Samantha

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Years ago, when I was not even 20, I saw a psychic who told me I would have 3 children. She looked very carefully at the lines on my hand, and softly said,” I see two tall men and a small woman standing together looking at your stone.”

There are two inconsistencies with her message that have appeared over the years.

As a matter of fact,  I gave birth to 3 sons, with the first dying within an hour of his birth, and I never gave birth to any more children following my youngest son, Nicholas.

The second inconsistency would be the whole “looking down at my stone” rubbish, as I do not want to be buried and my kids know if they put me or my ashes in the dirt, I will haunt them for the rest of their lives and might even show up as a ghost to traumatize them while they are having sex some time in the future, after I am long gone.

I would do it, and they know it.

When the boys were young, and I knew I wouldn’t be having any more children, I decided that the small woman must be one of their future wives. Future me maybe hits it off well with one of their wives and she will come with them to the “stone”, which better translate to grassy wood or stream or wherever they decide to toss my ashes. I have already expressed that I don’t care where that happens, as I will be everywhere, so the location of my remains does not matter in the least to me.

The story of how I met my Samantha is pretty convoluted.

She is the daughter of a man(child) I was involved with for many, many years. He had lost contact with his daughter years previous to our getting together, as her mother was bitter about the circumstances of the breakdown of their relationship, as far as I can surmise from the information that has been shared with me. Samantha has confirmed that to him, so it seems to be that it was indeed the reason she was kept from him until he located her (with my help), when she was about 18.

I wish I could say that it all turned out lovely, but it really didn’t, at all. Samantha’s upbringing with her mother was the stuff nightmares are made of, and despite our hopes that she had had a lovely childhood, she most certainly did not. She eventually called child services and had herself and her brother removed from the home her mother and stepfather resided in and never lived with them again. So, she basically brought herself up, in a rotten broken system, and moved in with a boyfriend and his mother at the age of 16. Not surprisingly, she didn’t make the best choice in a boyfriend.

Knowing her and her delicate heart, I suspect she was attracted to the home and the mother figure more than the boy himself. The normalcy of the environment.

At the time she came into my life, she had walls around her that Trump could only dream of. This tiny little girl barely 5’1, with a permanent tight-lipped expression on her face and language a sailor would envy. (That actually endeared her to me, as I come from a long line of creative cursers.) She talked a real tough game. Acted like nothing could ever make her crack and it was very difficult to ease into this new relationship for both her father and for me.

I made the decision to hold back and allow whatever relationship we would have to be decided by her. She was an adult already, and I was not sure what my place would be in her life at that time- friend, big sister, Dad’s wife, or evil step-mother. Plus I felt her relationship with her father was more important work. Sadly, they struggled to connect right from the start, and that broke my heart for both of them. He wanted to treat her like the 7-year-old he last saw and she had been basically taking care of herself AND her little brother her entire life, so did not welcome that from him. No matter how many times I tried to tell him that, he ignored it and carried on, which just made her more angry- and she was already a girl hosting a lifetime of anger inside of her small frame.

I honestly think she was smarter than anyone gave her credit for and knew he couldn’t be trusted with her heart, so she refused to allow it to happen. Not from anything her mother said to her, but from her own gut feeling and years of analyzing broken people and their motivations. She saved herself from more heartache.

I know her father loves her as much as he can love anyone in this world, but he really isn’t one to count on. He comes and goes. He’s here, then he’s not.

Broken.

I separated from her father a couple of years back. At the time, I wasn’t entirely sure how she would proceed, or with who.

She chose me.

Immediately and with more support than I could have ever expected.

I have spent a lot of time getting to know Samantha and my love for her has a permanent place in my heart, in that special space that once only had room for my boys.

During the last 2 years, she has severed ties with her mother, and does not talk to her at all. She has now severed ties with her father, as well, in what I suspect was her feeling that it was only fair, as she was making that choice with her mother. The last time he tried contacting her, she asked him for space. She was planning a wedding and was not in the frame of mind to deal with trying to fix their relationship at that time.

She had found a nice guy, lived with him for many years, and didn’t need that male relationship, as her guy was a big old bear of protection between her and the world around her.

During the time she made these difficult decisions, I listened to her. and allowed her the time to figure out what was best for her. If I have done anything, I have tried to encourage her that perhaps someday her mother and father will change and that there is always hope for that.

Not to give up the hope. Ever.

I have also told her that she has every right to make whatever decisions she wants with her life. I gently suggested that she was always so angry and blowing up at minor issues, and that I have noticed that this doesn’t happen anymore. I never say a negative thing about her mother or her father, but I also don’t think she owes either of them anything.

Having raised sons, this is all new to me.

The bar is higher here and she expects more of me than my sons ever have.

The daily calls or texts- ” How do I check my credit score” , ” What temperature for the chicken” , ” I have a chance at a new job- what do I do”, ” do you think I drink enough water”……endless questions and requests for advice!

It was me and my boys who were her family at her wedding in Mexico in November, and I was the mother of the bride- I have the dried corsage and pictures to prove it!

Recently, we left the hospital after visiting her grandmother, and I suddenly blurted out to her that being old and vulnerable scared me more than dying did. I have worked in healthcare long enough to see the elderly languishing in chairs, some of them strapped in and medicated, to prevent falls. I have also prepared investigative reports on abuse and neglect, by staff and families. I am aware of the realities of long-term care.

I was the driver, so I kept my eyes straight ahead, full of tears, and tried to shake the feeling off. Focus on the road. Get us both home safe.

I felt her hand reach out for mine that was on the stick shift, and she squeezed it and held on for a long time.

She said ” Shannon-  I would never let that happen to you- I promise.”

And I glanced at her quickly, and realized that in spite of the paths we had both taken, and the ones we chose not to take, and the people in both our lives that had fallen away over the years,  I had been given the gift of a daughter.

And not one I created myself- one who chose to love me and invite me into her heart as a mother.

Looking back, I wonder if her father was only a bridge to get to the side she was waiting for me on, like a little child, lost and looking for help.

Or perhaps, I was the lost child, waiting for her to come and find me.

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together, but do so with all your heart.”

Marcus Aurelius

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost

Lost in the thought of the last time I saw your eyes looking straight into my heart and the goodbye you could not speak, but we both knew was arriving.

i’m leaving you soon. you’ll be ok. thank you for loving me. you’ll be just fine. you are so strong.

The sight of you wrapped in a heated flannel, strapped to the chair because they knew you would not stay in the bed.

i know, if we just keep moving nothing bad will happen. i know, Mark. i have been where you are.

The impromptu braiding of your long hair after lovingly brushing it out of your ashen face.

they hated your long hair. endless bitching about how you looked like a girl. it was beautiful.

Strands of silver weaving throughout the chestnut and my snipping of the tangled ends stuck to the wires all over your chest.

let me do it. i’ll make sure it doesn’t hurt you. i wont let anyone hurt you. i promise.

When you reached out to take our hands on either side of you, I knew.

i’m not ready. i can’t do this. oh god, not now. you are so strong. you can come back from this.

When the time for leaving came, my walking backwards, making a silly face to see you smile, anything for one more smile. Telling you I would be back tomorrow.

there won’t be any more tomorrows for you and I. we is over and soon just me.

Your head turning ever so slowly towards me, and your sad eyes looking into mine.

i will always be with you. you will never be alone in the world. i will be beside you. forever.

 

I will never be lost. My brother is always with me and wouldn’t allow that to happen.

He will always tell my heart which direction is home.

t8qac

 

 

 

 

 

Lonely

Lonely is such a strange word to me and forces me to think about how being lonely and being alone are entirely different things, which bring up very different feelings within me.

It arouses no pangs from within me, but the sight of the little bunny in the picture brought tears to my eyes, so there must be something lingering, likely related to my sons in some way. My youngest had a Peter Rabbit themed nursery, so that is where my thoughts have taken me today.

When cleaning out my sons’ rooms, after they moved away, the sight of their things made my chest hurt and tears sting my eyes, but I didn’t take the time to process the feelings inside me. There was work to do and things to stuff deep, as that is always easiest, right??

I think the only loneliness I feel right now is one for those sweet little boys and those simple days of routine and ruckus all rolled into one.

The days where I couldn’t think straight for lack of sleep, but recall laying in bed or on the couch, with little ones in my arms, their sleeping breaths fanning my cheek. Tickling my face from tendrils of my hair drifting back and forth.

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The absolute mess and devastation of my bathroom at all times, but particularly around seven in the evening, following their nightly bath. The time my oldest ran screaming down the hall to tell me his baby brother had decided to try and get the poop off his butt by using his Dad’s toothbrush.

The sight and smell of them together tucked into one bed. Always had their own beds, but the younger always seemed to find his way into the other bed by morning, so they woke up together.

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Their chubby little legs running through tall grass to get to the swings or slide. The way the sunshine made their cheeks so pink and hot. The smell of wet puppy that little boys always seem to have lingering on them after a day outside in the sun.

My oldest wanting Willow every single night for almost a year as his bedtime story. Reciting every word by heart. The expression in his voice and the sparkle in his eyes.

 

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My regret that I hid Curious George because it was 40 pages long and I had more important things to do than read a book that long at bedtime. Funny how I can’t remember now what was more important than poor Curious George- likely dishes or laundry. That saddens me.

My baby serenading me with Bryan Adams playing in my old Camaro. 2 1/2 years old, every lyric in his tiny little memory bank; him strapped in his car seat maintaining eye contact with me in the rear view mirror, ” Ebberyything I dooooooo…….I do it for YOU!”

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Assorted action figures, some with no heads, some missing arms and legs, buried in yards from the past. Pieces of paper with every colour of crayon utilized- torn, taped, and stuffed into file folders in a chest rarely opened, unless someone needs to know if they ever had chicken pox for their HR department.

The time they found a box of tampons under the bathroom sink and proceeded to soak them in the sink and then tie them around their Batman and Superman action figures ( parachutes – duh) and fling them down the hallway. Unfortunately, during a Tupperware party being hosted by moi.  The looks on the faces of the some of the ladies present and the roar of my Mom’s laughter filling the house.

Explaining over and over and OVER again that it is not OK to try to get up on Gramma’s lap, but that it WAS OK to kiss Nanny square on the lips if the feeling over came them.

Hearing their voices raised together ” Brudders stick together!”  – my lazy-ass version of a family mission statement.

The sight of them dropping their shorts to pee on the camp fire and try to put it out that one summer at the cabin. Still not sure where they got that idea.

Endless knock knock jokes and magic tricks from my eldest.

What I thought would be endless kisses and strokes of my hair by my youngest.

Their clear gazes- no blinking at all- staring at my face as if they were trying to remember it forever.

Those memories make me lonely now and I would give anything to go back for even one more day.

The Last Time

From the moment you hold your baby in your arms,
you will never be the same.
You might long for the person you were before,
When you have freedom and time,
And nothing in particular to worry about.

You will know tiredness like you never knew it before,
And days will run into days that are exactly the same,
Full of feedings and burping,
Nappy changes and crying,
Whining and fighting,
Naps or a lack of naps,
It might seem like a never-ending cycle.

But don’t forget …
There is a last time for everything.
There will come a time when you will feed
your baby for the very last time.
They will fall asleep on you after a long day
And it will be the last time you ever hold your sleeping child.

One day you will carry them on your hip then set them down,
And never pick them up that way again.
You will scrub their hair in the bath one night
And from that day on they will want to bathe alone.
They will hold your hand to cross the road,
Then never reach for it again.
They will creep into your room at midnight for cuddles,
And it will be the last night you ever wake to this.

One afternoon you will sing “the wheels on the bus”
and do all the actions,
Then never sing them that song again.
They will kiss you goodbye at the school gate,
The next day they will ask to walk to the gate alone.
You will read a final bedtime story and wipe your last dirty face.
They will run to you with arms raised for the very last time.

The thing is, you won’t even know it’s the last time
Until there are no more times.
And even then, it will take you a while to realize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Undone

I read the prompt for this week’s writing challenge and thought of the minutia that is bouncing around in my head at all times, appointments to make, and repairs that need looking after but quite frankly, that sounded like way too much work for me today, so I have decided that what feels most undone in relation to my priorities is a rather scary conversation that I need to have at some point in the near future with my eldest son.

Having gown up in a pretty chaotic environment, as a Mother myself, I sheltered my boys from everything that could possibly hurt them. Not physical hurt- they were fine healthy boys and I knew they would survive the breaks and stitches and bumps and bruises like most kids do. I protected them from emotional hurt. From the fear of not having enough money, or food, or falling ill three days before pay day and how that could topple the whole house of cards over.

I protected them from all my unresolved hurts that came with me into adulthood and motherhood at a young age. I protected them from fears of family dying, and illnesses that strike innocent babies and parents who barely speak to each other but stay together 5 MORE years for the sake of the “children.”

I have two sons. The older is a lot like me in looks and temperament. He also seems to be showing signs of maybe having picked up a bit of the “family” illness. Signs that I am not positive about and quite honestly, don’t have the strength to deal with at this time. Things are going well for him in his life at this moment, great job, new love, involvement in the arts community he so loves. He has openly admitted that he is far better in the routine of a relationship, so I am going to put that other business…that worry..away for now.

He is my softer hearted boy. We are incredibly close and times when he has asked me as all eldest children do ” WHY are you so HARD on ME? WHY not HIM?” I respond back, “Because I know you will never cut me out of your life totally. I know I can have these moments with you and you will always be here for me. I know you won’t ever go away forever and never come back.”

My younger son is much more rational and much more reserved. He is the go-to whenever you have a hard time figuring out which direction to take. Whether it is literally a path in the road or which faucets to purchase for the kitchen sink. He is the son who knows where all the paper work is. The will. The insurance documents. My bank card. My PIN #. He doesn’t care for when things get emotionally messy. He will find the nearest exit usually at the first sign of a tear or emotional outburst.

Humorous aside: When I sat down with my kids and told them about their uncle’s prognosis, their exact first reactions were – Eldest son laid head down on kitchen table and cried silently. Younger son hit me with 303 questions in a rapid fire manner regarding second opinions, living wills, home care, caregiver support, medications, and end of life requests.

Now I have rambled on and on about the kids and haven’t gotten to the meat of the post here. I am all potatoes today, instead! You needed the background information, though, in order to understand why I need to have this conversation with my oldest son.

I know that in his heart, my eldest feels that I have let him down at points in his life or tried to step back from swimming in his pain with him. I know he has felt I am hypervigilent about silly matters such as how many beers in everyone is, or why forgetting to lock the door makes his Mom lose her shit at times, or why seemingly simple things like raising your loud male voice suddenly at something amazing on t.v. can make his Mom shake like a leaf for hours following.

I need to come clean with my son about some of my past and the way I was raised. I have white washed a lot in my stories, in order to shelter them from pain. I have put on a brave, in-control face their whole lives in order to make them feel safe and secure. But I know my eldest wonders at times why I react in ways I do to simple little things that he perceives as non-threatening.

I will feel undone until I talk to him about some pretty painful events that shaped his smiling but nervous Mom into who she is. And I am not worried that the love will not remain. I just don’t want him to feel pain because of me. I  want him to understand that I did what I could with the tools I had as a young mother and made some incredibly stupid choices along the way because I didn’t know any better and didn’t seek the help I very obviously needed back when I needed it most.

And if that helps him to understand me better, and to perhaps even assist him with his own life choices, then it won’t have been in vain.

And then it will be done.

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Prince # 1 – The Artist

 

 

The Stupid Broke-Down Rusted-Out Merry-Go-Round

A year and a half ago I made the trek back to my home town, to fulfill a promise I made to my baby brother. Shortly before he died, he asked that his ashes be put into our father’s grave.

The cremation itself was quite an accomplishment, as he had never cared for the idea. I found out during that discussion that he was afraid that he could possible be burnt alive, due to someone’s mistake, or incompetence.

Having worked in healthcare for years, most specifically with hospice patients, I was pretty sure that this had never happened ever in the history of all time. ( Please don’t show me any stats and prove me wrong!)

Once I reassured him that he needn’t fear, he was totally on board with cremation so that he could go in with Dad. He liked that idea and I thought it was nice as well, being as our Mom insisted on being scattered here and there and I STILL have a portion of her in a lovely, discreet box in my living room, awaiting the mutual availability of my sons to go do it with me. ( Truthfully, none of us have the heart for it and have every excuse not to.)

While I was back home, the day following my brother’s memorial service, I took my man , my stepdaughter and her boyfriend out to the lake my family had a cabin at for my entire childhood. We spent all our summers there, swimming, boating, playing in the sand,  & endless hours at the  dinky playground with only three stupid rusted out playground items to play on.

I will be honest. I was pretty tired and hung-over on this day. The memorial had gone well and we had been hosted following the service, in our friends’ beautiful yard –  flowers, sunshine, music and plenty of bevvies. Relieved that I had actually made it through my eulogy without a breakdown, I was ready for a drink..or ten.

So, the next day, we are at the lake. We spent some time in the water, we walked the old board walk. I was a regular Anthony Bourdain, telling stories, sharing history of the lake, the cabins, the geography.

Everything was fine until we walked through the shady coolness of the trees and I was at the playground, without knowing it. Someone made a joke about the disrepair of the equipment and how nowadays, helicopter parents would be apt to sue if their precious snowflakes got cut on a jagged edge or rusty handle.

One moment I was laughing; the next I was frozen.

I was back there in the 70’s with them all. With the eyes and ears and heart of the daughter and sister I was. I am neither of those things now..nobody’s daughter, nobody’s sister.

My “new” family had walked on ahead, chatting, laughing, not noticing I was standing still.

That is where I finally broke.

After years of watching my brother dying- of watching him in pain and regret and wasting away.

Seeing that stupid fucking rusted out merry-go-round sitting still in the shade and quiet sent me over the deep end.

For one soul-shattering moment in time, I went back. I could SEE my parents sitting on the porch of the cabin. Enjoying the shade and a cocktail together.

I could HEAR the sounds of the music coming out of the  radios of the cars the teenagers cruised around in.

I could SEE my brother’s silky blonde hair wafting in the breeze of the merry-go-round. I could SMELL his wet puppy smell that all young active boys carry with them. I saw his dancing eyes and his whole life in front of him and how it all ended up and it broke my heart absolutely.

I can say honestly that I felt a piece of my very heart tear itself loose and drop there on the ground,dead. Forever to be hidden under the sand and leaves and snow in the winter.

It happened in the time it would take to count to ten and then it was gone.

And all because of a stupid rusted out merry-go-round.