Golden

It’s my big kid’s golden birthday. He’s fourteen on the 14th.  He hung on to life on the inside nine days longer than expected, that giant baby did. I was a house, no, I was an estate by the time he decided to make his way. He was worth every second of that extra nine days’ wait. Happy birthday, my son.

You’ve had quite a run here these last few weeks. In no other place I know, eighth grade students face the immense pressure of getting into a “good” high school.  You vie for “golden tickets” for open houses at the “good” schools, complete online applications, audition, request letters of recommendation, draft essays, and wait in a block-long line to get a space for the formal test.  I don’t recall having done this much groundwork for university matriculation, and I got a really sweet scholarship. The pressures you and your classmates face should be found only in a dystopian work of fiction.  Growing up anywhere else in the world, you’d go to the school nearest your home in the city you live.

You admitted nerves, but you conquered them with persistence. You felt unprepared, but you proved that showing up is half the battle.  I’m proud of you.

Now you wait.  Letters of acceptance arrive in December, and our family’s future hinges on what you read in that mailing.  (Friends, if you’re reading this thinking I’m chock full o’ my usual hyperbole, know that in this case I speak the level truth.) Number 1 and Number 2 choices are solid–I know you’ve got the heart of Husky, but you could be a General too, and that would be OK.   But you were under-impressed by the Owls, and choices four and five simply aren’t choices.  One and two mean we stay; any other return means we go.  We move to another city.  That’s OK.  We’re prepared to do whatever we need to do for you and your brother.

There are days I don’t know what I want to see revealed in that acceptance letter (OK, I WANT choice #1).  I’ve never in my adult live envisioned living outside the city, but would the ‘burbs really be so bad?  Not bad, but not me.  Not us.  Maybe they’ll fit perfectly.  Maybe not.

Wait, this is about you, YOU my boy.  It’s your birthday.  I’ve wondered what to get you, what kind of material gift to give you.  You give away very little, but you let me in on a little secret Monday, and I feel though it’s your birthday,  I received a little becoming-a-mom-day gift from you, and you don’t even know it.

I nag on ya for spending all this time staring at your phone, earbuds ever-present to the point of appearing surgically implanted.  You’re a YouTube zombie–you don’t even hear me when I yell at the top of my lungs for you (and I’m no delicate little flower), and no matter how many times I crab at ya for blasting your music too loud, you don’t seem to heed the lesson.  Neither did I.  Which explains a lot about why my hearing thresholds are what they are today, and though I wish to serve as your cautionary tale, I’ve come to realize that you do have a little bit of your mom’s heart beating inside your own.

Eighth grade me was not skinny or popular or beautiful.  It shouldn’t matter when you’re fourteen, but it does.  I was not confident.  Or cool.  I was hiding inside my room in the dark, trying to figure out just what the hell I was. I was first chair in band.  I was the middle school salutatorian.  I was reliable and dependable. I was the fastest girl sprinter in my middle school. I was everybody’s friend, which was freaking awesome. I got to do a lot, I guess, but I didn’t believe any of that at the time.  I felt never good enough.  I mistrusted every accomplishment as dumb luck, and deflected any positive comment cast my way.

Middle school is a labyrinth of all the unkindest cuts, and I bled.  Wound care was administered in my headphones.  Music was my solace.  LOUD music, the bass thumping so loud that the headphones quite literally bounced off my head.  So loud you could sing along from downstairs.  Lying on my bedroom floor, wrecking the shit out of my hearing despite your grandparents’ strongest protestations, I found me.

And I think maybe you have found yourself.  You’re finding yourself anyway.

I learned this week that all your time isn’t in fact spent watching banal, inane YouTubers riffing video games or opening Pokemon cards.  You’re listening.  You’re picking songs I loved when I was your age when the ancient version of your earbuds (my headphones) were eternally attached around my head.  You love the band Rush.  You hear Subdivisions and interpret the music video for me.  You sing all the right words, just like I do.  You pull meaning from those song lyrics, and maybe the view is a little middle schoolish, but that’s OK because you’re a middle schooler–you’re not supposed to feel like you’re applying for college this year–you’re fourteen.  You get why the guitar solo in Limelight rocks so hard.  You mention that Geddy Lee’s bass inspires you, and until this week, I’d never heard you utter the word inspire.

You used to write, can you recall?  You created notebooks upon notebooks of beginnings.  Your author’s dreams were grandiose, you had designs on writing the next great American (elementary school) novel.  You began hundreds of tales, characters based not-so-loosely on yourself and your friends, and other literary characters you enjoyed.  You haven’t created a great body of work in a while, but now you want to create music.  You wanna make some noise, learn bass lines and play along with your new really old favorite songs.  Guess what you’re getting for your birthday, kid?  Four strings.  Rock. And also roll.

“Dude, we gotta start a band!”


Your birthday fills me with longing–your sweet baby cheeks, your feather light tufts of blonde hair, the corners of your blue eyes, now green, turned up when you smiled. Things were quite simple then–little kids, little problems. . .   Your MD, my “management” of your diagnosis that is, is what made me carve out this outlet, my little creative writing .com of the internet.  However desperately I wish I hadn’t felt that pull to write, I am thankful for this outlet.  What a weird thing to say thank you for.  Thank you, my boy.  Happy Golden Birthday.   Get on that bass and rock, kid. 

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Wife And Mom

I want my own wife and/or mom.

Let me clarify. I am happily married, quite happily, so I am not actually shopping around for a different or additional spouse.  For me, one is not the loneliest number as it relates to the number of individuals to whom a person can be wed; it’s perfect for monogamists.  I already have a mom, but she lives four hours away, and in retirement has much better shit to do than babysit her half-century old daughter.  No.  What I really want is someone to manage my life–the calendar and remembering shit parts–the way I must, as the default setting, the wife and mom, for my family’s goings-on.  EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM!

I threw a complete fit last night when, upon arriving at #2’s football practice, he realized he’d left his practice jersey at home.  Through some miracle, he did manage to find and attach all seven pads in his practice pants.  I say miracle, because it’s happened that he has been temporarily unable to locate all seven, and forced to attend practice sans full equipment.  Football is NOT the game you want your kid to tough it out through.  Anyway, we arrive last night only to realize he’s missing his blue mesh jersey.  Naturally I have to go home to retrieve it.  Now we live minutes from the practice field, but the idea of having to remedy his forgetfulness made me flip my pony-tailed lid.

Slamming the car door (super mature), I immediately ring up my husband to ask if he sees the jersey laying around the kitchen  bitch about the grave injustices done to mothers, THIS mother in particular, but all women, because why not? I was on a tear.  “Why do I always have to be the one to fix everything?” I whined, and dropped an f-bomb for probably every tenth of a mile between practice and home.  When I pull up to our abode, I’m full-on toddler:  “Why am I the only one who knows anything about anything that goes on in this family?  Why can’t anyone else find their way to the calendar?  Or find anything?? Why can’t this child remember his uniform? He practices three days a week!  Jaysus.  Why can’t he pick up his shit and put it away??  Why does no one from the team know what time the game is on Saturday? Why do I have to take #1 to the high school placement test Thursday?  Why do you not even know #1 has his placement test Thursday??  whywhywhywhywhywhy. . .

“Just once!” I continued railing from the curb, “I would love for someone to say, ‘Hey, Wendy, did you remember to grab your lunch?’ or ‘Hey, Mom, don’t forget to pack your exercise gear for physical therapy’ or “Don’t forget to call Donna to get your lunch date on the calendar.’  But THAT will never happen.  Never.  No one would get anywhere and no bill would ever get paid, NOT ONE, if I didn’t take care of all this shit.”

I’m pretty sure the neighbors were all backing up real slow like, like you would, if well, if you were witness to this.  Pretty sure my tirade was entertaining for some.  A total confirmation for others.  And I’d like to think if there was one other mom among the throng (there was no throng), she’d have been all, “YEAH! You get ’em girl, moms unite!!!'” Because moms know exactly what I’m ranting about, don’t you, moms?

I returned to the practice field with a smile on my face and my idiot dog on his leash. “You’re lucky I love ya so much, punk” I whispered into that sweet boy’s face mask, tossing his jersey at him.

I never react properly. I’ve mentioned that time and again here, and if past behavior is any indicator of future performance, I am so screwed. I’m gonna try to limit my verbal tantrums (well, the ones in the front yard anyway). I mean, it’s not gonna help (past behavior being an indicator of future performance and all. . . My roommates ain’t a’ gonna get any better at making appointments, finding stuff. . . ).

I needed the outlet was all. I was, still am, upset over the mass shooting in Las Vegas.  Now there is a litany of legitimate whywhywhywhywhywhywhy none of us can begin to touch.  I was, in my inappropriate way, mourning Tom Petty’s passing.  Not an excuse for my rant, but kindling for the spark, as they say.

There’s enough ugly in the world right now. I want to be on the side of right, the side where if I left this world for Tom Petty’s great wide open tomorrow, that same imaginary throng of people would say that while I lived I was good. That I did good.  I’d want my kid to remember that I went home to get the jersey for him, so that he wouldn’t feel like an underequipped yutz out there.  I’d want my kid to remember that while we drove to his high school entrance exam (no pressure kid, but if you don’t get into your top two choices, we’re probably moving), instead of saying that which I obviously will not say, I let him choose songs and ever-so-calmly reassured him, “Do your best kid.  You’re one of the brightest kids I know, and I’ll never ask anything more than your best effort.”  I’d want my husband to remember that he told me he doesn’t at all believe I need anti-anxiety meds, that I am hilarious and he wouldn’t want to change one single thing about me.

PS–Just for fun, we agreed that my husband would remind me on my way out this morning to bring along my gym bag of clothes for physical therapy.  He said he would.  When I got home after PT, he grinned at me, maybe a little sheepishly, and said, “I didn’t remind you to bring your stuff this morning, did I?”  No, no, you didn’t.

But I made it there anyway.  Of course I did–I’m the mom.

Instrument of Torture

What do you see here?  

Most of you see a manual can opener. That is what I saw until an hour or so ago, nothing but my crusty old, hand-crank can opener. 

For my son, this isn’t a can opener–it’s an instrument of frustration. I had my kid help with dinner after piano lessons tonight. Ace parent that I am, I responded with “tough shit” when my kid whined about having to empty the dishwasher ALL BY HIMSELF. And then, just to rub kosher salt–you know, the really granular, sharp salt shards–I made him open a can of baked beans.  Not because I enjoy torturing my child, but I wasn’t asking the kid to scrub the toilet with his own toothbrush or *gasp!* not watch YouTube or anything. He leads a life of relative leisure.  Dishes aren’t Everest, you guys. 

Now before you crucify my side dish selections, know that the big one just returned from piano and the little one won’t be home from football practice until 8:15. We’re playing dinner real fast and loose these days, so adding a can of chemically-enhanced legumes to the brats completes what is known as a balanced meal, y’all. Just because I used the S-word earlier doesn’t mean I’m a total parent failure. 

The point of this entire story is that every so often I, the mother of one very tall teenager, catch a glimpse into that tall teenager’s future. Except that future is now. Right now. Today. He doesn’t have the grip strength to manipulate a can opener. He achieved a modicum of success, but opening 2/3 of a can, and not a contiguous 2/3 of the can’s circumference, isn’t really success now, is it?

Some days his struggles are more clear than others.  Damn, I hate MD. 

I Live In A Van Down By The River

Just call me Matt Foley.  If you have no idea who he is or why it’s funny, come out from underneath that rock and check it out.  Click here to view a Saturday Night Live masterpiece. You surely will not regret it.  

And then check these.  These are my boys, then ages 3 and 5, turning up their very best preschool impressions of the hilarious Chris Farley character.  And yeah, we let them watch the skit when they were tiny.  Because we were terrible parents.  Or maybe awesome parents–depends who you ask, I suppose.

Matt Foley is the world’s least successful motivational speaker.  Well, maybe second least successful.  Probably I win (lose?) that designation.

At the close of our speech-language department’s monthly meetings, I or another of my colleagues end the meeting with what we call Closing Thoughts.  These presentations, not truly “motivational speeches,”  but a short 1-5 minutes in duration, are meant to impart a message of positivity.  Sometimes the messages are hopeful or gushy, some contain sentiments of gratitude or mindfulness, but always the objective is a moment of contemplation about our place in the SLP world.

I’m up for next week Friday’s meeting.  It’s our opening meeting for the year, and this meeting above all others, is long with procedures and policy.  It’s where our speech paths learn what the new mandates are (there are MANY!), and how much more of their time will be co-opted by paperwork and administrative crap over what really matters: speech-language therapy.  No one ever leaves procedural meetings uplifted.  Beaten?  Overwhelmed? Inert?  You betcha!  But not quite enthusiastic.

Being the senior (not in age, but in experience, ahem) program support teacher, I volunteer often for the jobs no one else really wants to do.  I’m no martyr or anything; I just feel at some level responsible for the success of our entire department, and especially for the happiness and contentedness my four office mates, so if I can relieve someone of a stressor or inconvenience, I do try to do that.  I think I’ve developed a pretty good opening message for this year, but revealing it here would be anti-climactic.

Instead, I’ll leave you with how I opened last year, which actually borrowed heavily from a blog post I’d written here, but people seemed to like my talk, so the message bears repeating.  This back to school stuff is killing me.  The shoulder-induced lack of sleep is one thing when you’re just hanging with your children, but when reality forces you to wake long before dawn and be smart on command all day long. . .  #epicfail, y’all.

 

Familiar with the six word memoir?  The story goes that a magazine editor challenged Ernest Hemingway to write the shortest narrative possible.  He submitted “For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”  Six words.  Six words that provided character and conflict, that told a complete story.  A simple Google search returns this version of the tale along with 1.24 million more hits confirming or denying its veracity.  Whatever the truth, SMITH magazine supports a website dedicated to the six word memoir and its role in creative writing and self-reflection.

Last summer, my big kid attended the College for Kids Young Writers’ Academy at UWM.  On the showcase day, audience members, mostly parents and other family members, were invited to participate in a challenge much like the students had been doing all week.  One of the instructors threw down the six word memoir challenge.  I absolutely froze with writer’s block.  Not everyone did, and from the room came a handful of charming mini-bios.  Among my favorites:

I found you; I found me.  (And the “awwwww” went up from the entire audience.)

I am not good at this.  The audience bust out laughing at this young lady’s clever spin.

Life sometimes strides; Life sometimes sucks.  This one also drew laughs from around the room, and I couldn’t have been more surprised at its author:  my son.

Around this same time, I’d just returned from one of my Barenaked Ladies concert road trips.  The refrain I hear often from those around me after I return from another show is, “Don’t you ever get sick of it?”  That, “don’t you ever get sick of it?” would NOT be MY memoir. If I continued to do something that bored me to tears, I wouldn’t continue to do that something.  It’s why I have the ever-changing career I do.  It’s why I do the creative writing project I do.  It’s why I’m a people person, because my brain isn’t wired to be a tasks person.

You want to ride horses or buy your own spray-tan machine?  Cool.  You are captivated by Lularoe leggings or have 34 pairs of Toms shoes?  Good on ya.  Enjoy them!  I won’t judge.  And therein lies the difference–I won’t judge you for spending money and time in ways that make you happy.  I might not get it for me, but I don’t have to.  If you get it for you, it should be enough.

Try as I might, my six word memoir remains unwritten. How does one capture one’s essential self or perception of self?  Including one attribute eliminates space for another. I’m a mom. I’m a wife. I’m a friend. I’m a speech-language pathologist.  I dabble in many roles, but star in none. But getting back to my son’s memoir: Why was he, all 5’10″ of twelve-and-a-half years of him, able to crank it out in the allotted time frame and belt it out in a roomful of people?  I wondered, does it accurately reflect how he views the world?  He nailed it–life does sometimes stride, and it most assuredly sucks at others.  It’s profound.  Alternately, it’s middle school shallow.  It is balanced though, right?  Much can be revealed in six words.  Maybe that’s why getting it right matters so.  Have you written your six word memoir?  I can’t do it in six, so here’s seven:

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Image found at kikki.k Stationery

As you move forward this year, do more of what makes you happy here in your work as a speech-language pathologist.  If it’s creating cutesy, Pinterest crafty stuff in your therapy activities, do it.  If it’s mentoring students through an activity such as robotics or Girls on the Run, do it.  If it’s developing a laser focus on strategies for working with students with autism or phonology, do it.  If it’s taking a break at lunch time and walking around the block to get your steps in, do that.  Do it even if you get weird looks from your staff.  Do it even if it’s inconvenient or forces you to step out of your comfort zone a little.  Do it even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone but you.  I don’t have to get it for me, but if you get it for you and it makes you happy, that should be enough. You being happy will very likely make you a better, more effective clinician.   So though it’s one word too long for a six word memoir:  Do more of what makes you happy.

 

At The Intersection of Ellen & Clark

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The city of Niagara Falls, Ontario has either no clue whatsoever, or had the most serendipitous, visionary civil engineers naming their streets for weary families seeking their own good old fashioned family fun a la Clark and Ellen Griswold from the Vacation film franchise.

The Weir branch of the Griswold family tree’s road trip has reached its final destination: home sweet home. How I do love my family.  But I would consider dyeing my hair back to its natural color to be in a room all by myself for ten connected minutes.

We covered more than two thousand miles in nine days, traversing eight states and one Canadian province, sleeping in six different hotels with two still mostly happy kids, one still-solid marriage in our trusty ol’ Ford Edge.

The adventure was that–a true Griswoldian family adventure, but my retelling of it tastes a little like a flat Pepsi. Maybe I’m loopy from now three weeks of rotator cuff tear pained-induced sleep deprivation. I’m at a point I can’t recall how it feels to live agony-free. Juiced with ibuprofen though, I lived fully on this trip. I stepped out of my comfort zone, I took it all in–I remained patient with the kids always (they are GREAT kids 95% of the time), enjoying their enjoyment. I toasted with and sipped from the glass half-full, walked on the sunny side of the street and carpe-d the hell out of each diem.  Smiling through shoulder pain, sleeping too little, I was the model Ellen to Tom’s Clark.

Louisville, KY

The tour kicked off in a monsoon at the home of the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum.  Somewhere past Chicago and before Indianapolis, one boy expressed deep regret at maybe having left his bedroom fan oscillating when we left, while the other fretted over that possibility the entire time.  For a moment, I did consider turning around.  I did.  I’ve woken with my house on fire.  I didn’t especially enjoy that experience, so you can imagine I’d be in no hurry for a repeat.  No such (bad) luck after all; the fan had been turned off.

I made the boys promise they’d smile or minimally appease my requests for geeky tourist photos, and to my delight, they obliged.  Our story begins here with a four-story baseball bat, not quite smiling for the camera, but whaevs.  At least they looked in my direction.Nothing of note happened in Louisville, but the “city” in which our hotel was reserved felt like a scene straight out of Deliverance.  We stayed near Mammoth Cave National Park, and friends, near is not the same as in.  I begin with travel tip #1:  You get what you pay for, but it’s a hotly contested battle with travel tip #2 for that top position:  Location, location, location.

Mammoth Cave, KY

You should go there.  We scheduled the Historic Tour, two hours and two miles in duration.  The US Park System doesn’t mince words when its agents tell you it’s a strenuous trek that will make you lose your cookies if you suffer acrophobia or claustrophobia.  I experience neither, but will admit to feeling woozy and gelatinous looking down from high above. Number One Son led our family with me filing behind him, and I misted up three times I can remember, maybe a few more.  He worked like a beast of burden maneuvering through that cave system.  Yes, it’s all marked and lighted pathways, but crouching and squishing through Fat Man’s Misery and Tall Man’s Misery are required.  He managed this with muscular dystrophy–victory #1–AND wearing a splint for his still-broken collarbone.  I beamed with pride at his effort, but couldn’t help but wonder if he will ever be able to do something like this again.

Exiting the cave required a steep climb back to the visitor center, and though he was exhausted, he persevered up that hill.  Later, my husband told me he was struck at the contrast between #1 and #2 walking up that hill.  Our younger son is a rock; he was born with my curse–extremely contoured leg muscles–and is in excellent physical condition.  #1 has absolutely no muscle delineation.  It makes me sad when my husband has these moments of clarity re: MD.

Hi, I’m 12.  I posted a load of vacay photos on Facebook, but this is the shot that has gained the most attention.  I’m such an idiot–an idiot with a good sense of humor, sure, but still an idiot!

Cleveland, OH (Or That One Time I Lost My Son’s Passport)

Like music?  En route from Kentucky to Cleveland, my boys arm-farted Believer by Imagine Dragons in time and in tune.  My husband laughed himself to tears, and OK, so did I.  But do you really like music?  Have any interest in its history?  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame kicks ass, and you should go there.  Travel tip #3 reminds you not to let your freak flag fly while watching a movie about Journey and ELO’s Hall of Fame Induction.  ELO, you guys!!  Journey!!  These bands were the backbone of my middle and high school years.  To see the handwritten lyrics to Can’t Get It Out of My Head??  My head spun.

So we sat watching film, and as I do periodically (you may call it OCD, sure), I counted our passports.  One, two, three.  One, two, three.  One, two, three, holy shit!!!!!!  There’s supposed to be four.  Where is four??  I charged out of the little theater, dumped my purse out on the floor and promptly lost my shit.  Heart to beat out of my chest, sweaty, shaking, and wild-eyed to be sure, I bolted from there back to the parking structure and dialed the hotel we’d just left.  No, they didn’t have it.  Oooooohhhkay. . . breathe, Wendy.  I know that I had it yesterday because I count them periodically.  You may have heard I’m travel-OCD, and this little one, two, three, four confirms my status as a responsible parent.  I didn’t even care that I was a sweaty mess from my midday sprint or that the parking lot attendant threw me that “oh dear” glance before completely avoiding eye contact.  I recovered the missing passport, tented between the door and the door frame of the car.  No idea how it fell out or landed in such a fashion, but Canada, here we come!

My favorite part of the Hall wasn’t observing my personal faves though, but snapping a couple photos for my friend Jill who worships Mick Jagger, and finding a wall full of The Replacements memorabilia.  My husband positively glowed.

and also roll

Niagara Falls, ON

There’s something wrong with you if you’re not impressed with the Horseshoe Falls, the American Falls, or Bridal Veil falls, especially when they’re illuminated at dark.  They’re gorgeous natural miracles.  Mother Nature has a few cool tricks up her sleeve, so you lay down the cash to hop a boat into the mist.  Touristy?  You betcha!  Cool?  That too!  Then you stroll across an impossibly high bridge back to the US (one, two, three, four passports, check!), hike to the bottom of the American Falls and dive into its hurricane.  Again you position yourself behind your son because it’s 1000 billion percent WET and slippery, and wonder if he will ever again be able to negotiate that catwalk.  You’re moved to tears that he’s made it this far, and no one even knows you’re crying because everyone is a billion percent wet, so it’s all good, yo.

Also, Tim Hortons are on every block.  Ooh!  And also, because this never happens in the US, you catch a dude in an outdoor cafe with an acoustic guitar strumming and singing Barenaked Ladies’ Brian Wilson, so you stop and you tell your kids you love Canada, and they roll their eyes only like 70% of the way back.

Toronto, ON

Toronto, I love you. Love! You!  But there are so many of you, and you each drive your own damn car to and from the city. I didn’t want to leave, and Jaysus, you wouldn’t let me–three hours to get through traffic making our way to oh-so-happenin’ Sudbury.  But while we were in your heart, my own heart quickened. City Hall, other-worldly delicious braised beef poutine at Fran’s, La Tour CN, Ripley’s Aquarium, the railway museum, random needles in the alley (what? I’m sure they were diabetics. . .), the Toronto Zoo, of course a Blue Jays game, and an impromptu coffee date with Katie, Torontonian and one of my #Ladiesladies! I regretted dragging her out of bed early, but that regret lasted only for a moment. I was so happy to see her.

Sudbury, ON

Sudbury was but a way station between Toronto and Mackinac Island, and our hotel was, um, dated?  Only intermittently and randomly updated?  But let us harken back to travel tip #1, something about getting what you pay for. . .

We did bypass a town called Moonstone toward Sudbury, and if you’re not a Barenaked Ladies fan, you wouldn’t care. That’s OK.  I care, and enjoyed a satisfied little smile as I drove. I had no idea this town was just off Highway 400, so seeing Moonstone on the exit sign, and knowing what the song carrying its title is about gave me a moment of quiet maternal contentment.

St. Ignace/Mackinac Island, MI

Through the miracle of international cellular data plans, I learned that my friend Bek had planned to bring her girls to Mackinaw City for the weekend.  I did some quick math, and determined we’d be there at the same time!  What a sweet surprise to enjoy a brief visit with my dear friend, another of the #Ladiesladies.

img_5063-1My husband was so pleased to meet her and her daughters, and I was goofy that some of my very favorite of all earth’s citizenry all got to meet, however brief our time was.

Our last two nights were spent overlooking Lake Huron.  We enjoyed fireworks of the explosive type along with the celestial type in the form of the Perseid Meteor shower.  It was a great place to sew up the adventure.  We ferried from the mainland to the island, and chose to sight-see by horse-drawn carriage. Tom and I went back and forth only briefly over the rent bikes vs. carriage route,  Medical evidence suggested the carriage was definitely the safer way around.  With #1’s arm in a sling, even renting a tandem could have spelled disaster at worst, and discomfort at best.  My shoulder was screaming too, so we ponied up (ba-dum-bum) for the carriage ride.  Fritz and Jeffrey were kind enough not to poop in the street during our carriage.  Fritz and Jeffrey are horses, you guys!  I’m sure.  Actually, upon hearing their names, I felt a little less stupid about my canine called Caleb!  The sun shone crystal clear all day, and we enjoyed the tour.

 

But it was time.

 

Nothing went wrong.

Nothing was terrible–I mean I found the passport and everything.  Nothing was less than smooth. But in terms of a great travel story?  Also, nothing.  We met good people, kindness was shown to us at every turn, and I’d happily revisit any one of the spots along the route.  My children were amazing.  Minus the 84.7 million fart references and short a few please-and-thank-yous, they were in total control.  In spite of marked trepidation leading up to this, and one minor panic in Toronto (I really had no recollection of having been there before. No, I mean I know I was there, but I had no idea about directions and navigation.  I felt like I was supposed to be the tour guide there, when all I knew was that I saw a concert at Massey Hall in 2015.  FYI, the lake is at the south end of the city.  Where I’m from, the great lake is eastward.  Very confusing at first.)  I so feared letting down my Clark, but I think we’re marking this one in the ‘W’ column.

Travel tip #4?  2000+ is a whole lot of frickin’ car miles, yo.

But you learn stuff.  Like you find out your younger son’s favorite kind of days are cloudy, and like you, believes that if the day begins cloudy or rainy, it had better stay that way.  You learn that you’re the more patient of the two parents when it comes to stupid boy stuff, but you love your husband all the more for jumping in, wrestling and instigating as much or more than his sons.  You learn that your son, over whom you fear daily that his loss of physical capacity will make a road trip insurmountable some day, carries more strength and endurance than you dreamed.  Every time you ask how he’s doing, even after some 20,000 steps, he replies, “I’m good” and your heart both bursts and dies a little.


Travel tip #5:  You can’t wait to get home, but you never want it to end.

 

Sunset.  Literally and figuratively.

I Couldn’t Stand Being Left Out

I mentioned last week that I didn’t believe I had substantively much to offer here these days.  I’m saving my blogself for “The Road Trip” which is to commence in T-minus three days.  After rerouting no fewer than fifty-three times, at last our hotels are booked, activities planned and purchased where that could be done prior to arrival, and Caleb the Wonderdog has visited his day care provider, AKA my husband’s brother and his family, to acclimate.  *pleasedon’twreckalltheirshitpleasedon’twreckalltheirshitpleasedon’twreckalltheirshit* 

I’m 82.4% certain that this adventure is going to be pretty cool, and only 17.6% (but often it feels exactly like 100%) that my failure will go down in the annals of family history as epic.

I’ve dubbed 2017’s summer The Summer of Appointments.  I cannot recall two consecutive days where I haven’t trotted one or both children to a symphony of piano lessons, a dentist, orthodontist, orthopedic surgeon, pediatrician, emergency room, physical therapist, imaging department, or sports medicine specialist appointment.  And that doesn’t even include baseball practice or games, and my children do NOT maintain freakishly overscheduled lives.  Despite having been fitted for an orthodontic retainer of my very own at MY AGE, I must have been feeling neglected, left out.  I wanted my very own orthopedic injury.  Kid #1 has a broken collarbone and Kid #2 has that separation in his bone growth plate, but what about me??  I want to be like the cool kids.  Daddy, I want an Oompa Loompa, I want an Oompa Loompa right now!

Somehow I’ve destroyed my rotator cuff.

And yeah, I say “somehow” because I have not the slightest inkling how the injury occurred, aside from just being old(er).  Naturally I blame the dog for having pulled fiercely when I walked him, because he’s a total jerk on his purple leash, and only walks decently, OK, really, like a canine prince on his Weiss Walkie leash.  His misbehavior is the most likely culprit, legit.  In the runner-up spot for destroying my shoulder is yoga, but I do not believe that my centering has taken me this far off-center.  I don’t.  I don’t know how I wake up one day having lost the capacity to move, but who am I to argue with nature?  It hurts.  Like makes-me-cry hurts when I engage in certain angles of movement.  Getting old and overuse is Bachelor #3 for etiology, but I just don’t wanna go there. Crap. 

A short list of things rendered excruciating by a wrecked rotator cuff:

  1. Sleeping.  Holy shit you guys, what I wouldn’t do to sleep on my side or belly.  Or not wake up yelping in pain.
  2. Walking the Wonderdog, although with the Weiss Walkie leash, it’s mostly OK.  I feel like the Weiss people should flip me a couple bucks for my endorsement here.  Right?
  3. Putting on or removing a bra.  I have preparatory tears as I consider retiring to bed tonight.
  4. Sitting erect.
  5. Typing on my laptop.  I hate this computer, but until this week it hasn’t inflicted physical pain, just emotional.
  6. Hold the phone.  This is not figurative language.  It hurts to hold my cell phone in my hand at the position and angle needed to you know, see it.
  7. Washing my hair (and washing the floor, but let’s not fool around here–I’m no more likely to wash the floor now than I was before).  Most hygiene tasks are complicated–shaving my underarms or applying deodorant leap to mind–and if you think that’s too much information, clearly you are new here.  Welcome. How are ya?
  8. Cutting food with a knife and stirring.  Also, cutting pizza hurts like hell.
  9. Eating.  But I like to eat, so I suck it up.
  10. Pretty much extending my arm more than about 40 degrees in any direction, crossing midline, raising my arm, and moving my neck to the left.  Super for driving. And being.

I’m a quirky kind of ambidextrous.  I consider myself a lefty because I write and eat with my left hand; I also bat and play tennis left-handed.  But I throw with my right hand, cut food with my right when I eat (but when I prepare food, the chef’s knife is in my left), and I use a right-handed scissors.  What I do with one hand I absolutely cannot do with the other though. Drat my quirky.  It’s my left shoulder that’s jacked up, so my body is so confused.  And so, so tired.  I’d donate my spleen to sleep longer than three connected hours. Do you even need a spleen?  Like a lot?

Boo-hoo, Wendy, put on a brave face, load up with ibuprofen, and keep moving.  I am.  Like my firstborn, I am badass with pain.  At my husband’s insistence however, I made an appointment with my general practitioner yesterday.  I say my husband made me, but when I am willing to go see a medical professional for myself, you know I’m one step from the grave.  I don’t go to the doctor unless it’s categorically necessary.  Quirky one, right here.  But I went, was sent for x-rays, and referred to an orthopedic/sports med doc of my very own.  My appointment with the orthopedist?  September 14.  I’ll be paralyzed or have descended into madness from lack of sleep by then, so I’m gonna have to trust WebMD for all my physical therapy needs.  (Also, I’m gonna totally possibly hijack my son’s PT appointment this morning and inundate my ballplayer’s therapist with “hypotheticals” about rotator cuff injuries which are totally in line with pitcher’s rehabs, so my questions won’t sound completely out of left field. It’ll be our little secret though, OK?)

After a star-studded June and July, the Explanation of Benefits statements from our health insurance carrier have begun to roll in, and give it up for Wendy! I only snot-cried like once.  I don’t get paid again until mid-September, such is the life of a public educator, so I’m not all summer eager-beavery about all the checks I am going to have to write.  The Summer of Appointments price tag will run upwards of $4,000 out of pocket.  Maybe that’s not a king’s ransom for you, in which case, you’re quite fortunate.  It’s not going to bankrupt us, but I can’t say it doesn’t sting.  Oh, and I have “good” insurance.

As I checked into my imaging appointment yesterday, the receptionist informed me that they required a $50 co-pay prior to my admittance, and the facade cracked.  The guy next to me was yelling at the woman checking him in about not broadcasting his address (you know how they ask you questions just specific enough to confirm you’re who you purport to be? “And Mrs. Weir, you still live on South Sesame Street?” or “Your phone number ends in 7777?”), and I needed a moment.  Just a quick moment to collect myself.  My eyes prickled from pain, but also from that feeling of “Stop it, weird over-reacty guy! I just want to get out of here, stop yelling at her!” I stared intently into my purse, searching for please-don’t-cry-right-this-second.  Found it!

I’m down, but not out. Never out. I’m the mom, ain’t no time for pain. I got some great mail this week, and mail you can touch and hold from a friend who always seems to know just what you need never fails to buoy my spirits. And my shoulder. 

In my mind, my two sons and I are lined up á la those see/hear/speak no evil monkeys, except we’re bandaged, casted, and splinted. I’m the short, hunched over one in the center.  A modern day visage of Larry, Moe, and Curly, us three. 

Ghost In The Graveyard

I slept poorly last night.  Three times I nodded off while reading my book, set my glasses and novel on the night stand, then promptly popped right back into full consciousness.  That hazy space between barely awake and bizarre dreams was highjacked by mom guilt, until mental exhaustion finally won out around 1:45 or so.  If cerebral activity could be measured in distance, I probably mentally marathoned last night.  Maybe ultramarathoned.

The kids went camping, cabin-ing to be precise, with my super cool friend whose bravery is a blog post all her own.  She drove her son, my two and two other boys to a riverside cabin in south central Wisconsin.  Being the “I love not camping” girl I am, I not-at-all subtly avoided volunteering to go with them. My husband got stuck covering second shift, and I was looking forward to some Saturday evening alone time–a little Meijer shopping junket, Orange Is The New Black (My heart is still not 100% into the fifth season though I really want still to loooooove it), and a dinner of popcorn, ice cream, and Blue Hawaiians.  My friend Jane texted me as I browsed health and beauty, did I want to hang out?  I replied with my dinner menu, confirming that I was entirely serious about “dinner.”  Unfazed by my blatant disregard for nutrition, she drove over anyway.

Chatting outside on our patio late Saturday, solving the world’s problems in the cool, evening breeze, Jane heard our landline ringing.  “Is that your landline?” she asked incredulously, like, “it’s cute you still have a landline” and I was like, “Oh, it’s 10:00 and our phone is ringing?  That can’t be good.”

It wasn’t.

I then grabbed my cell phone, which was set to Do Not Disturb mode, and noticed a call from the same number.  I didn’t want to be one of those, “Did you call this number?” people, because wrong numbers happen, you guys, but with a call to both my cell and home phone, I thought I’d better do some investigative work.  I called the number back.  My son answered, frantic.

They had been playing Ghost In the Graveyard, he whimpered.  “What I didn’t see was the tree stump” over which he tripped and was propelled into a tree.  It hurt really bad, and he had to stay inside while the other kids were sitting around the campfire making s’mores.  In perhaps my single worst parenting decision ever, and folks, there are several on my highlight reel, I asked if he was more hurt or disappointed.  I honestly believed he was more sad not to be in there with the rest of the guys, that he felt excluded, and that disappointment was more painful than the pain.

My son’s pain tolerance approaches the preternatural.  Muscular dystrophy means he falls a lot, crashes into things–walls, furniture, all of the things–more than your average klutz does, and he never complains.  I’ve seen him crash hard, get up and dust himself off, and keep plugging.  Thinking about how bad those incidents have to hurt makes me feel like I have to vomit sometimes.  It’s that kind of pain I see him endure with regularity.

I cried along with him on the phone, angry at muscular dystrophy for making him less agile and nimble, for taking away his ability to maneuver at speed of life.  I agreed, it sucks, kid.  It’s unfair.  No argument.   I talked him through some deep breathing via telephone, believed that hearing his mom’s voice and a few ibuprofen were calming enough to get him over the hump.  I did ask if he wanted me to come pick him up, which he considered then declined when the rest of the kids came back inside from the campfire.  Watching Ghostbusters, the original one, and receiving a s’more another kid made for him, was medicinal enough.

My friend got on the phone, confirmed that he could move his arm, and agreed with me that some of his pain could have stemmed from not being in there with the rest of the guys.  NOT that he didn’t smack the living hell out of his shoulder, ’cause oh, did he ever!  But did I need to come retrieve him?  Probably not.  I agreed.

How many ways could I have been wrong? Let’s start here.

My husband and I go pick him up last evening around 7 PM.  He’s clearly favoring his left arm, proceeding gingerly, but slings his backpack over his right shoulder, grabs his pillow, and lurches over to our car.  He has that boy with bruises/chicks dig scars false bravado, admitting though that his shoulder does hurt.  At home, I help him remove his shirt to get a look at the abrasions and bruises.  We–my husband, son and me–decide to call his pediatrician first thing in the morning.  The bruises are gonna be spectacular!  But then we notice a slant, real asymmetry in his shoulders, and I see his scapulae are not even.  Not at all.  “Did you brush your teeth today?” I inquired.  “No?  Let’s go do that.” Less than an hour after his return home, we cruise over to the emergency room.  They can take my $100 co-pay and tell me he’s fine, but I think he’s maybe less fine than I initially hoped, and I thought he should have fresh breath for the occasion.

I cannot say enough about the emergency medicine department at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.  We were the fourth family in line when we arrived to sign in last night.  In classic I’m such a jerk form, I texted my husband, “F-word.  There’s like 4 families ahead of us just to check in.  We won’t be out of here til tomorrow.”  The ER is where many uninsured families wind up for routine or urgent care needs.  A sign posted at the ER’s entry states that every child and family has the right to emergency care, regardless of ability to pay, insurance or Medicaid status, so the kids in front of us with maybe ear infections and coughs would be sure to get the care they needed.  Underserved and underinsured children populate probably 80% of the school district in which I work, so I understand how so many sick kids wind up in the ER rather than at a pediatrician’s office.  I don’t want to make any assumptions, but you can’t help but overhear the answers to the intake staff’s inquiries:  stomachache, cough, “not herself” were mentioned.  Urgent care issues to be sure.  But this is not a treatise on the status of  health care inequities in the US.  Many more learned people are writing about that very thing all over the internet these days.  Read those; they’re better.

I believe we’re in for the long haul–we brought books, phone chargers, and Tom even packed us snacks and sandwiches for our ER picnic.  But then I become reacquainted with the term triage.  Though I was unawares, the medical staff knew when we walked in what his diagnosis was; in hindsight, I recognize how they hurried us through.  From start to finish, we were in the ER for 75 minutes.  From “Date of birth, any allergies?” to “Your pictures are in.  Your clavicle is broken in two places” to “Call your pediatrician first thing in the morning” took only over an hour.

Broken bones put you ahead of ear infections in the triage conga line.  It’s really the only time you hope, but you don’t really hope for something more serious.  My son’s collarbone is broken in two places.  When the x-ray came in, I pulled a total Wendy:  “Holy crap, kid!!!”  And I got the giggles telling him he did a real number on his shoulder, all right, as we viewed his insides.  The breaks were unmistakable.  Unmistakable.  Like tectonic plates shifting up creating mountains unmistakable.  He laughed looking at the image too, but pretty quickly acknowledged, “I don’t know why I’m laughing.”  I believe we call it “nervous laughter” kid.  Funny/not funny/need a release/yeah, that’s it.

Though I didn’t relish the thought, I had to tell my friend that his collarbone was broken, and I knew she’d feel terrible.  She does.  It’s not her fault, not her anything, and she has always had a very squishy spot for my kid, for them both, which I love.  There ain’t no way I’d have taken four boys camping, and I am so happy she included mine.  Because kids love camping.  Me?  I love not camping.

The stripes are supposed to horizontal, not diagonal

 He made it thirteen-and-a-half years before visiting the ER, so hey kid, thanks for an amazing run!  It will be some time before I allow myself not to feel guilty for not hopping in the car Saturday night.  I apologized to him over and again as we walked back to the car from the ER–I should have intuited.  Aren’t moms supposed to sense this stuff?  How did I NOT know?  I would have driven to the ends of the earth to come and get you if I’d known it was a broken bone.  It will be some time before I figure out just how this immobilizer thing pieces together.  They don’t cast clavicles–so your ER visit is brief by comparison, but I have to assemble this contraption for him.  I’m terrified.  I can’t even wrap a gift decently, and I have to wrap up my kid’s arm and shoulder to protect him.  Aaaand I’m pukey again.

This kid?  He’s so tough.  He is tougher than you, I bet.  This pain should have just about knocked him out–it would have taken me down.  He told several ER staff what happened–they do that, several people ask several times to check for consistency of stories–and the crash went down exactly as I had imagined it did when we spoke on the phone Saturday night.  But I had no idea, NO IDEA, how much badass that kid had inside him.  He’s a rock star.

He’ll need some help, but it’s already been inspiring to watch him triumph over this immobilizer.  He works so hard when he is made to, and I never caught this perseverance in him until the MD diagnosis.  Today it’s all I see: strength over adversity.  I’ll probably have to help him shower, which he’s not super looking forward to, but we did share a little Barenaked Ladies moment over it:  “You think you’re so smart, but I’ve seen you naked, and I’ll probably see you naked it again.”  He laughed, maybe a little nervously, but genuinely too, which hurt him and stung me too.  The line is a lyric from the song Blame It On Me, and friends, I own that blame.

Broken hearts (mine) and broken bones (his)

I Mean, I Get It

I have poison ivy.  Well, I’m pretty sure I do anyway.  As I changed into my Saturday evening jammies,  I realized I had a rashy patch on the very center of the small of my back.  It appeared quite suddenly, but of course poison ivy didn’t skyrocket to the forefront of my mind as its possible source.  I smeared some hydrocortisone cream on whatever it was, went to bed, and mercifully slept solidly until my 5:15 AM alarm broke my heart.  I love my kid to pieces–to BITS and pieces–but will never welcome a weekend wake-up call for the crack of the bat.  But I do love him like bananas, and I am at least a B+ baseball mom, so I was first one up and at ’em.

It’s driving me bonkers because I cannot quite visualize the rash even with strategically-placed mirrors, so I asked my husband to take a peek.  “Eeeeewww” is never the answer a wife wants to hear from her husband when he examines, well, I don’t know what the hell I thought he was examining.  I did however, know that “eeeeewww” was not on the Hot 100 of responses I’d hoped for.  “Looks like poison ivy,” he stated.

I’ll spare you the details, because 1) you too can diagnose me via Dr. Google, 2) I’ve shown you time and again I’m not a horror writer, and 3) it’s gross.  BUT it’s relatively small, so it could be grosser.  Google Images proved that fact  to me time and again.  It’s not a big deal, annoying to be sure, but leaves me with the musical question:  How the hell did I contract poison ivy?

poison_ivy_leaves

I mean, I get it.  I have it, that is.  I have poison ivy, so I get that it happened.  But how?  I live in the ‘hood.  I spend my days doing city things and baseball things, but I can’t for the life of me puzzle out where I may have come into contact with it.

As I was swabbing yet another calamine lotion-drenched cotton ball on my back, poison ivy and life got me to thinking about other things that I get, but don’t get.  Like I understand that these items are realities/facts/truths, but how?  The world works in mysterious ways, boy howdy.  Here’s proof:

How do you expect city electricians to work on lifts or down manholes when there’s gunfire exploding around them?  I mean, I get it.  Nighttime streets need to be lit for safety (ah, the irony), and you need guys to repair those lights, so you send them out on second and third shifts.  Electricians control the behavior of city residents not one iota, so when someone gets pissed off on the basketball courts, the pop, pop, pop of handgun is the next natural step.  Jaysus.

How do I, now forty-nine years old, need a retainer for my bottom teeth?  NOW??  I mean, I get it.  My teeth have migrated, and they need some type of anchor to keep them from further misalignment.  But really?  How did I not know in all these years that your teeth can drift back??  Technically my dentist said that as you age, your teeth move forward and down-ish.  Fucking gravity.  My childhood orthodontist used me in his grand rounds, so bad was my dental starting point and so spectacular was his work that he featured me as a before/after “model.”  Yep, fakey quotes are appropriate there.  My dentition was horrendous, and I have oft said that braces were the very best thing my parents ever did for me.  And now I’m returning to the favor to myself.  You can keep your “she’s so vain” comments to yourself.  Damn right I am gonna do what I can to keep my smile anchored in my skull, even if I was the only post-menopausal kid at the orthodontist today.
Why does my dog never leave my side?  I mean, I get it.  I’m delightful company, and rock the scratching behind the ears gig.  I’m about 83% amenable to sharing the couch/chair/floor spot with him, so it makes sense.  But why all the time?  ALL the time.  All.  The.  Time.  Yesterday I choreographed a little routine.  No lie.  I walked back and forth in every direction just to see if he’d follow each and every step I took.  He did.  *sigh*  My husband found it hilarious, and I believe even he was shocked at how committed Caleb is to not extracting himself from my behind.   (PS–I know I split the infinitive here, but it really does work better, more conversational-sounding.)

Why don’t kitchen floors clean themselves?

Why does our political landscape feel more like the grey dystopian state featured in The Hunger Games films and less purple mountainous majesty and amber waves of grainy?

Why do I still recall each and every word of Seven Year Ache by Roseanne Cash when I haven’t heard it since 1981?  My husband was genuinely tripping at my ninja name that tune, artist, year, and sing every damn lyric skills the other day.  He was flipping through all the channels as quickly as he could, and I knew every last one of ’em.  No, that’s not true.  There was some ’80s emo piece of crap that neither of us recognized, but otherwise?  As Negan of The Walking Dead would say, my skills are “freaky deaky.”  But please don’t ask me to retrieve the correct ingredient while I’m staring into the fridge making dinner.  It’s a confined space, Wendy, how hard can it be??  Pretty hard.

In a related story, why am I not on Beat Shazam?

Also, semi-related?  How can my son fail to locate a 9×13 dessert pan in said refrigerator.  It’s a confined space, which I believe we’ve already covered.  And no, son, a bowl of Jell-O is not a 9X13 pan.  Again with the Jaysus.

Why are individuals with mental health problems marginalized so?

How did I get so lucky to have accumulated this collection of wonderful, diverse friends in my life?

Why don’t I read more often?  I mean, I get it.  But this one I do not want to address.  I love reading, still read  a lot, but I want to read more.  Life provides a rich parade of distractions though.

Anyway. . .  These are but a few of the “I mean, I get it” train wrecks of thought that clacked along the neuronal tracks of my cortex.  I’ll probably remember another chunk of my random musings in the shower tomorrow morning.  Honestly, it’s where I do my best work.  I probably will struggle to remember to shampoo then condition my hair though because distractions, and I’ll probably be bummed that the really good ones didn’t make the cut in time for this post!   I really need to finish this though because I want to complete the novel I’m reading.  And apply more calamine lotion.  Because poison ivy.

For what it’s worth, my most enlightened hypothesis about the poison ivy is that Numbnuts Caleb sprinted through something at the dog park, subsequently jumped on me, and the oils thus transferred.  It’s actually a fair working theory, and beyond someone poisoning me deliberately (OK, poisoning may be a little dramatic) or the plant oils somehow finding their way to my yoga mat, it’s the theory of record.

Namaste, Y’all

Book One

When we moved to our current home in 2005, an elderly lady, Miss Irene, owned the duplex next door.  Every day while my big kid napped, I would lounge around the patio table with my very pregnant feet up and read.  I read to my son every day, all the time, but I longed to read something with chapters!  Something longer and less sturdy than the steady diet of board books my son devoured.  My kid napped like a champ, so I usually had at least ninety connected minutes to disconnect from motherhood.

Typically more than half those ninety minutes were co-opted by Miss Irene.  She was a lonely soul whose “family”–daughter-in-law, granddaughter, grandson, and their crew–inflicted the worst kind of harm unto her.  Without reliving the experiences, let’s just say that her “family” drugged her (they were all in love with the heroin), and ran up her credit cards.  The goods they purchased they fenced from the front porch.  I came to know these details only much too late, after our neighbor, a long-time neighborhood resident filled us in.  He was the one who got her the help she needed, and the Department of Aging stepped in to remove her from her “family.”  We were new, so weren’t familiar with any of the players, and I kept busy trying my hardest not to throw up every minute of the day.  #2’s was a tough pregnancy, but I digress.

Miss Irene would amble over and chat me up each day the weather allowed me to sit outside.  I think she kept her eyes trained to her side window in hopes of a friendly face.  I wanted to hear nothing but the sound of silence as I made friends with yet another lawyer or homicide cop of some mystery author’s imagination.   But more often than not, I heard stories of Miss Irene’s youth–the dances she attended and the fancy dresses she chose, how the streets of Milwaukee had changed since streetcars were replaced by buses, her long-dead and deeply missed husband.  Her wonderful children.  (I didn’t know how truly awful they treated her.)

At that time, though I craved solitude, I listened to Irene’s tales.  Irene reminded me of my grandma, who would chat up every waitress, clerk, or bank teller in southeastern Wisconsin.  My grandma outlived most of her friends, so didn’t get much company as her years added up.  I always hoped that those souls who leaned in just a touch too long to listen to her stories were kind to her.  So that’s how I chose to be with Miss Irene.  I would hear the same stories nearly every day, sometimes twice or three times in quick succession.  Still, they were her memories and they mattered to her.  Talking to her made her happy I could tell.  So I let her talk, always hoping that someone would have shown my grandma the same kindness.

Kindness Gift (2).jpg

 

I walked my dog late this morning, and met a woman clearly not 100% in control of her faculties.  She was carrying an open half-gallon jug of milk (still cold judging by the condensation on the jug), and within the first minute of our chat, I learned that her husband had died five years ago.  He was an alcoholic whose demise was sped by the passing of their pet cat, gone now nine years.  Sally from HUD was unforgivable due to the shoddy job she did handling the sale of her husband’s condo.  Andy, her late husband should have just paid off that condo instead of wasting his father’s inheritance on booze.  But not beer, because a man can’t be an alcoholic if he drinks only beer.  And eight employees of her current address had quit or been fired since 2016.  She shared these details with me, random stranger, in fewer than five minutes.  Then she told me most of them again.

I relay this to you here not to poke fun, no.  I tell you because I’m no martyr, but it cost nothing to be kind to this woman.  She talked, I’d say “we” talked, but really, it was all her for about ten minutes before I really did need to keep moving. It was hard to break from her, as whatever diminished capacity she had impaired her social interactions as well, but I managed to extricate myself and bid her a good day.  I hope she gained something in those ten minutes, even if it was just a random stranger’s ear to let her tell her stories.  I would like someone to do that for someone I loved, or hell, for me when that time comes.

Book Two

My big kid’s brain is normal.  I’m not sure whether I am supposed to be relieved or disappointed about that.  I pick relieved.   Reading the radiologist’s report on my son’s brain MRI was a throwback to graduate school gross anatomy, and I was able to piece together some meaningful info about his brain as I read.  My son’s neurologist hypothesized that in addition to his muscle weakness, presence of chorea suggested there may be some problem the way the nerves were being fired at the cortical level.   I have no idea what any of this means for his future, but don’t I sound like I do?

My little kid’s arm is abnormal.  He rode the bench for the first time last night, and I felt immensely proud of him.  He did go 2/3 at the plate, which pleased him no end, and he didn’t seem overly fazed not to play defense until it came time to trot out to first base during the first inning.  He looked as if a giant iron gate had slammed shut just catching the tops of his cleats on its way down, locking him out of the game.  He consciously had to sit his butt down, but he did.  Just like he was supposed to.  He said it felt weird, but he did keep his coaches entertained with his expert play-by-play.

Book Three

It didn’t kill me.

I’m three weeks into yoga, and I haven’t died.  I’m actually pretty good at it.  For a first timer.  For a forty-nine year old first timer, thank you very much.  Though it’s summer, my anxiety-riddled brain still races, and I am thoroughly amazed that I can find utter tranquility outside on a tennis court, surrounded by kids’ lessons and ladies who don’t exactly always call in/out entirely accurately.  Since my knees have determined my running career is done, I need to do something to keep my physical self in shape.  I’m not meant to be a thin person, but I prefer being thin to not being thin.  Plus I really like to eat.   On my first date with my husband, I told him that I wasn’t one of those girls who was gonna be all “Oh, I’ll just have a side salad and a Diet Coke.  I EAT, mister, and you have to be OK with that.”  Then I tore into a hamburger and fries, and it was pretty much love.  Obviously.

I can stretch and I can use my body to work against and for itself.  My son can’t do that, and I’m not finding quite the right metaphor here, but I’m going to keep moving somehow, and in some way.  Because I can.

 

Namaste.

 

Three Little Words

Not those three little words.  I present the three words no baseball mom ever wants to hear: Season. Ending. Injury.

OK, six: Little League Shoulder.

Little League Shoulder is a thing.  In the medical community, it’s scientifically known as proximal humeral epiphyseolysis. Little League Shoulder is caused by repetitive force across the growth plate ball end of the upper arm bone causing it to become irritated and sometimes widen, as you can see below.

 

Not long after opening day, during which he pitched his usual, consistent game, my son casually mentioned that he “threw out his arm” in gym class.  I actually chastised him a bit, scolding that he had no business gunning wiffle balls at such velocity in gym class.  I’m certain of a few things: 1) At 5′ 7″ he is by far the tallest, strongest kid in fifth grade, 2) He’s one of only two kids in his class who play organized ball and have any experience throwing an actual fastball, and 3) It’s something of a dick move to use an arm like his against classmates in a dodgeball-style playground game.  I’m not entirely sure I enlisted the phrase “dick move,” though I can’t exactly rule that out.

Shortly thereafter, he drifts into something of a batting slump.  He lacks the concealed-by-a-smiling-face-fire he’s usually possessed of at the plate, and strikes out a bunch.  A bunch.  A “good” outing maybe was a dink grounder that squeezed through or pop up.  His coach doesn’t have him pitch at that weekend’s tournament, and I’m relieved.  That Sunday, he lifted himself out of the slump by hitting one over the fence.  This is not the rarity it was at age 10, and though he’s eleven, he plays with 12-year-olds, many of whom look like they possibly drove to the games themselves after they shaved that morning.  Still, at age ten, eleven, twelve, a homer clears the dugout and lifts everyone’s, less the opposing pitcher’s, spirits.  It’s special.

He’s called to pitch again.  To say it was hard to watch is generous.  He was awful.  And I mean that with love.  He was awful.  My right-down-the-middle kid was skipping ’em a yard before the plate; he was sending air mail to Saskatchewan; he was walking in as many as hit him or as he hit with a pitch.  He looked befuddled by the lapse and felt like he was letting down his teammates.  He met the same fate the next time he was called to pitch, so thankfully his coach pulled him right quick that evening.  Last year, my kid was his coach’s go-to guy.  He was consistent, reliable, and for ten, quite unflappable.  Now?  He’s crumbling up there, looking to be on verge of tears at every throw.

He’s a giant, so he’s often the first baseman.  It’s a good fit for tall kids who mostly can catch the ball.  But they needed someone on third–a position he used to LOVE–so his coach sends him to play third.  He couldn’t make the throw to first.  Like not even close.  And we’re yelling at him to hustle, to get his head out of his butt, act like he’s got even a vague recollection of having played the game before.

And FINALLY, now like six weeks after the gym class incident, he admits what we surely know: I can’t throw.

So I take him to his pediatrician who has him go through a throwing motion, and she hears and sees the pop.  Not good, she observes.  She hypothesizes it’s a ligament problem, and refers us to sports medicine.  Sure, he can still play.  Give him ibuprofen before his games, slap some ice on afterward, and we’ll see what sports med turns up.  In the two weeks between those two appointments, he plays eleven games.  Plays conservatively, solidly at first base and has probably a .666 batting average during this run.  Maybe even .750.   My baby was en fuego.  He was.  And yeah, I’ll brag on him here because his bat was out of control.  You can’t help but smile when other teams’ coaches yell “back up!” to their outfielders.

Last Sunday he reveals that even tossing the ball around the horn between innings hurts, and his arm feels sore all the time.  *sigh*

I could sense that the sports medicine staff knew exactly what was wrong before he removed his shirt for the start of his functional assessment.  The x-rays confirmed “Little League Shoulder” and the doctor told my kid, “I really hate to be the bad guy here, but this is a season ending injury.   You cannot throw with an overhand motion until I clear you, and we’re looking at about 2-3 months before you’re back at full velocity.”  There were more words than that–the doc was an amiable and pretty cool guy, but that message was both the alpha and the omega.  My kid’s a junior power hitter, but even if you have but a passing acquaintance with baseball, you know that throwing is a rather key element in the game.  So no defense.

They described how physical therapy would play out, which made sense, and that REST and a follow-up x-ray was imperative before he could even begin PT. The doc asked if my son had any questions.  He stewed for a minute, but came back empty.  “You can’t throw” I said.  “You can’t play first even.  You can’t play defense.  Do you understand?”  He nodded that he did, and what did I do?  Yep.  Cried.  But only a little because I’m a badass baseball mom.

They remarked that his scapulae “winged out” a little, and I almost pooped my pants on the spot.  Naturally (well, naturally for crazy me) I jumped straight to FSHD, Facial-Scapular-Humeral Muscular Dystrophy.  Because during the past half hour I received not great news containing the words scapula and humerus.  And you guys?  I can’t even.  So I won’t.  Not today.

I spoke with his coach yesterday morning.  “Do you want the good news or the bad news first?” was my opener.  “Can he still hit?” was his reply, and I swear that kid (he’s 24 I think, and I don’t really think of him as a kid though I could totally be his mom) could not have chosen better words for me in that moment.  It made me laugh and warmed my heart to hear that his coach hoped his highest batting average hitter could keep hitting.  He has a soft spot for my kid, and though I know he’s not supposed to, I love that he does.  Pretty sure he had some notion about the shoulder thing anyway, having pitched through college himself before destroying his own shoulder.  Yeah, he can still hit.  You may have to tape his arm to his side in the dugout, but he’ll be there to finish out the season.

He’s part of a team, and you don’t quit on your team.

Maybe that is the moral of the story here–that you don’t quit on your team, you contribute in the ways you can.  Or maybe it’s that you REALLY have to tune in to your children, because they will NOT admit to the severity of a weakness if they think they might let you down.  Every time until the very end, when we or his coaches asked, my kid said he was fine.  “No, I’m OK” was his refrain until he really wasn’t–and really?  He wasn’t from the first moment he injured his arm. Eleven-year-olds don’t understand that childhood injuries can mean chronic pain as adults–how could they possibly?  Eleven-year-olds want to have fun, they want to hit the ball and cross home plate.

Please, whatever you do to send good will to the world?  Send up a little wish, prayer, intention, ray of light that the moral of the story isn’t that we were given an early sign of another form of neuromuscular disease.  I want to keep our record at .500 here.