On The Backstreets Until The End

Remember this post? The one in which I said he always comes back, just when I need him?

Yeah, well, HE IS. And I DO.

I cannot freaking believe he’s going to do this, but I am so excited and nauseous to have it to look forward to. It hasn’t yet been officially confirmed by Bruce’s people, but it’s being reported by many different news outlets, and most importantly, no one is denying it. Nils Lofgren even tweeted about it, and that’s good enough for me. It’s happening.

Until then, I’m strategically lining up other shows to attend, most of them Springsteen related, some of them on the Jersey shore. 

It’s time to hit the road again because SUCK IT, depression. 

This is something my therapist calls radical self-care. I’m down with that.

(Backstreets, by Bruce Springsteen)

I Wanna Change My Clothes, My Hair, My Face

The main purpose of my last quick trip to Atlanta was to support my sister as her kids underwent their first baseline cardiac screening. Since my BIL’s death in late March, we’ve learned he died due to complications of a rare genetic cardiac arrhythmia called ARVC. You know those news stories about athletes suddenly dropping dead during practice? Yeah, that.

We researched and found the gold standard ARVC clinic at Johns Hopkins which then referred us to a satellite pediatric clinic in Atlanta. After weeks of prep work by my sister and the genetics counselor, the kids were tested on the same day, same time, different rooms. We each took a kid and stayed with them during the various tests they had to have, after all they’ve already endured goddammit, and we comforted them, we hoped. Witnessed.

We met with the cardiologist at the end of the day and both kids tested perfectly normal, no restrictions. Relief all around. We’re still waiting for the genetics testing to come back. Those results will dictate the ongoing screening schedule.

The most important thing about ARVC is if you know you have it, you don’t die. But you have to know. So we’re going to know. Or we’re going to act as if we know. The kids will be followed carefully.

When the appointment was over, my sister and I didn’t know exactly what to do. We hugged her kids and each other, and we looked at each other as if to say, ok, that’s done, check. Now what? So we went to the mall and then to the diner for a cheeseburger.

 Breathe in. Breathe out.

On another note, while we were all together in the intake room, before the physical exams, my sister busy answering the nurse’s many questions, there was an awkward, long pause at one point followed by the nurse asking me if I was my sister’s mother. Her Mother! What in the actual fuck? Even if it was an innocently misplaced guess based on the situation, who says that out loud? Unless it’s CLEAR. Apparently she did say it out loud, and apparently it was clear to her. If my sister hadn’t been there, I might have thought I was having an intrusive, stress-induced, self-loathing thought because, well, you know. But, no, we both heard it. We shook our heads no, no, NOPE, I’m her older sister by 9 years, NOT her mother. Jesus, lady, way to go. Shank me in the neck when I’m already down.

That sucked. But come on, get over it because it’s not anywhere near as bad as having your father suddenly drop dead and then finding out you might have inherited his undiagnosed cardiac disease. Or being the mother of those kids worrying herself sick, their whole world on her shoulders. So I let that shit go. Temporarily.

I left my sister and her kids in a better place, with information that freed them up a little bit, at least emotionally. They needed it desperately.

I flew home and promptly got as sick as a dog with some kind of upper respiratory virus, flu, I don’t know, and with a little stomach thing on the side, because I don’t do anything half-assed. It was awful. Nothing like being sick in bed for a few days when you’re already depressed to make you feel OLD. Old enough to be the mother of a 45 year old.

You know what I did on my first day back among allllllllll the people? I soaked in the tub and colored my hair for the first time in a year. Preference by L’Oréal, medium golden brown-5G.

It was SOMETHING I could DO.

It helped.

(Dancing In The Dark, by Bruce Springsteen)

Man, The Dope’s That There’s Still Hope

My therapist assigned me some very specific writing this week after I found myself in an extremely dark place. Again. I’m not publishing it here – maybe someday I will, along with all the other stuff I keep to myself, who knows – but what I want to say at the moment is the act of writing from that dark place, and sitting with it instead of censoring it or deleting it, helped me. It didn’t change anything, but it somehow defused the situation I found myself in. It took a couple of days, but I feel better. 

I’ll take better.

(Does This Bus Stop at 82nd Street?, by Bruce Springsteen)

Holy Week

Is anyone else – besides my youngest sister and her kids following the sudden death of my brother-in-law 2 weeks ago – feeling fucked up over the fragility of life?

I cannot begin to imagine what they’re going through. I’m no stranger to death, dying, or even the fight for life, but the sudden, unexplained death of an earlyish-middle-aged, fit and healthy father of two young kids? No earthly idea what to do with that. Asking my sister how she’s doing feels futile, bordering on offensive, because it’s an unanswerable question. There are no words. The funeral is over, I’m far away, and I can’t just show up a few times a day to help with the kids or bring her some food or clean her bathroom or give her a hug or a drink or drop some F bombs on her behalf or try to be there in the exact moment it all overcomes her and she loses it, which is NOT her style AT ALL, but it’s bound to happen. So I keep asking, as futile as it might be, because I care. In the meantime, I’m thankful she has a village of loving friends who, in many ways, because they’ve shared her – and BIL’s – day to day life for years, are closer to her. Maybe I should stop asking the question and send her heart emojis or the occasional really sick meme until I get back down there in 2 weeks. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Do you want to know just how much I don’t know? I took death prizes down there to give out to my sister and a few of their close friends. “Hey, I’m so very sorry for your incomprehensible loss, here’s a hug and some socks that say if you can read this, bring me a glass of wine on the heels.” One of the those friends wore the socks to the funeral, with shoes on, hiding the message, but still, it made me laugh. Pretty sure BIL thought it was funny too.

Anyway, ever since he died, I often find myself plowing through my daily routine as if nothing has changed because even though it’s completely fucked up and some things will never be the same again for those kids, yes, LIFE GOES ON, which is a completely fucked up thing to say to someone, BTW, but it’s not as bad as IT WAS ALL PART OF GOD’S PLAN…and then, in the middle of getting Boy his breakfast or folding laundry or checking my work email I’ll have a flood of intrusive thoughts like, “BIL is dead. He died. He walked through his front door and dropped dead. On a Friday afternoon after lunch. One minute he was returning home with a friend, the next he was dead. Plans for Friday night, the next day, this summer, the rest of his life, cancelled. He was a father. His kids are fatherless. They didn’t get to say goodbye. He was a husband for a very long time, he was a co-parent, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, a neighbor, a dog’s person, a college professor, a colleague, a musician. He had unfinished business. And now? Dead. Game over. Gone. Ashes. What’s happening wherever he is now? And where the fuck is he? And why did he have to drop dead right now? Does he know how hard this is going to be for his kids, and how much therapy they’re going to need?! Does he know how hard this is going to be for my sister? Not cool.”

With Husband, while standing in the kitchen, I randomly say it out loud, “BIL is dead”. We look at each other, he gets tearful and I shake my head in disbelief.

I was in the shower the other day, getting ready to go to a meeting, and I knocked the shower squeegee thing off the glass wall. I started to cry, invaded by memories of my BIL’s fixation on bathroom and kitchen cleanliness. I admit I teased him over the years about the vinegar in a spray bottle he kept at the ready, and I felt a little guilty. Nevertheless, through my tears in the shower, I laughed about it again too. He was a puzzle, just like the rest of us.

I suddenly see Boy clutching his cousin’s hand as they walked into the church for the funeral, down the aisle, into the front pew. I might never see anything as painfully beautiful as that again. I don’t want to. Or I think about the priest’s tears, watching them as they fell, one by one, mixed with words spoken to comfort all who gathered to remember my BIL. Or my niece and nephew over that long funeral weekend and their attempts at normalcy – or its pretense. Or my sister, still parenting, somehow juggling that with processing this new reality in the context of her own long relationship with him, doing her best to do the long list of things she has to do now, things no one prepared her for, like sitting at Social Security for 3 hours to apply for death benefits. I think of her trying to comfort her little boy who misses his Dad, and who is wearing an ace bandage around his wrist as an expression of his pain. I think of my niece who so protectively guards her feelings and who thankfully has just the mother she needs in this multidimensional shitpile of a total fucking mess. You never know how strong you are until you need to be strong, I do know that.

Anyway, several times a day now, that’s the kind of thing that happens. Along with the awareness of just how fragile life is. It’s bad enough this happened to my sister and her family. And if it could happen to them, it could happen to me, and to you. At any moment, because there are no guarantees.

I don’t know what any of this means, but I guess it’s a good thing I recently started therapy again. Doesn’t matter why, I’m just thinking it’s a good thing.

I have absolutely no idea what the point of this post is either, but if – like me – you’re feeling the weight of the fragility of life, if you’re feeling shocked and awed, and if it’s possible, you’re feeling even MORE hyper vigilant than usual, let me give you some friendly advice…when you’re finally in the middle of a stone cold sleep at 3am and your husband’s snoring is so stunningly abrupt and LOUD, you’re sure someone kicked in your front door or set off a bomb on your front steps, and you’re violently awakened in what can only be described as a moment of pure panic, DO NOT under any circumstances – after making sure your husband is still breathing and running down the hall to check on your son – grab your phone and open the Find Friends app to check on your daughter because do you know what will happen???

Instead of finding your daughter safe and sound at her apartment on her college campus – WHERE SHE SHOULD BE – you’ll find her in the middle of a pond in the next town over.

I am not shitting you.

I texted her, and of course she didn’t respond because she was either in the middle of a pond or sleeping somewhere SHE HADN’T TOLD ME ABOUT. So, I did what any other marginally sane woman in my situation would have done. I briefly contemplated holding a pillow over Husband’s face, decided that was notagoodideaimmatureblahblahblah, so then I instinctively grabbed the prayer rope I’d recently found hidden in my bedside table, got up, went into Girl’s room, climbed into her bed with her beloved stuffed lamb and blankie from her babyhood, and remembered the nasal breathing article Susan Cain had shared on FB a couple of days earlier. And I breathed. Nasally. I wouldn’t say I prayed, not in words anyway, but I did wrap that prayer rope around my wrist and tightly hold the cross on the end of it in the palm of my hand.

I can’t tell you what was going through my head at that point, but the miracle was I completely released the fear that something bad had happened to my daughter. And because I then more fully understood Husband’s snoring had triggered my panic reaction – not a home invasion or WW3 – I still kind of wanted to strangle him, but I got over it and eventually went back to sleep.

The next morning I woke up feeling surprisingly not bad, not even pissed at Girl for God knows what she was doing, with whom, or where, WITHOUT TELLING ME.

I forgot about my 3am text to her until I received a response from her a few hours later. You’ll be relieved to know she wasn’t in the middle of a pond. She stayed over at a friend’s off-campus apartment, one town over, near – but not IN – a pond. WITHOUT TELLING ME. As it should be, even now. Because life goes on. She also kindly reminded me that if she’d been in a pond, her phone wouldn’t have worked any longer. So helpful. And fuck the Find Friends app too.

It’s spring break in these parts and Boy had a play date scheduled at a buddy’s house that same day, so I dropped him off and instead of going straight home to tackle a long list of things to do, as I’d planned, I stopped to check out a beautiful trail surrounding a reservoir near our home. We’ve been in our house nearly 7 years and I had never stopped there before. I’d always meant to. In fact, I frequently drive over the reservoir’s bridge, sometimes mindlessly, coming and going, here, there, everywhere, nowhere, sometimes noting my intention to stop to walk that trail tucked in between the trees, to sit by the water. And as we coast by, my son in the backseat, I sometimes interrupt whatever we’re talking about to point out the magnificence of that stretch of sky, especially at sunset. Its something he’s commented on more than once – his observation of my day to day nature (up in my head, intense) and despite it, my unpredictable tendency to suddenly stop and smell the roses so to speak, and to make sure he does the same. The thing is I don’t usually stop. Not really, not anymore. I might roll through a stop, catch a quick whiff, a hurried look, soon to be forgotten in a swirl of “more important” things to do.

Today I stopped. I stopped even though I was busy, I stopped even though I don’t usually stop all alone at places like that because…well, I’m easily scared, I’m always assessing risk, I’ve played it safe for as long as I can remember. That might sound silly to you, but it’s an ongoing, heavy theme for me. Today was different. Today wouldn’t wait. Time is limited, and for a moment, the fears or worries – among other things – that typically keep me from BEING STILL, from LIVING in the present, fell away because I denied their place in my life.

Holy Week is about dying.

The Resurrection is about life.

I’ve been reminded – again – that I can’t have life without dying to some of my default ways of navigating this world. Sunday comes, but not before Friday and not before the messiness, the hopelessness, the work to do in between.

I want to live.

Live From Brookeville, It’s Saturday Morning

Boy’s spring birthday party circuit continues this afternoon with a stop at a trampoline jumping joint. It’s a pretty cool place. Loud, slightly stinky, but cool. Boy loves it. My only complaint is the row of comfy massage chairs that are rigged with alarms if you sit in them without paying for the massage function. I’m sorry, but that is fucked up.

Husband and Girl continue to make their way home from the North Shore of Boston following the completion of Girl’s sophomore year of college. They’ve had a couple of fun days on Cape Cod and today they stop in New York City to see The Lion King. I’m really glad they’ve had this special time together – they both needed it – AND Boy and I are ready for them to be home tomorrow.

I’m on DAY 5 of the mother-of-all-barometric-pressure-peri-menopausal-house-falling-down-migraine-headaches-with-a-side-dish-of-nausea. It’s a stubborn son-of-a-bitch, just when I think it might be retreating, it comes back full force. I think it turned a badass corner the day I signed the contract and paid the deposit in preparation for the structural repairs to our home, commencing in a week or so. Let this serve as your official heads up, neighbors!  Anyway, it’s the worst migraine I’ve had in years, and it could be categorized as borderline  debilitating the last day or two, except that I have a 10 year old boy to care for. I even called out of work late in the week, but don’t worry, I still managed to get tickets yesterday morning for Springsteen’s DC and Virginia Beach shows, scheduled for late summer.

Just thought you should know.

Am I Still A Blogger If I Don’t Blog?

I don’t know, but I feel like I am, even though I seem to be trapped these days in an endless game of Whack-A-Mole around here. 

This isn’t a post about our ongoing kitchen-basement-structural damage nightmare, even though we’ve been without a kitchen since January 31, with no end in sight. Even though I promised a juicy tale entitled The Real Housewives Of Brookeville Take On Pulte Homes. Oh yes we might, but I can’t stomach writing about it.

No, it’s not about crawling into bed with Boy at 3am, a few hours before his annual IEP meeting, soaking up his energy, his heart, reflecting on his progress, his strengths, his challenges, so I might be the advocate he needs and deserves.

Nope, it’s not about my job – I like it – or how much I miss my alone time during the school day – I SO do – or the best teacher appreciation gift ever, a comic created by Boy:

It’s not the postscript to my Cheese In A Can blog post, the one Boy’s comic reminded of, the one – among many – I can’t seem to finish, because I can’t seem to find the time or the focus or the energy. Just in case I never finish it, I will tell you Boy’s teacher let him line up his classmates to spray shots of Cheez Whiz directly into their mouths. Oh yes she did, because she’s awesome.

No, this isn’t a post about the nutcase shooter on the loose near Boy’s school this past Friday, or about all of the county schools locking down because of it. It’s not about the horrific memories of 9/11, the DC sniper, or Sandy Hook it evoked. It isn’t about trying to stay present at work while that was happening – I didn’t, I completely checked out. It isn’t even about counting down the minutes until I could leave work, waiting for Boy on the front steps, sitting with him on the couch, helping him swing his legs around onto my lap, peeling off his sweaty socks, rubbing his feet, listening to him tell me he knew there was a shooting, even though his teacher wouldn’t tell him what was happening, hearing him say he was afraid, asking me if anyone died.

It isn’t about how incredibly proud I am of Girl for standing up against dishonesty and injustice at her college this week.

I don’t know what it’s about.

Maybe it’s about the long list of crap I have to do before tomorrow, grocery shopping, laundry, prepping the van for Husband’s trip up to Boston to collect Girl from school. You’d never know I have such a list, though, because I’m just sitting here in my little library, writing this on my iPhone – AS IF I’ll actually finish a blog post and publish it – and hoping that long list of crap will magically get done somehow. All I want to do today is watch the Fixer Upper marathon on HGTV.

Maybe it’s about how glad I am the sun is finally shining or that we just got home from a enjoying a yummy Mother’s Day lunch at a local farm to table place or that Boy is running with his buddies in the neighborhood, not a care in the world. 

Maybe it’s about the rumored second US leg of Springsteen’s tour. All signs point to late summer, early fall. Ha. Don’t have a cow, Husband. Or Boss Lady.

Maybe it’s about remembering my grandmother, my mother, becoming a mother myself. Maybe it’s about my very first blog post, the one inspired by the Mother’s Day gift given to me by Girl two years ago, the one that inspired me to finally start this blog in the first place. 

Maybe it’s about time. There’s a time for everything. AND time is limited. Maybe it’s about making time for some things and saying no to others. Figuring out when to forge ahead, when to wait. Knowing when to hold on, when to let go. 

Maybe it’s ok that this is what I often receive from Girl these days. I’m not entirely sure if it’s ok that this is what I give back, but it makes me laugh my ass off. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right:

Maybe it’s ok that I don’t have time to write as much as I did last year. Am I still a blogger if I don’t blog right now? Yes, I’m pretty sure I am, even if most of it happens in my head.