Explain This

When George was two, my parents went to an afternoon movie after which they were going to come to my house to babysit. Around 6 that evening, my mother called to tell me that they were not “coming over” after all. “Um, you weren’t coming over, you were babysitting…” I said in a perhaps less charitable tone than I should have. It was then that she explained that my father had fallen asleep during the movie and she was unable to wake him. Huh? What does that even mean? Since he was a Type 2 Diabetic, she had tried, in vain, to feed him some of the Jr. Mints left over in his lap. (He must have “fallen asleep” early on…there was little that would keep my father from emptying a box of those little gems). Suddenly aware that something was quite wrong, I told her to meet me at the hospital.
When she arrived there with him he was, apparently, in such a frightening state (important visual: my father was 6’1”, my mother 5’1”…imagine her trying to “carry” him in) that they immediately bedded him and started to try to figure out what was wrong. It was a long night. By the end, we knew that he had had a stroke. That was the good news. The answer to the question following the routine chest x-ray of, “are you aware there is a large mass in your chest?” was “um, no”. That was the bad news.
At the time, I was a (mostly) happy stay at home mom. I had stopped working not too long before, in part because George was so wild and busily beating his own drum that the family day care sort of, kind of, might have thrown her hands in the air and cried uncle. So, the only help I had was for the one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day I would drop him off in the babysitting room at the JCC and (usually) work out. There was a lovely older woman named Alla there who was solidly unafraid of George. Perhaps it was the fact that she was Israeli and, as such, able to withstand more than most, but it doesn’t much matter. Not only could she handle him, she freakin’ adored him. The admiration was reciprocated and all was right, if only for one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day.
I was a no-show for several days following my father’s diagnosis. When I finally returned and told Alla what was going on she asked how she could help. She knew I had no other coverage and that the babysitting was only for when I was in the building (theoretically) working out. Without hesitation she offered to watch George at her home for as much time as I needed, for as long as I needed. At the moment, I hadn’t realized how desperate I was for help and after asking her about a hundred times if she was sure, accepted her offer.
George and Alla hung out together for the next several weeks. I would deliver George to her and know that he was safe and happy, even though it was evident that the world around me was crashing in. I still feel indebted to her and never will forget the kindness she showed me and George.
I’ve seen Alla many times over the years. I am even relatively certain that I have told her that George is now Jess. But, either I didn’t or she does not recall…because each and every time I bump into her, she asks for her “boy George”. Every. Single. Time.
Yesterday, I ran into Alla. Literally. I was coming around the corner at the market and our carts collided. We embraced. I told her, as I always do (because it is true) that she simply doesn’t age. She caught me up on her kids, two docs and one who is set to graduate next week from Harvard Law. And, as always, she asked about her “boy George”. I told her that “everyone” is great, getting older, keeping me on my toes. I mastered the ol’ sin of omission by not engaging in one single pronoun. She asked if I had any recent pictures and I, um, lied, and told her that my phone was in the car, hoping against hope that it didn’t ding, ping or ring right then and there. I was secretly relieved that Jess was not with me. Not because I am ashamed, but because it simply feels like it is too late/too exhausting/too old news/too overwhelming/too much a part of everyday life that I sometimes forget to have to explain it again.
This is not the first time I have skirted the issue of “explaining.” I have omitted the details to my elderly neighbor who moved away years ago, but with whom I still keep in touch – primarily by phone. I once skimmed over the details of the facts with two little kids who were too young and new to our family to tell. I was later accused of lying to them which stung a little, but I know I did the right thing by “explaining” only what they would understand. Things like this come up all the time. No, really: all.the.time. And, if I am being honest, I am getting tired of having to explain to every Tom, Dick and Harry that my daughter started off as my son.
Then, late yesterday afternoon, just hours after my encounter with Alla , “explanation time” came up again when I took Jess to Urgent Care for an ear infection. I checked her in, ponytail and pink-checked lounge pant-clad Jess who happens to have an insurance card that says George. I leaned in and asked the receptionist to please call her Jess and use female pronouns which, not surprisingly, caught her off guard. To her credit, she had a quick recovery, wrote it on the intake form and moments later, Jess was called. And then! Then, the doctor came back in with the prescription which was written for Jess, forcing me to tell her (kind of again) that the script had to say George. So many Ts to cross, so many Is to dot.
Jess is used to it. She heard me tell the folks at the new allergist’s office. And the blue-haired gal taking names at Super Cuts, and the on-call pediatrician, and the camp directors, and the gymnastics teacher… She’s corrected people who slip up and others who should know better than to, um, slip up. It happens.
Anyone who has ever read a word of this blog knows how I adored my father. What you might not know, however, is that I felt the same way about his father, my grandpa, who was named…yep, George. In 2001, most people were not naming little boys George. I even hesitated a little, worried that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But he could and did better than pull it off – he killed it. He was the man. He was Georgie, Georgieporgiepoopoo and “boy George”. On paper, she still is. Every so often, Jess will ask that we change her name legally, but never with an intense and desperate need. If and when that happens, it happens…but for now, it’s all cool.
So, I will continue to forewarn, correct, whisper, lean in and remind folks that the name George on the form is only the name on the form. I will share as necessary. I will keep my mouth shut when there is no purpose in telling our story. She is just my kid who doesn’t always need to be explained, but if she does, knows I’ve always got her back…just like my dad and Alla did.

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Iguana Cry

It is well documented on these pages that I am not a crier.  In fact, I cry with such infrequency that when I do, it is rather epic.  Envision a spigot being thrown to full throttle and all the tears that a normal person may have shed over the past year gushing out in the form of heaves, gulps and near convulsions.  Then double it.  It is that ugly.  It also results in a red nose, a shiny forehead and swollen, painful iguana orbs.* It is not for the faint of heart.

Actual picture of my actual eye.  Okay, not really, but might just as well be.

Actual picture of my actual eye. Okay, not really, but might just as well be.

Last night I had one such episode.  A series of annoying, upsetting, irritating, frustrating and, yes, infuriating events (none nearly as epic as the crying) sent me reeling.  It all snuck up on me (as it always does, dammit) and knocked me on my ass.  At one point, about an hour into it**, I dragged myself to  the bathroom to throw water on my face and somehow wound up crouched on the floor which, it was pointed out to me***,  was a position which Amy Weinhouse  had likely assumed more than once: knees pulled to my chest, head leaning (pathetically) against the vanity, mascara smeared (pathetically)  in streaks down my face, hair tangled (that was more because I hadn’t done anything with it in the morning and it would have looked that awful under any circumstances, yet somehow the added ugliness made it worse), nose red, skin shiny.

I was profoundly sad.  My brain and heart were not only on overload, they ached.  All I wanted to do was to crawl under the sink, or in the tub, or into bed and, well, suck my thumb.  And rock back and forth.  A glass of wine wouldn’t have hurt, either.  There were so many thoughts, feelings, fears and concerns coursing through my mind, fighting to get out that I almost forgot, midway through it all, what had set me off.  (Almost.)

In the throes of my psychotic episode I did have two distinct moments of clarity: 1.) I was relieved that I didn’t have to work in the morning because I knew, from past such episodes, that I was going to be a hot, iguana-eyed mess in the morning and, 2.) I knew, deep down in the bowels of my heaving tears, that I was going to be okay and I recognized that I am never alone in this life.

Once I finally got myself together and had the good sense to ice my eyes (in vain…they were puffed not-quite-closed this morning) (see iguana comment) and have a glass of wine, I crawled into bed and did something I have not done in weeks.  I slept all night.  I woke up ugly, but with eight uninterrupted hours of sleep under my belt.

Clearly it all had to get out.   The miles-long walks and hours-long workouts (okay, maybe not hours long, but…) hadn’t purged me of the angst.  It had escaped me that it was imperative that I disinfect my body of the impressive emotional poisons that had accumulated and bloated my psyche.  I did not plan it nor, while it was happening, did I particularly enjoy it.  I also did not, again, while it was happening, “appreciate” it (that is something my therapist and I have discussed: appreciating something horrid for what it will teach you and where it will get you.  Yeah, I rolled my eyes at it when she first said it, too, but it has its merits.) In hindsight, however, I am glad that it happened.

I awoke this morning well-rested.  Yeah, my eyes were swollen to the point that when I applied mascara (which I would never go without) it smeared all over my eyelids, mostly because they were ballooning out as though I had been pumped up intravenously with soy sauce.  And, yeah, my pallor was indicative of an ailing iguana.  My hair, meanwhile, was a snarled, knotted mess thanks to my coma-like siesta.  But (and this is a big but) my head was clear.

I have a new perspective.  I have re-established a grip on things and am emoting in a more productive way.  Last night I thought (repeatedly) that I am a fraud and the “you can do this” mantra I have been spouting was a load of crap.    Today I am back on my own bandwagon and feeling (almost) in control.  I am not sure if I can credit “Bawl-a-Palooza 2013”, the resulting sleep or a combination of the two, but , either way, I am back in business.  Until next time.

*I always thought that my eyes did this because they are so light.  There is, apparently, and according to my doctor who I saw this morning for an unrelated issue, no scientific evidence of that.

**Total time: 3.5 hours.  I told you it was epic.

***By RRL who, along with MLS, came to my rescue when I sent out an SOS text. BTS and DTL hand-held from afar.  xoxo to them all.  Be grateful you weren’t a textee this time.

Yo, Dad

This past Friday marked the seventh anniversary of my father’s death.  It is never a particularly easy day; I miss my father terribly and daily, but am at total peace.  Before he died, he made sure to tell me (and my brothers) that “there was nothing that we said that we shouldn’t have and nothing we should have said that we didn’t”.  There were no old wounds left unhealed and never a question as to how he felt about me.  That is a gift.  It is one of the many reasons that he lives on so strongly for me and my family.

As a Facebook regular, I posted on Friday about his anniversary.  Here is what I wrote, exactly how it appeared:

How could it be seven years, dad? Your number remains in my phone despite having gotten three new phones since you’ve been gone. Your email is still in my contacts list despite your consistently responding to any email I sent with a phone call…immediately upon receiving the email. Harrison has your crazy long torso and silly short legs. Jessie has the same twinkle in his eye as you. And we all love and miss you. Every day.

Did you catch it?  Go back and read it again.  Yep: “twinkle in his eye”.  The mother of all typos.  Or was it?

Ask anyone who is ever in the company of a transgender person and they will admit to sometimes screwing up the pronouns.  We all do it, more so at the beginning of transition than later, but it always results in some degree of awkward.  I proofread my words before posting.  More than once.  Yet, somehow, I missed the “in his eyes” line.  More than once.   After it went up, I was out trying to get some errands taken care of (will they never end?) when my phone rang.  On the other end was an old friend, slightly frantic, calling to inform me of my error.  Damn.  I asked her to please post that I knew about the mistake, but was not going to be able to repair it for a few hours.  She did (thanks, Jen!) and I continued on my way, feeling even sadder: not only was it my father’s Yahrzeit, but I had also managed to screw up my kid’s gender marker.  Well done, Julie, bang up day.

I abandoned a few of the errands, arrived home sooner than planned and immediately edited the mistake, changing “his” eye to “her” eye. I instantly felt better (and took comfort in knowing that, by some miracle, Jessie has not yet cajoled me into allowing her a Facebook page so she would be none the wiser to my blunder) only to be knocked down a few pegs when I discovered that, despite making the correction (again, more than once) it didn’t take.  Assuming operator error, I just left well enough alone and opted to stop making myself crazy and move on hoping it would not be widely noticed.  (No such luck.  At least four people messaged me about it.)

And then, of course, I got to thinking about it.

My father never knew Jessie.  He knew (and adored) Georgie who, as it happens, was named for his own father.  He appreciated George’s mischievousness and was forever telling me not to worry about him and his antics…he was, after all, “all boy”.  (Yeah, I see the irony.)  My father was a calm, chivalrous man; one who many sought out for his advice which, more often than not, they followed.  He had a great sense of humor and worked tirelessly to ensure that I never lose mine.  He saw his young self in both my boys and assured me, at every turn, that they were both going to be great men some day.

Picture 1.14.13

No, he never knew Jessie, but he certainly knew George and George’s proclivity towards decidedly un-masculine play.  He knew of the Barbie collection strewn throughout my house (okay, and my car) and, despite being of a generation not quite as advanced in matters such as transgender, I know he would not have skipped a beat (well, in fairness, it is nearly impossible to be completely unfazed by such a proclamation, but his stumble would have been brief, his recovery quick) nor protested in any way George’s announcement of last year.  Of that I am sure.

I am equally sure that he would have had the hardest time of anyone getting the name and pronouns straight.  This reality has nothing to do with acceptance and everything to do with his history of screwing up names.  In fairness, we do have a lot of like-sounding names in the family: Rich, Rachel, Rebecca and Robbie not to mention June, Julie, Jill, Jack and George (I know it isn’t a J, but it sounds like it) and my poor father, with all his wisdom, just couldn’t keep them all straight.  He once called one of the Rs (at least I hope it was one of the Rs) “Ralph” and someone else (not sure if it was an R or a J…could have been an S) was relegated to being called “coat-rack.”  Random, I know, but true.  Likewise, he was forever referring to each and every one of my nieces (all four of them) as Julie.  (I believe this serves as further proof that I was his favorite child.)

So, with this rather fuzzy logic, I am concluding that my ‘typo” was less of a typo and more of a shot out to my dad.  The mistyped word is in no way a reflection of my support or belief in my kid.  It is simply a little piece of history, and my dad, rearing their heads.

Not:  The shot above is one of my very favorites.  My father was ill at the time, but the look of love in his eyes (along with the twinkle) is what defined him.  I have this proudly displayed on my refrigerator so I am sure to see it many, many (many) times each day.

Bubbie

Eighteen years ago, on a blisteringly hot, profoundly humid day Rich and I moved into our house. Pregnant with Harrison, I was still in the enchanted stage of pregnancy (those last three months; not quite as enchanting) and our excitement over having purchased a home was overshadowed only by our elation over the impending birth of our first baby.

It was during the very first week in our house that we met the neighbors to our left.  They were a couple in their early seventies who had raised and launched their own children from that very house, having started the process better than forty years prior.  Eve and Hy were lovely, warm and welcoming from the very first time we met.  One of the first chats we had took place in the small lot of lawn that lay between our houses.  Half of the patch of green was theirs, the other half ours, although the boundary was vague at best.  In that area of grass stood a single, winsome, and seemingly proud flowering tree which Eve told me she had planted around the time her first child was born.  It was so simple yet clearly held such great sentiment to her that one could not help but smile when looking at it.

Born to be a grandmother, and having, at the time, just one grandchild, Eve was nearly as excited about our approaching delivery as we were.  She checked in on me often and became a surrogate grandmother to us as our due date grew closer.  When Harrison finally arrived (eight days late), she was on the short list of people we called from the hospital – right after our own parents.

As Harrison grew, so, too, did his attachment to Bubbie Eve (soon the Eve would drop off) and HyHy (the peals of laughter from Harrison when he would greet Hy and say, “hi, Hy” were just too insatiable to let the nickname slide).  When he began attending daycare I would retrieve him on my way home from work, we’d pull into the driveway and, as I would try to collect his and my assorted stuff to take into the house, he would make an immediate beeline for Bubbie’s house and, more specifically, the shelf in the pantry that she reserved for him.  It was perpetually stocked with kid-friendly snacks and an occasional surprise trinket of some sort.  It was a true love affair.

The day that we (mistakenly, as it turns out) thought that Harrison was finally potty trained he couldn’t wait to go over and announce it to Bubbie.  Beaming with pride, we arrived at the house where Hy told us that she was lying down in her bedroom nursing a sore back.  Harrison ran to the top of the stairs, hurled himself into her room to announce his great accomplishment and promptly peed on her floor.  He looked down, looked up at her and they both started to laugh.  It was one of many loving encounters they shared.

Then one day, when Harrison was about eight, Eve told me that she and Hy were moving to an apartment.  The house was too much for them to handle and the stairs were proving impossible for her increasingly bad back.  We were heartbroken, but assured one another that this was not the end.  They moved about ten minutes away and, true to both of our promises, we never lost touch although our chats and visits often fall off for months at a time.

Last year, Harrison was given a history assignment that required him to interview someone who had lived through a historical event.  He knew immediately who he wanted to interview and asked if I thought it would be okay to call HyHy to talk to him about his experience as a POW in WWII.  Hy had always been reluctant to discuss it, but I suggested that Harrison call Eve and asked her what she thought.  He called her right away and learned that Hy had just gone into rehab for some heart issues, but she would be more than happy to talk with him about it.  (It is a fascinating story – he was shot down and was a POW/MIA for a year, while Eve went through a pregnancy and delivery in his absence, not knowing if he was even alive.)  Harrison hung up with her and, right then and there, headed to her apartment. Being the love that he is, and knowing that she doesn’t like to drive much anymore, he offered to take her marketing or on any errands she had to run and, I am happy to say, she took him up on.  They spent several hours together, Eve sharing her memories of Hy’s experience, Harrison taking it all in with amazement.  Oh, and Harrison got an A on the report.

Yesterday I got a message on my voicemail from Eve simply asking me to call.  My initial reaction was of concern that something had happened to Hy.  He is close to 90 now and, although he has all his faculties, he has been in declining health for some time.  Thankfully, she was only calling to check in and to wish us a Happy New Year.  (She has never missed calling us before the high holidays to wish us well.  I keep trying to beat her to the punch, but she gets me every time.)  As we were catching up, she, of course, asked about the kids.  No sooner were the words out of her mouth than I realized that I had not told her about George/Jessie.  (Because they moved right around the time she was born, Eve’s attachment to “George” wasn’t quite as profound, but she adored him just the same.)  As the conversation continued, I glanced over at Jessie, happily involved in something and looking every bit the part of a nearly eleven year old girl and I was, for the first time perhaps ever, at a loss.

I half listened and shot perfunctory responses to Eve’s inquiries about Harrison while frantically trying to come up with a response to what I knew was going to be the next question: “how is Georgie?” No sooner had she asked than I slipped for the first time and used the female pronoun which has become natural over these past few months; “she’s doing great” I replied.  I quickly glazed over my “slip” (ironic that now calling my son “she” is considered a slip, huh?), hoping that she didn’t notice and found myself teetering very close to rudeness in my quest to be done with the conversation.  Rich wandered into the room and I, in a show of cowardice, told her that he was anxious to speak with her.  I thrust the phone into his hand and immediately felt relieved.  And ashamed.

Knowing her as I do, I am quite sure that she would hardly have skipped a beat upon hearing the news.  She is not the sort that needs to be protected or danced around.  In fact, despite being deep into her 80s, she has a degree of cool that we should all aspire to.  She wouldn’t have cared, judged or questioned.  Yet I had wimped out and opted to not say a word.  I know that it was not for her benefit that I was avoiding the conversation, rather I was sparing myself.  And, just to add insult to injury, I was so lame that I literally scampered off the phone faster than I would with a random telemarketer.

Later I mentioned to Harrison that I had spoken with Bubbie and had successfully (for lack of a better word) managed to avoid telling her about Jessie.  He, quite reasonably, asked me why.  Here’s my story and I am sticking to it: I don’t know.  Was I trying to keep alive the story of what I thought our family was going to be?  Was I somehow fearful of her not understanding and perhaps, even unconsciously, distancing herself from us?  Or perhaps I was just too tired to start at the beginning again.  I truthfully don’t know.

I think back to standing by her beloved tree with a baby in my belly and a blissful ignorance as to what lay ahead in the adventure called parenting.  At the time that we had our conversation eighteen years ago she had already successfully brought her three children to adulthood with all the trials and tribulations inherent in doing so.  I never have or will face some of her particular challenges; I am quite confident, for example, that Rich will never be a POW and I will never be left to fend for myself with a newborn.  I have long been in awe of her fortitude, but, for reasons I am still trying to determine, I felt the need to keep this chapter from her.

I know in my heart that I am going to have to tell her, and I need to make sure to do so before we find ourselves in the same room at the same time.  I loathe to even write this, but I fear the next time we see one another as a family unit could well be when HyHy dies.  In fairness and out of love for Eve, I am not going to wait for that.  I am going to call her.  Maybe tomorrow…

p.s. A likely picture to accompany this post would be of the tree.  However, the new owner’s of the house promptly removed it put up a (freakin’ ugly) fence.  It was sad to see it go, and, in a silly twist, we learned, when they asked our permission to remove it, that, in fact, it was primarily on our land. We grappled with being stinkers and disallowing the removal out of respect for Bubbie, but decided that it was in our best interest to maintain friendly relations with our neighbors.  Given the complete lack of interaction we ever have with them, I wish we’d kept the tree.

Where’ve I Been?

This week I did something that I seldom do: I went underground.  Since last I blogged, it has been a shitty week and I have “opted” to (and by “opted” I mean unable to do otherwise) shut down.  Phone calls were unanswered and text messages, if responded to at all, were done so with as much brevity as possible.  It was just that kind of heartbreaking week.

Without getting into much (read: any) detail, camp was not the success we had all hoped for.  While Jessie did spend a few days experiencing all that they had to offer, it was simply not the right fit for her.  Not surprisingly, this was a blow to her, the family and the camp administrators who (in contrast to the camp earlier in the season) did everything in their power to make things work.  It just didn’t.  And that is okay…but hard to take.

In keeping with my being shutdown I am going to leave it at that.  I appreciate all the well wishes and I know that you were all right there with my in crossing your fingers and toes for a great experience.  I feel like I owe it all to you who have been so lovingly following our story, to let you in on my unexplained silence all week.

With love and appreciation for all the support,

jr

Smile for the Camera (of Life)?

As if I needed further evidence that I never have any clue as to what a day is going to hold, today will likely become one for the record books.  Unrelated to the experiences of my transgender child or any of the other three billion moving parts that I call my life (or is it?), here is one that I would venture not a single one of you woke up this morning and thought might happen to you…or anyone on the planet.  Ever.

First, let me provide you with some background.  Several weeks ago I dutifully arrived at my annual dental cleaning appointment having recovered (physically and emotionally, that is…financially, not so much) from my broken crown of a month or so prior.  I assumed the position in the chair, had an uneventful scraping, cleaning and polishing along with a few overdue x-rays.  It wasn’t until the hygienist summoned the dentist to do a quick check that the issue of a “pocket” on the lower right side of my mouth came up.  Again.  In fairness, the dentist had mentioned it a year prior but, given the fact I had no pain, and he expressed no urgency, rather a mild suggestion that I visit a periodontist, I did what any one of you would do: I ignored it.  Why dive into something that is going to suck emotionally, physically and financially when I can wait until I am pushed?  Right?

This time, in keeping with the dentist’s slightly more urgent tone, I did the adult thing and made an appointment with a periodontist that my dentist works with frequently for the following week.  Despite not wanting to, I kept the appointment and succumbed to an extensive check of my gums which revealed the necessity of one implant which would require an extraction, bone grafting, giving blood ahead of time and a new crown as well as the need for “root lengthening” on the other side.  In other words: $7,000 in work.  (This might be a good time to go off on the complete worthlessness of dental insurance but I will not bother.  Too aggravating.)  I left his office nauseated at the thought.  It actually took me days to finally tell Rich about it because I knew that the only thing worse than the nausea I had around this information would be the nausea it caused him.

Around the time that I got this information, I was reminded by a friend that her husband is a periodontist and would be happy to see me and assess the situation: a second opinion.  Sounds great, let’s do it.  Well, today was the day I was scheduled to see him and fighting the urge to do what I get the urge to do every time I have a dentist appointment and cancel; I got Jessie off to her morning activity and headed into his office.

This doctor/friend’s office has a sleek, well-appointed, state of the art feeling – like a glimpse into the future.  A study of silvers, grays, blacks and glass one takes notice that the attention to detail and professionalism are of utmost importance.  After being shown clean, heavily laminated information sheets which would require my acknowledgement of their having been read, I was escorted to a conference room in which my signature was electronically captured and the doctor/friend’s husband came in to greet me.  It was clear to me that this was not a stop added for my benefit, rather a standard office procedure.  This is a classy joint, boys and girls.

Fast forward to the actual exam during which it is determined that it would be beneficial to gather one more x-ray…no big deal.  The dental assistant, who had clearly executed many, many x-rays in her career inserted the film into my mouth and appropriately swung the arm of the machine across my face so that it would reach to my right cheek.  And then came the moment that no one would ever expect.  Ever.  The machine pulled away from the wall much like a child’s tooth that is about to fall out but is still hanging by a tenacious root, and landed squarely on my face.  Yes, you read that correctly: the x-ray machine landed on my face.

As I am sure you can surmise, en masse we were immediately thrust into several moments of insanity (paralleling my life?).  As the assistant valiantly held the bulk of the weight of the machine off my face, called for back-up and ignored the pain that was growing her in forearm due to the awkward position and heft of the machinery, the doctor/friend came running in, attempted to push the pile of metal pulling from the wall back to its assigned spot only to have it fall off into his hands, complete with sparks and smoke.  It was truly surreal.  And, during the whole thing all I could think of was that I was supposed to (no, I had to) pick Jessie up in 30 minutes and was not going to make it there in time.

Responding more to the shock and fear than the pain (at the point) I felt my usually dry eyes welling up and I announced that I was about to cry.  Given the go ahead to do just that, I let the dam open and sat, ironically reclined, and wept.  Here was yet another experience that no one ever thinks will happen (to them or anyone else, for that matter) over which no one had any control.  Welcome to my world.

Even as it was happening, I could not help but align it in my head to the abrupt changes we saw in Jessie in the days immediately following her having discovered that “she was not the only one” who felt as though she was a girl in a boy’s body: one second things were sort of normal and the next I found myself in a different universe.  Once it was my son proclaiming to be my daughter, this time it was a solid, well-built machine sitting on my face.  Perhaps the association sounds strange to you, but in my (recently bashed) face it was so vivid as to hurt.

The entire office surrounded me providing emotional and physical support.  In a stroke of good fortune, the patient in the room next door happened to be an ER doctor and graciously did a quick neurological exam to ensure that I wasn’t going to seize or some other horrific something.  (Had that happened, I am quite certain that it would have been what officially put me over the edge.)  With a frantic calm, I called Rich and tearfully relayed what had happened and told him that he needed to go get Jessie.  “WHAT fell on your face?!!?” was all I heard him say.

Once I got my bearings and it was agreed that I was not in any kind of imminent danger (there was surprise that I was walking out and not being taken out on a stretcher.  I am awesome that way.) I cautiously made my way to my car and sat, head in hands, sobbing.  I pulled myself together, started the drive home and called my mother (who, at first, thought I said that the machine fell on my feet…) who let me cry some more.  She also asked the question that immediately occurred to me: was my nose okay?  (It seems to be) since that is the second most likely thing that could force me to call it a day already.

Uncle.  For today, anyway.

p.s. Once I got home I went directly upstairs, crawled into bed and slept for three hours.  I am sore but not yet bruised, but, according to the doctor/friend who has already called: he is completely positive that there will be swelling and a big ol’ bruise sometime in the next day or so.  I can hardly wait. 

p.p.s. I told the doctor/friend that he should give the assistant the day off.  I think she was even more shaken up than I was…and I have no idea what other crap she might be dealing with in her life.  That’s just how I think these days.

Sorry, Ma’am, That Item has Been Discontinued…

When I was a little girl I used to love to hang out with my father…it was all part of my perfecting (and loving) the role of “daddy’s little girl”.    Sometimes it would be an adventure as simple as going to the supermarket which not only provided time alone with him, but also provided the perfect opportunity to embrace our shared sweet tooth by throwing all sorts of stuff in the cart that my mother wouldn’t necessarily object to, but might not think to add.  We also went to Celtics games (back in the day when they were winning championships year after year after year) where he would first confirm that I knew who the starting line-up was going to be (I always knew!) and then go on to enjoy a minimum of two Sports Bar ice creams: the latter based on the belief that if my mother didn’t see him eat something, it didn’t count.  With his impressive education and intellect there was something endearing about his (feigned) naiveté surrounding his dietary choices in the absence of someone telling him not to eat a particular item.   I never outed him to my mother:  It was a daddy/daughter thing, of which we had many.

One of his favorite things to do while marketing was to give into his penchant for cookies by diving into a box and enjoying at least a third of them before we even approached the cash register.  He could (and would) happily down several Keebler Fudge Crème Chocolate Cookies (think round Vienna’s but everything is chocolate) while perusing the aisles and well before we reached the dairy aisle.  Despite my vocal protestations and pleas that he “stop embarrassing me!!!” it is a memory which I hold dearer than one would think.

As he got older, and was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, he was forced to find a new cookie, which his grandchildren, to this day, refer to as “Poppy Cookies” (yeah, he indulged in them that much) (the cookies that is).  Initially deemed a poor relation of the deliciousness of the Keeblers, he began to keep these on hand (and discovered that putting them in the freezer made them even tastier) and believed that their slightly lower calorie- and sugar-count somehow made it okay to eat many at a time.  (This might be a good time to remind you that he was a very highly educated, intelligent man…)  Oh, memories of childhood.

This morning as I was making my way through the parking lot into the market to do my weekly food shopping ($299.00 and I am quite sure I will need to do a fill-in mid-week) I was behind a father and daughter, hand in hand, sharing a chuckle on their way into the store.  As happens with these things, we were alongside one another throughout my shopping.  Watching them,  I found myself feeling the nostalgia welling up as they lovingly interacted with one another and the father, with little more than a small smile, allowed several items (which I would venture to guess were not on the list from mom) to be thrown into the cart.  Anything for his little girl.

In the checkout line, I was, again, directly behind them.  I did not tell them (and they were totally unaware) that I had been observing them for the past forty-five minutes, nor did I mention all the thoughts that ran through my head as I did so.  (Which might explain why I forgot to buy hamburger meat to go with the hamburger buns?)  The dad, while physically not even remotely resemblant of my father, emitted an unquestionably loving vibe which felt crazily familiar to me.  The girl, who was probably about Jessie’s age, clearly adored her dad as was evidenced by the smiles they were sharing while mindlessly emptying their cart onto the conveyor belt.  It was, in all likelihood, a non-moment for them, but to this outside observer, it was magical.

It was also a moment, not to mention a relationship, which will never quite happen in my nuclear family.  Rich and I have six nieces (and, just in the interest of equal time, three nephews) all of whom have climbed on, tickled, teased and played with Rich in a manner that my boys never did.  They have also been allowed to get away with a great deal more silliness, shenanigans and temporary insanity with him based not only on the fact that they were not his children, but, and I am just keeping it real here, they are girls.  Cute girls, every one of them.  (A few of them are grown up now, so have ceased crawling all over him, but the others…they still do.)

Ever since Jessie embraced her social identity as a girl it has created a new kind of challenge for both Rich and me.  Having interacted with our second born as a (quirky, fantastic, artistic, funny as hell) boy it is, for me anyway, sometimes difficult to get beyond the outward appearance and try to create a relationship with a daughter (Jessie) that is the same, yet somehow different, than with my son (George).  It is incredible to me how powerful this gender stuff really is and how little thought we all give to it until we are put in a position that we are forced to.  (And, let there be no misunderstanding:  I was forced to.)  It also seems that I might need to learn how to love Jessie differently from how I loved George.   And, while I am relatively certain that my brothers will both confirm that they don’t think that my father loved me any more than them, they are likely to confirm that he loved me differently.  As much as we, as a society, like to avow that our treatment of the sexes is the same, it is sort of, kind of, in a way, impossible to do that… the sexes are not the same.  And I say that having had to switch gears ten years into the free-fall we call parenting.

I suppose it is somewhat akin to my father having to change his cookie of choice from the decadent sugar-laden insanity of the Keebler Fudge Crèmes to the very similar, perhaps equally delicious, but different Nabisco Snackwell Chocolate Crème Sandwich cookies. They look the same, and could (at one time) be found in the same aisle, but they are, in many other ways, very different from one another.  When my father was forced to change his cookie of choice it was a little sketchy at first, but then, in short order, it was as though the Keeblers never existed.  (And, ironically enough, they have long since been discontinued.  I know because I look for them every time I go to the cookie aisle…)

p.s. I felt like I used the word “different” (in varying forms) a ridiculous number of times in this post.  I even thought I might have unseated my record 14 (or so) uses of the word “ambiguity” in my last post but it turns out it was only four times.  But those four times packed a lot of punch!

p.p.s. Things are the pool are going fine.  A few people have been clamoring for a follow-up to Jessie’s big announcement but, alas, like much of this stuff about which I pre-worry, there has been zero fall out…I’ve gotta learn what to worry about, apparently.

Nail in the Coffin?

Note: If you were among those who were offended by my blog “The Curls Have It”, stop reading now.  This one is not about my hair, but about something equally inane, yet wildly (disturbingly?) important to me.  If you are still curious, you may proceed.

For as long (or longer) than I care to remember, I have gone to great lengths to ensure that my fingernails look perfect at all times.  Along with my trusty mascara, it is a constant that I rely upon which makes me feel like everything is going to be okay while lulling me into a (clearly false) sense of security.  Because I find even the slightest chip to be offensive, I have had acrylic nails for, oh, I don’t know…fifteen years.  I ensure that whoever is doing my nails make them as thin and natural as possible as my love of good acrylic nails is trumped only by my hatred of bad ones.  It is not easy to be the person assigned to beautify my digits, so when I find someone who gets it, I am rabidly loyal.   While I have been known to embrace dark colors (think “Smokin’ Hot” and “Lincoln Park After Dark”) more often than not I go for the French. I never wear red.  Ever.  Occasionally I will go pink, but always regret it.  I take this seriously, boys and girls.

Notable times I have had my nails done: before all graduations, weddings and Bar Mitzvahs (well, duh…everyone does that!), the day before each –  I was induced to give birth, my bi-lateral mastectomy, my father’s funeral and my third (in a six-week period) back surgery.  Seeing a theme here?  Setting myself up for a positive feeling before diving into scary, unknown situations is key to my ability to hang on.  And in all the in-between down time during which my nails look perfect (I know it doesn’t seem as though I have much of  that these days…) I consider a bonus.  Bottom line, my nails always look great.  (No, seriously, people have commented on how great my nails look.  More than once.  Ridiculous but true.)

Of late, I have even been sharing my treasured manicure time with Jessie.  It was novel at first – having been the mom of two boys for ten years I will cop to getting a bit of a rush in teaching my daughter about the joys of well-appointed fingers.  Each time she has joined me she has opted for a neon color and little flowers painted on two nails (I never cease to be amazed at their ability to paint so crisply on such a tiny space!)  and I have taught her that sitting patiently to dry all the way is of utmost importance…nothing worse than the smudge that will ensue for those who do not embrace this exercise.  The novelty is somewhat mellowed by that fact that she is only moderately interested, and has not quite adopted my addiction…buzz kill.

But now (surely you saw that “but” coming) I have an issue.  My left ring finger in trouble.  The nail is starting to separate from the skin (gross, right?) and while it is not suffering from a fungus yet, it was strongly recommended to me, through somewhat broken English, that I lay off the polish and the gel and the acrylic which I so adore and let my nails grow out, unadorned with color.  #iamsosad.

As pathetic as it may seem, particularly amid all the craziness of everything in my life right now, this was the event that nearly drove me to tears, right there in the nail salon.  I felt my eyes welling up and willed myself to save the tears (and resulting puffy eyes) for something (more) important.  I couldn’t, frankly, imagine why I was so shook up until I realized that it was now official: the one thing that I thought I still had control over had betrayed me.  Game over.  Ugh.

Here is what I am left with:

Which means that this is on the back burner:

And so is this…for now: