The Final Curtain

 

curtain

This is a true story that happened over 13 years ago.

 

“Say your goodbye,” the emergency room doctor suggested, his eyes brimming with compassion. But the deep wrinkles etched across his brow revealed the weariness of all the pain and death they had witnessed behind the hastily drawn curtain.

Say your goodbye.

The beeping of machines dissolved into the background. The relentless ticktock of the clock on the ER wall paused as if waiting for my response. I felt myself sinking into black nothingness. My fingers shook as I clasped her limp hand and traced her wedding ring, its sharp edges jolting me awake. The abyss beckoned me: Don’t be afraid! Lean in! Peer into the darkness!

Say your goodbye.

I leaned over to kiss her pale cheek for one last time. I knew my mother was minutes away from leaving her body, but never expected the stark coldness, the unforgiving finality, the emptiness lying beneath my lips.

I wasn’t sure what to do next. I never had the chance to say goodbye to my dying dad. How do you say goodbye? What do I say? Thanks? Thanks for raising me? For teaching me hard lessons? I’ll see you again someday? Catch you on the flip side? Don’t go? Don’t leave me here all alone? Fear gripped my heart, squeezing the air out of my lungs. I was suffocating right along with my mother. A torrent of tears spilled down from my eyes onto her face. My entire body shook as I held onto her hand.  I can’t do this alone. I can’t do this. I can’t say goodbye. I’m not ready.

“Mom…I love you,” I sputtered into the abyss.

“I’m…..fine….don’t….worry,” my mother gasped, her breath gurgling between each word. “I love you…tell….your brothers…I love them.” She closed her eyes.

This was it. I can’t believe she’s dying. My mom! Dying! It’s just not real. It can’t be real. An ER nurse gently ushered me away from my mother as the doctor closed the curtain around the stretcher once again. She walked me to a small windowless waiting room separate from the larger waiting room outside the ER. This must be the private room for family members waiting for someone to die? Will they move me to an even smaller room when they tell me she’s dead? “We will try and get her stable,” the nurse said. “For now just wait in here. I’ll come get you if anything happens.”

It was midnight. Only bad things happen at midnight.

Only a few hours before I was drifting off to sleep next to my snoring husband and one-year-old son in our upstairs bedroom. A heavy rain pounded on the roof of our house. Without warning, I felt the atmosphere shift; the particles in the air pulsing and bright. Something is off, the universe whispered. Something big is happening.  Electricity surged through my body. The only other time I’ve felt this way was the night my dad suddenly died in a hospital bed 3,000 miles away.

I sat up, listening intently to the steady thrumming of the rain above our heads. I nudged my husband awake. “What was that? Do you hear that?”

“What? I don’t hear anything,” my husband whispered. “It’s just the rain. It’s nothing.” He rolled over to snore again.

But the rain wasn’t right; the wind urgent. Something was wrong.

I crept down the hallway and stairs into the dark kitchen. I wasn’t sure why I was checking, but I knew I had to check. An unseen force propelled me to walk through the kitchen to the door leading to our attached garage. I slowly opened the door, the wind howling outside in response. A low grown escaped from the shadows on the floor. There was my mom, lying on the bottom steps below her in-law apartment above the garage.

“I…can’t…breathe,” she whispered, her tiny frail body wrapped in her nightgown and bathrobe. She was still clutching her phone in one hand. She had managed to make her way down the steps to get help, but didn’t have the energy to remain standing long enough to knock on my door.

Now I was in a hospital, with my mother and The Abyss hiding a few feet away behind a thin white curtain. Soon two of my older brothers arrived and we waited, the foggy early morning hours bleeding into each other. Finally, a nurse entered the “Waiting For Death” room where we had sat for hours like stone statues. “She’s turned a corner! She’s stable!” she informed us.

We were stunned. The ER doctor suggested many times to me that she would probably die that night as she was drowning in her own fluids, her lungs almost completely filled from the congestive heart failure. But now she was suddenly stable. “If you hadn’t found her when you did…” he said to me, his voice trailing off.

My mom almost died that night back in 2003. I said my final goodbye, but the universe had other ideas. They transferred her to Maine Medical Center in Portland and a week later she underwent a quintuple bypass and valve replacement surgery at the age of 69. After the ten hour operation, she emerged feeling like a new woman. “I have a new heart now!” she told me in recovery. The surgeon informed us the average lifespan after such a surgery was 10 years.

Of course, her Mainer stubbornness proved him wrong. I’m thankful to have spent an additional 13 years with my mother and counting. She’s 83 now and enjoys relatively excellent health. I’ve let a lot of things go since she almost died. Peering into the abyss will do that to you. Our once stormy relationship has softened over the years to one of forgiveness, respect, and love.

Often we talk about those final moments; the time she was almost pulled over the edge. I’ve asked her more than once if it hurt to not be able to breathe, or if she was scared to die.

“Oh no, not at all,” she insists. “There was no pain. It was very peaceful. I saw your dad, you know. He was standing at the foot of my bed with two really big angels on either side of him. I knew I would be okay. Not scared at all. I was ready to go.”

I’ve seen death up close before when I was 21 and viewed my dad’s lifeless body lying in a coffin. I’ve carried the burden of not being present when he left us. I felt cheated out of saying goodbye to him. Yet the years of guilt, anger and sadness gradually faded away, transforming into acceptance and gratitude.

I don’t know why I went out to the garage that night. But the universe has a way of balancing things out. Saying my last goodbye to my mom that rainy October night prepared me again for the final curtain. I know when the time truly comes for my mom or me, I’ll be ready to jump into that abyss with less fear and more love.

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It’s the End of the World as I Know It (And I Feel Slightly Uneasy)

As some of you are well aware, there are certain undeniable signs the End Times are near:

  • Oceans turn blood red.
  • Locusts! It’s raining locusts!
  • Leggings are a thing now.
  • Leggings! It’s raining leggings!

But recently I’ve witnessed another sign that it’s time to make peace with my maker.

My mom is on Facebook.

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Just to give you some perspective — she has never used a computer, doesn’t know what the Internet is, and once had a lengthy conversation with a robocaller about her bowel issues.

It all started when my extremely misguided brother bought her a Kindle for Christmas. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he installed the Facebook app and set up her account. Then — here’s what sent chills down my spine — SHE SENT ME A FRIEND REQUEST.

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Darla? ARE YOU THERE, DARLA?! I KNOW YOU’RE THERE! Hurry up! I could die waiting for you to friend me! Do you want me to die friendless, Darla?

My 83-year-old mother. The one who talks my ear off nonstop about gluten and loves Garth Brooks but thinks his wife’s chest is “too chesty and probably full of gluten”.

Now she can see all my stuff on Facebook. (gasp) She might even notice I have a blog. And that I’ve shamelessly used her as blog fodder for a few cheap laughs. Like this post. (ahem)

OH GOOD GOD! It’s like when the two worlds of George collided on Seinfeld. I need to keep things separate, people! Separate! Jeezum crow!

My husband tried to calm me down. “She won’t go on Facebook, trust me. She doesn’t even know how to turn on the Kindle yet!”

That night the phone rang. It was my mom. She wanted me to come over right away and help her “get on that page with all the people on it.”

Later, as I sat in her kitchen looking down at her Kindle, the smell of rice cakes burning in the toaster wafting through the 85-degree air, things got tense right away.

“Oh god! This Facebook is too much for my brain! I just don’t get it! And they keep changing the pictures on me! First there was a dog wearing a tie and now there’s a stupid video on how to make cereal! And they keep showing me a friend of a friend I don’t give a rat’s ass about! I mean, who in the hell IS THIS?! I wish I could get rid of them but I don’t know how!”

Then my mom entered the room.

“Did ya get me on that face thing yet?” she asked, biting into a blackened rice cake.

So this is how it all ends. With my mom leaving messages on my wall for everyone to see.

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slide1The next day I was sitting in my car waiting for my son when it happened. A Facebook notification. My mom had “liked” a photo I put up on my wall years ago. Great — not only is my mom “liking” all my personal stuff — she’s a stalker.

Time to erase my entire blog after this post.

Planting the Seeds of Change

“An eye for an eye is just wrong, Mom.”

My 12-year-old son was explaining his feelings on law and order from thousands of years ago. His homework was to determine if justice involved cutting off a person’s hand if he were caught stealing food.

“Why is it wrong? Wasn’t he wrong to steal?” I asked him.

“It’s wrong because violence is never the right thing to do.”

Sadly, his opinion would seem to be rare if watching TV is any indication. We live in a world where violence is entertainment.

News channels repeatedly spew out the same horrifically violent videos 24/7. Popular video games and prime time television shows glorify senseless violence. Social media rewards people who commit crimes by posting their images until they go viral.

We sit there glued to our screens like desensitized robots and eat it up, but we never fully digest it. We let it consume our psyches, allowing the anger and fear fester inside of us, eventually planting seeds of overwhelming sadness until we become the news we are watching.

Newsflash: we are each other. Nothing is isolated in this world. Everything and everyone is connected. Every human has a story, his or her own personal tragedies to overcome. How do we break the chain of negativity? How do we grow to become the respectful, loving souls we are all destined to become? Anger and sadness are genuine emotions but it’s how we transform that energy that matters in the end.

Every day we each have to dig deep inside ourselves to make a simple but powerful choice. Love or fear. The truth I know in my heart? Love is the only thing that will save us.

A few years ago, a holistic doctor was helping treat the anxiety and depression I’ve suffered off and on all my life. I’m an emotionally sensitive person so I absorb all energy, the good and bad. Unfortunately, my own mindset began to change to one full of fear. I started to view the world as full of evil, disrespectful, misbehaving people. It’s an eye for an eye, it’s a hellish, cruel world. It’s hopeless.

My doctor offered a simple suggestion that I immediately scoffed at: Stop watching the news. Stop watching the news? But then I wouldn’t know what was going on in the world! I need to know! I can’t be ignorant of the problems people are facing every day, can I?

Now that I’m getting older I’m finding he was right. For me the key is balance.  I do stay informed of things, of course, but I turn off the news more and more. I’m finding I’m less anxious or sad. Now I go out into the world more positive, more accepting, more open to trust. People pick up on my energy and they feel it too.  Small changes make a big impact in your life.

I still know what goes on in this world, I’m not turning a blind eye to injustice.  Of course things need to be brought to light in order for change to occur. But what are you doing in your life to make that change? Simply watching the news is not taking positive action. But how you act toward everyone you meet? That is how you make real change.  It’s not found in buzz phrases or tweets. It’s getting down to the basics of how we treat each other as human beings.

Now I focus on the good things that are happening and I let them feed my soul. I make it a mission to water those seeds. Contrary to what the news tells us, every second of every day people are doing good. They’re loving, helping and respecting each other. They’re listening to each other’s viewpoint without jumping on a bandwagon just to be popular. They’re showing the courage to actually practice what they preach on a daily basis with no fanfare, no immediate reward, no viral story blowing up on the internet.

Why can’t this behavior be the norm on TV? Because these stories don’t get the best ratings.

There are millions of respectful, loving people on this planet. I remind myself the news media is in the business of getting us to watch. They figured out a long time ago, humans are drawn toward violence — we love drama, we crave conflict. News outlets seek it out and they zero in on it. They replay the worst of human behavior for our endless consumption until it slowly poisons us.

Hope is not lost with me because I’m blessed to be able to tap into a deep well of boundless love and positivity. It’s found within my own kids. I raised them to treat everyone they meet fairly, to try not to judge anyone based on differences. To listen. To understand. To empathize. To respect. To accept. To love. These aren’t mere words, these are actual concepts we practice every day. As a parent, I’m cultivating in them the notion of honoring all life.

My son is now my teacher. I watch how he acts and I relearn how to behave myself. He shows me that talk is cheap. He stands up for people that are considered “different” because he is different himself. He is respectful, loving, and compassionate to everyone he meets. Everyone. I know he will be brave enough to do some good in this world. He will make a real change.

He chooses love over fear, so why can’t I?

Maybe someday, this will be considered popular behavior. Maybe someday, this will be the news.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Tony Bennett Never Calls My Mom

My 80-year-old mother has a very full, active life. She knits. She reads. She waits for the mail.

**crickets**
**crickets**

Oh — and she constantly complains to me about receiving prerecorded scam phone calls.

“He called me again the other day!” she scowls at me over her coffee mug.

“Who? Your boyfriend Tony Bennett?” We both laugh. This joke never gets old for either of us.

He's quite dreamy.
He is quite dreamy.

“No! The ro-but!” she yells.

“Oh! You mean you got another robocall?”

“Yes! The RO-BUT!”

Greetings, earthling! This is not Tony Bennett.
Greetings, earthling! This is not Tony Bennett.

“So did you tell him off?” I giggle because I already know the answer.

“He says to me ‘Good morning Senior Citizen!’ First off — how in the hell does he know I’m a senior citizen?! UP YOURS BUDDY! That’s what I told him too!”

“I’m sure he learned his lesson then.”

“And then he has the gall to say, ‘Congrats! You’ve won an all-expense paid trip to the Bahamas! All you have to do is press number five on your phone!’ And I says to him, ‘Oh yeah? How ’bout you press THIS buddy! Huh? How do you like them apples? Is there a number I can press to tell you to go to hell? Jeezum crow!'”

Phones have always been a source of aggravation for my mom, and not just because Tony Bennett never returns her calls. Yesterday she told us a story about how when she was a child, her family didn’t even have a phone. My stunned kids asked how they communicated without texting and she explained how they had to actually walk to the neighbor’s house to talk. This blew their little minds. People used to talk back then? My little mind was blown as well.  People used to walk back then?

“Imagine! When I was a teen, we didn’t even OWN a phone!” my mom said to my kids, a look of sheer terror spreading across their faces.  “If I wanted to get together with my friend, I had to walk three blocks to her house and hope to God she was home! And heaven forbid if there was an emergency, we’d have to walk all the way over to my aunt’s house on the other side of town because she had the only phone! She was always so smug about it too. Oh how we hated her and her stupid phone!”

Such a bitch.
Such a bitch.

Back in the 1940s, my mom’s father was an accountant for L.L. Bean — the actual man, not just the store itself. My grandparents and my mom lived in a house right next door to the famous hunting store. It was the same old house I grew up in as well. We were so close to the retail floor, I was able to sit at the kitchen table, eat my Cheerios and tell the New York tourist trying on the camouflage flannel long johns she should probably go up another size.

But I’m sure my grandfather didn’t think living so close to his workplace was such a good thing when the poor man didn’t even have a phone to screen calls from his pesky boss.

“And get this!” my mom continued.  “Whenever my dad was home on his days off and L.L. needed him to come in to work? He’d just throw open his office window and holler at my dad across the yard, ‘Hey Daniel! Get over here! I need you!'”

“Wow, that’s just insane,” I said. “You had windows back then?”

“Darla! Yes we had windows back then. We weren’t cavemen for god’s sake.”

“So Mom — why do you still phone me all day long when I live right next door to you?” (We currently live in a side by side duplex house and she calls me approximately 15-200 times a day to tell me her remote’s broken.)  “Why don’t you just yell at me through the window like L.L. Bean did in the good old days of yore?”

“Good point. Makes sense. Well, I’ll have to start doing that. And maybe that gall-darn ro-BUT man will stop bugging me. Then I’d free up my phone in case Tony calls!”

Never give up hope, Mom.
Good plan. Never give up hope, Mom.

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Happy Impending Death Day!

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Our culture doesn’t do so well with death. We don’t like to talk about it or even think about it.

Except for people who were born and raised in Maine. We’re more down-to-earth types who treat death like it’s a bad dentist appointment. Yeah it’s gonna happen to you one day so you might as well suck it up, deal with it, and move on.

My 80-year-old mother cheerfully sat down with me last week to go over her old family photo albums again because, “I might not be here tomorrow.” She has told me this every single day for about 15 years.

Anytime I try to plan something with her, she gives the same response.

“Hey, Mom! Want to drive up to Bar Harbor and see the ocean this August?”

“Sure! But I might be dead by then.”

“Hey Mom! Wanna go to L.L. Bean’s with me this weekend?”

“Sure! But I might be dead by then.”

“Hey, Mom! Want to go out to dinner tonight at that Italian place?”

“Sure!”

“What — you’re not planning on dying later today?”

“Well, I’m hoping I die during the meal. Serves them right. They don’t serve Sanka. What kind of a place doesn’t have Sanka?”

So once again last week we sat down to sift through old family pictures because she might die at any second.  Her albums are full of faded sepia toned photos displaying the typically stern, emotionless faces of my relatives from the early 1900s.

I’m convinced the photographer must have yelled out the directions, “Frown! Frown harder! Look miserable! You’re sullen! No, I need more sullen! Dour! Do dour! Great! Hold that pose! Yes! You’re sad! Profoundly sad! Hold it! Hooold it! Perfect!”

Basketball is just so 'meh'. (My grandfather is the particularly ecstatic boy sitting in the front to the left)
(My grandfather is the particularly ecstatic boy sitting in the front to the left)

And most of my relatives died young of a horrible disease.  It’s a miracle I exist at all. My mother points her shaky finger to every person in the photo, tells me his or her name and how they died like she’s rattling off her grocery list.

“This is Charlie, died of tuberculosis. He was 35.”

“This is Charlotte. She died of tuberculosis. She was 15 years old.”

“Oh, and this is Sarah. Died of tuberculosis. She was four.”

“What happened to the dog?” I ask. “Please tell me he made it at least.”

Welcome to the early 20th century when even the dogs looked depressed. (My grandfather is the one holding the dog)
Welcome to the early 20th century when even the dogs looked depressed. (My grandfather is the one holding the dog)

After a few more photo albums filled with tuberculosis, my mom likes to throw in a zinger, probably to see if I’m really listening.

“Oh! And this is your great-great uncle Fred,” she smiles brightly and points to a handsome young man sporting a snappy blazer and smoking a cigarette.  “He was a pilot and flew his plane straight into the side of a mountain, killed instantly.”

“Wait — are you sure it wasn’t tuberculosis that got him?”

“Darla!” she scowls at me. Then she clears her throat. “Well, actually yes. The coughing is what made him crash the plane.”

My eyes bug out.

“I’m kidding! Kidding! Oh no, the poor man just slammed straight into a mountain! Boom! Never had a chance!” my mom yells, throws her head back and cackles.

And they say death isn’t funny.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to the End is the Point

The month of June will forever spin the threads of two momentous occasions together in my mind.

Graduation and Father’s Day.

The last time I graduated college in 1993 there was no pomp but plenty of circumstance.  The day I received my degree I simply opened my mailbox, ran my fingers under the edge of the thick manila envelope and slid my diploma into my hand.

I lifted up the heavy silk cover: Bachelor of Arts it read in fancy font. I stood there in the driveway looking at it for the longest time. Finally I snapped the cover shut, walked into the house and tossed it onto the stack of papers spilling over my desk.

I was lost. Even worse, I was hurt. I didn’t care that I had missed attending my graduation ceremony held over 3,000 miles away.  What was the point now? So I barely finished college. So what?  My dad was dead. He didn’t get to see me graduate. He didn’t get to see anything I did anymore.

At a deeper level I knew that wasn’t true, but I was determined to remain angry, to continue to feel cheated and hopeless. Why should I bother chasing my dream when the world proved to be so cold? I had no motivation because my biggest cheerleader was gone forever.

So I spent the majority of my early twenties lamenting my pain, my loss that no one else could ever possibly understand. Losing my dad was my excuse for everything. Doubts took root in my mind.  I gave up. I would never succeed. I would never become the person my dad thought I could be. My world was dark so why should I waste energy trying to create sparks?

Ah, but life has a strange way of seeing things through whether you’re on board or not. Fate intervenes and things correct themselves. Lessons are eventually learned no matter how hard you try to refuse their gifts. Threads in the tapestry connect and the circle closes.

It always closes.

A few years ago as I sat in the back of my first college class I felt that old familiar fear creeping in, threatening to suffocate that tiny spark.

But this time I had my cheerleader again. He sat in the empty chair next to me. I felt him there in every classroom for the past two years whispering, You can do it, Punky. He was seeing everything I was doing after all.

And I had to do it right this time. I wanted to show my dad I could do it. That I could finish this and see it to the end. I had to close the circle I had carelessly left open and frayed over twenty years ago.

Last month as I crossed the stage in my cap and gown in front of a thousand people, the sparks inside me creating a supernova of joy exploding in my heart, I had one thought:  I did it, Dad. I actually did it.

After I walked back to my seat with my diploma in hand, I glanced up into the stands searching for some sign of my dad. Did he see me now?

Laughing and cheering, I stood up with my classmates and ceremoniously turned my tassel from the right to the left. Of course, I knew the answer.

And my circle closed.

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Congratulations to all my fellow graduates.

And thanks Dad, for being there with me every step of the way.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

Phone Calls

Talking to a young child on the phone is an exercise in patience. The endless grueling-marathon kind of exercise that gets you nowhere fast and ends with you repeatedly jamming your smart phone into your eye socket.

Yesterday I was out on errands and needed to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy for my husband. There was confusion about a refill so I had to call him on my cell phone immediately to clear things up.

Unfortunately, my 11-year-old son answered.

For some reason whenever he talks on the phone he morphs into a hyped-up sugar-crazed maniac who has forgotten he should adjust his voice on the phone to lower then 10,000 decibels.

Him: HELLO?

Me: Hey, is Daddy there?

Him: [shouting] HELLO!

Me: Is Daddy right there? Can you put him on the phone?

Him: HI! [giggling]

Me: Is Daddy th-

Him: HI MOM! [hysterical laughing]

Me: [looking down at cell phone] Who IS this?

Him: CANDY!

Me: Put. Daddy. On. The. Phone.

Him: CANDY!

Me: What?

Him: Are you getting us candy?

Me: What? No.

Him: CANDY!

Me: No! No candy! Will you hand the phone to Daddy now?

[handing phone over, more giggling in background]

[my seven-year-old daughter breathing heavy into phone]

Her: [yelling at the top of her lungs] I LIKE SKITTLES!

Hmm…perhaps I should take the kids on a fun little visit to the ear doctor tomorrow.

Me: Give the phone to Daddy.

Her: DID YOU GET US CANDY?

…and apparently both my kids are hopeless junkies and all that sugar has eaten away every functioning neuron in their brains.

Me: Give the phone to Daddy.

Her: You’re at the store getting us candy now, right?

What do they think I spend all my free time buying candy? That mom just lives in the pharmacy’s candy aisle? “Okay, kids! Mommy’s heading out now to camp out on that little cot next to the Snickers bars, just waiting for you to tell me what kind of candy you want!”

Me: Give the phone to Daddy. To Daddy. The phone. To Daddy. GivethephonetodaddyGivethephonetodaddyGivethephonetodaddy.

Her: [yelling] I LIKE SKITTLES!

Phone hangs up.

Well, I guess my husband will just have to do without his blood pressure pills. I’ll just replace them with Skittles, I’m sure it won’t be a problem.

 

 

 

Becoming Mom

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I find it incredible how quickly life can change. One minute you’re thinking, “I will never have kids and I will never be a mom!” and the next one you’re thinking, “How in the hell do I clean baby poop off the ceiling? And off the drapes, the couch, my shirt and my face?”

When I was 21 years old I was a free spirited college student. My main concerns were, “Will I ever see Nirvana live?” and “Is it possible to cook Ramen noodles using only tinfoil and a light bulb?” I had no boyfriend, one cat and lived alone 3,000 miles from home in an apartment off campus.  I was determined to live a recluse life and spend my spinster days rereading good books and baking desserts.  Hey, what can I say? I had a deep romance with brownies and John Irving.

I was truly happy back then. Sure, I would get lonely from time to time, but even the loneliness had this sweetly sad, pining, mysterious, almost magical quality. I was bucking the trend. I was living life on my terms. I didn’t need anyone. When my friends would say, “Darla, you’d make a great mom!” it was like they were suggesting I abandon all sanity and join the circus. Being a parent was a foreign concept to someone who could barely keep her angel fish alive in a tank.

My oh my how things change.

I met my husband when I was 27 and almost instantly wanted a baby. People throw around the term about a woman’s “clock ticking” like it’s an actual concept and I’m here to tell you it most definitely was for me. I felt this sudden deep inner longing to be a mom, it overtook my entire life. It’s hard to describe the feeling I had, that becoming a parent was somehow woven into the fibers of my soul.

Unfortunately, due to severe endometriosis we struggled with infertility for two years. At the age of 31, instead of a baby, I ended up with surgery to remove a large cyst and my right ovary.  The tumor was so large there was a good chance it was cancerous. I came out of surgery and was told it was benign and I would be okay.

I got pregnant again later that year only to lose the baby early on.  It’s hard even now to write about the anguish I felt, the raw pain of miscarrying. Like I was reaching out to touch a new life only to have it melt away before my eyes. I felt helpless, empty, lonely and like I was abandoned by God.  I felt there must be something “wrong” with me. The guilt, anger and shame were suffocating.

My doctor assured me that even with one diseased ovary, there was still a chance I’d get pregnant yet again.  I never lost that tiny hope that one day I would l have a precious baby in my arms, whether he came from me or we adopted and he came from someone else, it didn’t matter. He would be my son and I would love him with all my heart to the ends of the earth and back.

Of course, the month we gave up trying to get pregnant to explore other options was when my son decided to come down to earth so I could be his mom. Good one, God. I get it, you have perfect timing and also a twisted sense of humor.

Fate really has the upper hand. Life might not go as you had planned but sometimes that turns out to be a good thing.  Maybe even better than you ever dared to dream.  I look back now at this miracle and I’m still flabbergasted. I’m a mom of two incredible kids now. Two! For someone who used to go days only talking to her cat, this is not the life I had ever imagined.

And I wouldn’t change a thing.

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This post was inspired by my good bloggy buddy, Elyse from FiftyFourAndAHalf.
In her post When You Were 21 she asked us what life we were living at the age of 21 and how have things changed since then. Thanks, Elyse, I have wanted to write about my infertility struggle for awhile now and it felt good to get some of it out.

If you’d also like to write about your life at 21, feel free to comment here, there or write your own post about it.

Oh, don’t mind me — I’ll be livin’ in a box down by the river.

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Our mid-winter school vacation has ended. I spent 11 days trapped inside a small apartment with my kids. We had four snowstorms last week alone.

Coincidentally, our electronic “human-ignorer” gadgets decided to collectively shit the bed. My laptop froze. The tablet became possessed. Netflix was toast.

My toaster still worked. Thank god.

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So we were forced to be together. In each other’s presence. Communicating and using eye contact and stuff. I had deep convos with my 11-year-old son.

“Go Fish, grandma.”

“Hey! I’m not that old!”

“Yes you are.”

“I’m still young!”

“Well…you’re kinda young…”

“Thank you.”

“Kinda, but not really at all.” [hard stare] “Because you’re old.”

So when my son told me he didn’t want to go back to school this morning, the words, “If you don’t go, I’ll be arrested and thrown in jail” just flew out of my mouth.

But thank god our dryer broke.

When your clothes dryer shuts down and you have two little kids, it’s panic time.  In order to keep my constant mountain of laundry at a manageable amount, I have to do about 382 loads every single day. Within two hours of the dryer breaking down I had to rent storage space just for my son’s dirty socks and underwear.

Thankfully, we had enough money to buy another crappy one and made good use out of the best toy any kid could ever want.

The box.

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They quickly settled in their new home — hung some curtains,  set up the Wii, installed shag carpeting.

They even posted some solid rules:

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And by the end of school vacation, there was only one place the kids could find me.

In the box out on our front lawn.

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Please, feel free to drop by and visit me. I’ll be serving up some delish Toaster Scrambles with semi-real bacon and eggs.

Just remember: Don’t be mad and under no circumstances are you allowed to fart.

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How did you survive school vacation? “Just barely” like me?

My Dear, Sweet, Slightly Manipulative Daughter

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My daughter is only seven years old, but don’t let her age fool you. When Little Miss J wants something, she doesn’t simply tell you, that would be too easy.

Always a clever girl, she makes little homemade cards to communicate. By adding sweetly scrawled drawings, she lures the reader in so she can really go for the kill. Over the holidays, she handed me a card and I couldn’t help but laugh. And feel a little afraid. It read:

Dear Mommy,

I hope you have a Merry Christmas! [drawing of Christmas tree]

and get me lots of toys! PLEASE! [drawing of gifts]

and I love you! [drawing of big red heart]

[back of card] and I am standing here watching you read this card 

Love, J

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As I lowered the card, she was right there. Standing. And watching. I get shivers just remembering the intense look in her eyes. She is ruthless.

Her eyes sear a hole in my soul.
Her gaze has the power to burn a hole in my soul.

Today she made me yet another “greeting” card. I had been scolding her all week for not putting her trash in the trash can. Instead she was hiding it all over the house, cramming cheese stick wrappers in my slippers, sliding banana peels under the couch cushions, etc.

I said to her for the millionth time, “You need to put the trash in the trash, okay?”

Clearly fed up with me, she frowned and put her finger to her lips, deep in thought. Then she ran off to get her markers.

Five minutes later she handed me a card:

AWWWW!!!!
AWWWW!!!! Well isn’t this the SWEETEST?
Oh, it's a sweet picture of her and a rainbow!!! My heart might burst!!
Oh, it’s an adorable picture of her and a rainbow!!! My heart might burst!!

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The best part? When she got home from school today and I asked her to turn off the TV, she said, “Where’s that card I made you this morning?”

I have no idea where she gets this behavior.