Friends adapting to change

Me: “Elvis Aaron Presley, you get back in that car.”

Her. Spoken: “You said ‘git’, with an ‘I’.”

Her. Unspoken: “You fucking hillbilly.”

Me: “Right? What the fuck happened? I was a country club gal and now I have chicken shit on my boots and I’m talking high school football records with a ditch-digger.”

Her. Spoken: “I went away for just a little bit and came back and this is your life. I missed the process.”

Her. Unspoken: “Maybe I shouldn’t have gone away – I could have stayed here and reined you in.”

Me: “It’s like you going away and coming back a lesbian.”

Her: “Exactly.”

Me: “Thanks for noticing.”

Her: “Right back at ya.”

Sketchy drive and the feelings evoked

Utter despair are the first words that come to mind.

Yesterday I drove over the hill for a couple of appointments and to try to find the elusive pair of much needed jeans.

I ended up spending a massive amount of money on everything but jeans.

I now have lovely new placemats and napkins. We’re having friends over tonight.

Scored some Cashmere too.

Not the point of this story. Distracted once again.

As everyone around here knows, the weather has been turbulent and summer is most definitely a thing of the past.

Just as I was getting ready to head home, it began to rain. Then it became torrential. Then Biblical.

I sat in my car in the parking lot of the grocery store thinking that at least if flooding kept me from going home, I was at a place with an endless amount of food.

It wasn’t really that bad, but these days, you have to be prepared.

When I began the westward drive, the rain let up and the sun sank low enough to be right at eye level (and just below the visor).

My shitty ass, $5, fashion forward sunglasses did not make matters any better.

So the sun was in my eyes. It was still raining a bit. The road was steaming. Water was spraying back at me from every car or truck ahead of me. Each and every plant, tree, dirt speck, and guard rail was wet.

And in the breakthrough sunshine, it sparkled like a glitter cloud. All of those droplets shot refracted light right into my eyes making it almost painful to look out my cracked windshield.

(As someone commented later, “That’s when you realize that you need to Windex the inside of your windshield.” Yup.)

The road wound uphill through a canyon. There was enough water for a spontaneous hydroplane.

Then, the vehicles coming towards me coming downhill towards me had SNOW on them. It was clumped beneath their wipers and piled on their bumpers.

Snow, I tell you, SNOW.

Fucking snow.

The beautiful red and orange oaks were covered in rime.

200 feet above me, they were covered in snow.

I stopped worrying about hydroplaning and began to be concerned with black ice.

It. Is. SEPTEMBER.

September folks, not December.

Besides, “Shit shit shit, I hope I don’t blindly slide into everything because I can’t see and I have no control over my truck at the moment,” my brain was screaming, “NONONONONONONONONONONONONO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Not yet, please not yet.

I am cold. Skinny and cold.

I am not ready for needing a fire in the wood stove.

I am not ready to shovel.

I am not ready to slide off the road.

I am not ready to fall down.

(I fall down a whole awful lot in the winter.)

They say when you feel desperation, to pray.

So I prayed with all of my heart last night, all night.

I prayed again when I woke up in the dark this morning.

And then, I waited for the brilliant sun to rise over the Menefee to the east.

And it didn’t.

8:28 and it still hasn’t.

The sky has lightened, for sure, just enough to see the heavy, dense, grey clouds ready to drop their load on my sad little head once again.

Despair. Grief. Disbelief. Anger.

And a strong sense of camaraderie with my friend who I ran into on the way to my house and verbalized all that I was feeling.

Misery loves company.

The unthinkable

A baby has died. A teeny tiny member of our small community is gone.

I can’t, I won’t even try, to fathom what is going on in the hearts of his parents. It is too unbearable to imagine.

For everyone who is a parent, it is our worst nightmare; it is the possibility that keeps us up at night worrying. It is the reason why we yell at our child for crossing the street without looking. It is the driving force behind standing over a sleeping child searching for the rise and fall of gentle breathing.

For me, it is the fear that has given me cause to wonder if I really am cut out for this parenting gig.

With my children having reached the ages of 21, 19, and 17, that fear has not diminished even an ounce. The only thing that has changed is the possible cause of death; car accident instead of SIDS, fatal football head injury instead of choking on a Lego.

Instead of hovering over my sleeping child as I did when they were small, I now hover, waiting for them to return for the night and go to sleep.

Today, no one is sure what has happened, why this child has come and gone as quickly as he has. All we know is that he is gone.

Does it matter what happened? A very wise woman said that to wonder about the hows and whys distracts us from dealing with the fact that this baby is gone…forever.

My sadness is so very deep.

As it is within our small, insulated world. There is a collective grief that many feel and we don’t necessarily know what to do with that pain.

As I fumble around, remembering the weight of that tiny man in my arms (wailing, because I am definitely not a baby-whisperer) I also see something beautiful happening.

I see community. I see that what exists in our town is strong and unique and loving.

People everywhere are throwing around the catchphrase “community.” It’s hip and trendy to “create community.”

The reality is that if you open your eyes and your heart here in this valley, we already have it in spades.

Folks who don’t even know this family are crying tears and rallying to help in any way that they can. Food, money, childcare for the sister…it doesn’t matter what, how big or how small. What matters is that a child has died, there are people suffering, and the love that flows through our town is astounding.

One of my chickens was killed yesterday.

My son hit and killed a fawn less than an hour later.

Death.

Death of the innocent, death of the young.

I know that my chicken and that baby deer are not someone’s child and that my pain over my girl is piddly in comparison to my friends’ pain, but I feel surrounded by death.

And that is painful.

Unbearably so.

And, I appreciate living so close to the natural world that I can see that yes, creatures are born and creatures die before what we think is their time.

Today it doesn’t make this child’s death any less brutal, but maybe some day it will help with the hows and the whys.

I think that I am rambling here. I want to talk about this, I want to process the grief, and yet I don’t want to make this about me. I don’t want to presume to hurt anywhere near as much as mom and dad. And I certainly don’t want to be a gossip.

But death needs to be talked about and picked at and felt. Our culture is at a complete and utter loss when it comes to grief. If one is not devoutly religious then it is likely that there is no set of guidelines for how to cope with the unimaginable.

For anyone who has seen Rabbit Proof Fence, there was a scene where a grandmother’s children are taken from her. She collapses on the ground and beats her own head with a rock. It struck me as beautiful. In moments of intense agony, who wouldn’t beat themselves with a stone?

I loved that it was accepted.

We don’t have that. If someone saw me beating my own brains out they’d call the cops.

So we make food. We show up at friends’ homes at 9:30 at night to just have a little bit of company and not feel so alone. We accept the parents right where they are and do not judge. We worry; about the mother, the father, the sister, the grandmother. We talk about the child, the sadness, the hows and whys, because whether those things matter in the big picture or not, sharing those thoughts helps us to bond as an extended family.

We say the words coroner, autopsy, burial, in hopes that speaking them will take just a little bit of the power, the rawness, out of them.

If I can say autopsy, then hopefully it will help Mom and Dad say it too.

Because it is an unbearable word to use in the same sentence as your child’s name.

We gather together and pick at the wound – perhaps if we pick enough scar tissue will develop and the pain will lessen.

We create the container that will hopefully help this family in feeling loved and supported and not alone in this agony.

 

 

 

Today is Graduation (or: Oh Holy Shit)

Yes, my firstborn graduates from high school today. My baby, the person who changed my very existence just by showing up one day.

I’m proud and I am ecstatic and I am nostalgic. So many choices that I have made, that he has made, end up with us right here.

The moment I found out that I was pregnant was filled with excitement and terror. But from the very first look at that little blue line, I knew that he was my baby. I loved him with all of my heart.

Choosing to raise my boys here in this tiny and close-knit community…any questions I have had over the years about whether or not that was best for them, are answered today. Yes, bringing them up here was the best decision that I could ever have made. The things that they might have missed out on (culture, a more varied education, a larger pool of potential friends); none of those things are as important as their sense of belonging.

He is walking today with young men and women whom he has known since he was born. They are some of the closest friends a person will ever have.

T – the girl he fell in love with on the first day of kindergarten because she could “push him high on the tire swing.”

AC – the next girl he feel in love with and dated maybe 15 different times over the years.

D – the boy who fought him in kindergarten because Greg showed up wearing purple socks.

J – so close, they’d be madly in love if they weren’t like brother and sister. When her brother died way back in middle school, Greg insisted on going to the funeral saying “she’s my friend.” That was when I understood that he understood what true friendship means.

N – the boy who is now a father. The boy with whom my son got in shitloads of trouble. The boy whose parents I have spent a lot of time sitting with outside the principal’s office.

And most importantly, A. A has been a part of our lives almost since the day they were born. A’s mom has been my co-parent and best friend since the day we first met.

Our boys were inseparable for countless years; there’s no way to count the adventures, the learning, the excitement, the trouble, the hours that they have spent together.

They drifted, as childhood buddies often do. Different likes and dislikes, different activities and interests, different things that make them tick. And yet, they will forever be connected – forever friends. They hold such a special place in each other’s hearts.

And these children hold such a special place in my heart. I feel a sense of pride and, for lack of a better word, ownership for each of these children. I love so many of them, appreciate immensely who they have become and what decent people they’ve turned out to be.

And I know that there will be parents in the audience today who feel the same way about my child. This community is family and full of love.

And that’s what my children may have missed out on in exchange for culture or AP classes.

And as he says goodbye to an era with his classmates, I am saying goodbye to an era with their families, so as I write this, I am bawling.

How am I going to hold it together in the auditorium if I can’t even get my sorry arse out of bed?

The dinner party

When I was in Florida, my parents and I had dinner at Mary Lou’s house. Also in attendance were her daughter (my age) son-in-law, and college student granddaughter. The additional guests were old family friends who I haven’t seen in 20 years.

Lovely is the best word to describe the evening; lovely setting, lovely dinner, lovely company.

imgres-1Elegant is another word that I might use; from the 52 pieces of silverware at each place setting to the Wedgwood Blue striped wallpaper to the ocean waves lapping at the patio edges just outside the living room french doors.

Cashmere abounded.

A little wine, a bit of brie, and some very civilized pre-dinner tete-a-tete began the evening.

Then, dinner…individual pot pies crafted in the kitchen of the nearby clubhouse (country club, that is) and delivered with white gloves, hot and ready to eat (the pies, not the gloves).

There were place cards. imgres-2

Conversation was stimulating and sophisticated. We discussed one couple’s home in the Adirondacks that’s “much too big for just us.” Another diner who was “in railroads” shared humorous tales of his recent travels. One person shared her secret to serving creative, somewhat adventuresome, and delicious dinners to her family; mail order meals that arrive via Fed Ex on her doorstep 3 nights a week. “I’ve never cooked a plantain before and now I love them.”

We talked local politics where the mayor and councilperson’s party affiliations actually mean something.

We touched on prep school, college abroad, and Ivy League.

And I sat there praying with all my might that no one would ask me anything about my town, my life, my normal.

Because what could I say? “Oh our town board is working really hard on an ordinance regarding cows in people’s yards, and how many chickens they are allowed, and if they can have pigs. Roosters are out.”

Or, “Since we don’t live in town, we are raising chickens and cows and pigs.”

And, “I think I’m going to start carrying a gun when I run in case I encounter a cougar.”

Or simply, “We used to live on a paved street.”

I feel as if I come out of my town covered with a fine patina of barnyard dust and I was afraid I was going to leave a dirty ass mark on the upholstered silk dining chair.

imgres

This Man

I used to write a lot about my dating and sex life and it was fun. But then I became involved in a serious relationship and it felt wrong to put anything about it or him out there in public.

Our relationship is sacred to me as is his privacy.

But today, I am filled with such overwhelming love and joy that I just have to share.

MCB is kind and warm and smart and funny and creative and introspective and lovely and well mannered and generous and delightful; he makes me swoon.

Yesterday he had an event for which he had to “dress.” He excitedly pulled out a suit; this was no slouchy, cheap fabric, ill-fitting suit; this was the real deal.

Next came the crisp white shirt, beautiful dress shoes, belt with initials and a bow tie.

Yes, he ties his own bow ties.

When he used his clothes brush to remove the dog hair from his overcoat, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

The thing is, this is my childhood, my upbringing.

I spent so many years and so much energy resisting and rebelling against Brooks Brothers that I convinced myself that “classy” wasn’t on my list of desires in a partner. I married a blue-collar guy from a steel town who wouldn’t be caught dead in a tie or real shoes.

And I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that or that one is better than the other; it’s more that in my old age, I am really drawn to what is familiar; what connects me to my wonderful childhood.

And I’m not saying that how a person dresses is more important than who the person is, but even Shakespeare observed, “Apparel oft proclaims the man.”

Clothing isn’t everything, but MCB is. There is so much that is admirable and agreeable and lovable; so much that makes me smile each and every day. So much for which I am thankful. So much more than meets the eye.

But the candy that meets the eye is pretty spectacular.

Dinner Out

Yep, I’m going out to dinner with friends.

2 hours away.

In another state.

Because I can.

Because I am trying on “spontaneous,” “adventuresome,” and “friend who actually makes some effort.”

A lot has happened in my relationship world as it pertains to friendships.

First, I lost one of my very best friends. The reason why will remain unspoken. It has been painful and lonely and caused me to question not only everything about her, but more importantly, everything about me.

Then, as often happens, falling in love and creating a family together takes up quite a bit of that time that, were I single, would be spent with friends.

I’m not a keep-in-toucher, I can feel deep love for someone, and not talk to them for months or even years and pick up right where we left off.

And, I’m a loner. I have a natural tendency to blow people off so that I can be alone.

All of which leads up to a conversation with my children about MCB’s friends that went something like this, “Oh, we really like Joe, he’s super cool, but Bob…freakshow.”

Pause, wheels turning, “Mom, you don’t really have any friends.”

“Yes I do.”

No I don’t.

I mean, obviously I am friends with the people I work with and I am friends with a lot of MCB’s friends and I do have a couple of close friends here who I never see but still love, but do I have a tribe?

Not anymore.

And then…

MCB and I have a mutual friend from our pasts who we love and just moved to the area.  Lucky us.

And then…

An old old friend, a very important person in my world for a good chunk of time, who I hadn’t spoken with in years, came to visit the friend just mentioned.

And then…

I realized that I have some super important people in my life that I actually love dearly and with whom I want to maintain a connection.

So I posted a photo of these 3 men on Facebook and I received this response, “Great photo. We’re in Utah and we miss you. Come see us.”

So I am driving to Utah to see people that I love because it’s important that I have people that I love in my life.

 

 

 

Man of My Dreams

I had a total swoon moment last night.

Something I was reading reminded me of high school english and Charles Dickens.

I said, “Now there’s a book I want to reread – A Tale of Two Cities.”

His response, “It was the best of times…”

Pitter. Patter.