Embrace the Vomit

I need only to hear the word to become entirely skeeved out. Even if from afar, I (am not proud to say) I have a physical reaction which usually looks a little like this: all the blood drains from my face, I break out in unfettered sweating and, most certainly, a veritable near-tidal-wave of panic. Just the descriptor alone can bring me to my knees. Call it whatever you like: barf, puke, gooch, yoke, upchuck, hurl, retch, spew, vomit… in any verbiage I fucking hate it.

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No seriously, my vomitphobia is so problematic, that I have wasted time, explored its deeper meaning with more than one therapist.  (Usually this has been in a clinical setting, but friends who happen to have degrees have been subjected to my neuroses, as well.) A few years ago, during one such conversation, my therapist told me to “embrace the vomit”. Or maybe it was “appreciate” or “enjoy” or “admire” or even ❤ it…I truthfully don’t recall. Had I not had years of successful and fulfilling interactions with her, I most likely would have walked out, announcing her quackery upon exit. In fact, I am relatively sure I looked at her and asked if she was smoking dope. But, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I sort of, kind of, in a way, knew what she was getting at.

Enter three o’clock yesterday morning. Jess, for the first time in probably 12 years that she’s awoken me in the middle of the night for any reason suggested she might throw up. I dutifully dragged my ass from bed, accompanied her to the bathroom, assumed the position alongside her (wait, who am I?  I actually went in!) on the floor and assumed (prayed) it was nothing. All was quiet and calm…and then Linda Blair showed up.  Despite the sheer volume and ferocity, she (Jess, not Linda) was calm, impressively quiet and what could only be described as matter-of-fact. Three tremendous boots, a few follow-up spits then she turned to me, smiled and said, in her best Miranda voice “I feel better now”. Once we were as sure as we could be that (what would turn out to be) this wave was over, she stood up, put her palm on her belly, turned size ways toward the mirror and announced that she looked thinner.

We gathered ourselves up from the bathroom floor and, after I checked for errant splashed matter,  we returned to our respective beds to try to sleep.* Jess grabbed her phone which sleeps in my room every night (points for me for good parenting) and began watching something (possibly, no, probably) inappropriate on Netflix. I, on the other hand, lay back down and metaphorically pat myself on the back. I handled that like a real mom. I was right there in the thick of it and did not tentatively rub her back from the threshold of the bathroom door, eyes clenched tight, breathing stopped as I maybe might have with Harrison back in the day. Um, I think I actually embraced the vomit.

I understand and acknowledged that for my fellow vomitphobes out there this was sweat-inducing to even read it. It probably sent you running for the closest vat of Purell. You might even be trying to will away the voices in your head that keep taunting you with, “you’re next”. You can admit it. No judgment.

Three hours later: round two.  Three hours after that: round three.  And then all was quiet. My takeaway:

  • It wasn’t so bad
  • Jess is a champion shot
  • I learn from her everyday
  • I really really really really hope that I don’t get it

We are now a solid 24+ hours since the final episode.  Jess is fine.  Mom is fine.  She’s watching more (inappropriate) Netflix in her room.  I’ve showered. called Wegman’s, blaming the sushi, dumplings and sesame chicken.  They’re sorry.  They are giving me my money back.  But aside from the $35  back in my pocket, I feel way richer: I might just have conquered the vomitphobia.**

*I know many a mother who would have brought ill child into the big bed with them for comfort.  I, with only a little bit of shame, will admit to not being that mother.

**Special thanks and love to KB, HR & BS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stayin’ Alive

I returned to my car, turned the key and jounced a little when the radio came to life with the euphonious “Stayin’ Alive”.  In and of itself, this was unremarkable.  After all, the dial was set to the classic hits station (read:  they play “oldies” which, ouch,  happen to be from the era during which I grew up) and that song is, by all accounts, a classic.  What was remarkable, however, was that it was playing after I had spontaneously (more on that in a moment) visited my father’s grave.  For the uninformed, my father freakin’ loved the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.  In fact, he had been known to listen to it often, always loudly, proudly and while in his car.  It was not unusual for him to pull into the garage with “Night Fever” blasting so loud we could hear it in the house. He would then remain in the car until the very last note, when he would finally kill the engine and come in to join us.  It is not often that I catch The Bee Gees on the radio, but when I do it is as if my dad is right there in the car with me.

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Monday will be ten years since my father died.  Every year since, I’ve viewed January 11th as a day-to-get-through knowing that eleven days later is his birthday…also known as a-day-to get-through.  But this anniversary feels somehow more permanent than have the previous nine.  Ten years is a long time.  So much has happened.  My father knew my two little boys.  Now I have one young man and one teenage daughter.  I’m fifty.  I’ve gotten divorced.  I am gray! How could he have missed all that?

I have been feeling out of sorts, not known how to commemorate it, not known what to do with myself.  So, today, while making a return to a store that happens to be about five minutes from the cemetery, I headed over.  (Of note: the store is a chain.  There are others nearer to home.  So, um, perhaps it wasn’t quite so spontaneous after all…)

I thought I knew where to find him, although I am not sure why I thought that since every.single.time. I go there I get lost in the beautiful winding roads that seems to go on forever.  I was sure I knew which section, but once I got there (and saw that he wasn’t) I knew I’d taken a wrong turn.  (Of note: there are no headstones at this pristine cemetery, rather all identifying plates are on the ground…therefore, frankly, every section looks pretty much the same.)  Finally, as I began to feel my shoulders rise, anxiety and irritation percolating, I followed the signs to the “Welcome Center” (yeah, I thought it was a rather absurd choice of words for a cemetery, too) and approached the gentleman tending the front desk of the bright, yet somehow somber office.

“Are you able to tell me where I can find someone?” I asked.  He hesitated, and I knew that I needed to be a bit clearer.  “Oh, I’m not looking for a welcome center employee (of which there seemed to be many); rather, it is a permanent resident, if you will.”  He smiled. I smiled.  But I hated that I didn’t know where to find my father.  He looked up the name, confirmed his date of death (like I needed to hear that!) and told me where I could find him.  He used a bright pink highlighter to show me the route on a map of the grounds and then proceeded to tell me exactly where to find him at Mt. Nebo, Section 28A.  I flashed a smile, cut him off and assured him that I could handle it from here…mostly because I can read.  And then I left, map in hand, feeling the weight of the welcome center follow me out the door.

Well, I can read,  but, unlike my father, I am literally incapable of following a map.  It is source of embarassment, but one I can live with given the fact that I am never far from a navigation system. As such, once in the car I managed to get lost.  Again. This time was different though: this time I knew where I was ultimately headed and that whole ability to read thing was going to work in my favor.  I drove around in just a few circles before I spotted the austere sign telling me I was in the right place.  I got out of the car, pulled my sweater more tightly around me, found a rock that felt strong, meaningful and appropriate, and headed across the lawn, taking care to not step on any of the nameplates in the ground.  There was one new one, from just last year, while the rest had been there long before my father.  I placed the rock on his stone, told him the highlights of the year (“I’m engaged”, “Harrison got his EMT license!” “Jess is holding steady and still making me laugh every day!”),told him I love him and asked him to keep on showing up when I least expect it.  I was there for less than ten minutes.  The air got colder, the sky grew darker and my heart became fuller.

I seldom go to the cemetery.  The last time I went it was a stunningly beautiful day.  I took a long walk around the grounds, trying to ignore the fact that there was a burial happening several hundred yards away.  I cried like a baby.  I may have even lain down on the ground next to him begging him to help me through the day.  And I definitely stopped for an ice cream cone on the way home.

Today felt different.  I am strong. My kids are strong.  My mother is strong. My brothers are strong.  None of us has lost our sense of humor which we were taught was more important than just about anything.  My father’s legacy is apparent – like his father before him, all seven of his grandchildren will vehemently support the assertion that they were his favorite.   I have a wonderful partner whom my father would most definitely approve of.  My brothers and I remain the best of friends…just how my dad wanted it.  But we all still miss him every single day.

Ten years.

Now turn up the volume and go: Stayin’ Alive