i am sorry for dying - the way the orchid petal limps and clings - refusing to drop. i found all the merchandise a heartbreak - the way i said i love you with a boxful and ribbon - as if even a portion of my reverence could be contained. when time steals you away from me - because you are growing and learning to love things outside of Us - i wonder at having had once my own dreams - before i cared more about an elusive collective and following your youth into the night.
We drive in traffic at night to see papa - who at almost 93 years old - is the first to call you toots. Irv's a good kid says his grandson - the other calls him homey. A Haagan Daz enthusiast, he drinks hot coffee from a red Solo keg cup and holds his own against top ranked players at daily Bridge. We will dip a chip in guacamole share a hunk of cheese and build a future we worry losing. Time makes everything delicious and awful. We love him like banana pancakes. (Written by Larry Ben Jonas and Danielle Salk in car on whim. )
i am thinking about dads today and how my own died way to young - and how so much of who i have become was because of this man - that, in some ways, i barely knew. but i knew him. i know your dad died early too, and yours. and how hard it is for all of us to look at our boys, our sons, our nephews and think - they will never get to meet him, or - god, my dad would love you. i am proud. to have had a dad. to have, through marriage and love helped make one. to understand the delicate fabric that holds our men together - that shapes our boys. I feel dangerously too close sometimes - to the essence of things - how i catch a glimpse of my child walking passed in a man's body. he carry's my father's death with him, you know and lends him another life.
my child is poet though he hates to be called one. says every mom thinks their kid is a genius. meanwhile, he's writing lines that strip flesh from bone - about his 92 year old grandfather - about honor about home. i see that words are just a tool for him like a baseball mitt or a pencil or food. maybe he is on to something - this ambivalence towards words. skips magic pebbles across the pond while i dig around in the dark looking for the perfect stone.
there was a time when all i could think of was how to be more in love with you. then all that loving made others things to love - so many in fact, that all i could think of was how to be more of myself somehow. now i am just thinking about how to be enough - and kind. and also how it is possible to want something so bad, with everything that you are, and not get it. and still know that somehow it is enough to just be enough and kind.
sometimes i am afraid that my children will die or i will leave them motherless or the wrong person will become President. i worry that if any of these things happen someone or everyone will be unsafe. Armageddon will happen or maybe god will break forever. when i am struggling with the entire universe and trying to control outcomes way outside my league the space inside me filled with love starts to sink until a bottom falls out and there is only worry going down and down and down. if i am lucky i will love my children today and take good care of my own little self and i will pray for my country and even for god.
If i had another life i would choose this one - all messy and ridiculous with the clutter of bones and bills and love. i would walk head-on into the magical mayhem of my teenagers' angst and the moods of marriage - all the time watching my life unravel in both anguish and awe. No one would save me and i would not dawn a cape or make a brilliant name for myself but i would have you quietly snoring next to me, and everything that our laying together made would be brimming over always seeming to bang at the door at every door almost unbearable the fullness the constancy the living of this mad and wonderful life.
my children are growing away. it is not so much an "up". and i want to run after the leaving - though they are right here beside me - to ask them to stay please stay don't go. but they are curious in their growing away - this becoming of gentlemen - so that sometimes i must step aside also to catch a glimpse of their newness from a distance. i witness them then - these young people in my children's bodies - carving out legacies they didn't ask for help on - calculating equations, cracking jokes, making men.
then the sun came out
like it was nobody’s business after all –
and we were meant to go on about our lives
as if the heart hadn’t been cracked open.
i called out to you –
a subtle gesture really –
just with my eyes
as if they indeed could speak volumes.
you were making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,
unshaven and beautiful,
flannel pant legs haphazardly caught up in your rain boots.
“winter can wait” you replied,
never saying a word.
Somehow you managed to make me believe
that I was loved –
but all of the time –
as if it were a simple truth
to be taken for granted.
Somehow you managed to make me believe
that this love was my birthright –
as if I had it
even before I was born to you –
so that it was something you merely reminded me of,
rather than something you had to grow within yourself,
that could be lost or broken or withheld.
Somehow you managed to make me believe
that I deserved this love
that I was worthy of this love
and that it was mine.
And somehow you managed to show me
that I could share this
with other people
by merely witnessing what was inside them already too –
so that I wasn’t giving anything away
or taking anything from
and we were all just sharing
like it was natural to do so
because it was all of ours, all of the time.
Somehow, now that I am older,
I have managed to realize the significance
of the gift
of having received something
that has no giver.
Of having been loved
It’s my first-born son, Ben’s, 12th birthday today. It looks less unbelievable as a number than a word. 12th. Twelfth. I had to look up the spelling because there wanted to be a “v”. Because twelve has a v and it has been 12 Very short years since I met this kid and now I gotta spell it with an “f” cuz Why The Face? WTF?
The past 12 years have been pretty silent ones over here, when it comes to the written word. Not because of busy-ness so much as because how are you going to string together some words to try to describe or celebrate something that is happening around you at such lightening speed, you’re just trying to keep your skirt from blowing up in the air – lifted out of your own body’s sheer momentum? Darn he’s beautiful. Such a lovely soul. So much kindness and awareness. Such strong beliefs. Such courage.
I like photos for this reason. And I know what they say about the “thousand words.” It’s just, if you have the right ones…you only need like 3. Or maybe 8.
I loved him since before there were words.
Maybe a year is just a drop in the bucket, but the rate at which the years are passing (like little faces on a roller coaster zooming by while your trying to turn on the camera app), it’s gonna be a pretty small bucket. I’d like to kick it. Knock it over and spill out all the days that made up the years that are gone – let the hours and moments drench the carpet, imagining that they could be soaked up there, possibly even stain the matted wool. I would lay in them, stare at the marks all day long, scrub at them with heat meant to set the stain and fists full of longing. I want the stolen kisses and tiny hands to come back to me; to pool here and there where I can see them all, floating about in the perfect clarity of what was once the uncontainable present. See tears and first words and the impeccable, astounding discoveries they made when they were doing nothing.
They grow up so fast – everyone warned me. The hours then felt like an eternity – how every need was laboriously fulfilled when no amount of coffee could keep up with the demands. Of course, the ineffable gifts of parenting were measured wholeheartedly, making every hardship worth it, but they were difficult to revel in – the immediacy of the next skinned knee or unexpected turn in events driving you up and out of the reverie. Big brother, so grown up at 21 months, leans in to kiss his newborn bro just home from the hospital – has every intention of kissing him – but bites the unsuspecting cheek instead. So the bite steals time from the kiss and the scolding steals time from the praise and suddenly there is just a blur of happenings past and no way to truly re-collect all the precious intricacies of these little lives, as they forge forward, dragging you behind them on the frayed string of dashed intentions and over-zealous plans.
But the loving is easy. There is that. How it cannot be measured, at last, by the clock. No calender owns it. Only an amorphous, inexhaustible heap lodged unceremoniously between your rib cages and eternity.
Brothers fight. They just do. Maybe not all of them, but I suspect a large majority do. I remember the pediatrician telling me, when they were only about 2 and 4 years old, “Don’t ever assume that the older one started it, even if it always appears that way. I assure you the younger one did something to provoke it, even if it was just being born.” Well that sure put a fresh and unusual twist on things. Most of the time, this insight makes me rethink the desire to dog-pile the older one and hold him down until he cries “Uncle”. To squash the tyranny out of his little self. Of course, the younger one isn’t always at fault either, unless you believe the idea that he chose to come into this family, rather than being the involuntary result of me sleeping really close to the man who’d been toting his yet-morphed form around in his pants. Being inappropriate is a little scary. The monster that fighting boys are capable of turning me into is a little scary also. Scary things are scary.
because I am such a die-hard “Tiger Mom”, I tossed out the 20 minute a day reading rule this week and spent the last few days with my son watching about 20 hours of complete brain cell-killing television shows. We even watched WWE – or whatever you call those bizarre nearly embarrassing “wrestling” performances with the big guys in small shorts who talk like they are
hold ing pallets of steel dung
in their arms and are trying to gather the
strength to form
big words like “the” and “belt”.
Then I offered lots of pancakes and pizza and other fortifying food so he would have the energy to go pick out a 7 pound Chihuahua from the local rescue, because he hadn’t done anything to deserve it. After that we had salmon because it is good and not because it makes you smart and I served him non-organic cherries in a bowl with a lil’ pitt dish I re-purposed from a broken measuring cup. I let him sleep through the little chihuahua’s night-time crate training while I took on the job, even though I had said in no uncertain terms that he’d be the one waking up in the middle of the night. When my son finally did wake up, I made him more pancakes and put a band-aid on the hole in his face he got from a box of ridiculous firecrackers I bought him for the fourth of July. It’s tough being such a strict, bad-ass Tiger mom.
I always wanted to steal time – to sneak into the fissures and crevices of it’s passage before NOW was gone, and put a halt to it. As if somehow I could manage a suspension. An idling. A breath forever caught in the inhalation. Spaciousness without borders. No tick-tock-ing of the forever omnipresent but elusive clock. A still-life.
The hurry of childhood saddens me. How I raced at it with nothing but eagerness and zeal. How my own children can be so swept up in the promise of aging that tomorrow seems like more of a gift waiting to be granted than today appears to be a miracle. How we plan. How we dream.
Today, a 10 year old said to me, “Me? I’m a lonely sorrow”.
He wasn’t sad when he said it, merely alive and spontaneous and unguarded. The words did summersaults off his tongue and bounced around in the car until they fell like lead balloons into this mother’s lap. She stole the line.
I like to think that we are not broken. That our wounds are the glue that keep us adhered to life. And maybe this is where Time stands still. When we listen. When we allow meaning to fly
still . . .