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.

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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.

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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.

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I’ve Got You

I picked my father up off of the floor for the first time. He’s not a small man and I couldn’t do it alone. He fell in the hallway, crashing into the ground, into the wall, smashing his head and neck into a strange position. I slipped him to the side and watched as he quaked. My not delicate, strong as an ox, can fix everything, dad has fallen a lot lately. Usually, it’s just my mom with him and after an hour or so he recovers enough for the two of them to drag him back into a chair. Next time, 911, my mother says. I don’t think the falls really sunk in until I found myself kneeling, arms around my father, meeting my wife’s eyes.

It’s okay, dad, I’ve got you.
You sure, kid?Of course. You spent so much time scooping me up, it’s my turn now.

But the truth is, I did not have him. I was in no way certain I wasn’t going to collapse. We did it though, the three of us together, dragging him back into a chair. My mother was hiding.

The doctor doesn’t have a good reason for the falls. His cerebellum is swelling on both sides a bit, but that doesn’t explain the way he walks, the tremors, or the falls. Although, the doctor says, the are some things that signify Parkinson’s and they suspect that, if the swelling goes down and things don’t return to the usual, shitty, state of normal, that it may well be this, completely unrelated, disease.

Because of course the fuck it is.

 

Emergency Turkey

I have a lot of rage about my mother. And my father’s latest downslide. And our recent trip to North Carolina where my wife changed her shirt for fear of being outed as gay. I have a lot of anxiety about all those things, in addition to anxiety about The State of the World and how every one of my friends reacts to it. I have anxiety about going to work. About holding my wife’s hand. About, frankly, everything. It’s a terrible mess.

Things that aren’t a mess (yet) or are a delightful mess to be in include…

that Tuesday where your Thanksgiving guest list jumps from 17 to 21.
and subsequently you are beyond grateful that the new Wegmans is offering turkeys for a song.
and you realize you actually have a table cloth long enough for a table of 17 as well as enough plates and silverware.
and you are relieved that the Foreign Service taught you one thing, which was how to have a large dinner without panicking.
and to have enough plates.
but also that your wife is an event planner, who has been around the catering block, and who also makes spreadsheets.
so you can cheat off the one from last year when you though a mere 16 was a feat.
but that, for some reason, you didn’t take Tuesday off even though you took Monday and Wednesday.
and that you scheduled meetings all day until 5.
but then you canceled them.
all of them.
and came home to thaw the emergency turkey instead.

And Now We Are Six

YOU GUYS.

She is turning six tomorrow.

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Also, you know how you think, oh, I wonder what she will look like when she’s older? Pretty much exactly like this. So I’m still wondering what she’ll look like at 15, 20, 50 but I’m thinking much of that little person is here to stay.

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But now, she does this:

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And this:

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And this:

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In fact, she mostly does that.

So six it is. There are a few things I thought she’d be doing at six that she still isn’t (riding a bike, asking where babies come from) but lots of things that I never really internalized would happen someday (making up jokes, reading, actually reading, asking about death and dying). She’s nervous about first grade, she bites her nails, her best friend is Meemo, the bunny she has slept with her whole life, she wants a scooter and a light up mermaid for the bath for her birthday (check and check), she can flip over the bar in gymnastics and do cartwheels, she is as kind as she is beautiful.

Debra and I still get frustrated that she has accidents and that we can’t save her from them. We hope she will grow out of it. This year will be hard. She will probably lose some of her pets and her grandfather. She will have a new school, friends, and teachers. She will encounter big girl expectations and consequences. She will find she can’t always bat her eyelashes to get out of them. She will face the pedals on a  bike and overcome them.

But she will also make it through a whole week and realize she hasn’t had an accident (please let this be true) and she will find that her remarkable empathy, coping skills, and deep personal relationships with adults and children will hold her up when I’m too mired in grief to truly help her. She will swim to the other side of the pool and laugh in triumph as she bobs in the water. She will read a whole book to herself in her room and open a secret world neither Debra nor I are privy to. She will find independence she didn’t know she had and successfully push for more. She will relish six, fully and completely. She will bask in its opportunity.

So happy birthday, baby. Welcome to a new world.

 

 

Fifth (holy shit) Party

On the eve of RR’s birthday my wife and I had our own crisis. She asked for a party. We invited people to a party. We did not actually plan a party.

Oh sure. We put a location and time on the invitation (park, Sunday afternoon) but we didn’t think much past that. It’s unlike us (well, unlike Debra) but we’ve had too much on our minds. Have. RR isn’t much of an asker of things so the most we’d gotten out of her, birthday-wise, was a “white cake with pink icing” and “Olafs for everyone.”

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We don’t put a lot of pressure on ourselves generally. Last year RR had friends over to run in the sprinkler in the yard and our biggest effort went into making sure we could catch the World Cup match on the deck. We let the kids ice their own cupcake cones. They ate on the grass. We hosed them down. Winning.

So no pressure. Not even when RR came home from a party the day prior having made fairy wands and eaten fairy food and bearing wings and nets and giant bubble wands. Debra’s face was pale when she walked in the door with a happy, crazy-eyed kid. Well, so we felt a a little pressure. I know, I know. She’s five, who cares! And really, I don’t care. And she really doesn’t care. But that still left us feeling unprepared and much more noticeably. I mean, they had tuna salad stuffed pea pods.

We managed to order a cake. White with pink roses. We are generally party equipped so it was easy to toss carrots, cucumbers, and watermelons onto trays. But that left the kids. What do we do with the kids? We had them sack race. We had them three-legged race. They balanced eggs on spoons. They dressed in a goofy costumes and had a relay. They ate cake. RR, as usual, was happy as a clam (and would have been if there had been no cake, no friends, and no races). We declared it a success.

I want my kid to be well-liked. Not more or less so than anyone else, I suppose. But I admit that it gave me a bit of joy hearing her repeat her friend’s words the day after the party: RR that was the best party EVER!

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Legal

You know what’s really awesome? Rights.

Also, hearing someone say that my family and I are the ones who changed his marriage equality mind. You guys, you guys, the difference this decision has made for so many lives. It’s miraculous. And to all of you who couldn’t marry and to all the ones who could but couldn’t have it count, congratulations. We have fought. And we have made it. There will be more fighting but we can breathe and prepare and you guys…there just aren’t words for this kind of happiness.

The devastating things bookmark our minds. My mom remembers when Kennedy was shot. When Elvis died. Where she was, what she was doing. I remember the Challenger (in a classroom, watching the launch in a dimmed room on a small screen and not understanding, not at all). I remember September 11th (not 9/11, not where I was, in Africa in a warehouse on a sunny warm afternoon where they huddled us into the Embassy and I didn’t understand yet, not really.) I remember the elation of voting for a woman in a presidential primary (the dark booth, blue curtain, and tears too, a few) and the elation of voting for a black man (the school hallway, the anticipation, the drawing of a dinosaur wearing a safety belt.)

But the profound things, they seep through us. I remember standing on a street corner with my wife when my sister texted the news that we could marry, officially, finally. And I will certainly remember the dull room, the mindless meeting, the way every word blurred into wah wah wah, when I met my wife’s eyes and held up my tablet, SCOTUS decision blazing on the screen. We left together, not discrete in the slightest, to celebrate in the room next door. This is a monumental time to be alive.

RR is so very lucky to grow up in this world. We are so very fortunate. And happy. Blindingly happy. Here’s to all of us.

It’s Not A Tumor******

Let’s talk about the things you don’t say over text. 

I’m losing the leg.*
Grandma is dead.**
Only the coyotes know what happened to your cat.***
Mom got hit by a suburban.****
Oh the dog wandered off weeks ago. He’s probably dead.****
Dad has a brain tumor.*****

That’s a lot of asterisks so let me break it down for you:

* – this did not happen but it’s reasonable to expect it probably could given **** and *****
** – actually the text was “grandma fell and hit head. been in hospital two days. doesn’t look good.”
*** – phone call, pre-text. The last time anyone in my family handled things in a reasonable way.
**** – actual texts.
***** – also an actual text. received yesterday following an annual physical.

Rather than talk about the fact that I’m on a desperately needed vacation and sharing gorgeous pictures, I’m telling you this so that you can help lighten my load by telling me all of the worst texts you’ve ever received or, barring that, the worst texts you can imagine sending. Bonus points for originality. And, because I know you want to know, it is a tumor******. Operating tomorrow to remove it. Then a biopsy. Then we can get down to panic. I’m still at the beach and feeling like a complete asshole for not zipping back to his side. But with my sisters and aunt flying in to support my mom, and with my constant assumption that every time I see my parents (or my wife, or my daughter, etc.) will be the last time, I feel like I’m good in the goodbye department, if that’s actually the case.

So yeah, at the beach. Was having a lovely time. Now a lovely but worried time. Please, your worst texts…and, GO!