Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Going Home

I had a built-in sidekick in the form of my younger brother, Jeff. One of our common ventures was creating hideouts. We built them anywhere we could find a good place. In hedgerows, barn rafters, out of scrap wood in some remote field corner,  in the branches of trees. We once started building one out of mud. We had grand visions of building a whole village of mud houses, but never got beyond the foundation of the first house. It was too much like work.
We made plans in our hide-outs. Dream and Imagination were king and queen. From them, we spied on the unsuspecting world.
In the particular instance I am recalling here, we had built one of these hideouts...somewhere. It must have been fantastic, because I clearly remember the general excitement we had about it....and hitting upon the glorious plan of asking Mother if we could sleep out in it that night. She said yes, and we promptly set to hauling out all the things we'd need. Blankets, pillows, flashlights...we hauled them out load after haphazard load, wild with anticipation.

Evening approached, and somewhere along the way a thought sprouted in my mind: it was dark outside at night. What if I didn't feel as excited about this in the dark as I did right now? What if it seemed more creepy than cozy in there with all the pillows and flashlights and shifting shadows? What if we heard noises? What if Mother would tell us we'd hauled all that stuff out there and we had to face our fears and sleep out there no matter what? What then???

 I didn't know. I had to know.  I had to know if I was going to be stuck out there with no recourse, and nothing but a little brother for protection, in case of emergency.

I crept up beside her and asked her very quietly, "Mother? If we get scared tonight, is it okay if we come in?"

She had been busy with her housework, and we had been so enthusiastically implementing our sleep-out plans! This was certainly an about-turn! She turned to me a bit startled. Then with a bit of a catch in her voice said, " can always come home. Never forget that."

Mother has moved several times since I've married and left home, but no matter where she's made her abode, any morning I wake under her roof and the aroma of breakfast is wafting from the kitchen, I'm her girl again and she's my mother. Home is where mother is, that's what.

Yesterday, Mother moved one last time. We came to know this move was relatively imminent and inevitable last fall when she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. It was incurable, they said.
In these last months I have grieved and grieved again the losses her passing must bring, not the least of which is never being able to go home again.

And I've thought more than once of what she told me there that summer afternoon, and how it is now no longer true. I can never go home again.  No more walking in her door, drawing in the familiar aroma of her house, talking together by the light of her lamps, or waking under her roof with the smell of pancakes floating from the kitchen.
She's gone, leaving a vacuum as big and silent as the night sky.

The tears flow from a heart that feels like a stone within me. Heavy. Hard. No more mother. No more going home. Oh Mother!...Mother!
The future stretches before me sadly devoid of her reliable and steady maternal input.
But suddenly from my puddle, I hear her voice again as gentle and reassuring as it was back then.... "Honey, you can always come home. Never forget that."

Oh yes, Mother! We can! And we will! We'll be leaving here as soon as we can get packed up and on the road. I'm not sure when we'll get there. It might be late; don't wait up. Just leave the door unlocked and the light on, and we'll see you in the morning.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Remembered Fear

(In keeping with the current "fear" theme, I transferred this to here from a G+ update awhile back.)

I remember taking out the garbage when I was a little girl. Taking out the garbage always seemed to happen after dark. And I was scared of it.
The dark, that is. Not the garbage.

Going out was only moderately terrifying. The light of the porch was right with me at first, and then just behind me, and fading gradually as the fear grew. I'd brace myself against the dangers of the dark and the myriad evils suspended in it, lurking beside, above, below, within. and without. I'd step right through them carefully, quietly, so as not to disturb them.

And then....there was the fence! I'd FLING the garbage over it in a wild eruption of pent-up terror, and streeeak, completely surrendering to the propelling forces of panic and adrenalin, back to the safety of the light.

And nonchalantly open the screen door and enter suavely as if nothing in the world had happened.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

And That Was That

I had Todd in for his annual eye exam with Dr Goei, the surgeon who did his surgeries when he had his accident and lost the vision in his right eye.
He has never, and I mean NEVER, done well at these appointments. The last time he was to see her he did okayish, which was a great improvement over previous times, but they have never dilated his eye and done a full-fledged test because he is petrified and uncooperative.
We had an appointment with another doctor in the interim that will live in infamy.

This time, when we got there, and settled ourselves in the waiting room he crawled up on my lap and started compulsively twisting the buttons on my dress. "Oh dear." I thought, "here we go again." I breathed a prayer for him...poor little guy; fear is the worst of all fiends.

The waiting room held a young Hispanic couple and their three-year-old boy. The parents sat on opposite sides of the room, and the boy sat somewhere in between. Their stuff filled in the gaps. I had chosen a seat as well as I knew.
There is this unspoken protocol about which seat you choose depending on the seats available and the positions of the current occupants, but it was a little tricky here, because I infringed on either them or their stuff no matter where I was.

As it turned out I was seated closer to him than to her and he proved to be extraordinarily friendly. He said hello instantly. Then he asked what religion I was and what we believed. He told me of the Bolivian Mennonites he had seen featured on a television show. There were two different kinds down there he told me; the one kind kept entirely to themselves, and the other kind didn't. What kind was I, he wondered. I told him I didn't know too much about the Mennonites in Bolivia.
It was the truthful and safest answer.
"Do you believe in the Holy Spirit" he said. I said "Yes."
"We're the same then." he said with guileless acceptance and confidence. "We're Pentecostal. We and the Baptists and y'all believe the same. The Jehovah's Witness don't. They don't believe in the Holy Spirit".

Todd carefully kept his back to him.

By the time their name was called, I knew they were from Mexico,  and about his siblings, the ones who lived and the one who had died, his daughter named Genesis, his mom, and their ill-tempered Shih Tzu, and who was due to deliver twins in March.
 He had pictures of them on his phone and when he had largely concluded the commentary he scrolled through them and provided me with visual aids.
His wife sat across the room and regarded him pleasantly. She was silent till it was time to leave and then she said goodbye warmly, as if we had been long friends. It would have seemed so.

Todd was in quiet mode.

In the meantime another couple had entered with a charming cross-eyed little guy. The parents were substantial. The lady came in, surveyed the available seats and taking the first one inside the door, said calmly, "I might as well block the door." and proceeded to do so. Her husband played games on an I-pad most of the time while simultaneously engaging his wife in conversation. A remarkable man. She asked him nicely for a turn. He nicely refused.
The cute little guy knocked all the legs off an activity table and walked around the room chewing on them.

It was a blessed distraction, really. Dragons seldom shrink for the thinking of them.

A third couple moved in with a brand-new baby in a carrier. The daddy was a gentle looking sort littered with tattoos. He took care of the bags and the baby.
The mom who was pencil thin and wore heels, came in like a whirlwind, dropped her stuff on the chairs, announced, "I'm going potty," and promptly walked back out.
How in the world she got to be that size two weeks after giving birth, I do not know. Women want to know these things.

Todd surveyed it all silently, no doubt less distracted than I. He lay against me like a little monkey

The cute little guy with crossed eyes came over to explore the new folks. "He'll get in your bags." warned his mom. "He'll have them emptied out in one minute." The tattooed man pulled the bags close around him.
This was no match for the cute one.
Dad put the bags all up on the chair. Cute one's mom came and followed him around the room keeping him out of everything remotely interesting to him.

I have always found waiting rooms fascinating. This one was no exception.

One by one each group was called out and Todd and I were left alone.

"Todd," I said "they're not going to do anything scary. They're just going to look at your eyes and have you look at things. Just answer their questions, okay? It won't be anything scary." Todd had moved to sit a few seats away from me.
He said "mmhmm."
"Yes, ma'am."
He said it. But he had said it before. Somehow when we got to the examining room his fears always took over entirely. Panic rather. His last eye appointment had been a full-blown disaster.

"Todd?" The nurse called his name finally. He took my hand and we followed her down the hall and around the corner. We'd been in this room before. It reverberated with ghosts of visits past. She left and we settled in once more. Waiting is so routine at this place, you expect nothing else.

"Todd," I said, "I think you're big enough to sit in the chair by yourself this time. You just sit there and answer their questions. You can do it."
"I want you to hold me."
"If I hold you, will you cooperate?" I said.
(Don't you hate those negotiating parents?)
"Yes." he said.
Dr. Goei was already at the door.

Dr. Goei and Todd go way back. She has learned to expect the worst and prepare for the worst. So has he.
I steeled myself.
"How are you, Todd!!" She acted genuinely thrilled to see him.
"Fine!" he replied.
This was the first miracle in a series of miracles.
Another doctor came in.
He let them shine lights in his eyes.
He read the letters on the chart quickly and confidently.
He leaned his head back and looked at the ceiling while they put drops in; three in one, one in the other.
He sat there stoically while they checked his eye pressure.
Once, while their backs were turned, I whispered in his ear "Way to go, buddy. You're doing great!"
He slipped me an aww shucks grin.

We made plans to do surgery on his wandering eye in the summer. She wrote out a new prescription for his glasses. And we were done.
Chart in hand, we descended from the chair, and away we went. He hopped blithely from dark tile to dark tile as we made our way back out the maze of halls that is MCG.

"You wanta eat at McDonald's here, or at Burger King on the way home?" I asked.

"I don't know, I guess Burger King." he said, still hopping.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is coming, and  you know what that means!! That means it's time to celebrate love by expressing it! If you do not know how to express it, you have not been paying attention because the commercials, sales fliers and store displays have been telling us how for weeks now.

To be honest, they have been telling you gentlemen how to express it, because, admit it, you're the ones who need help here. This is how it's done this year, from what I've been able to gather....

First, and most importantly, you pull out your wallet.
Then you select from one or more of the following options:
1. Purchasing very over-priced crimson roses. The more you love her, the more you'll buy. She'll know if you bought enough, or not. (She'll also know if you picked them up at your local grocery store. Don't risk it.).
2. Ordering huge chocolate-dipped strawberries for over a dollar apiece.
3. Purchasing Chocolate. Good chocolate.
4. Purchasing large red teddy bears that will clash with her decor for the rest of the year.
5. Hiring four other guys to come sing love songs to your sweetheart.
6. Taking her out to a spiffy restaurant where hundreds of other couples are, and the wait staff is stretched way too thin.
7.  Purchasing gems. (Particularly diamonds handpicked by your broker to your individual specifications in Antwerp, Belgium.)
8. Carefully selecting the perfect wildly-expensive card. (You have to do this last one regardless what else you choose on this list.)

These are the options you've been given and they come with warnings: Her girlfriends will be asking her what she got for Valentine's Day, and if she doesn't have a good answer buddy, you and Fido are going to be sharing digs for a long, long time.
(This is just as well, actually; have you ever lived with a disappointed woman??? Let's just say they don't talk much, and the temperature around them is lower than other places.)
So now that we have that little understanding firmly in place, let's celebrate, shall we??

A few years ago, I read an article citing a study which brought to light this fact:  men, overwhelmingly, do not like Valentine's Day, and women love it.

I wondered, naturally, whether my beloved Chief felt that way. How could he, possibly???
But... he did. He didn't like Valentine's Day.
He never knew what to get me, or what I expected. He knew I'd like to go out to eat, probably, and he'd like that too, actually, but he hated going out to eat when every decent restaurant was packed to the gills.
I was always on a diet, so chocolates seemed counter-productive.
And Valentine roses were so expensive!

Men are such dreadfully reasonable creatures.
"Reasonable", and "Valentine's Day" have nothing to do with each other. At least not if you buy the line we're fed every year by those hoping to profit from all the guilt offerings.
That's what they are, you know.

Here's a much-needed Truth Injection: True love can be celebrated however you wish to celebrate it.  True love doesn't punish the other person for not fulfilling manufactured expectations. True love is fun for both parties.

After the cold revelation that The Chief is pretty much a regular man and doesn't like the inherent pressures of Valentine's Day, we came up with our own custom-fit  Valentine's Day Celebration plan. We go out to eat the weekend after Valentine's Day. Sometimes we do other things too, but they are entirely optional, and not expected. One year, he built me an adorable little gnome-house with a charming door in the bottom of a huge hollow oak.
Once, I had an artist sketch Mt Rushmore and put his face in that distinguished line-up,  I wrote up a little tribute to him and framed them together. That was lots of fun.

You and your true love are unique. Your relationship and love is unique. Don't let mass advertising dictate your expectations and your celebrating. Carve your own traditions and tailor your celebrations to fit the two of you in a way that doesn't stress either of you. And have a truly happy Valentine's Day!!