The Times, They Are…

June 18, 2015

June has been a pretty major month for us.

I finished my degree at Quincy College, a degree I’ve been working on for the past four years.

I left my job at the South Shore YMCA. The Y is one my favorite places in the whole world, and I consider the people of the Health and Well-Being Department family. But I needed to make space in my life, for my full-time job at the college and my kids.

My daughter is graduating on Friday from 5th grade. We are saying goodbye to Collicot Elementary School. There will be no more field trips or cafeteria duty. I won’t be walking her to school next year, or even picking her up from the school bus. She is making her own plans, I’m no longer negotiating play dates and or making delicate inquiries to other parents about whether or not she’s old enough to come home to an empty house. (She’s been coming home to an empty house from time to time for over a year now but I didn’t admit it to almost anyone.)

My son has completed his freshman year of high school. I know that doesn’t sound like an ending, he has three more years to go.

In the beginning of this year, he’d tell me what he had for lunch almost every night, he was excited about the salad bar and the after school options and playing football under the lights.

Now, he won’t tell me what he had for lunch, or maybe I stopped asking. He doesn’t get excited unless he’s mad at me. Then he’s very excited.

Since I’m done with my classes and only working one job, I’ve had a little spare time.

I started cleaning.

It’s spring, I was busy all winter- it was time to put the house in order.

I emptied drawers. I sorted thru clothes. I swept underneath the couch.

I found the Nerf ball we used for games of catch at Andrews Park. I dusted and polished every single one of Katy’s sculptures. I found Cheerios under everything; they quit eating Cheerios a year ago. There were stickers from the dentist and bottles of bubbles from birthday party gift bags.

And there were photographs, some of them curled, more than a few incredibly embarrassing, and all of them more than a year old. These days, memories are stored on the cellphone or on the cloud.

All this cleaning and sorting- I felt like an archaeologist or a nosy neighbor.

I didn’t remember what Colin’s voice sounded like before it changed. I can’t believe Katy ever got excited about Dora Explorer light up sandals.

I spent a lot of time in the past two weeks, (and yes, it’s been two weeks, I’m not kidding when I said the house needed a lot of cleaning,) mourning and moaning about how I missed the two kids in the pictures, And that being a parent means having to say goodbye on an almost daily basis to the people you love to make room for the latest version of the same people, slightly taller and surly.

Some nights, I would look at my children across the table and wish I was sitting across from the people in the snapshots I’d been mooning over.

Today, there was no time for cleaning, or dinner, or a walk with Sophia the Most Patient of Puppies. I had to take Colin to basketball, attend a committee meeting, help Katy find a dress for graduation, walk the dog, and then, at ten pm pick Colin up from the Y.

Colin had had an even longer day than I did. He spent all day studying for finals and finishing projects in school. After school, he played a basketball doubleheader, before heading over to the Y for an hour and a half weight lifting to get ready for football in September.

As soon as we got home, he started his homework.

I went on the computer to check emails and to search for a recipe that will use up the two pounds of ground turkey in the refrigerator that probably went bad yesterday. I was looking for a recipe that called for a lot of garlic.

All of the sudden, Colin yelled. He was sitting on the sofa, pulling papers out of his backpack. looking for a Science packet due tomorrow. He’d been working on it for weeks. It wasn’t there.

I went to him.

He was crying. Tears didn’t fall down like rain, they fell down like torrential rain, one of those Florida downpours that make creeks overflow and cars float.

I found went thru his books and found the packet inside a sleeve.

I showed it to him, helped him take off his sneakers and sent him to upstairs to sleep

I brought him up a glass of ice water and wiped his face with a clean shirt I found at the end of the bed. He rolled over, but kept talking. He told me about how he dropped a weight on his foot at the gym. He told me what he wants for his birthday. He told me thanks.

I put pillowcases on his pillows and kissed him goodnight.

I don’t know why I’ve been grieving. I have two amazing kids, right here with me, sleeping under the same roof.

Yes, their voices are different, their friends are different, and they certainly feel differently about me than they did a few years ago.

Pining over lopsided bowls and faded snapshots is a waste of time.

I might miss something.

I can do that later after they’ve left.

For now, I’m going to pay attention to right now.

Because right now is wonderful.

The Way I Need To Be

December 28, 2014

I’ve developed a few coping mechanisms that help me live with a part time alcoholic.

The day after he goes on one of those booze fueled mini vacations commonly referred to as a bender, I go shopping. Now, one of the disadvantages of living with a part time alcoholic is we don’t have a whole lot of money, but at the very least, I take the family to Chipotle or buy a dress of the clearance rack at Marshalls.

The day after is also a terrific opportunity for me to get him to take over chauffeur duty for the kids. And pick up the birthday present for the cousin. And head over to Pet Co for the special kind of cat litter that can go weeks without scooping.

I really appreciate the glimpses of him when he’s sober. I don’t see that much of him. If he was sober all the time, I wouldn’t appreciate those moments so much. They are fleeting but sometimes we’ll laugh over something one of the kids did or we’ll listen to a new song on the radio and I remember I’m someone’s wife. It’s nice.

He’s always working, or on his way home from work. On his way home from work could mean he’s on his way home from work, or that he isn’t working anymore and he is sitting at the pub watching the tv and pondering if he should head home and risk the conversation we’ll have as soon as I realize he stopped at the pub or if he should stay at the pub until he’s sure I’ve gone to sleep.  I sleep soundly now.

It took me a while, but after living with a part time alcoholic for a long, long time, I’m good at going to sleep in difficult situations. And sleeping thru the sound of the door opening. And his uneven steps thru the house. I like sleep.

My kids are good at sleeping thru all kinds of crap, too.

I used to confront him when he’d come home late. I had a temper then.

I’m pretty even tempered now. Maybe it’s because make sure I get my eight hours a night. And I treat myself and the kids once in a while.

Or maybe because I need to be.

There is a thread that runs through my memories, not all of them, and maybe I wouldn’t even be aware of it, except…
Our first cocktails, we mixed in large cups over the kitchen sink in my kitchen, decorated in swirls of yellow and brown, of all of the hard liquor in the cabinet. We didn’t actually have a liquor cabinet, though my parents were pretty devoted, we should have had a liquor locker. We would pour random amounts of vodka, gin, tequila,… I don’t remember (what a surprise) and have a contest to see who could drink their cocktail down the fastest. I remember being strangely proud that I always won, but I’d always beaten everyone in the milk chugging copetitions at lunch.
Next stop, quarts of Colt 45 in the bathroom at the Tourne, also guzzled, inside dank stalls because it was illegal to drink in public parks. Afterwards, my eyes would sting, lurching out into sunlight, brave and dazzled by the way the world looked so different from when we snuck in, bags in hand, looking over our shoulders for grownups, and/or grownups with badges.
I can’t forget my first party, I was a freshman. I made the discovery that, in spite of it’s reputation, Schlitz Beer tasted really good. I announced it again and again, while I tried to play ping pong with a senior who was fascinated with my review of the low rent malt beverage, and my thoughts on the upcoming election. Then a junior stepped in, took my paddle away, poured me into his car, and drove me home. I remember hearing the next day that my ping pong partner was not happy about the interruption. I wondered a day or two to wonder about the great romance that might have been, then wrote a poem about our tragic affair and moved on.
Soon after, a month, a year, I found myself behind the high school, I’d snuck out of some dance because it’s impossible to boogie to Stairway to Heaven, nope, I always managed, must of been I needed a cigarette. I came upon a group of three or four that introduced me to beer shots, no, that’s not right, the joys of shooting a beer. You puncture a hole in the bottom of the can and immediately press your mouth to that hole and guzzle the contents. That way, no air gets mixed in, maximum buzz for your buck. I remember now, I was a freshman, I’d come outside because while I was peeing I’d heard all these girls talking about how many bowls they’d consumed, I thought they were bragging about the amount of wine they’d had to drink, didn’t know why they couldn’t use glasses. So I was feeling left out. When these juniors and seniors shared the mysteries of shooting a beer, like I said in the beginning of this diatribe, I could guzzle. (Have you noticed how I am delicately trying to avoid the word swallow?) And my abilities in that arena had started in third grade in a competition to see who could finish their beverage first.
These are dramatic memories I have collected from when I was really young, way too young, my mom had just gone back to work, my dad was absent, literally, not the later version.
So let me go on and say… there were nights at Stanfields, and Eves, and Fireside, and assorted establishments whose names I don’t remember where I had beers, or schnapps, or wine. Nights where me and my friends drank, got silly, played or listened to music, threw up, held up the hair of someone who threw up, laughed, giggled, talked about how we were going to make a difference, talked about the size of our thighs, talked about the fact that nobody really had meaningful conversations at “these things”, made out, had sex, really wanted to have sex, and made connections. Dear, shining connections that exist on this page today that could not have lasted had they been borne simply out of booze, pot, or teenage stupidity.
I wasn’t and am not a Lifetime movie, but I was an idiot.* I don’t know why I share these memories today except to crow I survived… the drinking, and all the bad choices I made afterwards. It feels good to remember. I’m counting war wounds and I’m preparing myself for 2 years from now when my son turns 13.(He’s 13. We are having a lot of embarrassing conversations.)
*If you work for Lifetime or an affiliate, and find me interesting at all, I was an Xtreme idiot, emphasis on the word so demographically popular, I might have forgotten a lot. And I would be happy to remember, and describe in detail, a fuzzy recollection I have of a night in paradise with ET, all grownup, and/or the relationship I had in my twenties with the brother of the sister of the woman that made Angelina Jolie so damn weird.