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4:09 a.m. - 2003-01-21

ALRIGHT KIDS...WHO WANTS TO BE DEPRESSED??

First, and I know I didn't say this yesterday ... but if you do go to Swappingtons and join up (which there's absolutely no reason why you shouldn't...it's free and the best bargain that you'll ever get)...make sure you say that "Bob" sent you.

Yeah.

You do that.

I get four points for everyone that signs up. And currently, that means I get a free DVD and CD.

So thanks to those of you who signed up and wrote my name down.

And to those of you who are going to sign up today and write my name ("Bob")down.

I dropped the "Uncle" part because at the time I thought it'd be wise. Now I think I should have kept it.

I'll make a deal with you ... everyone that signs up and puts me down as the person who told them about it will have an open invitation to come to my house and watch my free DVD.

We can either have a big DVD party where we watch a free DVD. Or you can come individually and we'll watch it.

You supply the transportation.

I'll supply the popcorn.

A good time will had by all as long as you don't steal anything from my house.


Soooooo...here's a kicker for you...

My mother is dying.

A little background here ... she's 60. Has been smoking non-stop since she was 16. Drinks 2-4 beers every night and has done that since ... gahhh...probably since she was 16 too. She was a wild teen. Got knocked up with me when she was 18 if that tells you anything. Dad was 23. Yep...Dad was nailing that thang when it was jailbait. I guess I came along and ruined all the fun.

Anyway ... I think it was 1979 or so she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She had that removed.

The following year, she had some other type of cancer. I want to say skin cancer. The doctor told her if she didn't stop smoking, she'd die.

She didn't stop smoking. She went 23 years past when the doctor told her she'd die and is still kicking. And coughing. And hacking. And wheezing.

And smoking.

She developed a distrust of doctors at this point. She kept expecting to die, yet every birthday, there she was another year older. When doctors tell you that you're going to die if you don't change your habits and you start abusing your habits even more ... you get that distrust thing going for ya.

Finally ... and I'm not sure why...last week she went to a doctor for the first time in like ... 10-20 years.

She has osteoporosis.

She has...and I have no idea how to spell this ...rosatia? It's where the skin in your face turns bright red because of all the drinking and smoking that you've done for 40 plus years.

She has something else. Can't remember what it is though right now.

And she has some pretty severe blockage in her carotid artery. Apparently, blockage below 75 percent isn't worth doing surgery for. Anything over 95 percent and it's too late for surgery...you're knocking on death's door.

Or a stroke. You could still be lucky and just have a stroke and be paralyzed with permananent brain damage. Whee.

Anyway, you've got two carotid arteries...Mom's are 80 percent and 90 percent blocked.

She found this out yesterday. I was back and forth on the phone with her and my sister all day at work.

Naturally, my sister's boo-hoo-hooing over this.

While my mom is either putting up a brave front or this doesn't bother her in the least.

I'm thinking it's a combination of the two.

It was kinda funny...I talked to Dad and he's reading off all the medications they prescribed for her and they all said "Do Not Take With Alcohol".

Mom's response?

"Hell...they ALL say that."

It's not going to stop her one bit.

My mom has a problem. She's an alcoholic who's addicted to nicotine too.

She's a product of her environment. She grew up in a small farm town in Illinois where everyone drank and smoked as a teen.

She got hooked on both.

Her three kids, me and my sisters, fought with her for years and told her that if she didn't get help, she was going to die.

But we're her ignorant kids. We're not doctors. I'm a writer. One sister's a teacher. The other one's a speech therapist that works with stroke victims and autistic children.

And we're "ignorant".

It's kinda funny...the teacher sister is all upset while the speech therapist, who I THOUGHT would be all upset, said "Well, isn't THAT a shocker?" when I told her.

So anyway...Mom's got to go back to the doctor a couple more times here in the next week as they decide how to handle this. More than likely, we're looking at some risky surgery to remove the blockage. There's a decent chance she can suffer a stroke or die during the surgery.

Naturally, I'm upset about this. But as my sister said ... it's not really a shock. We have been telling her for years to stop smoking, to stop drinking. But she's always thought she was above having these poisons take a toll on her life.

I guess we don't sound so "ignorant" anymore.

She told me yesterday her one goal in life.

To see Andrew graduate? No.

To see him learn to talk? No.

...To outlive her parents.

She's already outlived her Dad. Her mom died at 60.

Mom's goal is to hang in there until May when she turns 61.

She told me yesterday "After that...I don't care. I made it."

My mom apparently grew up in an abusive household. Her parents were some of the first to divorce in the small farm town that we all grew up in, causing a scandal throughout the community. This happened soon after I was born.

She watched her mom chase her dad around the house trying to kill him with a butcher knife. I've heard the story dozens of times. Her parents hated each other.

Her dad fathered a baby girl our of wedlock that was born months before me. So technically, I have an aunt out there just slightly older than me that I've never met.

I'm rambling, aren't I?

So I guess there's nothing left to do now but prepare for the inevitable.

Which kinda sucks.

But in a way, at the rate she was going ... we're all kinda shocked she made it this far.


As long as I'm tossing skeletons out of the closet at a rapid pace and leaving them in a boney heap in the Diaryland bedroom, I may as well toss another one on the pile.

We're having Andrew tested for autism next week.

I've kinda kept this quiet recently because...well ... it's hard to admit that your child is less than perfect.

At 26 months of age, his level of speech is atrocious. He's mastered "Bye!" He knows I'm his "Dada" and that Susie's his "Mama". Maggie the dog is "Gee-Gee".

Oh. And an apple is an "apple".

But then again...so is a videotape, his Dora doll, a chair, his flash cards, his toothbrush, his books, most large trucks outside our house, Santa Claus and several members of the Harlem Globetrotters.

Yes...everything is an "apple" in his speech patterns.

I've made fun of this in the past. Then it began to concern us when I started thinking "Maybe this should be taken more seriously than we've been taking it."

I looked up some information on autism and found 18 symptoms of autism.

If your child has half or more of these symptoms, there's a good chance that they could be autistic.

Andrew has seven of the symptoms.

BUT each of those symptoms could also be attributed to something else. His speech patterns are stunted...but he just had tubes put in his ears a month ago and can only just now hear for the first time.

He's shy around other children and would rather play by himself. That describes me to a T. I'm a loner and prefer being by myself than with others.

Normal learning patterns don't work on him. I'm only judging this on the fact that he can't speak. Other than that, the kid picks up on things quickly. I can say "Bring me the remote control please" and he brings me the remote control. I can ask him what the remote control's name is and ...you guessed it ... "Apple".

Yesterday, Susie stayed home with him as he has a virus infection. She took him to his pediatrician because some kids at daycare had strep throat and we wanted to make sure that wasn't the case.

The doctor checked him out and said it was just a viral infection. Plenty of rest, juice, etc.

Susie then mentioned we were having him tested for autism.

The doctor laughed.

He said that he's been checking Andrew now several times a year and can assure us ... Andrew is NOT autistic.

He explained about the tubes. He explained that some children are just naturally slow at picking up certain things. He pointed out that Andrew was a slow walker, a slow crawler, a slow laugher...he's done everything late in the game.

But once he learns these things, there's no turning back. He runs around the house now, laughing his head off and playing with his toys.

The doctor asked if Andrew ever sits in a corner by himself and does hand motions and stares at them for hours?

No.

Does he avoid eye contact with us and not speak when spoken to?

No.

Does he zone out and get in his own little world?

Uhhhhh...no.

Then there's nothing to worry about.

I told my speech therapist sister this. She was actually the advocate for having him tested after spending time with him during the holidays.

She said to still have him tested since we already had the appointment with a neurologist scheduled. Doctors are pediatricians. They can spot ear infections, but aren't as adept at spotting autism.

The doc caused me to breathe a sigh of relief.

My sis punched me in the gut to force that sigh back in.

I don't think he's autistic. He's too full of life and fun. He's babbling more lately. He's saying "Wa-wa" for water..."duh" for duck..."moo moo" for cow.

He's getting there.

He's just a bit lazy when it comes to talking. That's partially our fault because when he would point at something and grunt, we'd just hand it to him rather than forcing him to say "Banana" or whatever.

So anyway...Mom's probably dying and the boy is probably not autistic.

And I'm probably dealing with more stress right now than I have since my college days.

Which is why I'm cutting this entry short.

Ha!

I've still got it. Even under a shitload of stress.

(Keep in mind...I'm not looking for pity here. There's lots of people more deserving for pity out there than me. What I AM looking for is for people to go to Swappingtons and sign up and put "Bob" down as their reference person. Nothing says "pity" like free DVDs!! Whoooohooooo!!!)

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