Tag Archives: life

The Day I Killed The Pope

24 Jul

It was ten years ago now, but I remember it like it was yesterday. It was April 2, 2005. I think it was a Friday. I was 23 years old, second year of law school, and three home pregnancy tests had just informed me I was not alone. 

I was, at the time, in a serious relationship with a fellow law student. We were both stunned by the positive tests and I made a doctors appointment for as soon as possible to confirm. The boyfriend did not come with me to the doctor. Instead, I was escorted by my father. 

My dad and I were always buddies. I was his youngest, his wild one, his ‘Mighty Moe.’ We would play ball in the backyard together for hours. He taught me how to mow the lawn, how to drive a car, and how to shoot beer cans with a BB gun. I asked him, once, if he was sad neither my sister nor I were boys. He was incredulous. “Why would I be? I had you.”  We spent Saturday mornings together on the streets, him jogging and me on my bike. We spent Sunday mornings together in church, him with his head reverently bowed in prayer, me crawling under the pew. We had a secret signal with each other. We were buddies.

It was an awkward car ride. The news of my surprise pregnancy had been delivered by my mother and so I was still unsure of my father’s reaction. He had promised love and support, but was he hurt? Angry? Or, worst of all, disappointed in me?

There didn’t seem to be anything to say right then and so we were silent the whole way. For early April in Chicago, it was a beautiful day. Warm weather, sunshine, soft breeze. The windows rolled down, we continued on side streets through the heavily Polish neighborhood to the unfamiliar doctor recommended by my insurance as available that day. 

As we drove, John Paul II lay dying half a world away. The papal death watch had begun in Rome that morning. Crowds gathered in the square, crying, praying, preparing to mourn. Announcers gave updates in hushed voices, and through the open car windows we could hear the surrounding Polish neighborhood holding its breath. 

We arrived at the doctors office. I asked my father if he wanted to come inside, he grunted his decline. He stayed in the car, radio on. I went inside and figuratively faced the music. 

It didn’t take long for the results to come in – I was definitely with child. I was given some prenatal vitamins and referrals. I was slightly more prepared for the news now that I had three home pregnancy tests under my belt but I was still terrified. 

I stumbled to the car. Dad turned down the radio. “Well?” 

“Yup. I’m definitely pregnant.”

As I finished the “-ant”, the tone on the radio shifted. Black smoke was now appearing. Pope John Paul II had died. My father looked at the radio. Looked at me. Looked at the radio. In a voice filled with equal parts astonishment and amusement, he cried, “You killed the Pope!”

And that was when I knew we would be fine. 

  

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Open Mic and Mr. Dynamite

29 Apr

I have good – no, great news. I have now rocked TWO open mic sessions of South Side Story Club [http://www.storyclubchicago.com/]

Last week, Tues the 21st, I told my favorite personal story of all time – the Demon of Seduction. And I didn’t expect to tell another story for a while. But I got a notification that there was going to be an extra South Side Story Club this month. With little time to prepare, this is what I said. It’s all true.

I got short notice that there was going to be an extra South Side Story Club this month. I wasn’t sure if I should sign up for one of the open mic slots, since I didn’t have a story ready. But the universe must have heard my deliberation and said, “Ah, I’ll fix that problem. I’ll give her a story to tell.” And so here I am [Story Club South Side, 4/28/15], ready to talk about Mr. Dynamite, Butters, and the single greatest expression of passive aggressiveness I have ever been privileged to witness.

Of course, today started out normal, as most days do, with no hints of the insanity to come. I never do get advance warnings of impending crazy times until it’s too late. I had the day off work, my friend Kristi had a washer and dryer she wanted to get rid of. She offered to sell them to me, and sweetened the deal by offering to find a mover for me. Done! Sold! The mover, Chuck, called me Monday night and we arranged to meet at Kristi’s old apartment at 9:30 the next morning. Kristi said she had agreed on a fee of $75 when she talked to Chuck. However, Chuck was now complaining that it was too low, given the mileage and gas involved. “Oh,” I said, “I was planning on giving you a tip too.” Chuck then demanded a fee of $100 in cash. I quickly texted the update to Kristi. She said it was fine, and gave me the cash and the key.

I never know how much time to allot myself for traffic, and I’m always either horrendously early or embarrassingly late. I left my home in Oak Lawn at 8:00 a.m. and was already at Belmont Harbot by 9. I parked and walked along the lakefront to kill time. As you hopefully know, it was gorgeous this morning – not a cloud in the clear blue sky. I watched the glassy green water slap up against the rocks on the shore. It was just me, and some fishermen, and some… fish. Dying. Flopping around in their death throes there on the concrete. No omen necessary – crazy times are clearly here. I fled to my car, disturbed but undaunted.

At least I got a few good photos before I left.

At least I got a few good photos before I left.

Dying fish not pictured.

Dying fish not pictured.

I arrived at Kristi’s apartment in plenty of time. One of the other residents in the building has a free-range cat named Butters, which is really the perfect name for this cat. He is fat, very orange, and both affectionate and very stubborn. Attempts to turn Butters into an indoor cat failed miserably as he chewed through the window screens. He meowed hello to me, happy for company.

No sign of Chuck, so I sat on the back deck, enjoying the sunshine. Butters approached me and started rubbing against my leg. Maybe he smelled the fish? No, hang on, no, he’s…. he’s definitely humping my leg. I thought only dogs did that, but no, Butters was actively proving me wrong. I picked him up and off my leg – no easy feat given his claws – and let him settle in my lap as I called Chuck. It was now well past 10 and I had places to be.

Butters purred loudly in my ear, now trying to hump my face as I patiently explained to Chuck that HOLLYWOOD and HOWARD are completely different streets. [This makes more sense to Chicago/Evanston residents.] As I sat in Edgewater, getting violated by Butters, Chuck was tootling around Evanston, possibly even Skokie.

The wonder that is Butters.

The wonder that is Butters.

I got Chuck turned around and on the right path. I waited a bit, then went down to the corner to flag down Chuck.

He almost drove past me, and it was with dread that I realized that no, that was his van. The green, beat up Aerostar that looked like it was being held together with duct tape, chicken wire, and prayers. The van with a large number of decals on the back, including Calvin pissing on union “scabs”, and, in huge letters, “Mr. Dynamite.”

I took Chuck to the laundry area, showed him the washer and dryer. He promptly declared that this was a 2 man job. Silently cursing, I did my best to make it a 1 man, 1 woman job, but it quickly became clear that I was going to be useless in getting the appliances into the van. Chuck then recruited a rather stunned and nervous alley picker to help. I slipped the random alley guy the $10 I had initially set aside as Chuck’s tip, and he scuttled off like a nervous crab.

I then gave Chuck explicit instructions on where to go. I found a scrap of paper and wrote down the insanely easy instructions – 55 to Cicero, to State, to Central. Super easy, right?

As I started driving home, I called my husband Ken from the car (Bluetooth enabled car, ease off CPD). I asked Ken to meet me at home – Chuck was raising all kinds of red flags for me. Ken sighed heavily, clearly a martyr to his wife’s paranoia.

I got home in time to crate the dog, face down the glowering Kenny, and to sit on the back porch and wait. And wait. And wait some more. I called Chuck again. Despite the ridiculously easy, handwritten instructions, he was lost. Again, unaware that CENTRAL is a completely different street from CENTRAL PARK. [Side note: I can’t figure out how on earth he got on Central Park from my directions.]

Ken now understood that my concerns were legitimate. He declared that Chuck could leave the washer and dryer in our garage, but would not be setting foot in our house. Chuck finally arrived, and with Ken’s help, unloaded the appliances into our garage, where I can’t wait to do my laundry!

I got a Gatorade from our kitchen and went to pay Chuck with the cash Kristi gave me. Chuck asked how much I was giving him. I told him – $100. He got angry and asked where his promised tip was. I told him – with the rando from the alley. Chuck got really angry now and started complaining that the job was worth way more than that and should have taken two people and I should have had the money for two people and so on. I didn’t engage – especially since the ‘two people’ ended up being Ken and I wasn’t about to pay my husband. I told Chuck to talk to Ken. “I’d rather deal with your husband,” Chuck sneered as I brushed past him into the house.

A few minutes later, Ken slammed into the house. Apparently Chuck was refusing to leave without an additional 20 dollars. [I found out later that he initially refused to leave without $200 in cash but Ken shot that down pretty quick.] Ken asked if I had cash, but I had none. Chuck refused to take a check.

I was about to call the police but it was time for the greatest act of passive-aggressiveness ever. Ken went upstairs and returned grimly clutching two Tootsie Roll banks. “Do you have any cash?” he confirmed with me, and I silently handed over two singles. I then watched my husband sloooowly count out eighteen dollars. In CHANGE. He asked for a Ziploc bag and the Gatorade, steeled his shoulders, and, supplies in hand, marched out to battle Chuck.

I don’t know what was said, only that Ken returned from battle with the Gatorade and no Ziploc bag. I commented on the Gatorade’s presence. Ken sat it down and solemnly informed me, “Chuck said, ‘Fuck your Gatorade.’”

“Well that’s just…” I didn’t get to finish my sentence. Ken was already gathering up his briefcase, ready to return to work.

And suddenly, I got it. The images from the day then coalesced into a final, larger picture. The dying fish, horny Butters, the decals on the van, the Tootsie Roll banks, the rejected Gatorade – all combined to make a portrait of a noble, brave husband slaying the dragon that was Mr. Dynamite.

Edited to Add:

ktw7q

This week brought to you by the letters W, T, F.

7 Nov

I don’t know if this is “better,” but remember how I wrote about the week where everything was bittersweet? Well, this week everything has been downright weird, to the point of surreal. I was leaving work the other night recounting one of this week’s incidents over the phone to a friend, when a security guard overheard me. I hung up as I signed out of the building and the security guard said, “Wow. You need your own reality show.”

So let’s recap the week of the weird.

Monday was one of my days off from work. I celebrated by dropping Daniel off at school and promptly falling back asleep in the guest room, despite my promises to myself that I would get stuff done. Around 11 or so, I heard Daniel running up and down the stairs and his little voice, talking to himself. I could even hear the swishing of his track pants. “Give me a minute, Danno, I’ll be up in a second,” I called. Then I stopped cold, remembering that he was in school. As I was remembering this, the little voice and the swishing pants continued running up and down the stairs. I grabbed the phone and called Ken at work. “When are you coming home?” I asked. “I don’t know, I’m fixing this machine and it’s going to take two to three hours to fix it,” he replied. “Why?” I lowered my voice and said “Something that’s Daniel but isn’t Daniel is in the house.” I was rolled away from the doorway, towards the wall, and heard the swishing track pants come in behind me. “What are you talking about? Daniel’s in school,” Ken replied. “I know!” I said. “It sounds like Daniel, but it’s not Daniel!” At that, whatever was behind me started crying really loudly, and angrily. “What the hell is that??” Ken asked. “It knows I know it’s not Daniel,” I said, squeezing my eyes as tightly closed as I could. I hung up and turned around to see what it was…

And that’s when I woke up. I was more jittery than a chihuahua on meth for the rest of the day. I hope it was a dream, but for the rest of the day, this was me:

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Tuesday: My birthday! Yay! But also Election Duty, booooo. Election Duty means a partner and I are assigned a ward or two in the city, tour a minimum of 20 precincts, check for shenanigans, and wait for the polls to close. We try to hit as many polling places as we can that have multiple precincts, and so our first stop was a school with 3 precincts voting inside. I go to the side table as my partner, the wonderful Brenda Gibbs, went to the middle table. We start with the same spiel: We’re from the State’s Attorney’s Office, any problems today? As soon as my table said “no,” I saw the look on Brenda’s face that clearly meant “PLZ HELP CRAZY TIMES”. (We’ve done Election Duty several times together and have developed these signals.) I walked over to the middle table, where one election judge has allegedly stabbed another with a pen. And the on duty police officer was shrugging his shoulders. We did not ascertain any stab wounds and left them in the capable hands of the police officer. The rest of Election Duty was calmer, aside from one precinct we had to visit three separate times to try to resolve issues. We usually get through Election Duty without filling out any incident reports. This time, we filled out three. Hooray.

And then it got even better. When I finally got home, the cat was meowing in a strange way. It wasn’t his usual “I’m hungry, feed me morons,” or even his indignant “I hate you people.” It sounded… almost… proud? My husband went down into the basement to investigate the food bowl and found a dead garter snake. We assume the cat killed it, but without an autopsy I can’t be sure. Now, normally in our house, my husband disposes of all the dead creatures that we stumble across, including the chipmunk that was definitely murdered by the cat. This time, despite it being my birthday, he informed me that he is actually terrified of snakes, even dead ones. Strangely, it didn’t bother me at all. I grabbed some paper towels, scooped up the dead snake, and folded the paper towels back over it. I then pretended to ‘toss’ the bundle at Ken. Apparently he wasn’t kidding when he said he is terrified of snakes and he screamed super loud, which I found hilarious. Anyway, I buried the snake in the backyard and finally went to bed.

I don’t think anything particularly weird happened on Wednesday, but I’m sure I’m just forgetting something or blocked it out. Or maybe the one-two punch of Election Duty and snake funerals was enough to carry over for Wednesday.

Thursday was my other day off. I dropped the dog off at the groomer’s and went out to see my mother-in-law. I encouraged her to join the group activity, which was a very modified version of Trivial Pursuit. Needless to say, we kicked some serious trivia ass together. The group leader decided the activity should conclude with everyone howling like wolves in honor of the full moon. Let me tell you, there is something indescribably weird about being in a room full of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and a few visitors howling. Repeatedly.

I don’t know about Gloria, but I definitely needed a break.

So I took her out for lunch and took her shopping at Target. I told her to pick out something for her room. This is what ended up in the cart:

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Mmmm… okay.

Picked dog up from groomer’s, picked up boy from parents, and was then informed that the turkey project was due the next day. You know, the turkey he brought home and we’re supposed to ‘disguise?’ Oh yeah Daniel, I totally remember you telling me about that. So I decided to help disguise the turkey by doing this:

turkeysweater

That’s right, I actually sat down and knit a tiny sweater for a paper turkey. And the whole time, I thought, “I can’t believe this is my life. I can’t believe this is what I’ve been reduced to.” I then hot glued the tiny sweater and the other accessories chosen by Daniel to the turkey, resulting in this:

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Behold, our magnificent creature.

I’m going to go ahead and guess no other kid has a turkey quite like ours.

Finally, today. I’ve had enough shenanigans to last me a while. I get to my office and, like always, it is freezing. I have previously threatened to set my garbage can on fire, solely to generate heat. My boss walked in to chat and said, “Holy cow! Why do you have it so cold in here?!” I told him I only wished we had individual thermostats. He walked right over to the heat register, opened up a panel I had never seen, and set the thermostat from “actively blowing out cold air” to “producing moderately semi-warm air, this room has high ceilings, what do you expect.” I would just like to point out that I have worked here for over four years and no one has ever shown me the secret thermostat panel before. I am peeved.

And I’m hoping I’m done with weirdness for the rest of the week, maybe even the month. Then again, since it’s my life, and the security guard had a good point, maybe I’ll be tapped for a reality show.

Existentialism Meets Special Needs Parenting

15 Oct

I don’t know when it was, exactly, that I first fell in love with philosophy, but I do remember how. I picked up a book called “Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy” by Jostein Gaarder. It must have been my junior year of high school, but maybe my senior year? Again, I don’t remember the ‘when’, just the ‘how.’ I devoured that book. The further into it I got, the less I understood, but I managed to digest a lot of the concepts, which served me well later in life. (Mostly college. I ended up helping teach my Intro to Philosophy course. Thanks, Sophie.)

Anyway, I know I had already finished the book by the time my senior year Theology class had “Existentialism Day,” because I know I was already familiar with the fundamentals of Kierkegaard (Hey fellow Dane!! Sorry about your broken engagement!) and Sartre. And I remember that some of the other students struggled with a concept that, intuitively, made sense to me. Even if I hadn’t read any philosophy at all, I completely understood what Jean-Paul meant when he said that by not choosing, he was making a choice. I remember my friend struggling with it. “But you’re not choosing, so you’re not making a choice!” “No,” I replied, “Your choice is not to choose.” I didn’t know how to make it any simpler or break it down any further – it just made sense to me. (We also really liked the “Hell is other people” quote, and we wrote that in each other’s yearbooks.)

And now I am paralyzed by Sartre’s truth- by not choosing, what choice am I making?

A couple of months ago, I went for a second opinion on the infertility. The doctor was actually very optimistic. He gave a variety of options, a variety of choices we could make, things we could do differently this time. I took the folder home to talk it over with Ken, and they recommended calling when my next period started so we could do another round of IVF. Our fourth.

And the folder has sat there since then. And, with each subsequent period, no phone calls have been made. I am not choosing to go forward with a fourth round, but I haven’t chosen not to. I have chosen not to choose. But is that narrowing our window? Is it diminishing our chances? Is not choosing the right choice? This is what I have been struggling with. On the one hand, this is our last, best hope for a child. Given the recent hospitalizations for depression, I don’t think adoption is a valid option anymore. Trying on our own has had no success after five years. If we’re going to have a baby, it’s going to have to be IVF. But am I prepared, emotionally, for a fourth failure? For the door closing for good?

So the folder continues to sit. I have chosen, for now, not to choose. But I worry what the consequences will be.

To be fair, some other things have also kept us busy in the meantime. I have one good update, and one not so good.

Good update: Gloria has transitioned to an assisted living facility solely dedicated to patients that need memory care. It’s a fabulous place. She is doing really well there, participating in the activities, helping the other residents, and the staff adore her. Thanks to my part-time schedule, I have been able to go out and visit her every week and bring her little presents. Last week I brought her a Hello Kitty doll dressed up for Halloween as a ballerina and she carried it all around the facility with her and snuggled with it as I tucked her in for a nap. I’m also really enjoying getting to know the other residents – Laughing Betty, who has a huge belly laugh for everything!, Singing Betty, who still knows all the words to Sinatra songs, and Mrs. McLeod, originally from Scotland and still has a thick brogue and is just sweet as can be. It didn’t really occur to me that I would enjoy going out there, but I do. And it’s even better when I bring Daniel – the residents follow him around like groupies! He is so sweet and patient with them and it warms my heart to see my child treat them with love and respect.

She may not look happy, but she's actually saying 'Cheeeeeese'

She may not look happy, but she’s actually saying ‘Cheeeeeese’

Which leads me to the not so good update. Daniel is still really struggling in school. On the recommendation of … I don’t remember who now…. I took him to a local facility that does evaluations for occupational and speech therapy. I don’t have the full results yet, but the occupational therapy evaluation showed significant delays. I was and wasn’t surprised. I knew Daniel had problems, but I was surprised as to the extent of them. The full report should give a better picture, but in the meantime, I’m beating myself up for not bringing him in sooner, for not noticing, for not doing everything I could right away from the beginning. But I kept telling myself things were fine, that he would outgrow his difficulties. But I have to face the reality – Daniel has special needs, Daniel has delays, and Daniel needs extra help.

And now I have to make another choice – do we keep him at the Catholic school he loves, with a teacher who understands him, a principal who adores him, and the friends he’s made, or do we switch him to the public school, where he can get an IEP and more resources and be closer to our house? I can only choose to not make a choice for so long. I have to figure out what’s best for my little guy, and Sartre and Kierkegaard are pretty silent on that subject.

I am focusing on the positives – he is thriving on the swim team, especially with his back stroke. He went to his first overnight Scout camp and got to fire a rifle (!), catch a fish, ride a horse, and play flashlight tag. He spent a recent day off from school snuggling in bed with me, reading my anniversary present – the complete Calvin and Hobbes collection. (I’m a little afraid he’s going to see it as an instruction manual.)

Hell is not other people. Hell is being responsible for another person and being paralyzed by choices for that person. It worked out well for Gloria. I have to have faith that it will for Daniel, too.

Our little Otter

Our little Otter

This kid and his ribs...

This kid and his ribs…

Baby we were born to run….

18 Sep

Oh this week, where do I even begin with you? Your ups and downs are really knocking me for a loop and it’s only Thursday.

I suppose I should start at the beginning, but to do that, we have to go further back than Sunday. We have to take your preferred time traveling device (Mr Peabody’s Wayback Machine or The Doctor’s TARDIS?) to almost four years ago. Set your chronometer for October 2, 2010.

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Look at this couple. They’ve just gotten married. They didn’t write their own vows and they didn’t go over the ceremony in detail with the minister ahead of time. They are a little bewildered right now, but they are pretty sure they just promised to love each other, for better or for worse, for the rest of their lives. They are confused by the time traveller now in their midst but they assure you that they are ridiculously happy and ready to face any challenge life will throw at them, and that they will face it together.

Rewind half an hour or so and listen to the minister’s speech. He tells them that perfect love not only casts out fear, it embraces it. Love conquers challenges together.

And so you, time traveler, you ask them the question I asked Ken this week: if I told you, now, the troubles you will face, the challenges you will go through, would you change your mind?

And we would respond the way Ken did this week: absolutely not. He would squeeze my hand, cast out fear, and we would forge ahead.

We have survived so much in less than four years. Joe’s death, our struggles to have a baby, Gloria’s dementia, my struggles with depression, and countless injuries and trips to the ER.

But we’ve had so many moments of happiness. We’ve gone to weddings of dear friends and had vacations with family. We have a dog and a house and a precocious 8 year old. We have had impromptu dance parties on our front porch, swaying in each other’s arms to ‘our’ song. Life has been both bitter and sweet. And man, has this week perfectly epitomized that.

Sunday was amazing. Two of my cousins are in town – a very rare occasion considering they both live in different continents. And Sunday they randomly called and asked us to go apple picking with them. Ken had already committed to helping with Gloria, but Daniel and I eagerly agreed.

We had a blast – picked a ton of apples, spent quality time with some of the people I love most in the world.

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buuuuut I also got stung by a bee, turning my hand into this:

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Can’t have the sweet without the sting.

Then, Tuesday morning was another bittersweet day. Ken and I went to the funeral of his coworker and friend. George was a legend – I can’t even begin to do him justice in attempting to describe him. Let’s just say, one year his Christmas card was him in a bathtub, full bubble bath, and ever-present cigar in his mouth. I adored George and his sudden death was hard for both of us.

Even harder was going to the gravesite. George is now at rest in the same cemetery as Joe, not too far from each other. I asked Ken to take me to Joe’s grave and we cleaned up a little around it, held hands, and cried.

And then the weirdest, funniest thing happened. We had been completely alone in that section of the cemetery and were surprised to see a car park directly behind ours. And we were even more surprised when a bagpiper, in full regalia, started walking towards us, warming up on his chanter.

Now when a bagpiper actually plays a song, it can be quite beautiful, even haunting. This guy was not doing that. He stood RIGHT BY US and let out the most awful set of shrieks and honks until his chanter was in tune. Ken and I looked at each other in disbelief, then collapsed with laughter. We are both convinced Joe saw us crying and said “None of that here!” We still cried, but it was the laughing so hard you’re crying tears. Thank you, Joe, if that was you. It certainly worked.

And then there was yesterday. My mother in law has degenerated very rapidly recently. She has become more combative, more difficult, and is not maintaining her hygiene. It is breaking all of our hearts, but the time has come for her to go somewhere where they can take better care of her. Ken and his siblings have looked at places and I think they’ve made a good choice. But it’s still so hard and we are struggling emotionally, with the process and the new reality.

Anyway, I went over there yesterday to watch her while some of the kids checked out some places. She had refused to shower the past few days, so I said I would try.

I ran a bath for her, put in lots of bubbles, and managed to coax her in the tub. She resisted at first, but eventually relaxed. As I washed her hair and scrubbed her back, I did what I always do when I’m in the shower: I sang.

Now, Gloria has frontotemporal dementia, verbal subtype. Her vocabulary, her ability to have a conversation, to express her basic needs, has been stolen from her. Which is why I cried when she sang right along with me, every dang word, to “You Are My Sunshine.”

I don’t know what all the rules are at the new place. Maybe I’ll be able to give her a bath again. But if not, that’s okay. That one was magic.

So hop back in your preferred time machine. Don’t tell that couple everything they will face. If they hear it all at once, it will break their hearts. But tell them again what the minister said – love casts out fear. It will be hard. Sometimes it will downright suck. But you will also have small moments of magic, to see you through. Most of all, you will have each other.

Now to explain the title of this post: I’ve always liked running to ‘Born to Run’ because I am weird like that. There is one line in particular that has always resonated with me and it sums things up so well. At one point, Bruce plaintively sings, “Together Wendy we can live with the sadness/I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul.”

Dear, darling husband, if you’re reading this, I know this week has been awful. I can’t promise to make it better, I can’t promise much at all, but I promise that I – and the magic – will always be here. And, with all the madness and sadness, we will cast out fear.

And we will not be signing Daniel up for bagpipe lessons.

On the nature of miracles

10 Aug

How many miracles can one person reasonably expect in their lifetime? Maybe we only get a certain allotment and once it’s done, that’s it. Maybe that’s the problem – maybe I burned through my miracle allowance without even realizing it.

Every month is awful when you have secondary infertility. Because as soon as your period is one minute late, a match of hope is struck in your darkest heart. You know the match will burn itself out, but you stare at it, willing it to keep burning with the force of your stubbornness alone. As 29 days turn into 30, and 30 into 31, the match turns into a candle. By Day 34, the candle is a torch and you’re thinking of baby names. Reason is screaming at you, throwing buckets on the flames. ‘You’re going to burn this place down!” it shouts. You ignore it, bolstered by the symptoms you’re now convinced are happening, conveniently forgetting that they’re the same as PMS symptoms.

The flame sustains itself on the oxygen of your belief in miracles. Don’t you, after all this pain and suffering, deserve one by now? Look at all these parents. Look at all these babies. They got their miracles, where’s yours?

And when the flame dies out, as it always does, you can’t get out of bed for a day. It’s just not fair.

Eventually, you drag yourself out of bed. You might even go for a run in a vain attempt to get rid of at least some of the excess fat from your three failed miracles.

And that’s where I was this morning, running around the pond and grumbling. Not fair, not fair, crap I’m fat, owwww charley horse, not fair.

The song ‘Everyday is a Winding Road’ comes on. I’m not sure what I was thinking, putting that in the playlist. That song has a very specific memory attached to it, and it’s not a good one.

The breeze increases as I increase my pace, as if I can run away from the memory. (Maybe that’s why I put it on there?) But that makes it worse. It’s May, 1997. My sister is driving the two of us home from high school. It must have been a Thursday, because we got out early. Sheryl Crow told us about the vending machine repairman and his daughter Easter as I dangled my hand out the passenger side window, catching the wind currents.

When we got home, we found out our oldest sister had given birth, but something went very, horribly wrong. The baby – a girl – was brain dead. My mother cautioned us not to get attached as we headed to the hospital.

I prayed like I’d never prayed before. I knew, I believed, that god could work miracles. Didn’t we deserve one? Couldn’t God work a miracle here and restore her brain function? I bargained – I would do anything and everything God asked – if he would grant us this.

Instead, my sister got worse. She turned yellow. They choppered her to another, better hospital. We almost lost her. It was touch and go for longer than I’d still care to admit. She pulled through, the baby did not.

Today, I sat on my porch, guzzling water and rubbing my aching calf, and thought about all this. About praying for one miracle and not realizing until years later that we got another one entirely.

It’s still not fair – I don’t think it should be a quid pro quo situation, I don’t think there should be a lifetime limit. But I do need to stop and remember – just because you didn’t get the specific miracle you asked for doesn’t mean you didn’t get any.

According to the doctors, I should have never been able to get pregnant at all. Ever. According to Daniel’s biological father, I should have never been able to find anyone else to love me, let alone marry me. And I was walking out of the pet shelter, no dog at all, when Benny caught the corner of my eye.

Maybe I’m being greedy for wanting just one more. But, until I figure out how to get it, I’ll remember to thank whatever powers that be for the ones I have.

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Recovering

1 May

So… I’m not sure the best way, or of even a good way, to preface this. A lot of water metaphors are coming up, so I’ll pick the cliche and apologize: I’m going to dive right in and talk about my depression.

I first remember noticing the black cloud when I was about 11 years old. I was in seventh grade, I was constantly teased, and I thought about suicide. Not in a concrete, I’m going to do it, kind of way, but in an abstract vague sort of knowing. Knowing that other people had done it, that it was an option, and that sometimes it looked like a pretty attractive option.

The black cloud never really went away. It hovered at the edge of the horizon, ready to rain down a bunch of bad thoughts at the slightest provocation. You’re a bad person. You’re not good enough. You will never be happy. It stalked me throughout my teens, always hanging there, making me miserable.

In college it was worse. I let the cloud open and flood over me. The friends I did have I drove away, conveniently reinforcing the ‘nobody likes you’ thoughts.

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This guy knows what I’m talking about.

Over the years, I tried lots of things to make it go away. Therapy. Meds. And, sometimes, it works. I will go a full day without hating myself. I will enjoy life.

It will be quiet for a while, but it always comes back. And, for some reason, the months of February and March are always the worst. Maybe leftover traces of my Viking DNA are just preconditioned to be miserable those months. In Scandinavia, it feels like winter will never end.

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And then this guy wants to play chess and it’s really awkward.

So, anyway, the main point. These past few months – February, March, and even April – I’ve been drowning. The black clouds have been raining furiously. I’ve been sick – ear infection, upper respiratory infection, sinus infection. I’ve been sad about the no-baby situation, the mother-in-law situation, and still the father-in-law situation. I’ve had a hard time focusing. I’ve been grumpy and miserable.

I knew the clouds were coming, though. I saw them on the horizon, clear as could be. And so I did storm preparation. I talked to my doctor. I tried to take care of myself. I did things that made me happy.

And, the reason I’m writing this now, is to remind myself – it worked. I was still a good mother, spending lots of quality time with Danny. I worked really hard at both of my jobs and got lots of praise and high marks at the one. I am leaving for Australia two weeks from tomorrow. I made it! I have surfaced!

So, I want to remind myself, and anyone else who struggles with the same storms I do: you can do it. You can keep your head above water. You have people who care about you. You are still a good parent. Spring will come.

Now I’m going to sit on my porch with some lemonade and my dog. It’s going to be all right. And if you’re having any trouble with the black clouds, come sit with me and we’ll fight them. Together.

Edited To Add: shortly after I published this, a friend shared the following on Facebook. Coincidence, but a really relevant one. Thanks, Joe.
http://i.imgur.com/l7JquYD.jpg

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