Thursday, November 25

Trying for Thankful

I'm trying hard to muster up Thankfulness without bitterness this year.  For every thing I should be thankful for I find myself enveloping it in sarcastic bitterness.

I'm thankful I have 3 healthy children... even if my oldest lives 3000 miles away and my youngest are being kept from me.

I'm thankful I could talk to my children this morning and share some thanksgiving memories with them... even as they go to another woman's house to help prepare a feast to share with her, not me.

I'm thankful my children are having a full thanksgiving meal today... even though their excitement and joy about it wounds my heart with jealousy, loss, regrets, and irrational anger.

I'm thankful my daughter gets to make cookies today... even if she makes them with another woman, and eats them at someone elses thanksgiving day table.

I'm thankful for the 18 years of memorable thanksgivings I have in my heart... even if each one reminds me of everything that's been taken from me.

I'm thankful my family is safe, happy, warm, and loved... even though I can't provide that or share that with them.

I'm thankful that even if the whole world forgets about it, I know that I am still the mom.  I am... even if I'm the only one who remembers...


Tuesday, November 16

Wish List

An email from my mother in law is in my inbox.  I haven't replied because I have to wait for the angry feelings to go away first. 

She spent some time with my youngest recently and was commenting on how much fun she'd had *stab stab stab* being with my "darling little girl". *stab stab stab* 

She asked what I thought my daughter would like for her birthday, what her interests are and what size she wears *stab stab stab* and then went on to remind me that a) I had once "chided" her for sending a gift card  b) which had been my husbands idea c) since we'd just moved out west and didn't know what stores were there.  Uh, ahem, really?  Let's talk about this, mother in law dear...

First of all, my husband hated gift cards for children - said that they were thoughtless and showed that the sender couldn't be bothered to know the recipients interests or put forth the effort to give a gift that showed any care or connection.  At the time I bought into it and agreed with him - this was information we shared during our dating and first holiday years.  As our children came along he was disgusted on a personal level when a gift card was given to them.  What is a good wife to do?  Smooth it over, shine a positive light on it, make it feel as good as possible, and subtly discreetly refer to the gift card vs gift giving concept in a neutral non threatening way at some time in the future.  Check.  Secondly, the situation she was referring to happened almost 6 years ago - SIX YEARS - when my "darling" daughter was six years old.  A) 6 year olds are pretty easy to buy for and B) after six years I think it's time to let it go.

But... whatever.  I'm easy to blame, I make a good scapegoat for the dissolution of the marraige: I'm not there to defend myself and I never could stand up to their expectations anyway; so it's ok for her to *stab stab stab* me with rubbing my face in my separation from my daughter and to bring up old grudges as a way to set a precedent for what a horrible person I am and have always been. Whatever helps her sleep at night.

In the meantime, a more real reply to her email would be this: 
       What my daughter wants most isn't something you can buy "grandma".  She wants me.  She wants to be happy and secure and safe, and to know that her family is not divided and in conflict, tossing around accusations and lies and trying to hurt each other.  She wants her grandma to help her see her momma, to talk with her daddy about how to make this better, to come and visit with her and do some of the things daddy can't or won't do.  Come, grandma, do some laundry or cook a hot meal, bring her to visit her momma an extra time or two just because you know it's the right thing to do.  Want to go shopping and buy her something? Invite momma along and share it all together.  Want to make her little heart shine and grow? Do what you think you can't: interfere, intervene, intrude.  Or, you could just shrug your shoulders and send a gift card.  Whatever helps you sleep at night.

I don't care if you send a gift card or a gift or if you even consider my words or not.  I am still the mom.

Friday, November 12

Speechless moments

She is doing some dishes and I am sitting on a stool chatting with her, just passing time.  We've been friends for 12 years now and there is always something to talk about. 

"He's been gone for 7 full days now and I am done! I've never been away from him for that long and I hate it! I feel like just going there and telling him to get in the car and come home!" Her back is to me and she can't see my face.  She is laughing at herself and doing dishes and I am sitting there with tears streaming down my face. 

She is talking about her son, a boy the same age as mine, a boy I've known for 12 years and whom I tease and chat with easily even now.  He is her firstborn, a son she sees everyday except for this year, this 10 days of summer camp.  She misses him because out of almost 14 years she has never been away from him for so long. She keeps talking about missing him and I am thinking about all the days I've missed MY son.  I think about how I had never been away from MY son before either, and now it's been week after week after week for months and months.  I hate her almost, because she can miss her son but yet NOT miss him - because in a couple of days he'll be back in her arms, in her house, in the room she nags him to clean, eating the food she cooks, and their time apart will be nothing more than a hiccup. 

She turns off the tap and folds the dishtowel while saying, with an embarrassed laugh, "I mean, really, how can anyone expect a mom to go so long without seeing her kid?!" 

You'd be surprised at what people expect a mom to do.

We are sitting at the dining table chatting over a glass of wine.  Her husband is watching tv in the other room and both her sons are in their rooms.  It's nice quiet girl time for us.  Special time because we have it so rarely.  We are talking about her youngest and how he's changing as he moves into puberty and how she has some fears about what is up ahead.  He is the same age as my youngest, but with some significant differences that make anticipating normal changes something worth fretting over and discussing.

"I don't know," she says, "it's always something these days and I can't tell if it's supposed to be happening or if it's a symptom of something I have to worry about!"  I murmur to her, wordless mutterings of empathy, listening intently.  "Like, his sleeping pattern is different now and it's driving me crazy. He has trouble sleeping even with his usual medicine.  I guess it's the age, is it like that with Bear too?"  She is so worried, stressed, and seeking understanding that she doesn't register what she has said.

My eyes tear up instantly and when I speak, my voice is thick and quivery.  "I don't know..." and then she gets it.  I mean it really, I don't know.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Oh God, I'm sorry! I didn't mean it, I know I know, it's ok..." and she is holding me and I am sobbing into her chest because the truth is that I don't know - I'm not there to know if my baby is having a hard time sleeping, if she is sad or lonely in the middle of the night, if she is scared or has funny dreams or is too tired.  I'm not there, and no one tells me.

Important point about those speechless moments:

She never means any harm.  Ever.  This is my truest bestest friend who has seen all the parts of my life over the past years and has been instrumental in helping me be with my kids whenever possible. I know she would never deliberately pose such questions and the truth is that I don't want her to NOT pose those questions.  I want to speak freely and for HER to speak freely.  I want to talk about her missing her son - I know how it is to miss your child.  I want to talk about her fears with her other son - I know how it is to fear for your childs future.  I don't want her to stop talking about things just because they hurt me. 

These moments happen all the time to me with other people.  Moments when I find myself having to explain or justify or change the subject even.  Moments when I have to bend down and pick up some peice of lint off the floor to disguise my tears, or start coughing to cover up the quiver in my voice.  It's easier when they happen with her because I don't have to hide.  I don't have to censor or explain - and I hope she never does either.

There are times I'm speechless, yes, but I'm still the mom.

Thursday, November 11

Picking Peices

I drive 70 miles, one way, to see my children.  It's about an hour and 20 minutes most of which is a straight shot of interstate. 

On a "long" visit, I drive the hour plus long/70 miles, pick them up and drive an hour plus long/70 miles back to my house where we all try to reconnect for the day before we pile into the car for the hour plus long/70 mile ride back to drop them off... and I turn around and drive that long trip all by myself back to my house.  On a "regular" visit, it's 280 miles, and over 5 hours of travel time all on ONE DAY just so I can be with my children for 3 hours.  "He" won't do half of it - and hasn't been ordered to by the court so I have no choice but to do it on my own. It's been a complete solid year of that now.  You do the math.

On a "regular" visit, the trip is just me driving all the way out there, spending a few hours with the kids for dinner, and then driving back home alone.  114 miles and almost 3 hours of driving all by myself with my thoughts and regrets and grief.

There have been times when I had to pick between gas money for the trip or gas money to get to and from work for the week.

There have been times when I have packed up every bit of food I could rummage from the cabinets and fridge into a cooler to bring with me so I could feed my children dinner and use cash on hand for tolls and gas.

There have been times I could not go see my children because there wasn't gas in the car or money to buy any.

It's all about picking the right option, and about picking out time and picking over funds on a day to day basis.  It's about picking up extra hours at work, picking ramen over rice, picking staying home over driving to the library, picking up scrap paper and lost pennies, picking up discarded soda cans to return, picking the shorter time route or the less distance drive, picking the dollar menu items over the meal deals, and picking quantity over quality which they hate or quality over quantity which I hate: no matter what the experts spout. 

It's about picking which lie to buy, which shade of rose to paint on my glasses, which child to please, which way to pose the truth, and which fucking breath to breathe, and which peices of our lives to pick up and hold tight and which ones to let die away forevermore.

It's always about picking.  I used to pick up the laundry, pick up the legos, pick up the piles of mail and homework and discarded dishes.  I used to pick up children, prescriptions, friends, and birthday cakes.  I picked up socks, dog poop, used kleenex, and the newspaper.  Now I just pick up peices of memories, peices of life. 

I keep this little red pic from my son to remind me that no matter what guitar (or what life force) is being used,  and no matter what song (or what note) is being played, the difference between just grabbing on with your hands or finely picking with a pick is noticeable.  It can create a sound that is worth stopping to listen to instead of a sound to ignore. 

Picking matters.  Picking on a guitar, or picking this over that in life.

And so I pick. 

And I hold onto this red plastic pick that my son has created music with so I can remind myself of that one fact. 

Picking matters. 

Even when the difference is unnoticeable to the untrained, it matters.

Thursday, November 4

Repetitive Memorization

Remember rote memorization from grade school? Sitting in rows, everyone chanting the times tables outloud, writing each fact ten times in a row, taking timed tests... the way some kids groaned because they already knew it all and how other kids groaned because it seemed like they'd never get it?  Now in our later years, our 40's and more, we remember them though, don't we?  At least the basic ones that allow us to recall the the others... memorization and repetition was key.

I've lost so much with the passing of time - lost an entire year and a half now of my childrens lives. Lost opportunities, chances, moments of critical bonding, memory making activities, traditions and familiar comforts that I could have shared with my children.  But I was shored up in the midst of grief by this: repetitive memorization cements a fact into you. 

I had 12 years of repetitve actions with my children and my love will be, IS, cemented into them.  I am still the mom even though I'm not the one making their lunches now, not the one folding their clothes and nagging about their shoes in the hall and not the one signing permission slips and helping with homework.  The fact of my love still remains.