Sunday, June 30, 2013

The real reason people have their groceries delivered

Picture the scene: A sweaty, sun-fried mom is pawing through her purse, looking for the thin piece of plastic that will allow her to leave the store with the cartful of groceries she's gathered for the better part of an hour. It should have been secured in one of the thin pockets that line her wallet, but chances are it was unceremoniously tossed back into the tote with a fistful of receipts from the last shopping trip. “It's in there somewhere,” she frets.

She is embarrassed. People are waiting behind her in line, pretending they aren't angry that the delay threatens to turn their ice cream into soup. She starts to clear the bag, tossing everything she knows isn't legal tender onto the conveyor belt.

A scarf … an overdue library book ... yesterday's mail … a Matchbox car ... a package of fruit candy ... a taser.

Yes. A taser.

“It's a toy,” she tells the clerk.

Knit brows rise and faces tighten with laughter when the daughter in tow grabs the realistic-looking battery-operated gizmo and explains to the clerk that it was her brother's, given to him by her mom's best *cough* Nellie-Oleson *cough* friend.

“Mom took it away from him because he wouldn't stop pretending to zap people. He's a real stunner, that kid.”

Did you guess I was that mom?

Did you wonder if I was chastising myself, as I repacked my bag of detritus, why I hadn't just put the dang credit card back where it belonged? Or did I tell myself to just let it go?

It's not the end of the world as we know it.
It's probably not even among the seven signs of the apocalypse, unless you count a purse-sized earthquake.

I mean … stranger things than a mom pulling a toy taser on a teenage supermarket employee while her socially precocious daughter narrates have been happening recently, right?

Don't believe me? Here's a recap:

The Discovery Channel aired a fake-u-mentary declaring mermaids to be real, and, closing disclaimer aside, children around the country started pointing to their science teachers, parents and anyone within earshot – usually people who don't believe in UFOs or winged angels walking among us – and saying: “Neener-neener-neener, I told you mermaids were real!”

Turns out the government IS spying on everyone, something most people (including the non-UFO believers) have long suspected. However, now that an American has shown proof to a British journalist that this democracy of ours has secret laws and secret courts, which might possibly trample all over the Bill of Rights, that whistleblower is being considered unAmerican.

Texas seems to be gearing up for a baby boom as its legislature maneuvers to effectively end abortion. I suppose if that's what they think is best, who am I to argue? I don't vote in Texas. However, I sincerely hope the state reconsiders its refusal to expand Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act. Seems to me if the state wants to prove it cares about life before 20 weeks it should prepare for weeks 41 through 936. At the very least, legislators should be forced to watch a single episode of CSI so they know “rape kits” are for evidence collection and not so a woman can “get cleaned out.”

Speaking of Texas, reports are cropping up that a bite from an arachnid called the Lone Star Tick could make some folks allergic to red meat. And that the tick is in New York. No joke, although those UFO abductees are likely calling it a vast vegetarian conspiracy.

And it's not just the south where things are off-kilter. Two guys in our neck of the woods – one from Galway, the other from Hudson – were arrested for allegedly conspiring to build a radiation death ray device they could drive around in a van.

Honestly, I don't know how much more of this brand of crazy I can can take. I fear if it continues, The Champ is going to add “Matchbox Death Ray Van” prominently to his Christmas list, it will end up in my purse, and I will have to get our groceries delivered.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Silas is golden

Dear Champ,

Recently, I made the mistake of telling you the story of you, including my initial desire of wanting a girl.

You know, so that as siblings, you could do all the things sisters do ...

Share a room ...

And secrets ...

I thought it was pretty basic stuff. Pragmatic. Pedestrian, even.

Why would anyone want to have to buy all new stuff just because everything we owned to appease humans who had yet to reach the height requirement for bumper cars was awash in pink and purple?

Turns out the newly six-year-old you didn't have any idea what I was talking about.

You heard "I wanted a girl," and that was it.


It wasn't like that,” I stammeringly tried to backpedal. “You weren't a disappointment. You were a happy surprise. I had no experience with boys … no brothers … I had no idea what an amazing experience having a boy could be.”

But you didn't believe me. You couldn't take my word for it, not after the words “I wanted a girl,” tumbled so easily from my mouth.

The damage was done.

You trudged up the stairs, packed a suitcase. Filled it with toys and books and changes of socks.

Lugged it downstairs ...

Bumpety, bump, bump, bump …

And declared:

I am leaving and never coming back. You will have to feed the dog yourself.”

But you just stood there. A wonder, wearing three pairs of shorts, two shirts and three hats.

I knew laughter at that moment would have dug my hole deeper, so instead I dug a jagged finger nail into the palm of my hand to keep from laughing.

You have always been your own person: A pajama-wearing, squeaky-shoe hating kid who likes fruit bats and chimpanzees.

You are a wonder of incongruity, who astounds us with your child-given brilliance as you argue the power of deities with your atheist father:

God does bad things to you if you don't believe in him,” you warn.
Well, I DON'T believe in God,” your dad fired back. “What will happen to me.”
He'll make you frustrated and always fighting with mom,” he replies with a grin. “See, he IS real.”

You are nobody's fool. When the Little League coach tried to get you to use the only bat available – a light pink aluminum beauty – by using the twisted logic ... “your mother would use a pink bat, therefore if you loved your mother you'd use it, too” … you didn't fall for it.

Don't love my mother and I won't use a pink bat!”

It didn't hurt my feelings. I know you better than that.

Six years ago, when you joined our family, you were a wonder, too.

A boy who always kept us guessing.

Would you be healthy?
Would you ever eat food?
Ohmyghad, what would you say to strangers?

None of that stuff is easily explained. At least, not by me.
But it was a dear friend, who took one look at you and said: "Silas is golden" that put us all at ease.

Because it was simple and because it was true.

And if ever you don't believe it, you can go here and see for yourself.

Happy Birthday, baby of mine. You really are golden.



Sunday, June 16, 2013

Life before your eyes

I think we're all waiting for a moment when our lives will change.

The optimists among us are hoping for a brighter future. A change in circumstance that will make them happy. They will be able to cross the street by themselves. Drive a car. Visit a bar. Earn a promotion or find a better job. The love of their life will walk in any moment.

They are looking for the happy ending.

The pessimists in our midst are just bracing for the end.

Anxiety level, over time, is the best indicator of which end is up.

There are been many moments in my life thus far that I've braced for that one moment. Most recently, it was last June when the doctors' office called with some worrisome test results.

A follow-up, more tests, repeated tests in six months, and a determination of "normal" findings did their best to reassure me that I would have more time to worry for no actual reason.

Eventually, I know, they will find something. They always find something eventually.

It's June again.

A time when school releases and summer commences. A time when plans for birthday parties and day camps and vacations come together. And time for my annual imaging visit of terror.

“Why didn't I do this during the month of its awareness,” I chastise. “The only holiday it would ruin is Halloween … and a holiday devoted to horror seems apropos.”

Instead, as it stands, I have set up appointments that are destined to ruin either the summer or Christmas season. Hopefully not both.That's just the optimist trying to be soothing.

As I drove along the roadways to my scheduled appointment, my life flashed before my eyes.

I passed the places to which I had commuted for most of my adult life. I drove past my first job – a restaurant, where I worked in the kitchen. Next I drove by my first apartment. There, or there-abouts, was the place I had a flat tire one cold, February morning when I was six-months pregnant with my first child.

The path I took had a mixture of good times and bad. So many turning points.

I took this road to high school and college. To outings and meetings and new experiences.

The road brought me to weddings and births and funerals.

It had brought me to the hospital countless times. To visit loved ones, welcome babies and volunteer. It brought me every manner of waiting room, from emergency to surgical.

How many traffic jams had I encountered right about here? I wondered as the traffic slowed nearing my destination.

Of course, I was jumping the gun. I was picturing an end to the summer I had planned before it began.

Of course, I worry. Of course.

“I will wait for the doctor to read the films,” I tell myself, fearing waiting for that phone call more than the results it will bear.

“Will be with you soon,” says a reassuring voice. “Don't worry.”

And I realize there is something I've been doing besides worrying.

This past year I've been taking each day as it comes. I've been smiling at strangers and volunteering at school. I've been reeling things in and letting them go.

And as much as I've been white-knuckling it through these narrow straights, every time I review this life I've had thus far, I am reminded how it never really stays the same.

It changes – one way or another – from one day to the next, each day of our lives.

This summer, to my great relief, my plans will go on as scheduled.  

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Looking up

In the car. On the school bus. At the cafe down the street, it's always the window seat. I'd rather sit in the back, near the racks of potato chips and postcards of local excitements, but the kids always want the window seat.

As I wait in line for bagels – one toasted the other nuked, both with butter -- the kids draw pictures in the fog they've huffed on the plate glass.

“Sssssstooooop that,” I hissed when I returned to the table to dole out the wax-paper wrapped packages.

They erase their wonky hearts exclaiming 'I love mom,' with the insides of their shirtsleeves and throw themselves into a chair.

We eat in relative silence -- one mouthful at a time -- rustling of paper and constant chatter aside. I try to ignore the wobbly table that undulates from one kid to another as if they're rowing a rickety boat with their elbows.

The morning slows down. I check my iPhone for the gazillionth time. Nothing new.

The kids' attentions are diverted by everything that passes by the window.

First, there was “the cutest, widdle, doggy-woggy on the face of the entire planet.”

Then, Joey Suchafuss strolled by with his little brother. “He must be visiting his grandfather. I wonder if they'd like to come over later and ride bikes?”

“Keep eating,” I coax. “You've only finished one quart of your bagel.”

“Oh my gosh, did you see that car! It was huuuuuge. I bet it had a swimming pool in there.”

“Do you know why the chicken crossed the playground? No? To get to the other SLIDE!”

Their mirth annoys me. I can admit it. I just want to drink my coffee in peace … and quiet. I want to read the news on my pocket-sized device.

“Eat! Don't play!” I say with the exasperated tone I usually reserve for “Hurry! The bus is coming!”

They just ignore me. They know we're in no rush. They probably wouldn't chew with their mouths closed any how.

I should count myself lucky they haven't decided the bathrooms are the most interesting part of the cafe experience. The view from our table is much more scenic than the one I'd have if I'd been forced to hover outside the men's room door (for the seventh time).

Eventually, they finish as much as they can eat. A greasy crescent will be saved and forgotten about in the pocket of my tote bag.

“Can we go now?” Ittybit asks, knowing by my expression that I just want to sit and finish my coffee. I don't care that it's getting cold.

She looks out the window and notices a crowd forming at the door. First a couple, then a gaggle of children, then people with pets on their morning walks. All of them looking up.

“Can we go outside and see what's going on?” she begs.

“Ok. Just stay on the sidewalk. And hold your brother's hand.”

Soon they are back and braying at me like animated Chickens Little.

“You need to see this. Come outside.”

“Is the sky falling?”

“No, it's a rainbow.”

“Then I'll just stay here and finish my luke-warm beverage. Here's my phone. Take a picture.”

In a minute, she comes back with a screen filled with pictures of the top of the building, blurry trees and people's feet. And one picture of a corona rainbow circling the sun, which is peeking out from behind the rooftop.

“Isn't that something ...” I say, staring into the light of the smartphone as I collect our things and clear the table.

Two women pass us on their way in as we, finally, make our way out.

“Hey, Guys!” yells my son to the ladies, close enough to them to tug on their pants' legs. Thankfully he didn't. “When you're done with your bagel, go outside and look up!”

“Don't worry if you miss it, you can come to our house and see it on my mom's cell phone.”

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Running ... in the end

I just ran three point one miles.

That's 5 kilometers for all you metric folks out there.

It was great.

Ok … I didn't run the “whole time.”

I walked a good part of it.

“Good” equalling about half … if you don't count the portion of the roadway I paced back and forth in an effort to catch my breath.

It felt great.

The pain in my right hip, not withstanding. That's no big deal. Just a little hiccup is all.

I didn't even feel it until the next day, anyway. It could have been from anything.

And the hip pain was nothing compared to the pinch in my left knee.

Probably the shoes.

Or the crick in my neck … it hurt a little to look to the left.

But, I'm sure that had more to do with my pillow being wrong side up when I was sleeping on it crookedly.

These things happen.

People my age understand that some amount of discomfort upon reentry into a new day is merely a gentle reminder that we've made it past the average lifespan of Neanderthals. “Go, homo sapiens!”

My creaky joints rustling like cellophane as I walk downstairs every morning probably should have told me all I needed to know about going from a seated position to a full out run in some deluded quest for exercise.

It's just that I really trust the imaginary yogi in my mind – the one with the sweet, comforting sliver of a Punjabi accent – who has reassured me that all will be fine in the end. “Because if it is not fine, it is not yet the end.”

I think it's good to have enthusiasm even if others think common sense is more useful.

Pain, schmain.

That's why ibuprofen was invented, right?

I like the gel caps. They release their magical, pain reducing molecules ever-so-much faster.

Modern pharmacology aside, it's not like I don't worry about the pain. Or the extremely high probability that a person my age could pull, snap or otherwise dislodge something that won't push, snap or lodge back into place on its own.

I just don't need to think about it yet.

That stabbing sensation on the outer left knee has only been there for a few days, and I'm not sure, but I think it's moving toward the inner part of my right knee.

That could all be in my head (or at least the moving part).

And while I don't know my knee pain exactly, I do know my hypochondria. I've successfully trained myself NOT to panic about discomfort until it becomes crippling or lasts longer than two weeks … whichever comes first.

So … I'm walking this one off.

That's what I tell myself, “Walk this one off.”

I told the coach that, too as I walked around the track.

“I'll be fine. I'm just going to walk around for a while. I'm sure I'll be able to run by the end.”

“Are you sure?” she wondered skeptically?

“Positive! If I am not running in the end, it is not yet the end.”