Meatshake

So, my mom is coming home from her most recent jaunt to a nursing home with end-stage dementia. Forgive me for the word “jaunt”, because it is anything but. Saying that, I prefer to think of it as a capricious adventure for her: New things! People to wave to! Interesting roommates (that she talks shit about all the time in German, which is wrong, yet hilarious)!

For me, it’s supposed to be a reprieve of sorts. But no, ever the dutiful daughter, I made my way to go see her every day as I am her sole, tenuous touchstone to reality at this point. It’s better for her, says everyone with degrees, and I do not disagree with them nor with their degrees. If I skip the odd day, she is sullen, silent, vaguely bitchy when I finally do make my appearance.

She sleeps a lot now. English is a word salad, German goes a bit better. She has forgotten her French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Swedish and Irish. Continents and countries and conversations and comrades, friends, lovers, family have all retreated to the dark spaces; clogged out by the proteins in her brain.

Dunno. Perhaps she knows her people, places and things, somewhere. A lifetime of adventure spanning World War II Germany, to Brazil, to the United States. There are things I would like to think she has lost, however. My father was a motherfucker. My sister’s death changed her profoundly.

Never on the outside, though. If you were to build a statue of the proverbial, stoic East German battle axe? My mother and her mother would give Angela Merkel a run for her money.

But this is not about that. Not really. This is about food, and the textures of… things. Kinda sorta. With late stage dementia comes dysphagia and incontinence. “Dysphagia” is, in layman’s terms, trouble swallowing, and if you do not know what “incontinence” is? I ain’t got nothin’ for you.

In preparing for her return home, I have purchased three-part plates– you know, like how those Swanson TV dinners used to be separated, extra spoons, extra bullets for my food processor, wee-wee pads, diapers, every sort of salve and cleaning agent I can get my grubby little hands on (or liberate from a hospital or nursing home), gloves, face masks. You name it? I either have it, or it’s on my Amazon wishlist.

All of mom’s food must be pureed now. I sadly gave up all of her chewy granola bars (she loved them so much!) to the six-year old two units down from me. He loves them, though. There’s that.

Chicken? Pureed. Pasta? Same. Fruit? Yep. Every single fucking thing. And goddamnit! It’s so disheartening! Food, eating is amazing, but in this form it’s all bullshit. I completely understand when my mom isn’t feeling it. The hospital, at least, made some attempt to conceal the treachery of the process. At breakfast, she would get a waffle with maple syrup– pureed, of course– but they had a form that they plopped over the mush that made it at least vaguely waffle-shaped. Same with carrots. Four vaguely carrot-shaped rows of blergh. Mom was slightly fooled, but…

I’m gonna digress for a moment and take you back to 1997, Brazil. My father was at death’s door, and I went down to Ubatuba to, uh, take care of all the legalities when he passed. But he didn’t, so I was basically in a hostage situation for a month.

He also had dysphagia and his nurses blended all of his meals.  Gamely, and not accustomed to being waited on hand and foot, I asked for the same thing my father was having for dinner on my first night there. They looked at me like I was crazy– to be fair, a correct assessment– and said OK. I was handed a greenish-brown (are you picking up what I’m putting down?) glass of hot, viscous liquid. Just like my dear ol’ dad.

I took a sip. It wasn’t horrible tasting, but the texture! Gag. Spluttering, I asked the nurses what was in it. Steak, cabbage, green beans and beef stock.

“My dad is drinking a meatshake?! I’m drinking a meatshake?! What. The. Fuck.”

They didn’t speak any English, so they didn’t understand the words. They did, however, understand my revulsion and ordered pizza.  Then we played cards and got really stoned, but that is a different story.

Back to Mom.

I have to encourage her to eat by having bites of her food. It’s in her innate nature, you see, to make sure that her remaining daughter is well-fed. Or maybe she just knows that she’s being offered food the consistency of baby poop and she wants me to suffer with her. Somehow, this is the better option.

At the end of all things, I can only be thankful that she does not eat red meat. I may dry heave, eyes watering, trying to hold down the horrible texture of puree. I will smile through my grimace and say, “This is delicious, mama! You should have another bite.”

But I will never, ever drink another meatshake.

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Do you remember?

Do you remember when we were attacked by geese in Sao Paulo at the park on the bottom of the hill where Oma lived?  Do I remember that, even?  Or am I conflating that encounter with one on Tegernsee nearly nine years later?  We were both there, both times.  And there was hissing and honking and feathers and family.  Oh!  And sunshine dappled across the water– so bright we needed shades.

Do you remember taking me to see Iron Maiden and Quiet Riot?  I was 11 and awkward and you were 16 and gorgeous.  You gave me some beer to drink, and I hated it, and you blew some pot smoke in my face, and I loved it.  It is all a bit hazy, but you gave me your spiked bracelets to put down my pants because no one would search a little girl for contraband.  I had the spiked-sides facing up, though, and couldn’t wait to get past security.  Haha.  Do you remember flashing your mega-watt smile and a fair share of cleavage to get us seats up front?  Do you remember that I couldn’t hear for a month after that show?  And you laughed and laughed and laughed in the parking lot of the Hollywood Sportatorium when I excitedly shouted back answers to every question about how I loved everything except for the beer and the spikes in my crotch.

Do you remember the Stink-Stoink game as we sat in the back of mom’s grotesque Fleetwood Cadillac arguing about the exact meridian that defined the space between us.  Do you remember the notebooks passed back and forth over that imaginary line? “Stink,” you would write.  “Stink stoink,” I wrote back.  “Stink stoink oink,” you replied.  And it continued– ad nauseum, ad infinitum– as we barreled across Florida to visit Tante Ruth.  Do you remember stopping to eat along Alligator Alley at that diner with the peg games and the cow-shaped creamers and the tacky Florida sundries and the books with the invisible ink?  What were the books called?  “Yes and Know”– do you remember them?  And I always had to get ages 11-111 because even though I was seven years old, the younger books were for babies.

Do you remember scouring for shells in Clearwater?  Or was it Ubatuba?  Either way we were again in both places doing the same things in different years.  Do you remember that day I pried open a shell and a baby octopus leapt out?  It was violet and pink and oh so cute and not more than two inches long.  We both shrieked, initially, as it jumped to freedom.  And then we followed it around the tidal pool until we lost sight of it forever.

Do you remember  horseback-riding in Davie?  I don’t remember your friend’s name anymore, but she lived on a dairy farm with lots of barn cats and horses and cows (of course).  Do you remember I was so desperate to impress you and your far superior riding skills that I rode bareback?  We rode the horses through some water and then I tried to jump a trough and slid right off like a damn fool.  I felt lucky to hang out with the older kids, even though I knew you had no choice but to bring me along.  Do you remember the bonfires and the laughing under the starry skies unmarred by city lights?

Do you remember when you got sick?  And Mom wouldn’t let you tell me and I didn’t know you had HIV until nearly two years after you had been diagnosed.  And then you finally did get to tell me, and we cried and we hugged and I kissed your cheek.  Do you remember I told you everything was going to be OK– even though it certainly was not?  And then we took two separate cars to go to the pool hall and you watched, horrified, when someone ran a red light and broadsided me.  You held my hand as I was strapped to the backboard in the ambulance.  And I made you hover over me so I could see you when we talked and tears slid down both of our cheeks and ants were biting my bare foot.  We were so frightened together, for each other, in that moment.

Do you remember all the other shit too horrible to mention here?  Do you remember hating each other and loving each other and sticking up for each other– all at the same time?  Do you remember the first time I kicked your ass?  Do you remember the first time you kicked mine?  Do you remember when my finger got caught in the door and blood sprayed everywhere and mom smacked us both for scaring her because she couldn’t find us to take us to the hospital?  We were busy showing all the neighborhood kids my chopped-off fingertip.

Do you remember that epic game we made up called “Shark!” that we played in the pool after the much less violent Marco Polo got boring?  Do you remember taking the skimboards out on the greens of Coral Ridge Country Club after a storm? Do you remember when you chaperoned my eighth-grade dance and you were the coolest chaperone there ever was? Do you remember us both winning every Sasson night at Superskate for months on end and the trips to Taco Viva after– when we all felt so short after being on roller skates for hours and hours?  Do you remember when a giraffe at Lion Country Safari took a side mirror off of mom’s car and she was so pissed and we were so laughing?  Do you remember my first foray into modeling– I was only trying to look up to you, after all– and I fell at my graduation runway show at Burdine’s.

Do you remember the last time we spoke?  It was late and you were very sick and we argued about dad’s house.  “I want to go there to die,” you said as mom and I were trying to get you back to Florida to take care of you at your end of life.  Do you remember how frustrated we were when we hung up on each other?  Both of us so goddamned stubborn.  Do you remember that we never got to say “I love you” one last time?

I spoke of a conflation of memories earlier, and I suppose as time goes on it is to be expected.  But those amalgamations are limned with emotion that is bright and pure and sad and horrible.  And love.  Do you remember?

 

 

 

 

Bayern dominance undone by Juventus

An hour of pure dominance by FC Bayern Munich would be undone by Juventus in the last 30 minutes of Tuesday’s Champions League tie. All is not lost, however, as two away goals, plus Bayern’s rude home form,

should see the team through to the next round in three weeks time.

It is a shame that football matches are not 60 minutes, eh? Bayern built on their stifling victory over Darmstadt with an hour-long display of superiority over a very good Juventus side. While I had predicted that the match against the Lilies on the weekend would likely not give any indication to what Pep Guardiola would do here, that would turn out not to be the case.

You would not blame me for thinking that way as the trainer has planned his European away matches with a more cautious approach (too cautious at times, noting his record). Here, though, it was an all-out offensive assault and furious pressing from striker Robert Lewandowski on down. It is a gamble that paid off– especially in the first hour– as Juventus was forced in to defending with banks of five and four.

Was it a calculated risk to keep Mario Mandzukic and Paulo Dybala as far away from Bayern’s makeshift back four as possible? It would seem to be the case as the men from Turin would only manage four first half shots; none too threatening.

Allegri adjusts, Guardiola does not

Massimiliano Allegri’s first change at the start of the second period– Hernanes for Claudio Marchisio– was just the beginning of his successful attempt to get his side back in to the game. The next two substitutions– Stefano Sturaro for a flagging Sami Khedira, and Alvaro Morata for a largely closed-out Dybala– proved a masterstroke as they combined for the tying goal late in the second half.

In contrast, Guardiola failed to bring on logical choice Xabi Alonso for Arturo Vidal. Vidal and Thiago Alcantara, though great in the first half, would start to lose control of the center of the pitch in the second with Allegri’s inspired subs now running rampant.

Instead of Alonso, Pep threw in Medhi Benatia, only just back from injury, for Juan Bernat. The reasoning behind it is sound– get a big body to shore up a an insecure backline– but perhaps the coach might have been better served by Alonso’s presence on the pitch here with his ability to break up plays before they get to a back four.

Oh, Kimmich!

Partly at fault for both Juve goals, the youngster’s rapidly ascending star came crashing back to ground on Tuesday. But hey! Let’s give the kid a break, shall we? It is his first knockout European match; playing in a largely new position. He has been excellent, except for these last 20 minutes, exceeding everyone’s expectations.

With Javi Martinez expected back the first week of March, there will be perhaps less pressure for Kimmich to perform in the return leg.

Robben’s shooting boots

Arjen Robben went full Arjen Robben with his first goal after coming back from injury– a trademark traipse across the top of the box with a curler that Gigi Buffon had no chance of saving. More noteworthy than his goal was his complete performance over the course of 90 minutes.

Isolated on the right as Paul Pogba and Philipp Lahm tangled with each other, Robben was a singular man possessed. Since his return, most notably absent from his game were his lack of take-ons, but he returned to them here; owning Patrice Evra nearly every chance he got.

Successful in the tackle, with a couple of interceptions and a rare headed chance (!), he was a constant threat down the right drawing free kicks for his side.

Summary

There is much about the match to be proud of, but the team will rue not putting this one to bed in Turin. Saying that, with two away goals and Bayern Munich’s captivating home performances, it is hard to see them not advancing to the next round.

The return leg at Fortress Allianz is sure to be a cracker!

My friends

When I was a little kid, my sister and I– labeled genius and highly gifted, respectively– were outliers in our neighborhood.  Though our five-and-a-half year age difference should have kept us more apart, our intelligence bound us together.  We were outliers in an economic sense, as well.  Growing up in an affluent Fort Lauderdale neighborhood– my mother had scraped together her last pennies, after my father had split to Brazil shortly after my birth, to buy the house we grew up in– also set us apart as my mother struggled through three jobs, at points in time, to support her two daughters.

My sister would draw away from me; enticed by puberty.  Her preternatural beauty had always set her apart.  As had her intelligence.  She would depend more on the former as time went on, and inexorably slipped away; slipping in to an older crowd with very bad habits.

As she slid in to her life, I bonded with my friends more closely.  I was always the happy kid, the friendly kid– regardless of my slightly androgynous look.  I had no cousins, aunts and uncles in the States– except for rare visits– so my closest friends became my family.  All my friends, really, I considered family.

It has always been this way.  Until now.

My very best friends have suffered me suffering losing two massive loves in my life.  They’ve suffered me dealing with the complicated emotions of me losing my father, then the very real losing my sister, within six months.

They’ve watched as I’ve had to deal with losing my mother to Alzheimer’s– this proud, fiercely intelligent woman who is rapidly slipping away from me, too.

I am sometimes a handful.  I get it.  But, the crazy is my head trying to wrap around the utter insanity that my life has been over the last 20 years.  I can only deal in the best way that I can.  And sometimes, it isn’t pleasant.  “Walk a mile in my shoes” has never been a more true statement.

My best friends have abandoned me, mostly.  “Your house still smells like cat piss”, my supposed very best friend told me at the lowest point in my life.  And hey, at least she said something. I know where we stand.

Dealing with an Alzheimer’s parent is especially alienating– and to my friends?  I release you of your guilt of your inability to handle the rough stuff.  In the end, you were only my (mostly) good time friends– and I will remember you as such.  Carefree nights spent out, trips traveled, shots (photography, or otherwise) taken.  I fondly recall them (mostly).

It’s telling that, through these new set of debilitating circumstances, it has been the friends,in the former peripheral, that have stepped up.  Not to say that you all– and you know who you are– are any less of a friend to me, but perhaps you’re all only new to the shit that is my life.  And haven’t had to deal with it for years and years.

Dunno.

Somehow, in some way, on some day, I will be able to pay back the kindness that has been shown to me by my new extraordinary friends.  And by the people who stuck by me– for ever how long they could.  Until then, it’s not likely to get any easier for me.  Apologies in advance.

 

 

 

 

I have a confession to make

I have a confession to make.

I sit in my house, after putting mom to sleep, and relax with some decent-ish wine.  I’m strictly the under-$20-per-bottle girl these days, as my injuries have put me on my ass financially.  But, I like this time to myself– until I don’t.

I catch up on shows, read, do whatever until I find myself drifting to my desktop in my Florida room.  Sure, I have five things I should probably write. Right. Now.  But, I don’t.

I should probably sleep, too.  After all, everyone tells me I haven’t looked as good as I do now in awhile.  I’ve never slept more in my life– thanks, Percocet.

Or, I could clean.  Parts of my house still look like a freaking crime scene–  I’m working on them, in order of how”Carrie” does this look?   There’s still blood on the floor that I thought I had gotten to, but somehow missed.  These days I’m always missing something.

Back to the desktop, though.

I have a confession to make…

I should watch comedy, or cat videos, things that make me laugh… smile.  I should.  Or, I should be watching football.  You can never watch too much football.  Instead, I watch compilations of Whatever-Country’s Got Talent.  Or Holland’s iteration of The Voice.

These are heart-wrenching stories, beautiful voices– people that have laid it all out on the line with their singular talent; whatever that may be.  I admire them.  I admire the hell out of them.  I look at these random people– cast-offs, strugglers, 80-year-old women that dance, teens with gifts from the gods– just ordinary folk with a belief that they have this.

I sit at my desktop, and scroll through YouTube amazed, entranced.  Until I’m not happy anymore.  My pleasure in their talents turns to grief in my inadequacies.  Things take a maudlin turn, as they have right now, as I wonder “What the fuck if?”

I have a confession to make.

I’m decently good at a lot of things.  I refuse to play a sport I don’t naturally have a handle on from the get-go.  I draw well.  Sometimes people pay me to write.  I’m a great bartender.  I sing.  (Right now, I’m singing “Never Tear Us Apart”.)

But, I have a confession to make…

I have never excelled at anything.  Ever.  I’ve been good, great even.  There’s never been one thing that is my thing, though.  So, I watch these people lay it all out on the line.  I can only imagine that it’s life-changing, cathartic– regardless of whether they win their recording contracts, or shows in Vegas.

I live vicariously through them…  I sing the same songs… do the same things.  In front of a monitor.  Not in front of millions.

I have a confession to make.

My cat sings with me.  And then we go to bed.

 

Introduction (again)

I was lucky to win a contest to write about the German national football team for ESPN FC (then, Soccernet) back in 2008.  “Show us why you’re a fan of your team,” the website implored.  “You’ll be read by millions.”

Well, hell.  I had only been writing autobiographical pieces on MySpace at the time– along with some very shitty poetry I never got to write in my angst-y high school years.  So, why not?  I couldn’t possibly make it after all.  My team was, is, and always has been Germany.  Deutschland.  Die Mannschaft.

The only problem, at the time– and to this day, is that the German national football team is one of the most storied, revered in all the lands.  I could never win.  And for that reason, I perversely entered the competition.  With the ever-present self-doubt:  “This is too big for me.  I will lose.”

I turned in a fluff piece about why DFB striker Miroslav Klose stopped doing back-flip celebrations to celebrate goals (long story short: he didn’t want his kids breaking their necks emulating him), and a funny thing happened.  I won.

The only problem was I had never actively written about football– traditional or American.  I wrote about bar stories, my mad-cap adventures, the aforementioned shitty poetry.  My family, my history, my life.  Possibly only two or three blogs about my favorite sport; and then only in abstract.  I’d never written a preview, or a review, of a match in my life.

I had a month to prepare for something I was entirely ill-suited for; schizophrenic in reading every single football author I admired, in an attempt to try to not sound like an uneducated asshole.

It kinda worked.

It worked well enough for the company to hire me on to write about Bayern Munich (my love, my life); a job that I held with ESPN until 2014.

I think it probably took me until 2011 to figure out my voice– all the intuitive knowledge was already there, but I had no idea how to write about it.  Since that time I’ve enjoyed success in the field.  Although I no longer write for ESPN, I’m considered an “expert” in German football– the national team and Bayern, specifically– writing for, and speaking to, various international media outlets.

As much joy (and anguish, and joy) football writing has given me over the last several years, still the best things I write are my stories.

I’m not a natural joke-teller.  In fact?  I’m complete shit at jokes.  I can’t remember the punchlines, or I do; and crack up in the middle.  Hopeless.  What I do well, though, is relate experiences, tell tales.

For all the pleasure (and notoriety) that football writing has given me; I still feel bereft.  Removed from my stories.  From the way that I write that I truly feel is best.

If you know me personally, you’ll be aware that I’m a caregiver for my mother with Alzheimer’s disease going on ten years now.  And if you didn’t know that before?  Now you do.

I only mention my mother because I NEED A FUCKING OUTLET.  Once you start getting paid to write about the sport– or read by so many people you can’t fuck it all up– it becomes a, well, job.   Football writing can be creative, yes, but can not adequately express my feelings.  The shit I need to get off my chest.

So.  Here we go.

On this page you’ll find links to my articles and podcasts, but more importantly– and honestly– I’ll be writing about me.  My experiences.  My view from where I’m at.  Football, perhaps, gives me a bigger platform than I would normally have (although I was marginally popular on MySpace!), but sometimes I have to do something else.

This is one of those times.  Read along, if you will.  And thank you for your praise and scorn– in advance.

Prost!  Susie x