There is alcohol. Wine, fancy cocktails with basil floating in them like pine needles, and beer.

There are long, dark wood walks with a dog that follows, lingers, then sprints to a pile of damp leaves. There is the observation of joy, as she thrashes in gold and rusty brown and dirt. When she jumps into the van, my sweet girl smells like she was out all night, and it’s Thursday afternoon.

There is work, swallowing handfuls of chocolate chips from the fridge meant for Sunday pancakes, dinners out at restaurants I can’t afford, where we share appetizers and order just one more.


There is splitting the check even though I ordered just one more, and knowing it’s understood. I needed that.

There is time with friends.

There are phone calls to mom, and not calling mom, because I don’t want her to know details. There is knowing she is there to listen to the details if it comes to that.

There is music from when I was his age, and his own music, the inappropriate language, the grinding bass, the beat. There is time at the gym, lifting metal, finding downward dog in a room full of women who look they don’t have a clue even though probably half of them have been where I am now.

There are impassioned conversations about Trump, the Supreme Court, moving to Canada, the latest from Trump.

There the memes of Obama and Biden.

There is tv and slippers and sleeping pills and falling asleep with the tv on so I don’t have to think about anything but the carefully written dialogue written by writers on another coast that belong to a union and  are probably talking about Trump right now.

There is knowing, somewhere, in my head, this is not cancer. It is not Alzheimer’s, or living without heat, or living alone, or being old, and wishing for what will never come again.

When I find myself dealing with another variety of grief, I may or may not turn to the same these things I have found  along this journey.

Inside this life of mine, right now, I still find bliss and laughter, even though this heart of mine weighs more than my whole house, weights more than anything I have ever carried.

I have found a way to lift this heart and love this child and move forward into the tomorrow and next month.

Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes my knees buckle and I lean knowing I have lost it all. I find myself on the sofa, wishing I had softer socks, or a magazine, or a softer pillow, or it was ten years ago.

Then my daughter asks me to sign her permission slip. A student calls with a question. Sophie sighs in her sleep and I know she is dreaming of bunnies.

So I pull myself up and I take myself down to my bedroom. I find sleep, I do not dream of bunnies, that I know of anyway.

But I wake up next to Sophie and that helps.

My family is home with me tonight. I’m a little bit angry and totally blessed.

Well, mostly blessed.

I hope I dream of bunnies.

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I read a poem

written by someone else’s daughter

About her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

Judy spoke of her mother’s journey,

Of her need

To be let go.

She spoke of clocks, conversations, lunch round noon,

snow bout mid December,

and all the parts of life

that are defined

by knowing what is going on,

what has happened,

and what will likely happen next.

 

A million pieces of knowledge tether

Most of us,

To know the date most days.

Class is Wednesday night,

Colin plays on Saturday at nine fifteen,

I need to be at work by nine,

Katy’s birthday is coming in two weeks.

I am never sure what time it is, and sometimes

I think Wednesday’s Thursday, or I lose an hour or a week.

I’m not sick like her, or like you were.

 

When it took over,

your eyes were clouds,

your lips made shapes,

your tongue made sounds.

Your muddy eyes would take me in,

or the wall behind me,

or a angry nurse marchcing down the hall.

Your lips would purse, then open, close,

more like a fish

Than like a man.

You’d smile when I’d offer up

A cigarette

And smoke it

Unlit and upside down.

Your eyes were clouds,

They belonged inside a winter sky, not on a face,

but I never let them go.

I would

Bring you taboo cigarettes,

I would fix your shirt, wipe your chin

and when his mouth moved

I’d lean close.

I’d smell the spit, the sour breath, last week’s

applesauce, the sweat

And I would listen

Because I knew you

Would never leave without saying your goodbye.

You were a gentleman.

 

I never let my you go,

Not when you’d already left,

Not when you still looked at me

and knew my name,

Not in all those spaces

in between\

And afterwards

And now.

Parenthood 2016

May 29, 2016

Dear Teenagers,

I’ve heard from a couple of parents that they are having similar struggles with their kids based on some stuff that I’ve written on Facebook and WordPress.

So I thought I’d fill you in on our perspective, or at least our perspective from my point of view. I’m going to tell you some things you might not know.

You probably won’t read this. You’re on snapchat, instagram, and a whole of lot other places I can’t even remember.
(I know some of you are on Facebook, but you probably signed up when you were 12 and probably aren’t reading this.)

Nevertheless, here goes-

You know how we’re always coming at you with an angry look on our faces, launching into long speeches about laundry, social responsibility and the importance of schoolwork? While we sit on the end of your bed and peer around your room with an undisguised look of irritation on our faces?

Yes, we are pissed. At least I am. But I’m about 5% mad, 75% petrified, and 20% totally without clue.

I know that all the experts say I’m supposed to be a parent and not a friend. They say it’s important to set boundaries, maintain expectations, hold kids responsible. In other words, be a parent.

I don’t know how to be a parent to a teenager. We want to hug you, you look at us like you want to spit. Or run out the door. Or slam the door so hard it breaks into a thousand pieces, but you won’t do that because then you wouldn’t have a door to slam any more and you really, really like slamming doors.

Many of us did the same stupid things you are doing now as teenagers. Not all us, and not all of you, are experimenting with drugs and alcohol. But a lot us did. And then, as we got older, we were either front and center watching someone we love struggle because of drugs and alcohol. Or die. Or dealing with addiction battles on our own.

How are we supposed to sit by and watch you the same things we did, or watched so many of our generation do? When I see a teenager stumble out of the woods and stagger across the street bare feet, even though 30 years ago I was staggering out of the bathroom, I can’t sit by and say that’s okay. I’ve been to the meetings, picked people off the sidewalk, said prayers at funerals.

What are we supposed to do about all the pictures you post? The bare asses, the clouds of smoke, the n word this and the ho that?

I know not all of you drink or do drugs. I know not all of you post crazy stuff. I know a lot of you talk to your parents, do community service, excel in school, and are amazing people.

I’m also aware thatt there are many of you that drink, do drugs, snapchat pictures that would make a blind person cringe and are failing school will go on to do amazing things. You might even be doing amazing things at the same time you’re getting naked on your finsta and stuck in summer school.

I’m just saying- a lot of the grownups in your life are totally without a clue. We walk around dazed. We have whispered conversations at work, (far away from the childless or the blessed, still dealing with bedtime drama and indelible ink on the walls,) where we compare notes. We try to figure out if we should take away your phones, call in a therapist, or just let you be.

You might be saying- let us be.

Personally, I’d love to. I’d love to step away from my kids, stop nagging, worrying, tracking, and even talking about them.

But what if I did that and something bad happened? Because I stopped paying attention?

So I’m scared. We are scared. And pissed. And hopelessly confused.

Cut us some slack. Put away the laundry.

If you are going to be foolish and silly, enjoy the moment. Laugh with your friends. You don’t need to document every single stupid, funny thing you do.

Alcohol isn’t going anywhere. It looks like pot is going to be legal any minute. Can you just wait a little while? There will be time for grown up mistakes, and you’re going to make lots of grown up mistakes.

You’ve got time. Lots of time.

So if you could give us a few minutes once a while, that would be nice. A smile would be awesome.

I think I can speak for most parents, We’d be thrilled if you could just maybe listen to what we say, some of the time.

I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Love and faith,

Mom

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.

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.

So much of Facebook is filter and crow. Tonight I’ve had a few beers and I’m feeling a little dangerous so this was my most recent entry.You will notice there is some crowing but I left the filter off.
My Day.
Mango, Banana Carrot smoothie.
Church. A conversation about the devil and some amazing words from Parisa Parsa.
Friends at church and hugs and promises and amazing coffee. The faces there are family, chosen family. I know why I chose them and I am constantly in awe of the fact that chose me.
Home.
Yoga. With Nathalie Bellemare Elfer. Our downward dogs were so true to the canine spirit of the pose they are going to put us on a poster for the amazing benefits of yoga for middle aged women. Or on the cover of Love Your Pet, Be Your Pet, not sure which.
Home. Pork roast in going to be in the oven a looooonnnnng time.
It smells good, it’s making me hungry.
Time to visit the inlaws, drink beer and watch basketball.
The kids are sick, so I really should leave the house, drink beer and watch basketball. That way they’ll rest.
Basketball. Two beers. Phone call from Colin. Nice job, leaving us home alone while you party.
Made me careful way to the store, long conversation with the clerk about Keebler versus Pepperidge Farm.
Cab.
Home with cookies.
Roast for dinner tomorrow.
Tonight it’s cheese toast and chocolate chips and water. Lots and lots of water.
I could have just told you I went to the gym.

Since school started, my world has been gobbled by too much stuff. That’s always been the case, or at it’s always been the case since I started writing on Word press. But this season, there were two new additions that have left me little room to breathe, much less ruminate between breathes and create entire meaningful sentences to those outside my immediate family. (My immediate family might tell you that I don’t create meaningful sentences for them either.)
I’ve become, um, hooked on yoga. It’s not the same as hooked on Phonics, or hooked on drugs, or even the off and on addiction to caffeine I’ve had since I was twelve. I joined a gym right next to my house. There are all different kinds of yoga classes offered right before work, just after I drop Katy for swim team, classes in the pre dinner hour, (while it roasts, I bake in warm yoga at 95 degrees.)

I even bought a mat. Every time I enter the room, filled with all of these beautiful, long limbed, gumbyesque women, all ages, shapes, ethnicities, I find a spot in the middle of them. I roll out my mat, I go the closet for a block and a strap, I sip water from the fountain, I run to the ladies room to pee, and then I find my way back. I find my way back in a sea of gumbyesque long limbed rainbow of x chromosomes, and there is always room left in their midst. Of course, there is always room left. Like I said, I reserve a spot, as soon as I drop my mat.
I am learning from yoga. I’ve only been going a little more than a month, so I’m probably not qualified to share it with you, but let me just say, it’s a good place to find myself six times a week. When I am in the room, on an island of blue fabric, listening to my own breath, matching my breath to everyone else’s, absorbing the teacher’s measured instructions, and reminders, and gentle suggestions, I am an island. I choose what to feel, how to move, what to hear, how to place my body, and then how to move my body. The beginning of a love affair with yoga is selfish, it requires for me to listen hardest to what I am telling myself and it doesn’t lend itself to quick posts on facebook, or ruminations on word press.
And that has been the perfect place for me to be right now in the midst of the other addition to this little life of mine. My son is now thirteen. Since school started, since the first hairs sprouted on his upper lip, and so far, I’m the only one that’s seen them, things have gotten complicated. The other day, I mentioned a song to him. It was by eminem, a song he’d written about missing Dr. Dre. For those of you not familiar with the midwestern rapper, Mr. Em wasn’t bemoaning a missed appointment at the health clinic.

Regardless, my son, my son who once declared I was the coolest mom ever just for knowing how to spell me Em’s name, looked at me with utmost scorn.
“Mom, that songs been out since, like, 2004. You call yourself an eminem fan?”

No, I never called myself an eminem fan. I like some of his music and I know how to spell his name. For the record.

Next day, he called me on the phone. I was on my way home from driving Katy to swim team, after working out, after working. I was hungry. And he said the words:
“Mom, dinners on the table.”
Dinner was on the table. Colin had reheated the turkey taco meat from the night before. He had sliced a tomato in half and put a head of lettuce in a bowl. He had heated some taco shells he found behind the microwave for forty minutes in the oven until they were as solid as a cookie sheet.

I ate the turkey tacos. And then I ate the pizza that my friend brought over out of the blue. Unsolicited. I sort of swear.

He is the coolest son ever. He is capable of making me a card that would make a dead mom weep, (get that hip reference to the rolling stones. Probably not. I guess Colin’s right. I try too hard.)

Things are complicated right now. I go to yoga, where I’m just starting to figure out where my butt should be in downward dog, and have just accepted I’m probably never going to be able to hold my body up on my elbows.

I come home to my son. One minute, he smiles and I swoon. Before the minutes over, he tells me he was smiling because his friend on the phone just offered him the chance to by a used pair of sneakers for only $125 dollars, “I mean, mom, why would I smile at you. You gave me crap when I MADE YOU DINNER! I mean, it might take time before I recover from that…” And he’s joking with me again, and smiling. Nope, that smile was for his sister. She just said she would do the art work on the front of his book report.

Sometimes I go to yoga twice a day.

Missing

July 11, 2013

It was a tough day. Lost library book.  Hot. Fight with Colin, my son, about  what I know now was absolutely nothing. Three hours ago it seemed important while I sat on my stairs and weighed punishments.

Each disagreement we have now that he is heading toward his thirteen year is dark with danger – is this the moment he stops liking me? Each punishment or consequence is an opportunity to establish important policy. (There are repercussions for not leaving a note, for taking five dollars from my purse, for teasing his sister.) Each punishment or consequence is an opportunity for me to prove myself to be an inflexible ass. (He did call my cell, I’d told him I’d give him a few dollars, and what twelve year old boy doesn’t tease his sister.)

So I removed myself, and his sister, from the battlefield. It is July, there is a pool less than a mile away, and it is open from 6 until 7:45 every week night.

Katy and I swam. I did laps, she chased behind me and grabbed my toes when she could. I taught her the words to a song that begins “There once was a farmer who took a young miss”. I got irritated when she fell behind on our way to the car. She wasn’t happy when I denied her movie request. It was a wonderful, normal summertime night.

When we got home, the lights were out. I called for Colin. No answer. I fed the animals, I reminded Katy that we were not going to add a hamster to our menagerie until I was not the only one feeding the animals.

I called for Colin. It was dark. There wasn’t a note. Most nights, I would have just taken the dog to the park to remind him of the time. But he and I had been arguing. He wouldn’t have gone to the park.

I checked the phone for incoming calls, a telemarketer called from Seattle at 7:30. I checked the phone for outgoing calls. He’d called a friend at 5:15.

I went to the park. It was dark. It was quiet. There was a teenager smoking by the batting cage. The teenager said no one had been there for at least an hour.

I texted the moms of his friends. “Looking for Colin. Heard from him?” I didn’t want to panic anyone, or look like an idiot when he strolled in dribbling his basketball. I don’t like it when he bounces that damn ball in the house. I looked for the ball, couldn’t find it. No word from Colin

I called one of the moms, and kept my tone light. She volunteered to come pick me up, take me out so we could look for him together. I made a joke about not being ready to be “one of those moms”, but if I’d known her better, I would have said yes.

When he’s nervous, everything that he says sounds like it’s heading for a punchline. It’s why by the end of the school year, half of his teachers are in love with him and half of them want to give him detention in someone else’s classroom for the rest of his life.

That is my son. And right after I thought just that thought, it occurred to me. When he’s in trouble, he gets scared. When he gets scared, he gets tired.

He was in bed. Colin was tucked in, under four blankets, behind a door in a room sealed shut, like I told him to do, when he runs the air conditioner. The air conditioner must be ten years old. It is loud. It doesn’t have power saver or even a thermostat. Just high and low.

Colin had it on low. I guess he had heard my lecture on not wasting power and that other charming ditty of mine about not zoning out in front of the tv.  He’d even paid attention to that speech about reading more books; “The Chronicles of Captain Underpants” was just next to him, on top of his blankets, book mark placed towards the end.

He was missing and I missed him so much. And there he was, sleeping upstairs while I worried, cursed, wept and made stupid jokes so no one would know just how scared I was.

There is a lesson here, and I’m just not ready to learn it. I hope I have a little more time.

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.