Archives

Orphan

I recently became an orphan for the second time in my life.

My mom passed away nearly two months ago, my father in 2014, and my first set of parents were lost to me for reasons I have no memory of. Compared to most my age, they are gone far too early.

It’s strange to lose that thread; that intimate connection to your early life. Even though I didn’t come to them until I was about three, they were all I’d ever known.

While I should’ve anticipated the losses, they were unexpected. I learned a long time ago to always brace for the unknown, but I had forgotten, lulled by a false sense of security that she was never going to die. And when she did, I wasn’t ready.

(But seriously, how can you ever be truly ready to lose someone you love? No matter how plagued with health issues or illness, can you ever come to terms with letting go? I don’t think so.)

So I’ve had the unsavory task of going through her house and belongings. Deciding what to keep and what to give away, what to sell, what to discard has left me feeling dirty. Even though there’s no other choice it feels invasive and wrong to go through every space of someone else’s entire life.

Although I didn’t find anything earth-shattering or life-changing, I did find a lot of photos of people I didn’t recognize and knick-knacks I didn’t know the story behind. I found stripes to my dad’s navy uniform and their wedding rings that had gone unworn for many years (I’m wearing them now) and other small treasures long-forgotten, but remembered from my childhood.

I was shocked to find so many of her precious memories haphazardly left behind in tattered old cardboard boxes without any rhyme or reason. There were faded, worn, photo albums but many pictures lay In boxes without labels, tags, left unloved and untouched for many years.

As much as I would like to say that I was surprised, that was who she was. Preserving memories and protecting the past was not in her DNA. It was one of the things that frustrated me about her the most. As much as I loved her, our relationship was complicated and often messy. The cardboard boxes full of haphazard memories upset me more than I expected.

I realize that relationships between mothers and daughters are often sloppy and complicated. Especially in recent years, we often struggled to find a common ground and our stubbornness often got in the way.

So as most writers do, I put our relationship on paper. I write about that strange relationship between mothers and daughters because that’s all I’ve ever known. There have been many good memories, as well as many sad ones. The bad ones inspire stories and in those stories I’ve been able to exorcise Demons and quiet nightmares. Like me, my characters face mothers who didn’t always preserve and protect their past.

I never realized it until I became a mother, a fierce protector of my own children, that I needed to purge the anger and resentment that I had toward the mother who buried her previous memories in damp, unkept cardboard boxes.

Complicated and messay.

But I did love her very much and always will, the good memories, also weaving their way through my stories. Her memory always with me. As much as I’ve learned about what not to do, there were things she was great at that I need to do better. She taught me that none of us are perfect.

So, I will continue to sift through her belongings, sort though pictures of people I don’t recognize and blindly give away things that may or may not have been important to her. And as I do so, the only thing I will hold onto is the knowledge that no matter what, she loved me.

And no matter what, perfect or imperfect, I still loved her.

Advertisements

Seven Weeks

It’s been seven weeks since I last saw you.

Seven weeks since they told me there was no hope and you would be gone and I didn’t believe it.

It just didn’t seem possible.

It couldn’t be real.

But it was.

And before I was ready, you were gone.

It’s been seven weeks since I held your hand and listened to your last breaths. You couldn’t even open your eyes and see me. You couldn’t talk, you could barely breathe, and I don’t even know if you knew I was there.

But I was.

We were all there. The ones you loved the most who loved you in return.

Waiting.

Holding our breath.

Crying.

Hoping.

Wishing there could be a miracle … but there wasn’t. Not this time. The miracles had already been spent and you were living on borrowed time until suddenly you weren’t.

You were supposed to live until you were one hundred. You were stubborn and resilient and you’d been through so much worse.

This wasn’t the time. Not this time.

But then it was.

The last time I talked to you, you apologized for being a pain in the butt and I told you that you weren’t. I told you I loved you and you did the same and I thought the next time I would see you again, I would be driving you home.

But you’d never go home again. You’d never see your house, or pet your dog, or sit in your chair, or put your puzzles together.

It was over without warning.

I never got to say goodbye. I didn’t get to look at you and tell you how much you meant to me. I hadn’t done that in so long. Our relationship had gotten messy over the years as mothers and daughters often do. But I still loved you because you were the only mother I ever knew, and you saved me.

I remembered the time years before when I cried because I didn’t know what I would do without you. Then I hardened my heart because I thought I would have to.

Then you asked for so much more than I could give and I grew tired, and angry and finally, sad. But there was always love.

It’s been seven weeks and it hasn’t been the same without you and I know that it never will be again.

But you’ll always live in that space in my heart where only a mother belongs, because that’s where there is always love.

Being a Mom

Being a mom is one of the best decisions I’ve ever been fortunate enough to make. 

My husband and I toyed with the idea of being DINKs (Double Income, No Kids). We dreamt about it, wrapped our brains around the idea and fantasized about all of the money we’d have, until suddenly we’d worn it out and realized we were two people who were born to be parents. He’s Mr. Responsibility and  I’ve always been maternal (read-bossy yet affectionate) so the concept of parenthood  was an easy one to commit to fully. We understand how fortunate we were to have parenthood come to us when it did because while we weren’t too much older as new parents, we weren’t in our twenties either. In fact when my youngest was born, I had moved into a higher risk category because of my age and every medical professional reminded me of that, much to my dismay. 

Flash forward a decade later and I’m incredibly thankful for my two funny, loud, interesting kiddos. But let’s be honest. Sometimes being a parent is very hard and we lose ourselves in the idea of being the “perfect parent.” We are utterly  disappointed and defeated when we fall short and question whether we should’ve ever been allowed to have children in the first place. I remember just how much I cried when I wasn’t able to breastfeed, despite numerous experts and  failed efforts. I was sure that I was failing at the first task of motherhood and I was devastated. When my best friend who had breastfed both of her children with ease for the first year of their lives, told me that I was okay, I finally stopped beating myself up and allowed myself to enjoy my baby. Despite everything I had read, there were no bonding issues, no health issues, and both will likely be far more intelligent than I am.  

There have been countless other failures since then, like baby food in a jar (not homemade), forgetting pajama day (I took them back up), store-bought bakery (I’m a hot mess with flour and eggs), and the list goes on. I don’t buy organic anything, i fail at anything crafy, and I work too much many crazy hours to participate in the PTA. 

In spite of my many mommy fails, my children remain my most important thing.

But even though I’m a mom, I’m also a wife, a full-time professional, and a writer which means that  I still struggle with myself,  even about the important things. I recently had to cancel a book event that I’d committed to last year, when my son’s baseball tournament schedule came out. Their one tournament fell on the weekend of the event and  there was a small voice that whispered “Sorry kiddo, I won’t see you pitch/play on the Saturday of your tournamen.” But within a second, the the mom in me squashed that little voice and reminded me that these years pass so quickly. I always know that my children comes first. 

I always try and remember that when your little, everything in the world is big and while missing one day of games may not be huge for me, it could be monumental for him. While I’ve missed a few games due to work or my other son being sick or having a game, I’ve never missed anything as big-time as a tournament. What if he hit a home run or pitched an amazing game? Life’s moments are just too fleeting anf the memory of a child can be long and unforgiving, which I know from experience. 

Being mom means I also don’t get to write whenever I want or do what I want the moment I want to do it. It means that cuddle time precedes any and all else, and that spending time with my children and teaching them to be unselfish begins with me not being selfish. It means that I still get to be an adult but that I need to remember what it’s like to live in a world where your parents are your most important people. I need to remember that being there when they need me or want me for as much of their childhood as I can, is half the battle. Already  their childhood is slipping away and I’m looking at two boys who, in a few short years,  will be young man who won’t need or want me around as much as they do now. 

That’s why, for now, I’m good with just being mom. It’s not all of  me, and they both know this. But it’s the most important part of what I get to do right now.

I’m not perfect and I suck at a lot of mom-related things, I give them too much sugar and not enough vegetables, I work a lot and we eat too much carry-out food. I can be too distracted and cranky when I’m trying to finish a chapter, but for the small things, I always try to be there. If they can see how important all of the small things have been to me, when they’re bigger, and their lives and problems are bigger, I hope theyll see that I’ll be there for those moments too. 

“The Talk”

“They” say that you need to have “The Talk” with your children at around the age of ten these days!

Um… Eeeeeeek!

I’m pretty sure that I never had anyone give me “The Talk.” My “Talk” consisted of “Don’t do it. Until you’re married. Ever.” And that was is. What I learned about sex as an adolescent was anything that could be read in a Jackie Collins novel or learned in health class . It just wasn’t a topic that was talked about which seems to be the general consensus of most people around my age.

But as my oldest has reached that milestone of double digits, my husband and I are basically playing “rock, scissors, paper” to see who gets to have that conversation. I think he should have it because he’s the man and has the same “equipment” as my son, and he thinks I should have it because… let’s be honest, I’ll handle it better. Truthfully, neither of us want to have it and as two intelligent adults are being pretty squeamish about it. I’m not sure if it’s our own fear, awkwardness, or embarrassment or if it’s just that we want our son to remain young, sweet, and innocent forever. (I’m going with the first one)

We do know that the moment we walk through that door, there’s no turning back. Once he knows about where babies really come from, he’ll never see the world (or us) the same ever again. He may even be horrified at the mere thought of it, which would be quite fine with me.

What I really want to tell him that he’s entirely too young to think about anything other than baseball, Play Station, and sports, and then I don’t want to tell him anything else about it. I still want him to think that girls are “disgusting and stupid” and I want him to wrinkle his nose in disgust when we ask him if he likes any of the girls in school. Quite frankly, I’m not ready for him to grow up and  I don’t want to worry about those things yet.

I know that I don’t JUST want to talk to him about the sex part. I want to talk to him about love and that’s it not simply about touching a girl because he can. I want to tell him that his body is going to do weird stuff in the next couple of years, but “not to worry” and that it’s just part of growing up. Having “The Talk” means that sooner than later, I’ll have to worry about sexting, and porn, and inappropriate behavior. I’ll also have to worry about hormones, moodiness, and his sweet little voice getting deeper. I know  I’ll have to be diligent in identifying skanky little girls who want to move too fast, and be prepared to terrorize them when necessary, which I’ve been dreaming about ever since my boys were born (insert evil laugh here).

Even though it’s right around the corner I’m not ready for acne, and attitude, and being questioned about my level of intelligence by the child that I created in my own body. I’m just not ready and I’m so frustrated about it because ten years has just gone entirely too fast! It snuck up on me and I wasn’t expecting it to happen this soon.

Dang it!

I can’t consider having this conversation with him until I accept that he’s growing up, and have I already said that I’m just not ready? Does it sound like I’m throwing a temper tantrum? Because I am! I’m too emotionally attached and even though I still have another eight years to go until high school graduation. I’m so disturbed that we are well past the midway point with him and that the youngest son is following closely behind.

I feel as though by the time I truly get to know them and understand them, they’ll be off to college starting a whole new world, becoming something else entirely. Then the person I’ve been for the past ten years is going to be hopelessly lost and yes, I’m already lamenting about having Empty Nest Syndrome with nearly a decade left. But look at how rapidly this decade has flown by!

I know… I know… I’m making having “The Talk” all about me when it’s clearly not, or at least it shouldn’t be. It’s really about preparing my kiddo for the next phase in his life and it’s not his fault that his mom is a wimp.

What everything boils down to, is, that I’m just not ready to have “the talk” even though I’ve been giving myself pep talks for months. I thought I would be ready by the end of the summer and that I could do it before school starts, but school starts in two weeks and I haven’t worked up enough courage yet, but I’m working on it.

Being a parent means that you have to be brave… so I’m going to stop whining, pull up my big girl pants, and look for opportunities to start teaching my kiddos about the things that make me incredibly uncomfortable. Chances are, we’ll all be uncomfortable, but at least I’ll have done my job and hopefully my child will be benefit. He’s ten for goodness sake and just told us that he only weighs fifteen pounds when he’s sitting on the toilet, because little boys do silly things like that. He doesn’t take himself too seriously yet so neither will I. I’ll explain things to him like he’s ten and not twenty, and let him know that we’re here for questions and concerns. So hopefully when he starts morphing and his body becomes one big uncontrollable hormone, at least he’ll know that the lines of communication are open.

And by then, hopefully I’ll be over my tantrum and well over myself so I can be the adult parent that I’m supposed to be guiding my children and preparing them to understand themselves and make good decisions about their sexuality and their lives, no matter how freaked out it makes me.  For now I’ll just relax, and try to figure out how a ten year-old will understand  “the Birds & the Bees.”

I probably just need to have faith that I’ve done a pretty good job of explaining life to them this far and I’ll probably do this part just fine too. 😉