IT happened Again…

it happened again.  Kids killed in school.  In a community college.  in the center of a little piece of America where people are just trying to do better.  And the news covered it — for a minute.  And the President pleaded with America to fix things — for a minute.  And I shook my head and lowered my eyes in prayer — for a minute.

And today it may happen again.  Or tomorrow.  How do we continue to send our children off to school with this happening.  How do we do nothing.

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in the calm

of the morning, sometimes I remember their eyes when they looked up at me.  Or the sticky hands or legos on the floor.  I remember the cut up oranges and apples with peanut butter.  The Barbies and dinosaurs that made up the 80’s and a good part of the 90’s of my life.  Beds full of arms and legs as they scrambled into our bed on Sunday morning, the line of us making our way into church.

And, sometimes it makes me sad.  Melancholy actually — no surprise I guess.  Those years were like jello – soft, colorful, quiet yet capable of eliciting squeals of joy and wails of sorrow.  My children stretched and grew, totally oblivious to the inevitability of change, yet embracing every new skill, word, personality spike.  And I ached to grow with them . Moments of success punctuated by days of “dear lord, did I really do/say that?”

And now they are grown.  Married, successful, struggling in their own way to raise their own children. And I still ache to grow with them.  Some things never change, yes?mia blankee

Declaration of My Independence

Oye.  So, my kids won’t read this.  They don’t have any interest in my blog, which is okay, truly.

Disclaimer:

I have been slowly declaring my independence from the ties of parenthood, grandparenthood.  Now, that does not FOR ONE MINUTE , mean that I don’t adore my kids and grandkids.  i would drop everything, everything if one of them needed me –and I have many many times.  Happily. I don’t regret or resent any moment with my family over the last 35 years. Not one moment.

But, over the past 2, maybe 3 years, I have realized that I am running out of time.  No drama here, just reality.  I’m almost 58.  Realistically I have maybe 10 -15 years left to feel pretty good, be pretty active.  Then, with my family history, maybe another 5 years to dwindle…and that is best case scenario. Not guaranteed, by any means. I have spent the last 35 years wrapped up  in supporting other people.  My people, my kids.  But, its time, it really is, for me to have some ME time.  for sure.

We took a honeymoon and then one camping trip in my dads camper before we started having children.  popped out 3 in less than five years. When our third child was 5 we took our first weekend away, with out kids.  Did it once a year for the next 2 years.( This was the time in my life when I used to stand in the back yard and watch planes fly over and wonder where they were going, if I would ever fly again.  Yes, I know, poor pitiful me. )

After  our 20th. anniversary I planned a trip to Cleveland to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  I know, Cleveland. That was the extent of our travels, alone, during our marriage.  Period.  We took the kids to the beach, almost every year after the oldest turned 7 — in North Carolina. Wonderful family vacations. We bought a boat, took the kids out every week.  We spent many days with family and with each other, we swam at the neighborhood pool.  We gave them the best life we could. We spent every minute with them, as a family. And it was a good life.

Flash forward, 35 years after we married on that Cold January day.  Kids are grown and married.  6 grandchildren in 6 years and now number 7 due any minute.  We retired early, then went immediately back to work, me in a new career, husband in an extension of his previous job. Our kids all live close.  It is wonderful.  But, it began to be expected that we would cover the holes in their days.  We “felt bad” when the kids were in daycare, so we picked them up almost every day.  we “felt bad” when oldest daughter or our son didn’t get to “go out”, “have fun” — so we babysat, rented beach houses and invited them all to join us.  We worried that they were short on money, or time, or joy or rest time.  So we worked to “fix it”.  And our kids have become quite comfortable and expecting of our involvement.

And then, it occurred to me that while, for 30 years or so,  I was spending every day and night raising kids and then grandkids,  and had zero hobbies, very few friends and no down time, my husband had been  hunting, fishing, building race cars,  playing darts and helping friends.  Not as much as he wanted, but still , finding time to be him.    There was no time to be me.  I lost me.  I went through years of resentment, laying right under the surface, of the life he had molded me into.  It almost drove us to divorce.  I left for a little bit.  He went buck crazy.  I figured, hell, if he wants it back this bad, maybe it IS worth fighting for.

Over the last couple years, I have pushed back.  We are working to live for us now.  It is our time.  We get to vacation alone,  say no to babysitting,  buy things we want and do things we enjoy. When my youngest says “lucky you” when I say we are at the beach, or at a restaurant, I remind her that when I was her age, or when my kids were her kids  age, I was exactly where she is. We are working hard to remove ourselves from our kids marriages – their arguments, decisions are not our business.  We will listen if they talk, but we will not try to solve their problems.  It is not our job to figure out who gets who off the bus, or to the doctor, or new shoes. I shouldn’t turn around on the way to a business meeting to pick up a child that has a parent who should do it, as hard as it is for me to keep driving straight.   We will help, when we can, when asked, but we are trying to help them not assume we are taking care of these things. Its life altering, not only for us, but, Im sure, for them.

We work full time.  We have a big house. We have sore knees and I have stents in my heart.  We have hobbies and toys and things we want to do.  Sometimes we want to do them with company, with children around. Sometimes we try to connect with old friends that we have ignored for years.  Sometimes we will alter our schedule to spend time with the people we love.  We will honor traditions and be present.  I never missed a hockey game, wrestling match or cheerleading performance.  Never missed a dance recital or a band concert.  Never. But I may miss a couple of these things when my grandchildren do them.  I may choose to sit on the back porch and read the paper or drive to the beach.  I’m going to build that beach house and spend months on end there.  And that is ok.

I declare my Independence.

A good cry

Today I had a good cry ( as if there were such a thing…). Damn facebook got me again.

I have written about my son’s marriage.  You dream about your kids getting married, and if you are smart enough, you realize it is their day and will probably not be exactly what you planned.  And, you are okay with that, for the most part.

My son married a woman that doesn’t like us.  Period.  Finds fault in everything, yells, curses and stews like noone I have ever met.  And, loves my son, his daughter and works hard every day. Fights her own demons Im sure == and ignores us, rather than engaging in more drama.

Its a trade off, but for now, its working.

But today, facebook took me back to a video of a young couple’s wedding entrance.  Dancing, hugging, sunglasses.  Music, joy, laughter — bliss.  And I sobbed.  Yup, sobbed.  Pent up tears from their wedding 10 months ago?  Triggered by the happiness on the screen?  Maybe.  Mourning what could have been?  Probably.  Joes friends, and my sons in law would have loved this == I can picture each of them shaking down that aisle, celebrating.  But, it didnt happen.  Instead it was a “vanilla” wedding — banned from the bridal party, the celebrations and the preparation, our family attended, but did not participate.  And while we were there physically and in spirit, it was a sad day for the right side of the aisle.

And today it kind of hit me.

stumbling back in time…

I stumbled upon the pictures ) good ole Facebook) from my oldest grandchildren’s baptism today.  5 years ago we baptised the oldest two,in Silver Spring Maryland, where my oldest daughter was living.  There are hundreds of memories in those pictures, glimpses of dad in the fog that possessed him that day, George holding tightly to his children, and grandchildren, Ryan being hoisted into the air by the best pastor ever….

But what hit me, what smacked me and stroked me at the same time, was the bond between our children.  Solid, physical and spiritual, evident.  They have had their moments.  They have yelled at, avoided, ignored, used and hurt each other over the years, but in the end, in the clinch, in the moment when push comes to shove, they come through. They defend. They support and love each other, no matter what. They show up, kicking and screaming, but they show up.  We have heard, years later, of late night runs to shady stores to wire money to Joe, long conversations into the night about boyfriends or girlfriends or roommates, of phone calls to ex’s — warning them off, of “loans” and “gifts” and “borrowed uggs”.  We have seen them sit for hours, supporting each other after life events that rocked us all off our center and heard them scream until their throats are hoarse.  They have suffered through therapy sessions. visits to people they don’t want to see, college tours and they have, for the last 19 years, kept the pact they made to never tell me who broke the Nativity Set….

I love them more than life.  I respect them and I envy their closeness.  Most of all, I am somewhat calmed and reassured by the fact that they will have each other long after I am gone.  that they will support each other through anything, celebrate success and fight through the crap.

My babies.

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night guest

My mother spent the night.  thunderstorms took out her power so we went over and picked her up.  Actually husband did, I was pulling branches off the road….

I have a new respect for those who work in the geriatric field.

Mom spends a bit of time here, but went room to room commenting “thats new, isnt it?” to every piece of furniture, carpet or knick knack she spotted ..Noooooo, Ive had that since our first house, since the second house,,,,Noooo, that stained glass has been hanging in my kitchen for 18 years.  yup.

She doesnt do steps, years of restless leg syndrome coupled with ” I dont want to walk” syndrome has left her legs weak and wobbley.  But my bedrooms are upstairs.  So I followed her up, impressed with her strength — she made it up there pretty well. I was concerned that she would see the pictures of her and my dad on the desk in the guest room and get upset, i was hoping that they would make her smile, but neither.  she didnt notice them.  She noticed the bookshelf, “is that new?” and the beleek lamp “thats beautiful” but not a glance at the pictures of the man she loved, who we lost 4 years ago.

Morning came early.  I get up around 6 to take a walk and spend some time knitting before getting ready for work.  she met me in the hall — I asked her to wait a second while I threw on a tee shirt and shorts, then we would get her down the stairs.

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She didnt wait, of course.  Im in the bathroom, shirt half on, and I hear the “babump”.
“Oh Cindy, I fell, I hurt my knee.”

Opened the door to my room and there she sat.  perched on her butt on the landing — she either lost her footing or her knee went out.  Thank God she just did a hard sit down, and didn’t slide the whole way down the stairs.  the knee is fine, no swelling, we got her down the stairs without further excitement and she sits in the kitchen now, nursing a cup of coffee and a bowl of cereal.

I have a new respect for geriatric caregivers.

Mother’s Day 101: Advice and musings from a “seasoned” mom

When you’re 5 Mother’s Day is a pretty big deal.  You spread toast with jelly, add the card you made in Kindergarten and carry the tray to mom who is “sleeping”  past her normal 5:00 am wake up call and serve her breakfast in bed.  By the time you are 12, you go all commercial and depend on dad or another willing driver to take you to the mall where you expand Hallmark’s coffer and choose a card — which can range from sentimental ” best mom ever” to a farting “how do you put up with me” piece of poetry.  And, if you’re lucky, dad throws in $10. so you can get her some flowers, or a piece of jewelry…In that strange period of time which marks the transition from high school senior to college freshman you see mom as a bit ( ok,a lot ) of embarrassment a good deal of the time.  So Mother’s Day gets the traditional treatment, maybe you and your siblings take her to brunch ( which consists of 45 minutes in line, past the time of your reservation and room temperature bacon served alongside something they call scrambled eggs and a massive hunk of prime rib, or ham….) .  During college Mother’s Day is, well its another Sunday after another “oh my God, the semester is almost over” Saturday night.  You call, and if you can you visit, hoping someone is making bloody Mary’s or mimosas, you know, “hair of the dog…”

Then, you graduate.  You get all melancholy that first year you have your own place, your own bills, your own, well, life.  And Mother’s day rolls around and you make plans to spend the day with mom, and when you get there she comments on your hair, and those jeans and asks if you’ve brushed your teeth or paid your college loan…and you wonder, “What the heck is this lady doing?  Trying to tell me what to do?”  And  you realize there are now two WOMEN in the conversation.  You realize, she doesnt…so you suck it up.

And then, its YOUR first Mother’s Day.  Glory of Glories you have birthed a child!  Trumpets announce the arrival and you sit royally in your throne awaiting the massive parade of guests and gifts.  NOT.  Your husband gets you one of those ” 3 for $10.” bouquets at Acme, the baby pukes all over the one clean blouse that fits those massive breastfeeding boobs and you are exhausted after 3 hours sleep.  Mom calls to ask when you are coming over and you secretly wish you were in Austrailia, with Alexander….

Years come and go and your children repeat the cycle.  You are amazed at how wonderful that jelly toast tastes, how your children chose the most perfect card — Hallmark must have studied my life to write this one —  You treasure the bacon and sing songs while you wait in line.

If you are lucky, and blessed, you will experience Mother’s day as a grandmother.  Yesterday as my husband and I sat on the beach, breathing in the salt and the calm, I pondered this day, my 7th. as a grammy.  I marvel at my daughters and their amazing babies — at their patience and work ethic and the different, yet equally effective lifestyle that they are living and raising their children in.  I treasure the way my son stepped in and raised his Ava, on his own, after her mom walked out on him, and her, at 5 months.   I laugh when I realize that I have had 6 grandchildren in 6 years, and now number 7 is on the way…

My husband sat a triad of gift bags on the counter on Friday.  He and two of the grandsons had gone shopping for my Mother’s Day gift.  Funny man — doesn’t he realize?  My Mother’s Day gifts surround me every day.

Happy Mother’s Day.  Enjoy the ride.

This night

This night, exactly 8 years ago, was probably the worst night of my life.  worst.  my baby, deeply entrenched in illness, came as close as anyone could ever come, to losing her fight for life.  And she was fighting.  Fighting me, fighting her dad, fighting herself.  But this night, tonight, i feel none of that fear, that all encompassing terror that comes from the inability to make a difference — I feel peace.  Triumphant peace, as for the first time in 8 years I didnt need to see her, to touch her, to hold her, to know that she is all right.  It seems, finally, that we are both healed.

I wonder if they know

I wonder if my kids know how much joy it gives me when they laugh with me.  When we connect on that level and find something unbelievably funny at exactly the same time.  My kids, you know, are all grown, with families and stressors and ideas and activities…and adult friends that they laugh with.

We went through that wonderful family time when they were all early twenties — flip cup on the back porch, beer pong, fishing trips…lots of fun and laughter.  Then one got married, one got sick and one got stupid with alcohol so those kind of parties with bonfires and late night bottles of wine, subsided.

We became subdued….

But now, all are healthy, all are married, and they, for the most part, handle their alcohol like adults.  And so, again we laugh.  Sometimes.  Not over beerpong and bonfires, but over things their kids do, or say.  Or the way their father shops. Or something I have told them to do, like place a blanket over their child’s head when they take him outside to protect him from the cold.

And I will look at my child and see that smile in their eye.  and we will laugh. Belly laugh.  And it feels so familiar and so good.  I am so glad they are here.