Aftermath

April 2, 2016

Before I go to bed, I have to water the plants, put out kibble for the cats. I lay out my clothes, check stockings for tears, the blouse and the sweater for coffee stains.
I lock the doors, close down the computer, set the timer on the coffee and the phone.
Then, I take a moment, or i am caught inside the thought- what will happen to us tomorrow?
My family is not having an easy time.
How hard will it be?
Will things get better?
Are things worse than I know?
I know the serenity prayer, I say the words.
I lean into peace, sometimes find myself sliding towards terror-
I’m not a fan.
There are too many damn things I can not change for the people I love best, and I need to make things better.
I can’t.
So I say it again.
Then I bribe Sophie the sweet with a biscuit to join me for a half an hour of tv.
March 2016

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15 feels like shit.

February 22, 2016

Let’s just say a friend of mine has a teenage son.

And this friend’s been having to deal with a lot of teenage angst.

This friend has been on edge, which is a nice way of saying she’s ready to pull all her hair out. My friend likes her hair.

Then my friend took a moment to remember how it feels to be miserable and left out and scared and angry at the whole world.

She remembered what 15 felt like.

It felt like wearing jeans two sizes too small- uncomfortable and embarrassing, or being lost in a shirt a shirt 2 sizes too big, that your mom swore looked great, knowing everyone thinks you look ridiculous. It smelled like Clearasil and blackberry brandy, anger and old kleenex. It tasted like tears, flat beer and words that couldn’t be taken back, no matter what. It felt like regret and fear and rock n’roll and springtime and the heart when the phone started ringing and the heart when it realized the phone was never going to ring again. It felt like all these things every single day, every single hour. Just thinking about this made my friend very tired.

My friend is thankful she is not 15.

My friend is going to try to use a combination of breath, empathy and attending her “kickit” kickboxing twice a week to help her not make his misery all about her.

My friend is going to try to be a little more understanding of what he’s going thru.

She is not going to let her sympathies turn her into a doormat.

It is going to be a process.

I wish my friend a lot of luck.

 

 

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Maybe by Breakfast

May 2, 2015

5th grade dance

Tonight was my daughter’s fifth grade dance. After careful negotiations, I was allowed to serve as chaperone.

I was the cotton candy ice scooper.

When the 5 gallon canister was empty, I had a chance to linger on the sidelines. I would have been dismissed, but I was the ride home.

I talked to some of the other moms, but mostly we looked toward the dance floor and smiled and nodded and sighed. We moms would shift our weight from one foot to the other in time to the music. We would flutter around the floor with phones and cameras aimed at the action or picking up half empty water bottles and forgotten cookies. We juggled and stowed coats, sweaters, pictures, snacks, and ipods.

And we watched.

The kids were fireflies and shooting stars. I know it sounds like I’ve been listening to too much Katy Perry, but they were. I couldn’t even get a decent snapshot, Katy raced from one end of the dance floor, to the water fountain, to her friend with the long hair, back up to the stage. She was a laughing blur that knew all the dance moves, even from songs that came out before she was born. Her friends, all the kids, moved with grace and confidence and joy. They took photos of each other, without pausing to rearrange themselves, or find a smile or a pout. They held and shot and moved on to the next thing, a snack or a dance or another photograph.

Tonight was a beautiful blur, and I wonder if any of the pictures we all so diligently snapped will capture any of it.
And now it’s almost ten, and Katy’s brushing her teeth upstairs and I’ve got the Macarena stuck in my head.

Good night, Kaitlin.

Please be my little girl again by breakfast.

Just until it’s time for lunch.

Katy, my eleven year old, left for a ski weekend with some family friends tonight.

I dropped her off about nine pm. She packed her own bag. I remembered the toothbrush.

I got home and found the leash. I slipped the clip thru her collar and led Sophie The Sweet outside. I was surprised- she did not pause when she saw that the snow, and the sleet, and the sidewalks lined with sharp salt crystals- it was all still out there. Tonight, she led the way.

I’ve a head cold for weeks, tonight it felt like there was a spike stuck thru the middle of my forehead. I put on O. A. R. on Spotify. Snow started to fall. We walked down the middle of the street, Sophie and I. The flakes glowed in the dark and took their time on the way down. It was only 9:30 but the houses were dark, and the cars were all parked and cold in their driveways . It was our world, our black, white, and wet world. As my headache fell away, I turned up the music.

We went around the block about three times, which is a record for us. Lately, Sophie wonders everyday when we are going to move to Florida or at the very least, invest in a litter box the size of our guest bathroom.

I miss Katy, and I have the feeling that the next couple of years, I’m going to missing both my kids a lot.

At the same time, I hope there’s time for me to know them, in between games and tests and snapchats and swim meets and all of the stuff that has already started to pull them away.

I want to know what their favorite music is, and what they like to eat, and how much sleep they need and what makes them laugh. Because I think these things have begun to change and I know in many cases, I will be the last to know a lot, but I do want to know.

I hope I can send them away when it’s time, with grace and a little bit of me, but not too soon. And I hope I don’t try to hold on.

But that when I want to, I hope I know to find the leash, and to slip the the clip thru the collar.

I’ll wait for Sophie to gather herself and lead me outside.

And I’ll walk, and sing along to the music, and let time pass while I circle the block. And I”ll let time pass while Sophie and I circle the block without looking at my watch, or wishing that it would just stop.

Sophie prays

About 8:30, I slid into some black snow pants. Katy put elastics round her mittens to keep the snow from slipping down her sleeves. I kissed Sophia The Summer Time Dog goodbye on the nose and promised I would never, ever take her along sledding.

There was no one at Andrews Park except some fool with a dog. Well, he’s probably a very nice guy, but his timing wasn’t good. Katy and I were there to sled.

There was a streetlight a few blocks down that blinked and flashed like fire flies or shooting stars, orange, slightly industrial shooting stars.

The snow was vast, an ocean of snow, and the hill was a mountain.

After I finished my first ride, Katy got mad at me because I didn’t want to climb all the way to the top of the hill to start the next one.

I was afraid of ice. She told me to follow her, to walk sideways, to crawl forward like a bear.
I sat down in the middle of that hill and enjoyed a very nice ride.

By the end of the night, Katy and I raced, from the top.

I didn’t fall down on ice if I walked sideways or like a bear.

I won three times, thought it was because I weigh a bit more than my 11 year old daughter.
Further experimentation showed that I had been using the better sled, when we switched, she crushed me.
Of course, she also could have been letting me win all along and gotten sick of it.

I don’t want to know. But I wouldn’t mind going tomorrow night to find out.

And the world looks very different when I’m sprawled on a boogie board, head tilled back. The trees are upside town, the sky is closer and the snow smells sweet in it’s natural habitat.

Dripping on kitchen floors, clinging to mittens on the radiator, snow reeks of chores and arrogance and endless loads of laundry.

While I lay on my back, head tilted back off the sled, watching the sky, seeing for the first time how long the branches are on the oak tree that Katy crashed into six springtimes ago, the first time she took out the two wheeler, everything looked and smelled and sounded different.
Then my daughter called out- “Mom, I think it’s time to wrap it up… Where are your gloves… And why is your head in the snow?”

And we went home.

I was driving to the grocery store this evening and went right by a playground. It was just after 7, dusk here in New England, windy and cloudy and warm. It was crowded; spring has been a long time coming and some of us are not quite convinced it’s here to stay.

And a thought came to me- My kids don’t go the playground with me anymore. Colin is 13, Katy is 10. They go to the park these days, all by themselves or in packs with other kids from the neighborhood.

I hadn’t even noticed the passing of playground days, and they are gone, along with mornings of helping them pick out their clothes for school and the Thursday night phone calls in search of a sitter.

I remembered our trips to Andrews Park. Katy would clutch my hand, which would then smell like peanut butter until I got home. Colin would race ahead, clutching a frisbee or a football or a backpack with snacks. I would juggle my phone and my iced coffee and a book, all while one of my hands was clenched inside Katy’s warm, smudgy grip.

When we got there, I swear, it took us twenty minutes at least, and Andrews is three blocks away, I’d find a bench and settle down with the book and the drink and the phone. I’d make nervous conversations with other mothers, who all seemed to know each other, while eyeing my kids to make sure they didn’t hijack the swings. I’d wish I’d brought wipes, or bottled water. I’d look at my phone and calculate how much longer we’d have to stay until I could safely give them the five minute warning. I’d wonder what was underneath all the sand in the sandbox, if that was even sand in the sandbox. I’d call someone, anyone at all who might pick up the phone, and wouldn’t mind helping me kill some time until I could safely check the time again. Finally, Katy would make me push her on the swing. Then Colin would make me throw him a ball, or shoot baskets, or teach him how to make a frisbee sail thru the air. And I’d wish I was just a little bit better at doing any of those things while looking around to make sure no one was watching. And they weren’t. Until whatever I was throwing hit someone in the head.

Today, I took Katy to SOWA, an open air market with food trucks and art galleries and one stand that had an entire display of 19 different kinds of cheese. Colin went with me last week to the Y, and we worked on the new Keiser equipment. I can’t get a basket, well I can, but it’s not that often, but I can work with him on strength training to help his jump shot. Next month, I’m going to take them to see Lion King, The Musical, which is a helluva lot more fun than watching the Disney video four times in the same afternoon, (not that we ever spent that much time in front of the tv.)

So tonight I was sad for a bit that the playground days are gone until I thought about it. Now, I’m mostly relieved. Though I’m thinking that for Mother’s Day, I might request a sentimental journey over to the swing set on Castle Island. And I will let Colin and Katy take turns pushing me.

The other night, Colin was sprawled on my bed, watching basketball. He looked up at me. He smiled. He spoke- “mom, come here. I want to watch basketball with you.”
I swooned.

These are interesting times in our house. With Colin, I am often the source of great amusement, for what I wear, what I know and don’t know, (who is Kendrick Lamar?) and how I text.

Then he wants me to listen to a song he loves, or offers to lend me his basketball sneakers to go to zumba class.*

My daughter is 10. She went to see a teacher got married and needed to ask the next door neighbor for eyeshadow, my selection wasn’t flattering to her skin tone. And while I was making dinner tonight, she marched up to me in the kitchen, in front of the stove, thru her arms around me and declared it was time to snuggle.

I packed up all of Colin’s boy clothes last week. A thousand hats, he never wore one. Fifteen different teeshirts from basketball camp and summer camp and football practice. Little boy pajamas with dinosaurs and fire trucks and skulls.

In the midst of all these changes I’ve been on a bit of a cleaning bender. The hard thing is, Colin is thirteen. Katy is nine. They are used to my bi monthly half hearted attempts to get the house in order. They listened to the speech. They made their beds. They put the clean towels into the linen closet instead of on the floor in front of the linen closet. This all lasted about three days, every couple of months. Before.

When Back To School struck this year, I decided we were going to get the house in order. And that meant all of us. I regard clean clothes perched on the stairs the way I used see Sophie’s poop when she’d been left home too long. Socks in the hallway send me into a frenzy. And stuffing all of the offending articles into the closet and then closing the door doesn’t work anymore either. In the old days, I wouldn’t open the door. Now I do.

And of course, along with Back To School, the New Leaf Cleaning Policies, there are all of the Back to School Activities- swim team, football, youth group, flute lessons. And there is my job. And my other job. And two classes at Quincy college. And dinner, and friends, and the gym.

I have to go to the gym. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been struggling with asthma. Mostly at night. My lungs wheeze, it sounds like I have a choir of Who’s from Whoville singing in my chest. I can’t catch my breath. Yoga seems to help. And an extended time spent in the sauna after yoga helps even more.

It’s not surprising, I guess. My family has started careening forward towards the next part, the part where I have to learn to let them go. I can clean, watch basketball, burn dinner while I cuddle on the couch, zumba till the teacher throws me out, and it’s not going to slow down. And when I do slow down, when I lay me down to sleep, I lose my breath.

It returns. And I go back to sleep, and wake up to the most charismatic of canines, Sophie. Sophie groans when I first reach down to say good morning. And then she wags, not just her tail, her whole body. And she shivers, and sighs, and wedges closer to my body. I know she really, really needs to get outside. Even so she will stay in bed in bliss right next to me until I have to pry myself away and return to vertical.

That’s how things are right now in our house.

*Don’t ever wear basketball sneakers to zumba. Ever. They are incredibly hard to dance in, and more important, they look really, really stupid.

Happy Birthday

July 26, 2013

Today is a big day, it is my birthday. For three days, I’ve been thinking- Do I write about this? Do I not write about this? Do I have anything profound and/or funny to say about birthdays in general or my birthday, specifically?

At first, I considered writing about the time I truly realized that I was going to die someday. I was in my 20’s, never really pondered mortality that much, (kind of strange considering my father had done just that a few years before,). I remember laying there, on this huge bed, trying to figure out how I felt about the fact that someday I was not going to be around. I was eating Greek pizza from a place down the street. I remember wondering if maybe I should try to go back to college so I could get a really good job and have the money to buy organs of the black market.  I remember putting on the soundtrack to Dangerous Minds and dancing around to the song “Gangsta’s Paradise” so I’d stop thinking about it. Twenty years have gone by since my obvious revelation and  I’m still not happy with the idea that my life has a preordained, unsatisfactory conclusion.

That’s a little too gloomy, and besides, it’s a bit boring.

So, I approached my topic from another angle. What about if I simply examined…

Me. I could talk about how I’ve changed thru the years. These days, I’m sunny and easy going; before I was described as flighty, dramatic and moody, ( the vodka gimlets and copious amounts of wine might have had something to do with the latter.) I eat salads with fruit on them, and l admit, in the midst of my very closest friends, to listening to country and western music. I am a dog woman, formerly a devout cat worshipper. I am even tempered, where as before I was one of my very favorite hobbies was to indulge in the great pleasures of the wallow.

And I want to go back. Just to the wallowing, (I really like salads with fruit, and easy going is kind of a nice way to be). I would like nothing more than to put on a pair of ugly pajamas, poor myself a glass of wine with a screw top cap and indulge in a boatload of self pity.

My one birthday gift was that Colin consented to help Katy clean up the dog poop in her room without me having to beg him.

There is no cake anywhere in my immediate future.

And it’s raining just enough so that I have no hope, even with the assistance of a blowdryer, product, and a straightning wand imported from Italy, of having even a tolerable hair day.

I shouldn’t feel bad. My girlfriends took me out to dinner the other night. And they remembered without me dropping even one hint. And it was good. I only wish that in our little foursome, I was still Samantha, the tall blonde with the sexy voice and nasty sense of humor. These days, I’m afraid I’m Miranda. With thicker thighs and less promising career.

But-

My brother in law sang me happy birthday this morning.

We are taking my son to Six Flags on Tuesday for his birthday and I really, really love amusement parks.

And though it’s raining, and there is no hope for my mane, it’s not raining hard enough to keep me from walking the dogs.

And, if I really want cake, I can stop at the store and pick one up on the way home.

Because that is the person I am now.

I let myself wallow, but only for fifteen minutes at a time.

The other day a friend of mine asked me why I blogged. Since then, I’ve been giving the matter  a lot of thought. I turned over the obvious reasons for a bit. I like being able to get in touch with my “creative side”. I enjoy sharing my own particular view of the world as much as I savor getting glimpses from others when I bump around their pages.

But they really weren’t quite right.

I just like to write stuff down.

For a long, long time, from about the age of eighteen, to somewhere in the middle of my 20’s, I watched my father succumb to Alzheimer’s Disease. Many of my memories of him are flavored with the picture of him trying to light a cigarette upside down, squinting at a friend of mine while he searched for their name, looking at me with an expression of total joy, then asking- “Are you the person that brings the ice cream?”

For about twenty years after that time, I did pretty much most of the stupid things people do when they are lost in grief. I drank way too much. I stuffed, snorted and smoked  anything I could get my sad nicotine stained little hands on. I stayed up so late I actually bought curtains for their ability to block out morning. i woke up so late, it was sometimes night. And so I’d start it all again, right after I had my “good morning” cigarette.

I don’t know how I got my life back. These days, I work at the YMCA. I just passed my ACE exam, which means I am now a certified personal trainer. I get up at six in the morning most days, and I don’t have to drink coffee to stay awake. I like coffee, and I like being awake. I know this sounds pretty normal to most people, but to me, even after about ten years of not being an idiot, I still savor not having a hangover. I still relish opening my eyes because I’m happy. And not because I really, really have to pee from the two bottles of wine I drank the night before.

I like going to sleep at night instead of passing out.

I started my blog for my kids. I want them to see our lives, right now, while they are young, the way I see them. I want them to know how very much I love going to the pool with Katy and how much she makes me laugh. I want them to read about how proud I am of Colin, when he catches a snake, or stuffs a ball thru a hoop. I want them to know  I love these days, that I celebrate the chance to be front and center in the audience while they grow up.

I watched my father lose his mind, and for a long time, that took a toll on me. But at the end of the day, it taught me how elusive the moments that make up our lives are, and how sometimes the memories don’t last.

I wish I had more of him than some photographs, a painting and some records. He was the most wonderful, charming, loving man in the whole world. He looked like Robert Redford. He laughed with his eyes. He loved me and for a long, long time he made me feel like there was nothing wrong in my life he couldn’t fix. That other person he became was just a man that taught me what I needed to know. It just took me a while to figure it out.

I don’t know if I’ll get Altzheimer’s. But I do know that someday, I’m going to die. And I really like to write stuff down.

I am blessed to be living a life that has contained so many memories worth saving.

Boys

May 1, 2013

I am a fifty year old woman. I am at an age when I should be gardening, or sorting thru cruise brochures, or joining a wine tasting class.

Instead, I am quite often surrounded by boys. Teenage boys. One of them is my son, who, like most 13 year olds, has begun to travel in packs of other thirteenish year olds. I spend a lot of time with the son of friend of mine, he’s on the cusp of 16, I think. He doesn’t look like a boy, anymore, but he is one. I am blessed that I get to see that side of him. I drive him places sometimes, and over time, and out of sheer boredom, I’ve gotten to know him.

Tonight, I was bringing this young friend of mine home from a class. He had his head stuffed between earbuds. He had a bag of Wendy’s on his lap. He had a scowl on his face and a french fry in his mouth.

A song came on the radio, and the ear buds came out. And he sang along. Not softly, not under his breath, out loud, each word clear, each note on key. He didn’t look at me; I didn’t look at him. I harmonized, or attempted it, during the choruses. I slid glances at his face, and saw his eyes were wide open inside the dark of the Grand Marquis. I still can’t believe he let me hear him sing. When the song was over, he stuffed the earbuds back in place. He popped a french fry in his mouth, he sighed and closed his eyes. Back in position we went. I drove the car, he went somewhere else in his head.

About a half an hour after I got home, my son came in from a basketball practice. He laid on the sofa, protesting he was too tired to make it up the stairs. His dad tried to wrestle with him, and he rolled over, closed his eyes. (What is it with boys and the shutting of eyelids. Is it some adolescent version of peekaboo?)

I waited for his father to go downstairs. I told him it was time for bed. “Don’t you want to hear about practice?” he asked. He didn’t sound hopeful. He didn’t sound mad. He wanted to know if I had the time to listen. I did.

He told me, little by little how his practice sucked. One kid announced to everyone he didn’t  want to pair up with him in a drill because my son was no good. Another kid swore at him for fouling him out. I don’t know exactly what went on, I don’t speak basketball. I just know that my son was squeezing tears out his eyes, and his lip trembled, and his shoulders shook. I know that he wouldn’t let me lay down next to him. We spoke face to face.

I said what I could. I told him how much I respected him for his drive, his determination. That the most I did sports wise growing up as a kid was join the swim team. I stayed on it until I was eleven, then quit when we moved and I found out I’d have to swim in a lake. Perseverance  has never been my middle name, hasn’t even been an occasional visitor in my life.

I don’t think I helped. I did get a smile when I reminded that body spray is never a substitute for a shower. I think he was smiling because he thinks I’m wrong and that body spray is even better than a shower.

Boys, these mysterious creatures that clutter and lift up my life. I watch them struggle, and I really want to make everything all better for them. And I can’t. I shouldn’t even attempt to.

I just need to make sure I’m around when their eyes are open and they want to talk.