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OMG – Feels Like Teen Spirit!

The phone rings. I immediately recognized the number of one of Tyler’s friends. Not really wanting to, I pick up.

An extremely bored but familiar voice says, “Hey.”

“Hey,” I respond back and wait, but that was all I was getting.

“Do you want to speak with Tyler?” I prompt.

“Uh, yeah.”

Uh, fabulous.

Rolling my eyes (I am years away from them getting stuck there), I yell, “Phone! Tyler!” but there is no response.

Tyler is a very focused boy and I happen to know that he is watching an extremely important episode of Sponge Bob.  “Tyleeeeer!!! PHONE!”

That did it. Something penetrated. My shaggy haired boy slides in. “What?” He asks, clueless.

“Here.” I hand him the phone. Instantly, my son becomes animated. I listen in fascination to him planning some complicated play date. Uh, I mean, hang out. At 10, it’s a hang out. My bad.

Tyler finishes his conversation which consists of a bunch of “yeahs” and “okays” then reports to me.

“Okay, I’m waiting for Jack and then I’m going to Rick’s. We’re going…” The phone interrupts and Tyler immediately answers.

“Oh hi, Luc.”

He instinctively walks into the other room for privacy, where some heavy negotiations are in play.

After a few minutes, he returns. “Okay, Jack is going to Luc’s, so I’m going…”

The phone rings again. I’m guessing there has been a breakdown in the talks.

“Hold on.” He grabs for it and then runs into the other room.

In one minute, he’s back. “Okay, this is what’s going to happen. Because Jack talked to Luc first, now we’re both going to Luc.”

This is what’s going to happen? Who is this kid?

Unbelievably, the phone rings again. I don’t even look it. “For you?” Tyler smiles sheepishly and disappears.  The negotiations resume.

When he returns, it appears there has been a settlement. “Okay, so Jack is coming here and we’re walking to Luc.  Rick’s out of the picture because Jay called him, but didn’t call Luc and they don’t want to hang out with so many people because Brian was already going there. It’s okay, because when Rick and Brian are together sometimes it gets, you know, anyway, so we’re just going to Luc’s.”

I’m speechless and exhausted, but have enough strength to raise a brow.

He gets it immediately. “Is that okay?”

“That’s fine.”

He smiles his goofy, boyish smile. I am wildly in love. He is still so much my baby and so solidly boy, and the next stage stands knocking at the door.

“Mom! Jack’s here! Can we go?”

I follow to where his friend waits. They exchange a very cool and manly, “Hey.”

I stand at the screen, watching them go. They start off walking. By the second house away, they are arm in arm, skipping for the half block to Luc’s. Then, there’s some pushing.  Tyler’s friend is on the ground. Wait. He’s up. They’re arm in arm again, a skipping to Luc’s house they go.

My heart skips with them. My first real pre-teen moment. Sigh. I was on the verge of serious sappiness, when the phone interrupts my thoughts. It has begun.

Part of the posse, just hanging around.

Part of the posse, just hanging around.

I Get Schooled By Social Media

Lately, I’ve been trying to learn a thing or two about blogging – how to increase readership, when and how to post things on FB for the most views. Stuff like that. I got most of my info perusing Jeff Bullas’ blog. I started off reading, Signs I Wasn’t a Good Blogger and continued from there. It was good stuff, unless you consider that according to his seven steps, I wasn’t a good blogger.

The last bit of information that my brain absorbed before my 5  year-old started crying for cocoa puffs for dinner, was that to increase FB interaction and encourage comments on your blog, you should ask a question.

Why?

Glad you asked. I wondered that as well, especially since so many of the blogs I read seemed to end in a question. I saw it in action on Facebook pages as well. According to my research, uh Jeff, it’s simple. Ask a question… get an answer. Genius, right? (You don’t need to answer that.)

I figured I’d put my new wisdom into action. I had just written a bittersweet post about my grandmother, who died young and how I regretted our lost relationship. I figured I’d ask an intriguing question on my FB page to encourage people to click the link and read the essay. It was a perfect opportunity. Now I just needed the bait.

After some fiddling, here’s the question I came up with – Has someone you loved, died too soon?

Provocative, I thought with satisfaction.

Within seconds, responses poured in. Wow. That question bit really works. Happily, I began reading comments. Someone had lost grandparents, someone lost a parent. I grimaced a bit, and apprehensively wrote my condolences. More comments. More condolences. The uneasy feeling inflated to a balloon the size of Snoopy in the Macy’s day parade. What have I done?

That’s when the last comment came in. A reader shared her husband’s passing only a month before at age 53. I stared at the screen. Oh my God. I panicked. What could I say to her? What was there to say? How could I put a question like that out there? What the farfignewton was I thinking?!

I shook my head with dismay. I fretted. I worried. I responded with my sympathies. It felt completely inadequate. I felt like a total ass. I needed to stop this immediately. I wrote a general comment about my insensitivity and stupidity and then deleted the whole bit.

I let out a big puff of relief. It was gone. I worried that the people who had opened up and shared would think I was discounting their feelings by deleting the post. I really hoped I didn’t offend them. Jeez, that was some learning experience.

I walked into the living room, the sweat still wet on my brow, needing to confess my thoughtlessness. My husband listened to me go on about people I didn’t really know, who were so open to sharing their sadness, especially the woman who lost her husband.

Do you know what my husband’s response was? Of course you don’t. But it wasn’t, “That’s terrible,” or “Wow, you screwed up.”

He asked, “You know where we keep the important papers, right?”

Uh, what are talking about here? “The important papers?” I repeated hesitantly.

“Yeah, you know, the insurance and our financials and all that.”

I looked at him mutely. How did we get here? I refused to answer. I would not discuss even the possibility.

“Well, do you know where they are?”

LALALALALA. I wanted to scream and cover my ears. No no no!  Instead, I spat at him, “Yeah! I know! I know! Sheesh!”

He smiled and went back to whatever he was doing on his iPAD.

I sat across from him distressed and annoyed and confused, but wiser. I had definitely learned something today.

No question about it.

Are there any questions you wished you never asked?

(Better, right? 😉 )

 

Youth isn’t wasted on my son

“I don’t want to grow up.” Tyler, my oldest, then only three, looked up at me with serious eyes full of concern. “I want to be a baby.”

I looked down on him, tears welling. I had done this to him, I thought. I had given him this insecurity, along with his new baby brother. Distraught, with a touch of post-partum depression, I lovingly pushed his hair aside. It was the color of amber, like his eyes. My golden boy.

Of course, I did my best to reassure him that he could never be replaced, but he was no dummy. He heard and smelled his competition from a room away. We all did.

“Silly. You’ll always be my baby, no matter how old you are.” It was the truth. Always. Always. Always. Poo Poo Poo, may he live to be 100.

He looked up at me from his blue racing car toddler bed completely dissatisfied. “No. I want to be a baby!” He confirmed and then tried to crawl up my shirt.

Having a new baby was an adjustment for all of us. I figured he was going through what children typically did when a new sibling entered the household. He would out-grow it, I assured myself. But as the months and years went on, he not only did not outgrow it, he grew more and more resolved. The theme repeated itself, playing out sometimes subtly but often with huge dramatic tears over and over.

At four…

“I don’t like birthdays.”

At five…

“I don’t want to grow up.”

At six…

“I don’t want to grow old.”

At seven…

“I don’t want to die.”

At eight…

“I don’t want you to die.”

At nine…

“I don’t like birthdays. I don’t want to get older and have to leave my house. I don’t want to go away to sleep away camp. I don’t want to go away to college.”

At 10…

Breaking down into tears, desperate. “Mommy, I’m never going to be eight or nine or ten again! Once it’s gone, it’s gone! I mean, I kind of want to be a daddy and all, but…” Looks at me soulfully, sadly before emotion almost swallows his words. “I want to be the baby too.”

My poor, wonderful, sweet boy, he already knows the truth about growing up and growing older. He’s known it all along. And no matter how much I tell him that growing up is an adventure he will love, that he will experience things he can’t even imagine, that he can do and be anything, that the journey is a beautiful trip – the basics truths of life and death are already in him. When your eyes are open, you can’t help but see.

You wouldn’t know it to look at him. He’s a typical fifth grader; smart, goofy, athletic with lots of friends. He doesn’t have that edgy, pre-teen snark. He truly appreciates being young and revels in his childishness, clinging to the remnants of his babyhood. He joyfully snuggles with his mommy, treasures his stuffed toys and loves playing with the younger kids, leading them around like Peter Pan.

He might even engage in a game of ‘House’ where you can be sure he will cast himself as the baby. Or a puppy. They both suit him. So while my 10 year-old, crawling on the floor panting happily like a dog, might seem a little immature to you, believe me, he is wise beyond his years.

 

otto peter

Not actually my son, but the costume worked. Plus, he’s family. 🙂

 

 

 

Dead Grandma Totally Messes With Me

Before I even had a hint of the infertility problems which would plague me, before any of my babies were ultimately born; my grandmother envisioned me with a girl. She was prone to ‘seeing’ things, mostly dead people, but she also had an extremely refined intuition or esp. She’d offhandedly say things, like, “Oh, so and so just died.” While we were busy processing that information, the call would come in. So and so was dead.

So it was no surprise to me, and I took it as almost a certainty, when 11 years ago, she called and told me I was pregnant. I had been quietly trying for almost two years by the time of her call. I was seeing doctors, and was on an emotional roller coaster month after depressing month.

“Why haven’t you told me you’re pregnant?” she asked, her strong, smoky tone full of reproach.

“Uh, because I don’t know that I’m pregnant. Wait,” I held my breath like I was speaking with a doctor holding test results, “Am I pregnant?”

“If this old witch still has it, you are.”

Five days later, full shock and glee, I called her back. “I’m pregnant.”

I could hear her blow her cigarette smoke into the phone before she offhandedly replied, “It’ll be a girl.”

I had a boy.

She scratched her red head (what other color would a witch have?) and said, “I guess it’ll be the next one.” Nearly three years later, she was wrong again. Almost 3 years after that, when I had my third and last child, she was so convinced it was a girl, she snapped at me.  “What do you mean, it’s a boy!? Well, I’m sorry!”

I certainly didn’t care, but my grandma was not one to be wrong, ever. She didn’t take it well, but decided to love my boys regardless. They each were a shining, joyful light in her life.

By her 90th birthday celebration, she still remained convinced that I would have a girl. Somewhat dramatically (she knew no other way) she said, I would be naming the child after her, implying her death was near.

In the Jewish religion, a name is passed down after a loved one passes. My grandma had been housebound for the last decade with a variety of issues, but none of them life-threatening. Still, as she put it, over and over again, her suitcases were packed and she was ready to kiss her old ass goodbye. We listened to this talk for years, but recently, it seemed she might actually be getting closer to taking that trip.

I was over 40 by then. Given my age, and the fact that I had never become pregnant without assistance, I told her that, she would have to rely on another grandkid for that girl. Besides, I insisted, she was an ox with special powers, she wasn’t going anywhere.

Her response was a dirty look, but she conceded that maybe, in this one instance, her radar had been off. I don’t think she really believed it. She just no longer had the energy to argue. When I think about it now, I love that she remained truly convinced that she was right; such beautiful, dogged stubbornness.

Six months later, she died. I held on to her promises to haunt me and she didn’t disappoint; showing up in many ways, most notably as a fly on my wall, something she had always wished to be in her last homebound years.

I miss speaking with her, knowing I could just pick up the phone and hear her raspy voice. I know she hears me out there, but I’d be much happier to have her hear me over here. I try not to think about it.

But this week, I was late. Yes, that kind of late. A solid, bloated, hormonal and crampy, full week late. I knew I couldn’t be. I counted days and considered. It was not possible. Still, her voice was loud and bossy in my head; you will have a girl. Against all reason and sanity, I went and purchased a pregnancy test, cursing her under my breath.

I’ll spare you the suspense. I wasn’t pregnant, and two hours later, my friend, ‘Dot’ arrived. I laughed at myself and breathed a deep sigh of relief.

As the year anniversary of her passing draws near, I love that she can still mess with me. And since I don’t plan on having another child, I’m definitely going to be just a bit more careful about ‘things’ in the future. My grandmother doesn’t like to be wrong, and I don’t trust that witch at all.

grandma & jack

Boy, did she love her boys, but would it have killed me to have a girl?

 

I wonder if I’m even going to miss the vomit?

At 2:30am, I opened my eyes with a start. Boy who never sleeps and barely eats, aka my seven year-old, is standing next to my bed. I felt him there, heard his soft breathing. So even though I’m a little unnerved to see him, I’m not surprised.

His soft breathing has a rasp to it. “I don’t feel good.”

My first instinct is annoyance. Stellar parenting, I know, but it’s the middle of the night. I push the thought away. “Oh baby.” I say. His little face looks pained and then it gets that look. You know, the one that makes you immediately look around to see if you’re standing on carpet or near something valuable. I leap from the bed, and practically shove him from my room to the bathroom. We make it just over the threshold before he throws up.

Yes! I’m doing a mental fist pump, ridiculously relieved to have made it at least onto the tiled bathroom, where clean-up is markedly easier. Hmm. Should this not be my first thought? My second is not much better. I’m making a list in my head of the things I won’t be doing since I’ll have him home from school the next day. To redeem myself, I rub his back as he continues puking all over the floor.

I should have seen this coming, in fact, I did.

Earlier that day we were at video game center, or more accurately, the gambling learning center for 5-12 year-old’s. The object of every game is to win tickets. My kids foam at the mouth for tickets. No matter that we spent $30 for four army men, six tootsie rolls, a rubber frog that smells funny and a key chain. At least they’re learning something.

In the middle of the debauchery, my seven year-old son approached. “I want to go home.” He whined.

Uh oh. “Really? Why?”

“I just want to go home.”

I noticed his eyes were a little glassy, but I attributed that to the excitement from all the gambling. Then he sneezed and snot blew out his nose and hung in clean, oblong droplet to his lip.

“Tissue!” I screamed, running for my bag. “Tissue!” My capacity for denial runs deep, people. I saw the truth, but I wasn’t ready to accept it.  I told myself it was just a cold. We headed home, and not because of the stares of horrified gamers, but because we wanted to. So there.

I made breakfast for dinner and the boys had ice cream snowmen cups from Baskin Robbins for dessert. I didn’t take much notice that the boy who never sleeps and barely eats, didn’t eat much. Uh, nothing new there.

I snuggled them all into bed, spending extra time cuddling. I am acutely aware of the passage of time, and allow my sappiness to seep out at night, making me a pawn for their pleas of “Just one more minute!” or “I’m hungry.”

I know that each stage that passes brings me older, more mature children, less needy of their mommy’s attention. Little things change, like, my middle one only asks me to tickle his back for a few moments every few nights, instead of the rigorous tickle back routine I used to affectionately endure. My oldest no longer loves me coming to his sport games. All of a sudden, I make him nervous.

But my baby, my now five year-old baby, is still so full of mommy love that sometimes I’m pushing it away. Uh honey, can we triple hug and kiss again later? Mommy wants to work on an essay. Where is that DS?  I reflect with horror. I am actually taking some baby love for granted, when soon it will (poo poo poo) grow up and leave me cold. No more, I vow. We will hug day and night!

That’s when the vomit hits my foot and startles me back. I want to throw up too, but, instead, I get him some water, strip him down and wash him up. Then, I give him some Tylenol,tuck him back into bed, spending some extra time tickling.

With him settled, I get on my hands and knees and start the fabulously exciting activity of cleaning up. It’s after 3 am, I’ve still got to get all the towels and clothes into the laundry and clean myself up before I get into bed. We’re talking close to 4 am. Is this really something I’m going to miss?

Before I can even get my disgusting bundle down to the laundry, I hear his little voice call to me. “Mama…” I drop the towels and run to his room. Yeah, no question, I am.

(this is a re-enactment photo. no sick child was photographed for the making of this blog)

(This is a re-enactment photo. No sick child was photographed for the making of this blog. He’s good, right?)

 

Stop trying to touch my boobs and I’ll give you a cookie

My four year-old son has this weird little obsession… with my boobs. No, I’m not like that New Yorker Magazine mom. The only thing my boobs do these days is hang, and I mean hang, around. But for Julius, it’s one of his many infatuations, right up there with gummy bears and Pokemon cards.

All my boys are full of mommy love, which I unabashedly encourage and soak up, but Julius shows his love a bit more ‘tangibly’ than the others.

Every night after the bed time books and tickle-back is completed, there’s another ritual of events that must transpire before I can leave his room.

“Kiss, mommy,” he demands, pursing his little, chunk lips for me to kiss.

“Hug, mommy,” is the next request, and he wraps his little arms around me, squeezing tight.  I love it, but I know what’s coming. He’s been doing it for well over a year now and I brace myself.

Somewhere in the middle of his innocent little hug, there’s a boob grab. He does it quick, knowing exactly what he’s doing. When I gently reprimand, he looks at me with those big brown eyes and says, “I can’t help it mommy. I just love your boobies!”

What to do. What to do.

I’ve tried to distract him from his infatuation. At two and three, it was still cute and could be waved away as toddler silliness; but once Julius crept over the four year mark and his hugs began to have a groping feel to them, I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to get him to stop.

So far, these are the techniques I’ve employed.

Threatening – I say, almost daily. “Julius, if you try to touch my boobs, I’m not going to snuggle in bed with you anymore.” The little rat always promises. Do not trust a rat.

Negotiation – “If you can go a week without trying to touch my boobs, I’ll take you to the toy store.” Apparently, Julius does not need more toys, or chocolate or extra Wii time. He’s got plenty, thank you.

Transference – Every time Julius goes for the boobs, I place his hands around my waist. He kind of likes it and will squeeze happily for a bit, saying, “Oh, it’s squishy, like your boobies.” Thanks kid.

Reason – We had the discussion about private parts. How he has his and I have mine. Julius’s response? “You can touch mine, if I can touch yours.” Sheesh. I’m in trouble with this one.

Although, his fascination to touch my boobs is annoying and will soon border on really inappropriate, right now, it still makes me smile. I know he’s almost five, but as my youngest, he still seems like such a baby; and even though my seven and ten year-old are very loving, I can see the day in the not too far future, where I am no longer the center of their affections. There will be girlfriends, then wives, (poo poo) and I feel the pain of that already, years into the future. I can only hope that they’ll still want to give their mom a squeeze, although a hug will do just fine.

Just last night, Julius, the teenager in a five year-old body, gloated, “Mommy, I know how to touch boobs.  You go in for a kiss, and then you get ’em!” He smiled mischievously, like a boy who knows a big secret. And I guess he does.

Really, nothing to write home about here.

Really, nothing to write home about here.

bonbonbreak

iTouch vs. Live Touch – A Tale of Two Dragons

Back in May, my then 9 year-old son, Tyler, used guilt to manipulate Howard and me into adopting a baby bearded dragon. We named him Smiles and I immediately fell in love. My son’s promises of care were quickly forgotten, and Howard and I took up the responsibilities of feeding Smiles and cleaning his tank and paying any general attention to him. (I know, super great parenting. If you need to know more about our awesome technique, you can message me.) The only time Tyler acknowledged Smiles was to take great offense when he overheard me referring to him as mine.

Real dragon

I had pretty much accepted my new chores, only half-heartedly resenting them, the same as all the rest. I mean, what was one more thing to add to the list, besides one more thing to add to the list?

Still, I didn’t completely give up on Tyler. Each morning, I’d lay out some lettuce and veggie stuff and ‘suggest’ that Tyler feed Smiles. Unfortunately, by the time Tyler finished his breakfast, and realized he hadn’t finished last night’s homework and did something ‘extremely important but only took a second’ on his iTouch, it would be time for the bus.

In the afternoons, I’d ‘suggest’ that Tyler pay Smiles a bit of attention.  After ‘suggesting’ a few times, Tyler would sigh and walk into the room that housed Smiles tank, look at him for five seconds and say, “Hi, Smiles.” Then go back to the iTouch.

I tried not to let any of this get to me. I mean, we allowed ourselves to be suckered into getting the creature. Then, we covered up our parental misstep with another, by not making Tyler take responsibility for his responsibility. This was as much our fault as his. We sucked at being parents and now we were paying for it through our labor.

Then came the morning at the bus step, when I saw the game Tyler was so enraptured with for the past few weeks, that he could barely say hello to me, much less Smiles.

Handing me his iTouch, he said something like, “Okay, in exactly an hour, you need to…” And then, he went into some complicated instruction while I zoned out, much like he does, I imagine, when I instruct him.

It was a game called Dragon Vale. Guess what you do in Dragon Vale? I think you know… Yup, you breed, feed and house little dragons. You need to pay careful attention to these little creatures or they will not grow. Can you stand the irony?

Uh, not real dragon

“Uh, Tyler,” I tried. “You know you have a real Dragon that you can care for.”

Tyler nodded in the way that says, I didn’t hear a word you said you silly adult, don’t you see that I have something extremely important I need to tell you? And immediately, he returned to instructing me.

The bus came and left me holding his iTouch displaying a cute cartoon dragon, that you couldn’t actually touch.  I looked at him just long enough to close out the screen. Then and there, I vowed to be a better parent and help teach my kids to be more responsible. We would work on it together, putting out one fire at a time.

 

My Mom and Me… We’re a match.

Hurricane Sandy, day seven, still without power. We spent the first three nights braving it out in the cold and dark, then the second three nights at my in-laws in Brooklyn. Yesterday, we packed the car and the kids, the cat and the lizard and headed to my mom and step-father’s house.

The kids stretched out like lazy cats with all the new space. We played cards and chess and they ran in circles, up and down the stairs. They had baths in their giant whirlpool tub and we had to fish them out using chocolate marshmallows as bait. Shiny and towel fresh, we plopped them on the couch for a movie.

In the morning, we woke up and my mom had set us up with a tennis court. Disaster? What disaster? Why don’t I come here more often?

It had been quite a few years since my mom and I found ourselves in this position. Back when I was young, we used to randomly play, but I was always so incessantly aggravated by her competitiveness, that I could never play well. Every point she’d get, she’d call out the score, which unnerved my every nerve. Plus, she was hot and sexy and I always had a few pounds to lose, which made watching her bounce across the court in her little short shorts extra annoying.

Back then, I was so wrapped up in killing her that I tried to kill every point, and ultimately killed my game. We were two opposing forces posturing for power. I was 20 years younger, but she had, and still has, a fortitude and vitality that you simply don’t find in average people. She’s a spit fire. A fire cracker. A hundred pounds of boogie-oogie-oogie. You’d think she was made of Red Bull instead of whipped cream, sun flower seeds and garden burgers. In an average day she might play tennis, go to the gym, take a long walk and dance the night away. Did I mention, she runs her own business as well?

The only time I see her sleep is when she comes to babysit and by some unknown circumstance actually sits down. One minute, she’ll be crawling the floors with the kids on her back, running up and down stairs to get them snacks, begging them to dance and play with her; but when they’ve finally tired of her and turned to their iTouches or SpongeBob, she might discover the couch under her taut behind. Almost immediately, she nods out.

So here we are again, across the court from each other, a mother and a daughter preparing to face off. It should be no contest, she’s a league winning player, while I’m scrappy, inconsistent and haven’t played in years, but… I’m younger and faster. She hates that. It makes me smile with affection. My mother is like no other.

I suggest just volleying back and forth for practice and exercise, but my mom just can’t. She needs to keep score. So we play. I know her game – she’s very consistent and is great at returning shots, but doesn’t have real power. I have always been a reasonably strong player; my inconsistency and emotions, being my greatest obstacle.

I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or because our relationship is wonderful and no longer filled with angst, but I’m calm and controlled. I play easily, not great, but with few mistakes, and soon am winning five games to love.

I see the panic and frustration across the court. She’s stomping a bit and Oy Veying here and there. If there were a can, she’d kick it. She can’t help herself. Losing is not something she does with grace. But she sure is cute.

We get down to the final point and I’m torn. Knowing her battle, a big part of me wanted her to win. But I wanted it too. I no longer take her win-at-all-costs personality personally. I’m secretly cheering her on. I think about throwing the game. Just one game, so she could have a little something to hold on to.

I toss the ball, ace out that last point and smile happily. Turns out, I’m just like my mom. Lucky me.

Love You Forever

The room swelled with people, some talking and hugging, others laughing and shoving deli meat sandwiches in their mouths. It was a party, except the guest of honor was dead.

We were at our friends’ Aiden and Alyssa’s house to pay a Shiva call for Aiden’s mother who had just passed. A year and half ago, she had been diagnosed with a blood melanoma. Until recently, she had not shown any real symptoms or signs of being sick. The doctors said that it was treatable and until the other day, it had been. She was there in the morning when they drove to the hospital, but 12 hours later driving back, she was gone. Just like that.

At the house, we chatted amiably with many people, about many things, but only very briefly touched upon the reason we were there. Aiden held it together admirably and everyone was relieved to follow suit and pretend. There’s nothing about death and final goodbyes that doesn’t create instant discomfort and clueless awkwardness for those bearing witness. So we ate little cookies and ignored the elephant in the room, or in this case, the small, sweet blonde mother and grandmother who wasn’t.

Now that I’m over 40, I keep running into this problem in life; it’s called death, and no matter how I try, there’s no getting away from it. It seems, and I never actually realized this until my late 30’s, but people die. Yes! I know. I was shocked as well. Of course, I know people die. I’m not an idiot. Lucille Ball is obviously no longer with us, or Dick Clark or Patrick Swayze or Farrah Fawcett, but somehow, when people I knew actually died, it totally threw me for a loop. Not just grandparents, but friends. Young people who were supposed to have their whole lives ahead of them, apparently, did not. They died of unnatural causes at unnatural ages. And now I seem to be at the age where parents start dying. I am not happy with this!

When I got home that evening, I gave my mom who was babysitting, an extra hug and ran up to do the same to my boys. They were almost ready for bed, and by almost I mean, jumping around in their underwear giggling like hyenas. I corralled them all into bed and Michael, my middle child, pushed a book in my hand. “Read this, Mommy.”

“Of course.” I said automatically, but when I looked down I wished I hadn’t.

“Love You Forever” by Robery Munsch. My book nemesis. Someone had given me this book when my oldest was born and I cried like a baby from beginning to end. Back then, I blamed my hormones and new-mom status, but returning to the book two years later, the same thing happened. A few years after that, I tried again, and still could not make it through without breaking down. I have successfully avoided reading the book for over three years, and tonight, fresh from a Shiva call, it was in my hands again. “Baby, let’s read something different.” I tried.

“This is the book that makes you cry, right?” Michael taunted, his elfin face smiling mischievously.

How did the little rat know that?  “Maybe.” I said defensively. “But I just think you should pick something else. It’s a baby book.”

“I want to see if you cry.”

Oh, a challenge. Bring it on. “Fine.” I agreed, secretly steeling myself. I knew exactly what this book was and I was prepared. I could make it through I told myself and started reading.

I barely began, and I knew it was over. Tears rolled down my face and my voice quivered as I read the poem that threaded through the story of a mother’s never-ending love, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, As long as I’m living, My baby you’ll be.” My extremely sensitive children cracked up laughing as I struggled to finish. By the end, I was a complete mess. My boys loved it. “Again!” they all squealed as I tried to control my heaving.

Exhausted from my emotional evening, I tucked the boys in; snuggling a little longer and hugging a little tighter. The book’s poem played over and over in my mind; its theme penetrating every sappy bone in my body. Even thinking about it now with the book safely tucked away in between a hundred others, hopefully never to be pulled out again, I can feel the tears in me rise. From the moment they are born, our babies are everything. Even when they grow and go, a mother’s heart goes with them, but there’s only so far it can go. Poor Aiden. Poor Aiden’s mommy. Poor everyone.

Damn. I hate that book.

So I Fret. I’m Not Gonna Worry About It.

It’s dark outside, not yet morning, but I slip from my bed, tip-toe to the bathroom and down the stairs. I spent the last five hours in a restless doze, waking every half hour or so and checking the clock. I had gone to bed at 12:30 am, bleary-eyed after a long day racing with the kids and then four hours straight sitting in front of the computer writing, discarding, writing, discarding. I’m anxious. I have an unfinished essay on my mind; and because of it I can’t sleep. For hours I lay there, snuggled under covers, tossing and turning, ideas popping in and out of my head as I unsuccessfully try to think myself into unconsciousness. I jump up with a start when I realize I am not alone; there’s one person at this very moment, in another town, doing the exact same thing I am. My mother.

It’s not for the same reasons, of course, but my mother is someone who when something is on her mind, it goes straight to her heart.

Often, we’ll speak and the conversation will go something like this,

Her, nervous and anxious – “I couldn’t sleep again last night.”

Me, nibbling on snacks, going through mail, half-listening – “Oh no. What now?”

“I’m worried I did the wrong thing about…”

Now here you could insert almost anything from “I cut my hair too short” to “I wish I had been a better mom.” My mother has the unique capacity to fret over everything in her life, big and small, no matter if it happened that day or 30 years ago. She can’t let it go and will worry herself until a new worry emerges to supersede it.

This is your brain on fret – It glows!

When my brother bought a new house, she worried if it was the right one. Then she worried that it was the wrong one. She worried about what color they’d paint it. And she worried about when they’d paint. Then she worried about the paint. Once it was done, she worried if it was the right color. She didn’t sleep for months over that.

I am the calm one, reminding her to relax. Trying to focus her on the important things or bring her around to the positive side. I like to think I keep it all in perspective. I tell myself I’m not crazy like that, yet here I am, typing out my thoughts while my body begs for sleep. I can’t seem to rest till it’s done. It hits me that all the women on my side are fretters to some degree. My grandmother was a fretter and my aunt is a fretter as well. My cousins, although it’s been diluted through the years, are little fretters. Maybe, it’s part of me, passed down like my green eyes and beyond my control. How aggravating.

From the dark silence of my sleeping house, my four year-old calls out and I race with soft feet up the stairs to his room. “Mama,” he says drowsily, “sleep with me.” I place my head down on the pillow and feel my tension lift as his little hands pull me closer to snuggle. Wait, maybe it doesn’t  run in the family. I can let things go and relax. I can fight the fret! I breathe in the sweet scent of my son’s curly mop. As I drift off, my brain no longer running but slowing to a walk,  my last thought as I flutter on the edge of consciousness is that this would make a great ending to my essay.

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