Better and Better

baby dylan 3

“What’s the APGAR?” I whispered, slowly slipping away.
“MOM WANTS TO KNOW WHAT THE APGAR IS!” someone yelled.
“NINE!” someone yelled back.

Nine, I thought. Perfect. I felt myself slipping into unconsciousness in a wave of nausea. I was strapped down on my back with my arms out like Jesus on the cross, and those were tied down as well. I couldn’t move, even if I wanted to, but I didn’t. My husband leaned in.
“He looks great. Good job, mom,” he said.
“Take care of the baby,” I whispered, and slipped further into nausea and blackness.

“YOU OK, MOM?” the anesthesiologist said.
I almost imperceptibly shook my head “no.”
“I got you,” he said.

He turned to his portable science lab and played with the bells and knobs and whistles quickly, turning this one this way and that, manipulating tubing.

I could hear my baby screaming. Big, strong, healthy screams, over and over. He was mad, ha ha. Being a week early didn’t seem to have hurt his lungs at all.

The doctors were talking about blood loss and working seriously and hurriedly. There was a lot of pulling and tugging, my high-risk OB working in concert with the colo-rectal surgeon I had asked to assist with the C-section, due to my history of GI surgery. One wrong cut and I’d get sepsis, and if not die from it, live with complete incontinence the rest of my life. They were worried and working fast, calling for various instruments.

My case was unusual because of my complicated history. There were at least 25 people in the OR, several of them observing. I had given permission for this. People have to learn somehow. The Greek chorus stood by in silence, watching the doctors work. The baby quit screaming and I concentrated on not dying.

“How’s that?” the drug guy said, leaning over my face? I nodded. I was a little better. I didn’t feel so much like I’d be pulling a Jimi Hendrix anymore, though I didn’t feel good.

My husband was there with the baby. He looked like he was holding an IED. He tried to lean in with him and show him to me, but there was so much going on, I couldn’t really look.

“They want to take him to the nursery. Do you want me to stay with you or go with the baby?”

“With the baby,” I managed to whisper. That was what we had planned, but I think he wasn’t prepared for how intense a C-section can be when you have as much going on in your abdomen as I do.

They left, and it was quieter, but people were rushing all around. The doctors worked and apparently had managed to do something, as their tone suddenly changed from terse to a bit more relaxed.

Then I heard the one doctor ask the other a golf question, and they started talking about a country club. It was then I knew I would be ok.

I felt a little less nauseated now, and was paying attention to what they were doing. I wished I could see, but they wouldn’t allow it.

“Mom, staples ok for you or no?” said my OB in his thick Egyptian accent.

“No staples,” I said. “I’m allergic to metal and to adhesive, remember?”

“Right,” he said. “Steri strips also a no?”

“Correct,” I said.

“WE’RE GONNA NEED A PLASTICS CLOSURE HERE!” he yelled.

A small Asian woman stepped up beside him, and the two surgeons fell back, talking with each other, the way colleagues do.

“You did great, mom,” my OB said, and then the doctors left. Everyone left then, except the drug guy, a few people cleaning up, and the plastics resident.

“I gonna sew you up now, ok?” she said.

“Ok,” I said.

She worked meticulously and slowly for the next half hour, taking teeny tiny stitches so that the wound could close, trying not to leave a big scar. My stomach was already a mess of scars, it would have been easy for her to just slap it together like a frantic mom throwing a last-minute Halloween costume together with stitch witchery and iron-on patches, but she was careful and precise. She didn’t look up from her work until she was done, and then slipped away without a word.

I couldn’t find Lisa, the nurse who had been so nice to me from the moment I arrived, who held my hand and said I could squeeze as hard as I wanted while I was getting the spinal, as long as I didn’t move. Who waited with me before and wheeled me in to the OR when it was time.

They took me to post-op and there she was. “You did great,” she said. “Just get some rest now, and when you wake up, we’ll bring you the baby. Everyone is fine.”

And then, finally, I let go and went to sleep.

My baby is 9 today. I don’t know how that happened, but I know how lucky I am every single day that I’ve been his mom, from that moment in September when I got the voice mail from my fertility specialist saying, “Congratulations, you’re pregnant,” and giving me instructions on how to transition to an OB now that her long journey to help me get pregnant was complete.

I do not get to tuck my kid in every night. He is with his dad, my now ex-husband, every other week. But I am still lucky. I’m still his mom, even when he’s not here.

There are so many out there who did not make it to where I am. My over-35 fertility group online, the one where members leave without announcing they are pregnant, because it would be too painful for those who have been in the group for years, so many of them didn’t and won’t get to where I am. I entered the online board for the last time that September, and posted the phrase we all would recognize: “It’s time for me to leave the board.” I wished them all luck and love and cried at my insane luck, with only 40% chance of success, and cried for all of them, understanding more than anyone how shitty it feels to be in a club like that one.

And there are many who, along the way, have lost the small souls they created, one way or another. Life can be so hard. Sometimes you get another chance, but the life you created and then somehow lost can’t be replaced.

My son is my chance. My only chance. I’m 49 now, and am working so hard at this mom job. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever had, but the rewards can’t be measured.

Happy birthday, my little dude. I love you so much.

Mom

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Close Your Weary Eyes

napping baby D

When my son was a baby, he was terrible at going to sleep. He had to be rocked, moving. Sitting in a rocking chair wasn’t good enough, you had to be holding him and swaying and swinging back and forth. Preferably to music – on the stereo, or music you were singing (or, perhaps, both).

When he was just a wee thing my ex and I took a vacation to Amish country and rented a house. We made a special CD of his favorite songs to be rocked to and brought that with us. It took him extra long to fall asleep because of the unfamiliar surroundings. It was a beautiful house in a secluded, very wooded area, and very peaceful. I didn’t mind putting in that time at all.

I rocked that kid so much I thought my back would break. I have a really bad back condition (grade 2 spondylolisthesis) which limits how much I can do and for how long, but even as he grew and got heavier, I’d still rock him, ignoring my back, as I knew how short the time was that we would have together in those quiet and intimate moments, me singing softly into his head, and his sweaty little body going more and more limp.

He’d do this thing with his eyes when it was starting to work, like someone being hypnotized. He’d close and open them, but also they’d shift around a bit, back and forth. This is when I knew he was finally starting to drift and it would only be a few more minutes before sleep would overtake him. I’ve never forgotten that special little pattern he had, with how his eyes would look at me, or look at things around, but no longer see them, as the sleep creeped in. A few final blinks and then he’d be out.

Of course, that time is long past. My son turns 9 in just a few weeks, which seems impossible to me. The monthly newsletter I started getting from BabyCenter when I was still pregnant, about “what’s happening this month” with your child, will come to an end when he turns 9. No longer a baby, obviously, but now no longer a really little kid either, so it’s onward and upward. Memories of little hats with ducklings and soft-soled shoes with fat feet padding around are distant now, as the boy enters that in-between space of not little, but not big either.

The other night, he asked me to tuck him in. These times have grown shorter and shorter. He no longer wants me to read to him, and doesn’t read to me either. He mostly reads cartoon books, like Calvin & Hobbes, over and over, and has little patience for longer chapter books, though he will read them on his own if I leave him alone long enough. But this night, he asked me to scratch his back and sit with him a few minutes, and I was happy to do it. I was tired, the end of a long day, and parenting a spirited, energetic almost-9-year-old can be exhausting. But sitting on the edge of the bed, touching my son’s little warm, bony back? That I can do.

As the back scritchies came to an end, I just ran my hands around in a slow circle over his back, over and over. He finally relaxed and turned his head to the wall, and I saw that eye pattern I have not seen since he was an infant. The closing and closing, the eyes darting back and forth. Eyes wide open in an attempt to fight it, and then blinking and closing again, until finally they closed for good and he fell completely asleep. My heart was in my throat seeing it. It was like a peek into that magical time in history, just a tiny glimpse to remind me that my baby is still in there, that he still needs me. My breath caught in my throat as I turned down his light and looked at him once more. My baby. My big boy. But with so much growing yet to do.

At times when I think I’m really not doing him any good at all, with no full-time job, scraping together our existence in this crappy old apartment, no neighborhood full of kids for him to play with, unable to do big vacations like he wants, to travel the world … well, those moments mean absolutely everything.

I Smelled The Spring On The Smoky Wind

I’m only a quarter Irish but I usually make some Irish food the week of St. Patrick’s Day. This year I’ve stepped up my game and am trying to make an Irish meal every day this week. So far, I’ve made corned beef in the crock pot (cabbage/potatoes also), and last night I made my first shepherd’s pie (which is really cottage pie as I used ground beef, not lamb). Both came out really well, and I have a few more dishes planned for the week, including bangers & mash and a coddle.

The kid was in a pretty good mood yesterday, which isn’t always the case on switch day as he is used to getting his way more often when he’s with his dad – like getting to have potato chips for breakfast yesterday before I picked him up, so there is a lot to undo each week, but that’s fine. He is so, so full of energy and it’s still so cold here. He

snow table

hates going for walks and I am not much for playing in the snow, but he was so restless, I gave him the “chore” of cleaning the snow off the patio furniture saying that if it warms up a little when the sun hits it, I would want to sit out there. It’s 24 out, I have no intention of sitting on the patio, but it was enough to get him moving and out there. He had a great time sweeping the snow off stuff with his gloved hands and piling it on the little side tables out there. He tried to get me to come out so he could throw snowballs at me, but yeah that’s not happening.

I made him laugh so hard last night that he fell down, which means it was a good day. We played with an electronic puzzle game, played Yahtzee, I made him get his reading done, and he did a couple of chores, we watched a Charlie Brown Easter special, so all in all, a pretty good day, especially since the shepherd’s pie was delicious – a really good first attempt.

Spending time with him gives me an opportunity to not think for a moment about the possibility that he’ll be shot at school on any given day, or about the horrible state of our politics, EPA regulations being undone, schools being moved to favor the white and rich, money being found for teachers to arm themselves but no money for school supplies and kids at my son’s school have to take turns using computers and iPads because there aren’t enough to go around. The race to the bottom feels like a roller coaster speeding into hell and so it’s tough to tune out and ignore it.

What with daylight saving time and my continued march into old age, I had a flushed face at bedtime and then night sweats and insomnia all night. The kid woke me up only a little while after I had finally gotten to sleep, begging to come in to bed with me. It’s really hard to enforce that he stay in his room all night. He won’t want to sleep in my bed forever, and his dad lets it happen a lot at his place so it’s hard to be the heavy. I sent him back to his room but he came back almost an hour later, still awake, and begged. So I let him in, and he went right to sleep, while I stayed awake thinking about how many bills I have to pay and how I should be up writing or editing something to try to make some money.

He asks me constantly about travel. He really has a travel bug and wants to see and explore everywhere in the world, but on my budget that’s just not possible. We are planning a trip over his upcoming spring break to visit family in Wisconsin. He wants to go to Arizona and see the Grand Canyon, but instead we’re gonna go to the land of cheese. We haven’t been there for several years, he probably doesn’t remember much about the place, so it will be sort of like a new experience for him, I hope.

Taking him to the St. Patrick’s Day parade this Saturday as well. He hasn’t been since he was little enough for me to carry him in an Ergo carrier, so he probably doesn’t remember much about that, either.

I have four months of unemployment left. The clock is ticking. Must make some major changes. I am ready.

 

Tickle Me Down To My Toes

me 7th grade

I’ve finally got health insurance again, thanks to the ACA and additional credits that became available when they made changes to the plan next year. But like many people, the extremely high deductible has kept me from seeking the care I really need for some of my ongoing health problems. I can’t afford the additional monthly expense of paying off the deductible a little at a time, things are too stretched, so I’ve been avoiding going even after the insurance started on January 1.

It turns out that after a lot of legwork on my part and a 90-minute appointment with a financial counselor, that I’m eligible for a supplemental insurance plan offered by one of the major hospital systems where I live. It’s taken me months of being unemployed to even be close to qualifying, and then I had to gather up about 50 pages of documents to submit for consideration. But I’m in now, and my care is going to be much more affordable. The first thing I did was get an appointment to get a B-12 shot. I am really deficient because of the GI deal I have – basically short bowel syndrome, plus an inability to retain a lot of nutrients from my food as it isn’t in there long enough, so I got that done within a week. I then set up an appointment with a new gynecologist as one of my first appointments, as I haven’t been to anyone in quite a while. The last place I went for any type of lady parts care was Planned Parenthood, who saw me for FREE due to my lack of insurance, and a lot has changed since then.

The doctor was great, and we had a really good discussion. I was saying how I was walking in to the doctor’s office and thinking how everyone should just be able to go see a doctor when they need to and not have to sweat and worry about how they’re going to afford it, like I am now able to do. It’s awful to me that people in our country have to choose between being well or taking their meds on time and in the proper dosage and things like eating or paying the light bill. It’s criminal, honestly. He asked me about what I do and I told him I’m a writer, and how in the absence of full-time corporate work, I’m writing a book about what it’s like to go from having a pretty decent job and being super-responsible to being suddenly unemployed, with no safety net or savings, and having to make do for a lot of your food from food pantries or gifts from friends. He was really engaged and excited and said I MUST get the book out there, which makes me want to finish editing it as soon as possible so I can start sending it out to try to find a publisher.

He confirmed that all the stuff that’s been happening over the past 7 months, as if losing my job wasn’t enough, is due to peri-menopause, or as I call it, the purgatory march towards actual menopause. I’ve gained so much weight since I lost my job that most of my clothes don’t fit. Yeah, I probably eat and drink a little too much, but nothing has really changed there compared to how I usually live my life, and I work out more than any other woman my age that I know. I know you can’t “outrun your fork” but the workouts I’m doing are really hard and are keeping me strong, so I’m glad I’m able to do them. But they haven’t made a dent in the scale, which creeps and creeps. Doc says that’s one of the big hallmarks of going down this yellow brick road, that doesn’t lead to Emerald City but to the other side of the feminine world, where my hair is hard and crinkly and my cat doesn’t behave right and I’m fat and angry and my skin is gray.

I’ve been having a tremendous amount of hot flashes, primarily but not exclusively manifesting as night sweats, where I wake up from some bizarre, terrifying dream, drenched in sweat and then obsess over horrible details in my life, real or imagined, and cannot get back to sleep as I lie in my pool of sweat, covers thrown off, fan on, waiting to cool off. It’s happening more and more, and my sleep is completely fucked lately, so I’ve been extra exhausted. I think the B12 injection has helped a little with that, but I still don’t feel like I used to, and by used to, I mean like 8 months ago, not like 10 years ago.

I’m not a candidate for ANY type of hormone therapy. I have terrible circulation, have had weird (but not DVT) blood clots in my legs over the last couple of years, and my dad dropped dead of a stroke when he was only 11 years older than I was – after a heart attack (his mom had 4 heart attacks, but did live to be 102). So, no go on that. He said I could try some homeopathic stuff. It only works for a small percentage of women, but those for whom it works, it works very well. So I’m looking into that.

I alternate a lot between really, really hating even looking in the mirror or at a picture of myself and thinking, ah fuck it, I still look better than most women my age, and I should embrace who I am now and not obsess over who I used to be, whether that’s the 7th grade me in the picture or the me of a couple of years ago, when I was just a slightly-older-than-normal suburban mom with a little kid, going to PTA meetings and driving through Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts to get enough caffeine in my system to get through the day.

Now, research says, now I’m supposed to “minimize” (or eliminate!) caffeine and alcohol, spicy foods, don’t eat after 6pm – basically everything about how I like to live, that makes life fun, or at least more tolerable, I’m supposed to stop doing if you want to do any better.

I’ll take the night sweats, thanks.

Everything I’ve Got For A Little Peace Of Mind

struggle is real

Today my ex-husband and I emailed back and forth some mutually agreed-upon language to have prepared when the day comes—and it will be coming very soon, I’m afraid—when our son comes home from school and asks a direct question about school shootings. We have to have it ready now, because this is our fucked up country.

Thus far, we have only addressed things in generalities, as he has had no specific questions. My 8-year-old does not know about Sandy Hook, Parkland, Pulse nightclub, the Vegas concert shooting, or any of the other mass tragedies caused by the proliferation of and easy access to guns in this country. The lockdown drills they do at his elementary school mean as much to him as the tornado drills they do—it’s something abstract that they practice for an event which has never happened to him or anyone he knows, and probably never will as far as he knows.

“As far as he knows” being the key phrase there. How far he knows things will likely soon change. The gun violence incidences are getting closer, the horrific Jackson Middle School event directly affecting several of my area friends’ children, and the voices of Parkland now very loud and across all news outlets, which I welcome. It will not be long before he comes home and has more specific questions than the general “if you see something, say something” we taught him before he started kindergarten. Beyond the general “situational awareness” I continually try to teach him, for example, when we go to the movies, get settled in our seats with our popcorn, and I point out the two exits, and what path we would take to get to each in the event of “an emergency.” I have said one of those emergencies could include a crazy man with a gun, but it’s not something he really understands is a thing that happens all the time.

I know that he will. And can only hope that it’s because it’s something he heard about from a friend or on a radio or TV show instead of it being because it’s something he’s personally experienced, but there are no guarantees.

All the parents I know are operating on a level of heightened anxiety and discomfort these days. There is talk of homeschooling, though you can just as easily be killed by an asshole with a gun while dining at the Cracker Barrel, or by going to the mall or the aforementioned movies, or at church, or in your hotel room traveling with your famly to play in a soccer tournament. Or even on a sidewalk in your neighborhood, or in your home as part of a domestic dispute. No place is safe, because everyone who wants one can get any type of gun they want. It’s a pretty fucking horrible way to operate a country.

Until this country fixes the fact that angry men can get their hands on whatever guns they want, it’s only going to get worse. There are crazy and angry people everywhere, but only in America does this level of gun violence happen.

Sunday, I’ll pick up my son from his father’s house, and bring him home and show him his new pillow protector, to help with his recently diagnosed allergies, we’ll go to the grocery and I’ll meal plan and shop for food for our dinners for the week, for his breakfasts and lunches I will pack.

And I will hope he is able to eat each meal in peace, and come home to me each night whole, unbroken, and safe.

Demons Are Prowling Everywhere

joy

There is an empty police cruiser parked in front of my son’s school. It is always there. It’s not a deterrent to anything because anyone who has ever visited the school even once, day or night, sees the empty cruiser there, parked in the same spot.

I drop off my son pretty early in the morning and pick him up fairly late. I’m not at school very much when it’s actually in session. Sometimes, when I am dropping him off, I see the police do an exchange of cruisers. Two guys come in one car, one moves the parked cruiser and the other parks another cruiser in the same spot, then gets in the car with the other dude and they leave. This takes all of about 30 seconds.

They don’t even look at the school. Maybe they drive by it during the day. Or even go inside. I don’t know, though I have never seen any type of uniformed officer when I am there for daytime events – classroom parties or PTA stuff. My son says there aren’t any people like that in the school that he’s aware of, but his awareness isn’t great.

With each successive school shooting, it is more and more terrifying to drop my son off at his elementary school. I take a mental picture of what he’s wearing each day in case I have to identify him quickly … at some other point in the day. I use every bit of my theater degree to act normal. To act like his being silly on the way in is annoying, to keep the routine and seem calm, to patiently wait while he hangs up his coat and bookbag. I sign him in and say hello to the extended care ladies, get the kid set up with his breakfast.

I look around the room for a minute and imagine it is a horror scene. It flickers like a before and after picture, and then is gone a moment later. I swallow hard.

He follows me into the hallway, climbs on a bench and jumps at me to catch him, where we hug and say goodbye. He’s getting harder to catch, at 52 pounds, but I’m still able.

I watch him walk back in the room and think, every day:

Please don’t let this be the last time I see him alive.

It is not normal. Except now it is. For more and more parents.

Sure, I’m worried about him getting the flu, it’s particularly bad this year. We wash our hands a lot, I talk to him about not touching his mouth or face too much, staying away from kids who seem sick. I make him change his clothes as soon as he gets home and wash his hands so he’s not bringing it home here. I have a compromised immune system and the flu could kill me.

These are things we do that we can control, or that make us feel like we have some control. If we get the flu anyway, it’s more likely than not we’ll survive it and be ok, with rest and medicine.

It occurred to me when I dropped my son off how many parents feel just like I do during drop off. I think that number is growing and growing. We’re so frustrated and angry that this the parenting experience, that sooner or later we’ll have to tell our child exactly what’s happened in our fucked up, gun-obsessed country that’s caused them to participate in “lockdown” drills or ALICE training, the latter a probably futile attempt to gain a few more precious seconds of life so the bad guy (GUY. ALWAYS A GUY.) might be able to be taken out before he mows down everyone in the school. And now the older kids, from the Parkland school, tweeting their completely justified anger as they are living it – those who survived, and it’s a really terrible way to be a student, and a really terrible way to be a country.

I thought, I wonder if I just sat here all day in my car, with a sandwich and a book and a big thermos of coffee, maybe if I just sit here all day, I can prevent it from happening here. Nobody’s paying any attention to the empty cruiser, and they certainly wouldn’t pay attention to some middle aged lady sitting in her car.

Maybe we could take shifts, people who don’t work or who only work part-time, watching the fucking school, guarding it, trying to somehow give the little kids inside a normal fucking childhood and normal school day, every single day, all throughout their schooling.

Of course, even if we did, we could leave school, go to the mall or the movie theater, or to church if you’re a church person, and get shot to death there. Because nowhere is safe.

I sat in the parking lot this morning after I dropped off my son, staring at the brick building, willing it to somehow be impervious. I looked and looked at it.

Then I wiped my tears and drove home, in silence.

You Wouldn’t Believe What I’ve Been Through

January thaw

David Bowie died a year ago this month. Glenn Frey died this month two years ago. We are all getting older, and as Stevie sang, I’m getting older, too. I’ll be 49 in just a couple of weeks. It seems impossible.

My relationship with the kid is evolving and changing as he grows. He’s more distant and also more physical; wants to wrestle, intensely dance, throw snowballs, chase me up and down the stairs when we do laundry. But he finds his own space now when we come home from school without me telling him to. He finds Matchbox cars to play with, turning them around and around and over humps he makes in the yoga mat that’s eternally on the floor in case I have to stretch. It’s been 6 months since I’ve had a B-12 shot and my deficiency manifests in muscle cramps when I least expect it. Today, after an ambitious, 4-mile morning run, I found my intercostals cramping when I tried to put clean socks on after a shower, and had to stretch way back and wait until they released. My right foot cramped repeatedly while driving for errands, which is not a good way to be. I finally bought some liquid B12 at the drugstore and hit it in the parking lot like an addict. My face has been flushed ever since. Which probably means it’s working.

My GI surgery causes the deficiency, because of how much I have to go to the bathroom. No amount or type of food or drink can make up for it. My food doesn’t really stay with me for very long, and I don’t get the nutrients out of it, just the fat and calories. This is why I’m hungrier than normal people, and why I steadily gain weight each year. It’s also why I ran this morning, and every other day I run and work out and try to deal the hand I have been dealt. Some days are easier than others. Today, it wasn’t the arthritis or my sometimes irritated bum that kept me from more miles, it was my shoes, which don’t fit right and are causing blisters and numb spots. New Balance has graciously agreed to take them back even after the return period has ended, but my old pair of Brooks had different problems, and I am loathe to go back to them. Everything is a problem as you age. But nevertheless, she persisted.

The kid and I have few moments of quiet tenderness any longer. With his propensity towards winter nosebleeds because of how dry it is, I’ve urged him to stay in his own bed all night, not wanting my own resembling a horror film in the middle of the night. He only had one nosebleed this past week. It’s always very late at night and he’s not really awake and is disoriented and very, very crabby. He wants to go right back to bed immediately but we have to get the bleeding stopped first, and he’s impatient and doesn’t like me wiping all of him down with a warm cloth to get all the blood off, doesn’t like sitting on the lid and pinching one nostril shut, waiting for it all to stop. He whines and is angry and I try to be soothing but firm. I’m sorry he got my defective nose. He’ll grow out of it eventually. I hope that’s all he got from me. I hope it every day.

He’s insisted on sleeping with his door open lately. I shut it, and at some point in the night he opens it. I like for him to sleep with it closed, because of fire, but also because even as hard of hearing as I am, even with the fan on or other white noise, I can hear the *snick* of his door opening, and know that something is wrong and he needs me, whatever it is. The instinct, which was given to me by childbirth, has never abated, even though he is 8 now. But with his door open, I don’t hear him rise, and then all of a sudden he is there in the night next to my bed. “mom?” he says, in this small, quiet voice.  “What?” I say, prepared for anything.

More often than not, what he says is, “I’m scared. Can I sleep with you?” He is not scared. There’s nothing to BE scared of, he is not a scared type of child, he is just giving a reason to come in and snuggle, and, knowing how few of those days are left, I say ok.

He gets in and puts one tiny, bony arm on top of me and goes right back to sleep. I lay there and think about whether or not he took his vitamins, and feel bad I forgot to make him do his push-ups, or write down his reading in the log for school. I feel like I wish he would lie there forever with his little arm on mine, wanting to be next to me, and knowing how goddamned soon the day is coming where he will never, ever get in bed with me again, will never hold my hand in his while he’s sleeping, will never wake up briefly in the night and say, “Mom? I love you,” and then turn over and go back to sleep. Jesus Christ, those days tick away so fast. It makes me panicky to think about it sometimes.

We argue about so much, too. I ride him hard, because I want him to be a good man. This past week, he packed his own breakfast and lunch for the first time. He got his own snack one night, and did all the laundry with me just supervising in case he needed help. He complained the whole time he did these things, but he did them. Because that is my job, to teach him not to need me.

This morning, the stray showed up again. We have had a couple of days of January thaw, and though I am reluctant to give the kitty anything, lest I inhibit his interest and ability in finding his own food, the kid was insistent, so I found something in the fridge and we gave it to him. We’ve named him Gandalf, because he is gray and white, even though my son doesn’t yet know who Gandalf is.

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”