Things That Matter and Other Things

Today is Todd’s 51st birthday. I thought about writing a long post honoring him, but I think after the previous posts (see under “Love” tab above) it would be overkill and these days I’m feeling more private about “us,” which I’m sure makes everyone happier since people do get sick of hearing sappy and gushy love stories from middle-aged folks I think. So, let’s just say a BIG HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the love of my life and move on, shall we?

Thanksgiving came and went more smoothly than a Hallmark movie. Well, except that I almost burned down the house before we even finished cooking the second turkey  when one of the towels on the counter caught fire – but then it wouldn’t be a holiday without a little drama. The housecleaning was done the weekend before and I prepped all the food the day before with an actual list of what needed to be done when. This goes way beyond my usual capabilities, since I prefer a more by-the-seat-of-your-pants approach followed by a meltdown of hot stressy mess. I was inspired by a friend who takes organization to a diabolical level – which, for the record, I am in awe of – and now I’m feeling competitive over completing home projects, which is a good thing since we’ll actually be getting stuff done and even though she has no idea, it’s all thanks to HER.

Opac is finishing up his final days of his first semester – which definitely wins the prize for fuckery of the most epic kind. I took a photo of him and his roommate on move-in day and sent it to my mom with the caption, “taking bets on how long it’ll be before he’s smoking pot” (if you saw the roommate you’d fully understand). Little did I know.

When he returned to school from fall break, he ended up getting really sick. All upper-respiratory – really bad, persistent cough, headaches, and fever – the latter was what prompted him to call me and ask what he should do because his fever was 103. No mom 98 minutes away from her child wants to get this call. After I asked how he knew his temperature (there’s these strips they put on their tongue – he got one from a friend – and I’ve never even heard of this) I ordered him to get to an urgent care. Now.

Long story short, his friends took him – one of whom called me and told me they were in the car and on their way (my heart). I sat on the couch and waited. An hour or so later O called me and told me that he was given medication and was staying out of class the next day to rest.

A couple of weeks later… he called to tell me he was “not living in [his] dorm right now.” WHAT do you MEAN, you’re not living in your dorm right now?

Roommate has a big problem, apparently, with alcohol, marijuana, and keeping his hands off of my son’s throat. He has a knife collection he calls “tools” and plenty of vehicles by which to deliver marijuana to his internal organs. Opac asked him repeatedly not to smoke in the room.

Okay so now at this point I’m wondering how this kid was smoking in a freshman dorm and – let’s face it – that particular habit has a VERY distinct odor – how, just HOW has he not been caught? And then the flood of other concerns… like my son smelling like that, he could end up guilty by association or worse… and then all of that was shut down by “let me go there and put my hands on him” because that meme You hurt my son and I’ll make your death look like an accident suddenly felt like my theme song.

But. My son went to his RA and Resident Life and told them everything, including that the physical assault was a repeat offense (yeah, like WTF – he never told any of us) and he was moved to an “emergency room” in another hall, there was an investigation where of course they found nothing in a subsequent room search, and in the end O was moved to a new dorm with a new roommate. And all of this transpired with absolutely NO intervention by myself, Todd, or the ex. My kid HANDLED it. And I couldn’t be more proud.

And now for an illogical segue to The Black Handbag.

Back in Vegas, I saw a handbag in Michael Kors that I WANTED. At the time, my adoring and most wonderful husband told me to just buy it. But I’m practical, not to mention broke, so there is no justification for a $350 handbag unless it cleans the house, cooks dinner, and spontaneously refills itself with hundred dollar bills.

Anyway. Michael Kors + holiday season = 70% off sale (my favorite kind of math!) I told Todd. He again said, just buy it. (But also noted how fortunate I didn’t buy it in Vegas at full retail.) I waited several days, and then finally just did it. Meanwhile, V was texting me pictures (from her dad’s house) of Michael Kors boots and an MK backpack she wanted.

You know, when I was her age, I wanted clothes from The LIMITED and a Swatch watch…. none of which cost a car payment under the bridge of my parents’ incomes. What the hell with all these topline designers for teenagers?

I pointed out that she already has a Michael Kors backpack (from her dad – I’m not that crazy). Yes, but this one is black, she said. And then, you have more than one handbag (a remark aimed at my newest purchase, scheduled for delivery the next day). Deep breath. I am an adult and have a job. I don’t need to justify my purchases with anyone. Which, though it hardly matters anymore, was a regular expectation in my previous life.

She turned the conversation to the topic of another thing she wanted for Christmas – a mini-fridge. Not just any mini-fridge. This one is for makeup. What makeup needs to be stored in a mini-fridge? I asked. Different things, like skincare products and stuff, she said. Since when does this stuff need a refrigerator? It’s small. It sits on my dresser, she said, and it’s only $30. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. And she got mad and said, fine! I’ll buy it myself.

The next day, when Todd picked her up from practice – and I have absolutely no idea how this conversation got started because I was at work minding my own business – she brought up the handbag I was getting and he gave her a mild-mannered talking to about the merits of being a grown-ass woman with a job and her own money to do with as she sees fit. Essentially I’m her mother and I do a lot for her and O, and I made sacrifices and I’ve worked hard and don’t I deserve to have nice things?

I don’t know all the details, but I do know that they drove along in silence until he pulled into the driveway and my delivery was on the front porch… and Little Miss Attitude with the unfortunate and entirely genetic defect of snarky spillage of the mouth noted…

and there’s the purse mom doesn’t need.

Poor Veruca. Now she made Todd mad. She spent the rest of the night in her room in self-imposed exile, wasn’t hungry, and didn’t want to talk.

The next morning she came into the kitchen and chipperly asked me if I was “so excited” about my new purse, with genuine interest and nary a twitch of sarcasm.

But she’s still not getting a duplicate MK bag.

Where We’ve Been

It’s been a busy month or so. September – a friend’s 50th birthday celebration, a living history event with Frida Kahlo, two wine festivals we planned but bagged out on, and dinner with Todd’s parents.

We, on behalf of the college, attended a fundraiser for families of children who passed suddenly. The mother of a 19-year-old boy who was killed in a car accident on his way to work spoke first and I sat there trembling with tears. A fellow dean and friend also attended and he, like a true Gemini, tried to lure me onto the dancefloor for one of the newer line dances I don’t know and I – unlike a true Gemini – refused on merit of self-preservation. I did, however, buy $40 worth of auction tickets and Todd and I deposited them in various bags and won – NOTHING. Typical.

Opac came home for fall break – Todd picked him up and he was already gone by the time I’d gotten home from work. He couldn’t wait to drive the Mustang again. But he did pop home around 9pm between visiting friends to see me and gave me the biggest hug. God, I love him!

The next night we had friends visiting from out of town and went out to dinner and then hung by the fire pit for the rest of the night. O came home around 11 and sat with us for a while, entertained by Greg and his whiskey-fueled musings. I don’t know what time “we” called it a night but the next morning Leila told me she yelled at Greg for being so loud at 3 a.m. and he said someone was a real pool shark, which prompted me to say – wait, WHO is a pool shark? And Greg said, Todd. The two of them were playing pool until 3 0’clock in the morning. Apparently very loudly. And I slept through it all.

Sunday was our JDRF fundraiser and I was so proud to have O there with us (V wanted nothing to do with it) – friends and family were there and he got to talk about school and how he’s doing, and I just stood back and took him in. My heart just swells when I look at him. He amazes me and yet he is exactly who he has always been. Yes, I’m gushing. Deal with it.

He spent the night at my mom’s because she offered to drive him back to school the next day, so I had to say goodbye to him in front of everyone and after I hugged him I ran away and burst into tears. I was so not expecting to have that reaction to saying goodbye this time. My heart wanted to explode. WTH is this? This is me. In a nutshell, I have always, always had this separation anxiety that feels like fear. But I refuse to have either of my children feel this.

So the following weekend was Homecoming for V. She got the last hair appointment at the salon that was at EIGHT THIRTY IN THE MORNING for… are you sitting down?… SIXTY-FIVE DOLLARS. For a set. And spent the rest of the day trying not to lay her head down. This was $30 more than a wash, cut, and style. I’m shocked and more than a little pissed. I guess I’m too told to know that this is normal for special events, but for lord’s sake, it’s not a gad-dang wedding.

So her girlfriend came over and they got ready together, we took some beautiful pics of them and, on the drive to the school, friend was gushing about some boy from the private school who’s Russian and has an accent and “he’s so pretty.”

I left early to pick them up so I could park close to the building and watch all these girls walking out barefoot in dresses just long enough to cover their underwear. When my two got in the car they told me those girls have “spandex” on underneath, but I still don’t know exactly what “spandex” entails unless it’s just shorts. Nevertheless, WAY too much skin showing and now I know I sound old. I will take comfort that one day they too will know the betrayal of middle age.

Oh! And there’s this “new dance” called “grinding.” I had to laugh because it’s so NOT NEW and to V I said, you know that Prince was singing about this in the 80s, right? They were chatting in the backseat about who was doing it and, “did you do it?” “No! I didn’t do it.” “It’s disgusting.” And I’m still wondering how those other girls were doing it in those shirts disguised as dresses. Oh right – spandex.

The day after, V went to another friend’s house for a birthday party. I went to the door with her to talk to the parents and I mistook mom for V’s friend when she opened the door and then I really felt old. I swear they’re making parents younger and younger these days.

So last weekend – the highlight of October thus far – was a long-awaited concert with Dennis DeYoung. We got the tickets during a PBS fundraiser one cold winter night by the fire with a bottle of wine, with a meet-and-greet attached. It was held in an old, small, historic venue about an hour and half from us, and we were front row and center. It was awesome. His band was great – the lead singer, August Zadra, a perfect blend of Dennis’ voice and Tommy Shaw’s. He and guitarist Jimmy Leahey were amazing and they were having so much fun up there it was impossible not to smile back and by the end my cheeks were sore.

Dennis is the consummate and most gracious host. And funny. He asked who in the audience was seeing him live for the first time. I raised my hand. And then he fired back at the crowd, well what the hell have you all been waiting for? I’m 72 years old for God’s sake. And then, what? You said to each other, we better go see that guy before he dies, right? And we all laughed. He’s still got it and you know how some long-time rockers’ voices have altered with age? Not his. It’s the same, perfect voice that sang in the darkness of a 7th grade dance long ago.

And we were surrounded by old people. Well, not really, but the average age was easily 55. I was in line for the bathroom before the show, a line about 30 women long so I was texting Todd who was waiting downstairs. Are we really this old? He said, they’re old. We’re not. But, we blend, I said.

But we’re not all old. A woman in one of the stalls: Does anyone see a tampon machine out there? A collective “no.” And then, Can you guess what my next question is?

I do, I said. Because I have these things in every purse I carry, because – middle age. You never know when the body is next going to fuck with you, because middle age is a bitch with a ruthless sense of humor. I agreed to play along once I realized this was a one-way street, so I come prepared in most cases.

After the show we lined up with all the other fossils in the VIP section for pictures with Dennis, who was flanked by his wife of 50 years (Suzanne sings backup) and his lead singer – interesting, we assumed so no one can get too close to him. Dennis said to Todd, you were in the front row. And Todd thought that was cool that he noticed, and I really think it was because he was the only one holding up his phone for two hours (after Dennis, during the concert, remarked about getting away from technology and current shitstorm for a night). Then he asked if we got sprayed with sweat/spit in the front row, and I said, only a little, which was my way of joking but no one really laughed so now I’m wondering if they thought I was serious and now I’m feeling bad.

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Copyright Taraka and The Tara Chronicles, 2019.

The rest of the weekend was sort of anticlimactic – I got up after 5 hours of sleep to do the neighborhood yard sale and, after making exactly 25 cents in the first hour, declared it a waste I’ll never do again. Meanwhile Todd, who was carrying random shit out during the sale, made $10 and a new friend in a half hour.

I leave you with the lyrics to this song recorded by Dennis DeYoung in 1980 and that in-the-moment, nearly-40-years-later revelation of how its timelessness resonates today. (Thank you Dennis.)

Tonight’s the night we’ll make history, honey, you and I
And I’ll take any risk to tie back the hands of time
And stay with you here tonight
I know you feel these are the worst of times
I do believe it’s true
When people lock their doors and hide inside
Rumor has it it’s the end of Paradise
But I know, if the world just passed us by
Baby I know, you wouldn’t have to cry
The best of times are when I’m alone with you
Some rain some shine, we’ll make this a world for two
Our memories of yesterday will last a lifetime
We’ll take the best, forget the rest
And someday we’ll find these are the best of times
These are the best of times
The headlines read ‘these are the worst of times’
I do believe it’s true
I feel so helpless like a boat against the tide
I wish the summer winds could bring back Paradise
But I know, if the world turned upside down
Baby, I know you’d always be around
The best of times are when I’m alone with you
Some rain some shine, we’ll make this a world for two
Our memories of yesterday will last a lifetime
We’ll take the best, forget the rest
And someday we’ll find these are the best of times
These are the best of times
And so my friends we’ll say goodnight
For time has claimed it’s prize
But tonight will always last
As long as we keep alive memories of Paradise…
Source: Musixmatch

College Boy, High School Girl

It’s been 35 days, or 5 weeks. It already seems like forever. He checks in regularly – at least insofar as I hear from him every few days but not in a predictable way.

He has an on-campus job in, of all things, GROUNDS KEEPING. This is the same kid who mowed the lawn here no more than, twice.  He’s never weed-wacked anything. He doesn’t weed. And, he will be the one getting up at the ass-crack of dawn to clear snow from the sidewalks while everyone else is still sleeping. (To his credit, he has done this at home, though not before noon.)

He’s being courted by a fraternity and asked my thoughts on it. This has actually been an ongoing conversation. Todd, never “that” type of guy, didn’t even consider joining one. The “Dad,” who never even went to college, thinks it’s stupid. And then there’s me.

I do belong to a national sorority. It was a no-brainer for me, at a small college where I started – where nearly everyone went Greek. I explained to him my reservations about him pledging from a mother’s perspective, given all the media attention to bad behavior and some recent deaths in fraternities attributed to hazing. I explained that while you’re pledging, they essentially “own” your time – if a brother calls you up and says get over here and clean my toilet, you damn well better get over there. Make sure these are good guys. Make sure they share the same values. (Turns out he already learned all this on his own by asking them questions.)

They like him and really want him to join. Of COURSE they do. I reminded him about how intoxicating it is to be pursued by someone. He reminds them of an alum, he said, and told me he was blown away when he saw a picture.*

I mentioned more practical considerations, like financial and time commitment. And then I launched into all the good things. The camaraderie, support, having purpose through philanthropy, and of course the fun. How these men will be his brothers for life. Thirty years later, and I would trust my sisters with my life. No reservations. But I made sure to emphasize that it’s not the only choice, and it’s certainly not for everyone. (See? The Gemini speaks.)

He’s tasted alcohol. He’s been babysitter to his puking roommate, in a bathroom for two hours, the details such as vomit everywhere and calling for backup he left out but shared with his dad. This is the same kid who bolted out of the room like his ass was on fire when his sister went all exorcist at the other end of the couch. He doesn’t have the “stomach” for it, all the more notable since he never left his roommate’s side.

And, he is his mother’s son. Vodka straight is not what I’d recommend, and yet that is how he prefers it. Jeezus lord – I told him to mix it with something and make sure he’s guzzling plenty of water too. He said he does drink a lot of water. He’s had Jack Daniels. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Although he says beer still tastes like piss, which is par for the college course.

He’s trying to ignore hometown drama. Some of his friends here have accused him of being “too good” since he’s in college now, and it pisses him off. He acknowledged that they miss him and might be feeling abandoned because he’s not coming home on weekends, but they’re being ignorant about it. He consistently amazes me with his ability to see things and yet remain steadfast to his goals.

Academically, he’s doing fine. Learning how to manage his time, after saving all his homework and then spending ten hours on a Sunday. He called me on Monday to bitch about Spanish, how it’s total bullshit and I don’t want to take [expletive] classes that have nothing to do with my major. Haven’t we all felt that way? But in life, my love, there are things you’re going to have to do to achieve your goals. And sometimes in a JOB, you’re going to have to do things you really don’t want to do.

I saw him three weeks ago, because he needed his SS card to start his job and I had it. I realize that it was too soon, but it was necessary and I brought him some other things he’d forgotten. Plus, because he’s my baby boy, I brought him chicken from Royal Farms (he can’t get it there) and some Otterbein’s cookies.

What a thrill to sit across a table from him and see him. He had so much to share and he will never know how good it felt to be with him, even for an hour. It took all of my self-restraint not to reach out and grab him. I said, let me just look at you for a minute, before he got out of the car. He said, Mom, I’m fine. I think he thought I was going to cry. I totally wasn’t. I was fine. And I was ready for me to leave too.

~~~~~

High school is underway and in full force at day 24 … she’s got upperclassmen friends and plans for Homecoming. She got off the bus one day, talking-shouting at me about what kind of dress she needs for Homecoming and how she wants to get her hair done. The dress is already purchased and is hanging in the closet, picture day is tomorrow, and the yearbook email has arrived with the “lowest price ever” of $60. Which, seriously, IS the lowest I’ve seen in 5 years. O’s was $90. Good God, this girl is going to cost me a fortune.

She’s compared the Homecoming dress to the Prom dress and how they are NOT the same, and all I’m thinking is I sincerely hope no one asks her to the prom this year. She’s hoping someone will ask her to homecoming but that’s unlikely since she shot the poor kid down last year and I can’t even believe I’m talking about this because she’s only 14 and why do we have to live in drama all the time?

She’s got to be the most opinionated teenage girl ever. She knows Everything. Including stuff she doesn’t know but insists she does anyway. It’s maddening. Where did she learn to be so judge-y?? Oh wait – that apple didn’t fall far from the tree either. Not THIS tree, THAT tree. This one’s shorts are too short, that one is rude, [pick any random person] is wrong-wrong-wrong, O shouldn’t be drinking, his roommate is a bad influence, so-and-so doesn’t manage her diabetes very well, why are you having wine again?

Academics – in the midst of all the teenage noise – are going well for her so far. She continued Chinese studies for the first week – whined about how hard it was this year and how terrible the teacher was, and marched her tiny ass down to the guidance counselor and requested and was transferred to Spanish 1. At least she channels some of her moxie for useful things.

I am impressed and proud of how she has transitioned to young adulthood in the last several weeks. She manages her homework without being monitored, she gets herself up in the morning and is ready to go, and – the biggest one of all – she is managing her diabetes all by herself. She is changing her pump sets out By Herself. Completely. I am  mostly a spectator, and a constant nag to fill in her logbook (a work in progress).

How am I doing? These have been dreaded milestones for years – but I am feeling stable and not emotional about it. I’m not feeling the sadness in missing O. Probably because I’m constantly distracted by V’s whiplash brand of in-your-face moods, judgements, and admonitions.

Someone send me a forbidden cocktail.

 

*Being a bit nosy myself, I googled the fraternity and his college and found a pic of a group of guys and – as I looked closely – there he was. The alum who resembles O, and goddamn it IS uncanny.

 

 

To Veruca, On Love

*Update: After posting, I realized there was something else to say. See at end of post.*

It took me a very long time to see love without rose-colored glasses. Don’t get me wrong – love is, as Shakespeare said, a many-splendored thing. I was enamored with love long before it was returned.

I liked a LOT of boys. I ended up “going with” (what we called it in middle school) two that I previously had zero awareness of before I heard they liked me. Lesson in caution: when a boy you’ve hardly noticed turns up in pursuit of you – proceed with caution. Not that you can’t fall in love with him, but it can be fairly intoxicating to be adored by someone.

To that end, beware the boy who pursues you when you’re already involved with someone else. It is one thing to love someone from afar, respecting the relationship you have with another, and it is quite another to make plain to everyone who will listen that he wants to be with you. Further, strategically placing himself where he is most likely to see you, and you him, fermenting a possible triangle which I assure you will not end well (see aforementioned “intoxication” above). If he doesn’t respect your relationship with another, how will he respect any he might have with you?

Leaving one boy for another is quite common and, even if you disguise it with a need to exit a “bad situation,” you have barely enough time to breathe and/or heal the wounds of the previous while you’re embarking on the next. Also guaranteed not to end well.

If you’re just leaving because boy #2 looks way better than boy #1, STILL. Give yourself time. You can’t recognize true love if you keep jumping from one pond to another without time to reflect.

Relationships that are always full of drama are not “real love.” If “we’re always fighting” is part of your relationship, it’s not a healthy relationship. And it doesn’t matter who is bringing the drama. If it’s him, it’s not good. If it’s you, you need to stop and take a good hard look at why. You will benefit and grow from an introspective look at yourself.

Your first real love may very well be the love that will define your expectations for every love that follows, good or bad. Or not. Not everyone’s first love is life-altering. But many first loves will lay the groundwork for every relationship you ever have, and you may subconsciously measure every subsequent relationship against that first, intense love. You may chase every relationship you have, unknowingly trying to recapture the same feelings, emotions, and physical reactions. No matter what, no matter how tempting, be aware – not to mold every relationship into the one that was your foundation. You will fail.

Instead, learn from that first love. Learn how it feels to be loved. Learn how you felt to give love. Learn how it felt to be treated by this person. Did you feel good, or did you feel uneasy? What characteristics did he have that you valued? Which would you choose to avoid? Learn how it felt when that love ended. Were you amicable? Was it ugly? How did you conduct yourself? Did you give yourself enough time to reflect and heal? (These are all relevant questions in every relationship.)

Beware the Rebound. The “rebound” is a relationship you find yourself in soon after a breakup. This person makes you feel good when you’ve been really sad and down. That’s great. Except, it’s not love. (See the aforementioned “intoxication.”) Which also means, you’ve had no time to heal.

Beware of the exotic. Exotic, as defined in the dictionary, is “of foreign origin or character; not native.” Accents are sexy. What is foreign is sometimes intoxicatingly attractive. What I want you to know is, don’t get stoopid over some guy with a foreign accent. It’s not romantic. He’s not different. He will treat you the same as any other guy you meet, maybe better, or maybe not as well. Just keep perspective and have self-respect. If you don’t, you will drown in that gorgeous Italian accent. Or Latino. Or English. Or Afrikaans. Or some form of  Asian.

Never, Ever, pursue a friend of an ex. If he’s good guy, he won’t go out with you. He may like you, but there’s a guy code (as there is a girl code) and that will preclude any attraction you may have to each other. As it should be. If he doesn’t care that you’re his best friend’s ex, you best be prepared to wonder why and what kind of friend he really is. Either way, if scoring you outranks his friendship with [your ex], that’s a serious character flaw.

Next: Long distance relationships are tough. That’s not to say they can’t work out, but be realistic about this distance and the amount of time apart. And more importantly, what are the boundaries of a long-distance relationship, and what are the guidelines? Be realistic in your expectations, and see how they line up with his.

Don’t give yourself up to someone who won’t commit to you. This can look like not calling you like he said he would to excusing an ex-girlfriend showing up, to blowing off your date, to openly flirting with other girls in front of you. He’s “just not that into you.” And don’t you DARE take that shit personal – it’s his flaw, not yours.

“Bad boys” can be intoxicating themselves – but be prepared to lose your heart and soul to this guy. It’s not going to end well for you if he’s drinking and doing drugs regularly. And – this should go without saying – ANY boy who lays a hand on you is abusive and you need to walk, no – RUN, away fast. “I’m sorry” is a lie you will regret believing. And, while we’re on the subject, verbal abuse IS abuse and no less of a crime.

Now for the icky part and I’ll make it quick: Sex is something you will consider sooner or later. I hope you would come talk to me about it, but you might not and that’s okay. Don’t let anyone, even a long-time boyfriend, pressure you into something you don’t want/aren’t ready for. But know that for you, sharing that will change you forever in ways you won’t understand until you’re much older.

To wrap this up before you’ve had enough – guys with girlfriends are OFF LIMITS. Have respect for yourself (and your fellow woman). And older guys are usually no different than boys your age. They aren’t always wiser or more sophisticated and, let’s face it, if he’s 10 years older that’s just gross.*

Finally, you deserve to be loved and treated with respect and reverence. Expect it and you will get it from those who deserve you, and the rest will fade away. Never, Ever settle for less. Never, ever, settle.

Update: I would be remiss to tell you that when you find someone worthy, love with your whole heart. Do not be afraid to love, or to lose love. Sometimes love doesn’t always end the way you want it to, but that is no reason not to try, when it feels right. You will most definitely not get through life unscathed by love, but to quote another famous writer – Alfred Lord Tennyson –  ” tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” It’s all part of the journey, my love, and I will see you through it all.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

                        ~ 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

 

 

 

*This is actually directly from a comment she once made about older guys. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with a 10-year age difference. I’m not against it. I do, however, believe that this difference is felt more acutely and may be harder to overcome, the younger two people are.

 

18 and Life

I did a thing. I packed my 18-year-old up – the sum of his most important belongings stacked in the back of Todd’s Explorer – and together with my husband and daughter drove him to college. It’s been a long road to get here, a road I have long known was coming … some day. The impact of it first hit me over a year ago as I watched him during Senior picture day, and I sat in the high school auditorium surrounded by other students and parents fighting back tears and impending hysteria. The months to follow, he was driving independently and going places with friends and that, I think, allowed me to slowly let go.

I proudly made it through his graduation with only a few tears to dab away from the corners. I watched his friends (the closest of them graduated the previous year) rush the field and pick him up and tackle him, and it made my heart sing. The rest of the summer he spent on the go, with friends and occasional weekends with his dad.  And then the days sped up and the time became shorter.

One night several weeks ago he woke me around 1 a.m. with a hand on my arm, and I followed him out to the darkened living room. I won’t betray his trust by discussing details, but let’s just say he was holding a lot of anxiety and trepidation – as we all did in the days before we left home – and we had a long heartfelt talk. It meant the world to me that he came to me with this, proving that time changes little between a mother and son.

Those first moments I had alone with him, after everyone had gone home, were the moments that would bind us to each other for a lifetime.  The moments every mother never forgets – the first time you really see each other, where you stare into those tiny eyes studying the face he will never forget.  Where you hold him close to you and feel his tiny breath on your face and you whisper all the love and hope and longing you have for him.

It was only the two of us for four-and-a-half years; we joined the Mom’s Club together, and through him I met so many wonderful moms who remain my friends today. His arms and heart were always open – he reached for strangers to hold him and eagerly played with anyone who wanted to. He adored my brother, his uncle only 9 years older than he is, from the first day. He sat down and shared his dump truck with my grandfather, a man he’d only just met, and made my Old Paw’s year. One Christmas he climbed up on a recliner with my bemused uncle Barry and proceeded to remove his socks, handing them to him one at a time, so he could clean the lint out from between his little toes (a two-year-old’s favorite pastime).

His sweetness extended to friendships everywhere he went. I worried over him going to preschool, but he walked in the door and never looked back. He welcomed the new kid in kindergarten by showing him around the classroom. Years later, he did the same for a new girl their Junior year, because he didn’t want her to feel alone. His friends today count on him to be there, and often come to him for advice. He is passionate about justice, what is right, and treating people well.

We moved to Maryland in his 7th grade year, and he was apprehensive and more than a little scared. The day we enrolled him, I sat across the table from him and those same brown eyes that stared at me hours after he was born met mine with tears in them and it felt like I was punched. But it didn’t take very long for him to announce how happy he was to have moved here, and it reinforced what I already knew. He is resilient. He is strong. He is my son.

Two days before move-in day, I broke down and cried. Todd and Veruca weren’t shocked. I half-expected Todd to pull a tough love on me and tell me I can do this. But he didn’t. Instead, he took the day off to come with us, to support me and Opac. He even packed two boxes of tissues.

Move-in day is a well-oiled machine. There were two lanes of cars next to the dorm, where upperclassman volunteers descended on them, emptied the contents, and delivered them to his door. We found our way to the room and I started making up his bed. I needed to DO something to keep myself from jumping out of my skin. We met the roommate and his dad and sister, and at some point the two young men decided to head over to the student center and that was it. We walked around campus so Todd could see it. We passed O and his roommate, now with a young lady in tow, a handful of times. O gave us a jerk of his head in acknowledgement.

We sat in a group – Todd, V, her dad, and the roommate’s family – on the lawn of the quad and ate a picnic lunch prepared for the students and family. I watched O from afar – seated in a circle with new friends eating lunch – and skulked around trying to snap pics unnoticed. After, he walked over to us and we chatted up a bit before a flash mob of First Year Mentors (aka upperclass orientation leaders) broke into the Git Up dance and I watched his eyes light up. His eyes met mine and I knew it was time.

We walked him back to his dorm room and hung out a bit in the cool air conditioning. I don’t remember what we talked about. V sat on his bed next to him and I snapped a few photos of them. She looked so much older suddenly. She’d been mistaken for a freshman earlier in the day, and now I could fully see it. We didn’t stay for the Opening Convocation. I knew it was time.

We made the move to leave, and I walked up to him and hugged him, and he lifted me off my feet – something he likes to do every now and then to remind me he can pick me up now. My heart overflowed. He hugged V and for the first time in forever she didn’t pull away. I met those eyes one more time and smiled my most deceitful, nonchalant, and bravest smile, walked out the door, and that was it.

The tears pushed through as I felt my composure slipping away. I hurried down the stairs with my sunglasses on before we even reached the outside. I gripped Todd’s hand until we were well past campus, on our way back to the farthest parking lot, where we said goodbye to V and her dad. I was fine. I was fine until we got about 20 minutes into the drive and then all bets were off. You know how hard it is to hold in a really ugly cry?

I volleyed between tears and nausea the rest of the day. I had no appetite. The physical feelings that accompanied this are familiar. It feels like a breakup. My heart feels so heavy and my stomach is in knots. Where you know you are grieving and that there is only ONE thing that is going to make the pain stop. But you aren’t going to get it.

I have to walk through. It is the mantra I use for all things difficult and painful and challenging – that one cannot run away from it, one must Walk Through. It is how we become stronger and capable and successful. What I told O that night in the living room.

Veruca, for her part, is acting all, whatever, about this. She quietly accompanied us and didn’t complain about anything. I was too focused on staying calm to notice at the time. But she has to be feeling something. This brother of hers has loved her from the day she was born, although the love looks a bit different nowadays with the capriciousness of teenaged emotions. Still, when V called me at work yesterday morning crying about her laundry, I knew it wasn’t really dirty clothes she was upset about.

Mom called me Thursday afternoon, knowing from my silence that it was comfort I most needed. And then she hit a curb because she was driving and cut a corner too tight in her new car, and exclaimed “shit!” and there was my comic relief. Sometimes success is finding laughter through the tears. I spent the rest of that day on the couch. I fell asleep early. Mom texted me around 10 saying, and I quote, “& DO NOT go into his room & smell his sheets you!!” And I had to laugh out loud, because it was too late.

So today is day 3. Todd and I had a cookout to go to last night after work – former colleagues of his from the old college that I had never met and I dreaded it. I was still feeling raw and just wanting to Velcro myself to his side. I wasn’t sure I was up for being my social self. But I did it.

~~Walk Through~~

I had a glass of wine and got to talking to some people and Todd was somewhere else and I was completely comfortable in my skin again. I sat outside in the beautiful night air that has turned pleasantly cool after a wicked thunderstorm the previous night and listened to these folks banter with one another and found myself laughing like an old friend. Damn Todd for knowing what’s good for me sometimes. And then the totally unexpected happened.

My butt started vibrating. My cell phone was in my back pocket. And ya’ll know who it was.

My baby. Calling me from a lull in the evening to say hi and tell me how great things are going. How he picked up his books and he was featured on an Instagram post from his department. And there it is – the heart swelling with pride, healing, growing, and knowing what I’ve always known. He’s going to be fine. And so am I.

 

What Silverfox Calls a Clusterf*ck

The day after my bilateral nerve blocks, we had our “snow event.” We were extremely low on propane and the guy couldn’t get the gate open the week before. He was scheduled to come out again so I was watching for him. Todd had fixed the gate and closed it again even though I told him to just leave it propped open so there’d be NO problem.

Well, propane man couldn’t open the gate again because the bottom part was somehow stuck on the outside of the fence. I have no idea WTF happened or how, but I trudged out there with a screwdriver, in the falling snow, slipped and damn-near fell on my ass (already tender from the day before) and unscrewed the plate that holds the door in place at the bottom so it could be opened, all the while cursing the gods and my dear husband the fix-it man who couldn’t just leave well enough alone until after the propane was delivered. (And yes, we have a drill – but God only knows where Todd left it.)

Todd was at a conference in Long Beach, so I roused Opac from his bed midway through the day and told him to start clearing the driveway. So he goes out and fires up the snow blower and gets to work. I sent V out to shovel. It must be noted: there was barely a complaint from either of them all day. I looked out the window at one point and the two shovels were lying on the driveway and no one to be seen anywhere.

Suddenly the two of them came thundering across the back deck… engaged in a wicked snowball fight and both of them soaking wet. Stop the press! They were having fun with each other. I made them hot chocolate and fed them French toast for dinner.

Friday night Opac had friends over and I drove Veruca to her dad’s. When I got home I changed out of my work clothes and decided to take a shower. Our master bath has a [somewhat opaque] glass door that opens out to the deck, which is on the second story. This sounds weird but it’s in a corner and so – private. But it overlooks the side yard and that gate I mentioned above. I was toweling off when I saw a shadow on the fence below – I assumed to be O and his friends. I walked closer to the door, pulled the curtain aside and looked out. That’s when I saw him.

There was a man bent over, creeping up to the door. My first reaction was – Ted! What the fuck! So I banged on the glass and he started to back away. I rushed out of my bedroom and yelled for Opac, who came running from downstairs with all three friends behind him like a herd of elephants. They ran out through the living room sliders and Ted came out of the garage apartment wondering what all the commotion was about.

So. It wasn’t Ted. Some creeper lurking in our backyard, who had been in our detached garage out back. Ted found the garage door half open and tools spread around the table saw. But what’s really alarming is that this person had the balls to cross the yard where he could clearly see O and his friends through the sliders to the family room, creep up the adjacent stairs to do what? Look in my windows? I still don’t know why I’m not having a nervous breakdown.

(Yes, I called the police. Yes, we have taken further measures to protect ourselves and our property.)

The neurotomy went well. It was very nearly painless, though there were a few moments where I think I stopped breathing. When it was over and he asked me if I was doing okay, I told him I was very disappointed because he promised me bacon and I didn’t smell any bacon.

The next day I returned my car to the dealer. While they had the car for two weeks, they were supposed to address a number of issues – most importantly, the grinding, humming noise coming from the front driver’s side wheel. Well. They fixed the anti-freeze leak, replaced some thingy that prevents oil from leaking, and replaced a broken splash plate they said was causing the rattling we hear on the passenger side. Never addressed the most important part we brought it in for.

They gave me a loaner – guess what? The same fucking Taurus, which Veruca had nicknamed “Rosa.” When I picked her up at the bus stop that day, she laughed her little ass off. By the weekend, they said they had fixed the car and so Todd and I drove down Saturday morning. I forget what it was they fixed, but it had something to do with the axle or whatever – I don’t know, I’m not a mechanic.

So we drove to the Costco next door – and once we left there and got the car up to 50 mph, there was the grinding noise at the left front wheel and rattling in the passenger door. BACK to the dealer and oh! your loaner is still parked outside and I’m STILL driving Rosa. Long story short – Todd spoke to the manager yesterday who said the mechanic drove it and didn’t hear anything. I cannot tell you how angry I am. This whole time I think no one ever actually drove the car. Now this mechanic is either not the brightest crayon in the box, or he’s deaf, or needs a new career.

My car has literally been in the dealership for a month, and they can’t diagnose the problem. We’ve had the car for two years. I know what’s next, and I’m ready. I’ve had enough. And, (V says not to say it in front of her), I’m sick of driving Rosa.

V and I went to the high school information night, which was a total waste of time for me since I’ve already done this with #1 and V didn’t get to tour the school anyway. But she did get to meet her Chinese teacher for next year and the night was probably more for the kids anyway. I personally didn’t need to hear all the statistics on retention and attendance. It reminded me of the days in PA schools where we parents sat and listened to the principal preach about the legal ramifications of truancy. Every principal has their “campaign promise.”

Opac has officially confirmed his acceptance. The check was sent and we’re going up soon to visit again. I am cautiously optimistic since he still needs to secure a student loan for the difference that he will owe, and I don’t earn enough to co-sign. His dad does, but he had previously suggested that he couldn’t co-sign either. I don’t know where that’s going, but suffice it to say that nothing is ever not difficult with him, when he chooses to make an issue out of something. We had an issue a few weeks ago that had absolutely nothing to do with me and he turned on me like a rattlesnake, and I – like the fool I am – was actually blindsided by the degree of ugliness he can hurl at me.

Meanwhile…Eighty days to 50. And the dog and cat have taken their relationship to the next level.

Just Another Thursday Morning

Opac and Veruca were getting ready for school this morning and Todd was cooking bacon and sausage for a breakfast meeting. I’m still trying to ward off the alien invader who made my lip swell up. V has a presentation in Chinese today, so she wanted to practice with us. It sounded great to me – even though I don’t understand a word of it – and I’m still marveling at how well she’s doing with it, since Chinese can be difficult to learn.

Opac stepped up and said it was his turn, said “ni hao” and followed up with “Shanghai, Hong Kong, egg foo young…” at which point I started cracking up…”fortune cookie always wrong!”

He was bumbling his way around the house this morning, first kicking the step stool and startling me. He said, that’s what happens when a steel-toed boot hits a metal stool. Because today he’s wearing shit-kickers. A few minutes later I heard the toilet lid crash down, and from down the hall I heard, “I’m good!” Apparently he caught his boot on the lid, and I just don’t even want to know how that happened. For a brief moment I had a flashback to Neph who, you may recall, I once said Neanderthal’s his way through life.

While I’m marveling at how my daughter is speaking Chinese, I’m beginning to marvel at who-T-F this boy is living in my house. He’s evolving again, from video-gaming, rap-music-loving sport dude to this man wearing cowboy boots or shit-kickers, jeans and flannels, and now listening to ….. country music. It’s all good, just never saw the country music thing coming. Although, to say he doesn’t have an appreciation for all kinds of music would be disingenuous. He likes rock, metal, and reggae too.

He’s a young adult now. His newfound freedom of driving has boosted his confidence to get out and do stuff. He called me at work the other day to tell me, breathlessly, that he drove himself to get a haircut – which in itself must have felt very liberating but was ruined by some “hick” who appeared out of nowhere on his bumper and [likely scared the bejesus out him] pissed him off. I’m thinking, given his penchant for flannel and boots and while driving a 1990 Ford pickup, that he should limit his use of the word, “hick.”

He played me a song called Pickup Man and now I can’t get it out of my head. Not that, or the sound of him singing, you can set my truck on fire and roll it down a hill… and I still wouldn’t trade it for a Coup de Ville… and now I hate my life. Okay, not really. I think it’s hilarious, especially when he told me that Mason got him into country music and when he asked him to send his MP3 list, Mason sent each song separately. Can’t help but wonder how this trend will evolve next year when he’s at college with a whole new set of friends he hasn’t met yet.

I never liked the music my parents listened to, growing up. My mom and stepdad made me and a cousin see Ziggy Marley & the Melody Makers at the Valley Forge Music Fair when I was in high school. I hated the idea from the get-go. The worst part – the seats were split up so Jimmy and I sat in one section, and Mom and George sat in another section. But guess what? Though I wasn’t about to tell them, it was a fantastic concert. First, Ziggy sounded like the ghost of his father, and Rita was just breathtaking. Second, it was constructed as a theater-in-the-round with a revolving stage so that there were no bad seats. It was hard NOT to be engaged in the show.

In high school I listened mostly to pop music, except when I was riding in Todd’s car with Dokken and Bon Jovi just beginning to effect what is now hearing loss. So there you have it Todd – you can’t get mad at me for not hearing you, because it’s all your fault I can’t hear!

In college, my first roommate turned me on to INXS and REM, and at my then-boyfriend’s frat house I picked up rock and metal music. One of my sorority sisters played Meatloaf at a dorm party once and now I never turn the dial when Meatloaf comes on. Friends at another fraternity used to play Werewolves of London, and it had other connotations I’d rather not disclose but I still can’t hear that song without thinking of them.

When I moved to New York, my new roommate turned me on to alternative music – New Order, Depeche Mode, the Cure – and one of my suite-mates interned at Elektra and so I came by quite a few cassette tapes of these and other, what SiriusXM now calls, First Wave artists. Conversely, I turned my roommate on to club music.

I used to listen to the country station driving to and from the kids’ preschool – and  a number of favorites are still on the playlist today. I listen to Eminem, mostly but not only, because of Opac. I appreciate the beat of some rap tunes, but not all. Classical music was never my thing at all. I tried to, I really did, thinking it would make me more cultured. But instead it either put me to sleep or made me laugh at someone who did (true story).

Todd’s music tastes – as evidenced by his playlist – run the gamut. This would have surprised me 30 years ago, just like imagining him as a college professor. He’s still HIM, but he’s evolved a lot since those motorhead metal days.

Especially after what he did at the grocery store last week.

Collide

2011. I often heard this song on my early morning runs through the streets of my old town. In 2010 I first discovered my love for running, when life was often out of control and stress was high and I needed an outlet. I wasn’t “allowed,” really, to go anywhere without the kids in tow in those days. I was the 24/7 nurse to my type 1 daughter. I was up 3, 4, sometimes 5 times a night checking her blood sugars at the boss’s command.

Running became my way to escape, if only for the time it took to run 3 miles out and back. It was exhilarating, it was liberating, it was mine. I ran through all sorts of music. I ran through Linkin Park – the angry, screaming lyrics driving me forward with all the power in my legs, my anthem to myself to reclaim the life I deserved. Life was complicated then. It was stressful. And there was Todd, in the middle of it, my anchor in the storm my ex had promised to deliver so many times during our marriage. His way, I suppose, of intimidating me to never leave.

2018. I was driving back to the bowling alley after dropping Veruca off at her dad’s. Collide had begun to play on the radio, and it took me back to those early days of fear and anxiety and the only certainty I had was that I was going to be free.

I reflected on how much has changed. How we didn’t see all that lay ahead, all the changes, both good and bad, all the illnesses, the losses.

Over seven years ago, I was running down the alley behind Main Street and Collide began to play on my iPod. I felt a relief and a profound love wash over me and I smiled out loud. I had found Todd again and he had found me, and the butterflies in my stomach ached to get to that place of peace. We weren’t able to see each other every day.

The divorce was [mostly] peaceful. It was the custody that turned ugly. I fled the house with the kids, at the urging of several friends and family who said it was safer to get out.

Over the last seven years, I lived with my dad and stepmom, I worked at the restaurant on weekends to earn money, I stopped eating and was down to an astounding 113 pounds. I hocked a pile of gold jewelry for the $1000 I needed for a deposit on a house in the kids’ school district, in order to maintain temporary custody. Every text and email exchange with ex was nasty and accusatory and threatening. I got an upper respiratory infection that lasted weeks. I started back on anti-anxiety meds. Todd proposed to me.

We married in a civil ceremony in the district courthouse yards away from the home that once felt like a prison. And, after thousands of dollars, I won custody of the children and five days later Todd and I threw a real wedding with our loved ones.

We moved to Maryland into Todd’s home and established new roots and friends. We have wonderful neighbors who are also cherished friends. We’ve been through a handful of emergency room visits, several family members in hospital, my mom’s first major surgery, my first major surgery, four new cars, my first auto accident.

My once 8-year-old and 13-year-old are now halfway through their last years of middle and high school respectively. Opac finally has his driver’s license, and is looking forward to high school graduation and college next fall.

We attended a couple of galas where I could wear a fabulous dress and pretend to be rich for an evening, and two weddings watching long-time couples tie the knot and their happily ever after.

Todd left the college where he spent 18 years, to start a new journey where he can do things and leave a lasting legacy as a dean. Seven years ago, we certainly didn’t see that coming. I finally extricated myself from restauranting, and landed a job at CHOP – somewhere I’ve wanted to work since we moved down here. I am earning more money and I have my weekends free to spend with my husband and friends and family. I love the people I work with.

We’ve made many new friends and strengthened the ones we had. We are building on those friendships because they are valuable to us, even though we all have limited time and occasional scheduling conflicts. Two of my closest girlfriends, who know who they are, I have been talking about planning a girls weekend in the near future.

In these last seven years, I’ve lost an uncle and my maternal grandfather, and both of my stepmother’s parents. We lost someone to a horrific suicide. We’ve lost two friends/family to cancer, and another four to pancreatic cancer. One is still holding on after battling brain cancer, though he will never be the same. A family member was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer disease, and so we begin to cope with this journey. We have family members who choose to be estranged, through no cause of ours.

As Green Day’s song goes, seven years have gone so fast. It sounds like a whole lot of loss and sadness, and for what it’s worth, this post was actually inspired by my mind’s ramblings after hearing Collide two weeks ago. Collide always made me smile, and it still does, and I know I’m being redundant by saying it made me think about all that has transpired since that morning in the alley.

I have a much better life today. I am happy. I am complete. Todd feels the same way, I think. He would say so, and I know him, so I am free to speak for him. The unfortunate things that come to pass are a part of living, as life goes on whether we like it or not, with whom we share it with or not. But SO MUCH has changed.

It gives me pause, to think back on everything and thank God I got here with few scars, a pile of meds to keep me calm, and lessons that caused me to grow. I have Todd and he has me, for as long as God has planned, and I thank Him every day for this blessing.

 

Even the best fall down sometimes

Even the wrong words seem to rhyme

Out of the doubt that fills my mind

I somehow find you and I collide.

I’m Okay, But I’m Not

At 12 weeks post-op, I was back to normal. I was feeling great.

There’s been a lot going on in our lives lately. A lot. I’m now officially working more hours and I’m grateful. Work is where I can be normal, and not think about my personal life. I’m making more money and I’m grateful for that too. The kids are busy and back in school. Opac is a senior now, and has this thing called senior option where he goes in late some days and leaves early on others. He still doesn’t have his license, but we’re one behind-the-wheel lesson away from being allowed to take the driver’s exam.

I’ve been working on letting him go in the ways a normal parent would. Like going with friends to places and trying really hard not to worry about him until he walks back in the front door. He’s good – he texts me regularly to let me know what’s going on. I’m grateful for that. I know that will one day have its end too.

On workdays, I count on him to see Veruca home safely from the bus. In the first few weeks, it caused me significant anxiety. They both text me when they’re home so I can stop worrying. Surprisingly, I am not worrying about my type 1 daughter being home without me. But then when I think about it, I have anxiety about whether I should be worried.

I’ve been letting Veruca go too – with friends after school, walking to nearby food and coffee joints so she can hang out for an hour like a teenager. I worry a bit, but I’ve exhausted the lectures about sticking together, not walking alone, and never, ever approaching a stranger in a car who might beckon. She’s crystal clear on this. Maybe a little too much.

In case you missed the clues, I have anxiety. I can conjure up just about anything to fray my nerves and raise my blood pressure. I’ve forgotten how to pray and leave it all to God. And THIS causes me anxiety too. I take medication for anxiety. I know that anxiety is chemical and biological and that it is also genetic, so I come by it honestly and [abnormally proudly] from a beloved relative who is no longer with me.

Nevertheless, I was feeling good. The lingering post-surgical stuff was gone and I was returning to life feeling confident that surgery can be a good thing, and that I’m ready to start running again.

Until September 19th.

It was a beautiful day after 40 days and 40 nights of rain in most of our region. The sun was bright and the air was warm. You should take the convertible out, he said. The 2001 Mustang GT convertible hadn’t been out on the road for a while and I was weary of driving to my mom’s an hour away and back. Instead, I took the 2012 Mustang (nicknamed the V6), so I could do a little stick-driving on the beautiful back roads in my hometown area. I learned to drive stick at 16, and there is nothing more satisfying than shifting gears and letting go that clutch and letting the car do what it was made to do.

It was a great ride, but my spidey senses were tingling all the way – people were driving recklessly all around me. It made me hyper-alert and I took my time on the ride. I got back to our area shortly after 1 and drove directly to the high school to pick up Opac.

I’d just turned onto the main roadway a half-mile from the school. The speed limit is 50, there were a lot of cars traveling in both directions. I saw this car begin to make a left turn right in front of me – I mean, RIGHT in front of me, and there was no time for me to do anything other than brake as hard as I could. I was trying to avoid hitting her and realized she was following through on her turn anyway. I veered right, sort of into the road she was heading into, in an effort to avoid her hitting me.

She kept going and slammed into my driver’s side door, hard, spinning me around until my rear bumper on the passenger side hit the guard rail, effectively stopping the car. My driver’s side airbag deployed. I don’t remember turning the car off and removing the key from the ignition. I sat there stunned a moment, and looked through my window at her in her car and she was looking back at me – and I was trembling and raging inside. Did you know that when airbags deploy the ignitor emits a smoky smell? Neither did I. I panicked, tried to open my door, and then moved the seat back enough to climb out and over the gear shift and opened the passenger door.

At this point I had no idea how old this girl was, or the condition of the driver’s side of my car. First instinct was to flip out on her for causing this accident, but by the time I’d actually gotten myself out of the car, I’d lost the desire. Todd would’ve been so proud.

I looked directly at this 17-year-old child who accused me of speeding, and bit my tongue for all the things I wanted to say – because I’m 49 and I know waaaay better, and also that less is more. Hysterical, screaming people are generally viewed as just that. So I said to her, you need to step away from me right now. I repeated myself twice.

The state trooper arrived. The ambulance arrived. One of the drivers insisted I sit down. Apparently people in accidents act normal all the time and then boom, they go down? I called Todd, who said, you ARE going to the hospital, right? I honestly thought the car was just going to get towed to our auto-body shop and I was just going to go home. But the EMTs said, you’re going. And the trooper said my car was most likely totaled.

Todd: Well, at least you had the dash cam. Which made me want to cry, but I guess some people in shock don’t cry – because …. I’m not driving the Edge.

Oh, he said. Which car were you driving? But he didn’t care which car it was.

I’ve since seen the neurosurgeon, had a repeat MRI and x-rays (hardware is still well-positioned and I have no acute changes to my spinal cord or surrounding discs). The pain in my neck has returned, depending on my activity and/or work, and it travels down my right arm and encircles my shoulder, just like before my surgery. It’s uncomfortable and I’m upset about it. All providers are in agreement that my pain is muscular, and the efforts now are pain relief and return to normal function without this pain. I’m in PT three days a week now. I’ve had two rounds of trigger point injections at neuro and considering going back again.

I’m sad and angry some days. I’m sad that I can never drive that car again. I’m sad that it all changed in an instant, and I’m angry that it could’ve ended so differently. Todd told me the reason he bought that car is for this very reason, that it’s solid and designed to protect you. And protect me, she did. No part of the other car touched me, and no part of my door touched me. It was intact on the inside, and the only thing different in an otherwise pristine cockpit was the telltale airbag.

I’m an emotional person. I feel things. I think sometimes it’s over the top and that most normal people don’t react to things like I do. I want my car back. When we went to the lot to clean it out, I couldn’t sit in it. Todd went with me and I ran my hands over the hood and felt its warmth and the smoothness of the metal, and stood there thanking her for what she did for me that day with tears in my eyes. It’s been a month. I won’t get in Todd’s other Mustang, or drive it.

It’s been a month. The girl has a new car already. This makes me so angry. Did she learn anything? I want justice in some way that I cannot articulate. Maybe I just want her to tell me she’s sorry, and mean it. But, Todd told me to let it go. I can only live My life, and keep moving forward. But I don’t want to let go of it yet. In a 10-second decision, she destroyed a 2012 Ford Mustang, somebody’s beloved car that cannot be easily replaced, and she’s already driving around in a new car.

Meanwhile, I’m alternately angry and sad. I have moments behind the wheel where I panic, especially when there are other cars around. I’ve seen my counselor. We’re working through this. And then last week a minor infraction by the truck in front of me…I was nowhere near having an accident, but the thoughts racing through my head brought spots before my eyes and I pulled over until the lightheadedness passed.

We’ve begun the college touring with Opac, which also makes me emotional. He’s already been accepted at his first choice, which is thrilling but we need to see that financial package soon. He turns 18 tomorrow, and I’m feeling the acuteness of that milestone.

There’s more. But I think this is enough for now.

Where I’ve Been: Recovery & Coffee-Mate-Gate

First, a technical update: Six weeks post-op two-level cervical arthroplasty. The post-op x-ray shows a textbook-perfect cervical spine with two shiny new titanium discs “well-placed.” The pain is mostly gone, except when I wake up in the morning or I do too much (still). I can’t remember the last time I felt pain radiating down my arm, or the last time I took a muscle relaxer (well, except – last night). The incision is healing, but still looks like I got caught in a street fight. I am cleared to live my life.

I went back to work. I so needed to get back to a purpose that didn’t require hours of “healing” rest and endless, useless doses of Tylenol. First day back I was feeling the pain by mid-afternoon, but Todd and I still wanted to go out to dinner. One – because it was the plan we’d made, and two – it would be the last night for two weeks that we’d be able to dine outside.

ICYMI: The east coast was pummeled by rain and thunderstorms for two solid weeks, widespread and flash-flooding. Hershey Park and Knoebels were under water. The restaurant Todd and I went to that night is in a small, old waterfront town that was later under voluntary evacuation.

So we went to dinner. They don’t take reservations so we had a 40 minute wait. Todd had a beer and I had a club soda, while we stood on the deck overlooking this band of middle-aged white men playing top-40s who had the audacity to play Let’s Go Crazy and everybody who knows me knows this is NOT something I want to hear. But – I listened because I couldn’t escape it and noted that the guitar skills weren’t half bad. Still – please don’t.

After dinner we walked back up the hill to the car and my legs wouldn’t move. I was literally breathless and taking two steps at a time and stopping. The only other time I ever had that happen was when I arrived at the hospital in labor with V and I got halfway across the parking lot and couldn’t move. Kind of scary.

Anyway. Weeks 4 & 5: I worked a full-time schedule. It was a BEAR. One was an 11-hour day that I came home from and hugged V and just started to cry. That is what happens to me under extreme exhaustion and [unnecessary] emotional stress I put on myself.

Opac had senior pictures taken. It was in the high school auditorium, and I sat there all tense trying to hold back tears. Am I handling my son’s rapidly-approaching adulthood well? Ask me again in 3 months, when he turns 18. Or at his graduation – I’ll be the red-faced, swollen one clutching a handful of wet tissues and blind with tears. I’d…. say…. No. I cried at his preschool graduation. He was five.

I worked my last Saturday morning for a while (new schedule means I don’t work weekends anymore, except for one in rotation). Todd and I went to an antique store in Havre de Grace. It was crammed with so much vintage stuff, I was just turning around and around trying to take it all in. Todd lasted about 20 minutes and went outside to break the itching from the dust.

We drove to Concord Point Lighthouse and walked the decks lining the Chesapeake hand-in-hand like tourists. I don’t think of Havre de Grace as a touristy place, but Todd schooled me: Historically, it was considered for the state capitol, but lost to Annapolis. We took pictures and saw residents walking their dogs, an old woman in a wheelchair under the shade of a tree overlooking the Bay, and a 50-something couple blasting music from an iPhone, dancing like they were all alone at a  Dead concert.

The next day: Costco on an empty stomach and I scored one chicken and cheese ravioli in pesto sauce, a small cup of diced pickled beets, and one piece of a Snack Factory Pretzel. It was not a terribly stressful shopping trip, all things considered. (The man who blocked the entire display of blueberries, inspecting every package for Just the Right One.) Sometimes the state of humanity can be summed up in one trip to Costco and, in worse cases, at Walmart. For all that Walmart is and isn’t, I’ve never found anyone there to be nasty. Inconsiderate and oblivious – yes – but not nasty. Meanwhile, more people at Costco are giving the stink eye on the day God rested than anywhere I’ve been recently.

V was in Avalon with her dad last week, and Mom came to visit for a long weekend here. We took her to the Chesapeake Inn for an early dinner – another marvelous restaurant on the Bay with valet parking, live music, and great food. Had two Pain in de Asses, or maybe three? Mom took it upon herself to order us another round while I was in the bathroom.

Opac went out Saturday with friends for a Gym Class reunion. This class was a close-knit group of guys whose teacher baptized them the Mountain Dewds and had t-shirts made up for them. So they went out to dinner and then hung out at one’s house – O spent the night and needed a ride home the next morning. I picked him up around 7:45 – he said he hadn’t slept – and I took a detour to the store for more Coffee-Mate (which we were out of). I was wearing pajamas and he was fully clothed, so I did what any mother would do. I asked him to go in for me.

He is about as cooperative as a tree. First he refused to go in. I pointed out my attire and the fact that I came and picked his ass up. I only needed ONE THING. He didn’t know what he was looking for. I GOOGLED a pic of Coffee-Mate and showed it to him. This! He said, but we’re not at Target (the source of the pic). I told him where to look for it. In the coffee aisle, on the left side, past the cans of coffee, top shelf.

Ten minutes later… he comes out empty handed, looking royally aggravated. That was nothing compared to the storm waiting for him inside the car. He insisted they didn’t have what I wanted, there were all these weird flavors like hazelnut and “some blueberry flavored shit,” I  looked, and you shouldn’t drink coffee anyway, no wonder your teeth are yellow (oh YES he did) and… I’m not going back in there. He hadn’t showered, was covered in pet hair, hadn’t slept, and needed to shave. I told him very matter-of-factly that there was absolutely NO ONE in that store he knew at this hour of the morning on a Sunday, and I KNOW they have Coffee-Mate in there.

He was not going back in there. Well, I told him, I’m not leaving this parking lot without it. The stand-off continued, until my phone rang and it was Todd. I figured he was wondering where we were, since I was gone so long. I explained to him pleasantly that we’ve stopped at the store for Coffee-Mate. Oh, that’s great, he said. I have a favor to ask you.

Now at this point you should assume that my nerves are bristling over the stand-off with Opac, but I’m not letting on with Todd because Opac is still in the car. But I already know that my case is going to go volcanic if I have to ask O to pick up One. More. Thing. But Todd only wants me to stop at the mailbox on the way back, and I sighed heavily which he read only as she doesn’t want to be bothered, and said, you know, nevermind, forget it. I’ll just walk up myself. He had no idea what was going on in that car, at that moment. The twig was just about snapped. We hung up and I tore into Opac.

!!!I’m still recovering from major surgery, I’m in pain, I can’t take meds when I have to drive and I picked you up this morning early because you wanted to come home, my boobs are popping out of my pajama top, and ALL I NEED IS ONE CONTAINER OF COFFEEMATE. He took a loud deep breath and stepped out of the car, pausing to dramatically rest his forehead against the open door to “get some air.” And then he walked back in.

A few minutes later he sent me a pic of the Coffee-Mate refrigerator case – which, by the way – is at the OPENING of the aisle, ON THE RIGHT SIDE. If you’ve remembered the directions I gave him, this is all kinds of wrong. And I know exactly what display he’s looking at, and it’s not the powdered Coffee-Mate I want. I called him. He didn’t answer, little turd. So I start frantically stabbing letters into a text, reiterating the original directions, cause if he comes out again with nothing I will have no choice but to pummel him in the parking lot.

Eventually he comes out, WITH the Coffee-Mate, and all is right with the world again. Don’t mess with momma’s coffee. My mom laughed that I pulled the surgery card, and I told her I also pulled the Nannie-needs-Coffee-mate-for-her-coffee-too card.

There’s more. But my ex just called to ask if he could stop by to drop off some paperwork in an hour, and I need a shower.