dispatches from these sandwich days – alternating bullet points

* Duncan His words are coming so quickly now, and I feel a desperate desire to capture every moment of his toddler hood, scared I’m going to forget the order of his words – ball, dog, bowl, mommy, dada, yogurt, sister, stuck, stop, door and No, to name the ones he says most frequently. Once he has been fed, the only thing my boy wants to do is be outside, playing in our recently inherited sandbox or throwing a ball or going for a walk. His forcefulness is such that we all ended up spending most of the weekend outdoors. Don’t get me wrong – Evangeline has always loved being outside too – but her interest centers more around trips to the pool, the zoo and nature walks – trips with a purpose. She is otherwise happy to play on our porch or look at books or play pretend. But Duncan? It’s outdoors or bust. I’m looking forward to seeing if this continues to be the case as he grows older.

* My Mom has faced a series of upsetting medical issues in the last couple of months that are probably going to result in some pretty aggressive surgery, hopefully sooner rather than later so she can recover in time for my brother’s September wedding in Colorado. A moderately prickly person under the best of circumstances, she is understandably quite nervous. Already these health issues have drastically impacted her summer – she didn’t join her golf league for the first time in probably thirty years, and she is being forced to take her life day by day instead of the leaps and bounds she is used to. This made our last visit – complex – and I realized my fear for my parents in their older age is the possibility of descent into complete joylessness, as the demands of medical appointments and altered lifestyles take the place of their passions. This feels very real, and is what fills my stomach with dread more so than wonky EKG reports or necessary surgical procedures.

* Evangeline is so quickly growing into her own young woman. “They” say how fast our kids will grow up and of course I believed them but…this quickly? My babies? At 4 and a 1/2 and 1 1/2 they are utter deliciousness, learning in great sweeping curves. With Evangeline, four and a half is all about outer space and learning to take photographs and art projects – I’m getting really good at art, mom she told me one day and it’s true, she is. Another time she told me everyone has a hobby and mine is art. Yours is exercising, mom. Every day I say prayers of thanks for their health, their exuberance, their complete and total Evangeline and Duncan-ness.

* When my mom was in the middle of her health issues, I broached the idea of coming home for a few days to help. It wasn’t so much that I considered myself indispensable during her crisis but rather, for the life of me, I could not imagine my father properly grocery shopping or handling laundry. This felt like a betrayal, in a way – I have always been a bit of a daddy’s girl and he has always had my inherent trust when it comes to long hikes in the middle of the woods, filleting fish freshly caught from the lake on old picnic tables, and deep dives into the Great Lakes. So to believe as strongly as I did that he probably wouldn’t properly purchase food or launder sheets felt, in a way, ridiculous, but it turned out I was right. In a private moment, my mom confessed to me that my dad kept offering food she could not eat because of her condition, or allowing long stretches go by without her eating at all. The man is a vigorous 72 years old and spends his days much as he did 40 years ago – running, biking, reading, gardening, camping, golfing, morel-mushroom hunting – so why things like grocery shopping allude him so thoroughly, I’m sure I don’t know. I do know he loves my mom and this disregard isn’t intentional.

* I’ve been emerging from my kids’ babydom in what I think of as layers. When I think of Duncan as a newborn and Evangeline at three, I imagine myself at the bottom of a very deep pool, maybe even an ocean, floating. For months there wasn’t much to distinguish night from day – Duncan was born in the deep grim of a Pittsburgh February, and because of his initial health concerns we weren’t supposed to leave the house at all. Duncan had his days and nights inexorably confused, and his wails during his first six weeks of life often woke his sister. Many nights found the three of us on the living room couch at 2 a.m., all of us thwarted in our attempts at nighttime sleep. The biggest gift I gave myself during that period, though, was the gift of time. I didn’t grow anxious late into night and instead began, in a way, looking forward to those deep evenings when both my children needed me – Sam slept through it all. I feel like I’ve been rising to the surface, gradually, ever since and suddenly I’ve broken through – the sun is above me, the ocean floor far below and I’m not even treading water – I’m swimming toward something.

* I am aware of this surfacing in part because of how active my mind has been recently – I feel like my old self again. I love how, with the creation of Serial, Sara Koenig refers to her interest in Adnan Syed’s conviction as a “fascination” instead of an obsession – I know just what she means by that. I’ve been following my fascinations for a few months now (should I write a one woman show about this performance artist I’m obsessed with? Must learn all there is to know about Brian Wilson!) and its just occurred to me that it’s time to write – really write again. I’ve been blogging and keeping a journal throughout my children’s early years, but it’s not the same as working on long-term writing projects. I have so many ideas bouncing around in my head all of the time that they can become slightly crazy-making, but now is the time to return to what I’ve always thought of as my real work – writing, and possibly teaching.

…if I wait for a creative way to end this post, I will never post it -as it is it took me nearly a week to write this. So, I’m just going to post, with the promise of more substantial posts very soon.

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4 thoughts on “dispatches from these sandwich days – alternating bullet points

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about your mother. At the moment both my parents are very healthy, but I do dread the future. My dad may not have invented learned helplessness, but he’s certainly perfected it. I’m a little concerned what my own guilt at the situation would make me do. As for children growing up, I thought I would recall every moment of my son’s young life and now I hate to say it, but it’s really hard to get more than a general sense of where we were and what we were doing. It does go fast in some ways, and then you hit a tough patch and it’s all very slow. But you are taking so much deep pleasure in your kids and that’s lovely – enjoying them in the now is always the best thing you can do. Delighted to know you might be writing/blogging more.

  2. Don’t forget that your father may be experiencing fear and denial, too. If it’s hard for you to envision a different, more difficult future for your mother, imagine what it’s like for him. And don’t forget — parents can find it desperately difficult to ask for assistance from children. Because my mother never asked, it took me longer than it should have for me to recognize how much help she needed.

    I always love reading about the children: especially their love of the outdoors.

  3. Litlove – I am very much looking forward to more -a lot more – writing! It’s time. For me, that was the biggest adjustment after having kids – finding time to write…Shoreacres, thanks for reminding me of that possibility – I know you are right. I am trying to be patient with everyone involved, including myself! Shoreacres – oh, I’m sort of bummed this came away as more of a vent…definitely some difficult times, but some beautiful ones too! I’ll work on expressing those more in the next post.

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