Have you ever felt “undead”? This is not the opposite of alive – it’s the “no-man’s-land” where you don’t fit in anywhere. No? Okay, how about discombobulated? Where you get that feeling that you have absolutely no idea of what to do so you start doing things that don’t make any sense but you feel better because at least you’re doing something? Yeah, I got you there.
Being the mentally stable and organized individual that I am, I have only had this feeling a few times in my life. When my good friend Lisa Schmagenbuch called to tell me her contractions had started and she needed my assistance in the delivery room, well, that was one of them. This was not sudden or unexpected – it had been the plan for at least six months. Lisa and her husband Dave were relying on me to be the experienced rock of knowledge in their time of uncertainty.
Nothing surprised me more when, after Lisa called to let me know her labor was starting, I turned to my common sense and found it had slipped out the back door. This is not a good thing because standing in its place, grinning like a fool, was what I call, my inner idiot.
Stupid is as stupid does
I have not had good experiences with my “idiot”. She has substance abuse issues, continually has her foot in her mouth, does stupid things just for fun and has an IQ bordering on mentally challenged. Her insults are harsh and usually hit below the belt, and this is just before she kicks you. I have seen her do things that have made me laugh, but mostly made me cry, and I cringe when I see her coming. The worst part – she is extremely strong-willed and fights with her are ugly and never end up in a good place.
Ironically though, I often count on her and I can’t remember a time when she hasn’t been around. I have turned to her on many of occasions; my inner idiot has never said no to me and is at my beck and call. I have heard her described as belligerent – and it’s true, she won’t take no for an answer. She’s obnoxious, rude, and bossy, but she’s been a friend since childhood and there’s a certain comfort in that. Sounds crazy, I know, but (note to my “friend” Bonnie) I am ridiculously loyal to those close to me – whatever their issues – and I am unable (or unwilling) to give my inner idiot up.
Lisa loses her sense of humor
So, there I was, listening to Lisa tell me she and Dave were on the way to the hospital and I should meet them there. But, before I could get a word in, my idiot interrupted and spoke up, “What should I wear?”
I could hear Lisa’s labored breathing in the silence that followed. I sensed that she wasn’t in the mood for jokes, but this was no joking matter. What does one wear to a birthing? This was a legitimate question – I had never attended one.
I waited patiently until she finally caught her breath. “You can’t go wrong with black,” she managed to get out.
“Short or long-sleeves? Practical or casual chic?” I mentally went through my closet.
I could hear Dave in the background urging her to hurry and Lisa, ever the diplomat, suggested that I ask Craig what he thought, as they were in somewhat of a rush.
Craig! I scoffed to myself. He was useless when it came to couture and was color-blind to boot. He would be, let’s see . . . zero amount of help. I called my friend Kelly to ask her what she wore to my third birthing.
But, she didn’t remember and actually had the nerve to say that it wasn’t important. Lisa was counting on my emotional support and I could show up in a sack – I just needed to be there.
It’s hard always being right
I hate it when people don’t do what I want. As a result, a teeny tiny attitude crept in and for the next forty-five minutes I fought it off as I tried on a few different options, finally settling on a cute black number that I had only worn once.
By this time, I was actually feeling (and looking BTW!) great and, with brownies in hand, drove off into the night. I swung by Starbucks for a latte and arrived at the hospital with plenty of time to spare. After all, this was her first and it would be a long night.
In the dark, the hospital looked way different. I had been there recently, twice in the past two years for my own births, but they had moved the parking garage or torn it down or covered it up and I couldn’t find it. Northwest Community is a big hospital and the streets that circle it are all either one way or dead ends and I became increasing frustrated as I passed the emergency room for the third time.
“My God,” I shouted out to a doctor that I cut off as he tried to cross the street. “What? You trying to keep the riffraff out?”
“I’m sorry?” He looked at me like I had two heads.
“Where have you put the parking lot?” I yelled.
“It’s always been right there.” He pointed to a structure in front of me. “Are you alright?” he said, faking concern.
“Like you care!” I retorted. I gunned it and flew across a speed bump, my minivan bottoming out as I turned into the parking garage.
I will admit it was at this time that I started getting anxious. It had been almost two hours since I had last spoken to Lisa and I was beginning to feel light-headed. The caffeine was making my heart race and as I drove up and up the parking ramp looking for a space, I wondered why I had ever agreed to deliver this baby. I found a spot on the top outside level and, in the December chill, made my way back down to the first floor and found myself outside the emergency room once again.
The woman at the front desk stopped me with a brusque, “What can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for the maternity ward.”
“Other side of the hospital. Go out the emergency doors and follow the signs. Can’t go in this way.” She pointed her long boney finger out at the cold dark night.
I stuck my tongue out at her and headed back where I had came from. I was now, definitely, discombobulated.
To be continued (one last time-I promise) . . .
What’s so funny about the death of Michael Jackson? These were the thoughts that raced through my head after receiving several requests to blog about the untimely passing of the “King of Pop”. I write irreverent and humorous stories about moi, not someone else. Not write about me? Why would I do that?
“Because he’s an icon. Because it’s so weird,” said my husband, who apparently doesn’t think I’m serious about the divorce thing. “Does everything always have to be funny? Or about you?”
Well, yeah, I thought as I accidentally threw my sandal at him. He did the George Bush duck as I called out “Sorry! Slipped!” But his words stuck with me as I sat in front of my laptop, ignoring the muffled cries for “help” coming from the other room (it’s strange, but I have an uncanny ability to tune out the boys when I’m writing).
Not a believer
I am not particularly a fan of Michael Jackson. I was raised with his music and I admit I sang along, as a child, when “Ben” was played on the radio, but I’m not a die-hard. I jumped on the “Wacko Jacko” bandwagon when it rolled through town and helped dissect him in the press when the pedophilia charges came out. I rolled my eyes when he claimed to have vitiligo, the condition that turned his skin white, and wagged my tongue when it hit the papers that he had married the just-as-odd, Lisa Marie Presley. He weirdness made him such an easy target, it was hard not to gossip about him.
I was still in shock from the announcement of another iconic passing, Farrah Fawcett, when the texts about MJ’s death started coming through. I figured it was just another media-hype, like the hyperbaric oxygen chamber he claimed to have slept in, or of his friendship with Bubbles the Chimp. When I found out it was true, I reacted the same way as when John Lennon was killed or JFK, Jr. died, I couldn’t make sense of it. It seemed too surreal – he was of my generation and too young to die.
Michael Jackson did not know me, but I knew him. I knew of his marriages, his divorces, his successes and failures. I knew his children, the Jackson family and the famous friends. I knew when he was arrested and when he went to trial. I knew his shame and embarrassment. I knew his secrets.
No matter how strange someone is, it’s still sad when they die. The running movie that was Michael Jackson’s life ended abruptly and with an unsatisfactory conclusion. Like Princess Diana, their unexpected death took me by surprise; I wasn’t prepared for the emotional jolt, the fact that we wouldn’t grow old together. What would their senior years have brought? Would Elvis ever have faded away? Would Heath Ledger’s star have continued to rise? It speaks to your own life and possible untimely death. It makes me wonder when I will die.
His life and times
When I started looking back on Michael Jackson’s life, I discovered much about him that I either didn’t know or had simply forgotten. I found out that he holds eight records in the Guinness Book of World Records, mostly for his musical achievements, but also one for his support of 39 charities, more than any other entertainer. Through his foundations, he has donated millions of dollars to the poor, the hungry, the sick. I was also reminded that, as a child, he was continually abused by his father, a claim supported not only by the senior Jackson, but by his eight brothers and sisters as well. Even as an adult he was afraid of the dark and slept with the lights on.
The issue that bothers me most is that of the pedophilia, but even then, does that mean he deserved to die? Or that somehow he got what was coming to him? I don’t know and I can’t speak for those who have experienced the agony of abuse. Does his support of so many charities somehow offset the horrific charges against him? Does what he gave outweigh what he took? Was he a sick man who let the sycophants pander to him, like Belushi or Marilyn? Somewhere along the way, he dropped the reins – was it his fault that he wasn’t in charge of his life? Maybe.
I wonder what will happen to his children. Will they be as strange as their father? How does being raised with a veil covering your face, (or a burqa for that matter) shape your life? Will genetics or fate step in and save them from circumstance or is it too late? Will they forever be known as “the children of Michael Jackson” or can they ever break away and make their own future?
Money and happiness, not always compatible
For all the fame and fortune that Michael had, it seems his personal demons nestled in and never left him. They didn’t care who he was, but he was good eatin’ and they made a meal. We’re all familiar with demons and how they operate – ignore ‘em and they grow. Soon they’re giving advice and before long they’re running the show. Over time and with proper nourishment, some demons get so big that there’s no fighting them, they’re too powerful. Their hold is strong – all they have to do is remind you of your insecurities and how you’re not fooling anyone. Then it’s over.
I have so many mixed thoughts and questions about the life and death of Michael Jackson. Whether you like him or not, it’s hard to dispute the fact that he was an icon, that five decades of his music will influence generations to come, and that his personal story will be forever clouded with doubt and shame. He lived a life that was so bizarre, I can’t even imagine it.
No one likes to speak ill of the dead. We search for the nice things so say in a eulogy, the person’s strengths, what a good cook they were or what a green thumb they had. Their peccadilloes are brushed over or not mentioned at all. Even in death-row inmates, we elaborate on how they found God or of the fine rehab work they have done with other inmates. The nasty and the mean must have something positive that can be said about them. Right?
I am not fond of quoting from scripture but the passage “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” comes to mind. How quickly would we forgive the wrongdoings of a Dick Cheney or a Bill Clinton if they were to pass away? Does someone have to die before they can truly be absolved of their sins?
I can hear your quick reply “of course not” but I’m not so sure it is a question that is easily answered. Do we ever forgive the truly heinous (Hitler)? The horrible (OJ)? The despicable (Bernie Madoff)? Where do you draw the line? Or do you turn that decision over to a higher power?
You tell me.