Monday, May 28, 2012

My husband

Dear Scott,

You are thirty three years old today and I wish I could make that easier for you. The crowsfeet and hunchback your beginning to sport must be a horrendous adjustment. Just three hundred and sixty five days ago you were gorgeous, vital and in the prime of your life...but as the days ticked by and the seasons changed, your age progression was intense and unfortunate.

Now when we go out people pat my hand and applaud me for taking my father on a daddy daughter date, and I have to smile politely and correct their erroneous assumption. I'm sorry for their ignorance babe and for the pain they cause you. I can see it in the way your crowsfeet scrunches up as you try your best not to cry, and in the way your hunchback hitches as you hold back the tears.

Aging sucks. And I wish I could turn back the clock so that your feelings and my pride might be saved. But we both have to accept that life as you knew it is over.

So for your birthday this year I have decided to fore go the usual electronic gadget gift. Instead I think some revitalizing cream might do you good. I have also purchased you a gift certificate for botox. The doctor said that it would not only erase those nasty crowsfeet, but that he could inject it directly into the muscles in your back - to ease the rounding that your shoulders seem to be taking on. What a deal? No crowsfeet or devastating hunchback. Modern medicine is amazing.

*Snickers*

Okay babe. Obviously you don't look a day over 32. I love you more than I ever have and I hope this year grants you whatever wish you snuff out on your birthday cake.

Love you,

Carrie.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Lost


Yesterday I woke up to bright blue skies and a steadily climbing temperature! The day was blistering hot by 10 am with no relief in sight. Although there was a hardy breeze, I knew it wouldn't be enough to keep us cool. I decided that it would be the perfect day to take the kids to the water park. Since my husband was sick I figured I'd leave Preston with him. The park is just too big for me to watch all of them satisfactorily. So during Preston's nap my two oldest and I snuck out for a day of fun in the sun.

We walked the short distance together and I didn't have one issue with them listening to my instructions. I had high hopes that this visit would go off without a hitch...I should have known better. Outings that start off that great always end in disaster - it's Murphy's Law or something.

Anyway, we arrived at the park entrance and had to step carefully around the sun bathers. Once we successfully navigated the minefield of bodies, my son dashed towards the park as fast as his legs could carry him and was in the water before I could remove his shoes and shirt.

I called to my giggling son and was soon in a wrestling match - I yanked and pulled at his dripping wet clothing articles and rifled through my bag for the sunscreen. My daughter played beside me and seemed content to hum to herself. While I was preoccupied with slathering lotion on her brother she took the opportunity to go exploring. I happened to catch her fleeing frame out of the corner of my eye, and after asking a fellow mom to keep an eye on my son, I was in hot pursuit. By the time I'd arrived at where I saw her last, she was gone. It was as though she'd disappeared into thin air. Only mere minutes had passed since I lost sight of her - it just didn't make sense.

I darted towards the busy parking lot, skirting in between cars, and calling her name - the annoyance in my voice abruptly turned frantic as the reality of the situation began to sink in. She was nowhere to be found. My stomach inched it's way towards my throat and I could taste the bitter bile of its contents. I stood motionless in the middle of the parking lot - a deer in the proverbial headlights.

Worst case scenarios ran through my mind without invitation. What if someone took her? It was the only explanation that made sense. How else would she vanish so suddenly? I did my best to hold the panic inside but it was bubbling up anyway, escaping my throat in hitches and gasps. 

I was dialing my husband when I noticed that the YMCA's main entrance was open. Near tears and completely breathless I sprinted into the building. I stopped short when I saw her little frame playing with the candy machines. I covered my mouth and stifled a sob. The lady at the front desk smiled warmly at me and said, "I was keeping an eye on her, I figured someone was missing her". I could only nod in gratitude as I scooped my daughter up and crushed her to my chest. I did my best not to cry in relief and managed to escape with only a few wayward tears to spoil the attempt.

"Eden! Don't you ever leave the park without me again, do you understand?" I whispered at her.

"Okay Mommy, can I have some candy?" Not a snowballs chance in hell I wanted to snap, instead I said nothing and we returned to the park where I followed her around just like a helicopter parenter might...

The rest of our time at that blasted water park was uneventful, but when the day grew long and my kids finally tuckered themselves out, I was more than ready to leave. I packed them up and took their hands as we headed for the safety of home. Gabriel chattered non-stop about the friends he'd made and Edie...well she complained the whole way back about my obvious oversight in neglecting her candy needs.







Thursday, May 24, 2012

There was this one time...in Mexico.

Please refrain from reading this post if you are afraid of female nudity or drunken debauchery...You have been WARNED.


I'm not an exhibitionist when I'm sober.

 I'm a person who loves routine. I feed off of the mundane tasks in life and I celebrate the smallest of victories. Sobriety ensures that my life is one I can be outwardly proud of. I can cook a six course meal and coerce my kids to eat at least 5% of it. I can walk the dog and pick up her droppings with the jubilance of a lottery winner (because now she won't do it in my house). I can even clean a bathroom while humming a happy tune because sobriety doesn't beg for excitement - it only sighs with resignation and assigns the tasks that need to get done. And somehow I find a way to do these things without complaint...mostly.

I'm not an exhibitionist when I'm sober...

But I was drunk in Mexico. Rip roaringly, barfing all night long, wondering what my name was kinda drunk. Plus I had no kids at the time...does that even need an explanation for it's awesomeness? My cousin Krissy Jane Doe and I were finishing up our dinner at Senor Frogs when a couple of her friends - she LIVED in Mexico - stopped by and asked if we would like to go bar hopping...as though that was even a question. And so we set out to find any bar that would let us in (Jane was only 17 and underage).


I didn't black out my own eyes...those were cool shades in 2002...

Note to judgemental reader: I was 18 so let's not freak out about my responsibility in this whole debacle; arguably we were both too young to be so wasted on our own.


Finally a bar that was loose enough in its regulations to allow any Tom, Dick or Jane inside granted us access. Unbeknowst to our little group at the time it was a strip joint. Now I'm not offended by naked bodies so I had no issue with this, and let's be honest, I was looking for a place to drink not pray to Jesus. After three rum and cokes and an infinite number of tequila shots I decided that I couldn't continue to live my life without doing something crazy.

I convinced my cousin to get up on stage with me. We talked to the owner of the bar, picked out our music and then bravely stepped upon The Stripper Platform. We shook our fannies to two pop songs. I can't for the life of me remember what the first song was - this was just the warm up anyway - the one where our clothes stayed on.

The second song - Christina Aguilera's "Dirty..." - was the one Jane Doe and I took our clothes off to. We had agreed, before our dancing began, that we would NOT under ANY circumstances take our underwear off. I was fine with this since I was sporting a 1970's Afro down there. But man...when that music starts to move you... it just carries you away on a cloud of euphoria and bad decision making. Before my cousin knew it I was cartwheeling past her face...sans underwear...

The crowd cheered wildly as I performed some naked gymnastics for them; and I want you to know that I'm not exaggerating...I used to be a competitive gymnast. My crazed fans then began to chant "Panties, panties, panties" to encourage my cousin to fully strip too. She wasn't quite as wasted as me though and she declined the "enticing" offer. To subdue the crowd I performed the most flexible feat my drunken mind could imagine...and did a full 360...to this day I'm amazed I didn't fall flat on my face while doing This.





This is a lot more interesting to people when you do it naked!


Soon our night came to a close and we stumbled back to her condo to recover from our alcohol poisoning. The next morning we had to meet our family for breakfast. We dragged our sorry asses out of bed and did our best not to vomit, all the while giggling insanely about what we had done the night before. We hailed a cab and were lucky enough to catch one on the first try. We got in. The cabbie gave us one look and with a huge smile said, "You're the girls from last night". We both turned three shades of crimson and bailed out of the vehicle as though it were on fire.

We caught the next cab without any issue and we vowed never to tell the tale of our debauchery...

Until now.








Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gabriel, My Wayward Son.



Our feet shuffled across the back deck making soft whispers that betrayed our position to the feral animals that roamed the night. I stepped onto the grass and led him into the middle of our yard. The earth was cool and soft, beaten by the springs fevered rains and our toes sunk into it's muddy constitution. I shook out a blanket that had been picked specifically for this event and handed my son a pillow. We sat upon the ripped and tattered sheet; it's purpose now was to aid in the ease of discovery, and I smiled at the thought that reincarnation is available for all things. Uncurling my body I laid upon the thin fabric that was already failing in it's duty to keep us dry. My son followed suit, his warm and familiar frame, sprawled shoulder to shoulder next to mine.

His eyes followed my steady hand as I traced the constellations that lay before us; my finger the aspiring artist, my words a brilliant and colorful text, kept him fully engaged and deeply enthralled. His interest never faltered and he was enamoured by every new revelation. We wished upon the meteors that streaked through the sky and watched in wonder as satellites etched a path across the nights inky backdrop. Both of us were enveloped in rapturous awe of the universe and all the possibility it possessed; we held each other's hands and refused to let go - mother and son connected once more.

The daydream was beautiful and flawless.

I lounged languorously across my pale, microfiber couch, tracing the hand prints that marred it's stain "resistant" fabric. Four is a hard age for a mother to appreciate, I needed to make it mine, to love its inquisitive nature if only for a night. My fantasy of star gazing with my oldest child had become too good to ignore. I had a fleeting thought that his age might not be mature enough to appreciate such a task, but I pushed the whispered warnings from my mind. My bold imaginings allowed no room for doubt; so when I tiptoed into his room and roused him from sleep I was surprised to discover that my son was less than enthusiastic about my plan...

"It's a surprise. Just for us. Come on buddy - it'll be fun"

He looked at me as though I had grown another head.

"Can I have a new Optimus Prime instead?"

I tried to explain the eloquent nature of my plot. I tried to entice him with the knowledge that it was a secret rendezvous between us and us alone. Still he pleaded..."Maybe a new Bumblebee?"

His green eyes were solemn and resolute in their request and nothing else would do. A surprise just wasn't a surprise without a Transformer...

"Never mind buddy, just go back to sleep" I whispered. I shut the door behind me and patiently waited for him to shout out, "Mommy!" When no such call came I balked at the implications...Did he just ditch me for sleep?

I slunk away from his room feeling dejected and defeated and totally bewildered. My confusion soon melted away, however, as I realized that Gabriel is a leader, he will never follow anyone, not even his own mother. Besides, I thought, he is only four.

Who knows maybe if I'm lucky, one night when we're both a little older, he'll rouse me from sleep and insist that we go stargazing.









Carry on my wayward son/There'll be peace when you are done/Lay your weary head to rest/Don't you cry no more.
    -Kansas

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

To Pretend

I'm so good at it - looking calm and placid while the waters underneath my skin churn with self doubt and mind numbing anxiety. I suppose if you practise anything enough it will become second nature. Before my world was broken down, dismantled and rebuilt for the better, I was seen by a few psychiatrists who labelled me with a "Social Anxiety Disorder". I was, without a doubt, my own worst enemy. The one thing I feared the most was the idea that people might judge me as harshly as I judged myself.

I have gone through a lot of things in my life that added to my obsessive self-hatred, but not one of those things were ever greater or more traumatic than the belief that other people's opinions - real or imagined - mattered. I was wholly and hopelessly lost within my own tortured prison. But eighteen months ago I was handed the key to my cell, redemption and freedom were within my grasp. I turned the key and set the tumblers free in the lock. I gently pushed the door open and stepped into the light.

I'm sure you're asking how a few short months can change years of repetitive and brutal self-flagellating?

Eighteen months ago my youngest baby was born. Everything was normal until it wasn't; and I was surprised to discover that although my life had crumbled down around me, I hadn't. I was still standing - shocked, shaken, terrified - but somehow still upright.

When we had our second appointment with my son's cardiologist and he asked me what I remembered from the emergency visit, I responded, "Just that he has two holes in his heart. Two small Ventricular Septal Defects."

The doctor corrected me, "I'm sorry, but that's not entirely accurate. There's more holes than that. He has multiple Ventricular Septal Defects".

I was too stunned to speak and thoroughly confused. In the Emergency Room the doctor had drawn me a diagram; a diagram with two holes on it. Now he was telling me that the original diagnosis was wrong. I didn't think I had it in me to shoulder one more piece of bad news. These holes had caused my son's body to retain a pound of fluid and forced him into congestive heart failure. This damned defect had turned our entire world upside down...

My husband voiced the question that hung vulgarly in front of us, "How many holes does he have?"

The cardiologist cleared his throat and said, "Well it doesn't really matter to the diagnosis - the number doesn't change anything"

Of course it fucking matters, I thought.

"What I'm trying to say is that his prognosis doesn't change...it's actually hard to get a number in these kind of cases..."

The room grew still and I did my best to will away the dread. Finally the doctor answered, "There are so many holes that we simply can't count them".

I gasped as though he'd struck me. 

In every person's life there is a before and an after. A pivotal turning point - an event so awful or awe inspiring - that it changes us. I'm lucky enough to know the exact moment when I became everything I thought I wasn't capable of.

I knew I had to be my son's voice - his advocate. I asked all the right questions and went toe to toe with doctors. I researched endlessly and read every medical journal I could get my hands on. I made contacts throughout the online community for "Heart Moms" and I never hesitated out of fear of judgement again. There were no stupid questions, no ridiculous assumptions, and no opinion that mattered to me that didn't come directly from a doctor's mouth.

For once in my life I believed that I was enough because I had to be. I stopped being scared of everything that didn't matter.That's not to say I wasn't terrified. I was. I feared losing my son, but to me that was the only fear that was valid anymore, the rest was just noise.

I ran myself ragged in those first few months - administering his medicine, counting his breaths per minute, attending weekly doctors appointments. I did whatever I had to in order to keep him alive; but it's what he did for me that's truly miraculous...

He made it so that I no longer have to pretend.

video
Preston, 18 mos.
All holes have grown over but two
His next cardiology appointment is in November.
The doctors say he should never need open heart surgery.


Gabe - age 4, Preston - age 18 mos, Edie - age 3 (in June)

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My mother.

"Carrie" my father began innocently enough, "I need your help."

I admit I was excited. I was ten years old and my father was asking - no imploring - me to help him with some important and secret mission. Maybe I was a warrior princess - responsible for the rescue of earth from the evil intentions of the Alien fleet headed our way!

"As you know, your mom and I have been battling each other in court for custody of you kids"

I nodded my head.

"I am going to lose, unless you tell the truth"

"The truth?" I asked. I wanted to help of course. I wanted to tell the truth, but I was also alarmed. What would I have to do to help my dad win? And if he won would they all stop fighting?

"Yes. That's it. All I need you to do is tell the truth to my lawyer"

I immediately got nervous. Talk to a stranger? To a lawyer? I was a shy kid, an awkward and quiet child and authority figures terrified me. What if I disappointed them somehow? I hesitated and he could see it on my face. He pulled out the big guns - my Achilles heal if you will.

"Carrie. If I don't win then you and your brothers will have to go live with your mom and your step dad, Murray. Do you want to put your brothers in danger?"

The way my dad spat the name Murray off his tongue as though the very taste of it was revolting made me cringe. My dad hated my step father, almost as much as he hated my mother. And I can't say he didn't have good reason to. My step dad had proven that he was a little unstable. The truth of it was I feared Murray - at least a bit. He had a short fuse that sometimes made the house so still I thought I'd be frozen forever - breath trapped within my chest - every limb quivering from the strain of staying so perfectly rigid. Of course my father had a short fuse too, so I was confused. I didn't know who was right in this whole mess.

"I don't know..." I hesitated again, my mind a swirl. The last thing I wanted to do was to make my dad disappointed in me. He shook his head slowly - sadness etched across his face.

"Carrie" he pleaded again, "think of your brothers".

There was a lot more words - my father has this talent for lecturing that allowed no chance for escape. He begged, cajoled and manipulated, but he'd already won. In my mind I had to protect my siblings. From the time I was a little girl I'd taken care of them. Friends and family alike had nicknamed me "Little Mama". And so it was no surprise that I agreed. In my ten year old mind I was doing the righteous thing. I was going to save my two baby brothers. I may not be a princess taking on an evil alien army, but nevertheless, I was going to be a hero.

Perhaps my father will contest my memory of this conversation, but it was traumatic for me. I remember feeling that if I didn't help my dad - didn't write an affidavit against my mother - that my brothers would be in grave danger. So I went with my dad to the lawyers, I spoke with a "psychiatrist" who took notes. I was oblivious to the position I had been put in, and I was completely oblivious to the effect it would have on my relationship with my mother...

When the affidavit had being typed up I was called into the lawyers office - alone - and asked to sign the document. Before I could put pen to paper the lawyer looked me in the eye and said, "Carrie. Is everything you said truthful?"

I nodded.

"I just want you to be aware that if any of this turns out to be false - do you know what false means?"

I nodded again.

"If any of this turns out to be false then you can be sent to jail"

I immediately panicked. I can go to jail? What if something I said was wrong? What if it was a lie and I didn't know it? What if they think its a lie when its not? I felt close to tears but shook my head.

"It's not a lie" I whispered. My dad's lawyer smiled reassuringly and I signed the document.

I told my father what the lawyer had said - about lies and jail - and I began to sob. My father was livid with his lawyer, but the last ditch attempt to win worked out - so anger was soon forgotten. My mother lost custody...

Before the verdict had been rendered, however, my mom received the affidavit through her lawyer. She was cutting chicken in the kitchen when she mentioned it to me.

"Carrie" my mother voice wavered and nearly broke - its what caught my attention and held me in place, "I got the affidavit you wrote, today."

"Oh" I choked out. I couldn't look her in the eye. I was ashamed. She stared down at the chicken. Her butcher knife cutting through bone as she sliced the usable pieces for dinner. She brought the knife down, over and over; crack, crack, crack. I trembled a little.

"Its okay. I'm not mad" I looked up then, surprised.

"Your not?" tears filled my eyes.

"No baby, I'm not"

That was all that was said. We never spoke of it again for many years.

It has remained a source of discomfort in our relationship though - mostly on my part. The guilt I hold for not only tearing apart my mothers world, but also my brothers, will haunt me until the day I die.

 But in that moment - I got to see her as my mother - not as the woman my father despised. She revealed herself - revealed her love for me in that simple grace. She wasn't mad. She didn't hate me. Only later I would learn how far my mother went to protect me. Her own lawyer wanted to put me on the stand, wanted to tear my testimony apart, wanted to make me look like a liar.

My mother refused. Win or lose she wasn't going to do that to her daughter.

I wish there were words to thank her for that.

Instead I will only say, I love you mom so very much; and I know what you gave up for me. You gave up the biggest pieces of yourself - your kids - in order to salvage whatever was left inside of me.



So thank you and please know, if I could take it back - I would.



Happy Mother's Day.



read to be read at yeahwrite.me

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Echoes of the Past

I stepped onto my back deck last night and searched the sky for answers to my melancholy. It isn't like me to feel so heavy. I needed some time alone, a moment or two to collect my thoughts and analyze what I was feeling. I listened to the crickets, and to the neighbours whistling for their dog. I heard sirens screaming out a devastation in progress and I breathed deep the world around me. I turned my face towards the stars and I let myself feel small.

Not inconsequential. Just small.

Its been a while since I took up residence with the universe at large. I've been so busy within my own little world that I almost forgot I belong to a bigger one. I was surprised to discover that I longed for the life outside my door. I ached for a connection beyond these walls.

I have sat so long in a canyon of echoes that I can no longer reconcile my past while looking forward to the future. I wouldn't label myself depressed or even particularly sad. In truth I feel more shell shocked. These last 18 months have caught up with me. I had hoped to escape unscathed because miracles are supposed to work like that.  You pray - to whatever God you believe in - and when He responds with grace, and love, and a wish granted - you're supposed to be saved, your supposed to be grateful, but most of all you're supposed to move on.

For a few weeks now I've felt disconnected and I didn't know why. I have a life that anyone would die for. I don't want for anything. Not love, not finances, not children. So why did I feel so lost? The answer came as quickly as his diagnosis had. My breathing laboured and I remembered...

What the words felt like as they slithered into my ear and burrowed into my brain. The icy fear and the hot white anger was ever present, but it was the mourning I had not expected. I mourned for the life we had built - the vision of how things were supposed to be. I was no longer a mother to three beautiful, healthy children. I had been thrown - unwillingly - into the world of "Heart Moms". My newborn possessed a congenital heart defect. MINE. My child. How did that make sense?

So I had to learn to love a child who was mortal. As a parent you never truly contemplate what it would feel like to outlive your child. The idea is so devastating and repugnant that no parent can do it unless they are forced to. My hand was forced the minute I heard the doctors murmur "early stages of heart failure."

We went through hell and back and my baby survived - we all did. I've been so grateful that his life was not only spared, but that his body was saved from the brutal effects of open heart surgery that I mistakenly believed there would be no ramifications from the journey my family and I walked. I was wrong.

My husband and I wrapped ourselves together so tightly when our youngest needed us that we never saw the consequences of our actions. We could not have known that our bond as parents would impact our bond as spouses.

I have grown to be a person more wholly focused on my kids. All I want is to soak up the moments I have with them because I have learned that the future is not guaranteed; not for anyone, not even my children.  But I am suffering for this decision. Only now I have come to realize that this plan is flawed. I can't just be a mother - I have to find the woman beneath that. The foundation is important too and it needs some work.

My husband on the other hand has opted for space. He's gone a lot more now. Hes trying so hard to live life and to appreciate the world outside that he's forgotten how to find the satisfaction in the one we have. 

So he's stepping back and I'm stepping sideways and the chasm between us is growing. When you face your worst fear something changes. It was so imperceptible that neither of us recognized it at first.

The truth is we are different people now and we have to learn to love these different versions of ourselves and of each other.
.......

I live in a canyon of echoes. Echoes of the past. Screams of pain, peals of laughter, vows made in love. But I'm ready to move on, I'm ready to step into the future and I don't want to live attempting to predict every possibility anymore. I just want to live with the possibility I already have. My kids and my husband and the moments where I get to feel small.

Not inconsequential. Just small.

I want to be part of the world again.