but living with kids scares me. The parent (my boyfriend) in the relationship has to realize that the non-parent (me) has no past experience to draw upon.

I’m trying not to make a mountain out of a mole hill, because the reality is, none of it is life threatening. Rather, it’s the emotions and feelings that the situation stirs in me, that gives me pause. This is what I’ve come up with, in so special order.

– I’m competitive playing board games, and when I don’t know something, I put my poopy pants on because I realize that I’m not as smart as I think I am. And if I didn’t have to play games with the kids, I wouldn’t have to admit this to myself.
– I’m jealous of the attention my boyfriend pays to his daughter. (Was my mother jealous of my close relationship with my father? Note to self- ask mom)
– Sometimes I feel like I play second fiddle and I don’t like it.
– I crave boundaries and there aren’t a lot regarding my boyfriend and the kids. Boundaries were an issue in my family, mainly because they didn’t exist. I needed them, so I’d punish myself, often sending me to my room.
– Sometimes I feel that sides are taken, and they ain’t mine.
– I chose not to have kids for a reason and sometimes I feel that I’m not living my truth.
– Sometimes, when it comes to the kids, I’m immature, controlling, and selfish. I want all the attention. C’mon, I’m a performer. Of course I want all of the attention!
– I’ve truly come to realize how important solitude, peace and quiet are to me.
– My boyfriend and I change when the kids are around. And sometimes not for the better.
– I sometimes judge my boyfriend’s daughter, or the way he’s raising her. Yuck on me!
– My demand for order gives me the allusion that I have some control over a situation that I often feel that I have no control over.

How much of my crap, and by crap, I mean my feelings, are unresolved personal issues, or my hot buttons? Perhaps these little people are my triggers. Damn them! Why do they have to unleash, overturn and bring up what I’ve worked so hard to shove down.

I met a very wise woman the other day, who recently lost her fourth husband. She has both biological and step children. We shared stories of the children in our lives, to which she said, through held back years, “Just love them. That’s all they want.”

And that’s what I plan to do. Dishes in the dishwasher or not.

Why Did You Tell Dad That I Got My Period?



My Lover and I were talking the other day about his twelve year old son having his first girlfriend. I’m not sure that I can remember what girlfriend and boyfriend meant in seventh grade. I do know that I went to my first co-ed party, played spin the bottle, and prayed that it would get too late in the evening to play seven minutes in the closet. I was quite shy in the romance department back then.

In any case, I asked my Lover if he was going to have a father-son talk, including favorites like, “It’s perfectly normal to masturbate, but class it up a bit and don’t use a friggin’ sock.” My Lover said that it wasn’t necessary. Huh? Not being a full time parent, I was confused.

My parents had talks with me. Or were those my TV parents? Parents are supposed to talk to their kids about sex and, more often that not, how to avoid it, right? Don’t they say things like, “I’m here for you, if you ever want or need to talk.” Mine did.

Apparently, my Lover (I want to see how long it takes before you get nauseated by the word) didn’t think so. He’s the youngest of five, from a working class family in Portugal. There weren’t a lot of sit-downs with his parents, unlike my hippy dippy- consciousness raising- pot smoking- macrame plant holder making- denim cap wearing- Three Dog Night listening- free to be you and me- parents. He never talked about sex, bodily functions or anything too personal, with his parents, unlike my parents. I wish I’d been from Portugal.

Most of the time I didn’t want to tell my parents anything, but in some perverse and distorted way, I felt compelled to talk because they said that I could, and I didn’t want to hurt their feelings. I wanted it to be like the families on TV. I wanted to be on the receiving end of that glorious undivided parental attention. I soon learned that it was best to get that attention from an anonymous audience, while singing and dancing on stage.

Flashback to 1980.

I was in eighth grade and babysitting at a neighbor’s house. I hated babysitting for that family. There was never anything good to eat, the kids were dorks (and that’s coming from a dork) and the husband creeped the crap out of me. I remember him driving me home one night, and when he pulled into my driveway, he said, “Okay, pussy, thank you for your help.” Ew on every f’in level. I convinced myself that he didn’t mean it in a vaginal way, and that it was a throw back to his generation when pussy actually meant pussycat.

Even at 13, it sounded gross and inappropriate. If it happened today, and I’m not sure why I’d be babysitting and getting rides home, since I have a car, I’d report him to the authorities and see if his name was on any public sex offender’s lists.

I got my menses (gotta love the word) for the first time that night. My mother was beside herself. She didn’t know what to do first. Um, how about finding me something so I don’t soil my Carter’s. It would be a few more years until I discovered thongs!

And what she came up with- wait for it – wait for it – was a goddam belt, which was like suspenders for a sanitary napkin. What the f? What is this 1870? It’s 19 fargin 80! My mom told me that I was too young for tampons, and wanted to ask the doctor first just to make sure that it was okay to shove something up inside of me. That was thoughtful of her.

I begged and pleaded with my mom not to tell my dad. She promised and I went into my bedroom. Not ten minutes later, there was a knock on my door. It was my dad. He sat down on the edge of my bed, and I swear, I think he had tears in his eyes.

“Congratulations. I’m so proud of you. You’re a young woman.” Okay, first of all, thanks mom, I hate you, and I’m never ever going to tell you anything ever again, ever, as long as I live!

And secondly, really, dad, congratulations? For what? I had no control over this. It wasn’t like I studied hard for a test and got an A! I didn’t see this happening as an accomplishment or something to tick off of my To Do list. And I wished that he didn’t say woman, because at that age, certain words, like woman, sounded icky to me and made me uncomfortable. Don’t try to figure that one out. Suffice to say, the whole ordeal was embarrassing.

A few years later, even after all of the menses drama, I trotted my ass back to the mommy well, after losing my virginity, because, “You can tell me anything,” and I’m an idiot and I wanted to share. Again.

My mom wigged out. It wasn’t in a, ‘I’m so disappointed in you. How could you have done such a thing? I’m not taking care of it, if you get pregnant’ sort of way, but rather in a, ‘I’m not ready for this’ sort of way.

CUT TO: The Present

This is a cautionary tale, kids. Think twice before you believe your parent’s supposed openness. My belief is that parents really don’t want you to tell them shit because it only re-enforces how ill equipped, ill-prepared, and utterly clueless they are. There’s no need to shove their faces in it. Go tell your grandparents instead.

I Was A Grandparent For A Day

Last week was Grandparent’s Day at my nephew’s school. Unfortunately my parents were out of town, so my sister-in-law asked me if I would step in. My nephew is also my godson, and I see him so rarely, I couldn’t possibly say no. 

The day started with coffee and a bakery item in the cafeteria. Me and a roomful of sixty, seventy and eighty year olds. Psych. No problem. I can shmooze with anyone, even if they are attached to an oxygen tank.

After a speech from one of the heads of the school, welcoming us to a very special day, the school’s jazz band came out and took their seats on a stage. The music teacher introduced the band, who then launched into a ‘high school’ rendition of a Dizzy Gillespie song, whose name escapes me at the moment.

As I sat their watching these eleven, twelve and thirteen year old’s blow their horns, beat their drums and pound the keyboards, I thought about how proud these grandparents must be, watching their grandkids.

Because I don’t have children of my own, I won’t truly know what that feels like. I felt my eyes well with tears. I won’t see my child perform, or play a sport, or be there to cheer them on in whatever activity that they’re involved with. I wondered what a child of mine would be like. Would they play in a jazz band?

Every so often I play the ‘what if’ game. It doesn’t last long but it’s profound nonetheless. When I awake from my reverie, I remind myself of the reasons for my choice not to have a child. Still, I am not hardened to the idea nor am I immune to the ‘what ifs’.

My nephew found me moments later and the first thing out of his mouth was, “It smells like old people in here.” Why yes it does godson, let’s motor.

Our first stop was science class. They did an experiment with helium, hydrogen and strings. The teacher was very engaging and I tried to think back on my eighth grade science teacher and I couldn’t. Not because I didn’t want to but because I couldn’t friggin’ remember. Note to self, text Emily and ask her who our teacher was.

I have never felt so incompetent and idiotic as I did in the social studies class, and I’ve had my share of incompetence and idiocy. My nephew and I sat a table with another student and her grandparents. The teacher, who was incredibly dynamic, handed out a worksheet about the civil rights movement. The class was studying the civil war, and the teacher was linking historical events, so that the students could see how such events are related. Shit, where was this guy when I was in school?

In the left column of the worksheet were the names of people and in the right column were events from the civil rights. He asked each table to identify and discuss the people on the left and what their relationship was to the events on the right. Fuck me. I could only identify one! One! And my nephew knew less than that. Needless to say my side of the table was rather quiet. In all fairness, the class hadn’t gone over the civil rights movement yet but what the hell was my excuse?

The grandparents at our table knew a lot more. Of course they did, they friggin’ lived through it. I was barely born! And to be perfectly honest, I don’t remember studying it in class at The Robert E. Bell school. I blame the school and the teachers. The truth is, I was probably rehearsing my lines for “Bye Bye Birdie”, under my desk, instead of paying attention.

The fact that I’ve gone all these years without knowing this part of history is shameful. My parents should ask for their money back, and I should repeat eighth grade. It’s true. I thought about this while I sat at the table, with an embarrassingly blank look on my punim. I’m ready for eighth grade!

I can see now that some of my struggles in school were due to a lack of certain fundamentals, such as proper studying skills and not doing homework in front of “I Dream of Jeannie.” It wasn’t until I became a Pilates instructor, that I understood the different ways that people learn and retain information. For me, if facts and figures can be transposed into a musical number, I’m good.

I listened intently to the teacher making the connections between the civil war and the cival rights movement, and it all started to make sense. How cruel that, as soon as I’m ready and willing to learn, my memory is fading. So even if I do understand, I now run the risk of forgetting it.

I felt as if I let my godson down by being so dumb. Wait! My ego didn’t need this. I already went through the hell of eighth grade. I did not want to relive this time in my life.

As I sat in art class (the last of the day) I wondered if the kids that my nephew were talking to were his true friends? Were they just being nice because their grandparents were in the room? Was he popular? Did he get invited places? Did the girls like him? Did he like girls? Each thought brought a twinge of anxiety and heart tugging.

I admit that I was riding the projection train. Seventh and eighth grades were horrific, the likes of which are still traumatizing me, if only subconsciously. I was not only physically awkward but the years were fraught with popularity contests, (hoping for the attention of the likes of Bobby Avonda), and trying to hide my pronounced proboscis.

I didn’t want my nephew to go through what I did. I didn’t want him to be sad or to feel different. The whole ordeal was f’in heart wrenching. I THINK I was feeling what it must be like for a parent. All I know is that I’d be in tears every day because clearly I’m unable to detach myself.

Still, I’m going to talk to my brother and sister-in-law about home schooling my godson.