Saturday, April 26, 2014

V Formation.

Gwyneth Paltrow would not be here.

And by here, I mean the space between my rear tire and the curb.

For the past few months, my life has increasingly picked up speed and load until it has come to resemble a greasy, dirty freight train hurtling out of control from one hairpin turn to the next. My house increasingly feels as though it is expressing its candidacy for A&E’s “Hoarders” and the cockroaches, scorpions, snakes and spiders that have been in a deep winter’s sleep are crawling out of the woodwork. All day long I navigate through the realm of consumers that range from inconvenienced to irate and I race home to a blinding rush of rehearsals and practice and dog duty. The emails that were once holding steady at 11,000 have now crept past 20,000 and the little jabs at my dismal inter-personal communications are now risking the jabber more than a cutting response.

Underneath it all – the part that everyone forgets and does not see – is the gauntlet of milestones that starts with his death and carries me through birthdays, holidays and Hallmarked celebrations of love.Subtle irritations that stoke the fire of frustration.

The reason that everyone forgets is because we make it possible for them to do so.

We’re supposed to make it look effortless and that we have the strength of an army, the flexibility of a 12-year-old gymnast, the financial wizardry of Warren Buffet, domestic goddess-ness, the patience of Mother Theresa, Scarlett Johannson’s breasts, Jennifer Aniston’s abs and Gisele Bundchen’s legs. And in anatomical irony, we’re supposed to navigate life with the perfection and precision of a V formation.  

What we really have is damn good makeup and Spanx.

In the three-and-a-half hours since my alarm went off this morning, I managed to hide the aforementioned mess under a well coiffed and carefully applied mask of calm and control only to discover that my daughter went to bed looking like an angel but woke up with eyes swollen shut and a head that even Violet Beauregard would find alarming. Urgent Care cannot explain it away and so here we are in the school drop off lane.

Correction. We are not in the drop off lane. I am.

Some of me is beside the curb. Some of me is on the curb. My left heel is in two parts. My skirt is around my waist. And an SUV filled with prepubescent boys has a front seat at the show.

“MOM! Are you okay?!?!”

“Give me a minute.”

To dust off and cover up my perfect v formation.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

To the Moon and Back.

“I understand it now. I understand what happened and that it’s not our fault. I miss him and there are so many things I could be doing with him right now and I never will.”

There is something perfect about the way a tiny baby melts into your warms, a warmth that gently forges the unbreakable bond between mother and child. Gently rocking the tiny bundle in our arms, we dream of their futures and the perfectness that it will be. We celebrate their firsts and we wrap them in our love, erasing the hurts with a mother’s kiss. We feel every pain, we celebrate every triumph, and we fiercely defend them against criticism and threat.

He is 10 but wise beyond his years.

I am, at once, frustrated and filled with pride by the maturity that is perhaps an unfortunate outgrowth of the experiences of his childhood. It is life’s cruelty that death robbed him of the childhood innocence that all mothers hang on to long after their children have left it behind.

At four, I watch him struggle to lift the heavy mantle of manhood. He remembers his father telling him his most important job is to take care of his sister, and I bristle at the memory of that conversation and the burden it has left him with. His tiny hand reached for mine and I was keenly aware of the moment when his hand left mine so that I could accept the folded flag. As the finality of it all set in, sobs wracked my body and I felt his eyes on me.

Why are you crying, Mommy?
I’m crying because they are celebrating your Daddy.
Don’t cry, Mommy. It will be okay. I promise.

To protect me, he would not show his pain or the tears that came with it. As he did on that earthshattering night, he still retreats to the dark of his bedroom when the moments come. Through the years, I’ve watched him process and navigate this unfortunate inheritance. Our bond is stronger and he is fiercely protective of the little sister whose protector he became that night so long ago. He does not want to be known only as the boy whose Dad died, carefully choosing when and with home he shares that most personal detail of his identity, nor does he want his father to be forgotten. And in those moments when sadness overwhelms him, my failure to protect him from pain is magnified in excruciating high definition.

With age has come new clarity and old questions now require deeper answers. Too many times in past months have I wrapped my arms around him as sobs wracked his body at the unfairness of it all. Too many times have I watched him walk angrily away as the words ring shrill in the air. Too many times has he spoken of the children he will one day have and how he will give them what he does not have.

It’s just another thing I can’t do because I don’t have a Dad.

We place high expectations on the men we love. We expect them to be indestructible and infallible and yet we demand a deep capacity for love, a combination of volatile extremes. Whether we mean to or not, we set these expectations early on our sons and so, perhaps, it is the reason that their tears and hurts become more painful for us to bear as the young man emerges from the little boy we promise to love forever and to the moon and back.

“Mom, I love you. More than anything.”
“I love you to the moon and back, my lovely boy.”
“But I can’t say the same thing about the smell of your room. What is that?!”
"Might be my pits. Us men have sweaty, smelly pits."