Thursday, April 28, 2011

Children's Hospital

I acknowledge that my family desperately needs Children's Hospital right now, but that does nothing to calm my seething hatred for all things sterile. I've hated hospitals since I was a teenager. I got to witness first hand my grandmother's pathetic, skinny body covered in tubes after her suicide attempt - the one that took her life. It has created such a distaste in my mouth that I have never recovered from it. As the days draw nearer to Preston's next appointment the butterflies -which always flutter in my stomach since his diagnosis- slowly cocoon themselves and become heavy boulders. This feeling - its a kin to stage fright. Every minute that draws closer to your appearance in front of the audience feels like eternal torture. Your heart races, your mouth is dry, and it's hard to eat because those boulders in your stomach leave no room for anything. You just want to step into those bright lights and get it over with. That's the best way I can describe this feeling to those who have never experienced it. And at the end of all this tension and anxiety - when the play draws to a close - my players don't just get a good or bad review...we get a good review or open heart surgery for our infant.

I can't prepare for this drama. There are two separate endings to this play and I have no clue which ending I will be enacting. I'm out on stage, going through the motions, projecting an eerie confidence that I don't feel and I just want to flip to the end and see the outcome. Scott tries to remind me that the cardiologist believed Preston would never need surgery and I want so badly to feel what he feels. He has this quiet optimism about him, a complete confidence that our news will be good, our review a heralded success. Such good odds...but what the hell is that suppose to mean to me anymore? The odds are Preston should never have been born with a congenital heart defect to begin with. The odds are that the Ventricular Septal Defect should have been one or two holes at best, not an infinite number - not so many that the doctors couldn't f*cking count them. I'm sorry. It's still raw. It still bleeds. This anger that it was my baby. Percentages, odds, in all likelihoods - I can't translate them into hope anymore. They lost that ability the day Preston was struggling to breath. The day I sat in that hospital room praying he was fixable - begging whoever was out there to have a little bit of mercy on me - on us.


I hate hospitals but I begrudgingly admit we need them - maybe after the 4th I can even learn to appreciate them - one way or the other...I guess I'll have to.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Mother's Kiss

Today he threw himself into my arms- full of tears and snot, and owies- and knocked me off my feet. "I hurt, Mom!" he wailed while bringing his foot to my face so I could bear witness to the blister rising on his ankle from the brand new shoes, which are already to small. This boy, so petite in comparison to his father, has already grown large enough to knock me off balance. His strong, wiry frame, full of muscle and sinew only resembles the baby he once was by the little bit of pudge, which still frames his innocent face.

Recently his tears reach epic proportions. He can't seem to live in a world where blisters and hurt feelings can wrench from him emotions he can't contain. The realization that the world is unfair comes at him all at once. Not every act perpetrated by his sister is punishable, and not every injury can be healed with a kiss. His understanding of the world is expanding and growing day by day, and he doesn't always enjoy this new found knowledge. Who can blame him?

Even in my own - well planned and practised - life there come moments where I wish I could throw myself into one all mighty tantrum. Life is the greatest contradiction. It is full of moments which hold awesome serenity, while simultaneously bringing moments which can be wickedly brutal, and infinitely cruel. Life is a god damned oxymoron and anyone who has lived here for longer than five minutes knows this.

So shout out your perceived injustices to the world Gabe. Because there will come a day when it's no longer acceptable - the cruel, twisting knife of civility. It's just that others don't want their serenity ruined by the horror next door, bud. Don't judge these happy few. Who knows what hurt they endured last week and perhaps today they just want to laugh even if their tears have not yet fully dried.

Growing up is hard to do - but at three years old there are still moments where tears and snot and owies are my job, and I hope that serenity can still be found in a mother's kiss.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dear future

Dear future teenagers of mine,

I'm sure by now you have told me you hated me or casually mentioned how I have single handily destroyed your social life, and while I'm sure both of these things are true exaggerated I want to shove one more lesson down your sweet little throats. It's not a lesson easily learned, most people have to learn the hard way before it is finally taught, but I'm hoping against hope that you can be those people who nod, and have an amazing epiphany that will last your entire lifetime. I know...doubtful right. Well here goes anyway.

You aren't invulnerable. Bad things can and will happen to you. I was your age once, hard to imagine right? And although I wasn't as blatant as some teenagers when it came to my belief in my youthful longevity and immortality, I also never believed that I would ever become the lead in a comedic-tragedy. But life has a way of making you into an ironic lesson when you least suspect it.

Even though I have everything I could ever need, I do not have everything I want! I want an absolute. I need to know that you will grow up safe and secure, and that you will fulfill your every potential. I want what all parents want...I want you to get through life with minimal scarring. I want you to smile, laugh, and love, and I want you to be strong enough to survive even the most devastating event imaginable...

Your father...he sees a lot of horrific things because of his job... this you know. He meets with death nearly every shift. He photographs that cold stranger in all it's all it's devastation. And your father is tainted, just a little, by it's gruesome appearance. You can sense it sometimes. You can sense when it has seeped into his skin and taken up residence like some sort of damn virus. Sometimes it's the way he holds his head, or the rounding of his shoulders, sometimes the weight of the dead is just too damned much for any one man to handle. And still...I want an absolute. I want a promise that because he is your father's coworker...that death won't come to visit us. Not until we are all old and gray and ready.

But I also know we don't always get what we want. So if by some miracle you are reading this letter, and you have survived into adulthood. If Puck's heart is healed and whole, and neither one of you took your mortality for granted...then know this...Nobody's life is special. No one gets a pass, not one person is exempt from tragedy or from the challenges that make up our life. Every person will suffer their own trials, and fate will mock us all on occasion. But if you can learn that no hurt big or small needs to be suffered alone...then there is always time to heal. And perhaps that's the only absolute in this life. The love a parent has for their child. I would die for you...but more importantly...I would live for you. If fate was so cruel as to take from me a person I could not live without. I would get up everyday, and I would continue on. For you.

You aren't invulnerable, but you are loved unconditionally. Remember that.


Monday, April 11, 2011

The Hero and the Princess

The briefest moments in times are sometimes the ones best remembered. It's the cool, crisp, spring mornings which brings to life memories that seem long lost...

I remember that he often smelled of caramel or Tums. His salt and pepper hair was thick and shiny, combed to the right and styled as though he never left the 50's. He was Peter Falk incarnate, often mistaken for the actor who played Columbo, he politely refused requests for autographs - a common occurrence. He told the best bedtime stories too. He never read from a book, but instead would weave tale after tale, filling them with untold adventure and excitement, straight from his own imagination  and brilliantly intertwined with his memories from The War. I could never tell what story was true or not! His subtle English accent only added to the story's mystery and intrigue and I never doubted that this man was truly the hero his stories portrayed him to be. This man, my grandfather, was the single most interesting person I have ever known.

I remember she was kind and soft and her skin was thin as parchment. I felt safe with her. Her kindness and love stretched over me like a blanket and smothered away a world that had become infinitely cruel to me. She spoiled me and I knew it. She always told me I was special because I was the first born grandchild but I think she saw me as I was - fragile and a little scared. I think she saw herself in me and because she didn't know how to protect herself she took me on as her charge.

They seemed perfect together. The hero and the princess. Of course things are never as they seem - reality is far less romantic, but to a child they were the most perfect people in all the world. I loved them best. I loved them more then my own parents. They weaved their magic spell, the one that made all grandparents immune to true judgment, and I never knew the darkness within them until I was too old to believe in fairy tales - in the stories my grandpa told me at bedtime.

I was 16 when my grandmother took her own life. That fragility of hers, which she tried so desperately to hide, finally collapsed under it's own weight and she needed to move on. She needed to find a place where childhood horror could be forever buried, and where unfulfilled promises and unspoken words never came to rest upon her shoulders. In a generation where silence reigned and truths were buried as deep as the hurt they caused my grandmother never had a chance to find her voice, to express her pain, until one day it bubbled up, boiled over, and started a fire she could no longer contain.

 It broke him to find her lifeless body and the venomous words pleading from the suicide note to let her die or she'd hate him forever. It was too much for a man who had known her since she was a teenager, had married and conceived two children, who had loved her the best way he knew how...But sometimes destruction swells up from the ground and throws us off our feet, and all our mistakes suddenly collide into our world and shatter it into unrecognizable remnants of what should have been.

 My grandfather died of cancer a few years after his wife took her life. He was not the man I had known as a child the day he left this earth. I think in his final hours he finally learned what the world had tried so hard to teach him. That love needs to be shouted from the rooftops because those words you left unspoken yesterday may come to haunt you tomorrow.

Still... on cool, crisp, spring days I don't remember the people they were. I only remember the people I thought they were. The hero and the princess, the people I loved best. Courage and Love - personified.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Wino in the Making.

I pull a shirt over my head that reads , "Mother's of little boys work from son up to son down", and when my head emerges through the top I notice Gabriel spritzing himself with my perfume while wearing my bra like ear muffs and I think, "you have no idea...". I stroll to my bathroom mirror and criticize the figure, or lack thereof, at the woman staring back at me. I think it clings too much to the muffin top I'm sporting; but the high waisted jeans I bought from Costco do a pretty good job of hiding the mom belly I have come to recognize as the cost of doing business with my uterus.

Lot's of women look at the hanging skin, and stretch marks on their belly as a beautiful testament to carrying children. I see it as a testament to the fact that I'll never wear a bikini again. I shake my head, groan and Gabriel pipes up, "a big bum mom". If my eyes could shoot daggers at him he would lie in a puddle of his own blood, but true to toddler form he hardly notices I'm alive and continues on his happy jaunt through my bathroom drawers, stopping occasionally to pull out a new treasure and wonder what it could possibly be used for.

I turn slow circles in my mirror and happily decide that I can live with my J. Lo booty...if only my thighs would stop shaking like a bowl of jello with every minor jolt they endure. Then I lean in close and inspect the face I barely recognize anymore. The bags under my eyes make me appear older than I am. I fiercely defend myself to my inner critic..."I am up three times a night breastfeeding, you know". Before I realize I have spoken out loud my son stares at my chest and states knowingly, "A big boobs. A Puck eat mom boobs". I smile at the boy who is now nonchalantly playing with my Canestan tablets with applicators. I raise an eyebrow, which I notice most definitely needs plucking, and push out my chest. No one would know that without my supportive bras my breasts look like deflated balloons. I sigh audibly and begin to wash my face. I look at the creams and makeups I have collecting before me and realize that I might want to think about anti aging serums. "It's never too early to start" I mumble while squinting at the tiny crows feet my eye creases are now sporting.

I finally head downstairs, and decide to tackle the day a little differently. Today I will end the night with a nice glass of wine. It will be my reward for keeping my children not only alive, but uninjured when their mouths tell me a truth I'm not quite ready to hear. I walk to the liquor store without children in tow and pick out a bottle of wine that I have noticed my own mother drinking. I bring it to the cashier and open my wallet. I'm ready to pull my ID from it's bindings when the clerk states " Twenty-one dollars and forty-four cents please". My swallow is quick and painfully obvious. I look furtively away while handing her my debit card and think that she must be wondering at this point what my age is...I look suspicious enough. When she still doesn't request my ID I'm confused but I do my best to cover the hurt expression on my face. When the 20 year old behind the counter calls me "Ma'am" I think I gasp aloud. She hands me my bottle of wine and I meekly leave the store and consider drinking the entire contents of my bottle before arriving home.

I decide against this course of action only because I suddenly believe that the officer wouldn't see me as a cute, young, tipsy girl, but as a drunk whose seen her fair share of disappointment in her long, depressing life...and he would probably refer to me as "ma'am" again which would only spurn me into becoming the alcoholic he assumes I am.

I get home and put the wine in the fridge and glance at the calender that cruelly mocks me. There's fifteen days until my 28th birthday. My audible sigh draws my husbands attention and he states, "what's up Sexy baby?". He grabs my ass and growls in my ear and I suddenly decide that I have the best husband in the world...Maybe tonight instead of drowning my sorrows over my lost youth, I'll raise a toast and celebrate the years I get to spend with this man who doesn't see the muffin top, stretch marks or deflated boobs...

Because he's an ass man afterall, and I kinda like my J. Lo booty.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Darkness Falls

It's like being on the open ocean upon the deck of a beautiful white yacht. You turn your face up towards the sun and it's warmth bathes your body and melts away the everyday worries which sometimes consume your mind all to readily. Trivialities are ignored and easily fade into the background. This newborn bundle in your arms is so full of promise. This thing, this one thing is what you've done right. When you hold that hope for the first time nothing else in this whole wide world matters. Everything for that one beautiful moment is still. That choppy ocean you've been travelling - the ups and downs of everyday life - is forgotten. The waves are silent, the birds are quiet, the wind is a gentle breeze on your face and everything is peaceful.

When I feel the sun on my face slowly being overshadowed by a squall that has taken up residence directly over head, I am alarmed but not panicked. I glance back at Scott, his hands are holding my other two children's when suddenly our yacht lurches and throws us off our feet. I clutch wildly to this new life in my arms and I stretch out my hand to grasp my husbands, but I can't quite reach him. He wildly glances at our other babies, "I've got them", he mouths. And I know I have no other choice. I cannot be their mother right now, I have to be Preston's. When the clouds thicken overhead, threatening to spill their contents over me like a shower of doom, I desperately search for the sun, for the light to lead my way out.

It's pitch black when your worst fear takes up residence beside you. There are people all around me, rescuers throwing buoys to me, begging me to grab hold so they can pull me to shore. But I can't find them in the dark. I stumble and fall over obstacles that shouldn't be there and my fear is only overshadowed by my anger. I force myself to take a deep breath. It's shaky, and cold, but I force myself to draw another. There seems to be no hope here, no hope in this darkness that looms overhead. I feel so utterly, and hopelessly alone. In my desperate pleas to understand this new heading my yacht is on I stumble upon a card game I never realized was being played. "I don't gamble", I state and I hear the dealers ragged breath rattle out of him like a poisonous snake hiding in the grass, "life's a gamble" he whispers in my ear.

In our desperate attempt to clutch one another in this unpredictable thing called life, the human condition ensures that when the chips are down and the cards are dealt you play for yourself. The other people at your table are beside you, but they can't play for matter how much you wish they could.

I glance down at my shaking hands, I still have him in my arms, he's still clutching to me baby fresh, and wonderfully oblivious to the cards he holds...jokers smiling cruelly up at him. I force myself to look at my own cards...can I beat the dealer, this man in the black cloak, this man with no face. My yacht crests upon a wave. His movements are slow and deliberate but he lays his cards down, one after another and it seems I could beat him. The clouds break overhead and I can see the sun once more. The cloaked man still holds a card close to his vest and soon I will get to see what it is. But for now I turn my face upwards and let the sun melt away the worries of everyday life, and in one smooth motion Preston turns his face upwards too and we will away the dark together.