Sunday, February 19, 2012

Falling Flat.

“You can’t call my husband. He’s dead.”

Spitting blood, seeing stars and hearing bells is not how I saw this evening playing out. But for the last two weeks I have been on an emotional roller coaster that just won’t let up—and karma hasn’t exactly been kind to me—so this shouldn’t come as a surprise.

And this is me, sitting on the sidewalk.

In lycra that could only be tighter if it was painted on. Ejected from my bike pedals after my face connected with the pavement. Taking mental inventory of the fact that the man who just instigated this little mishap has informed me that I need stitches for “aesthetic” reasons. Listening to my daughter scream. And my son asking for the firetruck to come and save me.

“Do you want me to call the paramedics?”


It’s not that I don’t enjoy a truck full of firemen as much as the next woman—what is it about those pants?—but going back to that whole karma thing, with my luck I would know whoever arrives on that truck. Probably very well. And I really don’t want my snotty, bloody face to be analyzed that closely by attractive men arriving with sirens and lights alerting the entire neighborhood to the fact that I just fell off my bike and got an owie. Granted, I am fairly certain this is a big one. But no matter how impressive the damage is, it will not erase the fact that I fell off my bike.

“We really should call them. You hit the pavement pretty hard and you need to be stitched up.”

“Mommy, are you going to be okay? You’re BLEEDING!!!!”

Somehow, I managed to get through my entire life to this point without needing stitches or breaking any bones. While I am not the most breathtaking woman on the planet, I am not altogether unattractive and now that the stars have faded I am realizing I can’t feel my lips. Which means they are likely the target of those stitches this irritating man keeps mentioning. Which has me both bleeding and seething. Because I happened to be perfectly happy with how they looked before my face met the concrete. And because I am eternally hopeful that someone, someday, might want to kiss them.

Someday is clearly not today.

A day when my daughter alerted an entire waiting room of people that if they wanted to, they could take a peek at a pink thong through see-through pants. A day when my head hurt long before it cracked open on the concrete, spinning in confusion and regret for its deviation from caution. A day when my year of re-setting and re-charging officially ended. A day when I just know I am going to see those crystal blue eyes laughing at me again.

After he looks at my snotty, bloody lips.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

She's Lost her Marbles.

“Sweetheart, you’re going to have to help me out here because I can’t see it and I just don’t understand. How, exactly, did it get in there?”

This must be what it’s like to look down the barrel of a gun. Except that this is not a gun and looking down this barrel is about as inviting as a tomb sealed for centuries. Because I just know that cracking the seal is going to let something foul out and I am not particularly interested in seeing what’s inside.

But there is a marble inside my daughter.

“It hurts and I want it out!!!!!”

“Sweetheart, it’s okay. Things can go in and out of there without any problem. That doesn’t mean you should be putting ANYTHING in there, but I promise you’ll be fine.”

“What kind of things can go in there?”

When I planned on relaxing for Valentine’s Day, it did not involve my daughter’s (insert word that sounds repulsive and starts with “v”) nor did it involve a discussion about mine.

“NOT marbles. Little girls shouldn’t have marbles or anything else in there.”

Apparently neither should I, because as my friend Stephanie so bluntly pointed out, a crowbar might be necessary if it takes any longer to crack the safe.

“But you said things can go in there?”

“Things can go in there when you are bigger like Mommy.”

“Like what? Do you put things in there?”

I just know I am on some watch list somewhere. Because this is not the first time she’s landed us in an unusual spot, and I absolutely don’t want to have to explain how a marble got in there to the same emergency room technicians that stood dumbfounded while I explained how my daughter managed to give herself lacerations down there bouncing on a piece of furniture. At which point she started crying for her dead Daddy. Which is an effective and awkward way to stop all conversation, and leads to mumbled comments you really don’t care to deal with when a doctor is reassuring you that your daughter’s virtue has not been stolen by the couch, and you are reassuring them you had nothing to do with it.

And now this. I am fishing for marbles, and she is fishing for information about mine.

“Nope. There’s nothing going in there.”

“But what would you put in there?”

Something that fits just right. And it better not require batteries.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Concerning Cupid.

I get it. I really do.

If I was a vertically challenged man forced to flit around for eternity on a pair of Victoria’s Secret angel wing cast offs—wearing a cloth diaper and nothing else—I’d want to sling a few arrows, too. Because no matter what the art historians say, when I think of cupid … I see Kevin Pollak.

I am, admittedly, unsure when it comes to the all-important day of love. 

For a man, Valentine’s Day arm wrestles with prostate exams and colonoscopies for supremacy. For a woman, Valentine’s Day is rife with emotional turmoil, from pure bliss to lonely misery. Whether you are XX or XY, Valentine’s Day is the most pressure-laden Hallmark invention on the calendar.

Long before I met my husband, the bloom faded on the roses that are expected. My first Valentine’s Day gift from him smelled less like a floral shop and more like a temporary loan to pay Uncle Sam. And for the entire duration of our life together, Valentine’s Day was simply a bump on the road with small tokens to mark the day without breaking the bank. An inconvenient inconvenience that we were both content to acknowledge and disregard as insignificant in a life that was already fulfilling and frantic.

And yet the woman in me—the one that didn’t need the flowers, the little boxes and the chocolates—craved the very thing that I found so inconvenient.

I longed for the unexpected.

And suddenly a life defined by expectation became a life unexpected, and the woman that I was grew and changed in unexpected ways. I let go of a life planned and prepared, and dared to dream of a life unexpected and found myself longing.   

To hear my name whispered. To open my eyes to a sleepy smile. To lose myself to laughter. To melt into a kiss. To dance with abandon. To disappear into strong arms.

To love without expectation.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Unbottling Time.

Simple and elegant, they are precision timepieces artfully crafted in silver and platinum with crystal settings and slivered hands. They are beautiful. 

And I hate them.

I’ve never been particularly fond of watches. I toyed with the idea of them, committing myself for brief interludes before setting them aside to gather dust. Expensive shackles, watches weighed heavily on my tiny wrists and my mind.

And yet my life demanded that I count time. Endless meetings that ran over and into each other, midnight feedings that became midnight terrors, frantic runs squeezed in between rush hour and the dinner hour, lunch hours lost to doctor’s appointments, errands and groceries, phone calls unanswered and letters unwritten. While my husband’s clock was simple and straightforward, mine was erratic and unyielding.

After he died, I counted time—24 hours, 48 hours, seven days, one month, 90 days, six months, one year, 18 months—as though I was measuring the time that I had left, not the time since he had left me. A life on hold because he had left it.

And then I stopped counting.

I sifted slowly through the remains of the life we had lived, turning from the past and toward an unwritten future with each passing moment and each closed box. A life on hold suddenly became a life to be lived, and a clock that was once erratic and unyielding became mine to unwind. I wished less for the past and longed more for a future and I wondered who and what were yet to come.

As I close the last boxes and step into the future I want, I know.

It’s been there all along, waiting for the time to be right.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers.

She is a stranger, and yet I know that we would talk for hours. Like old friends, we would laugh at memories and strike with whispered lashings at the vultures circling. And as the months passed and our minds cleared, we would wander unguided through the place were widows are left to wither and decay.  

But it is not about me. And it is not about her.

Her pain is no worse, and no less, than mine. Like those of us who have passed before—and those yet to pass—it is simply hers. My tears run hot for a little girl who does not remember the laughter and the warmth. Hers burn viciously for a little girl who will never be held at all. She mourns dreams never realized. I pick up the pieces of a life half lived. She is just beginning. I am beginning to live.  

Like parched leaves that swirl and rest and swirl again, I piece together the moments and the hours. Time that stood still before vanishing into the silent movie that replays in my memory. Help offered and unexpected kindnesses given. Cards filled with handwritten words awash in dried teardrops. Questions without answers. Blue shirts. Black boots. Polished brass.

A cream envelope.

He knew my husband by profession first. By mutual friendships, characteristics and moral compass second. While I mourned a husband taken without warning, she mourned a husband slipping away. And together they looked beyond their own pain to mine, giving me the gift of hope, compassion and peace of mind asking nothing in return and yet deserving so much more than I could give. Until I wrote the letters of her name on an envelope, like they had written mine only a few months earlier.

It is often said that those who receive the least, give back the most. Like the envelope that was filled with so much more than it held.

I do not know the woman behind the name on the creamy envelope in front of me. I write the letters of her name slowly, as though with each letter the pipes that played for her became less melancholy and more hopeful. And I wonder if someday she will wonder about the woman behind another name.

On another cream envelope.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Birds, Bees and Boobies.

“Mom, what are these?”


“I know what we call them. But what makes them so…you know…fluffy?”

This is one of those moments during which I mentally curse my husband for abandoning me. We had a deal. I would take the lead on everything elementary and he would be my backup. And then we’d switch off – I’d be his backup when body parts and hormones started to bloom.

I hope he is enjoying his perch at heaven’s bar. Because this is the latest addition to the list of bones I have to pick.  

Since he’s been gone, I’ve navigated penile pain and naming parts. I’ve learned that things “stick” and must be unstuck, and I’ve explained that what goes up eventually must come down. I’ve argued the merits of target shooting and I’ve described—under duress and in detail—whether he looks like Dad “down there.” I’ve negotiated truces and explained why when two lids go up, two lids must come down. And I’ve swallowed laughter when they’ve poked, prodded and pondered my decorations.

Someday my son will tell his wife and friends whether or not his mother faced the birds and the bees head on, or dodged uncomfortably around the angry swarm. And while I’d rather be talking about pucks and sticks, not square pegs and round holes, I have no intention of letting him wander blindly into bad luck and misfortune.  

“Why do you want to know?”

“I don’t know. Why are girls different when they are Moms?”

Because we dream that you will be more than we ever were. Because every scar and dimple is a moment marked in time. Because our adolescent fear of growing old becomes a woman’s fear of loss and lost time.

And because, sometimes, we need a little fluff to hide what lies beneath.