Monday, September 28, 2009

"I Didn't Know I was Pregnant (With Twins)" - My Mother's Story

Impossibly, my twin baby brothers are turning 31 this week.

I vividly remember the day they were born. A beautiful, clear-skied Midwestern City day; my younger sister and I spent the day with our cousins while Mom and Dad went to have the baby.

Yes, “baby,” singular. A girl, specifically.

Or so they thought…

After months of hard work that I prefer not to think about for too long or visualize ever, my parents were thrilled to be expecting baby #3. They had two (quite lovely) girls and, naturally, assumed another girl was on the way.

Incidentally so did the doctor, who, four years earlier, had been convinced my little sister was going to be twins. So convinced, in fact, that he had ordered both an x-ray and a sonogram, only to find one large baby girl in there. Having cried “twins!” once before, he was not about to do so again.

But I had a different theory.

“What do you hope your mommy will have?” everyone from close relatives to complete strangers would ask.

“Twin boys,” I would respond.

This usually garnered a chuckle and a pat on the head, but I truthfully meant it. At the age of nearly seven, I found it ridiculously unfair that my father would potentially suffer the remainder of his days overwhelmed by estrogen in his household.

“Poor thing,” they would whisper behind my back, “I hope she’s not disappointed when the baby is born.”

The morning of September 30th, 1978 arrived. Mom was two days overdue and down to two maternity tops that still fit.

Her doctor – who still believed she was pregnant with only one baby – had agreed to induce her that morning.

But for hours, nothing happened.

At 1:00 her doctor hooked her up to some pitocin, and things got interesting.

Her contractions started fast and furious. The nurse placed an internal heart monitor on the baby’s scalp and wrapped an external heart monitor around Mom’s enormous belly, both to measure the baby’s heart rate. Unbeknownst to anyone, each monitor was on a different baby.

Over the course of the next 30 minutes, my dad (an engineer) began to notice that the internal and external monitors were beating at different rates. The nurse noticed that mom’s abdomen took on a strange shape when it contracted. And my mom became fully dilated.

“Has anyone ever talked to you about the possibility of having twins?” the nurse asked.

“Just a few of my friends,” Mom replied through rapid breaths, “and most strangers.” Before her next contraction she quickly added, “but not my doctor, and I need to push!”

They wheeled her into the delivery room, threw a gown and mask at my dad, and called for her doctor.

As she laid on the delivery table (without an epidural) waiting for her doctor to scrub up, she noticed that the nursing staff in the room doubled, and a second newborn warmer was being brought in.

Confused, writhing in pain, and trying hard to hold back what would turn out to be over 14 pounds of baby in spite of how desperately she wanted to push, Mom looked up at her doctor, who was putting on his gloves and getting in the “ready” position, and, speaking around her protruding belly asked, “Dr. Richards, am I having twins?”

Dr. Richards looked down at Mom and smiled before pulling up his mask. “Mary, I don’t know yet. But when I find out, you will be the first person I tell. Now, go ahead and push!”

Baby Boy A was born at 1:52. He weighed 7 pounds, 6 ounces.

“He looks small,” the nurse said. And, placing her hands on Mom’s belly, told the doctor, “There’s another one right here!”

Dad’s jaw hit the floor. Later the nurses would say that Dad had never put his mask on, but that it would not have covered his open mouth anyway.

Baby Boy B was born at 1:58. He weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces.

The delivery room erupted with cheers of joy. Mom and Dad – once they were able to speak again – started calling their friends and family, starting with their mothers.

“Oh, Mary,” my grandmother so lovingly and confidently reassured her only daughter upon hearing the news, “What are we going to do with them?”

I, however, was not at all surprised. After all, Amos and Otis were exactly what I had ordered.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Where There's a Will, There's a Dead Person

There are few things that can bring a person face-to-face with his or her own mortality with gripping reality.

A major illness… a near-fatal accident… a 30-year-old waiter who calls you “ma’am… ”

Or drafting your will.

Last week Dave and I finally got around to updating our wills. Since the last update over a decade ago, we have had two more children, lived in two more cities, and added one dog.

Mysteriously, however, my head remains free of gray hairs.

We sat with our fearless and patient attorney for nearly two hours adding up our assets (our mortgage, our minivan, and one unused waffle iron) and assigning our children to the care of my sister in the event of our deaths (bringing her total to seven kids and one dog) (sucka!).

I left Patient Attorney’s office feeling vulnerable and half-dead. But I did feel as though my affairs were in order, should Dave and I simultaneously and spontaneously succumb to Swine Flu.

Since that appointment, however, it has occurred to me that I may have a few more affairs to put in order before I take my one-way ticket to the endless chocolate fountain in the sky (at least, I hope there’s one).

In lieu of paying (another visit to) Patient Attorney for an addendum to my will, I have decided to leave my final, final wishes here on, and am naming you all as co-executors of this addendum.

First, should I die before I get around to it, I would appreciate it if someone would be so kind as to dust off the exercise equipment in my house so my mourners will believe I had used it, right up to my dying day.

I would also ask that same person to fold the laundry I will have undoubtedly left in the dryer and pull all of the old condiments out of my fridge.

I will also need someone to pull out all the loose photos in the photo drawer(s) and put them into the scrapbooks you will find still wrapped in cellophane.

You will also need to remove memory cards from my camera and from the desk drawer and a few used up disposable cameras and a roll of film in the fridge, and get all those shots developed. I am counting on you to immediately and permanently discard those that make my butt look big, my hair look frizzy, and my face look pale.

And any photos that feature me sporting the Perm of ’86.

Also, I don’t have any plastic food storage containers with matching lids; I would ask you to toss them all and stock my cabinet with a fresh set from Williams Sonoma. Preferably before my mother gets there.

There are no less than 17 cookbooks in my kitchen, none of which have so much as a crease in the spine and will need someone to open, beat up, and sprinkle flour on them to make them look used.

On a related note, please destroy all take-out menus (located in on top of the cookbooks).

Actually, keep the one from the Thai place, they can cater the post-funeral meal. You will eat so well you will forget I am dead.

In my closet, I have a ball cap that belongs to a friend in Texas that I’ve been meaning to mail to her for 13 years; please return it to her.

And the “Gossip Girls” DVD back to Blockbuster.

And the 12-count mini-muffin tin back to my neighbor. From our last house.

I also have old pairs of giant cotton maternity underwear that I kept in case of a water shortage that would lead to a rationing of laundry. Please burn them.

And my bike tires need pumping, my shower needs re-caulking, my car needs vacuuming, my CD collection needs to be re-alphabetized, three blouses need buttons sewn back on, the dog needs a bath, and I have 11 bags of old clothes and shoes that are all ready to go to Goodwill.

My Facebook page, however, will most certainly be up-to-date.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pre-Show Opening Act

Like a Jennifer Aniston relationship, my weekend with Bono flew by in the blink of an eye.

My girlfriends and I arrived in Chicago late Thursday afternoon. We made it to our condo in Old Town (a find, much better than my last one), which Bono had so thoughtfully decorated with rose petals and shamrocks. A bottle of Bailey’s awaited with a note attached: “I read your blog and can’t wait to see you. Wear black.”

But the concert wasn’t for two more days, so my Chicago brother (Otis) suggested we have a little pre-show of our own in the Lincoln Square neighborhood to pass the time.

Lincoln Karaoke is located in a small building that could have been mistaken for a quickie income tax refund center from the outside.

The parking lot across the street and the ladies (of the night) in stilettos and Miss Breck led me to believe the cabbie had dropped us off at the wrong spot and was laughing his ass off at us as drove off.

We walked into the institutional-looking foyer and were led down a long white hallway, lit by florescent overhead lights and lined with oak doors, each numbered with stick-on numbers while muffled strains of Air Supply, Queen, and Barry Manilow (poorly sung) leaked out from behind. The building smelled like old beer-stained carpet. I was certain we were being punk’d.

The owner finally reached room #14. He opened the door to our own private karaoke room (rented by the hour) (and, unlike room #8, did NOT have a pole), filled with my brother, a few of his friends, and a few of mine. My three girlfriends and I were the last to join.

The room was dark, with tiny red, green, and blue dotted lights circling and floating around the walls, clockwise, from ceiling to floor. Large wall-mounted flatscreen TV’s hung on opposite walls with videos of Korean men and women acting out scenes from various music videos of the late 1980’s.

(I assume they were Korean, as the giant remote control had 11 buttons in English and 75 buttons in Korean; the music book had a huge section of Korean music selections in the back, but please do not hold it against me if the music video “actors” were actually a different nationality.)

My little brother and I broke the ice by singing a selection of songs from our youth, including John Denver and Simon & Garfunkel, just to get things going.

The night was a blast. Each of us had our moment of glory, entertaining our intimate little disco-slash-skating-rink room with Streisand, Bon Jovi, Backstreet Boys, and, of course, “Summer Nights.”

Lincoln Karaoke even had “D!ck in a Box.”

But that wasn’t the biggest surprise.

No, just as we were getting comfortable with the idea that we could rent a private room by the hour that would allow us to do whatever we wanted without interruption for as long as we wanted (which turned out to be over five hours) (I’m not saying I’m proud of it)…

The videos of men and women eating dinner, strolling the beach, and walking through the park that had filled the karaoke screens for the first couple of hours gave way, without warning, to scenes of topless women taking baths, modeling jean shorts, and making phone calls.

Right in the middle of my heart-warming rendition of “My Way.”

And it’s not that I’m bitter about those topless women stealing my thunder during one of my favorite anthems (which they totally did), it’s just that images of the many other activities that could very well have taken place in that room charged into the forefront of my brain at that very moment, rendering me unable to bring myself to sit down on – or even look at – the built-in furniture that lined the room for the rest of the evening.


But not even videos of soft-core fluffers could take away the fun of the night for this girl.


Not with Bono (and friends) waiting for me (in my black shirt) and our night together (with 64,999 others who did not count) that lay ahead (from the 13th row of section 153).

In the end though, I have to give Otis and our collective crew of friends all the credit for making our night at Lincoln Karaoke a pre-show I will never forget.

I’m not one to kiss and tell, but I couldn’t resist sharing this from one of my fellow back-up singers taken somewhere at Soldier Field. Where the Streets Have No Name

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Dear Bono,

Thank you.

In the name of love,

Monday, September 7, 2009

5 More Days to 360, a Letter to Bono

Dear Bono,

Only five more days, my Irish lovely. Five more days until we meet again, with our 65,000 best friends, at Soldier Field.

Can you believe it has been 22 years since our first concert together? So much has changed.

Not you, of course. You’re still the same man I fell for all those years ago. It’s just that now your resume includes saving Africa and being BFF’s with Oprah.

But other things have changed.

For this concert, I ordered my tickets from my PC via the Internet. I did not own either of those things in 1987.

(But I did in 1997, yet you still made me stand in line at the ticket outlet for your Midwestern City Stadium show. Not very progressive in hindsight, now, was it?)

I then “texted” my girlfriends to tell them about it and “Googled” a place to stay. Those “verbs” didn’t exist back in the day of shoulder pads and Cosby sweaters.

Neither did my “husband” or “kids,” who, I might add, have promised not to stand in the way of our "love."

But, my leather-clad, wrap-around-sunglasses-wearing, poetic little leprechaun, the most striking change from 1987 to 2009 was the price of the ticket.

This time around, I am paying $135. Granted, I will be on the lower level. Yes, you have big video screens so I can see every bead of sweat roll down your beautiful face while you scan the crowd looking for me. (I’m in Section 153. I don’t know what I’m wearing yet.) And the visual effects and sound system are sure to be spectacular. And I know the cost of airfare from Dublin to the United States has got to be astronomical these days, considering how much excess luggage I imagine you and your three amigos must lug along with you.

Everything costs more now, I get that.

It’s just that... a mere 22 years ago... at Midwestern City’s Large Arena...

I watched you from a suite. It included food and drinks and a private bathroom. I stood, the entire time during your sold-out show, hanging over the glass partition that kept out the riffraff, drool streaming down my chin and onto the lady in front of me, just 50 feet from the stage.

You were wearing leather pants and had the set list taped to the floor of the stage right next to your microphone stand.

I’m pretty sure you looked up at me and made a little heart sign with your hands during “Bad,”

I know I did it to you.

But my point is not our unrequited love. My point is that we shared that magical night for just $17.50.

Seventeen dollars. Fifty cents. Including the service charge.


Needless to say, for the extra $117.50 you are getting out of me to fly to Chicago this time and share you with 64,999 other people who, I guarantee, cannot possibly have adored you as long and as deeply as I have (got that, Oprah?), I have some high expectations.

Namely, though, that you wear leather pants, make Section 153 your favorite section, and give me some sort of secret sign that our love is still alive. Like, run your right hand through your hair during the encore.

And meet me for a drink afterwards.

My treat.

So have a great trip to Chicago, I am looking forward to seeing you MAYBE almost as much as you are looking forward to seeing me.

All my love,