11.28.2008

Let's Just Be Happy

Ok, forget all the depressing, Who’s Sick Now? Crap – I can’t handle it.

Not when I have two freakin’ adorable kids cuddled up together, sleeping peacefully.

Not when I have a husband who has worked until midnight every night for a week to get out of doing the dishes provide for his family.

Not when I have good friends that I can sit and drink wine, and laugh with. And laugh. And laugh. And laugh.

Not when my company’s annual Christmas party is a week away, and the whole office is buzzing with anticipation. (seriously, we have really awesome parties.)

Not when, although my body will never look the same, I am, in fact, down to my pre-2nd baby weight (As for getting back to my pre-1st baby weight? Ha!).

And certainly not when, to celebrate, I treated myself to this cute little number for the party:






Let the festive season begin.


***

11.26.2008

Didn't I promise to post more often now that I'm back at work?

And wasn't this weekend Dove's first birthday? And didn't we have a wonderful party, full of family and friends and food, food, food? And didn't all of our generous friends and family heed our request and, in lieu of gifts, bring many wonderful toys and bags and bags of food to donate to children that need it more than mine?

And didn't my mother steal the spotlight by showing up at my house before the party, sick, in pain, looking like a zombie and high on tylenol 3?

And didn't my sister spend the entire day at the hospital with her, not getting any answers, not getting a diagnosis, not attending her neice's first birthday party?

And isn't my mum finally getting discharged 5 days later, still with no answers, more scheduled tests, more procedures, hopefully no more pain?

And aren't my brother and sister reeling with the worry that we are going through this again, that the answers will be the worst answers, that the only news we ever seem to get is the worst news?

And will my head ever stop spinning?


***

11.20.2008

At the Foot of His Grave, I Sat Down and Cried

It was much different than I had imagined.

In my mind, it was Flanders’ Fields, row upon lonely row of grave markers with the Florida sun beating down relentlessly, shadows pirouetting around the stones as the day grew longer.

In my mind, it was a lonely place, as lonely as my grief still has the power to make me feel.

I never went to my dad’s funeral. I couldn’t, for even if I hadn’t been less than two months from the anticipated arrival of my second daughter, it is against Jewish law, and more importantly, very bad luck for a pregnant Jewish woman to attend a funeral. With so many unfortunate things happening to my family in the past few years, I don’t think my mother could have handled me blatantly tempting fate in such a way.

No mind; the point is that my dad died, and was buried, without me, and it is something that has weighed heavily on me since. And so, when the opportunity came to return to Florida, to enjoy a week together as a family; to allow my girls the opportunity to spend good, intimate time with their grandparents; to visit my dad for the first time in over a year – I said yes.

I saved the two-hour drive to Florida National Cemetery until our second-last day, afraid that going any earlier would cast a pall over our entire trip. So instead of being depressed and sad for the duration, I was instead irritable and sad with anticipation. On Thursday, I woke up early, took a deep breath, and we headed out.

Bee stayed with her grandparents, and Dove, whom my dad missed meeting by 9 weeks, came with us.

It was a peaceful drive, and I tried to rally myself for the experience. But as we finally turned off the I-75, sadness overtook me. I thought of my sisters, who, one year earlier, had driven this same stretch of road, devastated and feeling lost. I thought of how circumstances had not only denied me that experience, but also shielded me from the difficulty of it. I thought of my brother who didn’t attend the funeral and hadn’t been back; who couldn’t bear going so far and not seeing his father waiting for him at the airport. I don’t think my brother will ever go back.

I was immediately struck by how beautiful the cemetery was, sprawling grounds protected on all sides by the Withlacoochee State Forest. We drove the little winding roadways shaded by so many towering trees, baffled by the cryptic numbering system of the cemetery’s many sections. We had to double back a few times before we found the section we were looking for, and I had to laugh over that, the irony being that my dad was notoriously bad with directions.

We parked by Section 327 and I got out of the car. The spot was beautiful. If you’ll allow me a very Floridian analogy, it looked like one of Mickey Mouse’s round ears, jutting off of a larger ‘head.’ The section was ensconced in pine, oak and hickory forest, and as I walked the rows, looking for his site, I was filled with a sense of calm.

I found my dad, second from the end of the row farthest from the little road, the shade of the trees dancing over the stone. I was relieved. And then I looked at the stone.

From the back, all of the grave markers looked the same. Not the generic white crosses that are so often the image of a military cemetery, but lovely, large white marble stones. From the back, all the same, but each, of course, marked with a different name, a rank, a date, a word or two. I knew my dad would have a stone like this; my sisters had consulted me on the inscription, but coming face to face with my dad’s name carved into a marble stone – well, it made my heart lurch.

It was surreal, and caught me a bit by surprise, and I offered the grave a startled greeting. Was he here? I couldn’t tell. I put my hand on the stone, and tried to feel something. The rest of the inscription was my dad’s rank, (RM3), his military association (Navy), the name of the war he fought in (Vietnam), his dates of birth and death (Too close together. Much too close together.) and then the two lines of a personal message that we were allowed to add, ‘Beloved Father and Grandfather.’

This was my dad? Was this my dad? I understood that this was, of course, a military cemetery, and so his military affiliation was important here, but that’s not who my dad was – it was just an exciting and interesting story he used to tell about someone we never knew.

I placed four rocks on his grave marker, one for each of his children, and I just started babbling; making jokes and talking to my dad as though we were on his lanai and it was two years earlier, before he got sick, before everything got so complicated and so sad.

I felt disconnected; too warm and too far away from the person I loved. I wanted to sit down, but nobody sits in the grass in Florida; coarse, prickly grass full of fire ants that were already biting my exposed feet.

And then my daughter cried out for me from her perch in her father’s arms.

I took her, and kneeled in front of the stone. I looked at the words, ‘Beloved Father and Grandfather.’

‘Dad,’ I said, ‘This is Cassidy.’

And I started to cry.

After a minute, Chris took the baby back and I told him that I would meet them in the car. I needed some time, just the two of us.

I sat in the grass that nobody ever sits in, and I cried.

I steeled myself and took a deep breath and got ready to go several times, but I didn’t want to leave. I kept sitting, and crying, and as the ants bit my ankles, my legs, my hands, I told my dad how much I missed him.

Eventually I was able to get up. I didn’t say goodbye, I simply stood up, blew my nose and started walking back down the row I had come, towards the car.

The trip was not a cathartic one, but in the weeks since I visited my father’s grave for the first time, I do feel as though there is something slightly more tangible to attach my father’s death to. It didn’t bring me peace, just a better visual than the one I had previously had in my mind.

It took me a year to be able to visit my father’s grave; I don’t know how much time will have to pass before I can open the suitcase full of his things I have in my basement. Those are memories that I feel, for now, are safer in my heart than in my hands.

***

11.18.2008

Out of the Mouth of Bees

At the dinner table the other night, Bee was happily chatting away with me, telling me about her day (so, so SO fun!); about what she would name a dog if we got her one (Scaddle the Boy); about who will be at her sister’s first birthday party on the weekend (Will Buby be there? Will Gramma be there? Is Gramma Daddy’s mudder? You’re MY mudder!); about negotiating to watch a tv show after dinner (Mummy, I’m being so patient!) (Nice try, honey), about all sorts of important things, when her father, sitting on the other side of the table, had the gall to interrupt the chatter to alert me to something particularly cute that Dove was doing with her avocado.

Bee furrowed her brow at the interruption and, with a ‘what gives’ little wave of her hands, and admonished her father:

‘Daddy! I am having a conversation with my mudder. Urrr!’

Indeed, my honey, indeed.


***

Chris was coming home with both of the kids one evening, and put Bee on the front porch while he went to get Dove out of the car. My next door neighbour, a very lovely older Greek lady, came over to Bee, and as she (rightly) does, starting gushing over her. After a minute, she picked her up to give her a hug and remark over what a big girl she was becoming. She held her for a bit, and after Chris brought her inside, he took off her jacket and explained to his oft-shy little girl that, if she didn’t want to be picked up, it was ok to say so. He was concerned that she felt powerless and uncomfortable, and he wanted to reassure her that it was ok to say no thank you. Bee looked at him, raised her hands, palms up, curled her top lip and said, out of the side of her mouth,

‘But Daddy, I like being picked up.’

He was surprised when she didn’t add, ‘Dumbass.’


***

On one of my last playdates before going back to work, a friend and I had our girls at a busy, local coffee shop that all the moms flock to, because there is a play area for the kids at the back. Truly, it’s a godsend, but that’s not the point. The point is, on this particular, crowded day, my friend, to her exasperation I’m sure, ended up having to haul her kid out of the playhouse mid-meltdown, stuff her and her sister in their stroller, and take their leave.

Sister, we’ve all been there, and while I hope no one was judging my friend, I’m sure there were the obvious sighs of relief that our own kids were playing nicely and making us look pretty good. I know, looking at my own two, entertaining themselves while I sipped my java, I felt downright civilized.

And then, a bit of a commotion from inside the playhouse. Bee was not happy that a little boy had stepped inside and was trying to commandeer the ‘cell phone.’

‘Bee,’ I called, ‘These toys don’t belong to us; we all have to share and play together.’

And then, another sound from inside the playhouse – the most dramatic sigh a three-year-old has ever sighed. I smiled despite myself. ‘Ok, love?’ I followed up. And then, loudly, from inside the playhouse, from my three-year-old,

‘Whatever.’

Oh. My. God. I snapped my gaping mouth shut and honestly, tried not to laugh as I quickly scanned the room and registered the looks of horror/smug delight on all the other moms.

‘She’ll make a lovely teenager.’ I offered.
Raised eyebrows slowly succumbed to gravity, and eventually some other kid did something even more obnoxious, and I allowed that the heat was finally off my mad parenting skills.

But to my friend, you’re welcome. Because little did you know how good I made you look that day.


***

11.12.2008

The Elephant In the Playroom

Well, I havent’ been writing much lately. At least, not here.

I’m back at work.

There. I said it. I guess that makes it real.

But K, you may say, You’ve only been back at work for three days, yet you’ve only written 12 posts in the last three months. What gives? Don’t you love your internets anymore? And I’ll have to reply, Of course I love you sillies, it’s just that my countdown back to work loomed large, and I realized that it was a better gig to be with my kids than to be writing about them.

So, how do I feel about things? Well, ok, I guess. It’s complicated. For one thing, while there are many mothers who genuinely feel like they are better mothers when they are working mothers, I am not one of them. I think I am a better mother when I am still in my pajamas at 10am, making muffins with Bee while Dove is attached to my boob, the house is a mess, the cat is crying to be let out and someone just knocked at the door.

I think I am a better mother when I am home with my kids, but even if we originally had plans to reassess our situation and whether or not I could make a go at freelance and stay home, the reality is that my husband does not have a permanent job right now, and I had a perfectly good (really, quite good) one just waiting for me. Yes, Chris has been super busy with freelance work himself, and is enjoying it, but freelance doesn't give you any guarantees. Or a drug plan.

So here I am. And I’m ok. True, it took until my third day back for me to bear putting up pictures of my girls, but I think I can look at them without crying. Truth be told, there haven’t been any tears, from me or the girls. That certainly helps. It also helps that we have a great nanny, friend of Bee’s original nanny, so well known to our family. It also helps that Chris is frequently home. It also helps that I can talk to Bee about what’s happening, and Dove, not quite a year yet, weathers my coming and going with barely a nod on my way out, and nothing more dramatic than a demand to nurse on my way in.

It’s still hard. It’s hard to stop myself from promising Bee at bedtime that we’ll do something really great together the next day. It’s hard to see another woman pushing my stroller with my kids in it. It’s hard to accept that chances are, I will miss Dove’s first steps, just as I missed Bee’s. It’s hard to feel like I know my kids best when I’m away from them for so many hours of the day.

And it’s hard to look at my computer at 2pm and realize that I haven’t thought about my girls for the last two hours. And to not feel guilty about enjoying a (hot) cup of coffee while I check my email, uninterrupted. Or to feel ok about laughing at lunch, in the company of the really awesome people I’ve worked with for eight years now.

I know that life is about choices and consequences and making the most out of what you have. I know that my girls will not be worse off for having a mother that has to work outside of the home. In fact, there will be many benefits to our new family reality. It will be nice, after months of being stretched ridiculously thin financially, to be able to ease some of the pressure there. It will be nice to watch my girls flourish under the care of a loving, capable caregiver. It will be nice to reconnect with my more, ahem, professional side (stop laughing).

It’ll be nice to have the time to blog again ;)

***

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