love

still holding

Today, the 14th of November, marks the first anniversary of the death of my best friend’s mother.

A year ago I wrote this, and I’m offering it up again today.

This afternoon (or yesterday afternoon, technically — life and schedules only allow so much leeway) I held her close and she said, “Thank you for thinking of me.” I squeezed a little harder, whispering, “I’ve still got you.” To which she replied, “I know.”

Advertisements
Categories: family, friendship, loss, love, NaBloPoMo, NaNoPoblano | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I will hold you up

My BFF and I came to each other rather late in our childhood — we were 45 — but I think we have made up for the years apart and then some. We met because her second child and my one and only were in the same Kindergarten class. We have evolved far beyond school-parent friends and have melded into family. It all happened very quickly. And I am thankful for her every day.

In September, on my BFF’s birthday, her grandmother died. Annie was 99 years young and was the very definition of a Babba. She loved her children, her grandchildren, her grandchildren’s children, and her great-great-grandchildren with an unbelievably open heart. Hell, she loved BoyGenius as if he was her very own great-grandchild right from the day she met him. She had lived through some things, she had come out, and she kept on living. And loving. I loved her, and I miss her.

At the beginning of this week, on Sunday night, while in hospital fighting pneumonia, my BFF’s mother had a massive stroke. She died Monday morning at the age of 79. This second unbelievably strong woman from this family passed away so unexpectedly that we are all still reeling. Shirley was a seemingly tireless worker who took care of everyone and everything. She was the glue that held her family community together. This loss, so close on the heels of Babba’s passing and coming so without warning is like being hit by a tetherball in full swing — the force and ensuing vibration have rocked us to our cores. I loved her, and I will miss her (it hasn’t really sunk in yet).

I know that my friend will find it exponentially more difficult to come through this than I will. I know that her head and heart are filled with regret and “if only”s. I know that her heart is broken and her spirit is only hanging on by the thinnest of threads. I know that words are cold comfort and even actions may go unnoticed right now. I’m doing what I can, including driving across country this evening so I can be there with her, for whatever she needs.

As I enveloped her in my arms on Monday afternoon I promised her one thing: “I will hold you up as long as you need.” The palpable release of even a little bit of tension was all the thanks I needed. I love her and I don’t want to have to miss her.

Categories: family, friendship, loss, love | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

poetry on a thursday

Although this wasn’t written today it is fairly new; with the cool air and the autumn breeze it seemed an appropriate day to share it.

My God! Do you really not see what I see when I look at you?
The way you sparkle when you laugh, like the diamonds of early dew;
the light that glows from deep in your soul when you’re telling me something new;
the strength that emanates from your hands when you’re working with a tool;
the depth of wisdom behind your eyes that shouts that you’re no fool;
the flow of your hair, the curve of your hip that your beauty do betray;
the love that breathes and beats in your heart — it all makes me want to stay.
I wish that you could see yourself through my eyes now and then;
you wouldn’t doubt your value or your worth ever again.

This poem percolated for a few days, and I lost some of it while wool-gathering. I think it still turned out okay. 

Categories: friendship, love, poetry, Uncategorized, words | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

almost 12

Last night I was far too deep inside the “book” I was reading (it was an e-book, I can’t deny that I use those) and was long past tired, so it wasn’t until close to 1:30 am that I finally closed the iPad and pushed the switch on my bedside lamp. It took me at least 20 minutes to doze off and drop into a solid sleep. Not so solid, however, that I didn’t immediately awaken when my almost 12 year old son appeared at the side of my bed. “Mama, I had a bad dream.” I glanced at the clock before I scooted over against the wall and held the covers up for him to climb in beside me: 3:17. After a few minutes spent watching him, I felt confident enough in his slumber to close my eyes, trying to drift off. He moved about a bit and then, “Mama, my head hurts.” I asked him if he wanted a pill or just an ice pack and he decided on both. I checked the time when I climbed over top of him and back into bed: 3:43. Once he was lying still for 15 minutes I climbed back out and took myself and my alarm across the hall to his empty bed. I lay awake a while; listening in case he needed me; unable to settle because I was worried about not getting enough sleep. 7 am came fairly quickly. HardWorker was already gone, I had some time before I needed to get BoyGenius up and into the shower, and tried to plot out just when in the day I would fit a couple of naps in. My Fitbit app advised me that I had managed only four hours and six minutes of actual sleep — nothing I could do to change that. It was going to be a long Monday.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

For a few weeks now, I’ve been getting hit with the realization that I am about to be the parent of a 12 year old. How did this happen? I didn’t really plan on this. I mean, I know that’s how it works, if you’re extremely lucky: your children grow up and you all grow older together. But seriously, my plan was to have a baby, maybe a toddler. A 12 year old? I never really thought that far ahead. He’s in grade 6. And the school year is more than half over. His birthday parties now consist of 3-4 friends, pizza, a movie, and some video games. To be fair, they’ve been like that for a few years already; he’s always seemed two to three years ahead of his chronological age. Not that we’ve rushed him, or anyone’s expected him to be more mature, or anything like that; he’s just always had this “presence” and common sense, logical thought process and a wicked quick sense of humour, an easy-going nature and a thoughtful need for fairness, all combined with a solid sense of uniqueness and self. While most of those character traits have stood BoyGenius in good stead over his 12 years, he has also had to put up with disparaging comments about his sensitivity, his choice of hairstyle or shoe colour, his apparent “know-it-all”-ness, his book and movie preferences.

I still look at him in wonder at least once a day. He makes me laugh, he makes me cry, he makes me worry, he makes me proud. There is still so much for him to learn, but there is sooooo much that he already knows. There are things he does that frustrate me, and there are things he does that make my heart swell with amazement at who he has already become in his 12 short years. And the thing is, the person that he has become, and that he still has to grow into, that person has been there since day one. That personality was already in place with the first wave of his hand and kick of his foot in utero; the good-natured-ness, the sense of humour — already there.

Sometimes I miss my baby. Sometimes I miss my toddler. Most times I know that the young man sprawled across our couch or searching for food 15 minutes after dinner is the same guy. When my almost 12 year old gets awakened by a bad dream and needs to snuggle with Mama I am absolutely sure.

I love you, Schnucki.

Categories: family, love, memories, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

musings (on death, in this case)

The first line of this crept into my head as I was peanut-buttering my toast this morning. No idea why, but I thought I had better sit down and find some paper pretty quickly (kind of like that split second when you know you’re about to throw up), so I did just that. And ended up with this:

 

I have held the hand of Death
as it invades and seeks to usurp
the breath of Life in a loved one’s body.
While Death is not pretty and Death is not proud,
wanting and waiting to snuff out the Life within,
it does seem to care for the shell and the skin without.
Rarely have I felt a hand so soft or smooth
as one struggling to hold on to another day or two.
Skin stretched taut over cheekbone and brow
may seem a grotesque mask to some,
but if so then surely one made from the finest silk
with nary a furrow or crease.
It is almost as if Death, knowing its own reputation
doth proceed, has searched for some small way
to repay the great sacrifices made,
and understanding that family and friends may be holding fast,
offers the only softness it knows,
one of gentle touch.

 

As I said, I don’t know where this came from, I only know it had to come out.

Categories: loss, love, words | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

empty bed

BoyGenius is away at camp this week. Sleep-away camp, for the first time ever. I knew he would be fine, I knew I would be fine, and I knew HardWorker would be beside herself with anxiety and worry. (She was so beside herself that it was crowded here for a couple of days — she has since gotten better.)

I had no reason to believe that he would be homesick or feel out of his depth or anything at all like that. I know he’s having a blast (thanks to the modern miracles of INSTAGRAM and Twitter). Dropping him off on Sunday evening was fine for me, fine for him, and a huge deal for HardWorker. I had read her The Riot Act on Saturday and repeated it on Sunday morning: “You’re not going to say anything about him missing us (or the cat) or feeling homesick. You’re not going to tell him how bad you’re going to feel because he’s away. You are absolutely not going to suggest that if he feels like coming home all he has to do is text and you’ll come pick him up.” She thought maybe she shouldn’t come along to drop him off. Then realised that she’d probably do worse alone at home. It was hard work getting her to leave him at camp, let me tell you.

My mother asks everyday if there has been any word from BoyGenius. She asks every day if I miss him. I’m having a hard time convincing her that I don’t. That’s right. I don’t miss him. Like I said, I know he’s having fun, a fantastic childhood summer experience. I know he is secure enough in our love to just be able to enjoy himself. I am secure enough in both his love for me and my love for him to not miss him. He’ll be home tomorrow, for crying out loud. It’s not even a full week away. When I was 8 years old my brother BlueEyes (who was 12) and I went to Germany on our own. Sure, we had relatives meeting us and we were staying with them, but we flew across the Atlantic alone — and changed planes in one of the busiest airports in Europe. When we were only a few years older my parents put us on a cross-border Greyhound to visit friends in New Jersey for a week, and BlueEyes and I took the commuter train from Paramus into Manhattan almost every day — on our own. We went to see a show at Rockefeller Center, we went to the outside observation deck of the World Trade Center, we shopped in Times Square. Did my mother miss us those times we were away? She says she absolutely did, but I don’t think it stopped her from carrying on normally. We were responsible kids who were totally secure in and with our family units. I like to think I am raising my son the same way.

Do I miss him? Not in the way you might expect. Listen, when he’s been here this summer, he’s been in the basement most of the time. I’ve been able to build him a corner desk unit for his gaming computer — something I would not have been able to do had he been lounging around down there. I’ve done some laundry, baked a cake or two, been able to gloss over lunch and dinner since I didn’t have to worry about feeding him — so in other words, it’s been a pretty normal week for me. I am not feeling an empty space in my heart. I am not sad that he’s away, because I know that he’ll be home tomorrow. I am not worried about him because I know who he’s with and I know he’s having fun. So no, I don’t miss him.

I do notice his empty, nearly neatly made bed every time I walk by his room, though.

BoyGenius is totally asleep, on his stomach, with his left leg bent at the knee so his heel is touching his butt.

So instead of seeing this (yes, this IS how he often sleeps), I am only seeing the empty bed.

Categories: family, love, memories, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

I said no

My good friend, arguably my best friend, asked a favour of me yesterday: would I keep an eye on her house while she and her family were on vacation? Not an unreasonable request. I’ve done it before. I know she thought I would say yes but as we stood in her entryway I hesitated. Then she said, “You don’t have to say yes.” I said I would have to think about it and I would let her know — not really aware of the fact that she and the kids were leaving today, until she said, “Well, M (her husband) will still be here for another week, so you can just come pick up the key.I said no. Standing right there, about 75 seconds after I had told her I would have to think about it, I looked at her and said, “I’m going to say no. I don’t think I can do it.” (And let’s not even talk about the key, okay?)

I left, and for the next, oh I don’t know, 12 hours or so, was having all kinds of agita because I said no to her. What kind of a friend am I? Haven’t I told her time and again that she can always ask me for help if she needs it? That I will always be there/here for her? That she should never feel like she’s taking advantage of me? Yep. And I said no.

Listen, I’m still not settled. But you know what? She doesn’t want to ask me for help anymore. She doesn’t want to ask me for anything. We’ve had a not-necessarily-troublesome-but-still-not-normal (for us) relationship over the past 10+ months. It has seemed to me that she has withdrawn from the friendship, even felt like I had been cut out of her life. I questioned her about that, she said it wasn’t her intention and she would try to be a better friend. I pointed out that I didn’t need her to be a “better” friend, I just needed her to be the friend that she always had been.

So, we work together at our kids’ school, running the biggest annual fundraiser that we put on. We have to see each other, we have to go places together, we have to make it work. And it does indeed work well, we work well together. And it did work again this year. And then, it was back to this distance between us. We’d see each other at the gym once or twice a week, but that was it.

The school year ended, we had no contact for about the first three weeks of summer vacation, and then we both went out with a mutual friend for a girls’ night. I hadn’t really even known she was coming with us. We talked a bit, but we were in a group. A few days later I got a text asking if BoyGenius and I would like to join her, her three kids and two additional children at a local pool/park. BoyGenius was away so I said thank you, but no. The next week BG and I were going to swim at another local pool and I thought I’d be nice and ask them to come along. Her kids would rather stay at home with their own little pool, would we like to come there. Since her son is my son’s best friend, and they hadn’t seen each other in a while, either, we said yes. It was an enjoyable enough afternoon, but things still don’t seem right.

Another couple of weeks have gone by, her son spent 5 days/nights at my house, we all went out for dinner once, and now we’re pretty much caught up in the timeline. I was out shopping the other day and as I walked into a store, a gorgeous blouse caught my eye, and the first thought I had was how good it would look on my bff, so I bought it for her. Took it to her yesterday because I knew they would be leaving for vacation soon. That’s when she says,”Oh, since you’re here, ….” And that’s when I said no.

Here’s the thing. I know, I said I would always help her if she needed it; I said she could ask me anything; I said I would take care of her. Those things haven’t changed. They are not now untruths. I have not forsaken her. But that’s not what this was. At least not how I see it. This almost felt like being taken for granted. Or something like that. I don’t know, maybe I overthink things sometimes (definitely) and maybe this is one of those times (definitely), but I think if she had talked to me about it even, say, two weeks ago, I probably would have said yes. But she didn’t. So I said no. I mean, what if I hadn’t stopped by? Would I have gotten a text a few days later? Did she just mis-plan her time and not get it done? Did she ask someone else who cancelled at the last minute? Did she forget? I don’t know. We don’t really talk that much anymore so I don’t really know what’s going on in her life.

So here we are. I said no. And I feel bad. Sort of (definitely). Bad enough that I had to write it out. And now I feel bad about that. Like I’m somehow betraying the friendship because I’m telling you all about it. Not her. But I don’t have the opportunity to talk to her about it, and I’m pretty sure she won’t want to hear it anyway. A few months ago I got a “You know you can talk to me about anything, right?” and I responded with a “You know that’s not true anymore, right?” It didn’t go any further.

Maybe I was right all along during my childhood: I never actually had a BEST FRIEND. I had my neighbour across the street who I would consider my best friend, but I know I wasn’t hers. I didn’t stick with any particular group of friends through public school or hang with any one clique in high school. I was a floater. I think I may have been better friends with my teachers than with any of my classmates. And you know what? — it worked! I survived all the bff drama because I never had to deal with it. Until now — at age 50. Great. This and pimples, too. Welcome to adultolescence.

Whatever. I said no. I SAID NO. I’m sure I’ll feel better about it by the time she gets back in two weeks. Maybe. Probably (not). Perhaps. For sure.

Maybe. I hope so.

Categories: friendship, loss, love | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

amy

I went to see AMY yesterday.

I knew I wanted to see this movie from the moment I became aware of its existence. I knew I would love it. I knew I would leave the theatre angry, frustrated, sad, and smiling.

There wasn’t really anything in the movie that I didn’t already know; no secret confessions; no deep, dark revelations; no surprises. And I’m not anywhere near to being what you would call an obsessed, huge, or even big fan of Amy Winehouse.

There it is: I’m just some average music lover who appreciated the genius of a young singer-songwriter — and I knew all about her.

What is it about us, as a people, that makes us think we have any right to know everything there is to know about celebrities? Why do we build people up to impossible heights, making it equally impossible for them to lead any sort of normal life, and then revel in their inevitable downfall? Listen, I know she had problems, I know she was a substance abuser, I know she had an eating disorder. I know that the general public is not directly responsible for her death, but come on! Truly, I think we all need to take a good hard look at the way we treat the artists we love: actors, musicians, writers. We think someone does a great job, is fantastic at what they do; we admire their artistry, their talent, their gift. Then we harangue and harass them, chasing them down, following their every move, feeling like we deserve to be a part of their lives. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy seeing photos of my favourite artists. But I like to see what they choose to share with us. I don’t like, nor do I or anyone else need to see celeb x caught in an illicit lip-lock with celeb y after midnight in some swanky club, or celeb z stumbling to the curb having been tossed out of a neighbourhood burger joint. It’s none of my business. It’s none of your business. It’s certainly not the business of 142 photographers. We have created this mess. Every living soul has a derailment or two or twenty-eight over the course of their lifetime; we don’t need to try and make every single one of them into a massive train wreck.

Look, I know the drill: the person who needs help has to want the help. You can’t make someone go to rehab and expect that it will stick at all if they don’t want to be there in the first place; but you sure as hell aren’t helping them any by telling them they’re fine and don’t need to go. Amy Winehouse was possessed of a tortured soul. Her struggles gave her the foundation for her artistic expression. She wrote what she lived and I don’t doubt that she relived those experiences every time she breathed life into them on the stage. She was a poet. She was brilliant; she was young; she was scared; she was in over her head. She was sweet; she was funny; she was smart. She was like a firework: we hear the sizzle, the whoosh, the lead-up; then there’s this awe inducing flash, an explosion of colour and light interrupted by the bang/pop that we know came first but just couldn’t keep up; then gone — the absence of the light and colour so stark that you can almost feel it; and we’re left with a lingering puff of smoke dissipating into the atmosphere much faster than we would like.

This movie. I grinned. I chuckled. I grooved. I clenched my jaw. I shook my head. I laughed out loud. I smiled a lot. I cried. I sang. I was prepared for all of the feelings. Some of it was hard to watch, even though I knew what was happening. I had seen it on the news, after all. Some of it was fantastic, simply mesmerizing. I was surprised by what triggered my tears: Tony Bennett. Man, I love this movie.

I do miss you, Amy Winehouse. I would have loved to hear (and feel) whatever else you might have had in store for us.

Categories: loss, love, music, poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.