Delightful

Even on the most frigid days, he seldom wore a coat.  Every night, all year round, he would come home from work, change out of his suit and into a pair of shorts (the same shorts for the entirety of my life) and an old shirt, his feet bare.  His favorite temperature was fifty degrees or below and his love of air conditioning was unparalleled.  On warm days, his already measured (read: very leisurely) gait would moderate in the (often vain) attempt at avoiding (his habit of easily) breaking into a sweat.  He described the crisp, blustery days of fall as “delightful” and took the heat and humidity of the summer as a personal affront.  As much as my father loved a cold day, he loathed a hot one.  In fact, my mother kept a blanket in the car which she would wrap around herself to keep warm, no matter the time of year; the heat was always too low and the air conditioning set to arctic.

Every  morning in the winter he would gracefully lay his winter coat in the trunk of his car, suggesting he might actually wear it.    I am not even sure why he owned one, let alone bothered to take it in and out of the house each day, since I am one hundred percent certain he never put it on.  Also in his trunk: a pair of galoshes which, by the way, he insisted on calling rubbers.  Calling them by their less formal name was his way of gently teasing me, an easily provoked teenager, and it worked.  I was utterly horrified that he even knew the word, let alone that he chose to use it in my presence whenever humanly possible.  It was pretty classic MJL.

galoshes

When the weatherman used words like “blustery”, “crisp” and even “frigid” my father’s interpretation was that it was going to be delightful.  On the flip side, the descriptors “hazy”, “hot” and the most offensive, “humid”, would actually piss him off a little.

When everyone was cold, he was hot.  When everyone was comfortable, he was hot.  When everyone was hot, he was miserable.  It was so much a part of him.

All that changed once he started the chemo that would briefly extend his life.   Suddenly he was always cold, dressed in layers and raising the heat.  His queries as to whether anyone else thought it was hot in the room, abruptly morphed into his request for consonance that it was, indeed cold…even when it wasn’t.  I happen to share his affinity for cooler weather and distinctly remember thinking that the drugs that were supposed to be attacking the cancer were actually killing a central part of who my father was.  Our long tradition of commiserating about the stickiness on the back of our necks or the absurdity of everyone else bundling up in sweaters on what we considered to be a delightfully crisp day was no more.

This morning with the temperature in the teens, the wind strong enough to sway the large trees in my backyard and warnings that the current 27 degree reading represented the high for the day, I opted out of my regular morning beach walk.  Instead, I drove to the gym and spent 45 minutes climbing to nowhere on the elliptical, bored out of my skull and trying desperately to avoid checking how long remained on the countdown clock.  By the end of my workout I was, not surprisingly, dripping with sweat, red in the face, my hair fuzzing up.  I left, met my girlfriends for a cup of coffee and planned to head home, shower and get on with my day.  As I walked to my car, I thought how refreshing, crisp and, yes, delightful, the air felt against my face.  I drove out of the lot and took a left, even though home is to the right.  A few moments later, I parked at the ocean, pulled on my hat and gloves and walked down to the sand.  The wind was whipping, the waves were crashing, the sun was full and, most people would agree, it was freezing.

weather

sneakers

The tide was coming in, so my time was limited.  I spent about twenty minutes pacing the shrinking parcel of sand that the tide had not yet reached, collecting piece after piece after piece of sea glass.  As the water began to get closer to my feet and I contemplated just how long I had before I was soaked by the sea, I found what I didn’t even know I was looking for.

heartglass

I find things like this often and know that it is my father, checking in (he loved the ocean, too).  (Remind me to tell you about the time he was fooling around with us in the waves and it was all fun and games until he got knocked on his ass and his prescription glasses went out to sea…)

Yes, it was a delightful day.

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Keepin’ It Real, Sort Of

If you are an adult, you’ve done it.  If you are a parent, not only have you done it, but you’ve done it at least twice today.  With age comes wisdom…or so they say.  I would argue that even, or perhaps in spite of, advancing years, it may seem that you are doing it less, but, yeah, you probably aren’t.  There is no shame in admitting it: much of the time… You.Are.Faking.It. We are all guilty, admittedly in varying degrees, but, (and this is only if we are being honest) none of us really knows what we are doing most of the time.

faker

Of course, there are some exceptions – like, if you are a doctor, I would like to assume you know what you are doing.  So too, lawyers, dentists, builders, engineers, accountants, nurses, teachers (oh, please lord), farmers, electricians, plumbers, cops.  You’ve got that.  I’m talking about the tough stuff, the emotional stuff, the how-did-I-get-here stuff that keeps you up at night or, if it doesn’t; your self-medicating practices are better than mine.

Take me, for example.  For nearly five years I have been complimented, consulted and celebrated for the way I have parented Jess during her transition from male to female.  I’ve spoken with countless other parents who are a few days, weeks, months or years behind me all of whom have hung on every word and gratefully thanked me for my thoughts/opinions/guidance…all of which are nothing more than my version of faking it.  I only know what I have experienced, observed and been subjected to which, for better or worse, is my reality.  The fact that it works out okay a reasonable enough amount of the time is sheer luck.

Growing up, I was 100% confident that my parents knew exactly what they were doing.  It never occurred to me that they might be making shit up as they went along.  Further, I never even considered that they might not have a clue how to solve, guide or direct me with any given challenge. My generation is as insanely different from my parents’ as mine is from my kids’.  Even I, a self-described “cool mom” who prides herself on positively relating to and understanding her kids, will cop to not really knowing how to handle/manage/negotiate/regulate/govern (pick your verb…) a full third of the “stuff” my kids have gone up against.  The world which they must navigate bears only a slight resemblance to the one I grew up in.  So, in the interest of maintaining a safety net for my kids (and now step kids) I continue to fake it as best I can.

That’s not to say that I haven’t learned a few things over the past twenty-two years of parenting.  Actually, it wasn’t until I became a stepmother that I realized just how much I had learned…mostly by trial, error and some common sense.  One of my greatest accomplishments might just be not letting onto my children that I was, indeed, flying by the seat of my pants much of the time, full of self-doubt some of the time and simply hoping for the best all of the time.

Back to Jess.  When her transition happened (at warp speed, I might add) and our entire family was thrust into a new reality, I naturally looked to my mother for guidance. Even at the tender age of 46, I was still fairly certain that she knew way more than I did and would lay out instructions, lend suggestions and know exactly what to do.  At that point, my father had already been gone for several years, so my poor mom not only had to fake it as best she could, but she had to fly solo with whatever advise, direction or support she was going to offer.  So, too, did I expect that my brothers (who, between them had five children all of whom were older than Jess and, not for nothing, all comfortably living in their assigned genders) would be able to tell, show or explain to me what to do.  And despite the fact that they were forced to be complete fakers,  I took every single word they said as gospel.  This was a tough one to fake, yet somehow we all  managed to successfully fool even the wisest among us these past five years.

Not long after I became a parent, my father shared with me that he and my mother’s parenting plan was simple: wing it and hope for the best.  They parented on instinct (me, too), punished only when the offense was so egregious that they were left speechless (me, too) and praised when it was due, not when we did something that we already knew was expected of us (me, too again).  For whatever it is worth: we all turned out pretty well.  So, naturally, I assume (and by assume I mean pray) that my faking it will sufficiently support my own children (and now step-children) as they launch into adulthood where they, too, will learn the art of faking it.

Feel better now that I have confirmed that you are not the only one who holds a Masters in faking it?   Relish the relief you are feeling right this second since it won’t be long before you find yourself artfully faking something or other to someone or other.  And ya want to know something?  He who seeks you out for your sage wisdom has confidence in you, even if you don’t have it in yourself and, more often than not, your faking translates to someone else feeling safer, stronger and less alone. Really.

There is no shame in the fake…I mean we can’t all be good at everything, can we?