Some people stay in their houses during COVID and some people buy whole new houses to stay in.

We’ve been busy these last months; a lot of things have happened. We’ve also been not at all busy and doing our part by sheltering in place. The three of us have looked at one another quite a bit in the past four months. If I was a person who draws, I have no doubt that I could easily draw my husband and the boy, and probably the fat ass cats, too. I am not such a person, but you catch my drift. We’re always together. And we’d probably be utterly sick of one another if we didn’t have an epic backlog of TV shows and YouTube videos with which to occupy ourselves. Continue reading “Some people stay in their houses during COVID and some people buy whole new houses to stay in.”

Expected*

That was the thing about the world: it wasn’t that things were harder than you thought they were going to be, it was that they were hard in ways that you didn’t expect. ~Lev Grossman, The Magician King

I was never a person who had a lot of friends. I liked a lot of people, and I was heartily amused by even more than that, but at the end of the day, there were honestly very few people who–at any given moment–I would call just to chat or turn to with a problem. Strangely enough, high school was probably the high water mark for my friendship roster; I had a couple of best friends (and their families), a boyfriend, and several band, chorus, and theatre friends to boot. Continue reading “Expected*”

Dear Step-Daughter…

Your 16th birthday was almost a week ago, and I’m still trying to recuperate from the cheesecake. I was hoping you’d go for the vanilla Wal-Mart cupcakes with the ridiculously sweet icing like last year; but alas, this time around, you didn’t hesitate to tell me exactly what you wanted or to express an opinion that was entirely different from my own. You aren’t a cake kid, and Continue reading “Dear Step-Daughter…”

Partners

Mama used to say that if only she would’ve had someone to help her pull her wagon, things would’ve been a lot easier for all of us.  She meant another adult, of course, but what she got was a couple of kids.  We weren’t very good pullers, my oldest brother and I, but our hearts were in the right place.  We tried.

Since I starting “dating” my sweet husband in 2015, I’ve thought a lot about that “pulling the wagon” image of Mama’s.  It’s apt, actually.  Those little red wagons aren’t at all easy to pull, particularly if the terrain is rough or if you get it too heavily loaded.  When we were growing up, there were very few patches of smooth ground.  And there were four of us, so the wagon’s burden was never light.  Some of us fell out sometimes.  We got hurt or lost or both.

When Hubby and I got together, his wagon had been stuck in the mud for so long that he’d given up trying to move it.  The kids had taken it over and made a useless mess of it; it was no longer fit to move anything anywhere or to keep anyone out of harm’s way. Indeed, they all had cuts and scrapes from the wagon’s rusty edges, and we worried (and still worry) about infections that never fully go away, that could be life-threatening.

My husband is a hard worker and he brings home a decent paycheck.  He is also a wonderful man with a huge heart, and for several years before I arrived on the scene, he was dad, mom, and sole breadwinner for his three children.  Unfortunately, it was just him trying to do all those things (aside from occasional help from his visiting mom).  Like Mama, he needed serious, permanent help to pull his wagon, and the oldest boy (no matter how good his intentions) wasn’t getting the job done.

When I talk to Hubby about that time, he says there was no opportunity for anything except triage, trying desperately to prioritize on the fly and decide who most needed help.  I can’t imagine how horrific it must’ve been for him to see all his babies in trouble and to only be able to offer temporary help to the one who was bleeding out the fastest. I’m sure his persistent worrying (over a situation he had no power to fix) is to blame for most of his current wrinkles and health problems.

I knew my husband for 25 years before we ever got together, and I think every day about how much different both of our lives would’ve been if it hadn’t taken so long, if we both hadn’t taken so much damage beforehand.  I came in to our relationship with a feeling of worthlessness that was directly tied to how much money I was making.  He came in with the persistent and nagging feeling that he was solely responsible for getting these three little people he’d made into adulthood alive.

I’ve said it before, but I think I was born to be a mother.  As soon as I walked through the door, I started trying to make a safe home for these kids that I really didn’t know at all except through occasional pictures and stories my sister (in-law) told.  At the beginning, hubby gave me $400 a week to buy groceries and the stuff the kids needed.  They had to come to me with their requests instead of to their dad.  I cleaned, went grocery shopping, cooked actual food, and enforced a go-home time for the oldest’s friends.  (Hubby was working midnights, and five days a week, I had to make sure nobody ended up injured, traumatized or dead.)  I bought clothes and school supplies, toiletries and tampons.  I discouraged Hamburger Helper and fast food wherever possible because none of them needed to continue to live that way now that I was there.  Hubby seemed to drop 50 pounds overnight.

My very presence was enough to ensure that within a few months, the kids had new beds and we lived in a nicer house in a better neighborhood.  There was also a new school for the youngest two (the oldest moved away when he hit 18) and car insurance for my husband, who hadn’t been able to round up the extra money to start it while he was busy putting out fires.  This fall he’s going back to school to pursue a dream and to work toward getting the hell out of the factory.

The point of all this is, the experience of marrying my sweet husband and becoming step-mom to these awesome (if occasionally irksome) kids has shown me once and for all what it truly means to be and to have a partner, how it feels to help someone pull their wagon and to know that they are there to help you pull yours, and how sometimes you can help without bringing a single dime of your own to the table.  I would never have guessed.  Seriously.  That was not at all the lesson I’d spent the preceding years of my adulthood learning.

Even more than a year later, it still blows me away when my husband (or my mom or my sister) points out all the ways that the lives of these three people have changed and improved in the time I’ve known them.  I say “I didn’t do anything.  I just showed up.”

My husband says “Baby.  I love you.  You’re so silly.”

*Inspired by The Daily Post prompt Partner.

Booze, broccoli, and babies

It’s Saturday afternoon, and my house is peaceful enough that I’m actually enjoying the cats weaving between my feet in the kitchen while I’m trying to cook.  Usually, even the people in the house can’t get by with that kind of proximity.  But cooking just now is striking me as a leisurely activity — I’m steaming my broccoli, zucchini, and carrots for the week, and it’s become such a rote thing that I can now actually blog while I do it.  And ignore cats, apparently.  I’m freakin’ zen, y’all.

It’s five o’clock nowhere, but I’m standing here seriously pondering the virtues of getting liquored up while I cook.  I’m supposed to go to a meet-up at 6:00 with about twenty people I barely know and my sister (in-law), who (as you may or may not know) I love.  Truth be told, I’m going for her, though I also (kind of) know a few of these people from high school.  I’m figuring that my sweet sister will get busy visiting with folks (many of whom she considers family) and I’ll be left wondering what the hell to do with myself.  Thus the early contemplation of booze.  My dear husband was initially planning to go with me to this shindig so I’d have a fallback person (I’m pretty sure this is why people get married), but he’s asleep after working all night, and I’m not inclined to get him up early.  He had eye surgery this week, and it literally looks like he was punched in the face.  I’m sure he’s in pain, plus, I don’t really want to spend the evening occupied with assuring people I barely know that I did not punch my husband in the eyeball for smarting off.  I mean, if he was normal, I wouldn’t have to ever say these kinds of things, but he isn’t (not at all), and I’m forced to grin stupidly and shake my head in the direction of my towering giant of a spouse in some kind of mocking gesture that I hope says as if! or see this dumbass?  I married him because I loved him beyond reason.  

My youngest brother became a first-time father last night.  The baby will be my fourth nephew; I also have two nieces.  All of us kids are step-parents, but until last night, J and I were the only ones who didn’t also have biological children.  Now I’m alone in that, and at 43, my biological clock has long been sounding a lot like pounding, overwhelming, disgusting death metal.  I’m unbelievably happy for my brother, but beneath the surface, I’m also pretty sad.  Since I was 12 years old, I only ever wanted to be a mom; I guess it just wasn’t in the cards.  I’m a killer aunt though.  Seriously.  And my sister (in-law) has always been great about sharing her kid with me.  (She calls her “our girl.”  As in, “you’re not going to believe what our girl did yesterday.”  She’s now 13, and though she almost entirely grew up with me six-hundred-and-some miles away, my sister swears the kid acts more like me than her.)

Anyway.  When shit gets a little real, I fantasize about getting sloshed while I’m steaming my broccoli.  It makes me feel better even though I’m too old to drink much anymore. Plus, I’m the child of an alcoholic so I really shouldn’t, and I’m trying to watch my calories, which means that all the really tasty drinks are now way out of my league anyway.  The best I could do and still stay within the budget is eat nothing but vegetables for supper; then at least I’d have room for two or three shots.  Not that I’d want to take them…that shit’s nasty without a mixer.