Friday, June 22, 2012

Laughing Till It Hurts

I realized this morning just how many things over the years have been so serious, so... depressing.  One of those moments where I caught a glimpse of the many things I've been through that have just been plain old tough.  Certainly not fair.  Just as this very sobering thought was beginning to really gel, I was caught off guard with one memory after the other of some pretty funny stuff. For every painful experience, it seems I can match it with laughter.  

I'm not talking about your regular laughs, either.  It's those times where you catch yourself laughing so much it hurts, while trying to catch your breath. Finally you end up muttering something that sounds like "whoo" as the laugh dies down, only to bubble up again a second later.  

Most of these times are of the you-had-to-be-there variety, but I do have an all-time favorite that translates fairly well.  Especially if you are a parent of more than one child.

Sitting across the picnic table from my friend Dianne, at "play group" (which, by the way, was so much more about us mothers needing to have other grown-ups to hang out with than providing enrichment for the kids) while she feeds her youngest child a bottle.  Her daughters are 6 months old, 2-year-old twins, and the oldest, 3½.  We are talking about the changes a mom goes through from first-time mother to the follow-up kids.  (Nothing against the follow-ups, it's just that the transformation from being a first-time parent to parent of more than one is palpable.)  Unaware that as she goes on in vibrant detail about how carefully she would go to a quiet place to nurse her newborn eldest, sure to coo lovingly, making eye contact at all times of course, and how WOW that's all changed now, the bottle has slipped from the baby's mouth and formula is dripping down onto the little cherub's face as she tries catching the drips with her tongue.  We other moms are all laughing so heartily as Dianne shares her story, tears of laughter streaming, that no one can make words and tell her what's up.  Of course when she realizes what has happened, we are all vaulted into further fits of "I can't breathe!" 

This morning I am thinking of so many times I've eeked out "I can't breathe!" - many times on the phone with Kerri and something just hits us both as hysterically funny, and as many times with my husband Paul when we are home in the evening watching sports and just being what we call "goobers".  

Yes, the painful times are still there, but I am forever grateful for so much laughter along the way. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mom To Adults

          When Kerri was little she asked me to promise her I would live until she was 100 years old. I promised. That will make me a spry 128. I was twelve when my own mom died and for such a long time I've wanted very much to be a mom to adults. Of course living until Kerri is 100 will make me a mom to old people, but that's okay.
          I can think of so many things from when the kids were small that I am so thankful for. It's not like I was wishing away their young years so I could have adult children. We (people who love small children) experience so many little things that we need to pay attention to because they (the special moments) are here for such a fleeting moment: 
          Ryan getting off the bus a very upset first-grader. Problem: the big kids on the bus were making fun of a kid named Jimmy, and that wasn't right. He was downright angry. Ryan getting off the bus the following day, smiling broadly as he announced he figured out what to do about Jimmy. He'd decided to sit with him so Jimmy wouldn't be alone when those sixth graders picked on him. Ryan's dad asking him if he'd been concerned that the big kids might make fun of him, too. "No, I didn't think about that." No one made fun of Jimmy.  There's a brave kid with a big heart.
First grader Ryan
           Asking Ashley, so often easily bruised by what others said and or did, who had come downstairs for school in a rather funky looking outfit, if she was certain that was what she wanted to wear. "Of course. Mom, if I went to school with a pizza box on my head, the next day ALL the kids would come to school wearing a pizza box hat." There's a kid struggling with confidence but showing a whole lot of it.
Ashley in something sensible Mom no doubt picked out
          Kerri, seeing me in tears over who-knows-what (there were a lot of them in those early days): "Mommy, PRAY", while wrapping me in her gigantic one-of-a-kind hug. There's a loving little kid with a lot of faith.
Kerri - don't you just want to hug her?
          I wouldn't trade those (and so many more) special moments with my children for anything. They are tucked carefully away in my heart room and I pull them out from time to time and without fail they give me a special kind of comfort. Sometimes I don't need to pull them out, a precious memory will just pop out at the perfect time.           
          The moments I treasure these days are very different, but ones I had hoped for many times.  
  • Hearing Ryan tell me something about his son - well, there's an experience Webster forgot to find any words for. 
  • Having Ashley call me from the West Coast just because - there's a girl who could help Webster create a whole new volume. Volumes. 
  • Getting off the phone with Kerri for the eleventh (or twenty-third) time that day. So many words, all treasured, many perhaps not necessary but I don't want to let even one slip away. We'll use up all Webster's words and start making our own. 
          After any one of these phone conversations, I end the call and whisper a tiny thanks for that answered prayer:   I am a mom to adults at last.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Idiot Driver Day

          I know I'm not the best driver ever, and I should fess up right at the outset that I've had my share of driving episodes where I wasn't paying attention very well. All before cell phones and texting, I was just a distracted driver and did some things like driving right through an intersection where there was a stop sign, noticing the sign mid-way through the intersection. Did that at a red light (or two) as well, and each of these times my daughter Kerri was in the car with me (and was sure to let me know she noticed). On one occasion I was pulled over, only to have the officer come to the car and tell me that she had a call & had to take off, but it just wouldn't have looked right for her not to stop me when I'd so blatantly ignored the sign. Or light. Not sure which one that was...
          As I was driving this morning and encountering one obviously impatient driver after another, I thought about writing this, in fact sort of started writing in my head while driving. Attentively driving. These days I'm a card carrying speed limit driver. With my car nearly twelve years old, I actually drive about five miles per hour shy of the speed limit on the highway or it shakes. It's not a problem for me, but apparently is for plenty of other drivers.
          Today isn't actually Idiot Driver Day, but it could be. In fact, any day could be. At my last job where I had to take a 15 mile drive on the highway to get to work, I would often come in and announce it was Idiot Driver Day. I get the feeling that the people who are doing the Idiot Driving will not be reading this, but perhaps I'll feel a little better for putting it out there anyway.
          Idiot Drivers are not necessarily idiots, but they seem to behave as such soon as they get behind the wheel. Much as there are stereotypes, Idiot Drivers can be seen across every generation, race, sex, creed, whatever.
I just don't get it. Why do some people drive so close? Are they trying to see if the tag on my shirt is hanging out? I assure you, I double check that before I leave the house. Besides, if I miss it, I'll be okay. There are a whole lot of people out there who are confident they can stop quickly if I have to. Of course, not being a fast driver myself, they don't stay with me long. Probably see that my shirt collar is all set and move on to check the next driver.
          Maybe they want me to see how cool their low-rider is. Know what pal? I don't care. I do care that you are paying a whole lot more attention to pretty much everything BUT the road we are both traveling.
          When I encounter a driver going crazy-fast and/or in-and-out of whatever lane looks best at that minute, I say a little prayer that the person will not cause an accident and that those who are on the road at the same time will be spared from any havoc that could be caused by so much carelessness. Also for the driver to wake up and get a few priorities in order. I sigh as I pull up right behind some crazy speedster at a traffic light a few minutes later. Seems he or she didn't really buy any extra minutes after all, but put themselves and plenty of others at risk.
          Just stop it.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Looks Like She Made It

It didn't really begin as a project, but has turned into one.

I've been writing down my thoughts for years. Many times I wrote just to "get it out there" and then tossed it out. Many more times I kept what I wrote. Over two plus decades I have accumulated dozens of notebooks, and in recent months I have been reading through them all.

So much learning. There's the learning that took place at the precise moments when I was doing the writing, the discovering about myself and more importantly I believe, taking the risk to put it on paper, to make it real. Then there's the learning that's happening now as I look and well, marvel at all that's there. The many, many, oh-so-many times I felt I was stuck, the near certainty I felt that the time would never come when I wouldn't be crying every. single. day. The belief that I would never feel "normal" (a term that has subsequently been tossed from my vocabulary). The fears. Such intense, invasive fears.

I am here. That elusive place where things are okay. I made it.

The journey isn't finished, or I wouldn't be sitting here writing now, would I? But the pain, the deep indescribable ache that was always present, always in my face, has lessened. A lot. Oh I'm weepy, but that could just as well be hormones these days - I am after all in those peri-menopause years.

Then there are the tears of gratitude - for the beautiful sunshine in the form of my perfect grandson and his infectious smile and the peace and safety I can sense he feels. His life is good, it is safe.

There is the thanks I feel for my three kids, on so many levels. The journey I was on inevitably put each of them on one by default. The perfectly ordered life I embarked upon living as a twenty-year-old bride did not go according to plan. I confess, pregnant with my first child, I was one of those women who smiled at the mother of screaming youngsters with chocolate-smeared faces in the grocery store checkout line, patting my belly and assuring myself I will never be that way with my child. Fast-forward just a few years when I was that mother. I gave them Tic-Tacs or M&Ms or whatever it took - and smiled at the pregnant woman in line patting her belly.

Neither my kids nor I deserved how rough the road got, no one does for that matter, but I give them a lot of credit. There are things that spring from difficulties, pleasant surprises that turn up in the strangest places. Different as three people can be who came from the same gene pool, each one of them is sensitive, adaptable (!) and funny. My kids all have a delightful sense of humor, with their own unique stamp. Their dad was a funny, funny guy. He left this life far too soon, but he imparted valuable lessons only he could, and his spirit lives on through them. We didn't follow the yellow-brick-road (well THAT is an entirely different story) but we seem to have landed with feet firmly planted, ready for what comes next.

More gratitude tears for having someone to hold me. This whole healing journey was likely made a little bit longer because I did not have that support person to go home to. Yes, there were, there are, so many supportive and caring people in my life - that I am where I am today is testament to that. But to go through so much struggle and go home alone each day lent itself to a pain all its own. Now I have my husband (of just two weeks) who is there for me no matter what. The word that comes to me over and over where he is concerned is comfortable. There are many words, yes, for I so love words, but comfortable is a good place to start.