A Mommy Blog About Raising Men, Not Boys.
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Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Currency of Love

Today during a mandated sweep and clean operation of Julia's room a discovery was made by her brother.
These are Julia dollars and apparently they're worth ten thousand regular dollars. You can also exchange them for love, which she says is endless. I had never seen them or heard about them until today, when they were unearthed in the much needed cleaning of her room.

I've been thinking a lot of thoughts lately, about love and feelings and since it's almost valentine's day maybe I've been inspired by candy hearts and decorative fat babies with arrows.

Different kinds of love have different prices out there in life. There's the kind of love you have for those first loves, those mistake loves that are how you learn what love is and isn't. You lose part of yourself in them, and you change based on what you learn. Sometimes there are loves that could've been the RIGHT one but the timing was wrong, and the price of the regret can be unending. You'll always wonder just a little bit "what if?"

The love for your children is different. My own experience was that the moment I became pregnant I began to change, and the fierceness with which I love my children is not quantifiable by man. A friend once said "I'd not only take a bullet for my children, I'd take a slow saw to the neck." That about sums it up to me. There is nothing I wouldn't do for them. I get annoyed when I have to get out of bed and parent in the night, don't be fooled. I don't leap out of like a fairy and flit about full of joy and happiness. But when there is coughing, or retching, or other sounds that aren't sleeping my eyes pop open and I listen. I get up.

Sometimes I open my eyes in the middle of the night and listen intently to them sleeping. In the room next to mine, just a few feet from my head, three boys slumber. I can hear the one who snores, and the one who rolls around and flops in his sleep, and the one who giggles in his sleep. I listen intently for the sounds that are the three of them. The girl is further down the hall and I'll have to creep down the hall and peek for a good inspection.

Then I go pee because I'm up and gravity is a thing and I had four kids so give me a break.

The love of my children has become a currency I'm paying in another way. I started working out because I was over 300 pounds and had a heart incident. It started out as vanity, I was ashamed of how I looked. I was ashamed that arthritis in my knee was keeping me from using stairs at work. I was ashamed that I tried to do aerobics and collapsed on the floor crying after 7 minutes.

I vowed I wasn't going to shop in fat girl stores any more. I was going to be SKINNY. No one was EVER going to yell rude things at me (they still do btw) and I was going to make sure no one could EVER refer to me as fat again with any sort of basis in reality.

Then eventually, despite that voice in my head saying all the stuff above, it became about being more healthy. My heart condition is a real thing. I actually have a couple of different things happening heart-wise, one because of the other, and they have names and sound super scary and everything. They are the sort of things that aren't really that big of a deal if you are healthy and stuff. They are the sort of things that people ignore and then one day they have heart failure and everyone goes "Wow dead at 50 who knew X could kill you?"

X can kill you. X will always kill you.

But the reality hit me in 2015 when both of my parents up and died. The first thing was that they'd both died of X, those things that might've been handled so differently if dealt with earlier. The second thing though was the reality that suddenly my brothers and I were orphans. At 46, 36 and 26 we now were on our own. Yes we're all grown but it was a sobering moment because you never really think you'll be orphaned yet there we were.

My own children are some day going to be orphans.  I have two children who will never, ever be able to do for themselves. The other two, if I died today, would be very sad but would also be FINE. They're smart, they're capable. The Jesuits say give us the child for the first seven years and we'll give you the man well, she'll be 7 this year and he's 14 and frankly - while I don't WANT TO DIE now, I'm not afraid of what will happen to them. I know solidly in my heart they will be fine.

But my twins....will not.

They need me and/or their father alive as long as possible to care for them. Maybe some day to over see where they go live when we can no longer care for them. So I go to the gym. I try to watch what I eat (some days more than others let me tell you). I am running. I'm terrible at it, but I also hate being terrible at things so I keep going. So when I'm sweating and I'm hurting, I'm paying part of the currency of love. I'm paying the price of loving them so much, and I don't regret it.

I regret eating whatever I wanted for 20 years, but not for loving them this much. I lift weights on Tuesday and Thursdays and push myself to run up that hill even though my legs are about to brick. I push and push and push. I have to lose more weight, not tons, but more to ease the strain on my heart from all this extra fat. I need to build strong bones and keep them as I age so that I'm not made weak too soon by the toll of years.

I'm putting it off, this aging thing. My vanity likes the smaller sizes but my heart likes it when it gets to NOT take blood pressure medicine and when the ridiculously expensive tests don't find anything bad beyond what's known.

I could say I want to stay alive just because I'm selfish and I want all of my days. But actually I want my days so that I'm here not just for me, but for them. That's the price of loving them. It's part fear, it's part just plain love. But it's real, and it's a currency I will gladly pay until the day I die.


Saturday, February 04, 2017

Breathing Is The Hardest Thing To Do

The subject of resentment has come up quite a bit lately with friends as we talk about the world of having disabled children. My friend Christine talked to me about how another blogger she was reading seemed so ANGRY, so upset with her child and that it made it hard to read her. I think that's an easy trap to fall into. I also think that maybe the blogger is writing out her frustrations and sorrow so maybe that's how she keeps from spilling it out onto her child.
We've all read those stories, parent of special needs child commits murder, or murder/suicide, because they can't deal with it ONE MORE MOMENT. Sometimes it's not that simple.
I sat once years ago in a training session with about 40 other special needs parents where we were supposed to learn about waivers and other government help we could get for our children, or at least learn what help there was. A woman sitting a few seats away from me was asking questions about her son who was quadriplegic with many other health issues. I watched her go from hope to exasperation, to hopeless as  the sea of forms and nebulous certainty of what the future held became clearer. She literally said the words, "No one will take my child when I die, no one will help me. At this point I guess when I think I'm close to dying I guess I'll have to kill us both."

Then she started crying.

I understood more about the future in those moments than I had ever conceived possible. What I realized was that you have to sometimes accept the lesser version of your dreams - sometimes it's requisite to your own sanity.

I'd be lying if sometimes I don't break down into tears at story time in the evenings, because I have 12 year olds who still delight at me reading Sandra Boynton books in silly voices. I break down because I wonder who will read these books to them when they are old men with grey hair and I'm long dead. Will they miss these books? Will they be someplace where they are loved? What is going to happen to my children?

The flip side of that is that I accept that I can't completely control what happens. I can make plans, I can try to make arrangements and sort things to the best of my ability. I can't let my soul be destroyed if they don't work out exactly as I want them to. There are a lot of moving pieces in this life, and they don't get nailed down very well when you're a special needs mom.

I get frustrated. I get annoyed when Miles is being a shit head because sometimes he is LEGITIMATELY being a shit head. I get annoyed when either of them is having an autism melt down. But I can't let that feeling of "everything is bad" that might exist in moments or even hours consume me. SOMETIMES they do. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I text my best friend the details of the poop horror show that can be my life.

And then I get on with life.

I make a decision every day, as corny and pinteresty (that's totally a word now) as that might sound. I'm going to be happy. I'm going to pursue things that make me healthy, improve my life, and I'm going to try to be a better person and mom. I'm going to FAIL A LOT. But I'm also going to not fail on some things and that's good to.

That doesn't mean that what I'm writing here is a sugar coated more delicious version of the pain and anguish it is to have two children that aren't what you dreamed of. It just means that I've sorted out how to deal with it, and how I'm not going to let it ruin the one pass I get through this life. This works for me. It might not work for you.

As for me, I look back on photos like this and think man - if I survived that, I can do anything.
You just have to remember to breathe. Sometimes that's the hard bit.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Amber Is The Color of Your Energy

It has been a pretty good autism day which is the first sign that something super stupid is about to happen. I had played Hungry Hungry Hippos, painted the toenails of the girl and listened to her read two books. Lunch and breakfast were without incident. I did legs and core, and some more core later. Things were quiet. All was well.

That's a harbinger of doom.

I was watching Forrest Gump, letting my own to toenails dry and texting with Laura when it occurred to me it had been some time since I saw the twins.That's when the smell hit me.

Poop.
Twelve year olds with poop that's been waiting for relief for any amount of time isn't a fun time for anyone. The intimate details of what that sort of clean up involves I'll save for my closest friends (Sorry for the mental image Laura) but let's say it's unpleasant. Sometimes there isn't anything for it but to bathe them, just like when they were babies.

I'm endlessly amused by the names of the man soap available to me in the bathroom. I have to admit, it makes the poop-removal scrub down entertaining as hell sometimes. After I wash Charlie with dandruff shampoo I finish up with with a scrub singing along to the name of the soap "Desssssssperaaaado.....why don't you COME TO YOUR SENSES?"

I entertain the hell out of myself.  It helps me forget that I'm washing my 12 year old because he still poops his pants. He laughs because I'm singing and getting wet. They laugh and dance around in the shower because it's fun.

Next child of course needs the same attention but this time it's time for the smell of "Goddamn dirty hippies" as my Dad would say. AMBER. A patchouli something or other smell goes all over Miles to remove the horrible poop and pee that's been there too long smell.

I'm a bad parent. I can't believe I left them so long without changing them. "OHHHH AMBER IS THE COLOR OF YOUR ENERGY!!!" I sing. (That's the only line I know from that song because I'm not a goddamn dirty hippie.)

Oh fuck off that's a joke.

Now they're clean and one smells like a guy who's been out riding fences and the other like that dirty hippie thing but I've got to say, despite all the poop scrubbing and soapy singing it's still been a pretty good day. Now take that into account and look at my face.
Seriously, this is a good day.

You want no part of a bad day.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The Fairytale of Solo Pooping and Other Autism Parenting Nonsense

There was a time when I would often find myself sitting upon the toilet with a small boy perched upon my lap. I would be there to answer one of nature's calls, and the child would find me sitting (having sought me out as I'm not allowed to stray) and would climb upon my lap.

This presents a number of issues. First of all no part of my toilet training ever included "How to void one's bladder or intestines while holding a child." In fact, I can admit I never was able to accomplish is regardless of how desperately I might have needed to do before that moment. They were confusing and frustrating times. How do you explain to a child that doesn't understand that THIS seat is different from every other seat? When I sit on THIS seat you can't sit on my lap, but on every other seat we're good?

How?

I'm not sure how we actually ever graduated from that phase except there was probably some screaming and some locked doors involved. Locked doors might seem like the obvious answer but the twins have an intense need to be ABLE to get to me. Their father gets away with pooping on his own. I, however, can at LEAST count on someone chanting/counting/stemming/singing outside my bathroom door at the minimum. They seem to need me to acknowledge them, to confirm a small piece of object permanence maybe they're missing. "I'll be out in a minute," I'll call. "Everything is OK Mommy will be right out."

Sometimes they simply pop open to door and look at me. They don't stay, they take a look and leave - swinging the door wide open so it doesn't accidentally shut again. The oldest child has come upon me more than once, moaning in horror "MOM WHY IS THE DOOR OPEN" and shutting it. I'm not sure which of us he's more embarrassed for.

Dude sometimes I gotta poop, what do you want from me kid? I can't ALWAYS GET UP AND SHUT THE DAMN DOOR AGAIN.

If we return to the subject of locks, you might just say "Damn woman, just lock that door." Well I do, on occasion. There are whole days that pass when I can safely lock the bathroom door, do what nature requires and exit feeling lighter with hands scented delightfully from some fancy soap. Those are damn good days, I gotta admit. However there are many more days where me locking the door equals a 12 year old boy in full on autism panic yelling "OPEN DOOR OPEN DOOR" when he realizes I am behind a door he can't get through.

He can't be separated from me. He might not need to be with me 24/7 any longer but he requires it as an option.

Some days this one thing makes me feel like some bizarre alien. All parents experience this with their small children. We tut-tut and giggle over the joy we get when solo showers happen, or being just alone in the bathroom with no spectators. But the prospect of that being your LIFE is sobering. It stops being cute.

It is a form of torture played out on a minuscule scale. A small human dignity shall be disallowed. You won't be harmed by it. It's not worth truly complaining about. In fact compared to all the terrible things that happen in the world you're just fine and seriously hush, you haven't got any problems. Yet, there is it, this thing that other people can expect from their 12 year olds that you as an autism parent can't.

It's unfair.

Life isn't fair, my mom used to say. Get over it.

She was right. It's probably the most important thing she ever taught me. It's pretty much all that gets me through some days.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Because I'm Afraid OF WORMS Roxanne !

So for the purposes of education worms were put into these little plastic cups which were named WORM hotels. The cups were clear, and the worms could move about and the kids could watch them do their "eat dirt make dirt" routine.

Science, I suppose.

There is actually a part of me, the part who's brain has been softened by the internet I guess, who thought "Well that's terrible THAT POOR WORM I BET IT WAS TERRIFIED."
I've lost my damn mind. It's a WORM. I pulled off the packing tape which was on the top (by the way teachers - the worm COULD have gotten stuck to the packing tape across the top which would've made for a worm tragedy) and we set him free in our garden. I'm growing metal things there, nice right?
I'm a kid who used to spend summer evenings after the rains running through backyards with a flashlight and friends, hunting under dropped lily leaves, near and around gardens, for earthworms who were mistakenly sliding along the soil. We were hunting nightcrawlers, the biggest and tastiest worms, for the men of the neighborhood to fish with. My grandpa, other grandpas, other people's dads would come by the next day for a coffee and take coffee cans full of moist soil chocked full of these fat worms.

We made great bait hunters, we truly did.

I am completely unsure where I was going with this story, but I found it sitting in drafts this morning when starting a different project. So I'm hitting publish anyway. My boat my rules.

Also, I'm pretty sure that worm was dead but I played it off. #acting !

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Genetic Lure of Codeine

While nestled into my bed, waiting on the effects of codeine cough syrup to come over me, I had a series of thoughts. I was partially convinced I was having one of those moments where I needed to get up and write them down because there were some good things floating past my slowly drug induced mind.The other part of me, the part in control of actually get up or nah, decided to stay firmly tucked into my well made bed. I was waiting on what I've come to think of as The Wash to take place.
I'm particularly susceptible to codeine. Any sort of opiate thing, in fact, and I don't tend to get along terribly well. They gave me morphine after a surgical procedure once and the intense vomiting that occurred moments later is post-op legend. But codeine is morphine's saccharine cousin. I'm sick, need to sleep and not cough all night so I carefully ladle out the dose prescribed - not more - and wait.
Last night I did the same and The Wash was quick and strong. About ten minutes after having slipped into bed the itching began. This is apparently a sign that I've got a wee allergy but I don't mind it. It's indicative that the sleep is coming and that's what I crave.
Deep, relaxing slumber - a sick girls best friend.
My face began to itch, my nose and my chest, my legs and feet. The itching rolls across my skin like a weird "Hello" and I know that behind it is a pull down into blissful rest. I slept so well last night that I probably built up tonight's rest too much.
I dosed myself, again exactly the right amount - never more. I climbed into bed and waited. I waited some more. Soon I realized it had been 30 minutes with no sign.
I rolled over and considered why I might not be sleeping. The addiction demon on my shoulder encouraged me to TAKE SOME MORE. I get the addiction demon very honestly from my father's side of the family. He comes out when I'm out drinking apparently also. I try not to listen to him because he's real and he destroys lives. Also opiates can stop you from breathing so I definitely ignore him in terms of medicine. But that lure, the idea that "just some more" is starting to pull.
I remind myself that while codeine isn't morphine it's a bad thing to take too much of any medicine. I remind myself that they give you morphine when you die and eventually it helps your body forget to breathe. Codeine is also an opiate, I remind myself, and everyone reacts to drugs differently. "You don't want to be one of those people who died in 2016 and everyone thinks is so great now that your'e dead," I tell myself and roll over again.
The problem begins to gnaw at me as I cough again, and again. Dry coughs, the kind that hurt and are small, but shouldn't exist if my cough medicine would just kick in. I want to sleep, why am I listening to Miles sing in the next room? 
I want to sleep. I want the deep dark night to pull me into it and out of this terrible sickness for a few hours. I want escape. I drank the thing that said drink me. Now please, take me out of here.

It was right about then, when my mind was twisting with frustration over it's lack of sleep that I woke up. My husband was placing his hand on my forehead to check my fever, and to check on me to see if I was alright. 

I had been asleep all along.


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

The Never Ending Therapy of The Vince Guaraldi Trio

I spent my lunch hour yesterday searching for something that would be perfect to take to the twin mom's Bingo party tonight. Unlike funerals where one would search the "freezes beautifully" section of food.com I was looking for "something that moms who wipe more butts than most people can imagine" would enjoy. This usually involves chocolate or booze or both. I settled on something called a chocolate chip toffee brittle. As I drove through the woods headed to the grocery a thought floated through my head in my mother's voice, "Apparently named by someone who doesn't actually know what brittle is."
That snark was so real, so accurate and on point with something my mom would've said that I began to cry driving through the stupid storm that was picking up. The road I was headed down doesn't have much for street lights so I sniffled and tried to get ahold of myself. It's a perfect road to slide over a bit too far accidentally and slam into oncoming traffic.
Right about then is when the Vince Guaraldi Trio saved me.

Most people know the Vince Guaraldi Trio quite well thanks to their work providing music for the Peanuts. That in itself is nearly enough to put anyone in a happier place. When I was in college though, I learned that the chart Linus and Lucy has magical stress relieving powers. It worked like this...

The basement of the music department at my university was where all of the practice rooms where. Dank, cool little rooms down one cement block hallway painted what was probably a cream color in some past decade. The doors would be closed and you'd hear the same bars over and over, rarely a whole piece. You'd hear the fingering that was tricky, you'd hear the notes that were always being over or under blown, you'd hear music dissected, pulled apart, into the pieces that the listener doesn't always discern but the musician has to master to make it whole. I was a secondary music education major and also a world class procrastinator. This meant that I spent more than my fair share of time in practice rooms LATE in the day. 

Nearly every room was fitted with a grand piano, if not there was an upright shoved into the corner. There was something soothing and peaceful about being in the womb of that sterile place with music floating through the air. It wasn't comfortable, yet it was a place I liked to be. It was like being with your tribe, even though everyone was in a room alone struggling with bars that were defeating them.

As the evenings would progress the stress level would increase. People were getting tired, there was other studying to do. But the music also had to be practiced. When the event horizon of stress and sleep deprivation was reached - a door would open and suddenly you'd hear the base line being plunked out. 

Another door would open, and join in.

Within moments doors were opening down the hall and the familiar tune of Linus and Lucy would thunder and echo through the halls courtesy of 20 or so music students having a stress break. Banging away at the keyboard, playing those notes of our childhood joy for no reason at all other than the peer pressure of it was one of the most cathartic moments of my life. We struggled with 8 bars of this or 4 bars of that BUT As God As My Witness, we'd all master Linus and Lucy and make it ours. It was a concert of one song, played loudly and with joy. It was a musical stress scream that let out our frustrations and reminded us what we loved, music.

As I pulled into the grocery store parking lot yesterday I realized I was smiling, remembering how happy that stupid tune used to make me. It could take away the stress and how annoyed or bad I was feeling about what I was working on. 

I guess it still works.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Terrorists and Coconut Oil

I had one of those days at work where you look like crap and people keep asking if you if you're okay. People asking you if you're okay when you are not actually sick is code for "You look like shit, what's up?" The what's up is I didn't get sleep for reasons and life and kids and stuff and so hair was in a claw and makeup was haphazard at best.

Sometimes my best is just being clean.

I went over to Sally Beauty after work and acquired a coconut oil hair mask (also works on cancer, arthritis and diabetes according to the Internet) and went home to soak in a hot tub with this tropical goop soaking in my hair. I completed my buffet of beauty products with a oatmeal and honey mask and slipped down into the hot water. 

That's when the terrorists arrived. 

"POOP," declared one of them. "HIIIIIII," declared the other.

I had determined to relax. I desperately needed silence, hot soapy water and goopy stuff smeared on my face and hair to make me a human girl again. So I told these terrorists, "No, Daddy is going to change you. GO AWAY."

No less friendly words were ever uttered to two boys than those. "VILE WOMAN!" their stomps and flailing declared. "What do you mean you won't cut your bath short to change our disgusting diapers this very minute! You're our servant! COME! MOTHER! WIPE OUR BUTTS!" They acted all of these words out in a sort of performance-art dance that included throwing themselves on my bed and making shrill noises. 

I exhaled and put them on ignore. Coconut oil doesn't cure poopie diapers. It's sad but true. I held fast to my determination to remain in the water. As the tub continued to fill I grabbed the Mr Bubble and dumped some of it in, then some more. The smell of pink filled the air (how does it smell like pink?) and I considered that I could just live in this bathtub forever, were it not for the pruning.

The pruning is a deal breaker.

I'm out of the tub now and in my jammies and diapers were in fact changed by the husband who had already said he'd do it before the little beasts came demanding it from me. They seem to think it's special MOMBONDING time and I'm oddly not keen on that. 

Maybe coconut oil DOES cure poopie diapers. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Bring Her On and Let Her Scream

A close friend asked me this morning "So how much of the day do your twins scream?" and I was surprised by the question. I guess it's a great question though, and it wasn't meant meanly or rudely at all. The question was actually based in a concern for how we as parents handle it, how's the family handling this disability?

I guess that's when it struck me how lately I've been venting my frustrations in this space, my emotions driven by tears and anger and often just me looking for a way to cope. Just like HoneyBooBoo, it makes better entertainment when shit is off the rails but let's face it, even THAT family couldn't eat those huge bags of potato chips as individual servings EVERY day.
Sometimes it's not screaming and carrying on. Sometimes it's holding a baby doll and surfing YouTube for videos of people making food out of Play-Doh (that's a thing) or watching hotel commercials. A major difference is that I don't know when this peace and calm will erupt into hellfire and damnation. His love of doing what you see above can literally run hours. Those are good hours. SO VERY GOOD.

It's when the eruptions occur that I am driven into writing some days when my other options are nil. 12 year old boys are big, their tantrums are bigger.

But that's not who they are completely. They're also little boys, somewhere between 2 and 12 in great big bodies that don't match what's going on inside of their heads.
They love and snuggle. They're very affectionate. They laugh, they howl with laughter when something is funny. They love Snoopy and Elmo and lots of shows.

They're people. They're just people with brains that don't work right and because of it sometimes their world is wrong, and they don't know how to tell you what they need.

Sometimes, just sometimes, they are assholes.

They're selfish because they don't understand boundaries and social norms. That might not "technically" make them assholes but I can promise you their receptive language skills are strong, and they know when I say no and they start screaming that they are trying to FORCE the issue with bad behavior. They are like a two year old pushing your boundary.

Two year olds can be total assholes. So I stand by my previous statement.

Right now behind me is Miles (pictured above) humming Jingle Bells in a frantic hum that is too fast, as though the bells themselves were being chased by something scary. Charlie is twirling a string, his chi as we call it, and seeking his inner peace.

It's been like that most of today except a bit earlier when I asked Miles to please stop playing the Barney theme song slowed down to sound like some demonic dirge.

It's not always hell. It's really not.

But as an autism parent you can't ever stand down. I can't have a beer right now because they would literally stand behind me and scream until they got a drink of it, which they wouldn't, then that would make MORE screaming. OR I would have a drink, feel nice and  relaxed and chill and they'd crap all over the house - thus killing all my calm joy and in my opinion wasting a lovely drink.

Maybe they would just start screaming for reasons undefined. That happens. Something happened. You never know what. And then there is running and screaming. It's not a toddler it's a 12 year old boy running and screaming and flailing LIKE a toddler. But he's not, he's 12.

I guess my point is this - we can go whole days without screaming. No they don't scream all the time. They can say words and frequently do. "Poop" is one of the tops lately. Charming right?

I think the one who needs to scream most days is me. It's not a luxury that's well regarded sadly.

Friday, November 25, 2016

With Cigarettes and Whiskey

It's weird to write ugly things about your family. I'm not sure why that's true except that it's very American to pretend that we're all the Cleavers and keep that Jerry Springer portion of the family under wraps as much as possible. When you're relating tales of the most Springeresque part of your clan, good friends will nod and acknowledge, "Every family has one/it/them." You tend to tell the short sound bites, the funnier bits, usually in relation to something else that's happening. I guess that's how my mind got to wandering down the darker corridors of Thanksgiving past, the day arrived and I had time on my hands for recollection.

I had very different families growing up. One was divided into maternal family and paternal family and the gulf of education and socio-economics that defines the lot of us. One was divided by TIME - the time before Matt was born and the time AFTER Matt was born. Entire lifetimes of tragedy, grievance and sorrow occurred in the years between 1968 and 1979.

This isn't about that time.

It's about the first thing.

My mother told me once, rather bitterly, that on her wedding day while pinning on her corsage my grandmother said to her, "You know, I would never have married your daddy if I had met his people first." They were laborers, they worked with their hands. They worked hard. They built houses, they were brick masons, they were repairmen.

They were beneath her.

She told my mother that, I believe, because she'd just met the future in-laws and most likely they were what my son would refer to as "a show".  They smoked nonstop, drank brown liquor and were loud. They were uneducated, they were uncooth - my paternal grandmother having given birth to my dad at the tender age of 16 while my grandfather was at war.

They, were younger than I am now.

Holidays with these people were unpleasant. For reasons I won't ever QUITE understand we ended up there for Thanksgiving quite a lot. The houses, whether my grandparents or aunts were always choked with smoke, thick smoke that stuck to everything, that got into your clothes and you could almost lick off the nicotine. I can remember as a small child stepping outside into the freezing cold Indiana winter up in Advance, Indiana, and breathing in the FREEZING ass wind with relief. It was sometimes the only place I could breathe.

The smoke was the easy part.

My grandmother carried with her a huge bag which had her piddlin' in it, which amounted to cross stitch and embroidery she would never finish. At the bottom of said bag was a bottle of Wild Turkey. After an hour of two of not so surreptitiously adding it to her beverages she'd insist on trying to teach me how to cross stitch. My mother would wander by and in a quiet, ladylike way she'd remind me that the back of your work shouldn't look like shit or you're doing it wrong. Of course, she'd say it very nicely, and not with those words.

My grandmother was from a large family of 9 children and it seemed like every last one of them was some sort of alcoholic with the exception of Aunt Sally. Aunt Sally was, as they said, a witch. Her hair was dyed what my mother referred to as hillbilly red and piled high, like Loretta Lynn's hair if only it were red. She would sip coffee, smoke and tell fortunes at the kitchen table. She and her husband seemed like nice normal people in the loud, drunk holiday chaos. The rest of them, however, were a blur. There were hugs and kisses with smudged lipstick, and faces needing a closer shave - all reeking of the sweet burned smell of whiskey. Everyone looked old to me, so very old and slightly ill.

They liked to tell horrible stories, of people who died. Of how Butchie was run over in the driveway when he was four because someone didn't look behind the car (I can't even recall who, just that Butchie was a cousin I never met - my memory is failing about whose child he actually was), of Uncle Redd and his infamous trip through the Mechanicsburg Bridge (he died) and his time in prison. Of boyfriends and girlfriends lost gone or dead and how they went.  They'd laugh, and toast to the dead even little Butchie who was run over in his own driveway.

It taught me from a very young age that these were people to be cautious around, they wouldn't look out for you.

Fights would start sometimes before the meal, before the blessing. It would always be about some previous transgression, or some older grievance. My grandma stole my grandpa away from Aunt Sally in their youth - I would've always guess SHE had the biggest grievance but she rarely said a word. The words were slurred, angry, hateful. Sometimes things would be thrown or it would just be suggested we have the prayer and eat. People would retreat to corners and eat, and maybe make up after their blood sugar returned to normal or they'd leave quietly only to return and do it all again next year.

After everyone had eaten and the men were in the easy chairs watching the Lions or the Cowboys the other stories would start, about how Uncle Redd built Grandma and Grandpa's house after he got out of prison, because only Grandpa would come get him. It was his way of saying thank you. There would be other stories, jokes, happy memories and you had to soak up those stories - your tiny glimpses that these people weren't completely horrible were hard to come by and had to be appreciated.

Somewhere into the second football game the best thing that could happen would be that my grandma was asleep. If she WASN'T asleep that's when some of the craziest conversations of my life would take place. She would, in her Wild Turkey drunk slurred speech, start giving me MAN advice. How to get a man. How to (and this one is one of my faves) GET MY WAY with a man. I could literally see my mother seething as she politely let these conversations go on, knowing I was going to get a huge talking to about how INSANE my Grandma was. There was no way to escape her drunk hug as she advised, year after year, about how BLOWJOBS were really the secret. I started getting these conversations when I was about 10.

That's right, my grandma was giving me advice about giving blowjobs and how I needed to use them to make men give me my way. I was never exactly clear what my WAY was supposed to be about? Money? Shopping? It was all very vague and truly based on the pretty crap existence she seemed to be living hadn't worked out that well for her, really.

I've been thinking about these loud, obnoxious drunk relatives of mine for a while today.  We stopped spending as much time there somewhere around the time I was 12, apparently at some point either Mom put her foot down or Dad just got sick of it too. I have a vivid memory of being called out of my cousin's bedroom, where I had retreated with a book, to find we were packing up our stuff and leaving. I don't know why or what happened. I can't imagine WHAT the transgression was that was so great that my Dad pulled the plug on our holiday meal but it was something. I remember my Aunt and Grandma following down the driveway begging him to change his mind, walking in my socks on  the wet ground because I'd come so quickly I didn't put my shoes on and I didn't have time. I never asked what happened, but I know after that our visits were less frequent.

I can't imagine what was worse than glassware being thrown and oral sex advice being dished out by grandmas but apparently that thing had happened.

I think a large portion of my adult life has been spent endeavoring to be the opposite of those people.

Some days are better than others. But I'm trying, Ringo.



(Source: apanelofanalysts, via likiteesplit)