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Daughter and Mother

“You’ll never teach me anything” was the worst thing my mother ever said to me. Those words, spoken in a deep, uncharacteristic voice, dragged out of her clenched jaw and were emphasized by unwavering eyes. I do not recall any other details of that barn-burner, not when nor why, but can only surmise the fiery spark was a conversation about money or health. She could’ve hurled the f-word at me and I wouldn’t have batted an eye, but the sentiment in the words that I would and could ‘never teach her anything’ was dumbfounding and branded my brain. It was an effective phrase to utter during a bout of rage for it made me feel insignificant, disrespected, inexperienced and deeply sad. It wasn’t the insult that disturbed me. Moreso, I was saddened by her defiant unwillingness to listen or learn from another human, especially one whom she created. I didn’t harbor resentment but I didn’t forget it. …


This was a big song for me in my early twenties, a time when I was never more miserable in my life. And it was obvious on my face. While out at a bar a complete stranger was compelled to tell me I was the most depressed person they had ever seen. How nice! I took a drag of my cigarette, a sip of my Tanqueray and tonic and said blankly, “You’re right”. This happened to me not once, but twice Two different bars, two different occasions. Same look of misery.

It sounds completely ridiculous for a young, twenty-something female who had a boatload of friends and scores of great memories to have any reason to be sad. But it was an aimless time and I had an aimless attitude. I was morphing into a young adult and felt alone and misunderstood by everyone around me. So in a search for some music to help, this colorful CD caught my eye, Self’s Subliminal Plastic Motives. I stepped up to the listening station and my jaw-dropped. Every song was a revelation that spoke to me and my evolution into creativity and adulthood. I bought it and let my freak flag fly. It played loud, I sang loud and danced hard as the music inspired my soul. My mom was not a fan, not with the lyrics, “I’m so low that I wish I was dead.” …


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My prized “possession”

At the rare chance to truly sit down with my thoughts for a moment I chose to assess how this month (March 2020- April 2020) has affected my perspective on life. I’ve had the great privilege and luxury of being safe and healthy, thus making me act diligently to preserve those virtues and taking each day as it comes. This means I’m not allowing overwhelming thoughts to consume me. I’ll acknowledge the enormity of what is happening globally in every way and that I am absolutely concerned about planetary health, the future of how polluted air will affect our health, my husband losing his job or what is going to happen at retirement, but during this fragile time those conundrums are too weighty to contemplate and add to the fragility of emotions right now. It is important to keep some balance, nudging higher on the positive side for good measure. To do this, I wanted to uncover the roots of what is important in life, to me. So I’ve been focusing more small-scale on maintaining an everyday work schedule, a simple life of good sleep, nourishing food, happiness, grocery needs and how I am going to help the world get healthier. …


Today is a milestone birthday for my brother, Timmy. He would be 50. His lifestyle gifted him just 46 years. It may sound callous to say, but if you knew him, you’d understand his early death was not a surprise. I try to think about his positive contributions to the world and drift into imagining ‘what could’ve been’ had his potential been nurtured and realized; his innate talent for drawing, his powerful, energetic, convincing demeanor and his immense capacity for love and emotion. These beautiful capabilities were buried deep inside him under a weighted boulder of addiction.

Looking back at the entirety of someone’s full life with an imperfect human brain lends to revisionist history and the remapping of events. In my half-brother’s case, it seemed like he was always plagued with a challenge starting at a very early age. He was the product of divorce, raised for a few years by our mother and her mother before becoming part of a blended family and gaining a step-father, step-brother and newborn half-sister, me. As a child he was often rewarded with food and garnered the label of “husky” regarding his physique. Food was his first addiction. His habits proliferated into smoking at age 12 to attention/approval-seeking, which led to a serious eating disorder, drinking and recreational drugs all before age 20. He was indeed the beloved life of the party as “Timmer” and seemed comfortable and joyous in that easy, “good time” role. But it wasn’t a good blueprint for a productive life. A productive life takes hard work. …


Carmen J. Corbi, my loving father was alive for exactly 12 years and 353 days of my life.

He died on this day, Valentine’s Day 1988. He was only 48 years old. He was on a waiting list for a heart and lung transplant (in 1988, this was not necessarily “routine”) so he essentially was dying for a couple years and was constantly in and out of the hospital. I knew he was dying and he openly prepared me for his impending death for a couple years. There were many days we just sat and talked about life and what would happen when he was gone. My 11 and 12 year-old brain tried to absorb every word, lesson and detail my favorite human being, my father, my world, had to offer. And I always encouraged him with, “Dad, I think you’re new heart and lungs will come in, you won’t die!” He often countered my hope with a reality check. Today, as a woman aged 42 years and 353 days (in 2018), I’m dumbfounded when I think about the sadness, courage and integrity it must have taken for him to step outside of himself and say, ‘I am dying and have a short amount of time to show my family (wife, 2 sons in high school and young pre-teen daughter) how much I love them and teach them all they will need to know for their lives’. He was upbeat and happy as possible until his very last day. And even though he clearly laid out that he was living on borrowed time, no matter how “ready” you are, you’re not ready to see the dad who jumps in your kid-sized swimming pool with all of his clothes and shoes on, lifeless on the hallway floor. …


On February 1, 1988 my father spent his 48th birthday, his last birthday, in the hospital getting an angioplasty which is a procedure to open narrowed or blocked blood vessels (coronary arteries) that supply blood to the heart. As a 12 year-old I remember hearing it as; “your dad is getting a balloon in his heart”. The expression on one of the doctor’s faces was one of casual hopelessness which was warranted as that procedure was not a cure for a very sick man’s underlying problem of having diseased lungs and an enlarged heart. What my dad really needed was a heart and double-lung transplant, not a band-aid in the form of a balloon, but this was the best the doctors on staff could do at the time. …


It’s hard not to feel some kind of reaction after reading a title like that. And rightfully so, because it’s a reminder of the four years when you endured life’s most intense (and uncomfortable) growth while being surrounded by other adolescents. And angsty teenagers are not known for their good track records as ambassadors of kindness and support to friends when awkwardness abounds. Nor do they practice the hallmarks of good decision-making, which means you may have fallen victim to a myriad of negative and likely embarrassing experiences during those high school years. …


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A year ago today, I had a terrifying and unforgettable experience. The scene was typical, my husband and I were talking in the car on the way home from work, but in a split-second I felt a wave of heavy confusion enveloping my head from behind and my next words exited as gibberish. On second thought, they were more like sounds as they didn’t resemble the words that were in my brain, or words from the English language, for that matter. I tried to say something again. Gibberish. Intense panic washed over me and my large eyes bulged as I as I thought I was having a stroke, which is my biggest medical fear. In my head I am saying, “stroke, stroke, stroke, oh my god I am a prisoner in my own head, help! I will never be able to communicate again!” It was like my thoughts were being translated by my mouth into an unintelligible foreign vocabulary without my knowledge or permission. My brain and body were out of sync and out of control. In those moments it seemed like the essence of my soul was trapped somewhere inside my human form, which I was unable to access, and I was acutely aware for every frightening second of it. …


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Today is a roller coaster. This morning my friend said I looked like I was “about to kick some ass today” so in that spirit, here it goes.

The following disjointed thoughts and random musings are brought to you by raw emotion and the 10th anniversary of my mother’s death. We had a wild journey together as mother/daughter and by the end it seemed like our roles were reversed. In this forum I will provide a snapshot of details that bonded us . 10 years equates to 10,950 phone calls she would’ve made to me at 3 per day. …

Andrea Corbi Fein

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