My friend Steve from California was here last night. My friend Steve who had a massive “widow maker” heart attack only a few months ago. My friend Steve who I did a GoFundMe page for, because we thought he was going to die, or at the least be brain damaged from the deep freeze coma he was put into for a week, leaving a wife and four kids behind.
And guess what? He is fine. Better than fine. He’s calmer and has a new gratitude for life (not that he wasn’t a mighty appreciative guy before). This is a minor miracle. Actually minor is an understatement. This is a major miracle. A big fucking MIRACLE.
There were several things that went right for this to happen, starting with his son who never formally learned CPR, but performed it anyway, and when Steve asked him how he knew how to do it, when he was unfrozen and could speak again, Skyler said, “Dad, I watch tv.” (I have watched every Grey’s Anatomy and I still don’t know how to do it. Peter would not be so lucky). But really, this was key, because Steve was not breathing. He was totally unresponsive, and if Skyler had not watched so many medical dramas, Steve wouldn’t have visited this weekend, on account of he would, plain and simple, be dead.
Also, the choice to put him into a coma was key, as well. This allowed his body to rest and regenerate. Of course, there was the risk of him not coming out, or coming out with damage to his brain. But neither of these things happened, which is another thing that could have gone terribly wrong, but went terribly right.
Anyway, it was an amazing thing to see Steve. He is back to swimming as fast as he swam when he was 28! All of which is to say a hokey, miracles happen. Several happened to Steve. Gradi to the tude, grateful.
Like anybody could forget. September 11 will always be synonymous with that day.
That day my four year old began ballet in pink tights and a waterfall of hair on her head in a basement studio with other little girls and parents with ashen, confused faces. What had just happened? Watching those little feet turn out, learn to stand in straight lines, allowed those of us watching one more moment to pretend that this day was like any other.
It was not.
And neither were the weeks that followed. Shock, fear and horror filled the air around all of us. Still 10 years later I can remember how it made me feel, as well as I remember one minute ago. That day when I thought I might have lost a cousin (I did not and am grateful for that every year, even though he is such a smart ass!!!!!) That day when innocence went on a permanent sabbatical.
The world changed on that crisp blue sky, perfectly perfect fall day. But I believe still, that there is more good than bad in the world. Even after that day and so many other unspeakable days. I will continue to believe that. More good than bad. Which is something Al Queda or Isis can ever take away.
As a freelance writer, sometimes I am wildly busy, and sometimes I am not. This worked really well for being a mom, because when I wasn’t busy I would volunteer at the kid’s school more, or do some kid-related thing with my extra time. But now that the kids are gone, and I HAVE PLEDGED THAT I WILL NOT BECOME ONE OF THOSE MOM’S WHO CONTINUES TO WORK IN THE KID’S SCHOOL, DESPITE HAVING NO KIDS IN THE SCHOOL, I have to decide how to structure that extra time. Here are some of the things I’m thinking of:
Pole/exotic dancer. Once upon a time, I actually had the body for this, believe it or not. I had the moves, too. Sadly, this bus has left the station. But the hours seemed so good……
Grocer bagger. Secretly I love it when the baggers at Whole Foods are busy and I get to bag. It’s sort a sort of fun geometry project, trying to fit different sized items together. This is as mathematical as I get, by the way.
Toll taker. I have a lovely “hello,” and I’m good with my hands. But what’s this, I just heard they are abolishing the tolls and using some electronic system? Toll taker job: taken.
Waitress. I have a resume for this one. I loved this job because I would sit down with customers, and talk. It takes advantage of my excellent people skills. The only thing is, I was terrible at it. This was confirmed by a general manager at an unnamed restaurant in Faneuil Hall. He said, and I quote: “You are the nicest person in the world, but the WORST waitress I have ever worked with.” Yes, that happened.
An Über driver. I cannot read a map. I would need a GPS that said, “Take a left at the CVS and a right before the Citgo sign.” Hey, maybe this is an App I should develop?
Dog groomer. I love myself a dog. Any dog. They are my preferred company. I wonder if I could avoid the “anal gland cleaning?” Like maybe bill myself that way. “No assholes allowed.”
.A salesperson at a boutique. Let’s face it, this could break us financially.
A chef. My daughter would laugh at this one. She’s psyched about the college food compared to my cuisine.
House cleaner. As long as nobody has to see my house as proof of my skills.
An organizer. Haaahaaaahaaaahaaa. Now that’s a funny one.
Just like they say about the lottery–you can’t win if you don’t play.
That’s how yesterday was for me. Except there was no lottery, or ticket, or money.
I woke up yesterday and the magnitude of Ally going to college hit me like an 18-wheeler going 200 miles an hour (can they go that fast–what do I know about 18-wheelers?). I was steeped in sadness. My interior felt splintered into teeny tiny bits of misery. I felt fragile and wildly overwhelmed by a thick black haze. I haven’t cried like I cried yesterday in a long, long time. I was like a human Niagra Falls. No shutting me off. I wondered if someone would try to get in a barrel and slide down me.
But here’s the lame lottery analogy: I wrote about it, and out of the woodwork came unexpected kindness. A call from an old friend. An FB wall post about fucks not to give (everybody knows that my mood will instantly improve if there are fucks involved), some texts, some more calls. And those who reached out, reached me. Not that I could stop crying, because I couldn’t (I am a blowfish today, a blowfish, I tell you). But because when you share, you are not alone. And when you are not alone, you can bear just about anything.
Whatever you’ve got going on, tell someone. In a text, call, email, Instagram, FB post, or an old fashioned letter. Make a fucking fire and send a smoke signal if you have to. There’s no need to go it alone. We are meant to help one another. We are all we’ve got.
I keep thinking Ally is going to burst in, with a raucous roar, tromp through the kitchen, turn up the tv and leave 10 pairs of shoes in the entryway. But so far, it’s just Riley and Peter.
And Riley doesn’t wear shoes.
I notice it most in the afternoon, when Ally would be home. It feels unusually quiet then. Instead of asking my daughter what I have been asking her for the last 14 years–“How was your day,” I just think it inside my head–“I wonder how her day is?” Nobody answers. It’s troubling. HOW IS SHE?
Her texts are brief. Yes and no. Her dad gets a little more, but not much. I want to know things like how she is doing with her laundry and the gang bathroom. What it’s like for her to have have to wake up on her own, and go to a dining hall. Is it loud? Can she sleep? Are the boys cute? You know, the important stuff.
I have done some cleaning in their rooms. I am more used to Jake’s room being unoccupied. It doesn’t feel as strange. I know he will come home again. But Ally’s loud room is so silent. I am changing the curtains and putting down a different rug. I see that I need some changes to make me feel the bigger change at bay. To make me understand that what i have here is an empty nest and a momma bird who hasn’t gotten the text that the kids have flown.
It’s not the same house, so it shouldn’t look like the same house is what my heart is telling me. But it’s not really in the budget to paint right now. I will just keep shifting stuff around until it feels like a house where all the kids are at college and the mom talks to the dog.
I might be a little sad today. I think that’s why I’m crying. Or maybe it’s just the weather. But more than likely it’s because I miss my girl.
I celebrated my 29th wedding anniversary yesterday (and yes, this is one of the things that amazes me, because WHAT?), and we were supposed to go to the Chatham Bars Inn, but then Hermine decided to check-in, so they let us reschedule later in the month. Instead we went to see my sister and brother-in-law, which was and always is a great thing to do, on account of how much we love them, and because we always relax like the dead when we go to their house.
Yesterday, the actual anniversary (and yes, we were one of those obnoxious couples who ruined people’s labor day weekends by throwing a wedding) was the run-up to Hermine, so before we left my sister’s we went for a walk on Nantasket Beach, and it was wild and beautiful and unpredictable and scary and fucking incredible. I couldn’t help but compare it to my just shy of three decades marriage, which has been all those same things.
Honestly, I have no idea how we’ve been able to stay married for this long. It seems impossible that anybody could stand me for so many years, but there it is. I guess at the end of the day, while we are wildly different, we have always held a couple of the same beliefs that have acted like glue during the bad, bumpy and entirely shit moments of a marriage. We’re both unwaveringly committed to our relationship and our kids (and our dog), and ridiculously loyal. When we want to kill each other (which I would do by using a potato peeler …..) and think we can’t stand each other for one more minute, we let things settle, and somehow our union surfs on the edge and regenerates.
We have had a lot of crazy, threatening waves and dark skies during our 29 years. But somehow we’ve done what we did yesterday, which is walk that beach noticing the amazingness in the surly surf.
I did not shop for school supplies this year. No number two pencils, desk organizers, cute notebooks, or white boards. For the past 16 years I have taken a first day of school photo, posing my two kids on the front porch and forcing them to smile for the camera. But not today. I’m not going to lie, it’s a little bit weird, but it’s not bad weird.
This is the fifth day of everybody’s-at-college, but-the-dog. I find myself ensconced in cleaning, happy to wake up to a neat kitchen–a kitchen just the way I left it the previous night. I’ve reduced the front hallway shoe pile to four pairs, and dinners have been a no-stress affair with lots of veggies and NO COMPLAINING. My Whole Foods bill has been reduced by one million dollars. All in all, it’s sort of been ok.
But I imagine I could freak out in a week or so, when the relief of getting Ally packed and moved in has worn off and I find myself wandering around the house looking for kids to mother.
I don’t know exactly what this year will be like. But so far, it doesn’t feel like I am going to take to my bed and mourn the role I have spent much of my adult life starring in. Does this mean I don’t love my kids? NO. It doesn’t mean that at all. I think it means I am trying to take in this change and see what it is all about, see what kind of opportunities it might present. I’m open. This next part of life isn’t scripted, and I’m wide open to welcoming the same kind of possibilities all those new school supplies have always represented each September. Gratitude for the unknown. Every time there’s an ending, there’s a beginning. We’ll see, won’t we?