Not Trying to Fix It

Most days, I  wake up , collect my iPhone from its perch on the nightstand and begin my morning ritual of  checking  the weather, any texts that may have come in while I slept (thanks to “do not disturb” I am no longer awakened by the trill of the alert), my email and, okay, I admit it, Facebook.  Normally I find relatively banal postings.  Beautiful sunsets, last night’s dinner, ISO book suggestions and links to recipes, many of which I download, some of which I have actually made.

One morning, in the middle of March, I was scrolling through my news feed and stopped in my tracks.  I gasped.  I re-read it three or four times, hoping, wishing that I misunderstood.  The air in the room stopped circulating.  The crush that a mother feels for another mother’s heartbreak nearly choked me.

There are so many of you that I share stupid banter with on a daily basis. You make me laugh, keep me in on your lives and give me a lot of joy. it is for this reason that I share this tragedy: my son, Xxxx, died on Friday night. He was at a concert in Xxxxx, he took the drug molly and died. He was the funniest, most brilliant and, pretty darn complicated person I have known. We are devastated, but I wanted you to know.

The person who wrote those words, simple, straightforward and with no room for interpretation, is a woman I refer to as “my dear friend that I have never met” because, she is dear to me and, well, we’ve never met.  When Jess began her transition, and I, in turn, began this blog, it made the rounds in my immediate area.  She and I, it turned out, have many friends in common…one of whom forwarded our story to her.  I understood why: she is a mom, a therapist and one of those overflowing-with-compassion kind of people.  She, like many other strangers, reached out to me.  But she was different.  With her sharp and quick wit and her mother bear warmth,  I knew we would be friends.

Our oldest children were the same age, both high school juniors.  As the school year picked up steam and the college application process was in full swing, we chatted, commiserated, compared notes and kept each other (relatively) sane and (somewhat) under control.  Yet we never met in person. (Germane to this lack of meeting: we live in different states.)

As I tried to absorb the brutal fact that her son, the one who was not only the same age as Harrison, but in the same fraternity (albeit at a different school)  had done one stupid thing at one stupid moment and was now gone forever, I couldn’t think of one thing I could possibly say to her that would make any difference or quell any pain or make it all go away.  Not one.  So, in response, I simply commented with a single, solitary ❤ knowing that she would feel my heart aching with her.

That was six months ago.

This morning, I was doing my morning Facebook check and a message popped up:

Her: Hi

Me: Hello my friend

Her: Shit morning to you

Me: That good, huh?

Her: Yup

Me:  Anything in particular or just everything…

Her:  Exactly.

A little bit more back and forth, and then this:

llmsg

Here’s what it says:

Me: I am so sorry.  I cannot even imagine and I know there is nothing I can say or do…which bites the big hairy ball.

Her: Which is why I pinged you, you’re not trying to fix it.

 

Every time we chat, I make sure to say something outrageous, irreverent or sassy knowing that she is going to guffaw which will, at least for a moment, allow her to be free.   If someone were to hack my computer and review our chats over the past several years they would either be horrified, outraged or deeply envious of the blast that these two 50-somethings have.   And, since we’ve never actually met, I know of her energy, facial expressions and raucous laughter only from photos on Facebook (and we all know how things on Facebook are always honest, true and real…)  Iam thrilled every time I see a shot of her looking joyful, if even for a moment.

No, dear friend, I am not trying to fix it.  I cannot.  No one can.  And that really fucking sucks.

We chatted a little bit more until she got a call from her sister.  My sign off:

Smooches, bitch!

Be kind. Be compassionate.

Jewish Geography & Smallpox

Recently, my dear friend Francine* was at a social gathering for her kids.  It was held in a facility several communities away from where either she or I have ever lived. She thought it was going to be a drop off, affording her the opportunity to explore a new Marshall’s, but upon arrival she noticed that all the other parents were hanging around.  Dammit.  Because she knew no one in the room and was not interested in staring at the wall or sitting by herself all evening while her kiddos ran around with their friends, she engaged in what we in the tribe refer to as Jewish geography.  Here’s how it works: With the knowledge that several (okay, most) of the other attendants are Jewish, you start a conversation with questions like, “What do you do? Oh, you’re a lawyer? Which firm? You must know my so and so“ or, “Where did you go to camp? College? Grad school?” and so on. It is only a matter of (usually very little) time before it is discovered not if, but who you know in common; think of it as the Jewish version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” only substitute Kevin with Jews and six degrees with two.  It is a tried and true phenomenon and successfully breaks the ice every time.

kevinbaconjewish

Anyway, it was not long (like I said) before Francine came upon a shared connection with a few of the other women. (Without divulging more than necessary, suffice to say, and it is germane to the conversation, that there is an overlap between said person-in-common and me. I, however, haven’t a clue who any of these new-to-Francine peeps are.) Once the shared person was identified, friendly banter surrounding them and how they know one another, blah blah blah, ensued. And then, strangely enough, the new-to-Francine people made a link back to, um, me and, more precisely, Jess.

The particulars are not important, but the gist of it was that these new-to-Francine people somehow, although I cannot imagine how, knew “about” (that was their word) Jess.  With a tone of concern, a lowering of their voices and hangdog faces, they asked: “How are they doing?” (File under: It’s not what you say, but how you say it…)

Briefly considering if they knew something that she did not (but knowing otherwise), Francine responded with a not all together un-provocative, “They are “doing” just fine…why do you ask?” Oh, Francine (bless her perceptive and protective little heart) knew exactly what they were referring to: Jess and the (news so old it’s not even news) fact that she is transgender.  So, in a dear-friend-kind-of way, Francine proceeded to regale them with tales of Jess’s awesomeness.

When I shared the story with Jess, her matter-of-fact, wry smiled reaction did not, to her, warrant even looking up from the pile of Swedish Fish (Braces? What braces?) that she was enjoying.  It was so perfect and reminded me (as if I needed to be reminded) why she is so damn awesome:

“It’s not smallpox, people…”

It reminded me of a blog post from about a year and half ago in which I shared my reaction to someone who expressed their concern over their children having been “exposed” to Jess. Interestingly, and not all together surprisingly, the unnamed person whom I reference in that blog happens to be the common denominator in this story.  Imagine that.  Seriously. Time to get over yourself.

I have said it many times: I get it.  Unless you have had reason to be schooled on what it means to be or love someone who is transgender it is entirely reasonable for discomfort, confusion and judgment to be among your initial reactions.  And then you need to figure it out. It doesn’t even have to be a transgender issue, actually…the unknown, unusual and unfamiliar stuff in your life is also the scariest.  Doh. I’d never take that away from anyone.  I would, however, hope that years and years after the fact, you might consider getting over it as it actually affects you, um, not at all.

My personal experience has been that if you are under the age of 25 you quite literally give no shits about someone being transgender. Admittedly, that is a broad generalization, but, to my mind, an accurate one.  And, in fairness to the new-to-Francine people, they are far enough north of that demographic that they might give a shit, but not so far that they should remain uninformed.  I can say with nearly 100% certainty that, perhaps unbeknownst to them, it is safe to say that they, or, at the very least, their children, know someone who is transgender or questioning.  For example, did you know that there are a lot of kids out there whose preferred pronoun isn’t he or she, but they. Yep, that’s a (cool) thing. Get with the program, grandma and grandpa!

So, next time you struggle with being uncomfortable or anxious or fearful of someone else’s process or choices or appearance, just remind yourself of something:

“It’s not smallpox, people…”

 

p.s. We are doing just fine, thank you.  Jess, in fact, is kicking ass, embracing and being embraced into her new community, making friends who, in keeping with their generation’s thinking, couldn’t care less about her back story and has a way better perspective on life than most of us.  And, not for nothing, is still funny as hell.

*Not her real name.  Not even close to it.

Love Thy Ladies

I actually and legitimately don’t get it.  It confuses, annoys, angers and troubles me.  I’ve aggressively tried to get to the bottom of it with the hopes of hitting upon an “aha” moment, but repeatedly come up empty-handed.  With so much at stake, so many unending benefits and so many opportunities on the daily, why on earth would it not be embraced?  Why, for the love of G-d, is women being unkind to other women even a thing?

Aside from never being without a perfect manicure, I am not a girlie girl.  I swear like a sailor, burp like a teenage boy and have been known to make an off-color remark or two.  I am also, however, fiercely loyal, rabidly protective, ardently supportive and often an outspoken advocate for anyone in the sisterhood, even if I don’t know them.  I often randomly compliment women on the street (that sounds creepier than it is).  I see a gal wearing cool glasses and tell her that she is rockin’ them.  It always makes her smile.  The lady with the toddler losing their shit at her feet: “you got this, mama!” It always gets a sigh, a smile and a thank you.  It’s not hard.  I’m not special. It’s just the way it should be, am I right?!

My expectation is not that anyone go out on a limb for me.  Nor do I believe I am entitled to anything from anyone, vagina or not.  I guess all I really ask is that if you, as a woman, cannot find it in your cache of available human interactions to be supportive of one of your own, you should perhaps consider exploring why.

I happen to love guys and have been blessed with wonderful ones in my life.  My father was a prince among men.  I have two outstanding brothers, a tender-hearted son and a kind and benevolent husband, all of whom I cherish.  They have loved and supported me.  They’ve picked me up, held me when I cry and enlightened me on the way men think and why they do some of the shit they do.  These wonderful fellas are not, however, girls.

As kind, gentle and renaissance as the men in my life are, they are not, nor will they ever be: mothers, sisters, aunts, wives or daughters.  They will never give birth, feed a child from their breast, experience monthly periods (which, if we are being honest, is among the most obnoxious “privilege” of being female), endure a gynecological exam, be subjected to wage discrimination, awaken in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat as a reminder that they are getting way older and that their bodies are no longer set up to do what they used to.  No, those with penises will never know what it is like to have a mastectomy or hysterectomy or to be told they can never have a baby.  (To be clear, men have plenty of things to deal with that we don’t: erectile dysfunction comes to mind.)  My point?  Members of the sisterhood need to stick together.  We are a powerful bunch, but without one another, we are fighting the good fight all alone.  That ain’t right.

bycgirls

Just this afternoon, I had lunch with five wonderful women – that’s them in the picture above.  It was a perfect afternoon.  We covered: sex, parenting, former and current husbands, sex again, UTIs (see the sex conversations), a few women who have disappointed/appalled us in their unsisterhood-y behavior, breast cancer, the frequency with which we urinate and sleep…who needs sleep?  I can assure you, had there been six men, sitting at the very same table on the very same afternoon, the conversation would be decidedly different (expect maybe the sex part…)

Ladies: be kind to one another.  Support one another. Accept another woman’s offer of help, in whatever form it may be.  Trust me…it’s the way to go.

 

 

 

My Lifeguards of 9/11

Truth be told, when I first saw them walking in, all nine of them, my initial reaction was that we should hurry up and order so that we did not become victim to an overwhelmed, backed-up kitchen.  The tan, fit and, not for nothing, good-looking kids had, taking note of the enormous black cloud that hung above (reasonably) concluded that the beach would be empty, so instead of assuming the position on the lifeguard chair, they opted instead to go out for breakfast.  It is important to note that within seconds of their arrival, the sky opened up and drenched everything to within an inch of its life.  The wind was so ferocious that I half expected Dorothy and Toto to fly by the window of the diner.  My point: they were not being derelict in their life guarding duties by seeking refuge from the elements.  The fact that there happened to be hot coffee, corned beef hash and pancakes at their chosen shelter was just a bonus.

As they settled into their seats, each one of them, with no discussion, casually placed their phones in the middle of the table.  I knew what they were doing – ensuring that their breakfast would not be commandeered by the rings, dings and dongs of nine cell phones.  (Actually, when I counted them, I noted that there were only eight and tried to out the guard who was holding onto their phone with a death grip only to be told that his was in the car.  Oops, my bad.) The deal is this: the first person to Pavlovian-ly reach for their phone during the meal is met with not only the disgrace of lacking self control, but the (perhaps more painful) requirement to pay for the entire meal.  I knew of this practice, as Harrison and his buds do it as well, but what struck me was the utter lack of fuss or complaint or whining.  It was as natural to them as it used to be for men to pull out a woman’s chair for her to sit. (What ever happened to that?  I actually never liked it, but it seems to no longer be a thing…)

phones

Once their phones were in the center of the table, they began to confer about how they were going to pay; would they put it on one person’s card and then reimburse their share or everyone throw cash in? I tried hard, and successfully, to keep my mouth shut and not suggest they use Venmo (which, up until about a week ago I had never heard of) but now, at Harrison’s suggestion, use on the regular.  I suspected they knew about it, but, in a rare moment of self-control, I stayed out of it and did not impose my opinion.  I am not even sure what the final decision was, but will note that they figured out fairly quickly.

It was right around that moment when Barry and I looked at one another and knew that we were going to pick up their tab.  It was September 11, on the fifteenth anniversary of a day that they were all too young to really remember.  Most of them were in kindergarten, first- or second-grade and, while they have no doubt heard about it, they would never know the abject horror of that day.   However, the fact that they are lifeguards on one of the busiest beaches in Maine speaks volumes about their character and willingness to run in while others are running out – a hallmark of the heroes of 9/11.

lifeguards

We finished up our meal, took care of both of the bills and got up to leave.  Stopping at their table, we told that their bill was taken care of and why:

  1. It was September 11 and anyone who was old enough to (try to) understand what was happening on that day in 2001 will, on each anniversary, find themselves reliving the powerlessness, fear and sadness as though it was just yesterday. These kids who put their lives at risk for others which, by my definition, anyway, puts them in the spectacular person category.
  2. They could be our kids and, their parents should be proud of these young adults that they have raised…the whole lot of them was charming and respectful.
  3. Not one of them, at any moment, went for their phones.

As we left, I told Man Bun Lifeguard who happened to be really cute (I say that in the least creepy way possible.  Really.) that I write a blog and planned to share this story.  He asked what the blog is about and, when I told him about Jess he said, without even a morsel of judgement or discomfort*, “Oh, cool” and asked me for the link.  I handed him my phone so he could put in his number and I sent him a text with the URL.  Then we both smiled as we heard one of the phones, still in the middle of the table, give out a little chirp.  And no one reached for it.

P.S. Less than an hour after we left I received a text back from Man Bun Lifeguard…

manbuntext

(cut off from photo…“life’s surprises”...)

 

*I love this generation – they are way cooler than most of us.

 

 

And Then There Were Four, er, Two

Tonight and through to Sunday, for only the second time since we have been married, my husband and I are going to be alone.  Totally, completely and utterly alone.  No children to drive, pick up, drop off or feed.  No little cherubs who need refereeing or coaching or redirection.  Not a single person under the legal drinking age requiring our attention, our money, our patience, our food or our ability to drive a car. No pleas for permission, forgiveness or second third, fourth and fifth chances. Not a one.

firstdayofschooljkl

 

Just over a month ago, Barry and I each doubled the number of children we had personally either sired or birthed, bringing our parentage status to four, aged 9 to 21.  We have elementary school, middle school, high school and college, aka:  early hormonal, moderately hormonal, over-the -damn-top hormonal and evening-out hormonal.

I am exhausted just thinking about it.

We were going to go away for the entire weekend – as in, leave this afternoon and not come home until Sunday night.  Only.I.Just.Can’t.  I am too damned tired to even be a passenger in a car tonight.  I am too busy re-programming my brain to think about us: the couple as opposed to us: the big ol’ blended family.

While many of my friends are actual empty nesters (damn it, I was getting so close), I am a re-nester. Just when I thought I’d seen my last 4th and 6th graders, I have them living in my house, if only part of the time.  I love my step kids and their Legos, video games, school snacks, giggles when they hear the word balls, bedtime antics, farting noises and their still-almost-sweet-smelling B.O.  I’m way smarter with them than I was with my own at that age…something that is spectacularly awesome for me, less so for them.  They actually believe, know that they had best spill their guts about what really happened because we will most of the time if we are lucky always find out at least something close to the truth.  Bullshitting us about homework due, teeth brushing, hair washing, swearing, who started it and if their underwear has been changed is not even on the fringe of something that might happen, because they have learned bought it hook, line and sinker that lying to us is futile as we are too well seasoned to buy their shenanigans.  Again: spectacular for us, sucks for them.

Barry, on the other hand, has been thrown into the world of mid and late adolescence which, by all accounts, is not for the faint of heart.  Teenagers and young adults are an interesting lot: the second you think you have them figured out, they lose their shit up and change things on ya…and you never know what hit you.  Their problems are bigger, scarier and more complicated.  They are exercising the independence that we’ve so desperately taught them, yet still want to be sure that we are there to catch the debris when things go awry.  On the daily I have witnessed shifts from sweet to snarky to unrelenting to downright rude to utterly obnoxious to something akin to remorse to sweetness and back again at whiplash speeds on repeat.  Every. Damn. Day.

The difference here: I’ve already lived through (twice, but who’s counting) the depravity of young kids so am a little bit savvier about how to not kill handle them.  Poor Barry’s last intimate experience with teenagers was, um, when he WAS one.  You do the math.

But, for the next, let’s call it 50 hours we are free from any and all of it.  Aside from phone calls, texts, emails or smoke signals, we need not address, engage or be forced to deal with anyone other than one another.  I adore all four of our kids, but man oh man, am I looking forward to this weekend which will begin in earnest tomorrow morning.  Or late morning.  Or early afternoon.

(Not mentioned: Barry has a herniated disc in his back and a sinus infection, I have stenosis in my neck and a pissed off rotator cuff…but that is not going to stop us from enjoying every damn second of these next two days. We will manage just fine with crutches, braces, antibiotics and Ibuprofen.  Lots of Ibuprofen)