“Hard out here for a pimp”? Try being a mom.

During our recent family vacation in Hawaii, Sherri’s mother met us in LA for the flight out to the Big Island. The first few days went fine, but as the trip passed on, her mother grew more and more lethargic and kept passing on activities to stay in bed. We thought at first she’d picked up a flu, but on the day we were scheduled to fly out, we found out she was bleeding places people ought not to be bleeding from, and we made a trip to the local emergency room with her.

After an initial diagnosis of a systemic infection, it was determined Mom Tanner would NOT be traveling anytime soon. Our original plans to part company with her in LA and continue on to WA/OR to see my sisters/parents were edited – Sherri would stay behind with her mother until she was well enough to travel; Denise and I would carry on with our original plans to see my family (a visit which we very much enjoyed, and I will eventually get some highlights of posted).

A week passed, and Mom was cleared to travel about the same time that we returned home to NC. Sherri went home with her to help her travel and get life situated back home in CA. Given the testosterone-soaked environment there (Dad Tanner, Sherri’s older brother, and his teenage son being the other residents) there was not a lot of optimism she’d have the caregiving and support she needed for her recovery. (As it worked out, serious drama later ensued there, but that’s a story for another time.)

Against that worrisome backdrop, Denise and I returned home to NC with a few short days to spare before her first day of high school started. There were last-minute supplies and girly things to shop for, a mountain of mail and bills to sort and pay, and some very unpleasant surprises left on the carpet by one or more cats who appeared to have been sick, upset with us, or both. Of course, the carpet cleaners were at the shop being repaired and needed to be picked up. There was school open-houses,  fundraiser meetings, and extracurricular activities to attend, and all three vehicles needed servicing (two with DMV registration deadlines, naturally). In case I was sleeping too much, Denise started 6am daily seminary classes at church, and needed transport from there to school. “Dad, what’s for dinner?”

Somewhere during all of this I was also supposed to do my job, complete with the additional responsibilities that resulted from my former manager being reassigned away from my team about the same time we got home.  Oh yeah, and then there was this hurricane thing coming our way. I would have sprayed for locusts too if I could have found the time.

I would like to say that I handled all this with courage and aplomb and grace under pressure. Instead, I stumbled through with outbreaks of Tourette’s syndrome, inflicted concerns for my sanity upon my daughter, and spent profligately on take-out food.

Of course, I called my wife regularly to whine and wallow in self-pity – her answer: “Want to trade?” While she’d managed to put her job on hold by arranging a leave of absence, she had the worry of one very weakened woman, attending to her medical needs and doctor’s appointments, and the challenge of two and a half rather uncooperative men with serious entitlement complexes. I already know she is a patient and forgiving woman (otherwise I would not be alive to write this) – but I do not know where she found the grace to deal with the challenges she had in that household. (There was some Valium involved, to be fair).

This week, the decision was made that Mom Tanner’s recovery might be better accomplished in a less-demanding environment, and thus she and Sherri are flying to NC today – I pick them up at about midnight tonight. I and Denise are looking forward to having Grandma as a guest and Mom back in the house.

From this experience, I have a new-found deep and abiding respect for mothers everywhere, particularly single and/or working ones. The world at large doesn’t appreciate the role, because there are no big flashy accomplishments that warrant any press – just an unending stream of small but ever-so-necessary tasks to keep a household and a family functioning.

I have a few small victories that I’m proud of that wouldn’t impress anyone else. I cooked a few meals that didn’t come in freezer boxes – one even completely and properly from scratch. I got the house cleaned and the laundry and dishes done. I didn’t completely lose it and go on a drunken bender. And I think I’ve finally gotten those spots and that smell out of the carpet.

Tonight, as glad as I will be to see her, I predict that I will be too tired to do more than give her a peck on the cheek before rolling over and falling asleep.

Moms – you rock.