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If My Life Had a Sitcom Title it Would Be “Pushing Fifty and a Stroller”

The other day while we waited to be called for brunch, the overly cheerful hostess said, “I have a granddaughter that age, too!” There’s only one problem. My baby isn’t my granddaughter. She’s my daughter.

I’m old. And I have a baby. I’m an old new mom. But this isn’t my first rodeo. I had my first son at 33, and my second son at 39. I thought I was an old new mom then, but the universe said, “Ha! You think you’re tired now?” I was 47 when I had my daughter. Tired doesn’t even begin to describe what those first few months were like. There was a brief window of time when I was post-natal, perimenopausal, lactating and menstruating all at once.

That deserves repeating. Post-natal (hormone frenzy), perimenopausal (hormone frenzy), lactating (hormobaby-facene frenzy) and menstruating (hormone frenzy) all at the same time. People think I deserve some kind of medal for living through this without killing my husband, and maybe I do. But let’s consider my husband for a minute. He was living with a woman who was post-natal, perimenopausal, lactating and menstruating all at the same time. I’m pretty sure he deserves the medal.

I’m a much different mom now than when I became one at 33. I’m much more laissez-faire about the whole thing. Chicken nuggets for breakfast? Sure, why not. No bath tonight? Fine, more time to catch up on This is Us. Fell asleep in your clothes again? Great, that will save us time in the morning. At this point I’ve learned what the important things are and what’s not worth sweating. That, and I’m inherently lazy.

Back when I was a first-time mom I needed to be a good mom, whatever that meant. (I let go of that now.) With my oldest son, I was always present. I never checked out mentally when he talked or pretended to be working while actually playing Bubble Mania on my phone. I looked at every ingredient on everything I bought at the grocery store. I read to him. We co-slept. I took him to the park, museums, story time, art time, library time, mommy-and-me, Gymboree, My Gym, bouncy castles, carnivals, play lands, etc. I read parenting books. When he was diagnosed on the spectrum I advocated at his IEPs for the maximum amount of intervention.

He flourished and I thought it was because I did everything right. Then just before he turned ten he was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor and only had a few months to live. I bring this up not for sympathy or shock value, but to show that nothing sculpts motherhood into something unrecognizable like losing the baby that made you a mommy. I changed drastically after losing my oldest son, and not for the better. I no longer care if I do everything right. These days I feel accomplished if I can do anything right.dragonfly-friends

My middle son describes me as badass, mysterious and loving. But if I’m so mysterious then how come he can figure me out so easily? I used to think I was relaxed and sincere. An old friend once described me as down-to-earth, which I immediately confused with back-to-nature and argued that I did in fact wear deodorant.

This blog will be a lot of things because, well, I’m a lot of things. We all are. We are normal and boring and unusual and interesting all at once. I’ve experienced great heartbreak and tremendous joy. I can see the forest and the trees and both have their own beauty.

So join me — or not. It’s up to you. My blog may have a cute sit-commy title but life isn’t all set up and punch line. Whose life comes with a laughtrack anyway? Nobody I know.

 

Drinking Games

  1. margarita-transparentTake a drink every time I enter a room but have no idea why I came in.
  2. Take a drink every time I ask, “Where’s my _________________?”
  3. Take a drink every time someone asks, “What’s for dinner?”
  4. Take a drink every time I pick up someone else’s dirty dishes.
  5. Take a drink every time I sit in front of the computer but forget what I wanted to google.
  6. Take a drink every time my husband can’t find his phone.
  7. Take a drink every time my daughter asks for a new toy.
  8. Take a drink every time my son can’t find his shoes.
  9. Take a drink every time I have to pee in the middle of the night. (counterproductive?)
  10. Take a drink every time I sit down to write but forget my train of thought.

A Small Medium At Large

I don’t remember exactly how long it was after my son’s death — maybe a year — when I saw an ad in the local paper for a “spiritual gallerywinged-heart-love-transparent” with a psychic medium who could connect attendees with deceased loved ones. I made a reservation using a shorter version of my first name and paid cash when I arrived. There was no way to do any background research on me.

The psychic medium was a young woman named Nikki, and she was very nervous. She admitted it was her first time doing an event like this. About eight of us turned out, including my husband. Nikki was a tiny wisp of a woman with long hair and a sweet face. She clutched a large Diet Coke from Burger King and would occasionally take long sips, and long pauses, throughout the session. Oddly, for someone so tiny and cute, she was also a former US Marine.

I’ve had readings with several psychic mediums before and after that first session with Nikki. Some are world renown. Some had television shows. One charged so much money I’m embarrassed to admit what we paid. All of them start out with generalizations and engage in what seems like fishing. I don’t fall for this and only play along to a certain extent. I wait patiently for them to say something so personal and private and specific that there’s no earthly way for them to know this detail about me or my loved one. Few psychic mediums deliver something that makes me sit up and think well that’s interesting! It happened occasionally with the famous ones, it happened with the expensive one, but among all the psychic mediums, tiny Nikki said the most personal and unexpected things.

Nikki said a prayer on her rosary before starting her spiritual gallery, and wound up giving everyone in the room a personal reading that lasted about fifteen minutes each. She was exhausted by the end of the session. I don’t remember what she said to anyone else that day, but what she told me still remains vivid.

At first I thought Nikki winged it. She spoke about my father coming through, and then my mother, but the information seemed too general. The facts applied to my parents, like they were in love their whole lives, they died months apart from lung issues, my dad was sarcastic — but none of it was personal enough to make me a believer. Then it got more interesting. Nikki said my mom was with a young blood relative and was holding his hand. He’s running around and it’s important to him to show that he’s able to do that. She claimed he wants me to give all his toys to his little brother (I had not mentioned a little brother). She was surprised there wasn’t also a little sister at home (not yet!).

And then it happened. Nikki took a long sip from her Diet Coke, then asked if I ever cracked my son’s toes. I immediately began to cry.

Who cracks another person’s toe knuckles? It’s one of those weird, embarrassing, idiosyncratic quirks that should never be revealed beyond immediate family, yet somehow Nikki knew my son and I did this all the time. I asked her how she knew, and she said, “He cracked my toe.” The lady in the front row confirmed she heard it crack during my reading. I was amazed.

black-blue-scribbled-heartNikki finished the session by saying our loved ones constantly leave us signs, and they are always with us. Their heaven is watching us and they want us to be happy.

The famous psychic with the television show told me a person is supposed to have one amazing reading that blows their mind, and then move on with their life.

But that’s not what happened. I wanted Nikki to be a telephone line to my son. I was desperate and hopeful and wanted to connect with him on a regular basis. I returned to her galleries every four months (or so) over the next three years (I noticed the same people there as well). I wanted to know if my son was with us at such-and-such a place, or if he came along to some other family event. I wanted to feel like a complete family again and this was the closest I could come. I also wanted more signs — obvious, unmistakable ones. But the more I went to see Nikki the more depressed I got. With each subsequent visit I experienced diminishing returns. Over time, Nikki had less and less to tell me.

I realized I wasn’t being fair to Nikki. She’s not a telephone with a direct line to my son. That’s not her job. Her job is to give me comfort, let me know my son is okay, and assure me that love endures all obstacles including death.

Eventually, I stopped seeing her, although once in a while I think about making another appointment. Every year around this time I feel a strong urge to connect with my son — he died at the end of August, just when he should have been going back to school. All month I brace myself for the day he died, and two days later for the day we buried him. I have flashbacks…the funeral director telling us to “kiss him goodnight” before he shut the coffin (the same wood finish as his bedroom set). If I close my eyes I can see handfuls of dirt fall on top of the burial vault until our family and friends, one by one, finish the  Jewish ritual of dropping pieces of earth into his grave.

Aside from the birth of my daughter, the only thing that truly helped me with grief was seeing Nikki. They say time heals all wounds. Well, I’m still waiting…

A Letter to My Son on His Twelfth Birthday

Hey Baby,

I call you “baby” because that’s who you are to me. My sweet baby boy with the enormous eyes like Oreo cookies.

Happy Birthday, Baby. You’re changing fast. Two weeks ago you weren’t taller than me.boy-with-birthday-cake-and-confetti Now you’re taller than me. You have an adorable faint mustache, and your voice is in its Peter Brady phase. You used to have baby fat, but now you’re lean like a library ladder. It’s almost like you’ve become a different person overnight.

But you will always be my baby.

You were born into this family as the little brother. Your big brother loved you like crazy. You followed him everywhere. You climbed on his lap and the two of you stared at the little DS screen together while he played his games, and you cheered him on. He protected you from icky bugs, made sure you learned “parking lot rules” and taught you about Pokemon. You shared sushi, toys, a room and a deep love for each other.  Many nights I’d find you asleep holding hands across the empty space between your beds.

The role of little brother fit you perfectly. You were a silly goofball, carefree and happy.

Then your brother got sick with brain cancer. You were left frequently with your Aunt. You were confused. Things changed. Your brother changed. He looked different. He was in a wheelchair and spent months in the hospital, but all you wanted was to be near him, hug him, talk about Pokemon and make up scenarios for your “guys” with the hundred stuffed animals you both owned. He put his arm around you when you climbed into his hospital bed to watch Nick Jr. You fell asleep holding onto him.

You were an only child for a few years, and this role didn’t suit you. You were anxious and lonely. You never wanted to leave my side (and I didn’t want you to, anyway).

Then you became a big brother to a little sister who thinks you hung the moon.  You thrive in this role. You are an amazing big brother, and you say it’s because you learned from the best. You are protective and fun and funny. You teach her about Pokemon and sushi and “parking lot rules.” Now she’s the silly one and you’re the protector.

I am so amazed by you. Every day I am inspired by your resilience. I aspire to the level of kindness, compassion and curiosity you demonstrate naturally. You are my living example of how to be a good and strong person.

Did you know you saved my life? You were the reason I woke up and got out of bed the day after your brother died. Without you, well, I can’t imagine… You have transformative superpowers in your smile. I am helpless against your cuteness. You give me courage to face any challenge. Last year I wrote an entire screenplay about everything I learned from you.

You own my heart.

When you grow up you want to be a doctor/actor/comedian/research scientist/theoretical physicist — and I think you can make it. I believe in you.

You have a great friend group who accepts you with all your aspirations and antics, especially your bestie who is sunshine in boy form. You look out for each other like brothers — what more can you ask from a friend in Jr. High? What more can you ask from a friend in life?

But don’t be in a hurry to grow up. Stay immature and goofy a while longer. Stay silly. Stay innocent. And I know you will…

Recently, you said, “I know how babies are made. The man puts his ding-dong into the woman’s slipperslap, and then a baby comes out.” First of all, I don’t think I ever heard a better slang term. I’m the proud mom of a word inventor. Second of all, not quite. You really don’t know much at all, and that’s awesome. With all your excelling in academics, I’m relieved you lag behind the kids who ride the bus, go to sleep away camp or hang out behind the 7-11 when it comes to maturity.

I love that you’re a bit of a nerd. I love your dance moves and dry sense of humor. I even love our arguments (you’re so good at it!). You make me laugh every day. You make me happy. And you make me proud.

You make me look better at this job of being a mom than I actually am.

My birthday wish for you is to find your place in this big world. Do not to be overwhelmed by choices. Stay close to the people who love you. Keep a calm heart. Seek happiness, whatever that means to you — you deserve it. Your past doesn’t dictate your future.

Thank you for being mine. Promise me you’ll never be too old to snuggle and watch Saturday Night Live on the couch. And thank you in advance for letting me live in a tiny house in your backyard when I’m an old lady.

Stay cool, Baby. Have an amazing birthday!

I love you more,

Mom

 

Things My Daughter Says (With Exclamation Points)

  1. “You know how much me yuv pink!”
  2. “Me foosey!” (thirsty)
  3. “Me want a donut and Barbie!”
  4. “Where da skizzers an da sticky tape?!”
  5. “Me like lollipops tooooooo much!”
  6. “Me want all da toys me seen on TP yestehday!”
  7. “Me only ticklish everywhere!”
  8. “Tushies are stinky!”
  9. “Me want to win!”
  10. “Me want to be pretty yike a unicorn!”

The Smart One and The Pretty One

Back in the day, my father liked to introduce my sister and me as the smart one and the pretty one. He never said who was which. My sister and I argued about it for decades. Neither of us wants to be the smart one.

My father was a natural comedian whose favorite form of humor was anything that mortified his children. He’d play with words, or toss ethnic (Jewish) jokes and cringe humor into conversations for the sole purpose of embarrassing me. Dark comedy and gallows humor was his particular favorite. A few hours before he passed away from cancer in the hospital he still made wisecracks and told my sister to “go to the nurse’s station and find out what time people die around here.” I’m certain my insurance salesman father missed his calling.

Comedy is important in our family. Our personal currency increases when we make each clown-clip-artother laugh. My brother is great at physical humor, my three nieces are sarcastic and ironic to perfection. My nephews make clever observational humor, and my kids crack me up on a daily basis without even trying. We don’t make jokes that are mean spirited or insulting. Nobody gets their feelings hurt or is put on the defensive. We are mostly self-deprecating or point out daily absurdities. I think it takes a certain amount of intelligence and self-esteem to be funny, and the ability to slip into the third person. Plus we are excellent laughers. I absolutely love being around my siblings and their families.

My mother wasn’t funny, though. At least I don’t remember her that way. She rarely cracked jokes or found things ironic. She was beautiful, so her personal currency was her looks and assertiveness. But, boy oh boy, could my father make her laugh. She burst out a belly laugh if my father tripped, she smiled and rolled her eyes at his corny puns, but the best part was he could make her laugh when she didn’t want to. One time, my mother was arrested (for disrespecting an officer and then resisting arrest, which she totally did) and my father went to the station to get her. He approached the cell, and with the protection of her behind bars said, “Again, Elaine?” (He would never have said this if she was within swinging range.) Only my dad could come up with a punchline this brilliant at a moment like this. My mother couldn’t help but laugh.

My father was lean and fit from years of doing his own yard work. His eyes reflected his mischievousness. He seemed like he was up to something. He exuded cool. But he wasn’t classically handsome. He looked like Larry Fine when The Stooge wasn’t in character, or maybe a version of Bob Uecker. He’d say about himself, “If you’re going to have a nose, it should be a big one.” When I was a teenager I didn’t understand why my mother, who looked like Natalie Wood and could have married anyone, chose my dad.

She said my father was the nicest and funniest man she ever met. Nice and funny — two qualities that are very underrated. People look for wealthy, handsome or successful. Nice and funny usually lands someone in the friend zone, and oddly it was my mom who wound up spending time there. Growing up, my dad was best friends with her older brother and my mom was the annoying younger sister who hung around them. He didn’t pay her much attention until he returned from WW2 and realized she had grown up. He continued to hang around the house, but with the purpose of making my mother laugh. It didn’t take long for them to fall in love.

heart-treeI love this story because it reminds me that my parents had no pretense about one another when they got married. They knew each other well, and loved one another for their heart and not their surface. Their marriage lasted ’till death did them part — not that my parents didn’t fight — they did, but they fought with the passion and security of two people who knew they would never separate.

Which is the same way I fight with my husband.

Had my parents ever met my husband, a comedy writer who worked in film and television and now teaches at a large university, I’m pretty sure my dad would have liked him. My mom, on the other hand, would have been slow to warm up since he’s from a different ethnic background (not Jewish, but she’d eventually realize he’s “Jewish on the inside,” as I sometimes describe him).

But here’s the important thing — every day my husband makes me laugh, even on days Iswinging-bears-transparent-thumb don’t want to, or when I’m so angry that I can’t stand him. Also, he laughs at my jokes, and when he does I feel appreciated and understood. In these moments, I remember I married a man who truly “gets” me.

I wound up marrying the nicest and funniest man I ever met, but (thankfully) looks nothing like Larry Fine.

I guess that makes me the smart one.

 

 

 

Recurring Anxiety Dreams

girl-dreaming-clipartSometimes I can’t remember my dreams. I can go for weeks thinking I don’t dream at all. Then there are times when I have a flurry of dreams and remember multiple ones from the same night.

Lately, it’s been one of those times.

I’m having a bunch of anxiety dreams that are all thematically connected. As you will see, my subconscious is, apparently, cousins with Captain Obvious. Or she knows how dumb I am and decided to smack me in the face with symbolism.

Of course, these being dreams, they plod along in that ridiculous and bizarre way dreams do that make absolutely no sense. Until they do. And then they don’t again.

Basically, the gist is I don’t know where I’m going, I’m unprepared and overwhelmed. (Duh, who isn’t?) If anyone’s a dream analyst or has some insight, here you go…

  1. I’m at a huge resort with rooms and doors and hallways and stairways everywhere. I’m dragging my luggage behind me. The numbers on the doors don’t make sense. There’s a big atrium and I can see where I’m supposed to go but there’s no reasonable way to get there. I keep banging into people and can’t understand the language. Suddenly all the people are gone and a group of old women pick up the beach towels that are left everywhere.
  2. I’m at my high-school reunion but there are also people there from now. I’m playing volleyball in the lobby of the hotel/convention center with people from my childhood whom I don’t actually know, I only know their names. We aren’t supposed to hit the volleyball with our hands. We all have a pair of drumsticks and we are supposed to hit the ball with those. The volleyball turns into a giant inflatable yoga ball and we get better at the game. There’s a huge circus in the banquet room across the hall that other people from my high-school perform in.
  3. I’m at an unfamiliar airport and I’m dragging my luggage around and I can’t find my gate. I get stopped at security and panic that I’m going to miss my flight. They let me go through a secret door but once I’m on the plane it has stadium seating, like an auditorium. The plane flies too close to the ground and I’m afraid we are going to hit the telephone wires or crash. I want to leave but I’m told this is where my seat is. We make an emergency landing behind a drive-in movie theater. I see a bunch of other planes fly the right way.
  4. I’m performing as a Vikette again. The routine is about to start but I don’t know any of the dance moves and I can’t find my pom pons. I didn’t warm up so my kicks are bad. Everyone is mad at me, especially the girl whose pom pons I took. I pretend I know what I’m doing but ruin everything. I don’t understand why I had to go through with it, why couldn’t I just sit this performance out?
  5. I’m at a sprawling underground cafeteria that serves practically everything. I waste a lot of time looking at all the food presented on plates and figuring out what I’m going to eat. Some of the food moves along a conveyer belt. Some of the food is behind velvet ropes. It goes on and on. The food is nicely lit and looks good but I can’t find anything I want to pay for. The cafeteria is under the dorm where I live, where I share a room with three other girls who are much younger than me, whom I hate. They are mean and I never spend time in my room. They threaten to throw away my furniture. I find other places to sleep.
  6. I’m away at college and I’m exploring the quad and town. I walk blocks in the wrong direction, then turn around and walk back but I don’t end up where I started, which confuses and scares me. I retrace my steps but I wind up someplace where I know I don’t belong. I try to blend in. I look around for cues. The stores and restaurant are unfamiliar. I’m late for class and don’t know where it is. I haven’t done the assignments and fear I will flunk and never graduate. I finally find my advisor’s office, but he’s not there. I tell anyone who will listen that the problem is I just don’t understand math.

So these are just a recent few. I’ve always had stress dreams (being chased, running on all fours, etc.) But sometimes I also have fantastic flying dreams that I love.

I’d love to hear what you dream…