Friday, June 29, 2012

100th Customer

I took notice a while back that my post count had been creeping closer and closer to 100 blog posts, and I decided I'd use my 100th post to look back on some of the more important events in my life over the last two and a half years.  There's a lot to look at, that's for sure.

I lived by myself for the first time ever in my life when I had lived in Virginia.  I gotta say, it was quite an experience.  I always had either friends or family to come home to after work, but living on my own was eerily quiet at times.  It forced me to grow up quite a bit, mainly to teach me how to keep a fairly clean house, keep a budget, and how to cook.  I actually like cooking now, and I really dislike throwing a frozen pizza in the oven, barring laziness.

There are two other very important events in my life during my time in Virginia that I can't avoid talking about, those being my period of unemployment and my parents splitting for good.  The really tough part was that both events happened within a week of each other, which piled the stress on big time.  I can at least put a positive spin on my unemployment because it made me appreciate my friends and family in all sorts of new ways.  That was the time when I had to call in every favor I had in the book, and pray that one of those favors would pay off.  Fortunately it did, and that leads me to my next highlight.

My new job is just awesome.  I've wanted to work for the federal government going all the way back to my days in college, and I don't have to worry about being squeezed like I was at my old job.  It also led to me moving back to my old stomping grounds in Baltimore, so I could be around my closest friends, my family, and my niece a whole lot more.  My niece in particular is this glowing beam of sunshine who just makes everyone around her smile.  I went to visit my sister a couple weeks ago, and my niece is walking around the house, looking for new ways to get into trouble.  She even likes to play a version of hide and seek by tucking herself inside a storage cabinet at the base of my sister's dining room table.  She's a real blessing.

There's one more important event that I dare not omit talking about.  My girlfriend is someone really, really special.  I'm holding off talking about her and our history until we get to the six month mark, but that's mostly out of superstition.  We have a very long history going back 11 years (!!!!), and it's one of those stories that make my friends and family laugh when I tell them how we had first met.  Don't worry though; that post will be coming down the pipeline in due time.

I don't want to say anything terribly cliche like how I'm older and wiser than I was even two and a half years ago, but I know I'm not the same person.  I used to be a welcome mat and allow others walk all over top of me, and while I'm still fairly passive I'm not lacking in backbone as I used to be.  Getting well into your thirties will do that I suppose, but that's a benefit.  Overall, I have matured as an adult, and I don't feel like I sacrificed much of any fun like I did during most of my twenties.

So here's to the next 100 posts.  May they be filled with as much random thinking, nonsense, humor, and hopefully some deep thought as my previous 100 posts were.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Nearly a Statistic

I had brunch with my mom on Sunday since we hadn't seen each other since right before my girlfriend and I had left for the Caymans over Memorial Day weekend.  It gave us a chance to catch up on everything we've been up to in the last few weeks, and I got to tell her in more detail about everything Kim and I had done while we were away.  I also gave her the small gift I picked up for her while I was in the Caymans, and tallying up good son points are always a good thing.

(Incidentally, we had briefly talked about everything that I had talked about in my last post, but I stopped her  short of filling me in on her side of the story.  The less I knew, the better.)

While we were having brunch my mom dropped a bombshell on me: in February, my aunt went in for her normal mammogram checkup, and doctors found something abnormal in her breast.  They ran more tests, and they confirmed a malignant tumor in my aunt.  In short, she had breast cancer.

Before I go any further, here's the good news: my aunt has already met with a specialist and had surgery to remove the tumor.  The doctors caught the cancer early enough when it was only starting to show, and the surgery was fairly standard.  She's expected to make a full recovery and will be following up with her doctor for future checkups to make sure nothing comes back.

When my mom told me the bare facts before getting into all the details, my mind immediately jumped in a number of different directions.  How are her kids - my cousins - handling it?  How many people did she tell? How serious is it?  When is she meeting with a specialist?  Can surgery eliminate all the cancer?

My mom quickly filled me in on everything.  My aunt chose to only tell a few people in the family because she, understandably, didn't want to keep telling the same story and answering the same questions over and over.  Instead, she went ahead with meeting with the specialist, and once her surgery was scheduled, she told the rest of her and my mom's siblings.

Like I said, the surgery was successful and my aunt is on the road to recovery.  The truth remains that she is now a breast cancer survivor, which is the good side of the statistic.  It could have gone another direction, and I could be writing a post about how my aunt is fighting for her life right now.

Every Mother's Day, my mom and I have gotten together to go to a baseball game together.  We've had this tradition for years, and the great thing is that the weather is generally perfect for a game.  What's really awesome about Mother's Day baseball is that the players use pink bats and wear pink gloves to show support for breast cancer research.  It's a great cause, one that I am now personally invested in.  My mom and I did out regular day at Camden Yards in May, but next year we'll have a whole new reason to go and show our support.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Rock and a Hard Place

I've purposely avoided writing about my parents' divorce on here for several reasons, namely that most people who read this blog don't know either of my parents personally, so they won't have any kind of context to their relationship.  Aside from a couple comments made in passing here and there, I doubt any reader would have even known my parents were divorcing anyway.  Still, it's a major change in my family and our collective lifestyles, so it bears worth discussing.

I won't bother talking about the entire history of my parents and their issues since that goes back nearly three years ago.  The major stuff anyone would need to know is that they separated in April last year, and it hasn't been a very pleasant split.  I was living in Virginia at the time, so I was somewhat blessed to be living apart from them both and didn't have to deal with either of them very often.

Most of my information at first came from one or both of my sisters.  They were both very upset at both my parents for different reasons, and chose to limit talking to either of them as a result.  I don't blame them for making their choices, but I always found it very difficult to follow their suit.  However, it was equally tough for me to speak to either of my parents, knowing my sisters didn't want to speak to either of them.  Essentially I was caught in the middle of the entire mess, and I didn't know who to take at face value for the most part on either side.

The storm kept brewing once I allowed myself to be messenger between my parents a couple times.  My dad called me asking for favors to pass messages off to my mom, and even though I was extremely uncomfortable with being the messenger boy, I told her what my dad had asked me to say.  Both times I had agreed to call my mom on my dad's behalf resulted in incredibly awkward conversations, and I had to put my foot down with my dad to tell him I wouldn't be willing to play messenger anymore.  He didn't like it much since he only saw it as making a phone call, but he didn't understand how I was putting myself at risk in getting involved in their divorce proceedings.

Fast forward to this morning.  My dad sent me a text a little after 4:00 this morning (?!?!!??!) asking me to call him because of an urgent matter.  I had made plans to have dinner with him this evening for Father's Day, but he had abruptly cancelled those plans yesterday, after supposedly being upset by a conversation he had with two people regarding my mom (I don't know any details beyond that, and frankly I don't think I want to know).  Now, he had a new favor for me in light of yesterday's confrontation: he had a check for my mom, but he didn't want to see her, so he had asked me to deliver it.  I immediately thought back to playing messenger for him in the past with my mom, and how uncomfortable I felt from delivering those messages.  Still, I agreed to deliver the check.

Then I discussed the whole thing with my girlfriend.  She's been through a divorce in the past, so she had plenty of insight into the situation.  Her advice was right in line with my gut feeling on the subject, that I shouldn't have to be the one to deliver the check, regardless of what my dad says.  I'd be putting myself at risk if I delivered the check and something went wrong with it, not to mention there was no guarantee what I was delivering was in fact a check to begin with.

The follow-up conversation with my dad loomed over my head for the next couple hours.  I eventually called him and told him straight up that I wasn't going to deliver the check.  Suffice to say, he didn't like hearing that.  He tried explaining that it was a simple task and it shouldn't matter, but I told him how it would put me in a potentially risky situation.  It led to a pretty big argument, ending only because he eventually hung up on me.

Here's my dilemma: I don't want to be dragged in between my parents anymore than I already have, knowing that each of them would pit me against the other in the process.  Ironically, in order to avoid being the bad guy, I have to be the bad guy with them by backing off.  On top of all that, I still want to try having a relationship with each of them going forward; they're still my parents after all.  Yet, I can't really talk to either of them without the conversation at some point turning into a bitch session about the other.

I know the easy answer is their divorce is between them and they're being the real bad guys by pinning me against each other.  My sisters were smart to back off completely from the get go, but I still tried keeping active relationships with them both.  Bottom line is drawing a line in the sand with the two of them is easier said than done.  I don't like the idea of taking a hard line with either of them since that could make having a relationship that much more difficult later on.  I can only hope that if that's what I have to ultimately do, they'll both realize why in the end, and once these hard times are in the past, we can all collectively move forward.

Of course, I'm probably being more than a little naive.