Safe. Secure. Free.

I just never know what it going to send me reeling.  It could have been the fact that Jess had one side of her head shaved[1] and then, just to shake things up, dyed the fuzzy spot bright pink.  Or perhaps it might have been the conditions of the Frat house that I helped Harrison move into last month which no self-respecting mother would ever have agreed to had she seen it prior to the signing of the lease.  It might even have been the accumulating snow and resulting days of cancelled classes which will likely propel us into the depths of July before school lets out for the summer.  Nah, it was none of those things.  Instead, it was a parking spot.  Well, sort of.

This is not the first time I have bitched, moaned, complained and, yes, cried, over such a predicament.  Nor, I suspect, will it be the last.  With the disclaimer of fully acknowledging that it is a first world problem and one that I should be a little bit ashamed of fixating on, I will share.  And, yes, I know, again, that it isn’t about the parking spot.

For twenty years I lived in a single family home not three minutes from where I am living now.  While there, I had three housemates: my husband (now my ex), my son (now at college) and my daughter (who sleeps til noon on those blasted snow days).  Between the husband and eldest son, the driveway plowing was taken care of while I was in the house lovingly baking cookies and preparing hot cocoa for when they were done. [2] It was often a long, protracted event for them but once it was done it was done, save for whatever “plow pile” might crop up throughout the storm.  We were dug out, free to move about the world and armed with the comforting knowledge that the driveway would be open and available when we arrived home.  Man, I miss that.

Now, despite the fact that I have engaged in the solitary (and thankless) exercise[3] of  digging out my car not once, not twice, but three times from this past storm alone I am literally fearful of ever relinquishing the spot.  While I was painstakingly removing the snow and carting it by the (crazy heavy) shovelful three spaces down to respectfully deposit it onto a pile[4] away from neighboring cars, no one else seemed to be doing the same.  On either side of my humble little Honda are two cars which have, by all accounts, been abandoned.  That is not even taking into account the countless other spaces which are going to be occupied til May.  So….when I have to leave to, oh, I don’t know…go to work…I will, in all likelihood, arrive home to find that some asshole has taken over MY spot.  And today, that was enough to make me cry.

What surrounds me. And, makes me cry.

What surrounds me. And, makes me cry.

car3

Exemplary shoveling job, am I right?

Exemplary shoveling job, am I right?

I tried to be logical and pragmatic.  Really, I did.  I tried to be optimistic.  That didn’t work, either.  I tried to be open-minded.  Yeah, no go.  So, I cried.

I’ve thought a lot about this.  Yes, I get that there is a practical side to this; a “move your meat lose your seat” kind of thing.  But, more to the point, it is a matter of feeling safe, feeling secure and feeling free.  I don’t feel safe: I am going to take my life in my hands maneuvering out of my perfectly shoveled spot to hit the open road.  I don’t feel secure: Someone is, most definitely, going to snag that spot that very second I leave it. [5] I don’t feel free: See all of the above.  And, at the end (and frankly, the beginning) of the day, that is really all anyone really wants…to feel safe, secure and free.

And, yes, I will bring this back to my last blog post which took a lot of (expected and appropriate) criticism.  I do not care what Bruce, Maura, Jess or Harrison’s Frat house look like.  I care that they that they feel safe, secure and free, because, in whatever iteration and for whatever reason one does not feel those three things it sucks. Trust me, I know.

Today I don’t feel safe, secure and free because of a parking spot.  On any given day, Bruce, Maura or Jess my not feel  SSF[6] because they are not accepted, or understood.  In fact, any one of us is at risk of finding themselves in that situation, and, perhaps this is my momma bear coming through: I don’t like that.  Not one little bit.

I know that the snow will (eventually) melt.  I know that I will, someday soon, be able to find safety, security and freedom not encumbered by a parking spot.  But today I ain’t feelin’ it.  So I cried.

[1] With not quite my blessing, but my approval

[2] Okay, I didn’t do that.

[3] You bet your ass I am considering it exercise.

[4] Which had a good six inches on me..and I am 5’6”

[5] I would.  It is prime real estate, beautifully cleared, nary a sign of snow.

[6] Safe, secure and free

Angelina: My Hero

I will unashamedly confess that I have a girl crush on Angelina.  She is, brave, talented, driven, accomplished, insanely cool, wildly accepting and, of course breathtakingly gorgeous (Aside:  In the picture here she had the chicken pox.  Seriously, who looks like that when they have the chicken pox?  Angelina, that’s who.)  And I thank her for making so little of something that so many find so huge and so scary.

f_fh_joliechickenpox_141213.vembedmed

When she and Brad realized the sincerity with which Shiloh insisted she is John they had a choice: go underground or give their child a voice that many (no, most) others in his shoes do not have.  They could easily have quelled the story.  So, too, could they have told him that their celebrity and fame stood to be tarnished by such an announcement.  And they could have used their myriad “people” to keep it out of the press.  They did none of those things.  In fact, they let loose and sent a very clear message: who the fuck cares?

They are, without competition, the coolest people alive.

The matter-of-fact attitude of the Pitts is utterly fantastic.  Their willingness to allow a person who they chose to bring into the world to live authentically and not according to script should be a lesson to every parent, no, every person, who ever happens to comes into contact with someone different from themselves.

The Pitts are not worried about John’s happiness or whether this is a “phase”.  They are worried about the very real fact that not everyone in the world sees things the way they do and that John definitely faces different challenges than Shiloh would.  They worry about the assholes that will pop up and create problems for their kid just because he doesn’t have a penis.  Why on earth it matters to anyone else is a mystery that will likely not be solved in our lifetime, but perhaps Angie and Brad’s unbridled acceptance will put a dent in things.

I love that the arguably coolest people alive used their power the way that they did.  They were not defensive, did not feel a need to further explain the decision of their family and are doing what good parents do: walking alongside their child, helping him to find his way in the world.

Your kid might not be transgender, but I am willing to bet that they have something that makes them unique and presents them with challenges: maybe they are autistic or ADHD, or have huge ears or just happen to have an obnoxious personality (what? it happens)…do yourself a favor and take a page from Angie and Brad’s playbook and support the hell out of them.  Teach them to accept rather than reject.  Remind them to be kind and empathetic.  And then follow their lead.

The Pitts are my heroes.  Make them yours, too.

Keep Calm, It’s Not Contagious

Recently someone expressed their concern over their children having been “exposed” to Jess.  Let that sink it.

notcontagious

I don’t know about you, but when I consider exposure and concern in the same sentence here’s what comes to my mind:

  1. The flu
  2. The chicken pox
  3. Ebola
  4. Tuberculosis
  5. Yellow Fever
  6. AIDS
  7. Stomach bugs
  8. Pertussis
  9. Syphilis
  10. Pink eye
  11. Legionnaires Disease
  12. Strep throat
  13. Meningitis
  14. A cold
  15. Rabies
  16. Hepatitis A, B, C, D and E
  17. MRSA
  18. Bubonic Plague
  19. Chlamydia
  20. Diptheria
  21. Malaria
  22. SARS
  23. Athlete’s Foot
  24. Typhoid Fever
  25. Herpes

Here’s what doesn’t:

  1. Anything, anything related to LGBTQ

November 18

The alarm went off at the ungodly hour of 5:30 a.m.  but I need not have set it at all as I had been wide awake praying for sleep since ten o’clock the night before when I crawled into bed, Ambien on board.  It was the pre-Facebook, pre-Words With Friends, pre-iPhone era, so my options were limited.  I knew I needed to rest, to prepare, to go in strong, but there was just no damn way I was going to sleep.

I was due to arrive at 6:30 a.m., thirty minutes prior to my procedure.  I took a shower, washed and pulled through the curls of my hair, styling it to within an inch of its life, but (and this is notable) stopped short of applying any makeup…even my beloved mascara.  There would be no need for it where I was going, and, in fact, it would only become a smeared mess which could well have been the thing that put me over the edge.

My mother arrived promptly at 6:15 a.m.[i] to get the boys off to their respective schools – Georgie[ii]  to daycare, Harrison to his first grade classroom.   It felt sneaky leaving before they were awake, but I couldn’t bear to say goodbye, so we split as they were just starting to stir awake.  It was better for everyone.  Well, for me, anyway.

As we got in the car, I noted to myself that the fact that I had not slept for weeks did not seem to be impacting my energy level.  In fact, I felt as though jumping directly out of my skin was a very real possibility.  I popped a Xanax, took a deep breath and settled in for the ten minute drive to the hospital.  It was time for me to actually have the bi-lateral mastectomies that we had been discussing for weeks.

There are parts of the day and following weeks that are so vividly etched in my mind that they could have happened this morning: walking into the pre-op area, not nearly as looped from the Xanax as I would have like to be and being warmly welcomed by the team of nurses that were going to take care of me; my surgeon, marking my breasts and commenting that I had great tissue..but I was quite sure, positive in fact, that I heard him say “great tits”; and chatting with the orderlies about how my surgeon just told me I had great tits.  And then, not a single memory until nine hours later when I woke up, thrashing not from pain or anxiety, but from the cuffs around my ankles which were keeping my circulation going and, of note, driving me out of my fucking mind; sweating and not being able to lift my arms to secure a ponytail; wanting my glasses so I could see, but learning that they were already in the room that I would occupy once I was deemed stable enough to be transported from recovery.  And the little mounds that my doctor (yeah, the one who liked my tits[iii]) made sure to create so that when I awoke there would be something, anything where my breasts used to be.

The two days I spent in the hospital are a blur.  My one recollection is the walk I took around the hall with my father who was, at the time, dying of lung cancer.  It was the first time ever that I was actually walking more slowly than he.  We were shaky, tentative and scared.

That was ten years ago: November 18, 2004.  It was the Thursday before Thanksgiving which has become a holiday which threatens to knock me down every year, but has yet to succeed.  In that time so much has changed that it is nearly impossible to believe.  In 2004 my two sons were approaching respective birthdays: George would be three, Harrison ten.  I now have a nearly 13-year-old named Jessie and a soon-to-be 20 year-old who is far more man than boy.  My father is gone…for close to nine years now.  I am no longer married, no longer live in the home in which I raised my children and no longer have two sons.  Those ten years were my forties.  And now, with my, gulp, choke, egad, 50th birthday on the horizon I feel so many different things, but mostly grateful.

ten

Not only am I alive, but I have cancer in my rear view mirror and the scars to prove it.  I have met so many incredible people along the way – my team of doctors, the oncologist and the plastic surgeon (who I affectionately refer to as the one who took ‘em off and the one who put ‘em back on), my nurse who was considerate enough to go through a divorce at the exact same time as me and has become my friend and the people who have been with me through every single upheaval that has defined my forties.

Today is a big deal for me.  I never quite know how it is going to go down.  I have had November 18th s that have been marked by shopping sprees, crying jags, malaise and euphoria – and sometimes all of the above.  I do not know what today will bring.  I do know it is an anniversary I will never ignore, forget or not appreciate for what it has given me.

[i] If you know my mother, you know this is notable.  The “promptly” part, that is.

[ii] Name choice intended

[iii]  He did NOT say I had great tits (which I did) but to this day, every time I see him I remind him just so I can see him blush.

 

It’s Not About The Parking Spot

Last night I cried over a parking spot.  Well, it wasn’t over a parking spot as much as the lack of one.  I had been out for the evening, arrived home itching to wash my face, brush my teeth, crawl into bed to play Words With Friends and crash for the night.  Only, I couldn’t because there was nowhere to park.  It was just enough to put me over the edge.

parking

For twenty years I lived in a nice (enough) four-bedroom house with a double wide driveway which was always there for me.  Not once in those twenty years did I arrive home unable to park my car.  I never put any thought to it.  I never reconsidered an evening out for fear that it would end with my not being able to park and, well, crying over it.  Now that I have downsized (significantly), the parking void is real.   And last night it was just enough to make me cry.

Only it wasn’t the insanity of not being able to park that made me cry.  It is certainly what set me off, but it was, like the lack of sex in a failing marriage, symptomatic of other things.

Today was my date with the judge.  After two years of rankling, discussing, acquiescing, negotiating and conceding, it was time to get divorced.  I was emotionally ready.  I had the date circled on my calendar* and awaited its arrival with calm and even a little bit of excitement.  It has been a long time coming, I was entirely resolute and ready but the anticipation of it kinda snuck up on me and, as a result, the fact that there was not a space in front of my door laying in wait for my arrival was enough to reduce me to tears. (Okay, full disclosure: it was a little bit of an exaggeration when I said that there was “nowhere” to park.  There were places to park, but they were further away from my front door than was acceptable to me. There, I said it.)

In the past two years I have separated from my husband, sold my house, moved to a two bedroom apartment, held a job, did freelance work on the side, raised two kids, fallen in love and now, gotten divorced.  It’s all good, but it is also a lot and ya wanna know something?  I’m tired and, therefore, parking challenges make me cry.

My mother has often pointed out to me, with more than a hint of frustration, the fact that I consistently crash through big, scary things with aplomb and a decent amount of grace.  I plow through situations that might bring others to their knees with strength and my sense of humor (almost) always intact.  However, throw me a curve ball as ridiculous as not being able to find a parking spot and I am ridiculously, embarrassingly and frustratingly destroyed, albeit it temporarily.  She is right.  Guilty as charged.

To my credit, however, I have a very quick recovery.  As it is happening, I am one million percent sure that my angst and agitation are directly related to whatever little tiny issue sets me off; like the other morning when I nearly (but didn’t) screeched, “what do you mean you are out of salt bagels?!?” at the poor pimply kid behind the counter.   It usually takes me just a few minutes to realize and (eventually) acknowledge that it isn’t about the parking spot at all.  It is then that I muster all my fortitude and remind myself, “I can do this.”  And I do.

Most of you started reading this blog because you wanted to follow Jess’s story.  I realize that for the past several months my entries have been sporadic, seldom about Jess and frequently about me.  Rest assured, she still has plenty of story left in her.  She’s been along for this ride and has (as recently as this afternoon when I nearly lost my mind over her coat and backpack being strewn across the floor) been subjected  to my emotional-episodes-that-aren’t-about-the-parking-spot-or-sold-out-salt-bagels.

Hang tight.  I am getting closer to establishing a new reality that is not built around the next huge thing I have to deal with…at least I hope I am.

*Not really.  I don’t even have a calendar on which I could circle something, even if I wanted to.  It was, however,  noted in my handy iPhone, along with a note to schedule the kids’ annual check-ups.

Nailed It

Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that for the past twenty years, one would be hard pressed to find me without perfectly manicured nails.  Not long and never red, just clean, polished, perfectly filed and, even (especially) during the worst of times, flawless.  It has been the thing that made me feel in control and, I assumed, conveyed to the world a psychic unity that often eluded me.  I readily and frequently professed that I would give up food before I gave up my beloved bi-weekly manis.  And then last week happened.

I had put exactly zero thought to what I was about to do.  I had not, in fact, even entertained the idea.  Yet, as I sat in the familiar chair struggling with my aluminum foiled covered fingernails* to turn the pages of the most recent “People” magazine I felt not the comfort and calm that always came with manicures, rather I felt agitated and irritated by the process and a little ashamed of the time I was wasting while I should really have been packing up my house to move.

The guy who has been doing my nails for years sat silently scraping the remaining “Dizzy Feet” (which, incidentally, is the perfect shade of pink)(I know because I spent an embarrassing amount of time over these past 20 years seeking just that: the perfect shade of pink)(it’s Essie for those who are going to go looking for it) off my nails, preparing to paint them yet again.  “Wait” I nearly shouted, “No polish…just buff them and throw on a shiny clear coat.”

He literally stopped and stared at me.  I think he jaw might have dropped open a little.  It was then that I knew that I was done with this whole ritual, habit, commitment.

photo (18)

The symbolism is not lost on me.  This has been a (ten year) period of all sorts of crap coming at me from left, front and center.  It all began in November, 2004 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and has been a steady stream of stress, change, upheaval, mishegas**, anxiety, transition and general shit-storminess.  Yes, there have been some wonderful things thrown in there, too, but, all in all…it’s been a rough patch.  Through it all, my nails were always perfect.  In fact, the day before my surgery I made sure to have my nails done so that when I woke up I would feel like at least a shadow of myself.  Same with the day before my father’s funeral, the day George told me she was a girl, when my husband and I decided to separate…

Now that we are approaching year three of Jess’s transition, my house is sold, I’ve found a place to live, I have a wonderful man in my life and the world is continuing to spin on its axis I realized I don’t need perfect nails any more.  To be clear, they are well groomed and will remain so.  I actually kinda like the way they look and found myself (almost) getting a little judgey (that’s my made up word for being judgmental) when I see a woman with nails that resemble the way mine used to look.  But, rest assured, it has been a fleeting thought as I, perhaps more than most, deeply appreciate the value of a perfect manicure.

Pathetic as it may sound, I consider this a victory, a success, a milestone.  I feel liberated on many levels.  I do, however, reserve the right to relapse and return to the perfect pink someday…

 

*Gel manicures changed my life…but in order to prepare the nails for a new coat, one has to wrap the nail in foil and acetone to melt the crap out of them.  As noted, it makes for very difficult trashy magazine page turning which, I realized, was a good 75 percent of what I actually needed when I walked into the nail salon.

** That’s “Jewish” for craziness.

Daniels, Elisabeth R.

As a kid, I remember my parents scanning (okay, they were reading) the obituaries listed in the newspaper. I didn’t think it odd as it was something they always did and was, in my child’s mind, “normal”. When I inquired as to why they did it, they responded with a jocular, “just making sure we’re still alive” and that was that.  I, too, am a scanner/reader of death notices.  Have been for as long as I can recall.  I’ve even been known to check them online.  Sounds creepy when I see it written, but I assure you, it is not.

That being said, I am immersed in this habit deeply enough to have a system. First I check the town in which I live, then my hometown and, finally, I scan for Jewish names. More often than not, I happen upon a familiar one: usually a parent or grandparent of a friend. Sometimes I have heard of the passing and seek out the announcement for the pertinent information, but more often than not, I just peruse without purpose. I’m not sure what I am looking for but assume it is my love of a good story that keeps me coming back for more.  Many (most, actually) stick to the basics and tell very little by way of a story but do serve to confirm that the name I am reading does indeed relate to someone in my world. I’ve seen them depressingly brief  and overwhelmingly detailed. None, however, has captured my interest as did this one:

photo (17)

Interestingly, Elisabeth R. Daniels did not hail from either of “my” towns, nor was she Jewish. I’ve no recollection as to what made me read her obituary, but I did and, as you can see, went so far as to tear it out and save it (admission: it was on my fridge for a few days).   It is, without competition, the Best.Obituary.Ever.

We all hope to leave some sort of mark on the world, some kind of legacy which will serve to define us years after we are gone. I cannot speak for the masses, but would venture a guess that most (all) people hope that theirs is a positive, honest (assuming the two are not mutually exclusive) and, if we are really lucky, meaningful one. We were kind, or philanthropic, or funny or a trailblazer of some sort. Or perhaps we flew under the radar and made little impact other than to live quietly and not bother anyone. Most (all) of us would prefer not to be remembered for the time we behaved like an asshole or forgot to filter our words. Elisabeth was true to herself (and, so too, apparently, were her mother Sally and sister Dinah). I cannot help thinking that she sanctioned (and maybe even penned )the delightfully honest memorializing of herself. Talk about going out on your own terms. Have at it, Ms. Daniels!

Being honest with ourselves and knowing who we are can be totally awesome or can suck big time: sometimes all in the same day. Digging deep and owning the good, the bad and the ugly ain’t easy, but is it freeing, for sure.

I’ve always admired (envied maybe) the honesty with which Jess has lived her life. Like Elisabeth, she is a “unique creation” and I hope that (many, many, many) years down the road, when her legacy is being written it will be done so with the same love that Elisabeth’s has been.

I hope the same for Harrison. And, frankly, for me.

Here’s A Story*

I love a good story.  Even more, I love re-telling the story and collecting reactions.  My favorites are those that have an “OMG” or “can you believe it” factor.[1]  I prefer a happy ending but will never shy from the truth.  When I hear a great story for the first time, I immediately repeat it in my head, knowing that I will share it some time, somewhere.  That is how this blog came to be: telling our story which other people seemed to be interested in hearing.  There are times that my (our) story is either too big, too small, too scary, too boring or too private to share.  But I still love to tell a story.

Here’s one I heard just over a year ago, but love it as much now as I did the first time I heard it.

I used to work (until she left – insert sad face here) with a very cool lady whom I will call O.  She is eighteen years my senior and from (what I thought was) a different world.  She’d worked for many years at an ultra Waspy prep school which never saw the likes of someone like me.  I knew that her children were grown, she was a grandmother and she always adorned the t-shirts we wear to work with a pretty scarf tied neatly at her throat.  I curbed my sailor’s mouth around her (need not have done that, I learned) and thought she was a lovely lady who had been married for eons and been living a nice, albeit unscandalous life.  Well…I was wrong.  Turns out that she had not only divorced her husband of forty years but had then gone on to marry her college sweetheart.  But wait…there’s more!  Her former husband not only divorced her, but then he married his college sweetheart!  And, just to make things more interesting, they all get along famously. 

As she told me and watched, not for the first time, I am sure, my reaction of shock, she smiled and said, “Yep, you can’t make this shit up.”

Everybody has a story.

And another all time favorite:

A friend whose children were, at the time, probably somewhere around nine and eleven were all sitting in the bleachers at a Red Sox game.  There was a lull in the action and the nine-year old asked a question she’d been asking for a few weeks prior: “Where do babies come from?” The mom, who had been waiting for just the right time to answer the question, decided that then was as good a time as any.  Seated between her two children, the older of which already knew the answer, she proceeded to (artfully, I am sure) answer her daughter’s query.  The conversation lasted a few moments and the mom dropped her shoulders, relieved that it was over.  A beat later, her son, all eleven years of him, leaned across his mother, looked at his sister and said, “Now ask her what a blow job is.”  Simultaneously horrified and amused, the mother shared it with me…ten years ago.

Everybody has a story.

I have been negligent in keeping y’all up with my story.  I have gotten innumerable texts, emails and messages asking if I am okay or is my silence something to be concerned about.  Yes, I am fine and no, my lack of writing is nothing more than that – a lack of writing.  I’ve been asked how Jess is doing.  She, too, is doing fine.  As fine as any human being can be, that is, while in the throes of puberty, middle school, divorcing parents and navigating the transgender waters.   Ours, like everyone else’s, is a story that is unfolding each day.  There are days that come and go without incident.  Others, not so much.   There are times that I would rather tell you the story of my friend O or that of my friend and the blow job. Telling those stories (which are often more interesting than mine) is joyful and, frankly, sometimes easier.  I gather them up and try to find the time to share them with you.

I hope you will allow me that indulgence…to tell a story, which might not always be my own.

Because, you know what? : Everybody has a story.

 

[1] Transgender, anyone?

*Does anyone else have the urge to continue this title with:…”of a lovely lady?”

“Happy Birthday To You…”

It is not my story to tell.  In truth, I wasn’t even there to witness the scene I am about to share.  It was relayed to me not by the person who was a party to it, rather someone she shared it with who, in turn, shared it with me.  This happened several days ago, but the degree to which it has stayed with me and tossed around in my head brings me to this, my need to share.

On a mid-week night, in a neighborhood restaurant one step above an Uno’s or Not Your Average Joe’s gathered three generations of a family to fete their mother/grandmother on the occasion of her birthday.  They were a rowdy bunch, reveling in being together and marveling at the advanced age of the matriarch of the clan.  They drew attention to themselves throughout the meal, talking a little bit too loud, laughing a smidge too hard and, from what I have heard, oblivious to the fact that they were not in the comfort of their own home but were annoying to their fellow diners.

As the meal progressed they became more rowdy and less aware of their surroundings.  Other folks out for a (semi) nice meal flashed dirty looks and sighed heavily in hopes that they would send a message to the large group…to no avail.  Resigned to the fact that they would have to endure their meal amid such commotion, they ignored them as best they could, trying, instead, to enjoy their own companions and meal.

The sounds of the table were soon interrupted with the arrival of a birthday cake, seemingly engulfed with the resultant flame of a billion candles, and the wait staff’s half-hearted rendition of the birthday song.  And then it happened.  No sooner had they reached the “to you” part of the song when the guest of honor dropped dead in the cake.  Boom.  Just like that.  She didn’t pass out, or take a nap…no, she up and died.  In the cake.

bdaycake

 

Now, I will cop to initially finding this simultaneously horrifying and hysterically funny.  My mouth dropped open and my hand came up to cover it, as if to suppress my less than sympathetic response.  My G-d…what a way to go!

Later that evening, I was out to dinner with friends at the Cheesecake Factory.   Having just heard the story while driving to meet them, I shared it and they, too, responded with a mouth agape, hand-to-cover response and (slightly uncomfortable) laughter.  Apparently, The Cheesecake Factory is an enormously popular birthday dinner spot as evidenced by the fact that as we dined, we counted no fewer than half a dozen renditions of the song which will forever be aborted at “to you” in my head.  Each time the first notes rang out, our table grew silent as we anticipated a thud.  Fortunately, there were none.

Ever since hearing this story and conjuring up a vivid image in my head, I have not been able to stop thinking about it.  I find it to be so many things: horrifying, crazy, funny, unbelievable, frightening and awesome.  But mostly awesome.  I mean, really, think about it.  Yeah, it is really shitty for the family (here’s hoping their dinner was comped) but what a great way to go for grandma.  Surrounded by her family who were so caught up in the happiness and fun of the evening (well, the start of the evening, anyway) that they were utterly unaware of their surroundings.  Everyone was, by all (well, most) accounts having a ball.  The last thing she heard was “to you”, the last things she saw was a beautiful cake( in, no doubt, her favorite flavor),  the last thing she felt was love and the last thing she did was play a starring role in a great story.  Not so bad, actually.

So, on this, the eve of my (not a big one…yet) birthday, I think of the nameless woman who left this world in a dramatic, but all around pretty cool way.  Her’s is a story I will continue to recall and, in all likelihood, share.  I was not there for it.  I did not experience it.  But it will stay with me.

And, while I hope this is not the year I drop dead in my birthday cake, I can actually think of worse ways to go.

 

Here’s a Link to My Blog…

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Last year, before meeting someone for the first time, I shared a link to this blog along with this note:

This will tell you a lot about me and your reaction will, in turn, tell me a lot about you…”

And then, I will admit, I held my breath. I might have even turned a little blue (all interpretations intended) awaiting a response. As it happened, the response (which, thankfully, came just twenty minutes later) was intensely benign, little more than a shrug of the shoulders. Here I was, freaking out about sharing the story with yet another unsuspecting soul and the reaction was so matter-of-fact as to be almost disconcerting. It was, however, genuine and, with the notable exception of my hair color (okay, and my nose) I am – and likewise appreciate others who are – nothing if not genuine.

Why did I share such a personal disclosure so early in the game? That’s easy: I wanted it out in the open and not hanging over me, knowing that it would, in all likelihood, need to be shared eventually; and, I suppose, I subscribed to a “the earlier the better” plan. Perhaps I jumped the gun, but that, to me, was preferential to waiting too long. It felt dishonest to withhold something which I consider a large part of who I am, all in the name of not making someone else uncomfortable. And, further, not only did I did not want to enter into any kind of relationship in a way that felt disingenuous, I also wanted to know, frankly, that someone I was going to let into my life would have a similar acceptance of the reality of my life. For better or worse, I am all about full disclosure, honesty, and what-you-see-is-what-you-get. I know that I am the exception and that many (okay, most) people would have let it happen more organically, if at all. That is simply not who I am and I have to be true to myself1 and, more importantly, my kid.

Interestingly, I have yet to come across a single person who has reacted negatively (in my presence, anyway) to the “announcement.” In fact, more often than not I wind up learning about their kid’s this, that or the other thing; mostly because all kids have some degree of this, that or the other thing. Those same folks who are more buttoned up than I (I know, I know…that is most people) find comfort in knowing that they are not the only ones who have a “secret” that might not play well in Peoria. It actually gives me great joy that I have been blessed with many friendships which were sown from this very honest exchange.

Upon meeting anyone with whom I suspect I will be spending more than just one parcel of time with, I have to suppress the urge to hand them a link to my blog and/or tell them all about how totally normal Jess is, despite her unusual path. How she is complicated but also wildly talented, ridiculously funny, disarmingly creative and crazy smart. That she inherited my left-handedness and blue eyes and the streak of pink in her shoulder length hair is reminiscent of one I had back in the day. That she can draw and sew and metal-smith so skillfully that you would not believe her work is that of a 12-year-old2. How she made an art form of making a mess of her newly cleaned bedroom in fifteen seconds flat despite swearing up, down and sideways that she will keep it neat. How she and I listen to “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” in the car most Saturdays and have a (mostly) friendly competition to see who can finish the sentences and guess which is the true story first.3 That she he tries to get away with swiping my makeup and hairbands and clips and brushes but always gets busted. And how, yes, her path is not going to be an easy one. But perhaps most importantly, she is truer to herself and has the courage of her convictions more than most people I know…myself included.

I have some new people in my life who do not yet know the story of Jess. I am, for the first time, really struggling with how, when and where to tell them. My trepidation is not for me, but for them being caught unaware. My disquietude is out of respect for the ripple effect it may, unfortunately, have on people I care about. I worry not about acceptance, but understanding. My anxiety is over my having waited too long and the potential sense of dishonesty that they may feel, although it was never intended. And, in true Julie form, I am likely (um, make that hopefully) pre-worrying about something that could (just maybe) go off without a hitch.

I grapple with keeping things as they are versus wearing my heart on my sleeve. I waver between making an “announcement” and not saying anything all all. And, I have considered taking a page my from my own playbook and simply forward a link to this post with the same message that served me well once before:

This will tell you a lot about me and your reaction will, in turn, tell me a lot about you…”

1My father always told my brothers and me to be true to ourselves and to have the courage of our convictions. I have passed that edict on to my children, but not always been able to live it myself. This one’s for you, dad.

2There has been jockeying for position on her friends and family pricing list since she was in Kindergarten. True.

3She is a formidable opponent. Sometimes it is embarrassing.