Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Skin in the Game.

This is not what I had in mind. 

If patience is a virtue, I am clearly not in line for sainthood. I know instinctively what I want and what I don’t want, and rarely has the rational me chosen to go down a path that my instinct and elusive sixth sense hadn’t already embraced. And yet when it comes to matters of the heart and of the flesh, my impatient self is oddly patient.

I am … um … selective. Some might say picky.

But just because I don’t let every man who happens to wander by with a hoe to till the fields, doesn’t mean you don’t reach a point where the dirt needs to be turned. And turned. And turned. And turned.

(You get the idea. And my mother doesn’t need the mental image that goes along with this.)

When I pictured the next time a set of eyes laid eyes on my naked body, I imagined something more intimate and chemical. The hands touching me? A little demanding and a lot of caressing.

And yet here I am. Standing naked and cold while every inch of my body is poked, prodded and peered at from an uncomfortably close vantage point. With a magnifying glass. And a measuring stick.

Every year since college I have dreaded this annual review—like a final exam I haven’t studied for and for which there are no re-takes. But my options are this: have three holes carved into my left buttock or stand here naked once a year while the relative spread of my birthmark Bermuda Triangle is documented for posterity. And, frankly, three holes are not going to improve the view or the odds.

But my father hit the cancer jackpot. And then my ass was left abruptly on the line without backup. And then an annual inconvenience became an inconvenient necessity to save my ass. So as long as she doesn’t tell me that there has been an unexpected expansion of my back end, I quietly let her peer at every freckle and birthmark.

And look up and pray that the next time my ass has an audience … it isn’t wearing scrubs.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Jackie O So Mad.

One of the things that happens when you become, you know … a widow … is that you are suddenly and intensely aware that every move you make is analyzed, every word you utter is dissected, and every tear you shed is counted. And ever since Jackie O showed the world what grace under fire looks like, you’re either a Jackie O. 

Or you’re not.

Well, here’s a little secret. We may look and act like the epitome of grace and decorum on the outside, but on the inside we want to take our white-gloved hands and stuff a pillbox hat straight down the esophagus of each person who said “you were so polished and graceful. Just like Jackie O.”

I find grace and polish to be overrated. And always have. Right down to my boarding school-primed upbringing and my choice college education. Because there’s nothing fun about grace and polish 24/7, and because the expectations are exceedingly high, leaving no margin for error. That doesn’t mean you’ll see my white-trash-trailer-park side anytime soon, but I’m the sorority sister that knew the best frat parties and not the secret handshake. So, you’ll have to forgive my lack of polish, but there’s really no need to sugar coat the obvious.

I am pissed off. Not a little. A lot.

If you know me, you know that I have reached a point where neither grace nor polish can keep the lid on the pressure that has been building.

For 120 minutes now, I have listened to my six-year-old daughter scream sporadically in confusion and pain. Because of dental DNA I place squarely at my late husband’s genetic doorstep. Which will cost me four figures—before the decimal point. That will be a source of frustration and concern for her, ever after. For all the visits that my own pearly whites have endured because of the damage his early departure caused … and the residual carnage my restless mind ground to death while my body slept.  

For the odor that has lifted its way to my nostrils from the shoes of the woman sitting in the waiting room next to me while my ears have bled.

He is gone, a fact that I quietly digested, accepted and filed away years ago. While I am no longer angry that he’s gone, I am in moments like this exceptionally livid at what has been left behind. Monthly healthcare bills that extract more from my bank account than a mortgage payment yet cover less than a cable bill. Red tape that stretches on without reason. A house I never wanted and that I am unable to leave. Questions I no longer wish to answer. A life I want to live that is just beyond my reach.

And now this.  

For now I’ll wear grace and polish, like wet clothes dampening the rage underneath. And I’ll wear it when she wraps her arms around me, tears falling into my neck. But tonight, when the house is dark and silent, the tears that I held back with a mother’s grace and strength will fall with an woman’s unpolished weakness, hot with pain and cold with loneliness. And I will cry as much for her as for the empty darkness that surrounds me where strong arms do not. But before my tears fall, I will dry hers.

With a McFlurry.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Thick and Chunky.

I grew up on the DEW line. Or maybe I grew up north of the DEW line. I’m not entirely sure, but whatever the latitude and longitude of it, distant and early warnings have never done me any favors. Neither have the ones up close and personal. Like the whole face-meets-concrete episode. Or that sleeping-beside-dead-husband thing.  

Or the thick-chunky-and-red-hued ooze inching its way across my floor. For the second time.

We are knocking on midnight and the four little creatures that have brought smiles, laughter and contentment to an afternoon hard won have suddenly turned my floor into a scene from the Exorcist.

First one. And then another.

Which has me eyeballing the other two for any signs of suspicious intestinal movement. Mentally reviewing the verbal contract I made to sleep in the middle. Calculating how much saran wrap is needed to cover the carpet they will be sleeping on. And effectively putting an end to the year-long gastronomical fascination I have had with tomato soup.

And any thoughts I might have had regarding cheese curds.

And yet the repulsive and revolting mess that four bath towels have not yet brought under control is oddly comforting. Not because it is seeping into the grout and activating stomach muscles that have been happily dormant since the last diaper exited the building, but because this simple moment means more than all of the moments in a day filled with moments.

Even if Linda Blair’s leftovers are all over my floor.