Nothing compares 2U



Several years ago, on a summer weekend when I was still married, the Wasband asked Max to help me weed the front yard. I was busy pulling weeds and realized he was standing behind me, holding an empty bin and weed puller in his hands. “What’s wrong?” I asked him. “I’m not trying to get out of helping you or anything, Mom,” he said. “But it seems to me that if these plants have taken over the yard then they are a dominant species and it’s really not up to us to stop them.” As usual, my Max was right.

Last August, in fact, on my birthday, my mother moved in with me. I had no idea at that time that it was the best birthday present ever. Or any gift. Ever. When she moved in, I had a graveyard of orchids and houseplants on my kitchen counter. And a barren yard. My mother took one – or maybe two – looks, and set to work bringing them all back to life. And she taught me in the process how to make orchids bloom and almost-dead plants come back to life. There are now flowers blooming in my backyard. In fact, every-fucking-thing is blooming in my house and yard.

In December, my mother began telling me that she was hurting. A lot. She had unremitting pain behind her ear and down her neck. After many visits to Urgent  Care and to Emergency Rooms, we finally got a diagnosis. Cancer. We are well into the treatment of pills and radiation therapy and chemo. I am so blessed to have a community of friends and family who clatter in daily to help us, no matter what we need. Fixing the house, driving to appointments, loving words, anything, everything. Keeping it all growing and blooming.

My  mama is a badass ninja warrior. She told me from the outset, “I’m going to fight.” And damn. She does fight. She fights the pain. She fights the errors of our medical system. She fights back against the inevitable delays. She fights with and against the cure, which is sometimes worse than the sickness.

For all of you who are fighting. No matter how many hours. No matter how many days. Maybe it looks like weeds. But they are still part of the garden. Just like my mom. You are beautiful and blooming and taking over the garden. Keep going. Nothing compares to you.

“I went to the doctor and guess what he told me?
Guess what he told me?
He said girl you better try to have fun
No matter what you do, but he’s a fool
‘Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

All the flowers that you planted mama
In the back yard
All died when you went away
I know that living with you baby was sometimes hard
But I’m willing to give it another try
‘Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you.” – Prince




My Funny Valentines

Boys going back towards swing with boards

Finals week, 2015. As Max walked out the door, he yelled at me (as he still does), “MOM! I’m leaving. I LOVE YOU.” I said, “Have a fantabulous day, buddy.” He gave me The Look. “I have to JOG for 30 minutes today.” I said, “Well, at least you don’t have to catch anyone.” “Wow, Mom,” he said. (Door slam.)

I was talking to a friend the other day about how my exercise regime has changed over the past several years. For many, many years, I ran. I ran 10ks.  I ran biathlons and triathlons. I ran half marathons.  I told my friend, “I don’t know what happened. One day I just didn’t feel like running any more. Sort of like Forrest Gump. Just like that. My running days were over.”

And I was okay with it. I filled the space with a different passion. Yoga. I was breathing. I was getting into my groove. I was getting my namaste on. I was trying to control myself to be the perfect mom, lawyer, friend. Well. That’s not the point of yoga. Yoga is, in large part, about letting go of what does not serve you.

Before one of his many concerts, I was tasked with finding Max a white shirt and then picking him and his brother up for the concert – all within one hour. Max called me, “Mom, when are you going to be home, I can’t be late for my concert.”  I said, “Well, first I have to run into the store and get your white shirt then I have to drive there and pick you up.” Max said, “Mom, PLEASE stop being so passive-aggressive. I just want to know when you will be home.” Damn it. My kids and my yoga mat continue to teach me the same lesson. Let go. Let shit go.

I once excitedly told Shane, “John Cusack is twittering me on Facebook.” Shane said, “MOM, John Cusack isn’t twittering you. Stop making up words.” I said, “Yes he is.” Shane said, “Stop. Mom. Please.”  Now that Shane lives on his own, several states away, I try hard to leave him alone to experience his independence. But sometimes my irrational mom fears kick in and I decide he’s been eaten by a bear, so I start to text-stalk him until he responds. “Shane. Shane. Shane.” “Mom.” “Okay. That’s all I needed. Love you.” “Love you too mom.” No twitter, no social media, no made up words, just letting all of that go. My Shane consistently teaches me that the simplest expression is usually the best.

This evening I came home after a long and stressful day, culminating with a few hours spent dealing with doctors and my mother’s cancer treatment. Max had a friend over. I stopped by his room and said, “Hey, how’s it going?” He said, “Pretty good.” I said, “Cool. It was fucking awful getting back here. But good to be home.” I went to my room and realized that I had failed to initiate my mom filter in front of his friend. For me, often, what I let go of comes right out of my mouth before I can catch it.  And my Max didn’t judge me or say anything about  his mom’s language. Because sometimes, often, you can’t judge someone by what they say when they are tired, or in pain, or upset, or stressed out.

A while back, before we knew my mom had cancer, Max told me he was stressed out. I told him, maybe you need to take something off your plate. His response was, “I can’t give up physics or trig because it’s the only thing me and grandma can do together.” So Max kept his full plate. He and his grandma continued to do physics and trig together. These days whenever he leaves the house, I hear him say, “Goodbye, Grandma! I love you!” I am so grateful that he let go of being stressed, that they get to have this time together, that they get to plot their physics and trig takeover of the world. We so need their brilliant, artistic, courageous, quirky, giant brains, and all the other brains like theirs to lead the next rebellion. I’ll supply the snacks.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. While I was waiting for my mother to badass her way through another radiation session at the cancer center I bought myself an unreasonable amount of goodies from Sephora online. And, once we got home, I went to CVS and got myself a large box of chocolates. A good part of the box is now gone. Happy Valentine’s Day to me.

Happy Valentine’s Day to you. May you have peace, breathe deeply, and have no need to run to or away from anything. May you eat all the chocolate you want because love eradicates calories or even caring about damn calories at all. May you have someone in your life who can help you with homework you don’t quite understand.  May you let go of all that does not serve you.

May you love yourself with the huge love you give everyone else in your life.


Heart and Soul

The boys and me

Maybe about six years ago – Max was working on an argument to get me to buy him an i-Pad. He said, “Mom, at least four kids in my grade have i-Pads or i-Pad minis. I really want one.” I said, “Max, if you want one, you need to earn it yourself. If I buy you an i-Pad now, what will I get you when you’re 21?” He said, “A Lamborghini?” Just then Shane walked in the door from school, ”Shane, how many of YOUR friends have i-Pads?” I asked. “Mom,” he said, “My friends don’t have i-Pads. Max is in a different generation.” And just like that, argument done.

If you asked me for a word to describe my Shane, it would be “steadfast.” I didn’t come up with that defining word for him. At his bar mitzvah, our rabbi did. And he asked me later, “What does that mean?” And I told him, “It means you. It is you. You are absolutely, completely, rock solid, steady, and true.” I never had to wake Shane up for school or work. While I operate on a time space continuum that is mutable and usually involves sliding into courtrooms 10 minutes late (in amazing heels), my Shane has the grace and sense of time. Among his many other gifts: his writing, his films, his photos, his quiet ability to listen and not judge.

When he left for his first job, several years ago, he fortified himself with a large plate of scrambled eggs, two cups of coffee, two large cinnamon rolls, and a vitamin B-12 capsule. “Why are you taking that, Shane,” Max asked. “Because I’m going to have a really long day at work and I need extra energy and this is a natural way to get it,” Shane said. Meanwhile, back at home, Max spent his day eating pickles and Kit Kat bars and learning about the Banach-Tarski paradox on YouTube.

A beloved friend once told me, you should be proud of yourself and know you’re a good mom if your children are different from each other. That means you did your job as a parent – letting them grow up to be their own unique selves. By that measure, I’m a good mom. (Sigh of relief.)

Tonight I went to see Max perform with the Honor Band at the 57th Annual Northern California Band and Choir Directors Association. It was the third time he’s performed as part of the percussion section. He doesn’t care about i-Pads or i-Pad minis anymore. He doesn’t really give a shit about many material things, except sketch pads, perfect pens, and his beloved musical instruments. I can spot my kid onstage in a crowd by the bright red hair in a ponytail. By his intense stare at the conductor. And by the huge, relieved smile at the end of the performance. There is nothing like a Max smile. It could make a chopped up pea reassemble itself into the Sun. (See, Banach-Tarski, above.)

And so, I think my defining word for my Max is, “earnest.” As in, intense, focused (loving). And how ironic. That’s kinda close to “steadfast.” But not exactly. Because my sons, while absolutely brothers, are very different. Max is my heart. Shane is my soul.

January 2019 was fucking hard. There was an inordinate amount of eclipses. There was a lot of heartache and bad news. For those of us who remain single, Valentine’s Day is approaching and that’s a bit traumatic for those of us who had this notion of happily ever after right now. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It will happen.

I’m still believing. So should you. Heart and soul.