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.

 

 

 

If you hear that I’m the mean mommy…

…I totally am.

I’ve reached a limit of sorts.  I feel as if my good will and openness has been pushed and under-appreciated.

We have a boil.

It could be that I’m around the house more since I’m unemployed.

It could be this beautiful house that we’ve just moved into that I want to keep beautiful.

It could also be the security deposit we didn’t get back because we have to replace the carpet.

It could be not being able to walk around half naked at 5 am because there are too many impressionable teenage boys that might see my cottage cheese ass.

It could maybe be the dozen eggs that I boiled that were eaten before they had time to cool.

Or the shells that were left on the counter.

Or the empty string cheese bag left in the deli drawer in the fridge.

And it could possibly be a combination of all of the above.

All I know is that my good will has thinned.  I don’t want to be a hag – I truly like being the cool mom and having everyone feel welcome in my home. But I also want to feel like it actually is my home and that I can enjoy it in ways that I like to.

Like sitting on the couch with my coffee in front of the fire in my undies and no bra before anyone else in the house wakes up.

Can’t be done if there is someone sleeping on that couch.

And I want that couch to be cared for so that we will still have this time next year.

And I really really don’t want to lose my security deposit due to carelessness ever again.

And I want to be able to want those things without being considered selfish or unreasonable.

And I want to be able to talk about it, in my home, without hearing later through the grapevine, that “(Their) mom totally flipped out about some stupid shit.”

If that kid thought he witnessed a flip out, he doesn’t know me very well.

So rules have changed, laws have been laid down, and easy-going fun-for-everyone mommy has left the building.

 

 

Look at what happens when you try to do something nice for your kids.

He needs gas money. He hasn’t been able to work.

So at lunch, I figure I’ll just run by his car and put some money in there.

And lo and behold…The Crown Royal bag lands on the floor when I open the glove box.

Ef. You. See. Kay.

(translation: FUCKFUCKFUCKITYFUCKFUCK)

Text: “I put gas money in your glove compartment next to the Crown Royal bag. Apparently we need to talk.”

No response.

“Are you saying fuck right now?”

Then I get a call at work, “It’s not mine. It’s X’s – I told him he could put it in my car so he didn’t get in trouble taking weed into the school.”

“Oh, okay. I feel much better now.”

Yeah, seriously.

“But honey, please tell X TO FIND ANOTHER CAR!!!!!!”

Jesusmaryandjoseph.

A better thing to do with the CR Bag

A better thing to do with the CR Bag

Selfish Selfish Selfish

One child lost his Social Security benefits (but didn’t lose his disability) and the appeal has been going on for 6 months. We need to plan his future and get him a driver’s license and teach him how to balance a checkbook.

The next one, the off-the-charts brilliant one, is putting in minimal effort, getting mediocre grades and now his teachers are calling me in to discuss behavioral problems in the classroom.  I got word this morning that he threw up in his friend’s bunk bed after too much to drink at the Homecoming party.

The third is apparently not having the football season that he needs to have if he’s going to get recruited and can’t afford college without some scholarship money. He’s got a mom flirting with him and potentially sending him boobie-photos.

Get me the fuck out of here.

I want to think about me. I want to read my book, write my memoir, get a massage, and run away to the desert, ALL. BY. MYSELF.

I want to not think about anyone else.  I want to paint my nails and think about having another cup of coffee and where I will run.

I don’t want to worry about anyone else. I don’t want to be constantly trying to fix, help, or encourage. I don’t want to brainstorm for another.

Sick of teacher meetings, coach meetings, guidance counselor meetings.

Last night I had to make the choice: Write another letter to the Federal Government, rage against my oh so underachieving child, or find out if there is a sexual predator pursuing my handsome child.

Child being the operative word here.

I chose that one – seemed like the most urgent.

Looks like it was nothing.

So relieved that I completely blew off the others. Figured there was so much shit going on that one more day wouldn’t matter.

Especially when I have no interest in dealing with any of it.

Is there anyone out there who wants to take over for a little while?

There is a Guardian Angel

“Mom, you’re not Christian or Mexican, why are you so into Jesus candles?”

“You know Buddy, just in case.”

Who knows if it does me any good, but I figure it can’t do us any harm, and last night felt like a Guardian Angel was looking over my family so, I’m going to keep on lighting them…

…just in case.

It was the night of the Homecoming Dance, and hand in hand, the Homecoming after-party.

Back story here:

My boys are teenagers. We live in a small redneck town where kids drink Coors Light, chew Copenhagen, and go mudding in the mountains in their big trucks. I was a teenager once and made a LOT of really stupid choices. My children have made a lot of stupid choices. So have their friends. Their father, a recovering alcoholic, thinks that a “talk” here and there about the dangers of drinking, especially with their genetics, is keeping them from imbibing in said alcohol.

So the way I look at parenting them during these years, given the above factors, I have 3 choices; tell them not to drink and think that they won’t, thus having them lying and sneaking all over the county with a beer in hand; cruelly forbid them to ever leave the house just so I feel safe; or be totally realistic and hope that a policy of transparency will keep them honest and maybe a bit more careful if they’re not having to lurk around behind my back.

Since Dad has gone for number 1, and number 2 just isn’t fair since they haven’t done enough to warrant its implementation, I’ve opted for number 3.

Number 3 is great when sitting around the dining room table, me being the cool mom.  It’s a whole other story on a Saturday night when they are making plans to go to the mountains with 235 of their closest stupid friends to drink beer and Fireball, at two o’clock in the morning.

Which was last night’s post-homecoming plan.

So many things were freaking me out about it, yet I chose to let them go: with stipulations.

No drinking to vomiting status.

No taking advantage of drunken girls.

No drinking and driving.

Curfew.

First one, I just had to keep my fingers crossed that they too believe that Vomiting Isn’t Fun.

Second – I just trust them. Should I? I certainly hope so.

Third – I offered, as I always do, to do the driving for them. I always agree to drive up to the mountains at extremely-early-in-the-morning (like 2) to pick them up to guarantee that they won’t get in a car with a “sober” driver.

I remember one night that I was the “sober” driver – I was chosen because I was the one in the group who’d only eaten one hit of acid instead of two.

Curfew – Of course they don’t want one. Of course they’re going to get one.

“Can we just spend the night up there?”

Fuck. No.

So they asked if they could spend the night at a friends’.

“Is this your way of getting out of having a curfew?”

“Yes.”

Remember, I have asked for total transparency.

And, I said “Sure.”

Crazy, right? It just seemed so much easier having another parent involved, even if it was one who was going to let them stay out all night.  It gave me the opportunity to turn a blind eye.

And I took it.

God I love denial.

It didn’t mean that I wouldn’t stress, freak out, lose sleep, etc. But in saying “yes” I hoped that they would be able to say “no” if necessary.

Another part of the equation was this:

Friend wouldn’t be drinking or driving like an idiot because he’ on probation and has to take a pee test tomorrow and the truck is his dad’s and if he messed it up, we’d all be running for the hills to avoid the wrath.

“I wish I felt okay about this because I trust Friend to make smart choices, not because he’s made so many dumb choices that he can longer afford to make more. But I’ll take what I can get.”

And then, I received this text: No one wants to go to the mountains, it’s too cold and too much driving. So just a few of us are going to go to Friend’s to hang out.

No stupid driving on stupid mountain roads with stupid drunk teenagers. No wondering if the cops (who always know when there is party in the mountains) will show up and issue my children MIP’s (minor in possession).

They go one place, where they will stay, with parental supervision, right in town.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Have fun. Have a great night.

And there is proof that a Guardian Angel does exist and thank the heavens above that I lit that Jesus candle yesterday.

Unforgivable????

I did something today that I could never have imagined doing.

I am a keeper of strays – always have been. Love the underdog.

I’ve had cats and dogs from shelters, the Walmart parking lot, a burlap bag in the river, under my trailer/office, the Farmers’ Market, and the reservation.

I’ve even taken in a stray child or two and can never turn down a stray plant.

Given my history, I completely went against every thread of my being and did an abominable thing…

…I took a cat to the shelter.

And left him.

And lied and said he was a stray because I was too ashamed to admit that I was actually just giving up one of my pets to whom I’d committed a lifetime of love and protection.

It was the Walmart parking lot kitty – the one who has slowly gone a little bit nutty, ultimately pushing me way over the edge last night.

It’s been building. He suffers from anxiety and it has been impacting the quality of his (and our) daily life.

He has become skittish, unpredictable, and a yowler.

Where other cats Meow, this one wails; long, mournful, agonizing, howls of angst that no amount of screaming or ignoring can stop.

Not all the time – I’ll give him that.  He has moments where is is actually kind of cute. Those moments are what have made it impossible to do what I did.

Until today.

He spent half the night outside our bedroom door singing his mournful tune. I finally got up at 3:00 am to see what was wrong.

Apparently nothing.

Then, when I let another cat inside, he ran out. We have a cardinal rule in our house; the misfit does not get to go outside at night because he can’t handle it. He’s okay for about 30 minutes and then he positions himself below our bedroom window, which is also below our neighbors’, and the yowling begins.  It is incessant – he doesn’t even stop to breathe – until I let him back in.

Sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed to open the door.

Once, I tried to ignore him. A neighbor threw a rock at my house.

So, he’s outside, the wailing is fingernails on the chalkboard, and MCB snores away.

Later that morning (5:00 am) I’m crabby ass and bitchy from my shit night and next thing I know, MCB and I are having an uncomfortable conversation about screaming cats, getting a dog, pet responsibility, etc.

I got in the shower and thought, “I am miserable, I have no affection for this cat, the last thing any of the children said to him was ‘go away’, and he is now impacting my relationship.”

“I’m done.”

MCB and I talked, we both felt cruel, irresponsible and cold-hearted. MCB is a little bit attached to this one and not at all to the others (go figure). But we finally came to the conclusion that this really isn’t working.

I had to do it immediately, without thought or feeling.  If I hesitated for even a split second, I would be spending another 100 nights bitching in the middle of the night.

I left work, went home and the second I walked in the door, he hid. Found him, got the bejesus clawed out of my arms and right leg, but finally got him into the favored form of transport: the pillowcase.

I put him in the way-back of the truck and listened to him yowl all the way to the shelter. I could hear it over the sound of the motor, the wind, and the radio.

After I got to the shelter and lied about the “stray” in the back of my truck, the gal and I went out to get him.  He had shredded the pillowcase. My brain said, “Good riddance,” my heart said, “Oh, poor baby.”

Brain won out over heart.

I drove away, did a bit of retail therapy (got a fabulous purple dress) and went for a run.

“I’m fine” I thought.

I am actually not fine, but trying hard to get there.

When I got home, I knew the kids wouldn’t notice that he wasn’t around, probably wouldn’t for another week.  So I thought that it would be better for me to just tell them.

“Are you kidding, Mom? That’s so mean.”

“Really?  I actually liked him – he was part of the family.”

“Why did you only get rid of one?”

That was Bobby – he wants a husky.

So now, of course, I am second guessing myself. I am wondering how much this event will cost in therapy for my children later in life, and thinking that everyone in the household is afraid of being the next victim of my sociopathic cruelty.

 

 

TBI

Stands for Traumatic Brain Injury.

Translation: Concussion.

Cause: Helmet to Helmet hit on the football field.

Necessary Action: Go to the Doctor.

Treatment: Time off the Line.

Reaction: “It’s all your fault, Mom.”

Yep. I’m the one who insisted on him playing football, even though he begged to sing in the choir instead.  I am also the one who told him he was a puss and needed to hit a whole lot harder. I refused to listen to his complaints about having a headache for over a week. Oh wait, he didn’t complain because I told him to lie about the headache and deny that he had one. I also stubbornly didn’t agree with him that he knows more than the ER Doc and doesn’t have a concussion. And I am definitely the driving force behind the national movement to save athletes from long-term brain damage by implementing more rigid protocols for allowing those athletes back on the field after a hard knock.

Obviously, All. My. Fault.

After yesterday’s second doctor appointment for the head, the appointment wherein the doctor said, “Yes, it is a concussion. No, you shouldn’t have been playing last week. Yes, you should have told your mother and coach about the headaches. No, you’re not going back in this week. And, yes, TBIs are very serious,” we walked out to the car in a torrential rainstorm, the silence between us thickening with each falling drop.

I unlocked my door and got in the car.  He pressed his face against the window saying “Are you serious?” as I decided if I would let him in or not.

I begrudgingly did.

As we drove home I said, “Now is the time to say, thank you, Mom, for caring so much about my well-being. I am sorry, Mom, that I yelled at you and accused you of ruining everything for me…”

Then, “…repeat after me, ‘I. Was. Wrong.'”

“I can’t say those words, Mom. Not in my lexicon.”

‘Wrong’ isn’t, but ‘lexicon’ is?

I rolled down the window on his side (Love power windows.  Also love the child-lock.) I figured a good dousing would at least make me feel better.

It did.

He laughed.

He still can’t utter the word ‘wrong’, but I think he gets the message.