Archive | November, 2011

The Oldest

28 Nov

Curly Top MohawkI am getting ready to part with the first computer I ever bought for myself. It is an iMac desktop with a built in camera – the first of its kind. Readying for our parting includes a nostalgic review of files on the hard drive. I have a folder dedicated to letters I wrote to my oldest son about his lack of attention to his grades, his chores, and other people’s feelings. As I review them, I am transported back to the agonizing days of his teen-aged years.

He was moody and hard-headed and funny as hell. While he was never in real trouble, he pushed us to the limits of our parenting skills. I often say that first kid is like the first pancake, you should just toss it out and bank on the second one being better. When he was a baby, my husband and I took a job as “professional parents” at a group home for emotionally disturbed adolescent boys, so our bar was pretty low in retrospect. Don’t burn down anything, steal anything, shoot anyone, and it will probably be okay. When Aaron was in 11th grade, he was really struggling with some anxiety issues and he had locked himself into an identity as a proud under-achiever. The problem was he wanted to go to college, and he knew all those applications would include transcript requests. He buried all his worries way down into his lower lumbar region resulting in wrenching lower back pain. During a bad episode I finally took him to the ER at Duke. After the CT scan, we were asked to sit down in the consulting room – never a good sign.  Turns out, not only did he not have a kidney stone, he did not have a kidney.  Yep, my perfect baby, who according to an ultrasound at 32 weeks gestation had all his vital organs, had manage to lose it by the age of 17.  It was baffling, and unimportant according to the doctors.  Ten percent of the population has only one and most never know.

Last Christmas, we  were visiting with relatives and recounting the head-spinning tale.  “So what happened to his kidney?” my sister-in-law exclaimed. Just when my husband was ready to deliver his punchline (he had cooked up several funny explanations about how Aaron had left it in his locker, his book bag or it was with his socks which had all become singles after being pairs), Aaron walked by.  In complete deadpan, Aaron says, “My parents sold it on the internet.”   I knew then he would be just fine.

Staying warm and other metaphors

16 Nov

KM- “Did you get a package from me?”  Me- “No, was I supposed to get a package?” KM – “I felt bad that you have been cold so I ordered you an electric blanket – it should have been there by now.”

A down comforter, a space heater, a fluffy white blanket, a coat, ski gloves and nearly an electric blanket…the list of things my dear friends have bestowed on me in the past seven weeks is long.

This is odd because I am not a cold-natured person.  My husband used to refer to me as “the furnace” because of my tendency to radiate.  I used to relish the feel of cold tile on my feet in the mornings as I padded bare-footed into the bathroom.  I loved the chill of crispy cold sheets and have been known to flip my pillow over just to feel the cool side of an untouched pillow case. Cold is not usually what I am – in any sense of the word -at least not until recently.

In early October when I became the tenant of my dear friend in her 100 (+) year-old house in Hillsborough, North Carolina, I expected my first night to be sleepless.  I thought I would struggle because I had said good-bye to my darling for what was an unknown length of time – at that point it was looking like three months; but in reality, I tossed and turned all night because I was freezing.  No husband, record low temperatures, and a drafty old house added up to no sleep for me.  The next day, I told a friend I had been chilly and she loaned me a giant fluffy blanket to put on my bed.  That made things better mostly  because I realized that I am not really on my own even though I am.  On night two my new landlady/old friend came home and I mentioned it to her.  We both laughed when she realized that the heat in the house had actually been off.  She felt terrible and gave me free reign over the thermostat.  With that, I was ready to snooze the night away. Fluffy white blanket weighing me down, thermostat adjusted,  so imagine my surprise when night two found me freezing again.  Extra blankets, adjusted thermostat, still cold…what the?

At this point my husband had been gone a full two days.  He had flown away to live in London and I stayed behind having decided to enjoy a period of simplicity. Well, the real reason I stayed was because I was too nervous to leave.  We have one son who is a brand-new freshman in college and the other who moved into his first house with roommates, bills, and pets to deal with.  It seemed like a good idea to stay on the continent at least until the dust settled.  And alas, my life did get pretty simple.  I went from 2500 square feet to 125; from a family of four to just me; from well over $200 a week in groceries to next to nothing; from five loads of laundry every weekend, to one point five.  My new place is simple.  It has a computer at a small desk, a bookcase, the remnants of our liquor cabinet (providing a definite college dorm-feel) and my bed.   My bed is cozy if small, a little twin flocked with a girly quilt and extra pillows. By all accounts, my life is so much simpler and I am enjoying it.   It’s just that I am cold – unimaginably and inexplicably cold.

Obviously, I keep talking about it and my friends keep trying to fix it.  During a visit with another friend, she also commented on the temperature of my room and the next day, she delivered a space heater.  My friend/landlady saw it, felt terrible, and dragged a down blanket into the room dropping it on my bed.  Okay already, no more excuses to be cold!  I have all the accoutrements to stay warm and obviously a cadre of excellent friends looking out for me.

The truth is sleeping alone night after night is lonely and cold.  It makes my heart ache for the countless military spouses who sleep alone for months on end, knowing their other half is doing the same far away.  I fear this is not the kind of cold that can be solved with blankets and a space heater, though I deeply appreciate the gestures and kindness of my friends.  I’m cold on the inside, homesick for a home that existed between four people who are no longer calling the same place home.  I loved raising my kids and do not wish to do it over, but right now in this moment in time, I am unsure about what to do next as a wife and a mother and it just feels like winter.