And Now Thanksgiving

Grief kicks everyone’s ass, right? Oh the holidays are the worst, they say. That first anniversary…the favorite moments…birthdays… Fuck them. Also, why do they have to be right?

I got through Halloween, his favorite holiday. I am hoping that’s the worst of it. It’s not though, is it? It’s equally as bad as the rest. Take Thanksgiving, for example. I don’t have many dad-specific memories locked up in this one. Sure, I can see him carving the turkey (Badly. He insisted on carving the breast in long slices rather than crosswise) but I can also see my grandfather (also badly) and my wife (beautifully). I can see him raking leaves but also insisting on inefficiently blowing them into the wind. I can see him kicking back in an arm chair with a martini, football on, and a fire blazing while we wiped away sweat, splattered gravy, and otherwise created a Thanksgiving Masterpiece while making it look easy. I can imagine what RR would say when he started puffing his pipe. She would be HORRIFIED.

But here I am anyway. I can’t decide how many to invite or even what to cook. And I’d argue that deciding what to cook on Thanksgiving is pretty much the easiest thing you can actually do. I love having huge Thanksgiving parties. Last year we numbered 23 and 2 turkeys. I remember gazing down the long table (yes, one long table for the grown-ups) and thinking, “A few more could fit, couldn’t they? And wouldn’t that be fun?” I do most of the cooking and I love that, too. I love hearing my friends and family laugh as they get to see new people and meet up with old friends that were new just the year before. I love getting out the punch bowl and filling it with homemade eggnog that is, let’s be honest, mostly cream and alcohol. I love putting our 1950s house to the hospitality test and finding that it’s down for a good time, every. single. time.

I’ve been agonizing over a guest list. Do we invite everyone? I cry. Do we keep it family (chosen) only? I cry. You, know, that’s still a party of 13. I cry. Should my mom come? We cry. Should she go to my sisters? I cry. How many pounds of potatoes for an unknown party of people? I cry. Should we cancel the whole thing? I cry. Do we go on vacation? I cry. My wife is probably crying in frustration, even though she politely does it out of sight.

Someone decided we would stay home and invite our chosen family. My mom has gone to my sisters. She asked me if I’ve ironed the tablecloth (that is so long it’s meant for a table of 16). I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we might be eating from paper plates standing in the kitchen. I didn’t tell it because that was ripping a small part of me into pieces. I like these traditions. Not everyone gets that. I like having to hand wash the china and silver. I like wondering if that gravy stain will ever come out of the linens. I like saving our money so we can afford to entertain everyone.

I’m going to cry. Hell, I’m crying right now just thinking about it and I’m sitting in a coffee shop. This is only a tiny bit better than last week when I cried in my office, got my sandwich wet, and had to go to a meeting with no mascara and a red nose.

Fuck this. And, Thanksgiving.

 

 

 

Advertisements

RR > Gloom

I’m gloomy lately. It’s the best word for it. A sort of foggy shadow. You can still be happy in the gloom but the bone deep pressure of it is still there. I wish that it was more like passing clouds on a sunny day. I’d even take those days when cold wind and sudden storms gets replaced by a chilly blue sky. And, you guys, I complain a lot and loudly about those days. Ugh. Cold. Instead here I am in the gloom.

Like I said, there is still happiness and a lot of it. For example, RR is potty trained. When I typed that I wrote, “RR hasn’t had an accident in…” and then I realized that we are past the days of counting accidents like injuries at a construction site. We still ask, she still checks, but none of us are sure about when exactly the last day was. For those of you that got here by searching (and lots of you do, judging from search terms), the answer to “when will my child be potty trained” is, in our case, seven years old. We survived it. I wasn’t sure we would. I’m not sure how we did.

Also, I love being her mother. Every single day. She’s independent and delighted with each new milestone she achieves. She can make her own sandwiches, getting down supplies from the highest shelves. She charms strangers. When we stop at a light or go through a drive-thru it’s not unusual to find her batting her eyelashes and getting a genuine smile in return. She’s funny. So funny. She has timing, and delivery, and loves a ridiculous joke.

So far, the genetic gamble is paying off. Of course, it depends on a heavy dose of luck and the donor being truthful, but we did our best to engineer a little girl who looks like me, doesn’t struggle with her size, is chill by default, and has an easy talent for music and rhythm. Of course, she does love to read Captain Underpants books and watches too much My Little Pony. I spend too much time telling her to chew with her mouth closed. I lose my patience. She has the regular allotment of sass. I am over the moon in love with my family. And so, I have indulged myself and included the following. The gloom, you guys, it doesn’t lift but it lets life happen.

Post -Dad Halloween

I wrote this last week. Today is Halloween and it isn’t easier or better, though I hoped it would be. We have done some decorating and RR is getting to trick or treat (to her delight). All day I’ve felt prickling under my skin, like I just. cant. But I can. And I will. And there isn’t much more to say about that.

Today I saw an older man flanked by two woman moving ever so slowly down the street. One must have been his daughter – it was in the nose and the hands – and his wife, possibly, probably, judging by her own weary walk. They were holding his hands, holding him up, and I saw my dad’s late cancer gait and balance. I’m seeing my dad everywhere these days.

I’m trying not to be too critical of my grief. I vacillate between a neutral sad but not too sad and being overwhelmed by tears. I catch myself judging my own degrees of grieving, comparing it to my sisters’ (why are they still so deadlocked in sobbing) and my mother’s (if only she had just recognized the inevitable sooner) and sometimes I feel a bit proud of having kept a practical, realistic mindset throughout the last two years. And then, especially when I start crying and can’t stop (in the car, while loading the washer, walking the dogs, taking a shower), I’m frustrated for not being kinder to my family and for being prideful to begin with.

It has been worse this month. Much worse in the last week. I’m nearly crying most of the time and it just takes a tiny thing to tip me one way or the other. There’s a lot of beauty and good in my life and so, most of the time, I get pulled back in the nick of time and saved from the embarrassment and indulgence in tears for a person gone six months ago. Other times, I take the chance to break and find it’s for the memories more than anything else. Happy tears for having had those moments, but leaving me with a red nose and bloodshot eyes nevertheless.

My therapist once told me I was a pretty cryer at least. I choose to believe it, especially the times when I know it isn’t true.

Halloween was one of his favorite holidays and fall his favorite time of year. He delighted in decorating the house with tombstones and cobwebs, displayed evermore sophisticated fake limbs and rats and spiders, and ran surround sound speakers to our front walk which he could use to personally spook trick or treaters. He was kind to the little ones and devoted himself to getting at least one good jump out of the older kids. When he moved here he handed out candy while we took RR around the neighborhood. He never once had anything but compliments for my own displays which, while in the same vein as his, never have reached the heights he regularly achieved. Even last year, when he was at the end of his ability to walk at all and certainly couldn’t climb the stairs, he sat outside the house with a gruesome looking mummy bandage on his arm and a plastic, wiggling hand in the candy bowl, distributing treats and greeting the children.

My mom can’t drive in the dark. We’ll be on our own for Halloween this year. I just want to close the door, turn off the lights, and fast forward to November. We don’t have pumpkins or a halloween costume for RR (it’s coming, I’m not that terrible). My sister isn’t bringing her kids. There are no spiderwebs or tombstones. I can’t see my way through setting them up without sobbing. And that makes me cry more.

Tell Them You’re a Mama

The last two weeks have been a slog. Not caused by any one thing in particular, just the general press of life day in and out. I’ve been so busy at work that my wrist started to hurt from typing. Then there was less typing and more meeting and my ass started to hurt from sitting. Finally there was more teaching than sitting or typing and I got a cold for my efforts. These are not actual problems*. Still, September has been oppressive in its unrelenting pace.

And then I got a UTI and I hated the world. Especially the insurance company whose machines were down and couldn’t process my prescription. I spent any free time I could find (and that is rare these days) working on it, including the ride home where I called both the main insurance company (we can’t help you ma’am) and the prescription insurance company (the system is just down, ma’am, I don’t know when it will be back). RR was deeply concerned about me because, as you know, all things urinary are in her wheelhouse. Her little brow wrinkled more and more as I talked and she kept repeating, “Just tell them you’re a mama!” as if that would magically move mountains.

Sometimes Being a Mama feels like moving mountains, and sometimes you take a moment to ignore the burning when you pee and realize how grateful you are to have someone who thinks it’s the most important job in the world.

 

*I live in Charlottesville

Ting

For us, seven is the magic age of “what will I be when I grow up?” Now, her mother and I are pretty good examples for both doing what you love and doing what to have to in order to earn money while not killing your soul. And while we don’t want her to fall prey to the Dream Job syndrome (i.e. nothing is good enough if it isn’t The One), we also don’t want her to feel like she has to pick a path, prepare for it, and stick with it. At least, not forever.

The first job she reported wanting was a queen. She announced this about a year ago along with her plans for future residency (our basement) and children (two, twins, girls, who her mother and I will take care of). That was six. At seven we have a more practical job – an art teacher. Both residency and child-rearing strategies remain the same. I say practical with a bit of hesitation, I admit. She’s certainly talented, but is being an art teacher really a viable career choice? But then again, who am I to think it might not be? Besides, she’s seven and she’s still working on core skills like reading, math, and toileting (do not even get me started).

Art teacher sounds more realistic than queen and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually “art teacher with a tattoo artist side hustle.” Man, does this child love to draw on herself, others, walls, curtains, floors, etc. She loves the look of body art generally and begs for face-painting at every opportunity. She doesn’t ask for much else so this is a noticeable (and consistent) request. In fact, if she had free access to temporary tattoos, she’d plaster them all over her body. Which brings us to her latest efforts.

While at the pool this weekend, RR disappeared from view for 20 minutes. Debra was with her and looked all over but it was crowded and she was missing. When she reappeared, she had a large, glitter tattoo on her forearm spelling out the name of a new internet service provider in town. Yes, my child emblazoned herself with a glitter tattoo that turned her into a walking billboard. Best of all, she proclaimed, “This will last for THREE WEEKS!”

Giving the scrubbing I insisted she give it in the shower last night, I think it will, in fact, last three weeks. Can we at least get a discount?

TING

Don’t Say a Word

A week before her seventh birthday, RR had her last accident.

I mean, it was the last recorded accident, not to imply there will never be another. SHH. You guys! Do not tempt fate.

But, it has been…26 days. That is the longest dry streak we have ever had. Of course, she’s fucking seven, but that makes it even more of a win, right?

I would like to just sit here and revel in the sweet-smelling dryness of it all. I have a sensitive nose and her tendency to sneak drawers carrying poop surprises into her dirty laundry meant we frequently were perfuming our entire neighborhood with the smell of freshly washed human feces. We quickly learned that our lovely new washer and its water saving features mean that sneakshit does not rinse out in the wash so much as dissolve and coat all the clothes uniformly. Not only that, but they frequently pass a low-grade sniff test when wet only to get into the dryer and WHAM! poop neighborhood. Exhausting.

When she was two and we worried, our physician said “she’s only two!” When she was three and we worried, the school shrugged it off and gently offered potty training pamphlets. When she was four, we dragged her to a sensory specialist who told us that RR being who RR is doesn’t have anything to do with bladder control. At five, we despaired and got a doctor’s note for school, took her to a urologist, and visited another sensory specialist. At six, we took her to the urologist (again) and a gastro specialist who, at the end of a very long day of exams, gave her cookies and diagnosed chronic constipation. It wasn’t until the tail end of six that we were down to one or two accidents a week.

She’s in a camp that she loves (vs last year when she peed in her pants all day every day) in a building that she knows (vs a long walk to a restroom) that has a beautifully appointed, quiet bathroom for her to use (qualifications, apparently, for seven-yr-old dryness). On a recent trip with us she also stayed dry through naps in the car, time changes, and unstructured chaos. That’s not unusual though, all of the other promising streaks have also occurred while she was with us. I’m afraid that when she transitions back to school (same building, no access to that particular bathroom), all of this will be lost. I’m very, very hopeful that a summer of being so dry will make being wet seem startling instead of the norm.

Then we can work on getting through the night. But can I tell you something? I could give a giant flying fuck if she stays in a pull-up until she’s sixteen as long as she stays dry during her waking hours. Her butt’s tiny. It could work.

 

 

Changeling

We do not recognize our daughter. Someone stole into our home in the night and replaced her with another daughter. This one is tall and all limbs, strong and fast but a little lazy, occasionally sullen, has a much better memory, and asks for specific toys and gifts. This one will only sometimes dress herself and likes to shower. This one is packed with sass.

We didn’t notice at first. You see, this changeling still has accidents and disappears for hours at a time to play by herself. She still likes to get up early and turn on the TV by herself. She still dances naked in the living room. But there were glimpses that made our eyes skip over her, looking for the real child. Our little girl, the barely-past-toddlerhood girl. The one who was still rocking 3T shorts just a couple of weeks ago.

changeling

She’ll be seven next month, just like our old child, and if in fact she’s ours, she is finally, suddenly, and startlingly a kid. She has habits and preferences. The tiny wolverine we’ve lived with for so long has disappeared. She cuddles. She has friends. Let that soak in. Right? This is obviously not our child.

She wants things. You guys, RR has never asked for things. With prodding, sure, but years of television have skipped past and she has been impervious to the wiles of advertisers and, when sucked in, quickly forgets the object in question ever existed. Now she has focused her mind and has turned a laser focus onto robot dogs of all types. Her drawings have become less detailed and elaborate. I catch myself being a sad about that and then I’ll find an itty bitty drawing in a corner of a page and it’s precisely illustrated.

pics

This is not to say that this kid is better or worse that the kid who lived here before. Just surprisingly different. It happened so quickly, she seems like a whole new person. It must be her though, I’m sure of it, because she’s still six layers deep in dirt, sprinkled in freckles, loves dancing and parties, and other children love her (even when she doesn’t love them back. No changeling could be so matched so well. Seven at the end of June. Or a teenager. It’s hard to be certain.

us Continue reading