Tag: Friendship

Mommy’s Magical Mystery Tour

 

“You haven’t written anything on your blog in a long time,” Renita said through the Memorial Day heat.

“Been trying to fit it in, but I’ve been busy,” I said then ran through my lists of must-dos-and-get-it-dones: Julia’s chess tournaments, Julia’s first grade graduation, Julia’s ballet and tennis classes, every Saturday, all the moving parts of my single mommy hamster wheel.

Since Julia I and were only in Detroit for the long weekend, Renita got right to the point, something she’s done since we were in the 5th grade:

“I was thinking that you can write about how your mom and Julia are getting older, at the same time, in different ways…and how, at this point in your life… you’re watching those two things happen at once.”

It’s always funny when non-writers give writing prompts. Sometimes I discount them, into the-been-done-seen-it-before category. But more often than not, some ideas work their way back into my brain, like a great old tune I can’t keep off rotation spin.

And so, it did. And so, I did.

At the moment I stand at the intersection of lack and overflow, of a mother who is shutting down her vocabulary, paired with a daughter ripping the throttle open up on hers, each coming by it from her nature. Yet when I spot people in their nineties still chatting away and cruising through Central Park, in movie lines, at Trader Joe’s, seniors with more than ten years on my mom, I slam into the unfairness of it all. But when I think of my friends that have already lost their mothers, some before my friends reached adulthood, one that lost her mom and her step mom to cancer, all before my girlfriend reached the age of 25, then my pity-party-whine-a-thon shuts down. Sometimes, to ease the sadness in my heart of my mostly silent mom, I allow the wave of words that spring from Julia the moment she opens her eyes, carry me.

*

“Do you know when I go to sleep away camp, that’ll be the longest time we’ve ever been apart?” Julia said as we slid stacks of clothes into her purple roller case at crack of dawn Saturday morning.

Sure, I’d thought of it. I just wasn’t sure she thought of it.

“Yeah, that’s true Jules, but I’ll be here when you get back. Plus, you are going to have a ton of fun at camp.”

For the final month leading up to this milestone Julia quizzed me on my kid camp experienced. I told her about the marshmallow roasting, the bellicose singing that took place on overnight hikes, of seeing a darken sky so jammed with stars my eyes darted around in wonder identify constellations, patterns, beauty unseen in the city of Detroit.

Julia nodded and then said. “Okay, so what did you do on the second day?”

As I gathered the last of Julia’s things she bounced some much off the walls, so hard, I had to banish her from the apartment. “Go downstairs and wait for RPs parents, wait with the doorman!”

She happily bolted. If allowed she would have run all the way to Connecticut. By the time I came downstairs hauling one last pair of swim goggles, water shoes, and an errant backpack, the sea green SUV was packed tight with luggage, kids and RP’s parents. One space left for me. I tucked in. And we took off for I-95.

Two and half hours later, I settled Julia into her bunk, tucking the sheets and blanket on to her bed with the help of the camp counselor.

Julia, was already embroiled in a game of Go Fish.

CARDS

I stood in awe of knowing that through the recommendation of my friends I had made a good choice for my daughter. This would be her best summer ever. We said our good-byes. I hugged Julia tight. From the corner of my cracked eye, I saw three small heads, one in braids, one blonde, one brown curled, pulling a Sheryl Sandburg, leaning in, heavy. As my arms unfolded and released my daughter, a small hand reached in and grabbed Julia’s wrist.

“C’mon Julia we’ll show you the woods!”

And the threesome vanished.

I skipped down the steps of the bunk, took a right turn through the woods and headed down the paved path, sending a text to RPs mom along the way.

“All done, headed to the car.” I felt good leaving Julia in a place where she’d already made friends, where it was so green and lush.

TREES

As the road sloped down, I admired the light though a thick stand of trees. I heard a small voice rise up behind me, “Mommmmmyyyyyy….”
I froze. I turned. There was my spud of a girl, gaining on me.

“Mommmmmyyyyyy….,” she yelled with a mix of longing and love.

“Hey, Julia!”

She ran up, arms and braids flying. “Mommy, why are you still here?”
I let out a snort from shock and hilarity, then said, “Jules, I’m walking as fast as I can back to the car.”

“Okay,” she said and skipped off.

As I neared the parking lot I met a couple that described pealing their kid off them to leave, I felt doubly grateful for my happy girl.

And that gratitude would extend further, 45 minutes later into our drive back to the city, on the outskirts of New Canaan, on a sleepy road, when RPs Dad’s car malfunctioned. I won’t go into the details here. I’ll want to do a deeper dive on this event later. But suffice to say that when the tow truck driver later surmised that it was a “Good thing we weren’t going 65 miles an hour when it happened because you guys would have flipped over,” his words held whole heap of weight.

That night, even after servings of medicinal wine, I dreamt about how the whole thing could’ve gone bad in so many ways. At breakfast, I dined with the ghost of that event, too.

“Not your time,” my friend Joi texted.

But what I heard in my head was Julia’s words:

“Mommy, why are you still here?”

Sure, raising Julia to adulthood is high on the list. And I need to get my daughter ready for school on a different level of work next semester. But beyond sending writing projects out into the world that I’ve hung on to, I know there’s other stuff that I need to tend to. But what?

Since that transformative experience on the Merritt Parkway I’ve made it my mission to catch up with old friends. I’ve been to Brooklyn twice in one week which is a record for me. I’ve had extraordinarily good time reconnecting, even running into an old friend I haven’t seen in three years, randomly, in a restaurant, while on a catch-up dinner. I haven’t eaten out this much in my own town, since like, never.

But I know it’s time to focus.

“Mommy, why are you still here?”

All I can think of to do is listen.

Mostly I hear silence. It reminds me of my mom. She seems attentive some days and some days not. But she’s still here, her mission complete. For more than 25 years in the Detroit Public School System her goal was to free as many Special Ed. Kids as she could through attentive, focused education, to get them back into mainstream classrooms. She filed her retirement papers three times. And twice new parents came to her classroom and begged her to wait until their kid passed through her classroom.

“We hear your goal is to get kids back into regular classrooms.”

And twice my mom pulled those papers back.

“You can’t save all those kids,” my dad told her again and again over, at times, tense dinner table discussions.

My mom’s response was always the same, “Well, John I’m going to save as many as I can.”

And she did.

My friend Jenny had a take on the stating of things: “Your mom did everything she wanted to do and saw that you and your brothers, and your kids are in a good place. Now maybe she just wants to eat what she wants and talk when she wants. She’s done so much for all of you.”

I heard Jenny all the way from Boston. And her edict will have to do because it gives me something else to think about other than hoe much I miss the sound of my mother’s voice. Now maybe I just need to listen. Then move my feet in the right direction. Whatever the heck that direction is.

Plenty of single moms have made, culture-altering achievements: J K Rollings created the character Harry Potter entertaining and delighting the world. Bette Nesmith Graham invented liquid paper saving typist tons of time and making herself wealthy enough to fund other single moms and artist. (If you haven’t read her bio check out at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/11/obituaries/bette-nesmith-graham-liquid-paper.html

I just hope God doesn’t tell me to move to India and open up a writing school for girls or something, at least not until Julia’s in college. Her school is just too good for us to leave just now.

 

 

 

The 9AM Mommy Basil Injection

“By praying for one another, we’re giving each other insulin,” my friend A says after we’ve dropped off our kids and dashed over to the near by cafeteria, half a block from our kids Upper Westside school. We selected the side booth, to the right, our go to position, permitting us to set our backs against the room, against the outside world, for a time.

“This is our praying booth,” A says, her head cocked, causing her long, chestnut hued locks to tumble around her small shoulders.

“Just like a confessional,” I answer. “But only with more crying.”

We chuckle, motivated not by humor but from truth.

I’ve always been a praying sort. First I prayed for a child, and then I prayed for that child’s good health. Now my praying has taking on a smorgasbord quality, prayers sent up here and there, from the time my feet hit the floor to midnight when I turn down the covers and I launch my final salute just before sleep. They run from, “Please God let there be enough milk for breakfast and coffee”; to “Please God let the subway come now so we can get to school on time,” to “Please God let my Spanx smooth out my pouch enough that I don’t regret wearing this dress out of the house.”

BecomingScreen Shot 2014-11-12 at 11.22.50 PM a mom may have ramped up my requests. Through my friendship with, A I have lifted up my prayers to mystic levels. Praying for others will do that, taking you out of your own head, your perceived quagmire of troubles and problems. Once upon  a time I’d believed serious trouble stalked me. Not anymore. Sure, I have bad days. Living a faith-based life does not make you immune from crampy-hit-me-with-another-bar-keep-days. But whatever thorny briars I land on are more of the artisanal variety, handmade by my or another’s neglect, or circumstance, or my miscalculation. Now I pray for right out comes on a higher level. For you see, through witnessing A’s journey, her worries, her journey, I know I have everything. A healthy kid is the greatest gift any parent can have.

“We happened to visit our old church last week,” A says as she takes on the jet-fuel of caffeine, “and we happened to met a nurse advocate, one we could never afford. She’s going to help us get the equipment we need.”

“That’s God at work,” I say.Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.44.47 PM

“She only works with private diabetes clients, so she’s really a gift.”

A’s mouth says the nurse advocate is a gift. But it’s her eyes, gray-green and still that contain oceans of worry, dark half moons set below that tell of her long night that speak the loudest.

Ever since my friend’s four-year-old daughter, a bright shining child with dancing eyes just like her mom, received a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes there have been odd gifts that have come her family’s way through this new upside world. The first gift came when A and her husband took their daughter to the hospital after the child started vomiting with such a force on vacation than it moved them toward the nearest emergency room rather than to the airport to board a flight to the east coast as planned. After the EMS team stabilized their four-year-old, five days later, the doctors informed A and her husband that if their family of three had boarded the aircraft for the east coast, only two of them would have exited the plane in New York City.

Now A lives in a world where she wakes her kid throughout the night to test her blood sugar levels, a land where the poking and prodding and worry has no end.

“Forgive me for saying this,” another mom at our school moaned in the sealed, privacy of the elevator car as we descended to the first floor and headed into our day after drop off, “But it’s not like her daughter has cancer, I mean people don’t died from diabetes.”

Heat crackled on my skin. Like gas and electricity. “No, actually she could die,” I blared back leaving off the “you asshole” final punctuation to my statement. “She could fall into a coma if her blood sugar level plummets, while sleeping and not wake up.”

“Oh, I didn’t know, “ the mom said to the back of my head as I huffed off down the street.

Only in New York does one need to qualify just how bad of a time you’re having. Across America, when you share news of this level, people just give their condolences. Ask if they can help. Send out prayers if they are the praying kind. In Manhattan folks want you to prove just how bad it is, say, on a scale from one to ten because, hey they could be working on an eleven situation you don’t know about.

Since last August A and her family have always hit an eleven.

“Getting your kid up school is equal to executing a military operation every day,” a mom once said to me. But at least troops will listen to their general; they’re trained to listen. A four-year-old? Forgetaboutit. And wrangling a four-year-old with Type 1 Diabetes is like the invasion of Normandy. Every damn day. A bad start to my day is finding Julia in the kitchen, just as we need to leave the house, chortling, “Look at me Mommy, look at me!” standing buck naked. (Yes, it happened last week.) A’s bad day has her kid sneaking a piece of candy, or a carb and A discovering this news when she tests her blood sugar, Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 10.54.54 PMor when her daughter starts to go pale, or body’s wild ride of natural insulin that still thinks it can drive the car, shooting out wild spikes. Mayhem. Then A and her husband must bolt from their home and dash to the hospital in the middle of the night. (It’s happened three times since August.) An even worse day on the heartbreak scale, an epic four-year-old melt down on the kitchen floor crests with, “Mommy I don’t want to have diabetes anymore.”

“Type 1 Diabetes typically affects young people and only represents about 5 to 10% of the population,” says Ron Rosedale, MD, author of The Rosedale Diet, and co-founder of the Colorado and Carolina Centers for Metabolic Medicine. With Type 1, the pancreas is unable to produce insulin.” So just as a young body starts to grow, a break occurs. And lasts throughout life. First A must get her daughter an insulin pump, and then to respect the pump then living with the pump, working it into her teenagehood into adulthood, into both of them feeling confident enough that her child won’t experiment in the ways most of us did. Typical teenage hubris could take her daughter’s life.

So, I up my prayer game. I remember that God is always at work whether I can see God or not, kind of like electricity, or the subway or Kevin Bacon. I recall that my job is to be there for A through our gangster mommy lives in the Big Apple.

“Life is tough,” Pastor Paul constantly reminds his New York Flock  “and if you’re going through hell don’t build condo there.” But there are times when you, whether you want to or not will have a motel stay, suffering long-term durations in hell.

“I understand how this can strain a marriage,” A says.

“But you guys are strong,” I say.

I know that A and her husband cling to God as much as one another. I love that about her. When their nerves fray, she’s the first to say sorry, no matter who launched he first stone.

So far, I’ve never married. Never taken the vow. But I know the promise of friendship. Real connection. And more than through bad dates and broken relationships, and random layoffs I know what I friendship needs. I know how to be a good friend through a bad medical report, and cheating husband, alcohol rehab, and the murder of a child.

So I come a sit with my friend in hothouse of illness and motherhood in the crying booth and offer up cool drink of water by listening with my full on heart.