My husband never sees the kids. So when he pulled in the driveway at 7 pm, and announced we were going out for fro yo, it was a Big Deal.

Of course, I had to finish writing a letter for work.

And Katy wanted to pick out an outfit for tomorrow. Because tomorrow is Monday. And it’s important to pick out Monday’s outfit in advance.

Colin needed to find the right pair of sneakers. The forty pairs of shoes in the bottom of his closet were not the right shoes for fro yo consumption with the fam.

We left the house by 8. We took the dog. Sophie the Best Dog Ever doesn’t really like rides in the car. None of us are good at sharing dessert. But since was such a unique situation, (I mean he’s never, ever at the house at 7 pm, ever) there was no precedent. Sheldon wanted her to ride in the trunk. One step away from a Republican, I’m afraid.

Sophie rode in the back seat. She sat in the middle so that she was able to devote equal attention to Colin and Kaitlin while they licked and nibbled and spooned and dripped. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her watch them ignoring her.

She didn’t even get to lick the cups.

So we took her to Andrews Park. It was 830 on a Sunday, one dog peeing on the baseball field, one dog owner on a smartphone.

Colin ran out first, Sophie followed. Katy, in hot pursuit behind Sophie. Katy back to the car for a sweatshirt. And to tell her mom to get out of the car. Now.

I followed Katy, and Sophie, and Colin.

I thought we’d play some kind of catch, or walk around the field arguing about who had to the dishes when they got home, or even just look up at the sky, agree that none of us can recognize a constellation and go home.

Colin had unlocked the gate to the play ground. Katy was twirling around on a swing, one of those big swings, with a reclining seat for a chair. When I asked her to push me, she hopped off. She pushed me. She pushed, heaved, twirled, I was spinning around, rocking from side to side, swinging up, crashing down, laughing and nauseous. There was no time to look at the stars.

I pushed Katy on the swings as hard as I could. I wasn’t able to make her twirl, swing,crash and rock all at the same time. Katy will be a better mom than I am. I hope she’ll take me to the park again.

Colin had taken Sophie to the jungle gym. When I walked over, he was perched at the top of the slide, Sophie seated on his lap, paws up, tail wagging. It wasn’t their first time.

And then we decided it was time to go. We got back to the car, realized Sophie had taken a detour, and Colin had left the leash on the monkey bars, and that none of us wanted to help find either, but we did.

I didn’t write down the last time Katy asked to hold my hand while crossing the street. I didn’t take a picture the last time Colin opened a present he thought was from Santa Clause.

Tonight, I went to the playground with Colin, Katy, Sophie and Sheldon.

I can’t tell you what the stars looked like, or if they’ve filled up the sandbox yet.

But I can tell you that tonight I found out Katy is incredibly strong, and Colin is still the magical boy who can convince Sophie the Scared to sit on his lap and slide all the way to the bottom.

Then get her to do it again.

In the beginning…

My life before- I’d gorge on Nutterbutter Sandwich cookies
across the street from the market. I’d stagger the terrifying path on sheet ice to the high school from behind Briarcliff. At my first dance, I listened to the girls in the next stall over brag about how many bowls they’d consumed. and thought they were talking about gobbling down too much brownie dough…
Everything changed the day my father walked out of the Mtn. Lakes Club after a business meeting with his bosses. He’d just gotten home from rehab (what did they call it then?) so we are all excited about life going back to normal. He came out of the Club, found me in the parking lot. I’m sure I was on my way in to charge cigarettes or make a call, and he shook his head. For the first time, in a long time, I approached my dad without an agenda. I wasn’t thinking about hitting him up for a new record, or some guilt cash, or a ride. I think it was the first time I’d ever seen him look defeated. I walked toward him even though I really wished I had somewhere else to go, or was anywhere else in the world. He said to me “Julie, it’s over, I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.” I just stared at him. I think I was waiting for him to spin it, or change it, blame it on them, or tell me how over meant he had a new beginning lined up. “I don’t know, Julie, it’s done.”

I guided my dad to his car, a rented Cordova, black with red stripes, eight track, fully loaded, before he wept. I couldn’t see if there were actual tears, his head was bent over the steering wheel, his shoulders rose and and fell, and he didn’t make a sound. I don’t remember how we got home or told Mom or Jim or spent the rest of the summer.
I remember my own body pitching forward with pain, like I’d been punched in the gut. I grabbed for his arm and tried to say something right. And I remember, even though I had nothing to say, that somehow I spoke words outloud. I said- ” they are wrong, it takes time, it’s too soon”, he lifted his head He wiped his pale, pale blue eyes on the back of his hand. And while he listened to me ramble, my body still bent with the new weight of the world, he straightened up. He believed me. My words seemed to give him strength, and courage, and by the time he got to the car, he looked like the man I knew. And I wanted to believe that someone was back. “Fuck em all,” he said, “It was too soon!” he announced.
But I knew as I watched his eyes scan the parking lot, as I watched him try to figure out how to get home, it was done. Tennis matches. Fireworks. Egg catches. Trips to the market and slippery walks to the high school. Cocktail hour. And that magical sense that whatever came up, Daddy could fix it. That afternoon, I’d fixed Daddy. And I knew within an hour he’d forget where he worked, or lose his keys, or wonder why the rug was beige.
So when I remember Mtn. Lakes, it is mythical. Soon after he made his declaration, we had to move to Mt. Tabor. We were lucky someone in his office caught on early; his final days with early onset Alzheimers were covered with insurance.

Valentines Day

February 14, 2014

It’s Valentines Day.

Our day started out with my husband in full scale hysteria. He couldn’t find my car keys, he was afraid I’d forget about dentist’s appointment. Our son had left his cell phone at home. Our daughter hadn’t done a good job brushing her hair. All of these, and more, (the price of gas, if the pellet stove needed another cleaning, if he was to start getting tickets because we couldn’t afford to donate much to the policemen’s benevolent association…) were dancing around my beloved’s head this morning until his demeanor resembled a poodle on crack. No, I have never seen a poodle on crack, and after witnessing my husband in one of these moods, I can say with no hesitation at all, I don’t want to see a poodle on crack.

I don’t write much about my relationship with this man. In the tough times, I feel like it wouldn’t be fair to indulge in a one sided kvetch to the cyberworld and I wouldn’t be brave enough to post his side of the story. In the good times, we are in the middle of the good times, and I wouldn’t want to take time away from whatever moments of marital bliss to take notes for my readers.

And I’m not sure if we are in the middle of good times or bad times right now. Right now, I know that when he fusses and fumes about keys and appointments it is his very creative and irritating way of showing me he cares. He doesn’t want my teeth to fall out of my head, or leave me at home waiting for Triple A to come unlock my car for me, again. So when I tell him to “Shut Up!!!’ I try to say those words as lovingly as I can.
It briefly flitted thru my head that my gift to him this morning was not throwing a dirty sponge at his head.

I found my car keys. I made it to my appointment. And then, he picked me up from the dentist and took me to breakfast. A little egg slipped out of my mouth, novocaine was my appetizer. He reached over, and wiped it off my chin without saying a word.

A lot of the time I truly don’t know if he’s my one true love, the father of my children, or a really good friend that I fell into spending my life with. But I know I am a very, very lucky woman.

Because no matter how many times I tell him to shut up, he still has something to say to me at the end of the day. And I am happy to listen, especially if he’s not talking about what I’ve just lost or what I’m likely to forget.

Without him, I’d probably be wearing dentures and riding a bike.

Happy Valentines Day.