I don't remember precisely when my younger son developed a fear of going into the water. I do remember that as an infant he wasn't happy about bath time. And I do remember that as a toddler we had to keep a close eye on him when the family was checking into a hotel. He had an uncanny sense, or maybe just a good nose for the scent of chlorine, and would make a beeline for the pool. If the pool happened to be in an open area either his father or I would catch him by the back of his OshKosh overalls just as he was about to leap in. Looking at him now, it's hard to believe there was a time when he didn't like the water. He dives, he swims, he goes off the high board and effortlessly finds his way to the edge of the pool. But somewhere around the age of three he acquired an aversion to water. He refused to go into anything bigger than a bathtub. No amount of coaxing or pleading would convince him to get even a toe wet. At the age of four, when I hoped to enroll him in the first level of swimming lessons, it became clear this was going to be impossible. Though I was labeled permissive by some who actually had the gall to remark to me that his father and I should show him who ran things, ignore his cries of terror, and force him to endure swimming lessons. No, I thought. I didn't have a clue what was going on in his little boy head that made him fear the water. But I didn't believe that bullying him into contact with it was going to help. A summer of watery adventures missed slipped by. And then another. Which brought us to Labor Day weekend 1997. We were in Omaha visiting friends and taking in the zoo and other local attractions. It had been a long, hot, dusty day at the zoo and then an evening barbecue. When we got back to our hotel it was late and dark. Our older son cast a longing eye toward the outdoor pool which was open until midnight. Thinking that a dip in the cool water would be refreshing and relaxing, we all ducked into the room to dig our suits out of suitcases, locate towels and get changed. As we left the room, dad and older son were already near the edge of the pool several yards away. I looked down at my dear little five year old son and held out my hand to him. He took it and we crossed the parking lot and entered the gate to the pool area. While I set our towels down on a chair, he took up his usual spot, sitting on the edge of the pool, his knees pulled up to his chest. The swimming trunks he was wearing had only seen water in the washing machine. I carefully descended the steps into the pool, keeping an eye on him while his dad and brother splashed and goofed off at the other end of the pool. I don't know what it was about that night. Maybe it was the outdoor pool under the starlit sky. Maybe he was just ready. I extended my arms toward him and smiled, expecting him to draw his little legs up even tighter. But he relaxed and smiled back and held his open arms out to me and slipped into the water. I caught him and we laughed. For the next hour and a half he wore himself out climbing out and jumping back in. He had made friends with the water. In his own time and on his own terms. Just as I knew he would. It serves me well to remember this as a lesson, as this is often his approach to overcoming whatever scares or perplexes this son of mine. I need to be patient and let him find his own way. Because in the end, it is ever so much more important that the victory belongs to him.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
Do consume as many fresh garden tomatoes as you possibly can. Don't buy a Dodge Stratus. Cute car, lousy transmission. Do hug your friends. Especially the ones you haven't seen in a while. Don't install a light fixture unless you have turned off the appropriate electrical breaker. Do read a newspaper instead of getting your news from television! My friend Colleen's house is having an off-its-foundation experience and will soon move out of town in a northerly direction. Tomorrow is the last day of August. That means next week I go back to work full time. My painting project is done! That must be what I did all summer. The younger son has been back in school for nearly a week. My older son is moving back into the dorm this weekend. They are my sophomores this year. I expect great things from these wise idiots of mine. My supervisor at work has the cutest baby boy! And I'm sure that has nothing to do with the fact that he was born on my birthday and has the same middle name as me. I am so tired right now I swear I could sleep for a week. Sandy and I enjoy saying the word "phompsis", which is a group of fungi that cause disease in soybeans. Not a funny thing at all, but a very funny word. Say it. Come on. Phompsis, phompsis, phompsis. I just know that my younger son is going to come in here before he goes to bed and share some disturbing fact with me that will lodge in my head and give me bad dreams tonight. Don't forget that September 19th is Talk Like a Pirate Day. I'm not crazy about my surname but it's better than my maiden name, so I was thinking about just changing my last name to one of my own choice just for fun. It is just weirder than you can possibly imagine to hear a totally ludicrous rumor about yourself that is completely untrue. Did I mention that I'm pooped? And that I could use a shower? I've been sticking pretty close to home the last couple of months, I didn't go on my semi-planned birthday road trip in July. I bought a leather couch instead. I'm so very happy that tomorrow is Friday. If this week were any longer I just don't know if I could manage it! Newton and Einstein are on their evening romp through the house. It's quite amazing how a couple of nine pound cats can sound like a herd of rampaging buffalo. I have a list of twenty-two items that would make up the ideal man for me. Item number fifteen states that he should joyfully massage my feet. Pretty much on demand. And as far as me and my tired feet are concerned, he could show up any time soon.
Monday, August 27, 2007
It's been raining. Which brought the lawn back to life. So this morning I mowed the lawn for the first time in nearly two months. It was overdue but manageable. Rain also makes the weeds grow! But it also softens the ground making weeding possible, not merely easier. I pulled a ton of weeds from my moon garden and it is nice and tidy once more. One can now appreciate the white blossoms of the petunias, alyssum, and chrysanthemum. Ready for tonight's full moon and complete eclipse. For those of you who are unaware of what a moon garden is, it is simply a flower patch planted with only white-blossoming flowers. On a full moon night, and the nights of the week surrounding a full moon, I can look out my bedroom window and see a sea of white flowers floating in the glowing near-darkness. It is absolutely lovely to the eye as well as to the nose. A mass planting of petunias and alyssum in bloom leaves a heady perfume on the breeze. I will be awake in the wee hours of Tuesday to observe as much of the eclipse as possible. Although I know a lunar eclipse is created by the Earth's shadow across the moon when when we pass between la Luna and the sun, that fact alone really doesn't cross my mind while I'm under the night sky taking in the celestial show. Such a sight must speak to my inner cavewoman, the event is a spiritual experience for me that doesn't ask for an explanation. I am humbled by the endless sky and in awe of the universe just as our ancestral humans must have been.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
I have this lovely bracelet. Bought it four or so years ago, it's a sterling silver chain with two abalone beads that alternate with three silver charms. Each of the charms is inscribed with a single word, those words being body, mind and spirit. I wore it often. I liked the smooth, cool feel of the charms against my skin and the relative heaviness of it. In addition to the sentiment of the words on the charms, the weight of it on my wrist was a reminder of why I liked the bracelet so much. That ancient triad of the whole and its parts, separate yet so intricately entwined that what affects one aspect, affects all. Kind of an existential, holistic view of life dangling about my arm. The last time I wore it was two and a half years ago, to my book group gathering in January, 2005. Later that evening, when removing the "extra" ornaments while preparing for bed, (regular readers are aware that I sleep, bathe, shower, etc. with a minimum of seven pieces of jewelry, other extra ornaments are added most days) I noticed that the bracelet was missing one of its silver charms. And wouldn't you know, it was the one that read "mind". What had been suspected by many for some time was now official. I had, indeed and literally, lost my mind. Mary, who had hosted the book group, searched her home and found nothing. Even a thorough vacuuming had not turned up a clanky, metallic visitor in her Hoover's refuse tank. An equally thorough search of Sue's car was fruitless as well. I looked around the house, in my clothing, the garage, my coat sleeves, even the driveway and after a week or so gave up and accepted the loss. The bracelet took up residence in the bottom of my jewelry box, it just didn't feel right to wear it in this incomplete state. I tried to locate a similar charm to replace the one I had lost but met with no success for my efforts. It's interesting looking back on that recent period of my life because little did I know at the time I lost the charm, that in the ensuing weeks I would genuinely feel as though I had lost my mind. In the next seven weeks, my life as I knew it, came crashing down around me in ways I could never have imagined, let alone predicted. Did I have a hand in creating this calamity? Yes. Was I aware of the downside? Yes. I wasn't foolish enough to think that I had any control over the events that transpired, but in even my most lurid worst case scenario conceptions, I didn't go far enough. The sheer ferocity of the judgment and anger that followed astonished me. Terrified me. Made me question everything. My tremendous personal losses included my marriage and my extended family. I was ostracized from my social circle which included friendships of twenty years' endurance. I survived this deepest, darkest period of my life with the help of counseling and a handful of my true friends who stood by me. I truly felt as if I had lost my mind. It took months to crawl out of that abyss and rebuild my life. Some days all that kept me going were the smiling faces of my sons. I think I needed them more than they needed me, but that was enough. I eventually slept comfortably through the night again. I could eat without the food feeling as though it was lodged in my throat and could go no further. I dug deep into my pain and shone light into the darkest corners of my emotional closet. I took responsibility, made amends, confronted my frailties and healed. For some time now I have felt as if my mind is back in residence, elastic and competent and still capable of learning and adapting. Then, just a couple of days ago, when perusing a rack of silver rings in the jewelry department of one of my favorite shopping haunts, I found my mind again. A simple silver band inscribed with the words mind, body and spirit. With the bonus words peace and love! On my bracelet, the words had dangled on charms, somehow in jeopardy of breaking loose and falling away with no warning. Now they are firmly in place, encircling my finger, integrated into one piece with a solidarity that feels consistent with my current life. Peace. Mind. Body. Spirit. Love. It's funny how Anna and I have observed over the last year or so that if we combine the various aspects of our individual lives, we have one complete life with a few extras. We have vowed to one another to focus on the areas of our lives that need enhancement so that between us, we will have two complete lives, one for each of us. So I've been meditating on how to complete my life, how to go about getting what I need, including what I need to give. Maybe now, I'm finally ready for a complete life. I have the ring to remind me that the rest will come in the fullness of time.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
I am inside on a lovely Sunday afternoon because I have to finish this damn painting job! The sun is shining, there is a light breeze and the temperature is in the mid-seventies. My brain is sort of in the mid-seventies as well. I saw a program on public tv Friday night featuring the two former lead guys in the seventies band from Canada, the Guess Who. They both went on to have successful careers after the break-up of the Guess Who, Burton Cummings as a solo artist and Randy Bachman as half of Bachman Turner Overdrive. They are performing under the name Bachman/Cummings Songbook. The name change has to do with copyright ownership details, apparently when lawyers get involved, who owns the song determines who can actually perform the song without legal retaliation. If they call themselves something different, they can perform all of the songs that were produced (by them, mind you) under different entities and get by with it. I truly enjoyed the show, it was great fun to hear all of those songs from the early seventies. When I was in high school, I owned American Woman on vinyl. I was intrigued by the fact that the founding members of the band hailed from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, which was just a couple of hours north on I29 from where I was living. So, it's gorgeous outside and I'm determined to finish painting because I'm tired, tired, tired of the mess and want to be done with it. I just pulled up the old carpeting that had been on the basement steps for about fifteen years. It was a nasty job and I'm glad I'm done with that phase! I have three blisters, I should have worn gloves, and a sore spot on my right foot from a stray staple sticking up from one of the steps, I should have worn shoes. Momentarily I'm going to have a little snack and get on with the painting now that the last of the prep work is complete. I'm really going to deserve at least one Leinie's Honey Weiss when I'm through, possibly two. And if this lovely weather holds, I just may have to enjoy my beer out in the hammock.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
I'm so sad right now I can hardly move. It's dark in my room except for the glow of my computer screen. The ceiling fan is stirring the mostly still air although an occasional puff of evening coolness drifts in through the window. This is silly, I tell myself, it's only four days. I'll be busy with work two of those days and I have numerous little projects around the house to finish up plus a social engagement on Saturday night. Not that I haven't been known to let a weekend pass with accomplishing little more than catching up on sleep, watching a movie or two, and lingering leisurely over some really good coffee. Maybe wearing my jammies most of the time. But tomorrow morning my boys are leaving for a long weekend with their father. And I miss them already. But they love seeing their cousins and other extended family members and that is now their father's territory. It used to be mine, too, and I suppose that's part of why this feels so strange. They'll have a good time and they'll be back Monday evening and have stories to tell and pictures to show me. Pictures I still have a hard time looking at because they represent a life that is mine only in the past. There is a great-nephew who is two and a half years old now that I have never laid eyes on. Though I remember his mother newly pregnant with him and queasy three years ago. That was my last trip out to visit that side of the family. Before the crap hit the fan. Before the counseling. Before the divorce. Before the moving on. My children are the bridge between this former life of mine and the current. They are the best and brightest thing that remains from my marriage. So I do my best to be happy for them and keep this sadness to myself. Because my current life is the result of decisions made by me. Incremental decisions from five, ten, even fifteen years ago. The cumulative effect being the here and now. Which my sons deserve to experience in the most unaltered way that is possible. Even if I can't go there with them any more.
Monday, August 6, 2007
By golly, it's August! Has been for nearly a week. August is that long, slow slide into the end of summer and the start of a new school year. In a few short weeks my sons will be sophomores, the elder one in college, the younger one in high school. Last school year they were my freshman. Kinda handy how that works out. I recommend spacing your children four years apart so you, too, can experience this little bit of synchronicity. Attended a big bash over the weekend, friends were celebrating 25 years of marriage and also their impending fiftieth birthdays. It was nice. There was music, a "love boat" cruise, great food, a number of enjoyable people to chat with, and I must say the most varied assortment of alcohol suitable for shots that I have ever seen. Even some cinnamon flavored stuff with gold flakes floating around in the bottle. I had some. It was tasty. And I'm fighting the urge to check for sparkles in the toilet. The summer painting project is nearly complete, I do need to procure a gallon of one color and maybe just a quart of another to finish up properly. And I must say I am very pleased with the result. Everything looks bright and fresh and new around here. Except for the normal household maintenance that I've been neglecting due to my immersion in the paint. Parts of the house look fabulous and others look severely neglected. So if you take an average, things look pretty okay. I'm doing some serious cleaning out and tossing of stuff as I prepare each room for painting. Resulting in a little less clutter, a little more order and a few surprises, like, oh!, that's where that got to! Sometimes that's the only reason I end up thoroughly cleaning a room, or maybe just the accumulated mess on the countertop in the kitchen. Because I can't find something. My short-term memory isn't totally shot quite yet, so I think maybe I should get my house in order before that begins to happen. That's it! I'll establish such an impeccable and logical routine for my day that even when I begin to lose it, I can just go on automatic and fool everyone. Maybe even including myself. Maybe I'm doing that already. And blame things that go wrong on the cats. You've gotta have a plan, even if it's a lousy one.