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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dawn

I lay awake this morning in the whitening grey of first daylight. Another morning dawning, another jumbled morning of kisses and chaos and food chunks stuck to the bottoms of my feet and soggy diapers and James Taylor singing away from Al's iPod and a half-day of dressing and feeding and diaper-bag stuffing for a few errands that'll take 90 minutes, start to finish.

Every morning I wake to the same list. Some mornings it's a list of laughter and joy, other mornings it's just The List. Only a list like yesterday's list. Today was one of those days. A burden-of-The-List day. I rolled over against the stripes of light trying to rake me out of bed.

It didn't work. It never works.

I've been struggling lately between the items on The List. To find the time, the space, the mental depth, the funny that courses through this life and to write about it. I crave it, though. In the heart-beats of two short years, this trifle of mine has become both life-line and love affair. It's opened doors, hearts, conversations. It's opened my very eyes. But often as I stand on this pretty front porch, I feel a guilt that hints at self-indulgence and tries to convince me to board up this part of my life like a summer cottage meant for another season - a season gone by and perhaps one that is to come - but not this season.

And so I prayed this morning into the whitening grey, It's me again, God. Please give me the strength and patience to take care of this family today. Just for today. We'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow. And You know, I think you must not want me to write anymore. Do You? We can talk about that later, I guess. But anyway, about today, God. Just help me get through today and do the right things for my family. Oh yeah -- Amen.

The kids woke up and the coffee brewed and Al, at the door and stepping into his shoes, handed me a FedEx slip.

I signed us up for the Fruit of the Month Club for your birthday. The first shipment should come today. If you go out, put this on the front door.

(The Fruit of the Month Club? Oka-aaaa-aay.)

Two hours later, an email arrived in my in-box, heralded by the same musical flourish that signals the delivery of e-bills and friend-and-family-discounts at Macy's and the million other mundane messages I get each day, but I looked at the sender's name and the title of the message and I knew -- this one was special. And it was. A long-time reader who's never commented here had taken the time to write and let me know that the sometimes-painful words I've written about Peabody and my new life as a mother of two have helped her through her new son's first months -- have saved her self-esteem as a new mother. She thanked me.

And through many tears I emailed her my own gratitude.

Minutes later, the doorbell rang. The fruit of the month? An apple.

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He's proud of what I do, Al wrote in the enclosed note. The posts I've written about his mother have gotten him through the toughest parts of his grief, he told me when I called to thank him.

God isn't my fairy godmother; I know this. He answers prayers in His way, in His time. Lately, and on a particular issue of mine, His time has lagged significantly behind mine, despite my begging and pleading and whining and crying and use of colorful language to make sure He's fully aware how angry I am and tired of waiting for His answer. One day I'll look back and know He was right, as always. He was right to make me wait. He had lessons to teach me, fires to refine me, a bit of suffering to draw me closer. I know this, too.

This question, though, asked as a second thought at dawn? He answered before noon.

And I will keep writing, for her (for you), for my husband, for my Father.

I will keep writing.



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Monday, August 24, 2009

Hanging Up Summer

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Bean, I asked, Can you look at the water for me?
(This child is just her father in puffy sleeves and daisy sandals.)


We trotted around town last Thursday with the camera, trying to capture some shots of the things we'll miss about the good old summertime out here on the prairie. Al and I say often, for these five months out of every year, Oh! So glorious! We will never-ever move away from here. Never.

And the other seven months we say nothing. Because our lips are frozen shut.

Feels like if I could find ways to remind us - I mean really, really stir in us the joy and the vitality and the warmth a prairie summer brings - all through those long, dark, cold winter days, maybe we'd stay in love with home a bit longer. So I've been out and bought some picture frames and now I'm working on a little photo trip across town (it's a short trip, y'all) under the brilliant sun, catching the colors and the life and the eye-music of this short but perfect season.

I'll hang these bright pictures, like love notes from a summer romance penned passionately to our winter selves, in the spots we'll cozy up into when the snow's waist high and the sky holds nothing but more and more, the white and gray above and the white and black below, the groan and shred of the wind the only reminders of movement and life outside our windows.

(Oh my law, I'm giving myself seasonal affective disorder just thinking about it. Sigh.)

Vivid sparks of summer's vibrant hues will dance on pale, ash-grey walls, images of hope and renewal to catch and tantalize our sleeping winter eyes.

OHMYGRANNY, I hope it works this year.





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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Have We Not Learned Anything from The Very Hungry Caterpillar Incident?

Have you ever noticed that when you're dieting, if you try to deny yourself that one thing your body's really craving (chocolate), you end up eating everything in the house to try and keep yourself away from that one thing (chocolate) and then, in the end, as you stand there in the kitchen burping up carrot and celery sticks, salami and cheese, rice cakes and peanut butter, dry colon-blow cereal and non-fat yogurt, grapes and diet soda, popcorn and sugar-free Jello, you still end up eating the thing you were trying to avoid (chocolate)?

And after that you feel much better? Photobucket

Why do we do that to ourselves, y'all?





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Monday, August 17, 2009

Don't Even Try to Change Our Minds

Shame we had to have such ugly children, we tease one another as we watch them.

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Yep. Sad, isn't it?

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And that they hate each other so much, too.

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Just breaks your heart.

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(Giggle.)



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Thursday, August 13, 2009

This is Not a Book Review

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This is a confession.

I am a bad person. A very, very bad person. The kind you walk around in a big, wide, suspicious circle way off into the grass if you have to pass me on the sidewalk. Maybe hold the children's hands and pull them in a little closer against you as I go by.

I am evil. And rotten.

I have a book I should've returned to the local library (Yes, the Butt-on-Horn library. That one.) a long time ago, in a month that rhymes with spittoon. It is now officially fifty-something days overdue and both of my parents just fell out of their respective chairs as they read this and died of embarrassment. Sorry Mom and Dad. Rest in peace. You raised me better. Yes, you did. Take comfort.

My sister, the library volunteer, is covering her children's eyes.

LOOK AWAY, NIECES AND NEPHEWS. DO NOT ALLOW YOUR INNOCENT SOULS TO BE TAINTED BY MY HORRIBLE TRANSGRESSION.

My friend Lainey? A semi-retired professional librarian? Forget it.

Y'all know I'll never hear from her again.

Upon my death, years hence, my children will find among my papers and belongings the two (TWO!) Overdue Materials Notices I've received. And Peabody will look them over carefully and raise his eyes to meet Bean's, and he'll gently take her hand to steady her as he says, Bean. Our mother was a ... a ... delinquent.

And they'll cry until they retch and then be forced to re-evaluate everything they ever believed about me, in the burning, ugly light of this new and painful discovery.

*SOB*

And the worst part is? It's a Little House on the Prairie book.

Y'all.

What would little Half-Pint say?

What would PA say?

I'm not too lazy to return the book. Oh, if it were only that simple, I'd gladly jump in the truck and drive up to the library and drop it in the slot. And then gun it out of the parking lot. Under cover of darkness. I'm all about a little road trip, no matter what time of day I've got to do it to keep the book police off my tail.

It's just. It's the humiliation, you know? I just think it's shameful to be so abhorrently negligent, although that doesn't stop me from perpetrating this sort of evil all over town, really. Like that one time I just gave up and pushed a shopping cart into the middle of parking space beside me and drove off, hoping it'd stay put, because Peabody REALLY WANTED TO GO HOME AND EAT.

You know, I still to this day worry about what might've happened to that cart.

And those people in that library - they will JUDGE me. I know this, because I worked in the library, right there at the circulation desk where such abominable wrongs are righted, for all three of my years at Easley Junior High, and I judged. Oh yes it happens all the time, we'd say, No problem we completely understand, we'd sing-song to them as we accepted their fine money and slipped the key into the lock of the grey metal box and dropped in their coins with what sounded like a conciliatory clink-clink-clink.

And then as they slunk back out the front door, the truth came out: Rabble-rouser! Can you believe some people? Probably jay-walks, too. Disregards leash-laws. Wears white after Labor Day. Yes, that's how it really is, people. Behind that friendly library-calm, humble public-servant smile, they'll be pegging me for a common literary thug. They'll lump me, ME!, into the same category with all the other book-hogging miscreants who don't return their media to the library in a timely fashion for the enjoyment of other patrons.

I'll be one of THOSE people, to them.

And that just chafes at me.

So the book just sits. And gets overduer.

And overduer.

And overduer.

What on earth am I going to do?

Besides the obvious, I mean.




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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Funeral, Part I

"Grandma's gone to heaven," Al said, as he returned our kitchen phone to its cradle. My breath caught. The news of Carrie Bell's passing wasn't shocking, really, just my husband's delivery. Matter-of-fact, tearless, a slight hint of relief.

A tiny little woman of eighty-four when I first met her five years ago, my mother-in-law had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease a few years earlier. And physically, Al has explained, she'd been deteriorating over the past decade. She'd been an energetic woman, never slowing down, a fireball, I think he called her, for eighty years, and now she was tired. Al was the eighth and final live birth of Carrie Bell's ten pregnancies. His arrival made the fourth boy, with three older brothers and four sisters waiting for him at home. He'd been two months premature, born weighing only two pounds, in rural South Georgia in the early 1960s.

Carrie Bell told him often it was a miracle he'd survived. That God had a mighty purpose for his life. She fed him oatmeal every morning for five years. To make him strong!

Over our thirteen years of friendship and marriage, Al has slowly shared favorite memories of his Mom. Like all the times she sent him out to choose a switch for his own backside when he'd been naughty as a child. She still kept him in line as an adult, too, and I could picture her, just as he described, storming up and grabbing a beer can out of his grown-man hand and scolding him in front of God and everybody at a cocktail party. Most of all, though, Al recalls so fondly the evenings he spent at home with Carrie Bell after his siblings grew up and left for college, her drinking coffee and him hot cocoa, there at the kitchen table, just talking.

She listened well, he wistfully remembers.

And she was wise, he tells me, over and over. She knew what was really important. Never asked for anything from anyone, but made her life about taking care of others. To anyone, her life would look like suffering, but for her, joy abounded. She loved Jesus and quoted scripture and listened to the gospel hour on the radio every day, her feet patting to the rhythm, her hands busy baking cakes and pies commissioned by the neighbors and three hot meals a day for her husband and children. They were poor, and Carrie worked hard and tirelessly cleaning houses and cooking and watching school teachers' young kids to help provide. Her husband didn't believe in accepting any sort of assistance. No charity. No hand-outs.

I've listened as Al described the times his father would get drunk and rage against him and his mother, and how she'd sit quietly with just one foot swaying purposefully, refusing to ever say a word to her husband in anger. And Al wasn't allowed to speak up to or against his father, either. When the man became violent, Grandma Carrie would barricade herself and her small, innocent son in the dark, back bedroom and cradle that child's head in her lap, telling him everything would be alright, not to worry.

Carrie valued education, and insisted that all of her children finish college. Most of them rewarded her tenacity by following college with post-graduate degrees. She'd married at fourteen and never completed high school, and wanted so much more for her kids. And she saw them get it, too.

Just before we walked down the front stoop to the circular driveway and climbed into our car for the journey home after each visit with Grandma, she'd hold our hands in hers and pray very, very quietly - so softly that I couldn't even hear what she was asking on our behalf - and I felt lifted and loved and safe. I know this: My mother-in-law's prayers have blessed my husband, my children, and me.

God listened to this woman. A moment in her presence and you knew, without a doubt, she belonged to Him.

And now she was with Him. I held Al tightly and cried. He stood strong and warm against me for a while, then pulled me away from him to look into my eyes, "It's okay. It's good. She's in heaven, Megan."




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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Just Remind Me to Be OUT OF TOWN Come Prom Weekend, Okay?

So Friday, Bee-bop asked me to straighten her hair. Which is much akin to her asking me to extract some of her teeth the old-fashioned way, because this kid would rather have me dig out her one-year molars with a rusty grapefruit spoon than touch her head, for any reason, including putting out a scalp fire or flicking off a rabid tarantula. Not that we've had to test that theory, mind you, I'm just extrapolating based on all of the hissing in-takes of breath and the ghoulish, hell-fire-hot screams I hear when I very gingerly extricate a pony-tail holder from her tangled mane.

As you can imagine, I was less than thrilled to accept this challenge, but she insisted she'd be still and not rupture my eardrums, so I acquiesced with a big, bold asterisk of protest stamped squarely in the middle of my forehead.

It was a bit like ironing a poodle.

We only got as far back as the tops of her ears before her instincts for self-preservation kicked in (OW! MY HEAD, MY HE-E-EAD, YOU'RE KILLIN' MY HEAD! MAMA, I'M LITERAWY DYIN' HERE!) but you get the idea, right?

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Monday, August 10, 2009

When Life Doesn't Give You Actual Lemons

Peabody's definitely feelin' his one-year-old oats lately. He walks around behind his little Fisher Price convertible car/walker like Frankenstein's baby, those precious chubby legs clomping along awkwardly, him stoppin' from time to time to find my eyes, wait for my applause, grin, and wave a fat little hand high up in the air before he takes off again.

He's also finally stopped shoving aside all the finger foods I put on his tray and sittin' there squawking at me with his little mouth agape, waitin' for that spoon-lady to show up and shovel in the oatmeal and applesauce as fast as she can. It's a good thing, too, because I wasn't much relishing the thought of puttin' his first birthday cake through the food processor.

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I made a plain old chocolate cake with chocolate buttercreme frosting for the big day. The cake came from an old Brownie Scout recipe, as lore has it, and it's one of the best chocolate cakes I've ever eaten. I topped the whole thing with a ring of Mini-m&ms for just a little pop of color, and I'm truly happy with how it turned out.

ASIDE:

Y'all see those lemons back there behind the cake in the picture?

Funny story about those lemons.

I bought those lemons to display on the kitchen table about a month ago. They're lovely little lemons, so bright and fresh and summery. They're also, um, faux, and if you could see them up close and clearly, you'd note that because of the fact that they're all welded together in one big clump, from certain angles the pile looks like its defying gravity, with one or two lemons just sorta hangin' out of the arrangement into mid-air, as if they tumbled off the heap at just the wrong moment.

In historic downtown Pompeii.

So Friday afternoon, Al comes in from work with a bag in his hand, and he's just a beamin'. PROUD, this man is.

Bought us the makings for Lemon Drop martinis on the way home, hon.

(He's got a bottle of lemon flavored vodka, and he's brandishing it like he stomped the dang potatoes and coiled up the copper wire and painstakingly bottled the stuff himself. I love that about men, don't you? I plan and shop and cook forty-leven meals a week around here, and he's strutting around like a rooster because he stopped by the Seb'm-Eleb'm and picked up a bottle of fancy hooch.) (I'm just sayin'.)

YUMMY! I smile back at him.

He unloads the bag, taking out this and that and lining it all up on the kitchen counter, like trophies. Steps back to admire it all, and sidesteps over to the cabinet to pull out the shaker and martini glasses.

Lemon juice? I ask.

Yes please, he answers. I was gonna buy some but then I thought, NO, we don't need any lemons, we have plenty, thanks to my lovely wife!

We don't have any lemons, lovey.

He laughs, and walks over to the kitchen table and smiles back at me. We do have lemons. See?

Oh yeah! I laugh. Grab one of those.

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Hee hee hee.

/ASIDE.


I was a little nervous about baking Peabody's cake this year because I'm still trying to live down the disaster that was Bean's first birthday cake. She'd not yet fully outgrown that common-in-babies allergic reaction to the albumin in egg whites, so I had to make her strawberry Jello cake with all egg yolks, and we were down at the Isle of Palms in South Carolina stayin' in a rental house with a strange (as in unknown as well as bizarrely possessed of certain qualities theretofore only attributed to the SUN) oven.

Well, the unfortunate combination of the egg-yolks-only batter and the series of SOLAR FLARES that oven put out over the course of the recommended baking time resulted in Bean having not a cake per se, so much as a round, pink and sooty-black birthday briquette. We captured the Big Moment on video, too, me proudly carryin' the thing over and placing it on the table in front of our baby, holding my breath in anticipation of her happy, delighted squeals of ecstasy, followed by her staring long and hard at it in unmasked horror and dismay.

Al does not let any mention of any birthday cake ever slip by without a lengthy and detailed recitation of the tragic tale of the Bean's Igneous Strawberry-Flavored Birthday Rock. (We will need to address this in counseling someday.)

Peabody's cake was my culinary Phoenix, risin' up proud and chocolatey from the disappointing ashes of that rosy pink rubble heap.

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No horror or dismay there.

I blogged about more puckerable stuff at 5 Minutes for Parenting today.


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Friday, August 7, 2009

My Only One

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Happy Birthday Peabody!

Oh, my little boy, what magic you do to Mama with those big melty blue eyes of yours! The crazy, reckless joy I feel just being in your happy, star-brightened company is a spell I hope will never, ever be broken.

One full year into our life together, you're a still a breath-taking wonder to me. Every single minute we spend together forces me re-draw the outer edges of my heart to make room for the enormous love that grows and grows and grows there - just for you.

I love you, my biggest, sweetest boy!

Love,

Mama

Thursday, August 6, 2009

And All This Happened Before I Even Climbed Up onto the Exam Table

So Friday, people. THIS FRIDAY. As in TOMORROW. Is Peabody's FIRST BIRTHDAY.

I kno-o-ow! I can't believe it either. But here's the proof. I wrote this post a year ago today, and the very next day I wrote one about how tiny Peabody's little ears were. It's funny, because in the comments on the original post, many of you said, "Hope Peanut gets here soon, now that Nana's there," and by Jove, he did. And dang it if that wasn't the very last time he ever did anything anybody else wanted him to do. But we love him anyway, don't we?


Nana has arrived, Thank You, Lord and AMEN. I'd tell you all about how relieved and happy I feel about that except that every time I try, I fall over face-first onto my keyboard, awash in tears of joy and thanksgiving. And that is hardly any exaggeration at all.

Y'all know what I hope? I hope someday I get to be MY daughter's salvation the way my Mom has been to me the past 24 hours.

Seriously. That there is some good mothering. The kinda motherin' that walks purposefully through the front door and immediately flows into every room, making that which has felt ominous or impossible seem perfectly bearable and doable again. Miraculous!

Had a visit with my OB today. Everything was goin' along just fine until it was time for my requisite (and highly-anticipated, I might add, as I had been sucking down water and Gatorade by the quart for 2 hours prior) appointment with the little-plastic-cup-behind-the-little-metal-door, whereupon I placed myself ever so delicately down onto the appropriate, um, vehicle, and immediately began panicking as the, uh, journey, shall we say, began against my will. Before I'd had time to properly arrange myself and the proper receptacle.

Well, I was unable to stop or even slow things down at all and found myself frantically juggling plastic cup, green Sharpie pen and Sharpie pen lid, hastening to get things into place before the moment was lost, when PLOOP, the Sharpie slipped out of my grasping, desperate hand and into ... DAH DAH DAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!

The Potty.

OHMYGRANNY! I wheezed under my breath.

In one awkward yet synchronized motion, I managed to retrieve the pen, slam on its lid, get the cup where it needed to be and complete the mission as assigned, all the while thinking with no small measure of consternation and/or humiliation:

I dropped the PEN into the POTTY!

WITHOUT ITS LID ON!

I can't just put it back in the basket with the cups for the next unsuspecting person who comes along!

What'll I do now?


Well, what would y'all have done?

Yeah. I thought so.

That's not what I did though. Because that would have been too easy. Not humiliating enough. In short, completely unMeganlike.

Here's what I did.

I scrunched the pen way down into the garbage can, under some paper towels. I re-robed myself and washed my hands until they were raw. I collected my purse and my water bottle and I carefully wiped the water up from around the sink.

And then I stepped out of that restroom and and I faced the music.

"I... er... um... er... I... uh." I whispered to the waiting nurse. "I dropped the pen into the potty. (Embarrassed, pained smile.) So I thought it best to just throw the pen away. Hopefully you have another pen you can put in there?"

"YOU MEAN THE PEN YOU USE TO WRITE YOUR NAME ON THE SPECIMEN CUP? YOU DROPPED THAT ONE IN THE TOILET?"

Nod. (OHMYGRANNY.)

Sigh.



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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Not Only That, But We Also Managed to Get Out of There Without Granddaddy Asking Al If He Was Related to Flip Wilson. Again.

As part of our trip down to the homeland last month, we spent a couple days visiting my family in South Carolina. One morning as Mom and I wrapped up our morning, she suggested we go visit my grandparents at their home in the assisted living center about 10 miles away.

To which I answered "WellIdunnoyouknowPeabodyhastotakeanapandIhaven't
hadashowerandHEYLOOKATTHEBLOOMSONTHATMAGNOLIA!"

Y'all? I lo-o-ove my grandparents. OHMYGRANNY, I do. Those two people treated my sister and my cousins and me like little princesses our entire childhoods. They routinely took us off on trips, just us kids. My grandmother patiently taught us to cook, knit and crochet. She even let us drag out all of the lovely and mysterious old hat boxes she kept up in the tops of several closets in her house, exotic boxes that bore the most eclectic array of head gear imaginable, many of these show-stoppers made by her own hands, and put them on one another and giggle until we couldn't draw breath anymore. Oh my heavens, this woman had some hats, people. Hats that'd make Aretha Franklin blush and say, "Oh I don't b'lieve I could carry that one off, honey."

My Granddaddy'd entertain us for hours on end with Tiddly-winks, Tinker Toys, Bingo and dominoes. Some weekends we'd all go with him to the B. F. Goodrich sales office he ran, and while he took care of a few things, we'd run rough-shod over the place, claiming our own offices and pretending we were the people whose names appeared on the plasti-wood plates on each door. I was always Brenda, I remember that. We'd perk some decaffeinated (he was easy-going, but not dumb, my grandfather) coffee which we'd load up with sugar-cubes and sip out of those nifty disposable plastic cups that fit into the burnt umber and avocado and goldenrod molded plastic holders, run the Xerox machine until it was coughing out blanks and leave reams of cryptic While You Were Out notes for all the secretaries to try to decipher Monday morning.

On holiday weekends Granddaddy stood down in his basement at his homemade green plywood table beating us in game after game of ping-pong, until we got good enough that we were almost challenging opponents. Granddaddy taught me all about money and investing and he did such a great job sparking my interest that I grew up to become a stock-broker.

They were awfully good to us, my grandparents. I couldn't have asked for better, and you don't have to tell me, people, that I should LEAP UNEQUIVOCATINGLY (made up word) at the chance to see them and tell them that whenever I get the chance.

But I don't.

See, I have all these issues with aging, and death, and the thought of seeing my grandparents, who have always been active and vibrant, the life of every party and a couple of my biggest heroes, now tired and worn down and fading away scares the pants off me. And I'm your basic selfish coward, so I choose to avoid facing my fears versus doing what I know is right and what would bring them, these two dear people who helped give me such an amazing childhood and have blessed me long, long into my adulthood, a little joy. I generally skip a visit with them when I'm home.

(PleasebepatientGodisnotfinishedwithmethankyouverymuch.)

Also, and it's hard for me to say this, my grandparents are obviously from an earlier generation, and they grew up in the rural South, and thus they hold some out-dated beliefs, assumptions, and, well, just basic ignorance, when it comes to skin-color. I won't go so far as to say that they are proper racists, but mostly I say that because they ARE my grandparents and I love them and sometimes you have to give the people you love the benefit of the doubt because you love them and you want to KEEP loving them. I'd classify my grandparents beliefs about non-white people as classic under-exposure and misunderstanding, really.

(Side-step, side-step, shuffle-step, hop.)

Thanks to this little, shall we say, "quirk of personality" in my grandfolks, my husband has been treated, at gatherings on my side of the family, to such conversational pearls as the one in which my Grandfather noted with astonishment Bean's very, very curly hair and my Grandmother explained sotto voce, "Well you know, Chester, her father is diff'rent." And the time that my Grandmother, accepting a compliment from her neighbor on baby Bean's beauty, answered, "Well, she's light now, but she'll darken up."

And we've laughed to ourselves, you know, because what else can you do? They're in their 90s now, so probably well past the point of changing their minds. Still, a part of me just wants to keep my little family away and protect Al and the kids from what might be said. Why court disaster?

But this trip, my mother and my husband wouldn't let me squirm out of seeing Grandmama and Granddaddy. No, that morning they combined forces and gently encouraged me to go, and to take the kids, to do it for my grandparents, not for me, because who knows? (I can't make myself finish that thought but you know what I mean, right?)

And I went. We all went. I rode over there with a knot in my stomach, frightened about what they'd be like, fearful of how the visit might play out. But when we pulled into the parking lot, I sucked it up, screwed on a smile and marched myself into their building, determined to set aside all of MY ISSUES and let the next 90 minutes be about somebody besides me.

My grandmother doesn't hear well, and Granddaddy's mind (and thus the conversation) gets stuck in tight little loops thanks to the ravages of Alzheimer's, so we had to tell them loudly, WE LIVE IN CHICAGO NOW. And YES, WE DO LIKE IT. And SURE, WE MIGHT MOVE BACK DOWN SOUTH AGAIN SOMEDAY about umpteen times. And Al sweetly and politely chuckled as Granddaddy joked, every 10 minutes or so when he'd get to that part of the loop, SO YOU'RE A STOCKBROKER, AL? WELL I NEED TO TALK TO YOU, THEN, BECAUSE I HAVE A LOT OF MONEY I NEED TO INVEST!

But for awhile Bean played outside with Nana, and Al kept Peabody reined in, so there was relative peace and quiet, and I got a chance to tell my grandparents how much I love them, and what GREAT grandparents they've been. I reminded them of many of the special things they've done for me, and with me, and how much their love and generosity has shaped who I've grown up to be. And my grandfather even found a place in one of his crazy conversational loops to look me straight in the eye and say, "You've always been a smart girl, Megan. I knew that from the time you were little."

And when we left, I hugged and kissed them both and left feeling so thankful I'd made the trip over to see them. Not because it was the right thing to do for THEM, but because THEY, once again, had given me something I really wanted and needed: The opportunity to see that no matter how old they get, they're still my Grandmama and Granddaddy Clover, and they always will be.








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Monday, August 3, 2009

The Simplest Gift

"I want my wife back," Al confessed sadly as I fell into bed, exhausted, last Thursday night.

I want her back, too, I thought to myself, even more sadly.

Inside me, his words stung. I'm trying, I pushed out, so very wearily.

And I am trying. I'm just not that great at being Mama to a baby. I'm not. I mean, actually I'm okay with the baby, it's everyone else in my life that gets less of me. Babies stress me out. They tie me in knots. They drain me. Both of my babies have.

It's not because I don't love them. I love them CRAZY. Not because they aren't both beautiful, and sweet, and funny, and perfect. Just because they are babies, and they're almost always fully my responsibility, no matter what sort of day they're having or what they need or how they or I feel. And I do it. And I even do it fairly proficiently, I think.

But while I'm engrossed in meeting the needs of a baby, my husband doesn't get much from me. I just seem to have very little left to give him at the end of these long days of mothering. Some nights I'm so tired I can barely lift my head and make eye-contact with Al. I serve the dinner and clean it up and help tuck in the kids and then I'm toast. I fall into bed and am asleep within minutes. And I knew it would be this way. I expect Al to understand why it is this way, and I even know he does, but still he suffers a loss, be it an understandable loss or not.

After our talk on Thursday night, I spent Friday in a deep, dark haze, hearing his words, his hurt, over and over again in my mind. And feeling my own pain and my fear. What does he want from me? I wondered. I allowed myself to imagine what he wants - what he expects - and was then forced to face just how far short of his imaginary list of demands I've fallen. I resented him for his imaginary selfishness. He can't ask these things of me. I'm trying to give these kids what they need. They're small and dependent. They need so much. So much! And now he wants more from me. How can I do it all? Why can't he see what he's asking is unrealistic and unfair?

I got angry. I got mad at him for wanting more and more and more from me. I festered and grumbled and panicked. Each minute inside my own head left me more frustrated and hopeless. All day long I ached and I boiled. I can't give him more. There's no more left.

He came home Friday night and I was still hollow and wretched inside. We went to bed quietly.

Saturday started with thick, muggy distance between us. We busied ourselves taking care of the kids and running errands as usual, but without the laughing banter we normally share when we're together. After lunch, Peabody's nap ended too early, so Al put him in the car and drove him around for nearly two hours so he could sleep. As Bean napped, I sat alone in the quiet house thinking.

I replayed the past 36 hours in my mind. And suddenly, I understood.

I want my wife back.

His wife. He wants his wife back.

He's not making demands for MORE. He doesn't want me to do more, or be more. The list of demands I've imagined is my own list. My list of All The Ways I'm Failing My Husband.

Al doesn't have a list. He has a wife. Well, he had one. Me. And he wants her back.

Me.

All he wants is just me.

And starting now, I will find a way to give him that.

(I wrote about my first step at 5 Minutes for Parenting this morning.)




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