Dianne Marie

November 12th marked two years since my Mom lost her battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Ultimately pancreatic cancer took her life but I blame Alzheimer’s for stealing her ability to communicate what surely must have been pain. Dianne – the mother of five, Boston native, sports fan, green bean lover – was gone long before she passed away, but I miss her all the same. Always incredibly private, she instructed Dad early on “not to tell the kids” about her diagnosis. Her mother lived with Alzheimer’s for sixteen years, nine of which were in a nursing home. I can’t imagine the depth of what she felt when she realized that she was headed down the same path. I worry I let her down by not pushing her to let me in to face it with her – but that wasn’t her style. Instead, we honored her wishes and gave her the only thing there is to give someone suffering from Alzheimer’s: time, patience and love.

Watching your mother lose her ability to communicate with the world, literally lose her mind, is no small thing. Early in her diagnosis, I dreamed that she was under water at the edge of a pond, looking up at me but slowly sinking. I was frozen, unable to help. The image of her floating away and the calm look in her eyes haunted me. The dream proved an accurate metaphor for what became our painful reality. Much like I’ve wondered when these wrinkles showed up on my face, or how my nephew is suddenly 6’2”…we’d somehow reached a new reality where Mom had stopped driving, would inform Dad he “needed to leave because her husband would be home soon,” and would occasionally try to drink liquid soap…just open it right up like it was a bottle of soda. She slipped away from us minute by minute for nine years, and yet it was still a shock when we learned she had stage IV cancer. There were no treatment choices to be made; her organs were shutting down. The only course of action was to make her comfortable and gather by her bedside to say goodbye.

My Mom was amazing and beautiful and spunky until those final days. I swear she had good comedic timing even in the later years and her smile was infectious. She may not have always gotten the name, but her face lit up each time she saw one of us. She at least knew she knew us – a gift for which I will be forever grateful.

Amidst the lunacy of the caregiving years, I started performing stand up. The gravity of my Mom’s situation helped me overcome wicked stage fright. Before a show I would talk to myself, “You better get on with it. THIS IS THE GOOD STUFF IN LIFE. What’s the worst thing that can happen on stage? People don’t laugh? Big frigging deal Tracy, get over yourself.” My heart still pounds before I get on stage but I think about my Mom & it focuses me. I know I can trust myself up there now. Mom never saw me perform, but I know she would be proud. She’d tell me that it wasn’t ladylike to curse, but she would be proud. Growing up she used to tell me, in a way that only a mother can, that I should write a book. I hope that in some way telling silly stories into a microphone or writing blog posts honors her and that wish for me.

Dinner with Meghan

Originally Posted 11-25-11…

I just had dinner with a friend I met on an airplane 3 & 1/2 years ago. We were both returning to Raleigh from NYC. Bad weather kept us on the tarmac for hours before taking off. Naturally we exchanged our lives’ stories within the first 45 minutes. She was a kind, funny, smart city girl who had just moved to NC from New York. I liked her immediately. She was calmly freaking out about flying in bad weather. I don’t think we stopped talking for 4 hours. I’m usually the person that busts out the iPod, pillow & eye cover intentionally sending “leave me alone” signals because, well, I’d rather be left alone on airplanes. But the unique, scary-weather circumstances had everyone buzzing. Meghan & I quickly figured out that we were practically neighbors in Raleigh, went to the same gym, & shared a very similar mindset about diet/exercise (freaks). We talked about work, family, our jock pasts & ex-boyfriends. We related on many levels. There was one big difference, however. Meghan was only 7 years old. Hard to believe that a 7 year old could be so mature. Well, ok, she wasn’t still 7 – she was 23. I was 39. But when I was 23, she was 7! We’ve since figured out that the age difference between us is the same as the age difference between me and her parents. I’m not saying it’s weird, but…it’s kinda weird, right? Regardless, a real friendship has blossomed. To her friends I’m her “old airplane friend” and to my friends she’s my “young airplane friend.” Seriously, that’s what we say. I’m not sure if she’s exceptionally mature (recently married, built a new house, started her own business) or if I’m exceptionally immature (currently single with pipe dreams of a career in comedy and a past which consists of a lot of ultimate frisbee & snowboarding) …but we meet somewhere in the middle and it is awesome. We have a very honest, supportive, unconditional bond. 98% of the time I don’t feel an age difference when we hang out. But when I do, 1% comes from her young skin and me lecturing her about sunscreen. The other 1% comes from her affinity for Brittany Spears that I’ll never understand.

**2014 Update – As of July 2013, Meghan is a Momma to a beautiful, sweet baby girl. And in other news, I paid my car off!!

Comedy for Me

Originally Posted 12-1-10…

It never occurred to me that you could actually study comedy. Correction: It never occurred to me that I could actually study comedy. I was raised in a household where you grew up to be an accountant or an IBM’er, not an artist and certainly not a comedian (although with five kids in the house there were definitely a few comedians). Even so, comedy has always been a part of my life. I listened to Bill Cosby as a kid (snakes!), watched The Carol Burnett Show, Fat Albert, and I Love Lucy with my family. I absorbed The Muppet Show, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Welcome Back Kotter, Good Times, The Facts of Life, The Jeffersons, Three’s Company, MASH, Sanford and Son, Different Strokes (beginning to wonder how I had time for anything else), Mork and Mindy, WKRP in Cincinnati, etc. I sneaked in to watch SNL and movies like Stripes and Caddyshack with my older siblings. I crowded around a cassette tape with fellow summer campers and memorized Eddie Murphy’s “Delirious.” I saw Ellen DeGeneres perform in Raleigh in the 80’s, and Jamie Foxx doing stand-up at UGA during his In Living Color years (Mildred get down!) So many comedians…Steven Wright, Sam Kinison, Gilda Radner, Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Jane Curtain, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Lily Tomlin, Robin Williams, Janeane Garofalo, Seinfeld, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Kathy Griffin, Dave Chappelle, Chelsea Handler, Jim Gaffigan…the list is endless. They have all made an impression on me at some point in my life. Still, the closest I came to pursuing comedy myself was watching “Friends” in my 20’s and talking about how it would be cool to write sitcoms { much like dudes talk about playing professional golf or baseball. }

I’ve always daydreamed about doing stand-up, didn’t everyone? I have a stand-up narration constantly streaming in my head. I thought this was normal. Still, it took getting to a place in my life where my knees rebelled against my extra-curricular world of ultimate frisbee & snowboarding (no that’s not a punchline) before it occurred to me that I could or should actually pursue comedy. For the first time since I was a kid I had the time to nurture my creative side. But…a comedian? Say what? It was outlandish. Unrealistic. Unattainable. I’ve always put comedians on a pedestal. Craig Robinson said it best on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” when describing how his career started. He said, “I didn’t realize that real people did comedy until I went to a talent show…a couple people I knew got up and did it. And it blew my mind that you could actually touch somebody that did comedy. I don’t know how to explain it; you know it was like they were superheroes or something. So when I saw that, it was like, “Wow, I could actually make a go of this.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CB7-gOb0wAM check out minute 5:00) I 100% relate to what Craig says. I can’t imagine a better endeavor in life than trying to make someone laugh (ok Doctors, Nurses, Teachers, Firemen…yeah, yeah, they’re great too). There are so many heavy things in this world that bring us sadness and stress. We all need laughter to survive. So, I’m in…I’m studying comedy. It is inspiring, agitating in the best way, and it makes me see the world differently. It brings me joy. Regardless of where this journey takes me, I know it’s the right one. In my wildest dreams, you’ll all be along for the ride – watching, participating, and laughing with, or at me!