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Speaking in Cursive

Walking through this extraordinary life.

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Is Was, Was Is

I had a craptastic week , last week. My grand puppy went nuts and ate everything that wasn’t nailed down. Including my new couch. One of my other dogs went on a hunger strike, and I have no idea what he was protesting. He thinks he is Gandhi.I worked long crazy hours. I got stung by a wasp and had a horrible allergic reaction, go figure. I had to say goodbye to my second born son as he moved across the country with the love of his life. I ugly cried. And that is when I finally realized the definition of Motherhood.

Motherhood, Is, locking myself in the bathroom with a fun size bag of Kit Kats, crying, repeating over  and over,to the adult child knocking,  “Yes, of course, I am okay!” as the wrappers fall to the floor. I think I need to upgrade to the giant size bar.

Motherhood, Was, 5 loads of laundry a day. Smelly football uniforms. So many shoes scattered about the house, not knowing who they all belong to.Cooking to feed an army, or a football team, whoever showed up first.Doors slamming, guitars jamming, noise noise noise.Just wanting five minutes peace.

Motherhood, Is,empty places at the table, which is now just used for storage. Empty bedrooms, so I keep the doors shut.Learning to cook all over again, to feed 2 or 3 instead of 6 or 20.Throwing away bread and milk that have spoiled, because, there is not a neighborhood gang at my house eating and drinking. Too much silence.

Motherhood,Was, sleepless days and nights. Staying awake with sick kids.Holding puke buckets. Helping with projects and homework. Going to games, and tournaments, and musicals. Concerts,Spelling Bee’s and field trips. Never eating a hot meal from a plate, but rather from the serving spoon, as you cleaned off the table. Greeting them after school, at the door, about the missing homework phone call,Screaming and yelling at the top of your lungs, then regretting it the second you did. Praying that they would turn out despite how much you were screwing them up, by not knowing what the hell you were doing at all.

Motherhood, Is,Skyping, and texting and emailing, to make sure they are okay.It is sending or handing them money, and having them say “No, Mom, I am okay, I don’t need it.” (Who are they? )It is watching them, from afar, or very very afar, live and follow their dreams. Seeing them fall in love and make life decisions. It is constant, unending worry and prayer. Worrying if they made it safely, if they ate, if they have enough money,are they Happy? Praying that they did, they have, they do and they are.It is forgiving yourself over and over for all the mistakes you made raising them, and hoping they forgive you too. It is looking at old photos and wishing you could do it all over again.The, messes, the homework, the sleepless vomit filled nights. All over again.It is nagging them about making you a grandmother.It is crocheting baby blankets so you are prepared.

Motherhood , Is, Missing their laugh, their voice and their mess.It is memories to last a lifetime, to carry you through, on the quiet nights, or weekends.It IS having your heart, walking around, beating in someone else’s chest, because you love them that much.It, Was, and Is the greatest blessing in your life. It , Was, Is, worth the scars, and the stretchmarks. It Was, Is, learning to let go, before they were, or you are ready. It was, knowing they needed you, it, Is hoping they still do. It, Was, loud and noisy, it, Is, learning to embrace the silence. It, Was, all about and for them, it still Is. It Was, Is, and always will be.Motherhood, is crazy.

 

A dog named Rowdy near McCarville Road.

We had planned this anniversary trip for months. Celebrating 27 years of marriage. My husband had found a beautiful cabin, in the middle of nowhere. I was so excited. He had mentioned there would be no internet or cell phone reception. I was actually happy about that. Until we got there, and panic set in. How would I reach home? What if they needed me? What if something went wrong? But what if it didn’t?

IMG_0105About 10 minutes from our destination, my cell phone stopped. I was regretting booking this place. So many things that could go wrong. We were entering another Fall of goodbyes with our children.The oldest still in China, The 2nd oldest and his girlfriend about to move to Seattle, and one of the twins and his girlfriend ready to return to college for their junior year, about an hour and a half from home. I was filled with angst, and sadness, excitement and fear for all of them. Happy I still would have our Brett at home with us, and of course my 3 puppies.But I felt as though things were starting to spin out of control again,things moving in all different directions, none of which I could control.So we had planned this trip knowing I would, we would, need it. You can’t just make impulsive trips when you have a child with autism(adult now). You can’t leave him alone, so you plan it around your other adult children, to be home. I knew they would be okay, but we have never, ever been out of communication when we leave home. Never. Suddenly we had no choice.

As we pulled into the driveway of our getaway location, we were immediately met by two adorable Jack Russel terriers.They began to bark and ran up to our car. Instinctively we both got out and started calling to them, to come to us. They did.Looking around we couldn’t see the caretaker. He had told us the unit would be unlocked, to go in. So we did.To a beautiful cabin,done all in North woods design. It was stunning, and I should have been instantly at peace, but my heart was racing, and I was in panic. What if they needed me.

We went outside, and I sat on the ground, as did my husband. Here, coming from the green fields on the property came Trixie, the momma dog and her son Rowdy. Within seconds they were in our laps, licking us, kissing our faces. I didn’t know I needed them, until that moment. I think they needed us too. We walked the property, looking for Bill, the owner, as these two dogs became our shadow and our tour guides.With each step I could feel my heart slow and my mind relax. The what ifs that had paralyzed me, were becoming a distant memory. Later , Bill came to our door. My husband explained our home situation, and our need to have some communication with our son. He told us we could use his home phone at anytime. At that moment, I took a deep and soul cleansing breath.

We sat and talked with Bill for a while about his puppies,and how we just loved them.He told us how smart Trixie was and could do many tricks, but Rowdy was as “dumb as a stump”. He explained how at one point his daughters had County Fair award winning chickens, until one day, he came home and saw feathers flying, and a chicken hanging from Rowdy’s mouth. That is when I fell in love with a dog named Rowdy.

Over the next two days, we would go for long walks down McCarville Road, a winding country road where there must have been 50 shades of green. From emerald to sage. There was mile after mile of fields of corn. The hills, valleys and ridges filled with acres of wildflowers and birds. We would walk and talk and laugh. We would take in the beauty and the sounds all around us. We were living in the moment, not wondering or worrying what could happen.We just were.We put on over 12 miles in 2 days. I craved more.

Each time we appeared back on the property, there they were. Trixie and her boy Rowdy. Eventually, Trixie took a step back, to let her son get the attention, and lead the way. He took us out on the property to the trout stream. He jumped in, then rolled around on the grass. Then he would jump into my husbands lap. He was so enjoying having this love heaped upon him.Then he would come by me, doing the same thing, lavishing me with his love.And Trixie faded further into the background. Like she knew she had to let him go.

On our final night, we sat outside with Rowdy, Trixie nowhere in sight. I thought to myself,I know how she feels.We have them, we raise them, and eventually they leave.We fed Rowdy some scraps of our dinner and held him in our laps a few more times.We both felt an immense and deep love for him. Silly to some I know, but there was a connection there.My husband said “it’s like they were there just for us.” I believe they were. We said our goodbyes to this new boy in our lives, and entered our cabin, closing the door behind us. Rowdy wouldn’t leave. For over an hour, as day turned to night, he sat there, facing the door, waiting for us.I peered out our bedroom window, watching him, almost in tears, knowing if I opened the door, the goodbye would be that much harder.And I wondered where his mom Trixie was, and how could she not be worried sick over where he was. Then I realized, just because they’re out of sight doesn’t mean they are out of mind. Sometimes you just have to let them go out on their own, knowing they eventually find their way home.

The apple that fell across the ocean

I can still remember the conversation, though I doubt he does. He was 15 and was pondering his future. “I just don’t feel this town has anything for me.” he said. “Right now you are a big fish in a small pond” I replied. “Someday, you will be a small fish in a big pond.” I just never imagined it would be an Ocean.

My son lives in China. He teaches at a university in Hangzhou.

Most days I have to remind myself of this. He is no longer just 10 hours away at school. He is oceans away, across continents and time zones. When people find out he lives there( already 2 years) they ask me “how could you let him move there?” That is usually the part I laugh, because, that has never been how we deal with our son.

I like to describe my son as George Bailey, from It’s a Wonderful Life. When George is sitting at the dinner table with his father, and his dad says to him ” you were born older, George.” that is how I see my son. An old soul, searching, yearning for more.We have video of him at 18 months, drawing faces and shapes and asking me to do the same. “What shape is this Tony?” I would say. “Octagon” he would mutter with his pacifier hanging from his mouth.Then it was dinosaurs. “Draw an Ornitholestes mom.” I would have to look up what the heck he was talking about.He knew them all, by 3. It was always something, he just craved learning and knowing more.

My husband and myself  are not big on far off adventures or traveling . Heck if we go a few hours away, we consider ourselves lucky.When the kids were growing up we took them on vacations, but usually just “up north”. So where he got the urge to travel and see the world I will never know. In his almost 25 years he has become a world traveler. His first out of the country trip came when he was 16, to Germany, with the high school. In my mind that is when it happened. His need to see the world. In college he studied abroad in Austria, and saw many of the surrounding countries over there. One of his Bachelor degrees is in German studies, so we assumed( and you know what they say about people who assume!) that possibly he would end up there, and we were okay with that. As okay as a parent can be with a child living out of the country, I guess. So when he sprung China on us,I couldn’t breathe.China. Either we are horrid parents and he is trying to get to the exact opposite side of the world from us, or we did a pretty good job. The jury is still out.

He graduated from college the Spring of 2014, and I watched the days on the calendar turn until his departure in August. How can he just go to a country, not knowing a soul, at the time only knowing a little of the language. How can he be so sure of himself? How can he be so determined? We took him to the airport, hugged him at security, and tried not to lose it until we got to the car. We barely unlocked the doors to the vehicle when not only did the skies open up and begin to pour, but so did our eyes. And there in a car in the airport parking lot, my husband and I cried our eyes and hearts out.Our son was moving across the world.

Now, our means of communication are Facebook or Skype. I joke with him about not responding to my posts to him, or not returning my messages. One time I sent him a message asking if he wanted to Skype soon. He responded 10 days later, “can’t right now mom, I am working.” Sometimes I will simply send a message asking if he is dead, which usually garners a faster response. I can still work that Mothers guilt thing when I want to.I find myself sometimes incredibly envious of the parents  who have adult kids  that have decided to stay close to “home”. The ones who have their kids and grandchildren over for dinner, or take trips together. They have no idea how blessed they are. But then I remember that conversation from 10 years ago.

Last night we Skyped with him, after almost a month of little to no communication. It was great to hear his voice and see he is happy. Two of his brothers were also there to talk with him. As usual he lit up when he saw his “puppies”. I asked my usual questions like” when are there going to be grandbabies?” At one point, my husband asked him if he ever had Lemon iced tea. “You see guys, this is why we shouldn’t talk every day, this is what we would have to talk about!”he said.Maybe he is right. Maybe for him, he is confident in the love we have for him, that nothing, not time, or distance will change that. He knows we will always be here, in the small pond,supporting him and his next adventure. I keep asking how long he plans on staying there, to which he responds “when I am completely fluent in the language.” I have no clue how long that takes, but I also know, he will never come “home” to live. After China I am sure there will be some other place he will need to be. A new adventure. A need to learn something new about somewhere new, to calm his old soul.But sometimes, a mom just needs to hear a voice and see a face to keep her treading water to stay afloat.

Of Buckets, Beards and Birthdays

“Learn from our mistakes”, we said to him. Saying what every parent says at some point to their child. I don’t even remember what we were talking about to say that to him, but I will never forget his response.”But what if I am supposed to learn a different lesson.” Frozen in my tracks, it changed how I parented forever.My stubborn, strong willed, middle son had just taught me an invaluable lesson.

Today is my son Nathan’s 23rd birthday. The age I was when I had him. He is my second son, my middle child, even though there are four sons.(Twins are the youngest).  From the day he was born, he was stubborn, and silly, and tenacious and unique.  He crawled by 5 months, walked at 10 months. At about 1.5 yrs old, he became obsessed with Frosty the Snowman. We watched it over and over, for about 2 yrs. He would find a bucket, and that was his hat. He would NOT let us take it off. We would struggle to remove it at bath or bed time.He would win. Buckethead prevailed.

At about 3 years old he fell in love with Santa Claus. He dressed like him every day. Full outfit. It could be 100 degrees outside, he had on his beard and wig. He dressed like him for Halloween. The neighborhood girls would pull him in a wagon around town, as he yelled” Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas!” every day, year round. We tried to distract him, but no, He was Santa, and that was that.Eventually,he had us call him Scott Calvin, from the movie The Santa Clause. This kid was going to live life his way. We just were along for the ride.

His school years started and they were met with excitement and struggles.He had some very major health scares. When you are told your child more likely than not has cancer, will need surgery and treatment, your world stops.He was 6.The specialists were convinced he had lymphoma,and took him away for surgery. And my husband and I were devastated. One song  played over and over in my head  He’s My Son by Mark Schultz

I’m down on my knees again tonight,
I’m hoping this prayer will turn out right.
See, there is a boy that needs Your help.
I’ve done all that I can do myself
His mother is tired,
I’m sure You can understand.
Each night as he sleeps
She goes in to hold his hand,
And she tries
Not to cry
As the tears fill her eyes.

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me
Let me take his place some how.                                                                                                                    See, he’s not just anyone, he’s my son.

Sometimes late at night I watch him sleep,
I dream of the boy he’d like to be.
I try to be strong and see him through,
But God, who he needs right now is You.
Let him grow old,
Live life without this fear.
What would I be
Living without him here?
He’s so tired,
And he’s scared
Let him know that You’re there.

Can You hear me?
Am I getting through tonight?
Can You see him?
Can You make him feel all right?
If You can hear me                                                                                                                                              Let me take his place some how.
See, he’s not just anyone, he’s my son.

They told us after the surgery, the Oncologist and surgeon would take us to a separate room, to plan his treatment. The doors opened, and my husband and I stood up, expecting to be taken to the room.”Sit down.” the surgeon said.” I don’t know how or why, but it’s not cancer. Everything pointed to cancer.”  Buckethead 1 Cancer 0

As he got older, the adventures of Nate continued. Like the year he decided to change how he laughed. Like it’s a choice? But he did. He said for 1 year he would only laugh  “HA!” And for 1 year, he kept that promise.One, single loud HA! Which of course only made the rest of us crack up. And I miss hearing his HA so much.

Buckethead grew up, and graduated and moved away for college. Graduated from MMI and then moved again. And now he is about to move across the country to Seattle, with his girlfriend Emma. And as happy as I am for them, to be starting a life together, I wish I could have him back home, little again. Wishing I could spend countless hours watching Santa movies in the heat of summer with him. But he has lessons to learn,that I can’t teach him. Because he might learn a different lesson than I would.It is his journey.

He has his own dreams and life wishes. He has to do what he wants to do.Kind of like he always has. We might have different beliefs, and opposite ways we view some things.But one thing will never change, the love and respect I have for him.And how grateful I am to have learned so many lessons from him.

Happy Birthday Scott Calvin.I  love you. HA!

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His brothers keeper

And love will hold us together
Make us a shelter to weather the storm
And I’ll be my brother’s keeper
So the whole world would know that we’re not alone

I shouldn’t have been surprised when the doctor told me I was having twins, simply by looking at me from across the room. Twins are everywhere on my husbands side of the family. Twin sisters, nieces, cousins. Yet somehow I was still shocked. How in the heck could we handle two more babies. At the time we already had a 4 year old and 2 year old son. So at 14 weeks along when the ultra sound showed two more boys, we were speechless.But we were so excited at the endless possibilities about to come our way. We had no way of knowing what the future actually held.

They came into the world fighting, 6 weeks premature.Yet, were by all appearances healthy.They continued that path, for the most part, until about 2 yrs of age. That is when we noticed some delay’s in Brett, but looking back, I see we were in denial about just how many and how severe.The summer before kindergarten they had their screening. The teachers pulled me aside and said they wanted to put them in different classrooms come fall. They were concerned that the twins were relying on each other too much. That Bryce was worried about Brett, and so he always “helped” him.The teachers felt it would help Brett become more independent. I reluctantly agreed. Honestly, I was more worried about the inconvenience it might cause me, having to deal with two rooms and two sets of rules.How selfish I was. So I agreed.

Every morning, I would walk them to school. I would watch Bryce go into his classroom, and I would hold Brett’s hand as he cried,wanting to go with his twin, his best friend.It was heartbreaking.They wanted to be together. They needed to be together.But, they shouldn’t be together. They were two different souls, on two very different trajectories.Just how different I had no way of knowing. I also had no way of knowing, at the time, how much pressure I was about to put on Bryce.Asking him to be my eyes and ears when I couldn’t be.To be his brothers keeper.

Once in 1st grade, I asked that they be placed in the same homeroom. Seeing as Brett would be pulled for special ed most of the day, I felt being able to go into the same room every morning would help ease the stress.They obliged, and from that year until high school, they were put in at least the same home room.And while Brett struggled, and fought every step of the way, Bryce was labeled Gifted and Talented in 2nd grade. So I was dealing with I.E P’s and College for Kids. I was straddling a tight rope. So in my ignorance I put a lot of responsibility on Bryce, to watch over Brett. Every morning I would say to Bryce,” Make sure you sit with him at lunch, make sure you help tie his shoes, make sure you help him zip his coat, make sure you help him with his locker….” the list would go on and on. I did this every damn day for 8 years. I honestly had no idea the pressure I put on him. My husband and I jokingly referred to Bryce as “the informer”. Each night we would say “how was school today, what did Brett do?” He would fill us in. Telling us of the events of the day, and all things Brett. “He couldn’t get his snow pants on mom” or “He fell off the jungle gym at recess, mom.” Each day we would hear all about Brett’s day, and we could feel the sadness in his voice. He was so concerned about his brother, his twin. And he was my spy, so I felt like I knew everything that was going on. Recently we came across an old home video. Bryce is talking to his brother Nate about how Brett sat alone at recess.”Bryce you have to play with him” Nate said. “I know.” he said.

I saw the twins, as just that, Twins. A duo, a group, yet a singular being. We didn’t say their names individually.We said “the twins” or “the babies”. Somehow, I had lost that Bryce was his own person apart from his brother. He had his own dreams and goals.I just was too busy making sure he took care of Brett when I couldn’t. I didn’t even see the pressure this put on him.Until the summer going into their freshman year. There would be no more same homerooms, or lockers by each other. Their paths were about to diverge, and there was nothing I could do about it, except let it happen. Bryce came to me one morning that summer with such a concerned look in his eyes. Those that know him personally, know that Bryce is a man of few words. He does not seek nor want attention. He avoids it. And he certainly doesn’t share his feelings. So I knew something was bothering him.”What is it?” I asked. It seemed like an eternity but then he said,”Mom, who is going to open Brett’s locker, or make sure he gets to the right class? Who is going to make sure he changes into his gym clothes?” He kept going, asking me, basically, who is going to do for Brett what he had done all those years? That is when it hit me, what I had done to him .I had made him be responsible for someone else. “That is not your problem honey, that is mine.I want you to enjoy high school, and do the things you want.Brett is my responsibility, not yours.” And I felt so ashamed, and sad. How did I put so much pressure on him?

As expected their high school years were quite different. While Brett had I.E.P’s all through high school, Bryce had advanced classes. He was gifted academically and athletically. He had more friends than I could count. His high school years were filled with social events, and prom and homecoming courts and with all conference awards for sports. He was Bryce. Singular. And while he would still fill me in on things he heard Brett had done during the day, it wasn’t expected of him to know or to tell. When the time came for Bryce to choose a college, and move away, we left that up to him. It was his life he had to live. Not ours and not his twins. He continues to amaze us with his academic abilities (Deans List 4 semesters straight!)  and with his quiet strength and compassion.While away at school he would text everyday, usually asking “what is Brett doing?” I think, maybe, even without me telling him to, he would’ve watched over him all those years. You see, he never stopped being his brothers keeper.

Wide Awake

 

My son Bryce comes home from college today for the summer, and his twin has been up since 4 a.m. beside himself with excitement. But he will never admit to that. I am not sure he can.

I am a very light sleeper anyway, but I began to hear rumblings at about 3:30 a.m. I went downstairs, only  one eye partially open, dogs following in hot pursuit. The lyrics to the song “My name is NO” forming in my mouth. Brett was up, and I knew why. Bryce, his twin, would be home today. “What are you doing up?” I asked. “Don’t judge me!” he declared.I explained that I was, in fact, Not judging him,but rather just curious. “I just couldn’t sleep.” he said. “Brycie comes home today!” I exclaimed, to which he responded “Oh Shit!” He was trying to act like he didn’t know or care.I knew better.

He began  stimming Continue reading “Wide Awake”

Laughing my way through

Not many moms can say they received a stolen, used, old choir sweater for Mothers Day,but I can. Proudly.We refer to it as the Asbestos Sweater. It had been stored at the high school, in a room the kids called the asbestos room. My son thought it would be the perfect Mothers day gift for me.He was right.

It was his Junior year in high school, 2009. He had been taking an A.P. test, finished early and had time to kill. And some Mothers Day shopping to do.Only one of my kids would see an old, itchy, ugly sweater from 40 years ago and think..”YES!”

Listen, as the mom of four males, sometimes you are just glad they remember to put the toilet seat back down. So a gift, any gift is a bonus. One does not ever imagine or expect an asbestos sweater though.But he knew me. He knew I would “get” it. That I would laugh, and want to put it on, and wear it.He knew that I would tell everyone in a 50 mile radius about the amazing gift my kid got me.

Of course, there was the year that all of my sons forgot it was Mothers Day. My husband, being the smart man he is, knew that before I had a complete and total emotional meltdown, whisked me away to the casino for the day.

 

Through the years, I have had so many wonderful Mothers Day gifts and celebrations. There was the year one of them got me a bag of Doritos and a princess pillow. I mean, really, stuff I could use and need! There have been the years filled with homemade gifts from school(my favorite, and I miss every year).The years filled with flowers, and plants, and cakes and chocolates. And every single year since I became a mom, my husband Mark, spoils me.He makes me feel that he truly appreciates me as the mother of his sons.

The other night  I was chatting online with my son overseas. The asbestos sweater giver. I had asked if he was still planning on a visit home this summer. He told me his plans had changed and he wouldn’t be. And I began to ugly cry, in the dark. I wanted to have all my boys back, in one room again. Laughing. The kind of laughing that makes you lose your breath, and gasp for air. Because of  all the memories I have of being a mother, it is the laughter I recall the most. The things they said or did that made me just laugh until I cried.The way they knew I would get the joke, that I would just laugh. I hope when they look back, that is what they remember too. That their house was chaotic and crazy, and loud and messy. And filled with laughter. And that would be the best gift they could ever give me.

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