Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Today I went to see my Aunt Dot at an Assisted Living facility in New Jersey. I went with my daughter, my sister and my mother. My aunt is/was the matriarch of the family. She's a highly intelligent woman who's never been on time a day in her life and there's no one on the planet with nerve enough to call her out on it.

Aunt Dot was married for 62 years to my Uncle Mike. My favorite uncle in the world. Uncle Mike passed away recently and fortunately for Aunt Dot the early stage dementia she's been diagnosed with serves to basically make it impossible for her to have to deal with this loss on a daily basis. Her short term memory is pretty much gone. She realizes he's passed but she thinks it was a long time ago. Today she told me she talks to him every night. She said it's more like a whisper because she doesn't want anyone to walk by her room and think she's senile like the other residents.

When we arrived today we found Aunt Dot in the Rec Room with some of the other residents. They were sitting in a circle holding songbooks and singing "High Hopes". Aunt Dot was singing with gusto and playing a plastic tambourine. My mom burst into the room, filled with Alzheimer's and Dementia patients, yelling "Guess Who ??!"

We took seats all around Aunt Dot. The group leader decided that it was time to play a "Current Events" game. She told everyone that she would ask a question and if anyone knew the answer, they should just shout it out. "What woman just announced her candidacy for the Presidency?" One of the men in the back yelled "Oh yeah, there goes the country!" Aunt Dot yelled out "Hillary Clinton!!" We were so happy and proud. "Can anyone tell me the name of the African American man who just announced his candidacy for the presidency?" The voice in the back yelled, "Better him than a woman!" My Aunt yelled out, "Babama Babama!" "Close", the leader said. My mom yelled out, "Barack Obama!" "Yes, very, very good!" the group leader said. I could see my sister elbowing my mother and telling her to keep quiet because the game was for the patients, not her. Next question - "Can anyone tell me the name of the current president?" "George Bush", my mother yelled. It was as if she had something to prove. To herself.

I asked Aunt Dot if she was symptomatic during menopause and she said "Christ, yeah...it freakin' sucked."

I usually get symptomatic after a day like this. Aside from the hot flashes, I get a little claustrophobic and hypochondriacal. A little morbid and anxious. We hit alot of traffic on the ride home. My daughter played DJ with her ipod and my sister and I sang and danced in our seats. We even started tickling each other and laughing like two hyenas. My sister does this really annoying thing where she tickles me under my chin. It makes me laugh so hard I could pee. And I have. I looked at my mother in the front seat and I could tell, even from the back, that she was smiling.

Monday, February 19, 2007

I am a nearly middle-aged woman (provided I live to 100 - ). I manage a bar in Brooklyn, teach yoga, play the bass, write and perform with the best group of women in New York, love my animals (a cat, two dogs and a fish) and Buddhist philosophy and I'm the mother of two incredible, beautiful, grown children who, in the past year, have moved into their own places and left me to ponder my self and my life.

Let me begin here - four years ago...

I had my last real period on March 18th, 2003. Yep. My mom said she went through "The Change" at 42. Her period "just stopped". No symptoms. Not a one, according to her. I guess all those years when she would come home from work and retreat immediately into her bedroom with a pack of Benson & Hedges 100's and a cup of coffee and sit, in a cloud of smoke, watching reruns of "Little House On The Prairie" don't count. My two kids and my nephews used to refer to her, at the time, as Grambo. No symptoms.

I remember distinctly the last time I bled. I actually knew that it was the last time. I don't know how, but I did. I remember looking down at the piddly little offering my body forced onto the pad thinking, "this is it". Oddly enough, I still have the diary I kept in the 8th grade and one of the 5 or 6 entries is titled "This Girl Is A Woman Now." I got my period on March 18th, 1971. Exactly, exactly, exactly 32 years later, to the day, it stopped. I wonder how many women that happens to but they just don't have the information recorded to remind them.

I was, if they were all telling the truth, the last of all my girlfriends to get my period. I was an athlete so, in retrospect, it seems to make sense. However, I was incredibly envious of my friends and their "cramps" and "pads" and "sore boobs". I faked having my period for about a year or so. If my friends had payed closer attention, they might have realized that I bled 19 days a month and had cramps all the time. I just wanted to belong.

So, four years ago I started having hot flashes. Nice ones. Ones that gave me a healthy looking flush every half hour or so. My skin looked all glow-y and Doris Day-ish. Over the past few years they've morphed back and forth from Doris Day flashes to the Satchmo kind...hanky and all. My sister gets them so bad that she carries around sheets of Bounty in her bag. She works with small children in a local school and recently, mid-flash, one of her kids said, "Miss Lori, what's wrong with your face?" My sister said she humored the kid with a piece of candy but what she wanted to say was, "Nothing asshole, what's wrong with yours?"