Wednesday, February 24, 2010

H for Happy Birthday

I should be celebrating my sister’s 22nd birthday today (or at least this upcoming weekend). She, my middle sister, my cousin-friend, and I should all be getting together this Friday to go out for dinner and drinks like we did a few weeks ago for my middle sister’s birthday. We should be laughing until we nearly cry; probably over something completely and totally ridiculous that in retrospect isn’t anywhere near as hilarious as we think it is in our celebratory state. But we’re not, because she’s not here. A selfish, pathetic, ridiculously weak, sociopath took her life a little over two years ago.

(Photo taken less than a month before her death; She had taken Li'l D to get his 2 year old pictures done. The fabulous people at Sears let my sister and I pick these pictures up, and upon hearing the story of her death, gave us a CD of all the images along with a photo release.)

I am angry and I am sad. And that’s actually a huge understatement, but I can’t quite find the words to say what I’m really feeling. My brain is crowded by thoughts and emotions that are swirling out of control.

She should’ve been at Li’l D’s 4th birthday bash on Sunday. She’d be so proud of her “little man.” He’s getting so big, and he’s becoming his own person; complete with a huge personality, thousand-watt smile, and plenty of attitude just like his momma. She only got to be his mommy in person for a little under two years, and that’s just not fair. To him, to her, or to any of us. Her beautiful son will sing “Happy Birthday” to his mommy’s picture, like he’s does every year since she’s been gone; he'll blow out the candles on her birthday cake for her, and he'll release balloons into the air with a happy birthday message for his mommy.

(Auntie Elle and Darion celebrating his 4th birthday!)

(Happy 4 year old!!)

My emotional outbursts/crying jags happen far less regularly now than they used to, but days like today are harsh reminders of the wounds I carry hidden away from most of the rest of the world. Tonight I might surrender to my grief, allowing the hard, body-shaking sobs to come. Music Man will hold me and comfort me, whispering into my hair that he loves me and that he misses her too. He barely got to know her, but in the short time that he did, he loved her. Everyone did. That’s the kind of person she was.

It’s not that I’d rather grieve than try to celebrate her life; it’s that I can’t tonight. I just don’t have it in me. I have a nasty head cold, so I’m already physically exhausted, which just seems to intensify my emotions—especially the negative ones. Sometimes, surrendering to the emotions is just the easiest thing. Emotionally spent and physically exhausted, I’ll head to bed early hoping that she hears me wishing her a happy birthday.

I’ll remember the good times we had.  I’ll think about what I miss and what I’ll continue to miss. I remember her contagious laugh—the one that would’ve gotten us all started this weekend; we would’ve collapsed into giggling fits right in the middle of the restaurant, not caring about who might be staring at us or questioning our sanity. I want to hear it again—that laugh—but it’s fading now. I can’t hear it in my mind like I used to be able to. I miss her hugs; she gave the best hugs. Now, I barely remember what it felt like to have her arms around me, and my heart physically hurts when I recall our last hug, which was far, far too long ago.

It seems too soon for these memories to be gone, or so faded, and the feeling of loss is made worse by the knowledge that I will never again hear her laugh or feel her hugs. There’s no way to recapture these things once they’re gone.

It’s moments like these, where I sit and think and wish and wonder, that I am overcome with emotion. Life isn’t fair!!! I know it’s not supposed to be, and that no one ever promised that it was, but this feels like a ridiculous level of unfair. She was only 19. She was a mother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin, niece, granddaughter, and friend. She was loved and cared about, and as the youngest of my siblings, she was fawned over. She shouldn’t be gone, and she most definitely shouldn’t have died the way that she did.

It’s all a bitter reminder that life is short, and yet it feels too long as well. Two years without her has been hard, excruciatingly so at times. I miss her every single day. Somedays it hurts more than others; days like today are a prime example. I can’t imagine the rest of my life without her, so I have no choice but to take life day by day until the pain subsides again and I feel stronger.

Happy birthday, baby sister. You are gone, but never forgotten. I love you and miss you more than I could ever say. Wherever you are, I hope that you are happy and at peace. I know that you watch over your little man, and I can only imagine how much your heart swells with pride over what a fantastic little boy he is. I hope that you always know how much you are loved. I look forward to seeing you again someday—we’ll have a lot of catching up to do. I can’t wait to hear that fabulously contagious laugh, to see that giant beautiful smile, and to feel your most fantastic hugs.

            Love always and forever,
            Your big sister

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A for Award!

I am so surprised and super excited to report that I have received not one, but two blog awards. I haven’t been blogging very long, and I don’t have a tremendously large following or readership, so I never would’ve expected this. I don’t have a speech prepared or anything! Instead of fumbling around thanking god and my mother, who really have nothing at all to do with this, I’ll just move on to explaining the awards and passing them on.

The first award I received was from Margaret. In the short time I’ve “known” her, I’ve discovered that she’s a tough chick; life has dealt its fair share of blows to her—probably over the fair share actually—and she doesn’t let it get her down. She’s a kindred spirit. When you’re done here, hop on over to check out Margaret.

(As in read her blog. Don’t go over there acting all weird, leering at her and stuff; that’s the kind of behavior that gets people arrested. Also, I don’t want you weirding Margaret out and then blaming me. She’s a nice girl, and she doesn’t deserve to be harassed; even if you are just doing it with your eyes. I know, dear reader, that I really don’t have to tell you any of this, because if you read my blog, you have good taste and good manners and totally understand what I was saying in the first place. Now I feel silly, and yet, I am not hitting the delete key. No, sir; this random little brain dump is here to stay. It’s been a long day, so let’s just jump right past this little digression, shall we?)

The award I received from Margaret is called the Sunshine Award.
The rules for the award are as follows:
1. Put the logo within my blog or on my post
2. Pass the award onto 12 fellow bloggers
3. Link the nominees within my post
4. Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog
5. Share the love and link to the person whom you received this award from

12 fellow bloggers seems like a lot. Because I am a break the rules kinda girl (notice I said rules not laws. I am a good, law-abiding citizen in most aspects.), and I’m lazy and have seen this award already on many of the blogs I subscribe to, I am going to risk upsetting the karmic balance of bloggyland and am just going to pass the award on to the following wonderful bloggers who are all worthy of your visits (ya know, after you finish up here):

Dawn @ Dawning

There; I did 6. I've met half of the requirement, which is good enough for me! Congratulations, award winners! Some of you might have already received this, so if you don’t want to pass it on yet again, that’s understandable. The award is yours to do whatever you’d like with.

The second award I received is the Beautiful Blogger award. You can see it below. Isn’t it lovely?

Know who else is lovely? Christine from Raised Queer. She’s the lovely lady who bestowed this award on me, and you should really go visit her blog; she has a nice mix of some very funny and some thought-provoking posts for your reading enjoyment. In the short time that she’s been my bloggy friend, I’ve discovered that we are very like-minded. In fact, I think she might be my long lost twin sister. (I always knew I was adopted!) So, really, after you’re done here, go visit Christine. Seriously. You will not regret it.

The rules for this award are that I have to tell you 7 interesting things about myself and pass it along to 7 other bloggers. Good thing I didn’t do the required 12 above, because I’d almost have run out of bloggers to pass this award along to!
I’m going to pass this award along to:
  1. Mochatrina @ Ah…Me So Hongry!
  2. WhisperingWriter @ Airing My Dirty Laundry
  3. Emma @ Divorced Before 30
  4. Inspired Dreamer @ Out of the Extraordinary
  5. The Local Cook
  6. Maya @ Straightjackets Are Slimming
  7. Vivianne @ Vivianne’s Vista

Congratulations, award winners! If any of you have received this award already, then you should be proud that you are so super duper that you’re receiving it again. If you don’t want to redo all the work of passing it along, that is totally your choice; whatever you decide to do with it is fine with me.

Because I've already done a Seven Random Things post, I really struggled to come up with 7 new interesting things. Hopefully you find these things somewhat interesting:

1. I originally started this blog to track my journey as an adult student, but it has morphed into stories of my life as well. This is partially because I had to drop a class, so I don’t have any school stuff to write about at the moment. I’ve thought about changing the title, but because I seem to say “A for effort” a lot, and because I try to do my best at every single thing I do, the title is still fitting. I often worry that my blog posts are a little too verbose for some, and as such, many people probably visit my blog, see a super long post, and decide they just don’t want to invest that much time. I try to figure out ways to shorten my stories, but I guess I just have a lot to say. I like letters that form words that form sentences that form paragraphs too much to try to limit myself. I am very thankful to those of you who have chosen to read this blog and who stick with me through the longer posts.

2. I am somewhat shy in real life. Because of this, I’m often perceived as being a bitch. Sometimes this bothers me and other times I really don’t care, because the truth is I just have a really hard time opening up to new people.

3. I am a major procrastinator. I work very well under pressure; I don’t know if this is a result of my procrastination or if it’s the reason for it. At any point, I often put things off until the last minute and then find myself filled with anxiety, stressing to get everything done on time. Every single time I’m hurrying through something I’ve procrastinated on, I tell myself that it’s the last time I’ll do this to myself, but it never is.

4. I sometimes narrate my life as though I am a character in a book. For example, “As she walked to her car after a long day at work, Elle thought about how happy she was that the day was over. She was eager to get home to her husband and her dogs.” Of course it is only in my head that this happens, and it usually makes me realize that my life is damn boring.

5. I have a major sweet tooth. After a full meal, dinner especially, I need something sweet. I give into this “need” far too often. Sometimes after eating too much sweet, I need salty, which creates a vicious, vicious cycle. Some of my clothes seem to have an attitude problem after I’ve over indulged in sweets, so I try to be more disciplined. Inevitably though a craving will hit, and I will give in.

6. I hate cooking. I don’t know why, but I do. I love baking, on the other hand, which doesn’t help with number 5 at all. There’s something about the precision needed to measure out the ingredients and the order required to successfully carry out the steps of the recipe that really appeals to me.

7. I had a surreal moment on Valentine's Day. Music Man had a gig yesterday afternoon; his band was participating in battle of the jug bands at a downtown bar. Since it was a Sunday afternoon, and Valentine’s Day, I went with. I spotted a man in the very large crowd who looked familiar to me. I knew him. I didn’t know how, and I didn’t know exactly who he was, but I knew that I knew him. I asked Music Man if he recognized the guy, and he didn’t. I remarked that he kinda looked like my sister’s murderer’s defense attorney, but I knew he wasn’t. I figured this thought was just in my mind because the newspaper reporter who’d covered the criminal trial was playing with Music Man’s band.

At one point, the man and I made eye contact, and while I tried not to stare after that, I did keep stealing glances at the man. The man seemed to recognize me, or at least seemed to realize that I recognized him and was trying to figure out how I knew him. He seemed as though he was trying to make his way through the crowd towards me just as Music Man and I walked away in order for him to get ready to play. I was relieved, because I didn’t know if the man was coming to help fill in the blank for me or if he was coming to say, “Hey, weirdo, quit staring at me!” Music Man’s band played, and I stood alone in the crowd watching, temporarily forgetting about the man.

When Music Man’s band was finished playing, we decided to leave; we had plans to go home and cook a delicious meal together to celebrate Valentine’s Day. As we were walking out of the bar, I saw the man again. Our eyes met, and the way he looked at me jogged my memory: I’m standing at a podium pouring my heart out, and Music Man puts his arm around me as I began to cry. I grabbed Music Man’s arm and exclaimed, “He’s the JUDGE!” Shocked, Music Man looked at the man and then looked back at me and confirmed my suspicions.

This was the man I saw in a courtroom every single day for a week, the man I poured my heart out to a little over a year ago as I read my victim impact statement at the murderer’s sentencing, but just to make sure I wasn’t completely crazy, I had Music Man ask the newspaper reporter (who was walking behind him) if that was the judge who’d presided over the criminal trial of my sister’s murderer. The reporter confirmed that I was correct.

I was overwhelmed with emotion. I briefly contemplated going to say something to the judge. I wanted to thank him, to tell him how much he’d changed my life by giving us peace and closure. I wanted to tell him how much the words he’d said to the murderer at sentencing had meant to me—how powerful what he said was. I wanted him to know that I remembered him, that he had an impact on my life, and that I’d always remember him. I knew that if I were to try to say any of those things, I would end up crying. I didn’t want that, for him or for me. He was a normal citizen today, just enjoying some good local music. So, I quickly smiled and nodded, and turned towards the door to leave. I think he knew what I was thinking; at least I hope he did.

That’s it! 7 things that you hopefully found somewhat interesting.

Thank you so much, Christine and Margaret, for the acknowledgment! You’ve made me giddy with excitement, and I’m glad to have met and made a connection with both of you. Now, dear reader, I do hope you’ll go and check out Christine and Margaret’s blogs and some of the blogs I passed the awards along to. They’re all worth a read.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I for "If I ruled the world..."

I read a local newspaper story this weekend that was very disturbing. My sister’s murderer has been in maximum security prison for just over a year, and he badly assaulted two guards. This is his fifth disciplinary incident. After I read the story, I looked at his son, Li’l D, who was spending the weekend with us, and tried to control the tears I felt pushing at the back of my eyes. I wonder what his future holds. At almost four years old, he is showing signs of behavioral and emotional problems. We don’t know if it’s a result of the trauma of losing his mom and witnessing her death, because he was too young to talk about it when it happened, or if he has inherited emotional/mental issues from his father. It could be a combination of the two. We will most likely never know what he witnessed and what he remembers from that fateful day.

His temper tantrums and mood swings are way outside the range of what a “normal” four year old would do. Usually, the tantrums result from a perceived lack of control on his part. If he wants control and doesn’t have it, he melts down. We witnessed this a few times over the course of the weekend. Unfortunately for him, Music Man got the brunt of the kicking and punching that occurs as part of these meltdowns. Good thing Music Man is quite a bit larger than our four year old nephew and thus didn’t incur many bodily injuries. As Li’l D gets older and larger, however, this will become more worrisome. Best to get it under control now.

My mom and her husband have enrolled him in a special program that deals with kids who’ve experienced major trauma and have behavioral/emotional disorders. They were originally hoping to just get advice on how to deal with these meltdowns, but now we’re all hoping that they’ve gotten a good jumpstart on the problems that seem to be manifesting themselves in my nephew. He is the sweetest, smartest, funniest, most caring little boy most of the time, but when that temper rears its ugly head, watch out. It is in the latter moments that he looks exactly like his father, a mini version of the monster responsible for his trauma, and it’s sad and scary.

This all got me to thinking about how the world would be different if I ruled it.

If I ruled the world…

People would need a license to conceive children and to become parents. There are far too many people out there, members of my family included, who have children that they really probably shouldn’t have. If you cannot take full control over your own life and responsibility for yourself and your actions, you have no business shaping the lives and minds of our future generations.

Criminals would be punished in accordance with their crimes. For example, my sister’s murderer would be placed in a room or car that is then set on fire; he would not be strangled first, because I wouldn’t want him to get off that easily. Because I know that this isn’t realistic due to all of the extra appeals we’d now need to grant prisoners in order to be absolutely certain that they were, indeed, responsible for their crimes, I’ll amend this rule. Instead, I think criminals proven to be a danger to society should be fenced in with very high, very thick steel walls. No one should have to put their life on the line to babysit these monsters. Instead, it can be a free-for-all where survival of the fittest is the name of the game. They would of course be provided with food, shelter, and running water, but that would be it—only the absolute necessities.

There would be a zero tolerance policy on abuse against women, children, and animals. What kind of man (or woman for that matter) beats on something less powerful than himself (herself)? Children and animals are defenseless, so to be able to look at one and perpetuate egregious harm against it is unconscionable. If an abuser thinks he/she is so tough, he/she can prove it in the criminal compound mentioned above. Violence against any man, woman, child, or animal will not be tolerated.

It will be mandatory to have your pet, particularly cats and dogs, spayed or neutered (speutered). It is criminal how many homeless animals there are across this country as a result of irresponsible owner and breeder practices. Once shelters and rescue organizations are nearly empty, licensed breeders will be allowed to breed limited quantities of dogs and cats. These breeders will be held to strict policies and standards in regards to breeding practices and treatment of the animals in their care.

Prospective pet owners will undergo strict evaluation to determine suitability for pet ownership. Pet owners deciding to discard their pets as though they are objects that have lost their usefulness (for example, those who get rid of the dog when the baby comes along) will pay large fines. (Exceptions will be made in cases where the pet proves to have irreversible behavioral problems.) These people will not be allowed to own pets in the future without proving that their mindset has changed and that they are capable of being responsible for the furry life they are taking on.

A good work ethic would be instilled in all members of society. If you want something, you have to work for it. Nothing in life is free. The attitude that jobs should just fall into your lap, or that money should just be handed to you because you deserve it, would not fly. Thinking that someone is lucky because they can afford a new car or a house is a sign that you have a problem, because these things usually aren’t a result of luck; they are a result of hard work, planning, and patience. The entitlement mentality that is far too pervasive in today’s society would fall by the wayside.

There are those among us who genuinely need help. Perhaps a family is struggling to get back on their feet after the recession. Maybe a woman has left her abusive relationship and is faced, for the first time since having children, with the task of finding a job and taking care of her family on her own. We would all pitch in to help these people, because compassion would be more prevalent than selfishness.

Tolerance of others would be the standard, so hate crimes would carry severe punishment. Hating someone else because of their race, sexual orientation, gender, socioeconomic status, etc., is just not acceptable or logical. Many people fear what they don’t understand, so education programs would be available for individuals who need or want to gain understanding on the lives of others. We are all human beings, and we should treat each other with dignity, respect, and common decency. Live and let live!

Any adult could marry any other adult of his or her choosing. I see absolutely no valid reason to limit marriage between consenting individuals. Love is love, and those who want to express their love by making a lifetime commitment to their partner would be entitled to do so. I know a few gay couples who would have better, stronger marriages than some of my heterosexual friends and family members have.

In tandem with the previous decree, any adult fitting the appropriate criteria (i.e. financially sound, not a pedophile, not a convicted criminal, etc.) could adopt or foster children. There are many children out there in need of good homes, so I see absolutely no valid argument for limiting the options for these children by not allowing homosexual couples to adopt or foster them if they choose to do so.

If one is old enough to die for their country, i.e. enlist in the military, they are old enough to drink an alcoholic beverage.

There would be a large reward for the first person to find a cure for stupidity and ignorance. In addition to accolades from around the world, there would probably be hospitals, universities, or even whole cities named after this amazing individual.

In addition to these big policies, there would be smaller rules enacted in order to just make life a little more pleasant for all of us.

Restroom Stall Buffer Guideline:
It would be mandatory that, when entering a public restroom, one leave at least a one stall buffer between themselves and any current restroom occupants. In cases where this is not possible due to high volume of restroom usage, the guideline can be disregarded. This rule would be highly enforced in my workplace. I can’t stand it when I’m in a restroom stall, and the new person entering the restroom decides to sit in the stall right next to me. WHY?!? There are 10 other stalls to choose from, and you need to be right on top of me?!? REALLY?!! This just irritates me to no end. WHY do people do this? Why wouldn’t you want to leave a buffer if you could?!

Siesta Statute:
Should they so choose, every person would be entitled to one midday nap. Naps are just as good for adults as they are for children. I love a good nap; I find them rejuvenating and think they’re good for the soul. Workplaces would be encouraged to provide comfortable facilities for employees to nap in, but that wouldn’t be mandatory. Of course, there would have to be timing guidelines. Nap hours would exist from noon to four each afternoon to allow for individual timing preferences; maximum naptime could be set by each workplace as long as the half hour minimum was enforced.

Rudeness Regulation:
The phrase “excuse you” would be banished. One definition of the word excuse is “to make apology for” or “to remove blame from.” One should only make apologies on their own behalf, and one cannot remove blame from another when the fault lies with them self. The phrase “excuse you” is typically used by those who should be saying, “Excuse me,” because they were at fault for doing something like running into someone or blocking an aisle in a store. It irks me to no end when I hear someone say, “Excuse you,” because it is very rude. Depending on my mood, it can make me feel quite stabbity (yeah, another made up word).

Martyr Maxim:
Individuals wishing to play the martyr will be directed to facilities in which they may climb up on a cross and hang out until they are ready to rejoin reality. I hate when people constantly play the victim. I do not feel sorry for you if you chose to have children that you now regret. I do not feel sorry for you if you cannot afford to put gas in your car or food on your table because you decided to spend your money on video games, movies, or any other frivolous thing. I do not feel sorry for you if you married an unsuitable partner expecting them to change once the ring was on their finger.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone has a right to complain now and then; however, if you carry around the belief that you should be worshipped because you chose to take on the burden of parenthood, for example, you are a martyr. It’s a sometimes thankless job, and it’s hard work; we all get that. There are people who do it every day without expecting statues to be resurrected in their honor or the world to revolve around them; you can too. No one gets to play the victim as a result of circumstances they themselves created. There is enough drama in the world; we don’t need the martyr’s running around creating more.

And this, dear reader, is what the world would look life if I ruled it. What would it look like if you ruled it?

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

O for Owie

Mama's Losin' It
I’m participating in Mama Kat’s writing workshop today. The prompt I chose is: Explain a time there was an emergency. What “mode” did you go into? Freaking out, calm and collected, etc.

We were celebrating what would’ve been my sister’s 20th birthday; our emotions still raw from the life changing event less than two months prior, and our minds still attempting to figure out how to move forward without her contagious laughter and big, heartfelt hugs. The questions still swirled around in our brains: How? Why? What really happened? And the only person who could answer them was sitting in a downtown jail cell.

Many of my sister’s friends had come to celebrate her life with us. They brought their children with them, so my sister’s son (my youngest nephew), Li’l D, was surrounded by friends. We had decided to once again do one of her favorite things; a bonfire was crackling in my mom’s backyard on this unseasonably warm February day.

There were at least half a dozen kids playing in the snow in my mom’s backyard. My sixteen year old stepbrother started pulling some of them in a sled, taking a circuitous route from the backyard to the front yard and around again to the back. The kids loved it! All of a sudden, those of us standing at the bonfire recalling our memories aloud heard my stepbrother screaming, “OH NO! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD!” We turned. He was running towards us with a crying Li’l D in his arms. Li’l D was holding his head. We all saw it at about the same time; the blood that was running down Li’l D’s face.

My mom freaked out. She ran towards my stepbrother screaming, “What did you DO?!?! WHAT DID YOU DO?!? WHAT HAPPENED?!?” She tore Li’l D out of stepbrother’s arms. She pulled his little hand away from his head and shrieked, “OH.MY.GOOOOOOOD!” as she ran into the house with him. Mom’s husband asked his son what had happened. Stepbrother claimed he didn’t know—he was pulling the kids through the driveway, and all of a sudden he turned around and Li’l D was laying on the ground bleeding. Mom’s husband asked me to go in the house and check on her; I was already halfway to the door.

She was still screaming when I entered the house, going on and on about all the blood and having to go to the Emergency Room. I headed straight for the bathroom, calmly declaring to those sitting in the living room wandering what was happening, “I’m sure it’s not that bad; head wounds always look worse than they are because of all the bleeding.” I am not a medical expert by any means, but I thought I’d heard that somewhere once.

My mother screeched, “NO! This is BAD! This is seriously BAD!” I entered the bathroom to see Li’l D sitting on the counter with a hand towel pressed firmly to the left side of his head right above his temple. He was no longer crying. Mom was washing blood off of his face and hands. I crouched down to his eye level and spoke gently, “How ya doing, buddy? Got a pretty bad owie, huh?” He nodded his head, “Uh-huh.” Mom told me that the blood was spurting out. She said that, if the washcloth was removed, the gaping wound would shoot blood out.

Mom has always had a flare for the dramatic, so I thought nothing of it as she gently pulled the washcloth away from my nephew’s head to prove to me just how horrible his injury was. Okay, okay, so maybe it was that bad. There was a gash about three inches long and a quarter of an inch deep in my two-year-old nephew’s forehead. I realized that I needed to be calm, because my mother was completely incapable of that at the moment. I was surprised that the extreme shakiness, brought on by the adrenaline surging through my body, wasn’t outwardly visible.

“Okay!” I said brightly, “Good thing we all already have our jackets on! Let’s get in the car and go to the Emergency Room.” I said this in the way one would announce to a two-year-old boy that he was about to depart on a grand adventure to Chuck E. Cheese's.

As we headed out of the house, I grabbed my purse. Music Man and mom’s husband were still outside trying to figure out what happened. Mom’s husband asked how Li’l D was doing, and mom snapped, “We’re going to the EMERGENCY ROOM!” I felt bad for mom’s husband; once again, he was being blamed for his son’s screw up. Whatever had happened was clearly an accident, and with all of us having suffered enough emotional upheaval in the previous months, I saw no reason to dub anyone the malicious bad guy. It was obvious that stepbrother felt awful, and it was obvious that everyone was concerned about Li’l D’s wellbeing.

Mom declared that we’d take her van, so we piled in; her holding Li’l D in the passenger seat and me in the driver’s seat. I quickly adjusted the seat and mirrors and started backing out of the driveway. There was a bump, and my mom screamed, “STOP! OHMYGOD! WHERE’S PRINCESS! OHJESUSOHGOD—WE RAN HER OVER!” Did she honestly think we ran over my almost two-year-old niece?! Jeezus! (Whose name is not Princess, but you probably know by now that all names used in my blog are nicknames or pseudonyms.) REALLY?!?

I tried to remain calm. I knew it was the mound of icy snow at the end of the driveway that had caused the bump. But, adrenaline racing, I temporarily forgot about my mother’s flare for the dramatic; Panic set in as I pictured my niece’s little body trapped under the back tires of my mom’s minivan. I screeched to a halt, put the van into Park, and nearly threw up as I rolled down the window and yelled, “WHERE’S Princess?” The group assembled on the front sidewalk announced, “Right here,” as my niece appeared from behind my husband. J.F.C! I was about ready to tell my mom she needed to get out of the van, because adding a saner, more rational person to this mix was a necessity.

As we drove to the Emergency Room, mom ranted about her stepson with Asperger’s; who, of course, obviously did this on purpose. She postulated that he had probably pulled the sled too close to a car that was parked in the driveway and that a license plate had clipped my nephew’s head as a result. She told me that she’d been thinking about separating from her husband, because she just couldn’t handle stepson anymore. “He’s just an idiot, completely incapable of doing anything,” she proclaimed, “I’m so sick of his carelessness and stupidity.”

I kept myself quiet as I realized that now was probably not the best time to point out that, if she knew him to be so careless and stupid, perhaps she shouldn’t have let him pull the children around the yard in a sled. I chose instead to try to change the subject, or at the very least, to keep her calm. Besides, I knew that the venom she was spewing was a result of her overly emotional state and not based on reality.

Li’l D kept trying to sit up, but mom insisted on cradling him like a baby, because the blood would move slower if he was lying down. (No, she’s not a medical professional either.) I asked, “How ya doing buddy?” A small voice replied, “Good. I got a big owie, auntie,” and his little hand reached up as he pointed to his head. Despite his large owie, he was cool as a cucumber. I was glad to see that he was dealing with the situation more on auntie’s level than grandma’s. When we arrived at the Emergency Room, mom rushed him inside as I went to park the van.

By the time I got inside, they had checked in and were waiting patiently for a triage nurse. A medical assistant came over to put a hospital bracelet on my nephew; seeing someone in scrubs walk towards him made Li’l D panic. He did not want to be touched by any medical professional; probably because his owie wasn’t hurting as much anymore, and he didn’t want them ruining that.

The triage nurse came over and took us into a little room. She asked my mom if she was the mother, and mom replied, “No. I’m his guardian.” The nurse asked, “Where’s his mother?” as she looked at me assuming that I would answer in the affirmative. My mother’s face twisted in anguish as she replied, “Deceased.” Tears rolled down both of our cheeks now. My mom quickly summarized my sister’s untimely death as the nurse took Li’l D’s vital signs.

I distracted him (or tried to at least) while mom held him and the nurse cleaned the wound and put some kind of numbing/antiseptic gel on his head. The gel stung “a bit,” and Li’l D started wailing and struggling to get out of my mom’s arms and away from the nurse. He reached for me with pure terror in his eyes, and I felt completely helpless. I tried to tell him that he was going to be okay and that the nurse was almost done, but his screams blocked out my words.

The automatic reflex children have to yell out for their fiercest protector, mommy, kicked in; As Li’l D screamed for a mommy that couldn’t be there, and who would never again be able to answer to those cries, we tried to console and calm him as the wounds on our already fragile hearts tore wide open again.

Tears continued to run down our cheeks as the triage nurse announced that he’d need stitches. As she tried to bandage him up, we tried to keep him calm and immobile. Mom held him in a bear hug while I held his legs—it was torture for all of us. I briefly contemplated asking if there was a doctor available to stitch up my broken heart, or perhaps, to put me in a coma until my grief had subsided.

As we sat in the waiting room again, it was clear that my mother and I were having similar thoughts. We FAILED! Li’l D had been under our* tutelage for less than two months, and here he was with his worst injury to date. We were in the Emergency Room, on his mom’s birthday of all days, and all any of us wanted was his mommy.

(* Clearly Li’l D was (and is) under my mom’s care. I say “our,” because our family agreed after the loss of his mother that “the village” would help raise him. Music Man and I had even offered to take custody of him, but my mom insisted on keeping him with her. She reaches out to my sister or me when she needs a break, and we take the little guy for a night or a weekend. Music Man and I absolutely adore our weekends with him, and still maintain that we will take custody of him if it’s ever necessary.)

Not sure how long we’d have to wait for the doctor who would sew up my nephew's head, my mom wanted her husband to come to the hospital with clean (read: non-bloody) clothes for Li’l D. I took my phone outside to call Music Man. I translated mom’s request for clothes and a few other things, and asked Music Man to bring mom’s husband to the hospital in my car.

The evening was approaching, and it was a Sunday night, so we’d need to head home soon in order to prepare for the week ahead. Music Man asked how I was doing. OMG...was he trying to break me?!?! I answerd in a quick clip, "I'm fine. Everything's fine. Li'l D is gonna need some stitches, but he's going to be okay." (I almost convinced myself that I was, indeed, fine.) I took a deep breath and headed back inside.

Mom was called away to deal with insurance forms, so I took Li’l D over to the children’s play section of the waiting room. He was immediately immersed in Thomas the train, suddenly oblivious to the trauma he had endured just minutes ago. I marveled at how resilient kids are. When Music Man arrived with mom’s husband, we said our goodbyes. I hugged my nephew, and told him that the doctors were going to fix him up really good. My mom and her husband hugged me, thanking me for my help and for keeping mom calm.

In the quiet safety of my own car, I broke down. All of the emotions that had built up over the day could now be freely released. I no longer had to worry about being the calm one or staying strong. Music Man held me as I cried, assuring me that Li’l D was going to be just fine. Of course he was right; I knew my nephew was going to be just fine. I was just wondering when, or if, I was ever going to be.

Li’l D ended up with 21 stitches that night. Today, almost two years later, he has a faint scar that will remain with him for the rest of his life. When he gets older, we’ll tell him about his accident. We’ll let him know what a strong, brave little boy he was and how proud of him we were. I will thank him for the lessons he taught me that night: I am strong. I am resilient. I will be okay.
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Monday, February 1, 2010

N for Nostalgia

Despite how excited I am about the new car, I am going to miss the Saturn. Maybe I’m ridiculously overly emotional—I don’t know—but I sometimes get emotionally attached to the dumbest things. That car is one of them. I’m not ashamed to admit that, when Music Man got home from selling it and said, “I’m the only one who got to say goodbye to the car,” I cried. I felt as though I’d abandoned a good friend without so much as a “Goodbye and good luck in the future.”

That car and I have gone through a lot of stuff together. It was the first car I ever bought all on my own—I picked out all of the features, I dealt with the salesman and the finance people, and I made all the payments myself until it was paid off. I’ve laughed, cried, yelled, and sang my heart out in that car. I bought the car when I left my first fiancé…

I was twenty-five years old, and I was starting my life over. I needed a good, reliable car, because I was now going to be all on my own as a single woman. At a time when it seemed I had nothing stable, that car was something I could definitely depend on. (Don’t get me wrong; I had friends and family too, but I have a tendency to be overly independent because I refuse to be a “burden” to people.)

That car signified freedom and growing up. My ex-fiancé and I stayed together far longer than we should have. He wasn’t a bad guy per se; he just wasn’t the right one for me. We had started dating when I was 17, and to make an extremely long story short, I grew up and he didn’t. Well, at least not at the same rate as I did. As I grew up, I grew out of our relationship; we grew apart, and I fell out of love. I felt as though my life was over when I made the decision to leave. My world as I knew it had collapsed, and it seemed as though I was the only one to blame.

As I started life over, the car started its life with me. We lived in a new city that I had no experience with. The car and I learned our way around that city together—getting lost a few times along the way. When I had to move to a different apartment in that city a year later, the car transported many of my belongings to the new place.

That car transported me to the hospital to meet my second nephew on a cold, icy February evening. It also took me back and forth from my apartment, to my mother’s house, to the hospital, and back again several times after he was born. His mommy, my youngest sister, got a bad infection from her c-section incision and ended up in the hospital for a week after he was born. The family had to rally together to make sure baby got to visit mama every single day. I had never before carried such fragile, precious cargo and the car’s safety features and dependability gave me a little piece of mind on those trips with my newborn nephew.

The car shuttled my then five-year-old nephew (my first nephew) and me to the hospital a month later to meet his new little sister for the first time; we went back and forth all three days that my sister was in the hospital. Then, after having had custody of my nephew for nearly a week, the car took us to drop him off at grandma’s house. I had bonded with him so much and had gotten so used to having him around that I felt as though I was suddenly abandoning him (it didn’t help that he didn’t want me to leave him at grandma’s, because he’d gotten used to staying with auntie), and I cried all the way home.

When I decided to get a hobby, the car took me to knitting classes at a local high school, and once I was hooked, BFF and me took a few mini road trips in that car to go to one of the best yarn shops around. It was about a 45 minute drive, but it was usually worth the trip; except for the one time when I really should have bowed out because I had an awful migraine brewing, which resulted in my having to pull over to throw up at the side of the road on our way home. I still smile over the couple times that we got horribly lost trying to get to the shop and we laughed, and laughed over how dumb we were.

After a horribly dysfunctional relationship that lasted far, far too long (over two years too many), the car and I were single again. I was truly single for the first time in my life—I had gone straight from high school boyfriend, to ex fiancé, to narcissistic jerk. Because of the nature of the relationship with narcissistic jerk, and because of the kind of person he was, detaching completely from the relationship was difficult. The car took me to my first session with a therapist, and unlike myself, it didn’t judge me or think of me as weak for needing help. As the therapy helped me to realize the strength that was inside of me all along, I decided to discover who I was and to just be me, all by myself, for a while. I spent lots of time with friends and family and began figuring out who I was and what I wanted out of life.

Many months later, the car and I bravely met Music Man for a first date. A little over a year later, the car once again helped transport many of my belongings to a new home; a rental townhouse that Music Man and I would live in until our wedding day, return to as a married couple, and live in as newlyweds for a few more months. A few months after that move, Music Man and I welcomed little Wiggly into our family; he drove the car home as I cuddled our teeny tiny little puppy.

Three months later, the car took us to my mother’s house after we received the worst news of our lives. It sat in the street, blocked in by news vans, as I represented my family—appealing to the public to call police if they had any answers as to who might have committed the horrific crime that took my sister’s life. The car transported us home and back to my mom’s house every day for the next few days as funeral plans were made and we all grieved together.

Music Man drove my middle sister and me to a local shopping mall in the car. We were on a mission to find a funeral outfit for our baby sister. None of the clothes she owned could be worn. A turtleneck was needed to hide the deep ligature furrow on her neck; though we now knew how she had died, we didn’t need to see the gruesome reminder that her life had been so violently squeezed out of her. On Christmas Eve a few days later, the car was once again blocked in by news vans as I faced the cameras to give my family’s reaction to the news that my sister’s ex boyfriend—my nephew’s father—had been arrested.

The car transported us to my sister’s funeral two days after Christmas. It even added a little levity to the day by causing Music Man to rip the seam on the butt of his pants as we loaded some stuff into the car at my mom’s house before heading to the funeral. I always complained how low to the ground the car was, and that, combined with the fact that Music Man was wearing dress shoes on an icy driveway, created just the right conditions for an embarrassing wardrobe malfunction.

There was nothing we could do except go to the funeral; we didn’t have extra pants with us, there was no one Music Man could borrow from, and our house was almost a one hour round trip away, so going home most definitely wasn’t an option. The rip was thankfully not too visible as long as Music Man was standing with his legs close together, and we made it through the funeral without anyone seeing my husband’s behind. After a long day at the funeral, the luncheon that followed, and an evening bonfire to celebrate my sister’s life, the car took us home where we collapsed in utter exhaustion.

Weeks later, when I was finally ready to return to work (or as ready as I could be anyway), my dependable friend took me there. On the days when I would cry all the way to work, it provided a place for me to breathe calmly and to compose myself before walking in to work for the day. When I would cry again all the way back home, the car provided a shield against the eyes of the other drivers on the road, allowing me to bawl openly and loudly in my own private sanctuary.

As life returned to “normal,” or at least the new normal, the car took Music Man and me to a wedding planning fair. We went out many times to scout out possible ceremony and reception locations and to purchase many wedding supplies. Music Man’s sister used the car the day of our wedding to transport decorations and supplies to the reception hall, which she and all the male members of our wedding party readied for the evening.

Eight months into married life, the car helped to once again transport belongings to a new home. Shortly after that, the car took me to my first college class; the first step in my career change journey.

Yep. That car and I have been through lots of stuff together. It’s served me well, and I hope that the new owner is able to get it on the road again. It’s got some good years left in it; plenty of time for a seventeen year old girl’s memories to develop and take shape as she matures and grows. Perhaps it will take her home after a first date, giddy with love and happy with life. Someday it might carry her home, crying and heartbroken after a breakup, providing a similar sanctuary as it provided me. It will be dependable and it will keep her safe, and while she might not realize or appreciate that at her age, her father will.

So long, old friend. Thank you for being so reliable and dependable over the years, and thanks for the memories.

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