Take Us Home 

There’s a lyric that goes, “Worked out that I’ve probably made a mistake for everything I’ve done right.”  That would be me, though honestly? probably the scales lean even more toward the mistake side than the side of right.

Fourteen years ago today I did something really right though.  Before we were four, or even three, we were two.


We got serious quickly, Tom and me.  I can remember as if it were last week, standing in the hallway at his old house saying to him that I hoped we would be lucky enough to have kids, specifically to have boys, because the world needed more solid, decent men like him in it. That I couldn’t wait to make us a party of three.  I was wearing my denim bib shortalls, a red tee underneath, and my pink “Life is Good” baseball cap (it was sixteen years ago, you can check your fashion files–it’s all good, yo).

I didn’t have to wait long for that at all.  Sometimes dreams do come true.

At alternate turns, reality surpasses anything you could dream in your wildest imaginings.  You never dream what fourteen years down the road looks like.  You don’t dream that your kitchen window would remain uncased nearly a year after the kitchen remodel was “done.”  You don’t dream of cleaning up the vomit your dopey rescue dog launched after he destroyed the carpeting back onto that same now un-carpeted spot.  You don’t dream of seeing your spouse randomly in passing most nights between the shuffle of piano lessons, school activities, doctor appointments and baseball practices (and with your vision failing at every turn, you barely actually see anything anymore!).  You surely don’t dream that your son gets tagged with a progressive, neurological disease, and you never dream that you become a reluctant advocate and fundraiser for MD, but you manage to help raise over $5,000.

But now?  I couldn’t dream of any other life but this one (minus the dog vomit part, obviously, and the MD which still, yeah).

You do dream that your children become productive stewards unto the world, and you help them get there through volunteerism, service, and kindness. Check. You do dream that you can send your kid on his big class trip, and that he returns a changed young man.  Check.  You do dream that your kid who loves sports of all sorts blasts another homer over the fence, and that he is humble about that feat when his cleats return to stomp on home plate.  Check.  You dream that you have enough to give your children more than you believed you had at that same age.  You float fuzzy visions that you’re happy, whatever happy means to you at the time.  And you are.

You find just the right lyrics to capture how you feel on your fourteenth wedding anniversary:

We’re forever, you and me.  The sun will show us where to go.  Love will give us heart and soul, and take us home.

Home. Happy Anniversary to us.

You’re My White Barack And Michelle

A cool thing about having become a mother at an advanced maternal age (their term, not mine–thanks a whole load, American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology) is having gotten to know people across age, race, and financial spectra.  My children attend a city public school, and despite their school being in a so-called “good area,” the majority of its students would still qualify for free lunch.  Free or reduced lunch designation = low income and/or poverty status, for anyone not in the know or not employed in public schools.  In what is one the more hilarious, ironic statements I’ll ever write:  We are an affluent family in our school district.

I appreciate that my kids’ classmates come to school from across the city and around the globe, and I can honestly say that I enjoy the company of the parents of each of my children’s friends.  This post though is specifically about my little kid’s best friend and his mom.

I’m no dummy, but E and his mom are brilliant, like freaky smart the two of them are.  My little guy and her E met on the first day of four-year-old kindergarten, and have been fast friends from that day.  They’re dudes–Dude!  And Duuuuude.  And Dude??  They write each other the coolest BFF birthday card notes, they battle Pokémon til the wee hours of their sleepovers, and together they took second place in the district science fair last year. Teamwork and BFF-dom, yo.  (But really it’s her scientist’s brain and E’s insane meta-thinking skills that took the science fair. My child inherited a language-based influence from his x-chromosome genetic contributor; I’m not known for my sciencing).

She’s a genius whose brain is constantly pinging with her next masterwork.  Being a scientist pays the bills, but she’s the rare scientific artist: a creative.  Covered in tattoos, she’s sewing or sculpting animal bones into works of art, baking pies and cakes so beautiful you don’t dare slice, or preparing dishes for the weekend’s pop-up restaurant.  She’s a feminist who bleeds social justice and Black Lives Matter and loves death metal.  In her youth, she escaped the Midwest and has lived on both coasts and metropoles in between.

She’s lots of things I’m not, and I’m not saying that in the way of wishing I were any other me but right-now-today me, or more like her.  She’s perfectly weird in her way, as am I.  I think it’s biologically possible that I could be her mother–she’s maybe 15 years younger than me??  She’s crammed a whole world of experiences into those years, and I feel fortunate she landed back here to raise her son.  I’m certain that were it not for our children, we’d not have met otherwise.

I’m her “old” friend.  I’m her son’s emergency contact card mom, text-me-at-the-last- minute to pick him up friend.  I’m her long-ish term happily married friend.

She came to pick up E on a recent Saturday morning, and as we often do, we sit and talk for about an hour or two longer than either of us intend.  Our conversations cover all of the above, none of the above and are sometimes silly, sometimes intense.  She’s opinionated and open to debate and discussion, and also reflective.  We talk a lot about relationships. She’s a badass single parent raising a pretty incredible kid.  I’m the more mainstream middle-aged, committed, livin’ the mortgage-holding-two cars-two-kids-and-a-dog dream.  “You are my white Barack and Michelle” she proclaimed.

Her inauguration of us made me laugh.  A lot at first, but from her it’s really a terrific compliment.  I’ll take it.  If her ideal couple is the current POTUS/FLOTUS duo– scholarly, just, eloquent–and I’m even included in the same thought process?  I’ll take it.

Fixer Upper

Dear Everyone Who Thinks I am a Giant Asshole Right Now,

You’re right.  I am.  I want not to be, but at the same time I want to be left alone.  Catch me between the hours of 7:45-4:30 Monday-Friday, and you’ll meet with the Wendy that everyone wants and/or needs me to be.  About 30 seconds after I return home though, I’m a slight variant of daytime WW.  I am trying as hard as I possibly freaking can to be the best mom I know how to be.  ESPECIALLY after last week’s revelation, I am trying as hard as I possibly can to be the best wife I know how to be.  Those two roles are the roles absolutely most critical to those most critical to me, and with renewed purpose, I have thrown myself in the best way I know how.  Having said that, I know even my very best attempts will still be grossly inadequate for those boys I love so.  My husband and my children need and deserve the best I can muster, so I am family-focused, but that doesn’t leave room for much else these days.

It was pointed out to me recently that since it’s been a year, I should be much more accepting of my son’s MD by now and move forward.  Really?  F-you.  I love how people who are not me feel free scripting my emotions for me.  Thanks, but I got this.  I don’t have this well, but I’ve got something and it’s mine.  Family, friends, Romans, countrymen–I love you and need you no less than ever, even more probably, but you won’t know it because I won’t tell you.  I have built a shell of sorts, a little fort, a safe-harbor for me.  My fort is teeny-tiny though, leaving little room for anything much after 4:30, unless I choose differently.  I know this is a tad egocentric (a tad, Wendy?), but this week of revelations showed me yet another thing I hadn’t recognized in myself–once I’m off the clock, I want what I want when I want it, and only on my terms, which is not fair to those who don’t want to deal with my inner toddler.  I suspect my co-workers would suggest that I want what I want when I want it applies at the office too, and they’d be correct, but it’s to a lesser degree and (I believe) for the greater good of our speech-language pathologists.  I like my fort though, and it fits me well.  But it fits only me.  Someday, I’m told, I will regret my hibernation period.  I pretty much already know it, but today that doesn’t change my want to hunker down.

This week was an unusual one for me–it wasn’t BAD–it wasn’t, just unusual, so please watch your step as you continue with me on this week’s strange, disconnected journey.

Last June I wrote about my favorite color.  The kids and I were packing up for this week’s piano lessons when my big kid called my attention to the sky.  It was magnificent.  My iPhone’s camera could never do it justice, but the swaths of pink, orange, purple and blue shading the evening clouds were breathtaking.  Equally spectacular was to know that my son noticed the sky, and that he gets that from ME!  My kid gets nothing whatsoever from his mother (beyond his intellect, obviously!! hahahahahaha), and often he is an island much like I am right now.  Hmmmm.  His noticing the sky meant that he does listen to me, that he does pay attention to the little things sometimes.  I wept just a little as I tried to capture the moment, even though I knew that cameras never quite can.

The sky presented quite a gift to us last week

You know how when you moved into your new house, you swore you could NOT live with that awful kitchen, and then 12 years later you still have that awful kitchen?  Yeah.  Well, we finally decided that 2016 is the year of the kitchen remodel project.  We spent two evenings this week meeting kitchen contractors, touring showrooms and granite galleries, and you know what stands out most?  Realizing that our future kitchen layout will be designed with our son’s future in mind.  His hips and shoulders are already weakened, so we’ll want to consider appliance placement into our design plans (well we don’t WANT to, but we will because we are not giant assholes all the time and our child is like one of the more important people to us ever, top 3 for sure).  Our oven will end up being a wall mount at mid-level to avoid lifting heavy pans up or down.  Same with the microwave–it won’t be mounted above the cooktop or set low to make accessibility easier for him.  Probably no one cries at kitchen design meetings–tears are saved for when the estimates arrive and you realize there is no way you can afford this!–and I didn’t cry either.  But I did brood for awhile afterward, not gonna lie about that one.  Sometime in 2016, behind those stone walls you see above will be a brand new kitchen.  Oh, how I’ll miss that sunflower wallpaper border and navy blue/clear glass and brass light fixture.  No.  No, I won’t.  It’s awful, really it’s just awful.

One of my not-resolutions for this year was to be more direct, and toward that end, I attempted to be direct with someone in my world of work.  It didn’t go so well, not that I expected it to, but I tried and will try again.  Unusual week event #392 occurred Friday as I was direct (in that I didn’t completely avoid it, which I really wanted to) and completed my son’s MDA camp application.  It took a considerable amount of time, and every time I checked a box, what I would have much preferred was to have closed out the webpage and cranked up my iPod.  At some point midway, our server went down at work, and I actually felt a wave of relief (I’m such a chickenshit) when I couldn’t proceed.  But I did, and I am glad I did something in a direct manner, however unusual it was for this first-timer.

I even posted on Facebook that I did the application which felt like a huge reveal.  I’m sure if you read this blog, you wonder how I can have verbal diarrhea here, yet hold things more closely there–can’t explain it myself.  Different writing vehicles, different purpose, different audience.  It’s easier to write here because blogging here is like dropping off a package.  I hit publish and I’m done, the package arrives on your doorstep.  Ding-dong.  I don’t see your face as you open it, and I don’t even know who’s doing the unwrapping.  Do you like it?  Does it fit?  Is it the right color?  Are you amused or bored with this post or that one?  Am I a self-indulgent egomaniac or a messenger you want to hear from again?  Here I don’t know which.  Facebook is immediate, and I know everyone there.  Here I can write about MD as often as I want–it’s my essential purpose as a blogger.  There I get the message that I need to move forward and that I’m selfish.  I’m not even suggesting those things are untrue, but what do I do?  I hang out in my fort, my little fixer-upper, its dream kitchen furnished with stuff in just the right places.  I like it here; right now it feels like home.

 

Don’t I Know You?

Some years ago, there was an enormous marketing campaign around the Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus publications.  The book, its many companion volumes and spinoffs, and underlying “philosophy” if you will, permeated pop culture.  I never read one word of any of it, but I understood that “men and women are different” was the guiding tenet.  During the Mars/Venus zenith, I was married to someone who treated me worse than I’d imagined a human husband could or would, and I recall having that original Mars/Venus book on my nightstand.  I remember thinking that maybe if I read the book, I’d salvage something out of the marriage, you know, I’d “make it work.”  Bah.  That book was probably still on the nightstand when I left, its binding never so much as cracked.  “Making it work” meant saving myself, literally and figuratively, so I left.  Saving me was the wisest, hardest thing I’ve ever done.

When I say that music and songs save me, I sometimes mean that quite literally too–

The bravest thing I’ve ever done
Was to run away and hide
But not this time, not this time
And the weakest thing I’ve ever done
Was to stay right by your side
Just like this time, and every time
I couldn’t tell you I was happy when you were gone
So I lied and said that I missed you when we were apart
I couldn’t tell you, so I had to lead you on
But I didn’t mean to break your heart

And if I always seem distracted
Like my mind’s somewhere else
That’s because it’s true, yes it’s true

I digress.  I’m not going to revisit my first marriage or the Mars/Venus texts any further, but the interplanetary distance between X and Y analogy leapt to mind this weekend.  Men and women are different.  There’s a news flash right there, people, and you don’t need a book to know it.

My husband has little idea how hard our son’s MD diagnosis has hit me.  While I’m grateful that it seems to affect my husband’s day-to-day functioning a billionfold less than it’s affected mine, sometimes I feel we are out of sync.  It’s not that I think he doesn’t care; I’m not sure he’s even aware that I’m dancing as fast as I can as I sit like a lump crushing candy or firing off sassy messages on my phone.  The things that get me moving out of bed–my friendships, music, concerts, cracking wise, writing this blog–he doesn’t get those things the way I do.  He doesn’t get Ulta retail therapy.  He doesn’t get that our house is a physical fucking disaster area, and I want to care, but wanting doesn’t make it so.  Wanting doesn’t produce drive in me these days.  He doesn’t get me right now, and it hurts.

Guess what?  I don’t get him either.  A full year into our after, we haven’t much talked about it.  I talk about it ALL THE TIME, as you know, dear readers.  This forum is where my conversations land.  I don’t actually talk-talk about it often with the only other person on the planet as invested in this as me.  WE don’t talk about it, and what a shocking, sad realization it was to have.  Shame on me.  My husband’s survival strategies and mental health mechanisms are not the same as mine.  I thought he was fine.  I was actually a little–I don’t know what, jealous?, not quite that–that he was lucky to be handling the diagnosis so much better than I was.  I was so wrong.  He’s handling it differently, that’s all.  He’s wounded too, and I knew that he was, really I did.  I’m somewhat egocentric, but I am not that terrible an observer or wife to think he was all “whatevs.”

Between work and work around the house and baseball and school council duties and piano lessons and sleepovers and paying the bills and doing laundry and shopping for groceries and homework and orthodontist appointments and, and, and, and. . .  I committed a heinous marriage crime:  I made assumptions and I took my husband for granted.  I assumed that since he doesn’t talk about it that he was just fine (you know how I hate the word “just” in some contexts).  There are days I see my husband between 5:45-6:40 AM and again around 9:00 at night.  This is not an unusual family status when children are involved in activities, I get that.  I didn’t think there was anything you could do about it though, that it just is.  But it just can’t.  It shouldn’t be a ha-ha joke to say “See you tonight if I’m still awake” with any degree of regularity.

But for the first few months after, I (think I) have presented myself as a fully-functional person.  I look quite the same on the outside, but I hurt inside.  I physically ache some days when I close my eyes and stay still.  This is not some analogous picture painted with words:  Some days my insides HURT when I think about it.  And now I hurt because my husband hurts, and I’d do anything for him not to.  I’d take it all for us both if I could, I would.  Some days the thought of going to work is so overwhelming, I can’t even.  Yet I do.  Some days I get to work, and I don’t talk because I can’t, because what I really want is to idle and/or cry myself into unconsciousness; not talking seems a more acceptable workplace solution.  Some days the line between keeping my shit together and plummeting down that rabbit hole is but a hairsbreadth, and I can feel an external force wrench me–two fists bunched up in my shirt yanking me forward out of my chair, and shoving me down, down.  Yet I get up.

Maybe I’m ready to admit I’m in over my head.  But if I keep getting up, and (I think) I’m still laughing and singing on the outside, and I’m still an engaged, aware parent, am I truly DSM-V depressed?  Maybe?  Probably not?  I think what is paramount right now, today is to be more tuned in, maybe more willing to ask and actually hear the answer to the hardest question I know right now:  “How are you?”