Friday, August 28, 2009

Spring and Then Falling

There are no seasons here. Here, we mark the passage of time by sports and visitation rights.

T's baseball and more baseball and track and regional track and play dates and sleepovers and me biking and some bike races and more baseball practice and baseball games and somehow May slurs into June.

More baseball, biking, a bike crash on my head. T's graduation from third grade, end of the year parties, goodbyes with best friends, sleepovers, play dates, swimming pools, cousins, state track and then All Stars and maybe track nationals but there would be no nationals because he is .2 seconds too slow, and there would be no All Stars because there is visitation looming.

T says one morning: "It is like we just woke up one day and the snow was hardly melted and the rain had hardly stopped and now it's about to be sunny and nice and I have to go to California."

EndGrade 3.
End baseball.
End track.

6 weeks of summer visitation.
June 26, 2009 at 9 a.m.

Neither of us are ready for it and on the way to the airport that day my nine year old baby cries and asks: "but why can't I have a vacation with you momma, why can't I stay and play with my team in the All Stars? Why can't I stay here?"

We try our best to hold one another tight those last few nights. We also cry and we also dance and we also sing and all the while we try to make the most of every moment and yet just keep on living life and some other bullshit lines I feed him.

And then it still finally comes, that anticipated day at the end of June, and T goes to California and I cry half the way home and then we both put our happy faces on and we just do it, because as T says: "it's really all you can do, isn't it, Momma?"


Three weeks (in to visitation):
I catch up at work for the first time...ever. I hold my friend's babies and make them laugh. I ride and race and laugh and camp in the middle of nowhere. I stay up late and sleep in and ride my bike everywhere in between. I am in the middle of some woods with a man I always loved and yet suddenly I find myself looking very differently at. And then, just as quickly as he appears, he leaves; turns around for a goodbye kiss that lingers somehow: sweet anticipation, wonder and intense longing; just a thousand two hundred miles, in the opposite direction.

Then I am in sunny California, on the beach with my kid, he buries me in the sand and me him. Five days, just T and me, holding one another, laughing, running, eating, movies, snuggling while he cries big, confused alligator tears.

Four weeks (in to visitation):
I have no clue what my kid is doing or who is caring for him because they won't tell me and this fact, it sneaks up on me in the strangest moments, makes my heart lurch, my stomach flip in a pukey sort of way. I stop listening to NPR. I stop with the radio. It all scares me, keeps me up at night.

Five weeks (in to visitation):
I am on my bike a full week. I pedal away my lonely, pedal away my summer, pedal away my angst, pedal and sneak away to call that guy from the woods, hide at the corner of tiny towns to steal a few minutes on the phone with my kid.

I pedal. Escape. I love love every single second of the laughter, the reconnection, the remembering who I am, without him.
It is such simple solitude, happiness revealed again. Oh how long it's been.
Ten years, July 29. Ten, to be precise.

Six weeks (in to visitation):
I am again in sunny California, I bring him home...but yet at the same time, I drag a perpetual stranger into my home. My baby who left nine years old and returned 10.

My baby. My kid. A Stranger.

Six days (post visitation):
He spews forth atrocities from the mouths of his other parents and I ensue six days of hell, hold it together with duct tape while he parrots: she said this, my dad said this...none of it anything good or noble or true or productive and all of it about me; bad, bad terrible me and T constantly asks: "why momma? why?"

Seven days (post visitation):
There is another visit. Here, or around here.

My people swoop in and save me...again. They provide their beautiful baby to snuggle, ears, a bed, hand-crafted meals, and laughter and gorging on food eating and sleep and recharging for another week.

Ten days (post summer visitation, one day post weekend visitation):
My grandma is dying or pretending to die, two hours a day of tackle football and then school and me busier at work than I've been in a year. There is trying to stuff a little man into big man's football attire. There is laughing our butts off at this phenomenon and yet at the same time I drive him there to drop him off wholly unable to shake this feeling like I've lost him somehow, that my baby is just plain and simply, gone.

Last night (Two weeks six days, post summer visitation /12 days post weekend visitation):
I am caught in a meeting south of town. He is east of town. Practice is west of town. His uniform? In the dryer in the middle of town. I find him, help dress him in his crazy padded armor and we are both nervous and anxious about the time as I drive him there to drop him off and we both don't say it but we both know he's going to be late and he's going to have to do push ups and as we sit there at the last stop light I finally say: "I'm sorry, baby. I'm so sorry buddy."

He turns to me and he says: "Don't worry momma, if I have to do push ups I'll do push ups, and I have to do sit ups, I'll do sit ups and it's not that big of a deal." He adds, "I know you're doing the best you can and you had to work I love you momma," he says, and then he jumps from the back seat of the car and he sprints to the huddle.

I pull around the corner, on my way to buy supplies for his 10th birthday party, only one month late because of summer visitation and weekend visitation and school and football practices and football pictures and I pull over, tears finally brimming over, unable to drive.


He's not totally gone and I know this. Ten years is a little more than half way to 18 years, which on some level makes us only half way there. And even then, I'm told, you don't stop worrying, you don't move on. Your work is never done.

He also likes to remind me that no matter what, he'll never leave me, my house...even when he's in college.

And even now, luckily, he still wants me there watching him, listening, cheering him on, but instead of protecting him, his body, cultivating his personality, his manners, and tending to his every need I now watch others teach him to throw his body on the line. I hear about his manners when others report back. I note more often than not he feels the overwhelming need to protect me now, instead of me protecting him.

Time in those earlier years, it crept by...marked by hours gained and lost of sleep, a new tooth, a poop in a big boy toilet, a bonk to the head, another night's lost sleep, a nightmare, monsters in the closet. Time no longer comes in chunks and pieces though, it is wholly liquid; time is also no longer marked by what I can provide him in a moment, an hour, a month.

It is instead marked by his choices, his desires, his passions, him carefully crafting his own passions, desires, flight.

Each hurried morning this occurs to me anew as I stumble cold and naked from the shower: I've lost him here too. As of this past visitation, he no longer sits, perched on the stool, chatting me up while I rush to comb my hair, brush my teeth.

He's downstairs now, letting the dogs out, feeding them, pouring Frosted Flakes and milk all over the kitchen counter and floor, and then shhhh-ing me as he watches SportsCenter, catching up on his teams from the night before.

I dreamed of this, I wanted this, I never thought I'd see felt so endless, the shitty diapers, the incessent ear infections, hospital visits, the puking in my bed, the skinned knees, the learning to ride a bike, the first everythings with no one there to share them, the temper tantrums in Target, the quest for a single poop in solitude. The gradual breaking away of two of us, doing and being everything together, our identities inexplicably intertwined.

Yet he's much too quickly become the big kid I'd dreamed he'd be, and I wonder in my moments of increasing solitude, really, just what I'll do with myself when he just as quickly, becomes that man, who I will become, and with whom I'll share my nights, my days.

In the meantime, I drink up this time with my growing like crazy little man; wide-eyed, a little nervous and somewhat road weary.

I try my best to properly mourn the time slipping by, stay present in each moment, while at the same time....for the first time, I look forward with hope, for the two separate people we'll become grown apart from one another: glimpses apart marked with equal parts of hope together, loneliness and sweet anticipation. The next steps.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

T Says...

I dropped T off at the parents the other night so I could enjoy the final night of the fair/Journey/Heart with my girls. As I pulled into the driveway T says:

"Well, wish me luck mom. Apparently tonight's the night I am gonna put Grandma on Facebook!"

I turn. Look at him wild eyed and burst out laughing: "Really?" I ask, "You know she can hardly turn on the computer by herself, right?"

"Yep, and that's why I'm gonna help," he says.

I hadn't yet reached the parking lot to the fair grounds, and there it was...a friend request from my mother. I burst out laughing, marveled at the last bit of my privacy and secret social world, crumbling beneath me, accepted.

The next day I told T he did some quick work, I was amazed.

"Only took five minutes," he said. "Except she's kind of a difficult student. She still has no idea what she's doing and wouldn't take many instructions. She's going to take some more work."

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Pic credit....

Pic was lifted from my buddy Squirrel, he snapped it during his morning ride to work today. It's lovely around these parts...especially this time of year. Don't forget it.

Friday, August 14, 2009

One Step Forward...Two Steps Back

It was only fitting, that the Springsteen song, "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back," was the one playing on the radio when T and I returned to our car following our brief visit. We took the long way home, rain clouds billowing in the face of the setting sun; both of us largely silent and yet hunting for rainbows through torrential downpour and a magnificent sunset.

What was this, the fourth or fifth time we came here; the place my Grandpa, T's Great Grandpa, affectionately refers to as 'The Wrinkle Village' thinking it may be the last, the final time we see our ailing Grandma, and say goodbye?

And yet, we leave: empty, hallow, acid alive in the pit of my guts. It doesn't, it didn't feel like goodbye, not yet. There is still hope. Scattered, misplaced, torturous and yet even wholly horribly and inevitably wrong...hope.

The veins in Grandma's hands are black, blue and a thousand shades of purple, her collar bones fully visible beneath tissue paper skin. Her favorite color, purple, dots her skin practically everywhere; a cruel reminder of countless needles poking, rough hands moving her places her depleted body can no longer find.

Her legs adorn some kind of compression bandage, to shield the gaping wounds beneath from the gentle breeze of recycled air or the legs of those caretakers who move her. Her legs are now smaller than my arms; they dangle there and the bandages fall to her ankles like a pair of oversized pants missing their drawstring.

She became a prisoner inside her broken body years ago, and just when she thinks it cannot get much worse, it seems to. And yet, all 100 broken pounds of her, and each and every part of her brilliantly unaffected mind... hang on.

Another breath.
Another minute.
Another hour.
Another day.
Another night.

Another round of long needles shoved into her lung, another patch of narcotics to her chest, another visit, another gulp of Sprite.

In the course of a week, there was an impending feeling of doom and gloom, her thinking her body was finally done, a hospital stay, some wayward blood clots overtaking parts of her body, fluids drained, fluids gained, a weight loss putting her down to around 100 skinny, brittle pounds.

There was also an erratic transfer that left her shoulder dislocated, a flurry of activity in subsequent transfers that left her crying in pain.

Those around her winced almost in unision; wishing, tearful, and fearful, and yet not having a clue what could be done differently, better.

They left her there at that hospital for a few days, drugged up silly, until she was hallucinating so bad in all her proper ways, she finally called a nurse a big bitch. I secretly hope she wasn't hallucinating, that she finally just said, in her own way, "enough."

At least to one person.

The next day when my mom, her sisters and brother had a lag in their shifts at her bedside, the hospital people packed her shit, called her nursing home and discharged her.

When T and I saw her there the next day, thinking it was good bye, I braced myself.

I was ready for goodbye, in whatever clumsy and wayward way one chooses words for that...good bye.

Except when I saw her chest rising, falling in rhythm with that machine, vitals improving, eyes closed in restful sleep, somehow hope floated up.

"Grandma, I think I need to bring you a big fat steak," I said.

She smiled.
My mother winced.
My child giggled.

"You trying to fatten me up?" she asked.

"I think someone needs to!"

We sat there like that awhile, short conversations between her cat naps. Each time she awoke, she seemed happy to find us there, almost like she just woke up and there we were, all over again.

One foot full of sores and swollen beyond measure, covered in socks, the other a sock, but then a Croc, hanging off her foot.

"Grandma, can I take your shoe off for you?" T asked.

"Sure," she replies, again, a small smile at the sweet gesture coming her way, four generations out.

T bends down, so careful he could pick a bug off her toe without her feeling, removes that shoe...tucks it somewhere beneath her chair.

He climbs back into my lap, wants to be held, his butt bones jamming into my thighs.

My mother chatters uselessly, I look at a few pictures, T looks for the nursing home puppy; therapy on four legs, wandering through the halls.

We sit in silence at once.
Great Grandma, Grandma, Me, My child.

Great Grandma's labored breaths, in and out, her chest falling peacefully.
Another breath, another hour, another day.

Four generations there together, not quite ready for goodbye.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Kid's Funny

We drove the six blocks to my parents this a.m., both of us in a sleep induced haze. We overslept. We tag teamed the dog duties, made it out of the house in 10 minutes flat.

Approximately three blocks from our house and three blocks from my parents' house, on a little known side street, a man pulled from the local hospital's parking lot, directly into my path and nearly t-boned me.

I slammed on the brakes. Honked the horn.

"Holy moly Grandpa, where you going?" I asked, to no one in particular.

T responds: Apparently he was trying to go right into you!

Me: Apparently he should not be driving.

T responds: Oh cut him some slack, mama, after all he is BLIND!