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We have reached a high of 14 today, as warm as it has been in days and days. Perhaps I’ll put on a sarong and flip-flops. Or perhaps not. I am curled up on the couch today, battling a migraine, and watching football players do amazing things in the eastern snow, backing up my computer, and snuggling with Mr. Man. I am warmed today by the memory this image conjures up for me, of driving back from a Labor Day with Kelsea, when we stopped somewhere between South Dakota and Wyoming, at this turn to nowhere surrounded by nothing but sunflowers, and we hugged in such a way that it is imprinted on my soul. If that hug were the last memory I summoned before I left this earthly plane, I would be happy.

IMG_3281 (2)

Somewhere in the mid-West.

Quote of the day: “Hope and courage and risk dwell inside of us on an uncharted island and if we learn to look for it and tap into it, our possibilities are endless.” — Katie Kacvinsky

Daily gratitudes:
Blankets
Deep sleep (despite the dreams)
Tamara
Quiet days
Migraine medicine
Safe travels for beloved friends

I am on the bus this morning, and I get the following text from Kelsea:

“So they think our school is gonna blow up.”

The world stops for one split second.

I call her.

She doesn’t answer.

The bus is speeding away down Highway 36 and I am thinking how I have to get off and get to her, to her school. Totally impractical. What am I going to do, run there? I’m twenty miles away.

I call my ex to ask him what’s going on, and he looks online and finds that a suspicious device  - pipes, wires, and a battery – was discovered on a bus and brought into the school by the bus driver. The school staff took it back outside and called police. The students have been moved into the auditorium and the gymnasium.  I tell him to go to the school. He tells me not to worry and goes bowling.

I am sitting on the bus holding the top of my head to keep it from flying off. Moving the students into the auditorium and the gymnasium puts the entire school in two places, so that if someone truly is evil, they can just blow up those two places where they know students will be sent in the event of just such an emergency. My imagination is colliding with thoughts of Columbine and New Town.

Kelsea calls me from the auditorium. She is fine. She is seeing her friends. She is overjoyed that she won’t have to take her algebra final this morning, because she wasn’t ready for it. She too wonders why they’ve just put everyone in two places instead of evacuating them all. She says she will stay in touch. I tell her I love her.

I know my daughter. She will do anything to save others before she saves herself. She has always been this way. Her future career choices reflect his attitude. It is something that, as a mother, I just have to live with.

But I do not want to be one of those parents whose child does not come out.

I sit on the bus and try not to panic. I have never really felt this way before.  All these feels are swirling around inside of me: fear, panic, anger, anxiety, that feeling that I will do anything to get to her, and do anything to someone who hurts her. I feel a desperate helplessness as this bus takes me farther and farther away from my baby girl. Tears well up and I try to stifle them. Yes, helpless. I have always known how much I love my daughter, and how I am so blessed by having had her in my life for any time that the Great Spirit chooses to grace me with. But I never really had a glimpse of losing her. Not even a glimpse.

One of my friends at work calls this “catastrophic thinking.” I know I have this unfortunate tendency, inherited from my father. It’s a hard one to control, especially as a mother.

Half an hour later, I get a text from her.

“So it was a science fair project. Awkward.”

I spend the rest of the morning feeling like I am coming out from being underwater, trying to ease the tension in my neck, trying to return to a sense of normal.

I hope that kid who misplaced his science project gets an A. He certainly taught me something about myself today.

Well, our massive blizzard fizzled before it happened, but it has left unseasonal cold in its wake, with temperatures dipping to eight tonight. With the wind chill, it will feel like -7. Brrr. So I will think of Anegada, and how different a storm is there than here.

BVIs January 2010 2221

Anegada, British Virgin Islands.

Quote of the Day: “So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?” – Hunter S. Thompson

Daily gratitudes:
Being cozy at home with the cat
Poetry
Not having to shovel the sidewalk
MKL
Kelsea

Her Love

I watch your heart break from a distance
And there is nothing I can do.

Not.

One.

Thing.

When you were small,
I could cuddle you
And make you giggle
And kiss your tears away
And you would be all better.

Now, my touch at the sight of your tears
Makes you angry,
And the choices you never made
Are making you hurt.

It’s a pain we all go through.
You’ve seen it near break me.
And when it happens to you,
You think no one can know how you feel.

But we do.
We all do.

That doesn’t make it any easier.
I wish it did.

I so wish
I could.

[These three days are always hard for me, especially coming at this time of year that I love. And so, over these next three days, I will be reposting what I lived during these days six years ago.]

 

With thanks and apologies to Eugene O’Neill for the post title.

[The next three day's postings are my memories of the day before, the day of, and the day after my Mother's death four years ago.  This is a difficult anniversary for me, though it seems to ease each year.]

December 10, 2006:  I don’t remember what we did today.  Probably not too much but talk – and laugh.  Uncle George and E-Bro were with us now, but strangely I don’t remember them being there.  I only remember us.  Over the past week, we had spent nearly every moment together, waking and sleeping.  I probably took a walk once and went out to the store a couple of times.  I took showers alone and went to the bathroom alone.  But you didn’t.  It was as if we were merging, merging for the last time.  Looking back now, I see that that wasn’t a good thing, but it wasn’t something I could control.  We had been so very close for so very long that our separateness was, for most years, only a matter of a few degrees.  In the last days, those few degrees simply vanished.

You had started asking for the morphine towards the end of the day.  Not much, but you’d never needed it before.  I can imagine how much you must have been hurting to make that concession.  You always hated painkillers, hated anything that made you feel out of control of yourself, unlike yourself.  It didn’t seem to affect your clarity, but it did seem to ease your pain.  I remember your pain.  It was in your bones.  When you would move sometimes - or sometimes when you were still and it was so bad that it would make you move – your face would grimace in this expression that was indescribable.  You would hold your breath until it passed.  I hated to see you in pain.  I encouraged you to take the morphine.  After all, we knew you didn’t have much time left – why spend it in pain?  But you wanted to spend it being present.  I admire that.

You had stopped eating by now, but today I could still get a few Dibs into you.  Water.  Your beloved orange sherbet in little tiny spoonfuls.  It was sunny, and the light slipped through the slats of the blinds in gentle patterns, changing throughout the day, as sunlight does.  You never asked for me to open the blinds or asked to look outside.  Looking back, that surprises me, as you so loved nature.  But you were focused on the world inside your three rooms, the world that encompassed the people you loved most, and the small things you had around you that you treasured.  The rest of the world didn’t matter anymore.

People came and went, people you’d known for years and years who loved you so.  You always thought of yourself as being alone, as not having many close friends, but so many people felt like you were THEIR close friend.  You were very comfortable with that, with all of it, and with being alone.  I suppose that’s the mark of a person truly happy in herself.  But today, people came knowing that they were coming to say goodbye, even though nothing had been said. I left them alone with you, and they usually came out of the bedroom and started to cry, and I would thank them and comfort them as best I could.

Everyone brought food.  You weren’t eating.  I couldn’t eat, except late at night, when I couldn’t sleep.  I would eat weird things in weird amounts, knowing I just had to get something, anything, into me.  It wasn’t comforting.  It was a random necessity.  That had been going on for a week, my eating like that.  Ever since you really stopped eating.  For me, that was the beginning of my thoughtless, mindless eating habits that have added so much weight to my small frame in the last four years.

I don’t remember doctors coming.  I don’t remember even talking to the doctors.  But that must have happened. Mustn’t it?

In the afternoon, you took a nap. As always, I stayed beside you for most of it.  I would go do little things, make phone calls, shower, clean something, constantly checking on you.  When you woke, I took your hand, asked you if you had a nice rest.  You said yes, and looked at me strangely.  I chattered at you, you responded politely, still looking at me in that odd way, patting my hand.  Then you said, “Who ARE you?” And I reminded you that I was your daughter.  Your eyes cleared, you looked relieved, you laughed at yourself as you recognized me.  I felt a chill that I did not show.

I had been so wrapped up in caring for you.  For months, I think, I had been flying across the country every weekend to be with you.  Your death became my life.  We had always been close, except for those nasty teenage years, but especially since Kelsea’s birth.  We had talked every day.  After the last diagnosis, we talked three or four or five times a day.  In the mornings, to be sure you were okay.  If you were lonely.  If I was bored.  If you went to the doctor.  In the evening before bed.  If I was scared.  If you had some piece of news.  We talked so much because we knew that soon we wouldn’t be able to talk at all, not in the same way.

And you were so happy to have the three of us there.  You loved us so.  That night as we were going to bed, you felt it was going to be your last night.  You said goodbye to me.  You told me to tell Kelsea that you loved her.  You reminded me that the car keys were in the little bowl on the half-wall by the kitchen.  Yes, ever the Mother. And you went to sleep.

But it was not your last night.

Ashes
(for my Father)

The leaves still fall in November
carpeting the dying grass
beneath the oaks and magnolias,
each tree offering a
variation in the sound of footfalls.

Your footsteps are silent now,
only remembered,
only by me.

Our late afternoon Sunday walks,
sharp as the light edged past
the tops of the now-bare branches,
cradled in the arms of a seasonal death.

You held my hand
as I walked along the wall when I was small,
and carried me on your shoulders
when I grew tired.

Both of us older,
we would ramble for hours
talking of everything and nothing
until my nose and toes were chilled
and my fingertips hurt
from the dampening cool.

And still your hands were warm.
Always warm.

I cannot think of your hands being cold.
It’s a comfort in some strange way
that you are ashes now
and not lying in the cold earth.

It fits that you are ashes and air
As you burned to me
so bright and warm
all those years.

The Sower (image courtesy of Duke Photography)

I don’t think this is quite the right title for this post, but I’m struggling with how to express myself this time.

I am lonely for my daughter.

I am not generally lonely. I have a wonderful fiance. My niece is a great roommate. Thunder Cat is a good snuggle companion.  I have friends (if I ever reached out to them). But the loneliness of a parent for a child is a unique animal.  And the sense of missing a family unit is sometimes quite poignant – another kind of loneliness.

I have always been the one in the family who worked.  My ex was always the stay-at-home parent, even when I didn’t want it to be that way.  I missed a lot of Kelsea’s day-to-day growing up. I tried to make up for it by spending as much time as I could with her when I wasn’t working – except for the solo vacations to try to save my own sanity.

Now Kelsea is a teenager. We are going through the to-be-expected separation period. She spends most of her time with her friends. We still  have some small time together, but she stays at her Dad’s most of the time, because he’s closer to school, and getting her there doesn’t work very well with my getting to work. Some people say I should push to have her stay with me more, but that’s just not how we operate. We talk and text every day. She will be driving in a few months, and is so looking forward the her freedom. I remember that from my own teenage years.

But I miss the kid stuff. I miss our dedicated play time together. I miss our “famous chats” and our reading and snuggles and watching trashy TV and talking about anything and everything. I guess this separateion from the parent is a normal thing – just what happens when teenagers grow up. It must be preparing everyone for that day when they leave home and forge their own life, the one that you as a parent have been readying them for since the moment they were born.

Once you are divorced, and one parent is not with the child as much any more, the sense of a family unit dissipates like a wisp of fog. Gone also are those dreams you had, of being the proud parents seeing your child off to various milestone events, or attending school plays hand-in-hand. I am wise enough to realize that those visions, like many others I had, were more fantasy than lost reality – I know that by looking at the reality of my life within my marriage for almost 20 years.

Maybe I miss dreams that I never had a chance of fulfilling. Then again, I was always trying to fulfill those dreams on my own, even in my marriage, and not as part of a team. My ex and I, in hindsight, were never a team, never partners. That feels sad.

The tragic events that have happened recently in Colorado have made me all the more sensitive about how precious my daughter is, and how quickly someone dearer to you than the moon can be snatched away forever. In the blink of an eye.

I know Kelsea misses me sometimes. I know I miss her often. I know she sees the texts and Facebook messages I send her daily, even if she doesn’t respond, so she knows that I’m thinking of her always. We still have our mother-daughter traditions (she loves traditions) and we still carve out time for special things. But the days of being her best playmate, of her sitting on my foot and clutching my leg when I had to leave the house, those days are gone. And I miss them.

I loved spending what time I could with her in her childhood. It was like having my own childhood all over again.

I guess we all have to grow up. Eventually.

Kelsea with the whole world before her.

We’ve discussed quite a few TMI things on this blog over the years, particularly lady-bits stuff.  Breast lumps, kidney stones, and menopausal symptoms are just a few that come to mind. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? So it’s time we had another of those intimate chats. (In other words, some of you may want to leave now.)

We’re going to talk about bladders. Not pig bladders, which, back in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s days, Pa blew up after the hog slaughter and let the girls play ball with.  But women’s bladders.  Or perhaps just my bladder.  But I don’t think I’m alone.  Which is why I’m sharing the love.

The pig-bladder-ball-playing-picture.

I don’t remember my own potty training as a child. I suspect few of us do. Although I do remember the little enamelware pot that I used. In fact, I still have it. I believe it’s at ex-Pat’s house, and should likely be rescued.  It’s a rather odd childhood memento, but there you are.

Very similar to this one.

Of course, I remember potty training with my own daughter, but out of sensitivity to the fact that she’s a teenager, I won’t discuss any of the entirely entertaining stories I have about that here - yet.  Unless she irritates me.  Then all bets are off.  Because the point of this post really is about my daughter.  At least she’s the cause of the point of this post.

If you are female and you’ve had a baby, you may have noticed that your nether regions aren’t as toned and easily controlled as they were before you had that little bundle of joy.  I believe this is because of the uneven weight distribution of carrying the equivalent of a 40-pound human inside of you, pressing down on said nether regions for nearly a year. There’s really no other experience like it. (And I wouldn’t have traded the experience or the outcome for anything in the world.)

Nor is there any other experience like pushing an entire human body through a hole the size of a quarter.  I don’t care how elastic something is.  Every piece of elastic reaches a stretch point of no return.

Elastic…quarter…only one image missing, and I’ll spare you that.

Following childbirth, many things get back to normal. But a few things don’t quite. You may notice that when you sneeze, you pee just a drop. Or if you laugh ridiculously hard, things get a touch moist down there. Exercise  helps. Toning up those mushcles makes a huge difference. And you can do kegels until the cows come home and no one will be the wiser, nor will you break a sweat. (They’re great at stoplights.) These things WILL make a difference, and you may even find yourself better than ever.

But then, you reach a certain age. And perhaps a certain carelessness with the kegels. It’s that age where you notice that your skin has a few more spots, a few more lines, a bit more of a crepe paper quality to it.  It becomes harder to take off weight when you put it on.  And you can no longer say you’re trying to lose the baby weight when the baby is 16.  Well, of course, you can, but others may look at you oddly. I know they do me. Especially when they ask her age, and I say, “Oh, she’s 190 months now.”

So back to this weird certain-age/bladder thing. This is new to me. Just like always, before I leave the house to catch the bus to work, or to take a long-ish car ride, I check in.  Do I need to go?  The answer is often, “Well, not really, but it wouldn’t hurt anything, so might as well, just in case. It will save any trouble later.”  No big deal, right? It’s a precautionary measure. There is no sense of urgency, as one often feels when one actually needs to go.  And so I enter a bathroom or a bathroom stall accordingly.  Something I’ve done a million times over nearly 50 years.

But here is where things are suddenly different.

It’s as if my bladder has developed a brain of its own.  It’s like the toilet is crack to my bladder.  My bladder is fine up until the time it is within about two feet of a toilet, and then it becomes like a frenzied weasel. It must have that toilet. It must possess it.  It MUST pee. There’s no stopping it.  It doesn’t give a toot about the barriers of jeans and underwear that stand in its way.  It’s going to go.

So what started out as a blase visit to a bathroom becomes, within less than a minute, a desperate race against time to shed my clothes before my bladder decides to damn the torpedoes and go full steam ahead.

Most of the time, I can beat it to the punch, though I’m sure it would be highly entertaining to watch my antics.  Not that anyone will ever get to.  But, given the nature of buttons, snaps, and zippers, the copious fluidity of some skirts, and the tightness of jeans, particularly on a hot summer day, sometimes I come up short.

Super embarrassing.

And then there’s some blotting and wandering around commando for the rest of the day.

I mean, really, am I two again? Like I say, I’ve done this for almost 50 years and NOW I’m lapsing?  WTF, bladder?  Since when did you start making the decisions here, independent of my brain signals?

It’s not enough of a problem for medication, and certainly not enough for Depends, and pantiliners are gross and uncomfortable and I had more than a lifetime’s share of them during pregnancy, so NO to that too. In fact, I’m not asking for any suggestions. I just needed to put it out in the open, because it’s not something we discuss, and as I said at the start, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this, so maybe it’s something we SHOULD discuss.

So, you’re welcome. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do some kegels.

It can happen to the best of us.

My Mother’s birthday was last week.  I forgot it this year.  I think this is first year since she died that I’ve forgotten it. Of course, I always seemed to forget it when she was alive, and she was (so she said) okay with that.  She wasn’t the sort to make much of a fuss about that kind of thing. So she probably wasn’t surprised that I forgot it this year. In fact, I expect she’s kind of pleased. I know she thinks my grieving has gone on waaaay too long.  And really, I’m not grieving anymore.  It’s just that the loss and the absence of both her and my Father is still tender.  A deep bruise on my soul that I can only touch lightly lest it hurt too much.  I doubt it will ever heal much more than it is now.

A few weeks ago, we cleaned out the garage, and I brought a few remaining boxes of things from my Mother inside to unpack. There they sat in the solarium, untouched save for Thunder Cat sharpening her claws on the cardboard, until my niece/roommate said, “Do you think you could do something about those boxes?” Which is her nice way of saying “Your clutter is driving me nuts, you insane surface-dwelling packrat.” A perfectly reasonable request; after all, one can’t just have a room filled with cardboard boxes just sitting there forever, can one?  Well, actually one can, if one is my Dad, but that’s another story.  In a shared home, it’s just not okay.

We tentatively agreed to resolve this issue on Saturday night, with a couple of bottles of wine and a box cutter. Rereading that, it sounds like we’re getting drunk and fighting to the death, but we’re not – we just agreed to tackle this chore together.  What with chile festivals and flea markets and bicycle rides, we ended up arriving home at different times, me with MKL, and her an hour or so later. So I settled down to open Box #1.

Oh my.

The day my Mother died, after making the requisite phone calls, E-Bro and I started to pack her things up. He tackled the little office, living room, kitchen. I packed up the bedroom and bathrooms. So many things, and I was not in a place to make decisions then.  I was raw and suicidal and heartbroken.

When I opened this first box, all those feelings came flooding back at me like I had jumped into hyperspace.  I had packed in a way that showed how I couldn’t bear to discard anything that was my Mother’s.  The box had two little packets of tissue, and three boxes of Irish Spring. It had photo albums of my pictures that I had given to my Dad as Christmas gifts in the years before he died. It had the fleece blanket she had kept over her in her deathbed.

It still carried her scent. Almost six years later.

I started to cry.

MKL came over and put his arm around me, asked if there was anything he could do. He was just there – which is exactly what I needed. He took the blanket and wrapped it up in a separate bag, so it might retain some of its scent, and shared with me a similar experience from his grandfather’s passing.

Then I cleaned myself up and we made shrimp.

I can only manage one box at a time, I told Niece when she got home.  She was cool with that, as long as I was making the effort.

Last night, after I got home, I tided up a bit and opened box Number Two.  Again, it showed a certain amount of randomness and attachment to the moment. There were her art books and portfolio from the mail-order painting class she had taken when I was very small, perhaps about three. I can still remember her, sitting at her easel in the sunny study. A little white T-shirt that she used to wear. Two nightgowns. A caftan - I have pictures of her wearing that at our last trip to Topsail, three months before she died. It was her favorite. I put the T-shirt and nightgowns in the wash. I put the caftan on the foot of my bed.

There were some more fleece blankets – ones that DIDN’T smell like her. And a comforter that I made for my Father.

And then a satchel, a newer version of the kind my Father carried to work every day, filled with yarn. I put my hand in to see what it was.

It was a soft green afghan that she was knitting, the needles still in place in the yarn, at the point when she stopped, a few days before she died. She was knitting it for me. It was a pattern I had always wanted her to make for me, ever since I was a very little girl – moss green, with beautiful pink roses on it.

It will never be finished now.

I took a deep breath. And put my head on my arms on the kitchen table and sobbed my heart out.

I still have more boxes to unpack.

My daughter was at a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” here in Colorado last night.  So was my niece.

Thank God they weren’t at the midnight premiere in Aurora some forty miles from home.

Like much of the world, I awoke to news of the mass shooting in a theater not too far away, a similar crowd to the one my darling girl was a part of last night.  This morning when I left for work, she was still sleeping peacefully. I kissed her sleepy little self and told her I loved her.  I don’t think she’ll mind if I share her Facebook post from about 4:00 a.m. this morning. She must have found out about this after she got home.

“I, much like thousands of other people across Colorado, went to see the midnight premier of The Dark Knight Rises. But while so many of us were sitting comfortably watching the movie we were all so excited for, at least 14 people, who were expecting a night like mine, were killed in a mass shooting in another midnight premier at the Century 16 theaters in Aurora, Colorado. My heart and thoughts go out to all of those who were injured or who lost someone in this senseless act of unprovoked violence. There really are no words to explain what happened this morning…”

I wish she had awakened me.

It breaks my heart, and as a parent, it terrifies me.  MKL and I were driving through the Columbine neighborhood a week ago, and I got very quiet.  I can’t go near that area without remembering the pain and terror and permanent destruction of lives and hearts and families that happened at Columbine High School.  Ever since Kelsea started school, an incident like that has been hovering in my fears that live in that place in your brain that you can’t let go of, but can never bear to face.

Last night struck too close to home.

You can’t protect your children from insanity.  You can’t lock them away so they’ll be safe forever. Life is unpredictable. And sometimes it is indescribably tragic and agonizing. And so often, so random. All you can do is, sadly, play out scenarios with them – “What would you do if…?”  – coach them, and hope they never find themselves having to actually experience those moments, and put those practice scenes into action.

From the empath’s perspective, I am trying hard today NOT to go to the place where I feel the overwhelming pain of those who lost someone, or the staggering fear and panic of the people who were there.  That’s my automatic response. But I don’t want to do that.

Today, I want to just say a prayer for those people, and for my own daughter.

As she said, there really are no words.

April 2014
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