Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hey, it's Chupacabra!

On Sunday, G and I spent four hours in the special Purgatory that is a walk-in medical clinic on a weekend. We were trapped in the waiting room with a television that played Noggin nonstop, and after a while, in extreme boredom, we started imagining alternate scenarios for Franklin, the show about the anthropomorphic turtle and his friends Goose, Bear, Beaver and Rabbit.

I suggested that it would make for a very interesting episode indeed if Franklin got a new friend called Chupacabra:

"Franklin, Mom and I don't think you should play with Chupacabra anymore."

"But Dad! Chupacabra is the coolest kid in school! I mean, his teeth are weird and he drools a lot, and Goat won't come around anymore when we hang out together, but still, he's really neat."

"I'm sure he is, Franklin, but we just don't think he's a good influence. You'll need to find other friends to play with."


The next day:

"Hey, Chupacabra ... I hope this won't hurt your feelings, but my dad says I can't play with you anymore."


"I'm really sorry. I hope we can still be friends."


"Well, I guess I'll see you around. Good luck with the baseball game next Friday."

Next Friday:

"Franklin! Franklin! Did you hear? Chupacabra ate Goose!"

"Oh no! Why?"

"I dunno. One minute we were playing baseball, and then it was all honking and hissing and feathers flying. It was terrible."

"Wow. I guess Dad was right about Chupacabra. Thanks, Dad!"

"Well, son, that's what Mom and I are here for. Sometimes we may ask you to do something you don't want to do, like going to bed or brushing your teeth or not playing with a bloodthirsty goat-sucking monster. But we do it all because we love you."

"I love you guys too."

Hugs all around. Credits roll.

G has a slightly twisted sense of humor (gosh, I wonder where she got it) and is fascinated by the legend of el chupacabra, so she found this hysterical -- in fact, it was her idea for Chupacabra to consume one of the other animals. Somehow I doubt it would appeal to the preschool set, though, so I think we'll pass on sending a script treatment off to Noggin. Hee.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Nine birthdays

At about this time nine years ago, I was being wheeled into an operating room, scared to the marrow of my bones because I was about to have surgery (while awake, OMG) and feeling like the biggest failure in the history of time because I hadn't been able to push out a baby that my doctor had blithely assured me was "seven, maybe seven and a half pounds." You can imagine my surprise when that same doctor, almost as soon as she made the cut, said, "Wow! I hope you bought plenty of three-to-six-month clothes."

Next thing I knew, a baby's cry rose over the sounds of Simon and Garfunkel on the operating-room CD player, and in my scared/dazed/drugged state, I thought Hey, there was really a baby in there! I mean, I knew there was, but I didn't KNOW there was ... And then all of a sudden I was very, very tired, so tired that I could hardly keep my eyes open. In the distance, I heard someone say "10 pounds," and then P was standing right next to me, holding G so I could see her. She had on a little stocking hat and a lot of blankets, and she was staring very quietly and intently at me with her big, dark eyes, as if she could look right into my soul.

Nine years later, that 10-pound baby is approaching five feet tall and wears nearly the same size shoe I do. She still has her father's big, dark eyes, as well as his all-consuming curiosity, his sense of humor, his stubbornness, his temper, and his amazing ability to love. I wish more than anything that he were here to see how smart and capable and mature she's becoming, and it kills me that he'll never know how much of what he taught her in their time together has stayed in her heart.

Happy birthday, G. Your dad and I both love you to the moon and back again, to the bottom of the ocean and the ends of the earth, and all the way across the sky.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Mr. Right

When I married P, not everyone thought it was a good idea. He'd been very sick during the year and a half leading up to our wedding, with multiple hospitalizations and two real brushes with death, and I imagine a lot of people wondered why I would want to deal with all that. In fact, I know they did, because some of them said so, either outright or obliquely. After all, I was only 24, just about to graduate from college and get started in life. Surely I could break things off with P -- kindly, of course -- and find someone just as nice, only healthier. Right?

Well, no, actually, I couldn't, because I loved P. I didn't love him because I felt sorry for him or because I thought he was the best I could do. I loved him for who he was, and because we fit perfectly together, and I would have done anything, accepted anything, in order to be with him. I would have sold everything I owned and lived in my car with him. I would have moved around the world and left everyone I knew behind. He never would have asked me to do any of those things, but I would have done them. Not being with him was not an option; I never even considered it. Knowing that I might (and probably would) lose him one day only made me more determined to have as much time with him as I could.

So we got married, and I never regretted it, not once. But as P got sicker, he started to feel inadequate and guilty, thinking that he wasn't the sort of husband and father that G and I deserved. He used to say that he was holding us back, that we'd be better off with someone who could have a regular job, or who wasn't in and out of the hospital all the time. I always told him that it wasn't true: he did a lot for us at home (which he did -- you've never seen anyone clean a house like P could), and more importantly, that he couldn't be replaced. We weren't a dollhouse family where you could just pop a new doll into the "dad" position if the old one broke. We were all unique and perfectly fit to each other, and not one of us was interchangeable with anyone else.

I believed this one hundred percent, but I don't think P ever did. In his heart, I think he thought that even though I loved him, I could and would replace him with someone "better" after he was gone. But that's where he was wrong. Of all my reasons for not wanting to get married again, one of the strongest is this: I don't want to create a situation where people might look at my life with someone else and decide that it's better than my life with P, and by extension, that it's a good thing P died. It will never be a good thing that P died. Moreover, I don't want anyone saying or implying or even thinking that what he feared most -- that his illness made him not good enough -- was true. I know it wasn't, but I also know from experience that you can't control what other people think. They see the outside of things and make snap judgments: "She ought to dump him and find someone else to marry." Or, " I'm sure she loved that first guy, but she's so much better off with 'Joe' here." Well, the hell with that. I won't have it.

I don't mean to say that I plan to live life in stasis and never improve my situation. If there's an opportunity for us to travel, or buy a real house, or do any of the things P and I would have liked to do but couldn't, then I'll absolutely take it -- but only if I can make it happen on my own. There'll be no "new dad" swooping in to save us, because we don't need saving. We don't need someone better than P, because there is no one better. For us, he was perfect just the way he was.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

No appreciation for the finer things

This is the bed that I bought for Catherine to sleep in:

Note the snuggly pink fabric, the cozy stuffing, the soft, high sides gently curved in exactly the shape of a sleeping cat. Note also (though you can't see it in the picture) the removable insert that can be microwaved to make the bed all toasty warm, as well as the lingering perfume of the catnip I rubbed all over it.

Now. This is what Catherine actually chooses to sleep in:

Note the gnawed edges, the claw holes in the bottom, and the general appearance of being a beat-up cardboard box. Which it is.

Catherine owes me $12.99.

Can I get a little quid pro quo here?

Dear G,

If you've been telling me for an hour that you want to go get doughnuts, and I have finally said we can go, it would behoove you to get dressed instead of lying on your bed whining that you want to go in your pajamas. Especially when you already got up at 7 a.m. on a Saturday and woke me up to ask if you could use my laptop.

Love, Mom

P.S. And coming out of the room finally dressed and announcing "I'm dressed and unhappy and I WANT MY DOUGHNUT!!" isn't such a hot idea either. Just sayin'.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Is it June yet?

Third-grade math homework is enough to try the patience of Gandhi, Buddha and Mother Teresa combined.

Give me strength.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

National Delurking Day

This is National Delurking Week, and today, Jan. 10, is the official Delurking Day, so step right out of the shadows. Tell me how you got here, or what you had for breakfast, or what you're reading right now, or what your favorite Dr. Seuss book is. (To make it fair, I will start by saying that I had a cappucino chip muffin, I'm reading Mr. Timothy by Louis Bayard, and my favorite Dr. Seuss is The Lorax.) Or, just do what the icon says and say hello!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Two anniversaries

Fourteen years ago, I went on a New Year's trip to Las Vegas with a friend from my college choir and three of her old high-school friends, one of whom was P.

At that point, P and I had known each other for about eight months, but we'd never socialized outside the group. He had literally gotten up out of his sickbed to go on this trip -- he had a horrible virus that was probably the flu -- and was still so sick that with five of us crammed into a double room, he got a bed to himself because no one wanted to risk being exposed to his germs. (Much later, he told me, "You were going, so I had to go too!") Within the first 24 hours, we discovered that we really only wanted to spend time together, and soon we were splitting off from the rest of the group at every opportunity -- so much that everyone started grinning knowingly at us and making "Oh look, there they go again" comments.

So anyway, New Year's Eve fell on the third day of the trip. We were in the middle of a casino when midnight arrived, and since we could hardly kiss for the first time in front of everyone, we hugged each other instead. I remember it so clearly, standing there surrounded by the sounds of five-dollar slots and cheering, standing there for so long that eventually other people in our party started cutting in -- "Hey, what about us?" I remember the blue shirt P had on and that he had to bend down a little bit to hug me properly because he was six inches taller. I remember it all, and if I could choose any minute of my life to relive, that might just be the one.

He and I used to reminisce fondly about that New Year's all the time -- how much fun we had, and how much we missed each other during the week between when we came home and when we saw each other again. (He invited me to dinner at the first opportunity, and the rest is history.) Today marks 18 months since his death, and now I'm the only one left who remembers what it was like for us. And all I can do is write it down and hope that someone else who's fallen in love will understand.