Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Recovery: The Mother I Never Had.

As I continue on this journey of discovery and adventure. (I've never been so healthy), I realize I can give myself a bit of what was missing from the chaotic childhood. A family experience.

No, I'll never be able to sit in dad's lap as a four-year-old, but at 53, I have realized that a friend and I have adopted one another. She is the mom I never had, and I am a second daughter for her. To think of her brings a joy to my heart. There is much history between us.

She has seen me at my worst and now, rejoices with me, as I truly latch on to mental health. She's in her 70's, British very polite and introspective. But of late, she has seen fit to share some of her wilder 'hippie' youth. She has done things worthy of and even surpassing CyberGal's exploits, my, my! I present our cherished institution: The Girlie Day.

Her husband John is a serious fly fisherman, and when he's off fishing, and Maria is alone, we schedule a Girlie Day. Before I refrained from drinking alcohol, that was also a part of our day together. But, as many of you can guess, CyberGal doesn't need booze to be amusing, or amused.

I used to give Maria a full body massage. We'd have dinner and wrap up the evening with a bit of television. She also likes scalp massages and has opted for more of those, instead of a full body massage. I suspect the relaxation is relief from her ever-present foot pain. I want more then anything for God to jolly well get off the stick and heal her, but that's for another post!

Maria is also my employer. I love our Girlie Days because I don't have the ethical battle over being in her home to clean it, while on one level she'd rather I give her "hair scritches". My sense of ethics drives me nuts. We even have a little game called: "Does that make you feel guilty?" One of the reasons we get along so well, is because Maria has learned she can really trust me. I'm not going to snoop through her home, or computer. I will really put in a full-days work, or I will not take my wages. But she is also like a little kid, when mean old CyberGal decides the house must be cleaned, meaning, I stop with the scalp massage.

She has a little whine which is plainly and simply designed to make me feel, well, guilty! It is a joke between us and has provided much mutual laughter. She acts pathetic and my role is to pretend to be heartless! What is great fun for me, is when I pull the guilt ploy. She mutters something like: "Oh, that was a good one." when I pretend to whine about needing a raise so I can take another vacation. (I always pick stuff that is obviously so outrageous, as to be laughable).

We go back over twenty years. At that time, I was a completely messed-up adult recovering from being in a religious cult in San Francisco. I was also trying to deal with learning to do life blind. I'd had almost no training for a blind person. I was tired of "faking it". I was just plain tired. One of my many attempts to straighten out my chaotic life at thirty-something.

Maria was a dorm counselor. She helped me a lot trying to recover from being in a really messed-up Christian "home" for three months. They were brutal, to say the least. When you were "bad", they'd deprive you of toilet paper and soap! Yes, when you are seriously abused, things like that don't make you leave. You stay around and "take it". Just like in your childhood. If some organization tried that one on me now, I'd leave skid marks leading to the nearest law firm.

I eventually got a part-time job at the same blind center and Maria and I began a working relationship. When she and John went to the mountains on the weekends, they wanted someone they could trust to house and dog sit for them. I've continued to work for Maria and John in good times and bad. Thankfully, in the last seven years, things are much better in my life. This time, it appears I'm truly gaining mental health.

In the last few years Maria and I have grown close. She "feels" like a mom and I believe I'm like a second daughter for her. I will take feedback from her I won't even consider listening to from anyone else. I actually sat through a gentle lecture about my, ah hum, irresponsible bent with money. Now that I am saving for something that is worth the effort (a blow-out vacation week in Boston), I am letting her bank half my earnings, so when she uses her credit card to book my plane and hotel, the money is already there to cover the bill. But, basically, save money? Are you nuts? Okay, I'll admit it, not totally grown-up in that area. Haven't even arrived at the point of asking God to help me "want to" change. Yeah, save money? You are nuts!

Today was a lovely Girlie Day. We have taken to buying deli food for ourselves at an outrageously expensive health-oriented store in Berkeley called Andronicos. Lovely food, but lunch for two, brought home in containers can run $50! She isn't into chocolate and sweets like I am, but found these Godiva chocolate ice cream bars that are like frozen chocolate moose dipped into rich dark chocolate. Oh, my Gawd, are those things GOOD! Today, I had requested garlic bread and a salad. Not Maria's favorite, but she is flexible, we swap who selects lunch. She bought two loaves of this ready to heat, made up garlic bread that is to DIE for. I have wonderful memories of leaving AA meetings with about 12 others and heading over to a local Italian eatery. We'd order loaves of their home made garlic bread and troughs of salad. Man, that was some good eating!

Maria also prepares an entire pot of Pete's Coffee for the day. I don't know if Pete's in national, but it makes expresso look like weak decaf. I've joked with Maria, that she gives me that coffee, so when I work, I have the energy and desire to re-roof their house! (I think its nicknamed: "legal speed".) I LOVE Pete's coffee. It is very strong and wonderful with half 'n half and sugar.

After lunch I begin the "head scritches". Maria has told me that it makes her body tingle and seems to lesson her foot pain. I swear, if running through Berkeley naked, until arrested would heal her, I'd be calling her from jail! I HATE it when people I love are in pain. I can really understand how otherwise normal people can be driven to crime, or just bizarre behavior watching a loved one suffer.

As soon as lunch is over, Maria moves to her special "back" chair" and reclines it, so I can be comfortable, sitting behind her, doing scalp massage. I have taken to joking with her, as I see her whip that chair back: "Are you waiting for something?" I usually get a Maria giggle. Something I try to cause, as often as possible.

Maria is on a whole lot of very strong pain killing medication. Most of the time, she falls asleep for a bit while I work on her. I busy myself in prayer while her body relaxes. She is only lightly sleeping, so when Hanna, the Newfound Hound gets jealous of not getting petted, Maria wakes up, to the insistent nosing, her back begins to receive, as I try to pet the dog with one hand, and work on Maria with the other.

It is another sweet, silly little part of the Girlie Day. Hanna, when a puppy was obviously cuddled and permitted into someone's lap. This has produced a very confused 120 pound lap-dog-wanna-be. She is tall enough to straddle your lap, with her body snuggled over your legs. Then she does the "I love you" lean. I have only seen Border Collies engage is this. It is actually a herding technique. But Hanna, is just trying to return to the heavenly days gone by, when she was small enough to fit in a lap!

Maria and John have a beautiful 24 year marriage. When he is away, he always calls her and they exchange bits of news and chit chat. There is an amazing tenderness between them. It permeates their home. Maria has known a really hard life, dealing with the garbage of WW II an unfortunate first marriage disaster and a whole lot of other sad things. I am so very happy that she has found such a fine man. John is not only in love with his wife, but likes to brag on her to me.

Maria loves my "John" stories, because, he has trouble sharing some of his feelings directly with her. John was driving me to BART - our local transit system and I was waxing eloquent about some Eggs Benedict I'd had in San Francisco. With the delight of a small child, John boasted: "Oh Maria makes that!" I could almost hear the "na-na-na-na-NA-na" within this proclamation. I get the feeling that if I spoken about whipping up a batch of cement, I'd get the same reaction: "Oh, Maria does that!" She is a wonderful gourmet cook and I envy John's position of enjoying her creations. But Maria swears she's never made Eggs Benedict!

So, I massage a little, eat and drink a little and play with the dog. The afternoon turns to evening and Maria re-combs her hair for the fifth, or sixth time, preparing to drive me to BART.

I even got to take home what was left of the second loaf of garlic bread. Oh swoon! We have shared serious memories, humorous moments and that most healing of human institutions, love.
I love getting John to talk about his wife. He really, really loves her. I love her too. She shared that hearing that she is loved by both her husband and me, made her feel good physically and emotionally. Well, Maria, enjoy, 'cause 'tis true. Lots of folks really like you and a few of us have the joy of getting to really know you. I am blessed to have you and John in my life.

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