Tuesday, October 21, 2014

October's Chill.

“I hate October.”

And … there it is. The wilt on our rose. The dent in our bumper. The zit on the nose. The spinach in the teeth. The crack in the wall. The ball of fire between our shoulder blades.

The skeleton in the closet.

I am, admittedly, a little edgier at certain points in the month. Blame it on the lunar cycle, blame it on the changing seasons, blame it on estrogen. But there’s one month where irrational and emotional aren’t just mood changing. October irritatingly offers all of the spooks and specters we’ve had to exorcize.

We are happy, well adjusted and after six very long years, finally and definitively putting the first words down in our next chapter. But October always does its best to freeze our gentle thaw and it is Halloween that drives the dagger through.

For 24 days, we seem to slide from happy to down to sangry (def: a finely cultivated blend of sad and angry that has slowly fermented). And then the day passes, lifted away into the breeze the way the balloons float into the clouds chasing after him.

Discounting the first two – which shall stand alone and unmatched in their cruelty – October is now simply a month we wish we could petition to have removed from the annual calendar. But it’s here to stay and so is the baggage it has left us.

“I know, lovely boy. I don’t like October either.”

He’s almost my height now and his hands have eclipsed my own, but looking down at him in his cocoon of blankets he looks small again. The waver in his voice matches the tears that have gathered and I feel that familiar pang of helplessness and frustration that I cannot right the wrong. He is his mother’s son and he fights to keep the pain at bay, refusing to let it win. But tonight he is the little boy whose heart I broke and fought to mend and the tears fall as he disappears into my arms.

“I love you, buddy.”

"I love you more."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

If You Choose to Accept It.

“Your son can watch football. He can even play it. I’ll suffer through baseball and I could even find a way to survive basketball. But just know this. 

Your son will LOVE hockey.”

From the periphery I can see the folds of the long black coat moving across the ice, a slow, careful proceeding that only makes the almost quiet louder in its awkwardness.

In our hearts, we know that we are not destined to win this game and that a group of boys and one girl will go home without the prize they desire. But still we chant the cries, hoping against hope that their grit and determination and youthful optimism will float across the ice in their favor. They have played with more stamina than we should expect and we’ve watched the unbridled joy erupt when the puck met the back of the net.

Watching him lay on the ice, his deep sobs echoing across the frozen pond in a painful culmination of broken toe, deep exhaustion and disappointment, I refuse to let the tears spill over.

So much of who we were, who we still are and who we’ve become is forever carved in the ice.

Still trapped in our icy fog, I watched their tiny feet tread cautiously on the frozen surface for the first time with the same fear and loathing that my own tiny feet had stepped into the frozen abyss. Burning like ice across bare skin, our pain was raw and exposed. With each return we became more surefooted than the one before and I found a place where I could lose and rebuild myself in a place where he had left no traces behind.

In the years since, we’ve found a rhythm in this place where hockey bags pile with pride and little boys watch young men with awe and admiration. Where the rancid smell of chest pads is a right of passage, pucks are tossed errantly into purses and the first “time out” is a coveted statistic. Where parents become teammates and siblings claim the rink for their own. Where coaches are defined not by wins but by how loudly the love of the game beats within the heart of the bench.

In so many ways, the rink helped us find our way again and along with it we found friends in the hockey family that welcomed us in. And they did so without knowing us, granting us the space to be painful and raw and angry and weak.

He still whispers about the unfairness that it is only ever me in the locker room, a constant dose of maternal estrogen that will never deliver the locker room machismo of paternity. And yet he looks for me on the red line the moment his skates touch the ice, the slightest nod of his head our silent ritual. He hugs me and whispers I love you before each game, and I whisper to him that I love him, too.

Listening to the chorus of sticks on the ice, I watch him glide to the bench, his coach at his side and in my heart I know this.

We do not choose what befalls us. We choose whether it defines us.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mamma Mia.

“Mom, what is this?”

I’ve been home for .3 seconds and all I really want is to strip the day away, slap on my running shoes and lose myself in my headphones and the dark. But the annoyance is dripping from my son’s voice the way that thick molasses falls into the bowl at Christmastime and one thing is painfully clear.

The only thing I’ll be running away from is whatever “this” is.

“What’s wrong now?”

For months I have been trying, desperately, to establish some personal boundaries within the house where for 10 years we have had almost none. Flowers? Jewelry? Give me an uninterrupted shower and my heart is yours for eternity.

“I want to know what this is.”

Midway through scrubbing the makeup that I loathe and hungrily eyeing the hair clip that will toss my overdue-for-a-trip-to-see-Auburn unruly locks into an out-of-the-way pile atop my head, I peek at the irritable object beside me.

“How about you read it to me?”

Flashing red lights and sirens would have been helpful at any point … NOW.

“It says ‘we wish to inform you that there is no evidence of cancer on your recent mammogram examination.’ What does that mean? And what’s a mammogram?”

And there it is. The reason for the irritation, which is actually more about the fear that something could happen because it’s happened before and what would they do then if I was suddenly, unavoidably, unexplainably … gone.

“What do you think it means?”

“It says there’s no cancer.”

“No cancer. Which means I’m fine.”

Undeniably, I am more jittery about my health than I was six years ago because I know what they know. That everything could be perfectly normal and then it’s not and things are lost that can never be replaced. And there’s a part of me that is scared that something will happen that I cannot fix and that they will be hurt again. I have all of the obligatory appointments, but this year has added a few surprises. Family echocardiograms (our hearts are beating just fine, thank you), a trip to a retinal eye cancer specialist (nothing like a “let’s rule out a potential melanoma” to send you hurtling over the edge on a Friday afternoon) and the mapping of a revised will and testament. And cancer is a more than a word to us – it has been an unwelcome guest in my father’s life for nearly a decade.

Which brings us back to “this.”

“Sweetheart, remember last week when I had to leave earlier than normal in the morning and we had to rush because I couldn’t be late for the doctor? Well, every year I go and a doctor takes pictures to see if anything has changed. And nothing has – everything’s fine. But it’s really important to check so that if there is something wrong, you can catch it early and try to fix it.”

“How do they do it?”

“They squish them in a machine … like pancakes.”

“They aren’t flat anymore. How did they get bounce back up again?”

I don’t know how … they just did.