Sandy’s 76 Chevy

IMG_1721

There are some memories that we try to hold onto and some memories that we would like to forget. I like to think of the forgetting process as pruning my brain cells. I want to get rid of all of the bad stuff so that at the end of my life, only the good memories remain.

Then there are the times when memories return unbidden. There is no real reason for why a forgotten memory has returned and sometimes it lacks context. I had that experience the other day when I took the car out for a drive. I was having a trying day and just needed to get out of the house. 

Of all things, and of all people, the memory was of Sandy’s 76 Chevy. At first blush, it had to do with the car – not the one I was driving, but Sandy’s 76 chevy. You see, the key had broken off in the ignition of the vehicle. There was a portion of the key permanently stuck there. So every time we got in the car to go someplace, Sandy would reach under the seat for a screw driver. The screw driver would help turn the ignition to turn on the car. Then the screwdriver would lie on the floor. We would drive around with a keyless car.

At least, the car did not have the traditional danging cluttered keychain with paraphernalia that was so popular in the 80s and early 90s.

But the memory of Sandy’s 76 chevy was much more than just driving around in a car with no key.

I was 11. Sandy was 15. The driving age at the time was 15. Of course, Sandy was driving. She had a baby that just turned one and needed to be able to drive the baby to its appointments and herself to work. Sandy’s parents kicked her out when she got pregnant. So, like most of us of that generation, Sandy started working when she was 13. I consider myself privileged in that I was able to wait until age 14 to start working.

Sandy was a friend of my cousin. We were “paired together” by the adults in our life. The idea was that by saddling Sandy down with me there would be someone with her to be sure she was taking care of the baby. The idea was that by saddling me with Sandy I would get the message to not get pregnant. At age 11, I wasn’t even sure how that happened.

This was the day and age when victims of sexual abuse were always blamed. It you were being sexually abused, it was your fault. You were “promiscuous.” The fear was always pregnancy. Even if you were too young to understand the abuse, you were always framed as someone who didn’t mind adults and was at risk of becoming even more of a liability than you already were just by existing. That’s what it was like growing up in a small town in the 1980s.

So, Sandy and I were hanging out in an effort to teach each other something.

Sandy spent a lot of time driving around trying to calm the baby. That meant we spent a lot of time in the car driving around, singing and talking. The car was littered with debris. There were food wrappers everywhere, and if you rummaged around, there were a bunch of tapes in there too. We would pop a tape in the deck and sing along to Bon Jovi and Poison. We just kept driving until the baby fell asleep.

Sandy would drive us on old back country roads. Even though Sandy was 15 and old enough to drive, she got sick of driving all the time. Sometimes she would let me drive. Yes, it was illegal, but we were 11 and 15, alone in the country. Who was there to care?

I did not like driving much at the time. I hated being responsible for such a large vehicle with Sandy and the baby in it. The car seemed huge to me. It could have been just because I was 11 and was small.

Sandy had also picked up the habit of smoking. She had started smoking at age 10. Back in the 80s, you could purchase cigarettes from vending machines. I remember being sent into bars and stores to purchase cigarettes from vending machines. They cost 90 cents. You would drop in the coins, then pull the lever under the ones you wanted and they would drop down below. 

When Sandy was low on cash, which was always, we would stop at some off-the-path roadside bar. Sandy would run in to grab an ashtray. Among all the other debris in the car, there was always bobby pins. The bobby pins were usually connected to the scrunchies that were floating around.

Sandy would take the butts from the ashtrays and determine which discards still had enough tobacco left in them to be smoked. The stubs were way to small to hold without being burned. This is where the bobby pins came in. She would put the bobby pin on the stub to hold it so that the last of the tobacco could be smoked. This was a common practice of the time. Many kids in the 80s started smoking by taking their parents’ discarded butts and using bobby pins to smoke the ends of them.

Sandy worked at a local fast food place. She took the baby to a babysitter while she worked. Thankfully, I was never asked to babysit. The adults just wanted me to spend time with Sandy to see how hard it was to be a teenage mom. Although, they neglected to tell me anything about how babies were made or how to prevent one. Not to mention, I was not willingly engaging in any activities to produce one. I did get the message that I never wanted to be a mom. Being a mom was a very bad thing. Message received.

While preventing teen pregnancy may have been the intended message of my time with Sandy, what I remember the most is the car. I remember driving around in the car with no keys singing along to the cassette deck. 

They don’t make cars that you can drive around with no keys anymore.

Technically, they have cars now with push button starts, but it’s not the same. The cars with push button starts have a lot of technology that enables them to work. Sandy’s 76 chevy was a car that would start if you just fiddled with a screwdriver. Do a little turn, make the connection, and off we would go. It was the type of car you would just drive until it died. Then when it died, you would beat it up a bit until it started working again, and drive it some more.

Of all memories to arrive unbidden, I received the one of Sandy’s 76 chevy. I have no idea whatever happened to Sandy or the baby. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I remember that car.

Sophie’s Story

IMG_0818

Sophie is a green Toyota Corolla. She is my second Toyota Corolla. I liked the first one I had so much that I decided I wanted to have another one when the first one died. My car is my most prized possession aside from my Boston medal.

It has now been over 20 years that I have been driving a Toyota Corolla. Sophie came into my life at a very bad time. I knew that my first Toyota Corolla, Cool, was on it’s last legs during the winter of 2012-2013. I was trying to push that car through one last winter and had planned on looking for a new Corolla in the spring. Life had other plans, and Cool died in January 2013 – right in the middle of winter.

Finding a used Toyota Corolla is extremely difficult. People tend to love this car and drive them into the ground. I am one of them. When I killed Cool, he had 283,000 miles. So when Cool died, I actually spent a few days without a vehicle because I just could not find a used Toyota Corolla.

Then I found Sophie. Sophie was a necessity. I needed a vehicle. It was too difficult to be happy about a new car when I was mourning my first one. You see, my first Toyota was more than a car. At times, it was also housing for Kitty, Kip and I when we were homeless. I had driven 250,000 of the 283,000 miles that were on that car.

So Sophie entered my life. Within the first 6 months of owning the car, I hit my first deer. A few months later, I hit a second deer. Two deer hits in the first year of owning the car was not a good start. 

Sophie went to Philly with me when I ran one of my marathons. She has been to Cape Cod, Boston, and my favorite camping place. When I bought Sophie, I was at a different point in my life. I vowed that this car would be a car and not used as housing.

What makes Sophie so special is that she is the only thing that joins me to all five of my cats. Kip rode in Sophie to his vet office visits the last year of his life. Kip passed away in December 2013, the first year I owned the car.

Kitty rode in Sophie to his doctor appointments. First, for well visits, then for his cancer check-ups. Kitty passed away in April 2017.

When I adopted Jude, I drove Sophie to the shelter to meet him. Jude rode home in Sophie. Simon and Jolene have both ridden in Sophie also. 

All five cats have been in that car. It’s pretty special. 

Only four of the five cats ever lived in the apartment. Three of my five cats have lived in my house. Yet, all five of my cats have ridden in that car.

I’m glad that Sophie has had the opportunity to go to all of my favorite places before the pandemic hit. Not only is travel restricted due to the pandemic, but my ability to drive has decreased over the past six years or so due to my disability. At least I can say I drove that car where it was important for me to go.

Many people talk down to me over my love affair with Sophie. But when a car has been such a significant part of your life as this one, you get attached to it. My car has been more reliable than most of the people in my life.

I am hoping that when Sophie dies I will be able to afford a third Toyota Corolla, but we will see.

When I bought the house, I was ecstatic that there is a garage here. I park Sophie in the garage in the winter. I am happy that she is getting the treatment she deserves.

My car has been a lifeline to me in the pandemic. I know that no matter what happens, if things get bad, I can always jump in the car and go. I no longer know where I would go, but I know that I can leave it I ever needed. Unfortunately, all of my safe places to which I would go – the people have all died in the pandemic. 

I am so thankful to have Sophie in my life. She is my lifeline to Kip and Kitty who passed away. She keeps me, Jude, Simon, and Jolene all safe. We travel in her to go to medical appointments.

It’s probably stupid to write a blog post about a car, but Sophie is kind of a big deal here. I’m looking forward to many more years of driving her.

Down the Rabbit Hole

WP_20190504_15_32_34_Pro

Down the rabbit hole. Drinking the kool-aid. Swallowing bugs. Pick your cliche.

Swallowing bugs?

Yup. I was running last night and swallowed my first bug of the season. With so many food allergies, how do you think I get extra protein? Talk about eating on the go. Well, anyways, I was running and thinking. All my best ideas come while running.

A huge part of the reason why I left the field of social work is that I was constantly going down the rabbit hole. Now, going down the rabbit hole may be cool if you meet someone as awesome as the Mad Hatter, but even Alice had to wake up from her nap.

The problem with social work is that any good social worker worth their weight goes down the rabbit hole – you put your heart and soul into your job to help people fight injustice in the world. When you lose yourself in your job so much that you become the job. Now, that’s dangerous.

When I made the switch from social work to research and human resources, I was so much happier. Part of what made my unicorn (dream) job so sparkly was all the rules and structure. I loved having to follow research protocol and ensure that everything was following labor laws. It was neat and tidy. Yes, I cared about my job. Yes, I loved my job. Yet when I went home at the end of the night, I did not take my work home with me and everybody was still alive. I loved it.

Now, I am definitely not back in social work, but I am in the human service field. No matter how hard you try to keep good personal barriers, anyone with a heart even as small as the Grinch will be able to tell you that there is transference when you work with people. You internalize things whether you mean to or not.

My current job makes a lot of demands on my time. It has been challenging to get certain people to respect and understand my personal boundaries. However, I am not my job. I realize that may come as a shock to some people. My job is what I do for 40 hours per week to earn income to meet my needs. My job does not define me as a person.

Part of the reason why some people have a hard time with respecting my boundaries is my age. I’ve been told I look younger than I am. Therefore, people think I have all this energy and that I absolutely live and breathe my job every minute of every day!

Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I may look young, but I have been working for 26 years. I spent 20 of those years working 60-80 hours a week at 2 or 3 jobs. I feel a lot older than I actually am. I also feel like I’ve paid my dues and people should leave me the hell alone. But that’s another story.

This story is about going down the rabbit hole. No matter how adamant I am about boundaries, I am still human and therefore susceptible to being sucked into things.

I’ve been drinking the kool-aid of the field in which I work.

We all know I’ve been having issues since I was in the hospital in 2016 for stroke. I have not exactly let on just how bad things are sometimes. Pair that with a doctor who thinks they misdiagnosed me and the fact that I am surrounded by people in the disability field, and I’m drinking the kool-aid.

To make a long story short, the doctors think they screwed up. What they initially diagnosed as stroke, they think is actually multiple sclerosis. I had to google MS to see what the hell it is. Apparently it’s common for some patients to be misdiagnosed with stroke when they have a particularly bad MS episode.

According to my nurse, it looks like my symptoms go back at least 8 years.

I have no idea whether or not I have MS. I have one doctor who seems fully prepared to make a definitive diagnosis of either MS or confirming stroke with complications based on an MRI.

I’ve been drinking the kool-aid by imagining the worse. Well, if I really have this disease, it gets progressively worse and has no cure. The frustrating part is I have no idea when one of these episodes is going to strike, how bad it will be when it does, or how long it lasts.

But you know what? I’ve been living with this for 8 years already, and I’ve still been kicking ass. Yes, I’ve slowed down a lot. Yes, I’ve had some pretty bad months. I’m still going.

I’ve been falling a lot lately. It’s affecting my running. I also have a really hard time going upstairs to the second floor of my house. I mostly stay downstairs and I use a commode at night.

I’m still running.

I’m still driving.

Yes, I have problems driving (some of my symptoms are effecting my vision). I only drive when I feel I am able, I do not go long distances, and I only drive in areas that are familiar to me.

For me, I am not willing to give up and call this a disability yet. For me, as long as I’m running and driving, I am considering myself “functional.” The fact that I’m falling down, forgetting things, and going numb can all be damned.

I’ve also decided I’m not getting tested.

I’m not getting the MRI.

I don’t want to know if it really was a stroke or if it’s MS. I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of a whole bunch of testing, medication, and treatment. Something is obviously wrong with my brain. You know what? I’m 40 now. People get old and their bodies fall apart, including brains. After four degrees, no wonder my brain is on the fritz.

Given my work history the past 26 years, I feel like I’ve already lived two lifetimes.

I just want to live my life. I’m a marathon runner. I keep going until I can’t anymore.

What I realized and learned on my run when I swallowed a bug is that as long as I am running and driving, I am not going to go down the rabbit hole and drink the kool-aid by opening Pandora’s Box.

I don’t want to know what’s wrong with me.

I don’t care. I won’t care as long as I can still do those two things.

So I have a bruise on my hip right now from where I fell down and hit the window sill. I can’t drive on the highway. Sometimes I walk into walls. I fall down the stairs. Many times I don’t know what day it is or what month it is. I am totally okay with all of this.

I am doing what I love – running. I am still functioning in society – driving. I’m not ready to say I have a disability yet.

I’ve been reading about MS ever since it was suggested, and from what I have read, it is an extremely difficult disease to both diagnose and treat. I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of putting myself through all of that medical stuff only for them to come back and say “we don’t know what’s wrong with you.”

If it does come back with MS, well, I’ve read about the medications and I don’t want to be treated.

I’ll keep going until I can’t.

So my new goal is to not go down the rabbit hole. I’m going to stay positive as long as I can run and drive. I’m going to keep living my life. I’m not going to limit myself just because I’m not sure what my level of functioning will be in another 8 years from now.

The most significant thought I had while running and swallowing a bug was – if I was still at my unicorn job, would I even be thinking about this? Or would I just keep living my life and not worry about it? That was when I decided to not get tested. Because I now work in the disability field, I feel that I have been sucked in and needed to know what was wrong with me so I could prepare.

But I don’t want to put those limits on myself.

I’ll keep going until I can’t anymore. The only way you’re going to get me to go down the rabbit hole of testing is if I fall down that hole.

Which may be possible. I’m doing a lot of falling these days. We’ll find out.

 

Reality Check

dscn1554

In 23 years of driving, I have never had a collision claim. This changed this past week when I was rear-ended while stopped at a red light on my way to work. This has been one of the most unpleasant experiences of my life, and it’s not over yet. Not only was the driver who hit me impaired, but also had multiple other violations as well, and there was nothing from the other driver to the police officer to the other person’s insurance company that has been easy to deal with. The factors surrounding the driver were very sketchy.

Although this is a nasty situation, I have been blessed in my ability to handle it calmly. I am sure that if this had happened before I slowed down my life, that I would not be able to “go with the flow” on this as much as I am. In fact, I remember when I hit my first deer a few years ago, that I fell apart completely. It was just too much at the time for my already overflowing plate.

I now have the time to deal with this situation as unpleasant as it may be. Life isn’t fair, and I know that. The one thing that I am very fortunate is that I was not critically injured. In that moment that my car was being struck and I was being pushed into oncoming traffic, I was worried about who would take care of my cats if something serious happened to me. That was the biggest thing that came to mind.

I know that the stress of the situation got to me, as I have been having difficulty the past few days with my autoimmune disorder on top of everything else. Stress is a trigger for the autoimmune disorder. A big part of slowing down my life was to reduce my stress levels. So while this is a bad situation, it could be worse.

This accident is just another learning experience for me to think over when it comes to making positive changes in my life. Is there another way I can take to work? I was stopped at a red light, so it was not like I was even moving. There is nothing I can change about that.

If I did not love my job as much as I do, I would try to work in a different city. I loathe the city in which I work. Since that is not currently an option, I need to figure out other ways to be safe. But seriously, if we are not safe when sitting calmly at a red light, then where are we safe? Just more reasons why I wish I could move into the woods and off the grid.

The silver lining in all this is that it helps me to remember my priorities. I need to focus more on what’s important because life is so fleetingly short. There is nothing like the feeling of “omg, I’m going to die” as you are being pushed into traffic to give you a reality check.

It’s time to prioritize what’s important. That’s why we rewind real slow.