We’ve been married for 10 years and I’ve always known my husband wasn’t a very emotional kinda guy. He isn’t easily moved by things on a screen. When a movie has managed to give him a case of “the feels” his face changes, his nostrils flare and his jaw tightens. That’s how I know he’s been touched by something; he looks angry about it. Yesterday we happened upon a discussion that made me see him not just as unsentimental but damaged. He doesn’t like Rudy.
He isn’t a fan of Notre Dame, his humming along with the fight song as it chimed from the church bells on Sunday was the knee jerk reaction of a college football junkie, but to enjoy Rudy you only need to be a fan of the human spirit. His distaste for Rudy draws this into question.
He doesn’t hold just a “Meh, Rudy doesn’t do it for me” neutral opinion of the film but a repugnant one. In fairness he often plays devils advocate and takes things to an extreme just to rouse me. Well, he did. The famous scene that I see as a team acknowledging and participating in the underdogs dream of his family seeing him play on the field and hoisting him up in solidarity and celebration of this realized dream my dear husband equated with “cushy, everyone gets a participation ribbon crap”. When I made a plea for the perseverance through adversity he quipped that Rudy persevered in having everyone feel sorry for him. The fact that Rudy was disheartened and quit but ultimately returned to the team did not ring of a renewed spirit or second chances. Stephen offered no Mulligan to poor Rudy. His summation of Rudy: He was a lousy football player, he stayed a lousy football player, they threw him a bone in the last play of the game and then everyone celebrated a lousy football player.
I’ve been thawing his 30 pound frozen pork chop of a heart for 10 years now. Braveheart and the Jimmy Valvano speech have been a few microwave minutes on defrost but for the most part I’ve let it sit on the counter gradually softening at room temperature. Now, I feel challenged. To quote the movie “After years of religious study I’ve learned two things; there’s a God and I’m not him” but like Rudy I won’t give up on my dream. A movie marathon is in order. Help, please? What movies could move this statue to tears?
Today is the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which means it will be 14 years we’ve been without you in a couple weeks. While I watched the horror and anguish that day I was all the more crestfallen knowing there were thousands of people joining my rank as the newly bereaved. 14 years. Long enough that there are children who learn of 9/11 in a text book and can’t fully comprehend the horror of the day and children have been born in our family for whom you are like a mythical creature. They’ve all heard stories about you but can’t picture you at a family gathering. My children. Gary’s children.
It’s been long enough that, even though I don’t know how time works in eternity, when I offer a prayer for your soul I imagine it’s probably already been cleaned, polished and admitted through the gates ages ago and ask that in that case the good Lord apply those intentions to the least prayed for soul in purgatory. I’m sure the Almighty appreciates my I dotting and T crossing. When that poor Protty gets there, give him a hug for me.
That time heals all wounds line is a big ole pile of crap. The wound of losing you has never and will never heal. It’s just changed. As a teenage girl I expected you to pop around a doorway in the hospital, my frantic mind selfishly thought “What do I do now?! Drugs? Drink? Will I become a bitter, drunken malcontent living on the edge?!” That was what I knew of tragic, untimely loss. The stuff of best sellers, and Lifetime movies. Children who lost parents spiraled out of control. The fresh wound had me aching to hear you yell “Kwiiisssyyy” up the stairs. It caused me physical pain when I thought of never feeling your arms around me. It made me cry when I went to Mass so that I eventually stopped altogether. Heaven help me the times I woke up at night and my mind wandered into the territory of what if we were wrong, what if you were alive and screaming in that box while I lay in my bed. Thanks for the fairy tales, and the imagination, by the way. It was an oozing, unbearable, festering sort of wound that I thought would consume me.
But it didn’t. The wound now is a scar, bone deep. The kind that aches when it rains. Like it did last week when I turned 32 and thought “My God, what if I only have two years left?” The thought didn’t make me feel all Tim McGrawy, I don’t want to go skydiving and I probably wasn’t any nicer to Stephen than any other day ( you’d like him but I hope you two don’t meet for a good long while). It did make me want to write more down and be in more pictures so if he or my children are ever without me they still have something. Because I don’t have enough tangible evidence of you.
It aches when my daughter cries that she’ll miss me when she leaves for school in the morning and I tell her I know just how she feels.
It aches when I don’t have you to complain to, or cry to or laugh with; a loneliness that’s always with me. I try not to dwell to much on it but the only created being on the earth who knew me inside and out is now with the Creator.
The scar began to crack and bleed a bit a few weeks ago when I walked Dad down the aisle in your stead. When it came time for what would be the mother-son dance I held your baby boy in my arms and waltzed him around to “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” because that’s what he has. There’s no replacing you. I would have moved from my lady like tears to an all out snotty blubber had the 3 awesome little girls that are your granddaughters not joined us. The pain subsided.
I’m back at Mass on Sundays and when I’m moved to tears they’re not always of sadness. I wake the kids in a brightly annoying voice every morning. When I’m lonely for a sympathetic ear I pray and know you’re praying along with me. Your love is now perfected there in the Glory of God and your prayers keep me from spiraling out of control. In that way you’re still holding my hand as I wade through the water. Thank you.
I will blog again one day but right now I’m up to my neck in summer and projects like the one you see here. You’d think that after 6 years of having her toenails clipped Brenna would know that it isn’t unbearably painful and I won’t be hacking off any little piggies. Not so. In a “Scared Straight” approach I Googled images of the worlds longest toenails. Rather than being horrified both girls were intrigued and we ended up tracing feet and decorating twisted knots of overgrown toenails with Crayolas. Pretty sure this won’t be showing up on any Pinterest boards anytime soon. And I should probably stock up on end of season clearance flip flops.
On Friday Brenna mentioned the Buddy Bench on the playground at school to me. The Buddy Bench is a bench (obviously) where you go and sit if you don’t have a friend to play with and someone will come sit with you to talk or invite you to play. I asked Brenna if she’d ever used it. She said she’s sat on it before but no one came to play with her and once there were two girls sitting there so she went over but they told her they were already playing together. They were using it in more of a standard bench capacity. One more obstacle for my naive and socially awkward little one to navigate.
Curious if this was unique to the school or something done elsewhere I did a search for Buddy Bench. A socially conscious 2nd grader saw them in Germany and talked to his principal about instituting one in his own elementary school. The young man has even spoken with Matt Lauer about his Buddy Bench initiative. I respect and commend him for thinking of others. He’s in a minority of people who actually expect others to treat them the way they’d like to be treated. Who have grander ideas and an innocence that says all the kids on the playground will play with each other. The Buddy Bench is fantastic in theory but in the cold, harsh world of the school playground?
I think most kids with half their wits and a sense of self preservation would avoid the Buddy Bench at all costs. Except my naive little one who seems to have no concept that other kids can really suck. There’s always a kid on the playground who doesn’t fit in, doesn’t have a friend; that kid may even change from day to day. I’ve been that kid. So what do you do when you find yourself with no one to play with on the playground? You read a book, you draw in the dirt with a stick or you…shudder…try to make friends. You avoid, by any means necessary, making yourself look like the outcast kid and attracting the attention of bullies and mean girls. You DO NOT go sit on a bench that’s purpose is to let others know that you’re alone! This just makes it easy for the kids who don’t get hugged enough to find you. Not only are you alone, but you’re also the one weird kid who didn’t have the same instincts to avoid the thing to begin with. You have made yourself a target. If you must sit down you find a grassy area to rest your rump and appear deep in thought far away from the Bench of Self Ostracism.
I adore the children who are brave or innocent enough to try the Buddy Bench. I love that my little girl’s rose colored glasses allow her to see the Buddy Bench as a tool for friendship and not a Scarlett letter. I’m proud of her for seeing kids there and approaching them. Unfortunately people like her also get hurt. We don’t live in a Utopian world where other people genuinely care about your feelings. Wouldn’t it be nice if there weren’t need for such a bench? That kids were aware enough of one another that they see another kid drawing in the dirt and approach them without that child having to announce their need by sitting on a bench? Wouldn’t it be grand if a child who’s feeling lonely could just go and insert himself in a playground game or find another kid who is also alone and say “hey, let’s hang out” without needing to sit on a bench and expect other people to come fix it for him?
Occasionally I make up stories on the ride to school in the morning. Impromptu, short little tales that are usually spurred by our mornings events; like the story of Gary G’Nat who was on his way to delight in some rotten strawberries in our garden when he followed the scent of an odiferous lunch box and found himself trapped in a mini-van. This morning our tale was a cautionary one and I was pretty impressed with myself for crafting it at seven a.m. so I’m posting it before I forget the details or jot it down and lose it. J. K. Rowling may have been able to hold on to that fate changing napkin but I would not.
It was the first day of summer break when Gertie jumped onto Evie’s bed and gave her a sloppy, dog breath kiss. Evie was not fond of dogs on her bed and she did what Evie did best, she screamed. A bolt of lightning struck just outside the window despite it being a beautiful cloudless morning. The gardenias sizzled into twigs. Mom came in with baby Scarlett to see what all the commotion was about and from the bed beside her, Evie’s sister, Jenna began to whine “Eeeeevie! Why are you screaming….uuuggghhh, I don’t waaaannna get up! Mom, Evie was screaming again!!” As Jenna whined mom began to change. She turned into an octopus! Which was rather helpful since she was able to make breakfast, drink coffee and feed Scarlett at the same time. The girls continued to scream and whine through the morning and every time they did, mom turned in to some sort of animal and a small natural disaster befell the house. Mom was a rhino at lunch time and there was a small river running through the house but just when Jenna and Evie were worrying how they’d get a PB&J from a rhino things got worse. Scarlett began to grunt and wiggle. Her face was red. She pooped! How would a rhino change her diaper!? The girls gagged, and squealed but they had to take care of Scarlett. As soon as the sticky was closed on the fresh diaper everything returned to normal. The girls knew they had to do something to control these powers. Jenna began to whine “Hoooow can we fix this?! It’s gonna be soooo hard! Moooomy!!!” Right there in the living room, Mom became a shark. Evie was frustrated with Jenna and terrified of shark mom. She screamed. There was a rumble, and the girls felt the house began to sink, Quick sand!!! Now the house was sinking and shark mom was gasping for water. Evie and Jenna came up with a plan. They went to the kitchen, blended together berries, prune juice and probiotic yogurt, and put it in a bottle for Scarlett. Scarlett let out a burp when she finished and they waited. Jenna was dumping another bucket of water on Mom when Scarlett began to stink. Evie and Jenna worked together without whining or screaming to change their little sister. Mom was soggy but she was mom again and the house was still and dry. It worked! From that day forward when Jenna and Evie felt like whining or screaming they thought of the shark mom and the sinking house but mostly they thought of the poopy diapers and they never screamed or whined again.
Every year I get this insane notion that THIS is the summer I will get it all together and we will have a super duper fun and educational summer aided by a rigorous schedule of activities. We’ll have themed weeks! We’ll paint murals! We’ll start a lemonade stand for charity! Form a neighborhood militia! Well, you get the idea. I dream big. If Pinterest is any indication, I’m not the only mom who has these delusions of grandeur. To plant myself firmly back in reality and help some of you do the same I present my very Pin worthy Summer Schedule.