Monday, May 18, 2015

Punched in the gut

I did all I could. I spent many weeks there, once I heard he was ill. That last Christmas? He had a slight headache. It got worse. Very worse. I called in all my markers. They weren't enough. Headaches. Brain tumors. Big ass brain tumors.

He was dead soon enough. Not so soon enough. We lose a parent, soon enough. Or not so soon enough. We weep. But not enough. Because, soon enough, another one goes. And another one bites the dust. And another one gone. And another one bites the dust.

Hey, hey, hey.

There is an orange kitty I stole from the display I keep of what my kids adored in their baby-ness and their toddler-ness.

It is an orange kitty. It means nothing to teens and adults. But it means loads.

Good-bye, you. And me.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sisters

I'm definitely one to go through life without regrets. Or at least I was. I find that, the older I get, the more I muse on the past and the "what-ifs" contained within. I try to swallow that bile. [Really, that's all it is, right?] I'm in my sixth decade of life, so I'm considering myself blessed to have waited this long before opting to re-examine past decisions and, yes, even rue them on occasion.

I do wish that I had developed a better relationship with my sister far earlier in life than I did. But when you're about three-and-a-half years younger than a superstar, it's hard to be in her shadow. Although she's shorter than me by at least an entire INCH, that's the only way she doesn't surpass me. She's really smart. She's really funny. She's really a great writer. She's personable. She's everything little sisters hate in their big sisters.

Until.

Until they grow up and mature and find their own way, only to discover the wonderful woman to whom they're related.

My sister is everything you would want to be. [Admit it, she is.] And she deserves butterflies and unicorns and rainbows and the unqualified love of my children. [She also deserves to win the lottery, and not only because I'm sure she'd share.]

It's her birthday today. She's old, man. Really, really, really old. Me? I'm still much younger than she is. [Did I mention I'm taller, too?]

Happy birthday to my heroine walking around in her disguise as just another human! I am grateful for the years we've had and the years to come.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Only Teens in my House

And this is the email I sent to Youngest's friends who are coming KOA kampin' with us this weekend to celebrate.

We're all set to head up to the KOA Friday after school. I'll happily pick up the kids starting around 3 p.m. I'll deliver them home before noon on Sunday.

It'll be Youngest, Friend 1, Friend 2 and Friend 3. And me. Again. Yes, for the third year in a row, I'm going to hang with a bunch of boys. Only now they're nearly all teenagers. Eeeeeek!

My plans are fairly fluid. I'm thinking will do that beef hot dog thing and chips and too much soda Friday night. Saturday, we'll do eggs and such for breakfast. Then we'll see the Avengers movie Saturday matinee. Youngest tells me it opens Friday, so I'll believe him.

I'm counting on Q-Zar later in the afternoon. Don't know what we'll do for dinner -- of what they'll want after I fill them full of popcorn, soda and a bunch of stick-to-your-teeth candy at the movies.

We'll manage.

I'll probably top off each evening while they're making s'mores and running around the campsite with a beer (or two).

There will be no pool unless I'm there. I swear on my youngest child.

We've got plenty of bedding in our white-trash trailer, but do send them with pillows and flashlights. And swimsuits. None of that commando thing. It's a family campground. I'm sure they'll all come equipped with electronics out the yazoo, but I'll have my own iPad and phone.

Pete has bravely taken up the challenge of schlepping the trailer up their Friday afternoon so everything will be set for us by the time we get there Friday.

As hard as this all might be to believe, I'm really looking forward to it. Youngest has always had such great friends, and your boys are a joy to be with. So polite. So nice to me. So not like Youngest.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The one where I hope my posts aren't ever read post-mortem



When they’re little, you watch them with a hawk’s eye, ready to swoop in and save them from harm. As they age, you stand a little way back, hoping they make their own way, and feeling your spirit crushed when they hang back or get shoved aside – metaphorically or literally – by others. But you hang back. Because you’re supposed to hang back. If you don’t hang back, you’re one of THOSE parents. You know, the helicopter ones, the ones who weep for 30 minutes before the long-delayed bus finally transports your precious butterfly off to outdoor camp.

You lay in bed, sleepless, while they’re gone, but you feign sleep for those left behind and for the spouse who already knows you’re one of those ever-fretting mothers. [As an aside, that spouse has also feigned not knowing that I am, too, am feigning. He does rock the nation. I never say it enough, but he does.]

You age. They age, too, far too quickly for your tastes, but soon enough you fall asleep – for real – when they’re working until late or out with friends. And you trust when you awaken that they’ll be there. And every single morning, there they are.

But they grow ever older. (Not to say that you don’t, too, but you don’t care anymore that you’re ancient.) And you send them off to make their own way. And they’re smart kids. They’re good kids. But, whatever their birth certificate might say, they’re still kids.

A 19-year-old was killed this weekend. He was from our town. He went to a college nearby. He was an athlete. He had a good head on his shoulders. And for spring break, he went down south to party with friends. And he’s dead. Now, he’s dead.

I’ll still send Eldest off to college next year. And Daughter a year later. And Youngest just a scant few years after that. And I’ll hope that what befalls others won’t befall them.

And I’ll wish that there was some pixie dust I could sprinkle on them to make sure I don’t live a nightmare that never ends.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Before I Forget

It wasn't that long ago that Daughter and I first went to Camporee. No one in her troop wanted to go, so it was just the two of us, joining 150+ Girl Scouts from our town for a weekend at camp. You arrive Friday evening, you join with the other older girls who get to stay both nights, and you have a quaint evening program before you head off to sit around one of four or five big campfires, making s'mores and singing Girl Scout songs and meeting other Scouts (and their accompanying adults).

She was in 4th grade that first time, so she partnered up with another troop and did the workshops. Bead making! Butter making! Lanyards! Acting! The adults suckered into attending with their troops -- or, in my case, with the lone Scout from a troop -- chit-chattered their way through prepping meals, cleaning up after meals, overseeing the laying of campfires and playing the fascist house mother role.

Since it was just Girlie and me the first year, we got a room to ourselves and ultimately ended up sleeping in one twin bedframe with two mattresses on top, shivering our way through a freakishly cold couple of nights.

She grew older, she joined another troop -- one with muckety-muck adults who actually ran the whole shebang -- and she started running workshops.

I came each year, the only other adult in the troop willing to spend the weekend overseeing tweens, then pre-teens and, finally, full-blown teenagers on the cusp of adulthood.






My secret? It's an honor for me to be asked back each year, even the past two years when Daughter has stopped being a member of the troop and joins only at the weekend Camporee and the week-long summer day camp nearby.

I hate people. I hate kids. I am filled with disdain at the lazy mothers who sit and only watch until coerced into stepping in to -- for god's sake -- pick up a broom, control your girls, and shut the hell up when a leader is speaking.

But I love the women I see each and every year who make the weekend joyful for not only their own daughters or the girls in their troops but all the girls attending every year.

I don't have any real duties anymore. I am a Jill-of-all-trades, helping at archery or finding the backpack with the teddy bear and the red flashlight or creating a coffee table for fellow sleep- and patience-deprived women stumbling into the dining room for yet another meal.

I have showered, now. I've put on my ratty sweatpants and sleep shirt and have no intention of putting anything else on today. I am home. I am tired. I have bruises from making tables collapse and stacking chairs four-high onto said-collapsed tables and who-knows-what.

I am happy. And, before I forget, I am happy that I have this dancing Daughter who has unlimited patience with little girls who look at her as if she is a rock star. And I am happy that I get to smile when strangers come up to me and tell her how special she is.

As if I'd ever forget that.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Magnitude of Three

We've lived in this house at least three times longer than I have ever lived anywhere in my entire life. I puzzle over whether we've done a grave disservice to the three kids we have, subjecting them to living their entire K-12 school years with the same people, the same parents, the same fucked-up school district.

There is a house next door. (Ain't there always a house next door? Cue horror movie music.) When we moved in, it was rented out to the most drugged-out, oft-arrested woman, Susan, and her high school son. (Yeah, I took photos of one of the times she was arrested.) When repeated calls to the police went unanswered, I took to calling the landlord at 2 a.m. so she, too, could share the joys of living next to her tenant. When Susan skipped town owing four months' rent, I thought it was a reasonable penalty for the landlord.

Circumstances being circumstances, the family of one of Eldest's best friends in kindergarten bought the house and moved next door. The handyman father built steps between our two yards so the kids could come and go. A ready-made commune, really. Until they pined for a home in the country and sold at the height of the market to another family.

Nice folks, the new ones. Husband hailing from El Salvador, wife of German-Mexican heritage, and two boys only slightly older than my own brood. Good folks. Good neighbors. And then, you know, divorce rears its ugly head amid a crippling recession. They leave.

And the childless spy and his equally childless wife scoop up a short sale and move in. Awkwardness of a grand scale. They are takers but not givers, until they finally move and rent the house out. When they move, they give us all of their opened-but-not-all-used condiments. What. The. Fuck. Right?

But the renters? They are delicious! A British couple with a girl nearly 3 years old. And we adore them. And they are the best. And, oh, can't they live next door forever?

No.

They move out at the end of April, and a friendship the entire family adores may or may not endure as they move miles from us. Will it go the way of the ones who lived there two owners before -- who we were so very close to and haven't seen in years and likely couldn't pick out of a line-up (which isn't to say they're likely to be in a line-up but you know what I mean)?

I don't want to know. But I want to have faith. And I also want to know how I ended up always being left behind when I lived the first two-thirds of my life being the one leaving.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My boys...and my past...and I can't think of a title

Eldest is done with high school every day by 12:30. On Wednesdays, Youngest gets out a tad after 1 p.m. So Wednesday is their day of confluence. Youngest annoys the bejesus out of Eldest. He has for years upon years. Because, each of them, is who he is.

Today, when Eldest said he was going to go grab a burger and maybe Youngest would want to go with him, a memory started tap-tap-tapping me.

I am four years younger than my oldest brother, the protector of his two youngest siblings. He is the one I would run to, screaming for him to save me from my older brother. And he would step in. Because he was the oldest child, the one the parents lean on to always -- always -- do the right thing. And so he did.

As I begin to formulate the post, my two boys have arrived home, now, and Youngest is talking Eldest's ear off. Eldest brings me my receipt, and I say, "Did he behave?" "Oh, yeah," he says. "We played a trivia game on our way home."

I have nothing to do with my oldest brother now. I haven't for years upon years. It's the culmination of a colossal shift in his belief system. Not as bad as being a member of Scientology, but close enough. Je-cough-cough-hova. Cough cough. Honestly? It might as well be ISIS. [Fuck you, it might as well be.]

I won't be around when they reach the true ages of maturity. I will neither know nor care what becomes of their relationship. In this moment, I am beyond satisfied that my boys are my boys, and that they will make their way. Which isn't to say that I don't hear the niggling of long-ago memories and hope that they make their own way without losing the way of the other.

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