My mother retired at the end of 2014. She told all five of her children that her employer would be having cake, punch and coffee as a farewell. The bank from which she retired also informed all of their regular customers of her last day and this cake reception. They had informed everyone to stop by between 10 am and 3 pm to wish her a happy retirement. She relayed this information to us, the kids, with an obvious nudge to please stop by to see her. This is the part that involved some difficulty. Only two of us children were able to make because it was in the middle of the day, very much out of the way from my siblings’ places of employment. Anticipating my siblings’ disappointment at not being able to properly congratulate our mom on her retirement, I contacted them all to plan a surprise retirement party. We are nearing the final hours until she gets the surprise of her life!
I know, that last sentence implies I have high expectations, and, well…I suppose I do. I have spoken to her repeatedly for the last three weeks as we planned and invited her co-workers, friends and family. I even borrowed her iron to assist me with decoration purposes (I know that doesn’t make sense, but trust me, it is okay and I am not decorating with irons) without her batting an eye. She hasn’t mentioned one thing to me to make suspect she knows something. We have taken great care to keep the party quiet, even withholding the secret from dear old dad (he thinks he is subtle and can keep a secret, but that is not the case, and we love him anyway I might add). I have even invited her best friend that lives three hours away and consulted with her repeatedly on the details. I’m proud of myself and my siblings for coming together to make a special night for mom. She deserves it, for sure, and what makes it better is the knowledge that she will be pleased we went to such secretive efforts for her. She wouldn’t even care if we didn’t have a single present or decoration or scrap of food available; she would just be touched that we recognized that retirement was an important milestone for her.
For as long as I can remember, my mother has always greatly enjoyed sewing. She made many dresses for me as a child, and given my lack of height she has hemmed more pairs of pants for me than I can possibly remember. For as long as I can remember, she has also wanted a serger (my simplistic mind thinks of it as type of sewing machine that puts a finished edge on material) to help her in her sewing efforts. Tomorrow evening, we will be handing her a gift card with enough to get a very nice serger. I cannot wait!
All she has been able to talk about as she nears retirement is how much she wants to sew. She even spent all of today cleaning up her sewing room so everything is in order for her to begin some new projects. I feel like we couldn’t have anticipated her wants any better! I am decorating using fabric scraps so she has something to start sewing right away. My wonderful husband has even helped me create flowers out of fabric scraps using nothing but straight pens and green masking tape (we are not very crafty people here, so this is huge for both of us). I even managed to find some painted bottles (second hand which equals cheap and labor free) to use as vases. I’m hoping she loves it all, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that no one ruins it for her. I leave you with a bit of the decor that we struggled to painstakingly to create.
We have been living in our new home for exactly sixty-four days. I have been nagging my husband to finish putting Eva’s (our six-year-old daughter) bed together for about sixty of those days now. My husband and his best friend built her a fantastic bed a couple winters ago on a snow day. This bed doubled the space in her bedroom when we lived in the apartment, and it was just pretty darn cool! This bed is also pretty big, and they had to build it in the room because of its size. My husband had put enough of it together that she could sleep in it, but it wasn’t complete. I have had the big front wall of her bed sitting in my dining-room-turned-play-room hindering my all my organization efforts. But, it is finally done! I can start putting things in order now! Now, I just need to paint some of bits and pieces of the bed…
Tonight, my husband almost became a single man, or maybe a dead man.
We were discussing the grocery list and the fact that he hasn’t been juicing. Juicing in our household has nothing to do with steroids and everything to do with a machine that chews and grinds the fruits and vegetables we put in it. This machine (a cheapo Wal-Mart model) then spits out the juice from the vegetables and fruit and we drink it. Great way to get a variety of nutrients we wouldn’t dream of eating (um, beets and turnips for example). He lamented the fact that he doesn’t have a juicing buddy anymore since I quit juicing. I had stopped juicing in the first trimester because just the thought of juice was enough to send me running to the bathroom to vomit. I haven’t started back up yet, either. So, he misses having his motivational buddy he says.
He asked why I haven’t been purchasing juicing produce, and I reminded him he was with me at the grocery store when we last went shopping and that he had plenty of opportunity to purchase the produce himself, not to mention he helped make the list before we went. His response is the part that had the pregnant irrational side of me up in arms and ready to screech at my husband.
My husband: “But, I delegate things like that to you, and you’re not doing a very good job.”
Well, I haven’t called a divorce lawyer, I won’t be having this baby in jail, and he’s completely unharmed. But man, I don’t think I will ever have to explain again that I am not his employee and he is not my supervisor. Not ever. At least I hope not. I’m not sure my blood vessels can take that sort of pressure again. I also reminded him that yes, he does have to leave the house daily and go to work while I stay home, but that’s really all he has to do. I handle the bills, the budget, the meal planning and preparation, the cleaning, the child’s activities and school, and anything else that happens to pop up in addition to my work as a freelance writer. At the end of my tirade I got a kiss and an apology.
As for my irrational pregnant self and I, we are still breathing deeply and focusing on all the wonderful things he does as he has already drifted off to sleep and his snoring has commenced. I’m reminding myself of such things as when he cleans the kitchen after I have spent hours messing it up while cooking or when he washes and dries the clothes twice a week. He also cleans off my car when it snows. He hauls Eva around on his shoulder and acts like he can’t find her (which, of course, she loves). He vacuums when my belly hurts and I can’t. He reaches all the things I can’t without complaint. Most of all, he thinks Eva and I are the best two people to ever enter his life and he tells me every chance he gets (you know, a couple times a year when he has had one glass too many of a big boy beverage) that he doesn’t have any idea what his life would be like without me, but he’s sure he wouldn’t be nearly so happy.
Now, if he would just learn to think before he speaks, he would be pretty much perfect…except for the smells that emanate from him. I don’t think there’ll be any method or device or medication or thing ever invented to fix that problem.
My poor husband is going through something. He is having buyer’s remorse before we have even bought the house. We have a large sum in the bank in anticipation of showing we are ready to pay the down payment at a moment’s notice, and it is about to eat him alive.
We have been sticking to our budget pretty carefully. This weekend, I think it has hit home for him that even though we have lots of money at the moment, it is all about to disappear and none of it will be used for anything fun.
We also have started buying diapers, one pack a week, in anticipation of (hopefully) the arrival of our baby in about eight months. I purchased diapers every paycheck when I was pregnant with Eva, and it worked out really well because I didn’t have to buy a single diaper for at least the first six months of her life. He seemed to enjoy this purchasing of the first baby items. He even threw in a package of wipes.
I think maybe, just maybe, he is starting to realize this is the end of his childhood. Even though he is a great step-dad to Eva, he could still conceivably walk away and become a carefree bachelor. Now, I’m pregnant, and we’re buying a house. If that doesn’t scream adulthood, I don’t know what does.
He is surviving, though, and talking to me about it at least. I’m sure it will be my turn later, around the 8 month mark, to have my moment of panic that I will, again, be responsible for another little life. Right now, I’m still just so happy to finally be pregnant again.
Every morning when my daughter wakes up, she cheerily declares how many days left until she leaves. Every morning as the number gets smaller and smaller, my heart hurts a little more. We are down to nine days before she leaves me for a month. A month, four weeks, is such a long time to my mommy-heart. My baby (I know, she is six and would roll her eyes if she heard me calling her my baby) has never been away from me for more than seven days, and those were the longest seven days of my life. I was on my honeymoon for those seven days and my husband and I both cried on days three and five because we missed her so much.
Every morning as she gives me an update on the countdown, my panic renews. She has a new step-sister at her father’s, and she can’t wait to be the big sister. While visions of playing dance through her mind, visions of her new step-sister getting preferential treatment dance through my head. While she daydreams about swimming and playing in the sand at the beach with her father, I envision her father’s back turned as she swims unsupervised and all the awful consequences.
Am I being a bit melodramatic? Possibly, but try telling that to my heart.
Her father’s new wife is also six months pregnant. Another jab to the heart as I continue to pee on ovulation prediction strips (that have yet to be positive) every morning and pray this cycle will finally be THE cycle. I couldn’t possibly love Eva more than I already do, but there is this thought that I have that makes it sound like I don’t want her to exist. The thought of, “Why couldn’t my infertility have happened while I was married to him instead of now, married to my good husband?” I feel like my one, good egg was fertilized by the wrong sperm. If I could still have Eva just as she is, but have the other half of her gene pool excised and replaced with my husband’s, that’d be great.
Ridiculous doesn’t cover it, I know.
Every morning, as she gives me a kiss before she is off to summer school or I’m off to work, I remind myself that she is the one good thing to come out of all the bad. The other half of her gene pool doesn’t matter even if it means I have to ship her to California every summer until she is eighteen, the other half is still half of her, and all of her is perfect. I wouldn’t want a single thing about her or her personality to change, no matter what it would mean.
In just a couple weeks, every morning I wake up it will be just me and my husband. My heart hurts and tears sting my eyes at that thought. He and I will be a little lost without her. All I can hope for is some overtime while she is gone to help keep my mind occupied.
I requested an extra day off for the trip to take her to California. I figured I would need it when I came home as a day that I get to sit and cry and wallow in my self-pity for a moment so that hopefully I can lock it away the rest of the four weeks she is gone.
Still, I can’t help but think about all the parents out there that have to send their child to a different state for eight weeks out of every summer, and every other spring break, and every other Christmas break. Does it get easier? Is it this hard because it is the first time? Eventually, I’m sure there will be an argument between her father and I as he tries to push for her to come out there for longer periods of time and more often. How can that much upheaval in a child’s life be beneficial, though?
Every morning I wake up, I say a prayer for her that God will watch over her while she is away. Maybe I should start including myself in that prayer. One of my best friends has a credit card on standby should I need to fly out there unexpectedly to bring her home early if things aren’t going well. I also pray that I won’t need that credit card. I pray for her to get the love and attention she deserves. I pray that she is treated well, and that she has a wonderful time. Even if it means I have to share her more in the future, I really do just want her happy. I want her to feel like she has wonderful people in her life that love her, not that her mother is great and her father is awful, or, my worst nightmare, that her father is great and her mother is awful.
Maybe I should try sleeping until noon, then maybe my mornings will be greatly improved.
That was the question my husband asked me a little over a year ago when we started discussing trying to have a child. We already had a five-year-old little girl. He is a dad (step-dad) and he is content with his role. He’s been there for my daughter and I since she was two. He changed diapers, he read stories, he played, he filled sippy cups, he drove her and I are around on endless car rides in an effort to get her to sleep without a binky for the first time, and the second, and the third, etc. He didn’t understand my need to have a child when we already have one. He felt very content with our little family.
So we talked about it. My body had been saying it is time for another baby since we had a miscarriage two years prior after a surprise pregnancy. My wonderful husband, though, had a lot of fears. He feared for me, the child, and for us emotionally and financially. My husband’s parents got divorced when he was young, and it was not amicable at any point in time. No one ever expects to get divorced, but we’re both realistic enough, given my history and his childhood, to realize that plans sometimes change. He didn’t want the child to suffer the consequences of a messy divorce as he had. He was afraid, too, that he wouldn’t be a good father to another child. He has our daughter and she is easy to love, and she is enough. He was afraid of all the things that can go wrong with a pregnancy, too. What if he got emotionally invested and then we miscarry, again? And I think he was even more afraid of the delivery. So many what ifs in delivery.
It hadn’t occurred to me that he would have all the same fears I had as a first-time parent, plus a couple to fit our situation. He is such a good father to Eva, and her biological father so distant, that I forget sometimes that he would be a first-time father to a baby (if my ovaries will cooperate, that is).
We talked about each issue, and he agreed that another child could be a welcome addition. I explained that he would love this child, too, because he would bond with him or her just like he did with two-year-old Eva. Also, to have another child is part of my hopes and dreams for my life and our lives together, just as he has hopes and dreams for his career and for us financially. He still only had one concern, though, would it be unfair to Eva? She is six now, not two anymore, and she has never had to share us except with her cousins. Her cousins always go home. This child would be home.
What he found surprising to hear is Eva is a big part of my reason for wanting another child. I am the youngest of five children, and though I never want to have five, I want Eva to experience what it is to be a sister. Not even so much as a child, but as an adult. One of the best things to be as a grown-up is someone’s aunt. It is all the love and fun of parenting, without much of the not-fun (like a grandparent, but way cooler). And, the love and understanding I receive from my brothers is amazing. I don’t have to get to know them and bond and slowly build a friendship, they already know my past and who I am. Even my brother that just delights in being a pain in the you-know-where is a source of support and love. Granted, we don’t always feel loving toward each other at every moment of every day. But, my siblings are always there for me, day or night, and trust me there have been some nights. I am always there for them, day or night (usually babysitting duties, but still). As my parents age, the question of when is it time to step in and put mom or dad in a residential care facility or get a in-home nurse is going to come up. And I don’t have to make those decisions alone. I will have my brothers and sister to discuss things with, to share that emotional burden and responsibility. This is what I want for Eva, is to have a friend that is way better than a friend. A brother or sister isn’t just a friend, but family. Even when I am old, demented, or dying, she will have someone else that will share in that grief with the same perspective as that of a child losing a parent. You can’t substitute such a thing.
Now if my ovaries will just sign the peace treaty…
I am a very lucky mom. I have a caring, loving, thoughtful little girl who makes my heart melt all the time. She also manages to make me roll my eyes just as often. She is six, but sometimes the things that come out of her mouth belong to someone much older.
It had stormed pretty intensely the night before. As we were driving to her elementary school, you can see downed limbs and trees, and storm debris littering roads and sidewalks alike. We passed a low-lying area that normally has no standing water, but today the area was flooded.
I check on my daughter in the rear-view mirror, and I see that she is obviously puzzled about something.
“I know what happened here,” she says from the back seat.
“Oh?” I say, encouraging her to go on.
“It was a hurricane,” she says with a bit of disgust.
With a smile, I explain, “No, this was just a storm. Hurricanes only happen by an ocean.”
She is silent a moment.
“What about by a pond, or a really big lake? I bet they have hurricanes there,” she says.
“No, those are just storms, too.”
“If the lake is almost as big as the ocean, it would be a hurricane,” she says. No more debating this one. Overruled.
So many people, so little authenticity. I watched silently as one side argued against another. Each attorney made things sound much different than the actual circumstance. Or, maybe I should say my side argued against his side. I did not feel connected to this process though. I glanced down at the table I was sitting at before the judge and realized that there were confidential documents spread out before me. None of which were mine or my lawyer’s or pertaining to my divorce. There had been a lady sitting here that was a lawyer for a kid that did not want to live with his father, I think. I knew I should not look, but I couldn’t help but notice that there were detailed documents outlining the dates and amounts child support received, dates and times that the child has been picked up, and many, many more documents that looked like they covered everything from doctor visits to notes from teachers.
I sat there barely listening, wondering more about this child and his case. Did his father hit him? Or was he just never around? Maybe his father had beat the child’s mother and not the child. Certainly there could not be any evidence, otherwise, how would the man be sitting in the courtroom arguing over custody and not in prison? My thoughts were suddenly interrupted by my attorney calling me up to the stand to be sworn in and testify in my own divorce and custody hearing.
I stood up, my attorney touched my arm and said, “You look nice. You’ll be fine, just answer each question truthfully and look at me the whole time if it would make you feel more comfortable.”
While this was all very nice of him, I did not need any of this. I am always a rock when it is important. Great under pressure. I had no plans to faint, or cry, or cause a scene. I was the picture of calm, as usual. I wanted everything to be over, and I wanted it all completed as quietly as could be possible.
After being sworn in, I was asked the basic questions. State my name, date of birth, address, and so on, for the record. I had originally thought that this moment would be my chance to finally tell my story, to explain to someone in authority how unfair and outrageous this situation was. I had an epiphany of sorts, while waiting for a year and a half after filing for divorce, waiting for it to be my turn to end my marriage. Well, officially end it anyway. My epiphany was simple and somehow painfully freeing. No one cared how unfair or outrageous my life had become. No one even wanted to hear about it. If looking around with any indication, I should instead be rejoicing to the heavens that my very soon to be ex-husband had not beat me or my child or done other horrible things.
So I sat on that stand and I answered each simple question. The one question I had not been expecting came from the judge, not from either attorney. She leaned toward me and asked, “Is this marriage completely unsalvageable?”
With that single sentence, my calm wavered. I felt the need to hold my breath. My mind immediately flashed to waiting in the hallway for my case to be heard. While sitting there with my best friend, my husband decided to sit with us as well, and I had tried to keep things happy and light. My husband was angry about something, I don’t remember what because it wasn’t even the real reason he was angry to begin with, and his way of coping with this was to sit there and tell me that he could not wait until he could get on the stand and tell the judge that I was nothing but a whore and a bitch and I did not deserve to raise his child. Not that he was seeking full custody or anything of that nature. My mind then flashed back to the day I got a phone call from a stranger telling me my husband was dating her 18 year old daughter, and that my child seemed like a delightful little girl according to her daughter, who had met my child on several occasions.
I looked at my husband sitting there next to his attorney. He looked very nervous, and something else. I started trying to figure out what else that was on his face, other than his ugly new goatee his girlfriend thought was sexy. There was an emotion there I could not identify. I thought a moment more and instead of remembering all the terrible moments, I remembered all the terrible feelings. The absolute gut-wrenching feeling of betrayal. Then the subsequent feelings of stupidity for not seeing it coming, for being in the same category as all the other women out there fooled by a cheater. I’m smart, but it didn’t matter. After those feelings receded just a bit, then came the overwhelming anger. The staggering amount of anger I felt was the most unexpected. I expected anger, but not an all-consuming fiery rage that didn’t seem to let up for months, maybe even now it hadn’t. Maybe I had just learned how to keep it locked away inside that vault of emotions I carry around these days. Now was not the time to analyze it.
I took a deep breath, turned to the judge and answered calmly, “This marriage is unsalvageable.”
My answer was clear. That emotion on his face a moment ago had been the closest thing to an apology I would ever get. As soon as I had said those four little words, confirming that this divorce would happen today, that emotion I had seen on his face was gone. I didn’t puzzle over this. It didn’t matter at this point. Even if he was man enough to cough out a spoken apology to my face, I wasn’t ready to hear it. It wouldn’t heal any of the damage. The attorney had no more questions and I was told I could return to my seat.
I sat down next to my attorney, and I felt a moment of relief. My part was finished. They would ask my husband some questions, maybe he would get to call me a whore publicly and on the record, and then this would be over. After filing for divorce a year and half later, we had finally made it to this culminating moment. Complete. Done. At that moment my emotions quickly shifted. Relief was nowhere to be found suddenly.
I felt like the room was closing in on me. My chest hurt. I thought to myself, I wonder what it would be like to have a heart attack? Is it even possible at age 25? I laughed in my head, my ex would find some way to blame my heart attack on me being a whore I was sure. It was always funny to me that he projected his unfaithfulness on to me. Well, funny was a strangely relative thing these days. Things were funny because I didn’t want to cry anymore. So laughing was much easier. So funny to me, wasn’t really funny to anyone else I had noticed, despite my friends’ best efforts.
They had finished questioning him, and I wasn’t even publicly branded a whore. Everything was in order. The judge made her decree. I mostly got what I had wanted. Child support could have always been higher. But I figured that was the best I was going to get, unless I wanted to wait another year to get divorced. That was out of the question. I felt like I might suffocate on the spot if they told me we had to wait any longer to be divorced. Except that I wouldn’t die, I would just be stuck in this painful cycle of not breathing enough to thrive but breathing just enough to stay alive.
Still feeling like I might be having a severe cardiac event, I made my way out of the courtroom. My best friend who had come for moral support grabbed my arm and said something to me. I have no idea what, I just repeated a couple of times, “Let’s get out of here”. And we did.
This with me. This was almost 4 years ago. A lot of things, negative and positive, have happened in my life since this moment in time. This defining moment in my history has taught me a lot about myself and it continues to hold intense emotion for me every time I think about it again.