Featured

Ashing

 

Two weeks ago, we took my father’s ashes to a nearby botanical place.  When he was dying, he said he wanted to be cremated and to have his ashes spread in a beautiful garden somewhere.  The funeral home split them three ways–for me, my sister and his girlfriend, and I guess my husband packed our 1/3 in my suitcase in its little plastic bin.  I have no idea or memory of how they got back to Los Angeles– I just know that they sat in that black, rectangular sort-of-box for a year.

I kept meaning to spread the ashes.

Last year I meant to do it on Dad’s birthday, but then Prince died, so fuck it.  It had just been three months since Dad died.  Four months since we even knew he was dying. I was still so sad all the time that even potholes depressed me. I couldn’t handle the loss of the genius that was my preteen pop royalty AND deal with my dead father’s wishes: nope. Everything was unfair blah blah, and what was the point blah blah blah and fuck it.  Can kicked down road.

And then the summer was too hot.

My husband kept gently reminding me that we needed to do it, but it was never right. And I wasn’t sure if it should be somewhere public, where we could access it all the time, or somewhere extra beautiful where we would have to pay to revisit.  That seemed unjust. And since I didn’t feel like deciding, I didn’t!  I did nothing.

And then fall… wasn’t right.

And then the anniversary of his death was too inauguration-y and so his April birthday this year seemed logical.

I didn’t really feel emotional about it.  I felt like– this was a step, like cleaning maybe, this was like organizing something.

I didn’t look up at the container in my office and talk to it like it was my father.  I don’t know what happens when people die and that’s as far as I feel the need to think about it. I don’t want to wish him happy birthday or count how old he would of been or imagine him in a recliner in a cloud, keeping track, or ghosting around in a chilly mist.  I had a box of the dust that used to be his body and I needed to do with it what he wanted.

April was coming, so I looked up my favorite garden place and they specifically said please don’t spread ashes here, so I won’t name it, because we did anyway.

Since it had to be clandestine, my plan was:  Put the ashes in “coffee cups” and bring a water bottle.  As soon as I “spilled the coffee,” I would “spill some water” right on them and make mud so they wouldn’t blow “around.”

I had a pretty neat plan(Clandestine!), a date set (Saturday!), and on Thursday afternoon, when my husband was watching The Big Lebowski (White Russians!), I said, sure me too, and caught the end of it. I hadn’t seen that movie since it came out in 1998 and wanted to see John Turturro’s bowling guy, but that part had already happened.  I had forgotten that there’s a dead person in the movie and suddenly I was watching John Goodman and The Dude(!) in Malibu with a container of ashes.

I nodded!  How funny!  We were just about to do that!  Isn’t life funny! How funny!

And then John Goodman began to talk about whoever the dead character was and I began to fucking cry, of course.

I forgot. I forgot that of course it is significant.  And that even if I’ve had a few happy months, that grief can pop up like a golf gopher and yank you around. What was I going to say when we spilled and watered the ashes?  I wasn’t able to get it together to eulogize my father at his own funeral.  I couldn’t just spill the dust.  I had to say something.

I thought about when his father, my grand one, had died. Standing over Arthur Villepique’s grave, the minister asked dad and his brother and sister if they had anything they wanted to say and everybody was silent.  I remember thinking — how could you not have something to say?  …?

And now I know that sometimes you really have nothing to say. And some other times you have everything to say and there’s just not enough time standing over a cold grave.

But not saying anything a second time was not okay with me.  I would read Robert Frost’s “The Road Less Traveled,” because I think,  I think, dad liked that? I don’t know.  I have a terrible memory.  If I wanted to do something 100% meaningful to him in a surefire way, I could’ve gotten up and belted “Oklahoma!” but I want to stay married.

Saturday morning I got ready to transfer the ashes:

IMG_8394

My husband came in and asked about the coffee cups and we decided that maybe that wasn’t the best idea.  Maybe he let me step back and just think about sneaking my father’s ashes around in a used and dirty paper cup.  I brought the bag of ashes, instead, and a little pair of nail scissors so that I could open it there, on a bench, and then just pour them out.

And maybe respect the ashes a little more. Even though it was just dust, yeah.

We got to the garden, to the rose part, and there were so many kinds of roses that I couldn’t pick.  I mean, couldn’t there just be a General Rose area?  The names were complicated.  Would I pour him out under the white Julia Child bush (pun not intended, but noted)?  The pink “Lafter” varietal? (Pun provided?)  Or maybe the red “Chrysler Imperials?”  (What the fuck? It’s a flower?) I mean, there is really no need for rose names to be so specific and person/car related.  It’s weird and not helpful for efficient cre-mains disposals.

It was hot, it was Earth Day.  There were so many people around.  People who were legitimately there, teaching their children about the beauties of our globe and how to be Better People.  Not childless Rule Breakers, like us.

My husband thought that together we would look too conspicuous all hunched over.  Or maybe he’d had enough of my wildly ricocheting emotions up close. He got away to a safe distance and I figured I would get right up to the flowers and make it look like I was going to take a picture.

I did it, so fast.

I cut the plastic like a pastry bag in the corner and then squeezed it over the roots, scared every second that I was going to have some gentle docent come up and be disappointed in me, or whatever the punishment was.

I poured the water.  The ashes were bright white as hell.  I thought they would just soak into the mud like flakes or something, but they just made an alarming white pile of wet dust on top of the very-brown dirt.  I pulled wood chips from another area over the base of the bush, took a quick picture, and ran away.  So dignified.

IMG_8399

And then I saw a koi fish pond.  SHIT!  THAT was what my father loved–he had had a koi fish pond at his house and he had written short stories about it, he loved it so much. He had obsessively hung nets around to protect the koi from the heron that came and poached the fish.  He called me when there were babies.  He had koi fish Christmas tree ornaments (what happened to his Christmas tree ornaments, oh well ). I had to put some  ashes in there, for sure.

We walked “up river” where there weren’t too many people around and I poured some into the water:

IMG_8402

Wow.  They were so white in there too.  I waited a few moments for them to blend in, but in a few moments it looked like this:

IMG_8400

Barely moving, like a frozen toxic cloud.  What if there was some sort of poisonous element to it?  What if the gardens had said “please don’t do it” not because they didn’t want to be bothered with ground whiteness, but because it killed flora and fauna?  What if I killed the roses and all of the fish choked?

We had to move away, because it was so obvious what we had done, like standing over a pile of puke in Disneyland. The cream wasn’t going into the coffee. But there were more ashes. And it was hot.  And the people, the people, were everywhere.

So we found a secluded bench and put the rest of his ashes by some surprisingly beautiful, unlabelled, POTENTIALLY WILD GROWTH at this very lovely, very manicured garden and sat down and I took out my printed out poem.

Reading a poem out loud isn’t exactly something I do regularly.  And I know there are easily four million things my husband would rather do than read poetry, so I started to go for it, but couldn’t make A Sound. So my awesome husband read some and I cried a little and read some and we went back and forth

IMG_8405

The Road Less Traveled     Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
 —
It felt right.  Formal enough to be A Ritual, quiet enough to be For Us.  Although, to be honest, I hadn’t really thought about the words that morning.  Dad kind of tried to take both paths.  He started on the well-traveled one and then jumped off onto the less-one, but kind of kept hopping back once and a while, like for holidays, so it was a stretch.
Oh well.  Better than waiting for the “right” poem.

When we got home I put the little plastic bin by the recycling to go outside.  Should I pull the label off with his full name on it?  The very last time his name would be typed on a label?  Was this something to keep?  Nope.  Not for me.

The next day I got revisited by the old grief stuff.  Slow distractions, inability to focus. I was driving and had to pick a truck with CHEVROLET written on the back to follow slowly, staring at the letters, so I would stay in my lane.  I had forgotten that dulled-out hopscotch feeling of not being able to land on a thought.

I didn’t fight it.  I took three naps and went to bed at 6:30.

imgres

PS:  Varietal does not mean the same thing as variety.  You probably know that, I didn’t. If you are googling different kinds of roses for funny names and you write varietal instead of variety, you will get wines.

PSS: I think Sangiovese would be a better flower name than Clytemnestra, but I’m not in charge of these things.

 

 

Advertisements

Pretending

Standing in front of a chafing dish full of “Twisted Mac and Cheese” at my sister in law’s wedding at the Hard Rock Cafe in Cancun, I felt like I might have made a mistake.  I was eleven weeks pregnant in Mexico, looking at a huge picture of this band over the buffet table where, labelled “Poison.”

images-5

This was my second pregnancy, and because my first “go” was more of a “stop,” I was terrified of everything I ate and touched and even how I used my body to stand up from a seated position.  I asked my health care givers, I researched online— everyone said flying is fine, flying is fine, that’s not what caused that loss!  Fly!

So we flew!  And, because we had experienced such a devastating miscarriage so recently, (5 months prior, 12 weeks along), we told almost nobody that I was pregnant. I didn’t want to share any news until we had good news, and at 11 weeks, with every blood test showing great levels of important things, we felt close!  But not close enough. Which meant I was constantly pretending that I wasn’t pregnant.

Which meant that when we landed at the Cancun airport and saw the air traffic control tower that looks like this:

 

images-2

I said cool…cool!

And when we got to the front desk to check in and were greeted by family members and a waitress with a tray of “welcome” cocktails with a floating flower in them, I pretended to sip mine.  Yum…yum!

And I pretended to have a beer at the pool, too, because that’s what I would have usually done.  Fun…fun!

 And even though, on the website,  the resort advertised this:

images-3

What it delivered was more like:

images

That’s an exaggeration.  Yes, these are stolen pics from the internet, and the lower one seems to have people with pink boots on in it..?  Near the pool? We didn’t have pool boots, or so many people, but either way it was a million miles from the serene, eucalyptus-scented kind of place where I would have chosen to be pregnant in Mexico.

At the HRC (sorry, Hillary, this H stands for “Hard”) there is one fee for all you can eat and all you can drink.  Which, for Americans, should never be an option.  Watch the local news anywhere from Albany to Albequerque and witness cutting edge investigative reporting on our collective issues with portion control and moderation, highlighted by stock footage of headless big butts, walking through parks.

It may be that other countries, like Australia, can out-drink us.  But any day of the week, Americans will out-all you can eat you…wait Americans will all you can OUT-eat you?  How does this sound not-closeted and not orally-NSFW?  Either way, we take the cake.  All of it. And that doesn’t even account for the “wasted half,” which is not to be confused with the “half-wasted” (everyone). 

The wasted half is above and beyond what we consume.  It’s the discarded partial hamburgers, over-ketchuped tater tots — FUCK IT food!  FUCK IT I’m drunk at 3pm let’s have nachos and then, three bites later, this feels gross FUCK IT let’s go back in the pool!  We can order more any time!  I’m bored!  FUCK! IT!

That food gets left on plates that are pulled away by Mexican employees who are paid to serve and then, soon after, toss our perfectly fine uneaten food in the garbage. The Americans: wasted, wasting.

Being sober there was depressing to me.  So I focused on the pretending, which became a little private game. I kept ordering beers, pouring 15% out in a garbage can (FUCK IT) and then taking big, fake sips with big, fake swallows that nobody even noticed.

At breakfasts I SHOUTED COFFEE, COFFEE and drank: tea, tea.  At the rehearsal dinner I fake-drank two wines, slowly pouring them into other peoples’ glasses when they weren’t looking and acted progressively inhibition-free.  And nobody even cared!  Success?

And then the big day came!   And then it rained.

When it rains in Cancun, everyone goes inside.  It’s intense.  It’s every Chicago Wrigleyville bar on a Cubs game night, it’s Las Vegas during a tequila distillers convention, it’s the place like that near you, only louder, wetter and with less to do.  There was one pool table in the hotel, and hundreds of guests surrounded it, in a Thunder Dome, Mad-Max-style scenario. 

Our wedding people all did shots, and I used my old bartending trick (I was the worst) (my other tricks included wearing thick turtlenecks and telling everyone they were cut off) of throwing the shot over my shoulder when everyone else drank theirs.  My airborne kamakaze splashed onto a stranger who was proudly displaying her bathing suit indoors, sans cover up.  And, as if this was just par for the course of Hard-Rockin’ in Cancun, she laughed and high-fived me, licking if off of her arm.  I needed to get out of there.  I needed quiet, peace, Enya music, something.  And just in the nick of time…

The sky cleared, mostly, leaving a few fabulous clouds, and the wedding was set up outside.  It was stunning.  It was perfect.  The bright pinks and oranges against the dark  sky, the very, very happy couple, my husband performing the ceremony with his wickedly perfect blend of humor and sensitivity.  I forgot that I was pretending anything, I stopped separating myself from everyone else, and got on board. I was glad to be in Mexico.

Soon it would be harder to travel with our baby, which was due around my birthday. Soon this couple would have babies too, and our generation of this family would bring the next one in. This was a right of passage, and we had another coming up in six months.  Family, time, connection, it felt powerful and I felt amazing with a little bit of the future growing in me.

The thrill of the love-stuff started to ebb when we headed for the reception.  There were Kick Ass Apps and more drinks and loud music. I returned to feeling that first trimester way: tired-gross-blah.

Dinner was served– I ate off of the Poison Buffet (was there a lower-hung poster for Ratt somewhere too?)  and got up to dance.  Eventually, I headed to the bathroom.

Where I saw my first spotting.

I was going to have another miscarriage. In Mexico.

I walk-ran back into the room where the party had shifted from Celebrate Good Times to I Want Your Sex. Where was my husband?  What was happening?  Where would I go? Where was the hospital?  What does a hospital look like in fucking Mexico?  Is there a resort medic?  I acted like I was fine, fine as I smiled and walked through the grindy dance floor and found my husband, who instantly knew.  He took my arm and said,

“What.”

And I shook my head, my eyes filled up.

And Prince was singing “Sexy motherfucker shakin’ that ass, shakin’ that ass…”

As we snuck back to our room.

My secret plan had failed so wildly.  Because we were anticipating a possible hospital visit, we now had to tell everyone I was eleven weeks along. Eleven and a half, now.

I had pretended I wasn’t pregnant so hard that… it came true?  I wasn’t anymore, I could feel it.  I was in the in-between place where the progress had stopped but my body was holding on.

I sat in the bed and we ordered room service for two days, and I held on with all of my might to get back home.

We made it to the airport. We flew to Atlanta, made our connection, and the spotting was getting worse. The spotting was more than spots.  I knew it was coming.  I got on the plane, sitting on the aisle and, for six hours as we flew west, I felt like I was a giant balloon of blood that was about to burst.  I didn’t want it to happen on the plane.  What happens if that happens on a plane? I hate those little bathrooms.  What if I had to be stuck in there?  I had to hold on.

I stopped talking, I stopped reading.  I went into a sort of trance, thinking that if I wasn’t stimulated in any way, I might just put this miscarriage on hold.

The time fore secrets was over. We told the person sitting next to us.  We told the flight attendant, we ordered a wheelchair.  We probably even told the dude who pushed the wheelchair to the car. Anything to get us to the hospital faster.

We made it.  We got to the emergency room where our emergency paled in comparison to everyone else’s, so we waited and hung out, hung in there.

I started to play the game–I shouldn’t have: flown, gone to Mexico, swam in the ocean, danced, eaten that much salt, worn that outfit, everything.  I should have told everyone so that we could have had their support the whole time.

Fool me once shame on…fool me twice… this one was on me.  There was something wrong with me. I would never fly again.  I would never dance pregnant again. I would never eat fuck it food again.

______

When we got home the next day.  I called my mother and sister, I tried to make sense of what had happened and explained that we just didn’t know and it probably wasn’t the flying and sometimes you just don’t know and yes all of the tests were fine…

And then it was quiet.

And we ordered sushi.

I ate only part of it and had half of a beer that got poured out and then decided to just take a nap, because sometimes, FUCK IT really works.

Disappearing

 

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine who is a therapist said she had recently gone to a convention where she met a woman from a country in West Africa.   My friend had previously been in Southern India, where the common greeting wasn’t “How are you,” but rather “Have you eaten?”  The West African woman said that her common greeting was “Have you grieved enough today?”

Can you imagine?  Either, really?  When someone says “how are you,” I don’t know what the hell to say.  But I do know if I’ve eaten.  And I might know if I’ve grieved enough.

 

It’s been less, lately.  Last week was my birthday and I had a thoroughly happy day.  It felt like the emotional version of fitting into a dress that used to be too small.  Happiness. Ahhhh.  I remember this, I like this.

The grief stuff has loosened or lessened, and even the picture at the top of the stairs of me with my father from our wedding has gone from piercing my heart, to pressing on the bruise on my heart, to making me smile when I go upstairs.

IMG_8390

The darkness is still there, of course.  Last week we watched Louis C. K.’s new special in which he briefly mentioned decapitation.  While there were truly hundreds of other upsetting ideas I could have fixated on,  my brain grabbed and stored “decapitation,” and gave me the gift of a dream that night where I was acting in a movie that shot in the neighborhood where I grew up!  The only catch was… I had to carry around my father’s disembodied head! NBD!

Except that he kept making dumb dad jokes….?!?

Instead of being horrified to be carrying around someone’s talking head (that came in the waking time, no sweat), I was more embarrassed,  like… “Come on Dad!  Tryin’ to work here!”  I think he was even attempting to “network” or something.

Have you grieved enough today?

Last week, on the day before my birthday, my husband and I went “live” in the adoption system.

That looks weird to me, because I always read the word “live” with a short “i” sound, and I don’t want to be confusing right when I’m talking about adoption stuff. But. It’s long-i-live. Too late.  I’ve made it more confusing. But I really wish there was a different spelling for the short “i” version of “live.”  Maybe “liv.”

 

Wow, I have so much free time.  I know, I know: soon, we won’t have any. Because.

Either in one week, or in one year or in… something, we will match up with a birth mother somewhere in this country and then, should everything go smoothly, she will give birth and we will be parents.

How can it go smoothly, though?  It’s really complicated.  Even if we love her and she loves us, on a primal level what happens is rough, not smooth.

My husband and I created an online profile for these pregnant women to browse through and pick from.  It’s like dating, but for life.  We’ve been scrutinized by a very kind social worker.  Every relationship we have had, every loss, every dollar we’ve made has been evaluated.  And now we wait.

All of this has distracted me from my grief, the way being busy can.  It’s so nice.

In the last four years, I was so un-distracted it was paralyzing.

Time passes differently when you have no kids.  Most people I know either have kids or don’t want them.  The not-wanters fill their time with their life stuff.  The havers are always tired.  I get it.  We will be tired.  We will always be tired.  I’ve seen it, I’ve lived with people with babies and toddlers, it’s everything, “you should enjoy sleeping in.”

But, I have slept in plenty in my life.  I slept in all through my 20’s when I waitressed and bartended.  I passed my awake time in cafes, playing chess or twisting my hair up like Bjork or buying clumsy black shoes.

I slept in throughout my 30’s, and I passed my time trying to make money, trying to write funny things, trying to find out who I was — SINGLE after a divorce, LIVING (short “i”).

But in your 40’s it’s different.  In your forties if you are trying to have kids and failing, how do you pass the time?

Maybe you stay home and disappear.  That’s what I did.

YES THERE WERE things to do at home– AMAZING things: learning, the whole entire internet, painting, a thousand hobbies.

What I started to do was to play this game, Bookworm:

bkwrmWhat is this awesome pastime? Oh, it’s cool!

It’s a “game” where one finds words with consecutive tiles.  The red ones are “burning” and they start to drop.  If you don’t use them in a word before they reach the bottom the “game”  “explodes” in a black and white, nuclear-ash-fallout way, which is pretty appropriate punishment for not using that red “p” in “apple!”

IMG_8380

This game goes up to level…oh?  Infinity?  Cool!  You can play and play and play for days, finding longer and longer high-point words, filling the “library” by getting all of their special category words– “insects,” “vegetables.”

I played this a lot.  In 2015, I watched almost seventeen years’ worth of Law and Order SVU.  I can tell you if I’ve seen the episode within thirty seconds of the cold open.

I played Yahtzee by myself (analog, not digital….cooler? Sadder?) to the extent that I no longer need scoresheets, but can quickly make my own.  This one is from 2016, in a notebook I brought back from my father’s house after the funeral:IMG_8378

I know it’s hard to recognize this as a Yahtzee scoresheet, but for a real pro like me, there was no time to write out words like “total” or “bonus.”  I couldn’t be bothered to make the line between the points and the total BOLD.  I didn’t need that.  I needed to keep rolling.  I needed to keep inventing distraction. I got so small that I went to this stalled out place–like the Wii avatars before you activate the game.

Both times in my life that I played Wii tennis, I was struck by that little digital me hovering before the game started. One foot, the other foot, one foot the other foot.  It wasn’t static; it was giving off the idea of movement so it didn’t look like what it would be without that little bit of coding:  a frozen screen.

And little Wii Mii in real life played Yahtzee Yahtzee, Bookworm, Bookworm, you get it. In our home. Making little back and forth movements to convince myself I wasn’t a frozen screen. I was just waiting to get activated.

I wish those games had been “procrastinating” behaviors.  I also wish I wasn’t using SO MANY quotation marks or capitol letters in my writing today, but that’s just how it’s going.

I wasn’t procrastinating; there were no deadlines.  I was just killing time.

Have you grieved enough today?

Somehow, I have killed enough time so that I don’t feel that way anymore.   And soon we will be activated when our baby comes.

Tomorrow is April 21st.  That was my father’s birthday. So I’ll try to spread his ashes or something and post a good picture of him and just say that it ain’t all bad.  And a part of the grief is knowing that the sun eventually comes back up.

Have you eaten today?

Just oatmeal at 9 and now it’s 2:30, so I need to take care of that.

Miscarrying

Yesterday my husband and I had dinner and watched one of the older BBC Planet Earths. The desert one.  I had said, not three hours earlier, “I’m so grateful for this rain we’ve had–that I don’t think I could handle everything right now with out this rain.  THIS RAIN!”   I felt very quenched and, later, very able to watch animals in Africa get very parched in the 90’s.

I half-watched the watering holes get smaller, the hippos dig into the mud. With a slack mouth, I swiped around my phone, saw everybody’s take on our president’s tweets. The show  finally caught my full attention when the elephants came through. Everybody likes those guys–those slow and steady, gentle, eyelash-having sensitive-footed beauties. But it was so dry that the baby couldn’t nurse.  And then the baby couldn’t walk and sat down.  And the mamma held back from the safety of her pack to guard the life she made. And I said-oh no, oh no.  That’s not gong to happen.  And my husband said the rain is coming! Here come the rain drops! Any second.

But, unlike recent Los Angeles times, there was no rain to be had in that specific desert in that specific year in the 90’s.  And that baby elephant died on our very large TV screen. There was an especially cruel tight shot of it’s trunk slowly exhaling.

I was crying, sure, but then something greater (or worse) took over, and I stood up and shouted “why would they DO that?  Why would they SHOW that?” And I announced (to just my husband) that “I’m not watching!  I’m not watching that anymore!  I’m not watching anything any MORE!”  and I stomped up our stairs into our spare room and started having an adult tantrum.

My husband followed me, with the softest steps, with the gentlest voice.   He tried to hug me and I said “no hugging now, I feel like PUNCHING!”  And I went into our bedroom where I tried to close the blinds.

Now, our blinds stick a lot. They stuck this time, and in addition, the cords got tangled on the long clear twisting thing that makes them tilt up or down and I screamed, like a champ “I CAN’T EVEN CLOST THE BLINDS!  I CAN’T DO ANYTHING!!!”  and punctuated this sentiment by beating our pillows soundly and slamming them, over and over, onto our mattress.  Or bedspread, I should say.  We made the bed.  It’s not like some 20 year olds with a bare mattress–we have sheets, everybody.

I have been trying to write about miscarriages for two months.  I’m having a hard time.

img_8135

 

It’s easier to write about my father’s death, about foreclosure, bankruptcy, hoarding.  (And fancy hotels?  I think that is just one lost thought about soaps).  But I guess this is still upsetting me, even as we move forward in the adoption process, even as spring brings longer hours, as the years pass from the Dates I Remember So Vividly.

Maybe it’s hard for me because I had five of them.  Maybe if, in the year 2000, Sylvester Stallone had tried to blog about “Rocky Movies In General,” he, too would have been stumped.  He made five of those. Was there room in 1500 words to properly honor Hulk Hogan?  Shouldn’t he just write about one at a time?  Why hadn’t he stopped at four, like any self-respecting woman in her 40’s whoops wait that’s me.

Maybe it’s hard because it’s so gross to me, because I didn’t grow up all confidently like “I’m on my cycle, buzz off.” I grew up like “Oh god the world might perceive my dirty shame if I leak and I want to be able to wear bathing suits like nothing is happening and wear extra perfume.”  And that was just the usual, monthly expected bloodstuff.  Not the horror movie nightmare that happens with miscarriages.

The first time it happened,  it was four in the morning.  And I pulled out of bed and got to the bathroom in almost a dancerly way.  I didn’t want to jostle myself; I was already used to careful-pregnancy-movement at 12 weeks. But I also had the immediacy of the sensation of the bleeding happening.  For people who have never had a period, imagine you are sleeping and you suddenly have a nosebleed.  Something ancient in you wakes you up to STOP IT.  It’s the same with periods, but imagine that it’s a nosebleed downstairs.  Or, imagine your nose is in front of your butt.  It doesn’t matter.  I woke up fast, that’s all.

Because nobody every talks about miscarriages (that’s not as true now as it was ten years ago, to be fair), I had no idea what was happening.  Kind of like when I got my first period on New Years day in the fourth grade and thought I had shit my pants.  Because it was brown.  And I didn’t know what the hell was happening, to the tune of I even brought my underwear into the family room to try and make a big joke out of it, but that’s a whole, nother shame issue for a whole, nother time.

Either way, I had no idea what was happening AGAIN. At ANOTHER critical time in my life. And, as it happened, my perceptions were split into two:  The Loss and The Physical.

The Loss part of me immediately thought–don’t wake up Brian.  Let him sleep.  Even if it’s fifteen more minutes, he can think we are going to have this baby that we thought of names for already  (they were kind of precious though.  And one of them was def too hippie-ish, but still).  So I called my sister and my mother and cried on the toilet.

I wondered when it stopped living, why it stopped living.  I couldn’t separate myself from how I had factored this life into every movement, meal and activity for the last ninety days of my own life. I felt hollowed out in my soul.

In terms of The Physical, I was totally bewildered.  SO MUCH stuff came out.  Let’s call it “material,” okay?  Because the actual baby part was only like, what, the size of a bean or a prune pit or whatever those obsessive apps tell you every week–some fruit or legume size.  But the placenta had also formed.  That was a big deal on the apps.  Making that had made me so tired, generating this placenta, this big buffet to feed this little one for the rest of the time. It fell out of me, part by part.  At one point I was sitting there and just clearing my throat caused such a shift-loss-deluge that I almost laughed.  I remembered this improv exercise we had done in college, a trust fall, and when you are ready to trust everyone, with your eyes closed and arms crossed you say  “Falling,” and the groups says “Fall Away.”  Those words, Fall Away, echoed in my mind in our odd pink and yellow bathroom.

I eventually woke my husband, we picked The Closest hospital to go to, because we had just gotten new benefits and had never been to a hospital in Los Angeles, either of us.

Don’t do that.

Always know about hospitals.

The one we went to has a name, but will forever more be referred to in this house as The Jacob’s Ladder hospital, thanks to my husband’s sense of humor, and thanks to the surreal and horrifying experience that we had there.

I have since learned that when you have a miscarriage you can:

A) Have it naturally, slowly but surely, at home.

B) Have a  D & C, which stands for something French, which basically is a surgery that clears out your womb.

or

C) Have an “Aspiration.”

OR?

D)?  There are probably other options.  I’m not a doctor or an expert. (Though some days it feels like I sure tried to be).

Let’s get back to C.

What happens during an aspiration is:

  1. A  tube gets inserted into the uterus (gross).
  2.  This is attached to a vacuum (terrifying).
  3. The uterus contents (awful) are extracted (clinical and somehow still gross).

That’s a general description, reworded from the first website my Google search generated.

Now.   How an aspiration happens at Jacob’s Ladder Memorial Hollywood Hellhole is:

  1. Your doctor begins treating you without having done two things that morning:  Introducing himself and combing his hair.
  2. He tells your husband to leave the room.
  3. He inserts this vacuum-attached-tube into your body without explaining what he is doing or how long it will take.  Or that it will hurt.
  4. He doesn’t give you enough/the right kind of pain medication.
  5. The uterus contents (heartbreaking) are extracted (terrifying, excruciating, beyond gross–gross seems like a luxury word now).
  6. You scream for your husband and get shushed.
  7. It takes ten minutes. It keeps going. It takes ten minutes.
  8. The doctor shouts over the machine repeatedly that you have to relax.
  9. It ends.  Your terrified and enraged husband is finally allowed to come back in.
  10. Your doctor announces that you just had an abortion.

 

Maybe because it was so traumatic, and because I didn’t know how to advocate for myself in the situation at all, I don’t feel the sadness of the loss very often.  I remember that dude’s smashed hair up in the back of his head.  Like dealing with me was disturbing a nice nap for him.  I had the people-pleasing behavior of not wanting to make a scene.  Of not wanting my female mess to be too disgusting for this guy.  I thought about his day–I figured he must have seen much worse than this in a janky hospital.  I thought, miscarriages are common, I shouldn’t be so upset about it.

I wish I had.  I wish I had taken out my pillow rage on that piece of shit doctor in the moment, rather than trying to be polite.  I wish when he said abortion (I know it’s the technical term, but: NO) that I had screamed at him DON’T SAY THAT!  HELP ME!  COMFORT ME! And, also:  FUCK!  YOU!  I wish I had had female care givers, gentle communication.

I sort of wish it had happened like the elephant mother–in the quiet desert, alone. With some elegant, swelling string music.  And very strong and plentiful pain medication. And maybe, just maybe, a classically trained British actor narrating.

 

 

Dying

When my father got wheeled into his house by the Sloane Kettering ambulance people, we all stood along the hallway and into the living room where the bed was set up.  Everyone had been working all morning–doing the desperate, emotional cleaning and moving of furniture.  When dad got there it got calmer real quick.

My sister and dad’s girlfriend and I talked to the hospice nurse who explained the medications and schedule.  There was a pasty anti-diarrhetic that we called the shit shake (oh those four-day inside jokes!!!) and some other stuff and a morphine pain pump.  We got one of those commodes, too.  Everyone calls it a commode.  I thought it was a half-joke, like when Americans call an elevator “the lift” or –one of those haha-it’s not fancy but it’s fancy word-plays. “People take dumps in this…it’s a throne!  Hahaaaa!”

But I guess it’s just called a commode. Maybe it’s militaristic. My sister took some twine and made a super-cool toilet paper roll holder on the side.  We anguished over crushing pills and getting the right pill crusher!!  My sister made a big, bright sign for the meds. I started saying meds a lot, like a real health care professional wannabe. Meds.  We were prepared.  People brought flowers.  Dad was coherent, just tired.

He’d had two strokes weeks earlier which rendered him unable to see out of his left eye. When he was at the hospital I was furious that he was lying right-side to the wall, so he couldn’t easily see the people coming to hold his hand and tell him they love him.  He could only see the wall.

And I totally forgot when we set him up at home, that this was still an issue. I was too preoccupied with consolidating the gift lasagnas. In our living room, the hospice bed had his good side, his right side, toward the wall again.  He had to ask us to move the flowers where he could see them. Oops. Oh well.

I roasted a chicken that night, because I didn’t know what to do.  I wanted the house to smell like a home.  I wanted the six or so of us to sit in the room where dad was and have dinner together.  I wanted him to feel some proximity to a group meal, even though he’d had his last bite of pizza three days ago, and was much more into not chewing.

Over the next few days I met, for the first time, many of his friends.  My aunt came and stayed, the house turned into a living wake.  And each day dad died a little bit more.

One of his best friends brought over a packet about hospice and what happens when people are dying.  Apparently, once someone knows they are dying, they come to terms with it quickly and their body starts to…relax into it.  And their mind goes all over the place.

And here I have to say…as I read this I thought…how exactly did they gather this information?  How were the terminal-incoherent able to express the specifics outlined in the papers I was holding.  ESP?  I skeptically started reading and pretty quickly just accepted the information, gratefully.  Even if it was just a bunch of guesses, it was helpful.

STOP TRYING TO FEED THE DYING PERSON it said, as I rolled Go-Gurt after Go-Gurt into dad’s mouth.  Okay. I would stop.  He might not be hungry.  I might just be wanting his digestive system and his entire body to be functioning when it was really just getting done with that. One of the last things he said to me was:  This is the perfect food delivery system.      I had forgotten to crush a pill into that one. Worried.  Let it go.

STOP TRYING TO MAKE THE DYING PERSON BE IN THE MOMENT, it said, as I kept squeezing dad’s hand and telling him my husband was on his way and to hang in there and we were going to be okay and everything.  The pamphlet said THE DYING PERSON MIGHT BE DEEP IN MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD.  THIS COULD CONFUSE HIM.  I stopped talking at him and just started saying I loved him.

THE DYING PERSON IS REVISITING ALL SORTS OF MEMORIES AND MAKING PEACE WITH HIS LIFE it also said.  I didn’t want to get in the way with that. Dad had lied to us for years about the affair he’d had in the early 90’s.  And in the hospital, the day he was told he was dying, he impulsively said to me “we couldn’t help ourselves…I didn’t want to hurt anybody…” and even though this was a molehill compared to the mountain of confession I had previously wanted so badly, I didn’t care.  But he did.  In the living room I kept whispering to him…”we love you, everybody loves you…” just in case he was imposing fiery judgment upon himself deep in the center of his mind.

THE DYING PERSON WILL BREATHE IN SHORT, SHALLOW BREATHS it said, when the person was really close to dying.  Dad’s girlfriend had been with him every night the week I was there and she was beyond, beyond exhausted.  My husband and I offered to stay on the couches in the living room to be with him, so she could get some sleep.

Around ten o’clock, he started moaning–and this was two days after he’d stopped talking or communicating.  This wasn’t an outreach, it was just an animal reflex. And it was a terrible sound to hear. I sat next to him and pushed the morphine pump as often as allowed.  I can’t remember if he finally stopped moaning or if I finally realized, after an hour, that my vigilant pain pumping was more for me than for him.  I got back on my couch and then woke up a few hours later when I heard SHORT, SHALLOW BREATHS, and I woke up his girlfriend, who climbed in next to him and held him as he kept involuntarily gasping.

I googled “sounds of dying” and “dying breathing” and it was right on.  We drifted in and out of sleep and then at like 2:30 his girlfriend woke us–he was gone.

When someone is in hospice care and dies, you don’t call 9-1-1, because they are obligated to try to revive the person.  You call the on-call hospice nurse to pronounce him dead.

So the three of us waited with the lights on in the middle of the cold night, waiting for this lady to get to dad’s remote house. It felt like an honor, like we were guarding the body.  He looked different immediately.  There’s something about a dead body in the eye-area that looks different.  It was like his spirit or life-force was in his eyes, and when they closed for the last time, they sunk back and changed him.

We sat, reverently, calling the close family, waiting for the morning to do other calls, and finally the nurse arrived.

And any illusion I had of Higher Special Rites of Passage went out the window.  She was not a healthy lady herself, and had quite a hard time getting into our house, was out of breath, suddenly made us worry for her–did she need tea? a tissue?  a chair? She couldn’t get a hold of the main office to tell them dad had officially died.  We kept trying to be formal or proper and then she was preparing the body and pulled out dad’s PICC line.  That’s where the medicine went in.  Ten days earlier it was such a drama–they couldn’t get a vein, they couldn’t get a line in, they finally got a line in and now she pulled it out.  Which you aren’t supposed to do with a dead body at the house.

Because, and this is grim, but a dead body is, like, a big bag of blood.  And if you remove the plug from a big hole, it will come out.  And it won’t, like, congeal or anything.  So suddenly she was trying desperately to keep this blood in this body instead of getting it all over the place and contemplated duct taping his arm and we didn’t know, we said, we’ll find some tape! and eventually she got it together, got him together,  gathered her things and we called the funeral home.

Who sent over the most perfect and absurd undertakers you could imagine.  The first was over six feet tall and pale and bald. And I mean pale and bald.  Not Bruce Willis-bald, but bald like someone who has never grown hair from there. Shiny. His face was sagging down the front and he looked like he lived in a grave yard. His partner was for sure under six feet by far and had some dyed dark hairs slicked over his balding head, and a pencil-thin dark mustache.  His manner reminded me of old-school waiters, like Bobo in Moonstruck–yes MA’AM, he would say…absoLUTEly ma’am, YES.  He had the right words, but a hurried and distant execution of the actions.

They wheeled dad’s body out into the freezing morning, as the historic blizzard crept closer, and drove away.

What next?  Of course there were calls to make at more reasonable hours, arrangements to be made, things to be done, but at 4am it was so silent. Like getting into your car after a huge concert or getting back to your hotel after a wedding.  Quiet.  Quiet.  What next?

I started to try to put away the diapers, pee-pads, lemon swabs.  I tried to tuck the stupid commode behind a couch. He only used it like twice, I thought.

imgres-1

We shouldn’t have to keep looking at it, I thought. There was so much to do that we couldn’t do anything.  And dad’s girlfriend said–let’s go back to sleep.  We are going to have a lot to do today.  So we went upstairs and I thought Oh, Hell, NO WAY will I be able to–and then fell asleep.

I wondered if dad’s spirit would visit me in my sleep (it did’t), if I would have nightmares (I didn’t) or if I would actually just knock out (yup).

Another thing that pamphlet had said was SAY GOODBYE.  It said that often people need to hear it’s okay to let go.  I think I said it to dad every day, multiple times a day, after I read that.  There was no need for struggle.  I wanted him to not feel any obligation to try to hang on.  But part of me wonders if his brain actually was present when I was saying that, but he was unable to respond and was like–hey, not so fast, kiddo.  I’m enjoying the sounds of chicken dinners and my friends and family all together.

I’ll never know.

Cleaning

My mom is coming to visit this week, so this morning I am cleaning. I’m having a hard time, though, because I keep starting different cleaning projects which are impossible to complete in the two days I have, let alone the three hours I set aside.  I can’t move all of our furniture and scrub all of the walls in our place, I can’t wash every towel, sheet and cloth we own, and I for sure can’t take out the screens and rinse them and then put them back.  Or, I guess, for that last one I can…but I won’t.

And then I keep finding upsetting things.  Like, if I start to clean the floors and then instead decide to go through all of my clothing in a compulsive, not-educated attempt to do the “if you touch it and it makes you sad throw-it-away thing”  that was in that popular un-cluttering book I didn’t read, instead of un-cluttering and finding deep peace, I find a sweatshirt that was my dad’s.

It’s a weird sweatshirt that was likely purchased from a TV infomercial. It has a wire through it and earbuds sewn into it–the hood “strings” you pull to tighten it are actually earbuds at the ends.  It’s designed so you can attach your ipod to a sweatshirt in the pocket.  Your ipod that came with earbuds.  But this one is convenient! Because the earbuds are a part of this one particular clothing item you wear and get sweaty in and then wash!  It’s convenient the way a pair of pants would be that came wired with a toaster, in case you wanted to toast a half a bagel when you were wearing those specific pants.  And it’s machine washable.  Except then, in my case, only one earbud works.  I guess the toaster might break too. Let’s reconsider washing electronics, everyone. Forget it. But I wore it all the time after dad died because his house was cold and I only brought three outfits to New Jersey with me because who knew.  I wore it to shovel snow after that wild blizzard.  I brought back it to LA because I couldn’t throw it out or leave it behind.

Today, be it sweatshirts or pictures I dust, all roads lead back to this week is the anniversary of Dad’s death (and dying).  Two weeks ago I thought I was off the hook–no creeping grief, no spontaneous crying, I figured my writing or something was working it all out for me. Magic! Then I stopped writing.  Then, the anniversary of David Bowie’s death happened and I made the choice to see–hey, what was on my calendar a year ago?

And the day David Bowie died, I was just done taking these pills:

img_8023

 

Because my cycle had started during the holidays (when dad had those strokes) and the final IVF round had to be “put on hold” so I took these birth control pills (I know, so ironic to take right before trying to get pregnant) for 10 days and then stopped after new years so we could start the Final IVF round. That looks like this:

img_8025

I mixed up drugs and refrigerated some and stuck myself four times a day and had those little pin pricks all over the area under my navel. And kept trying to hope.

Also, a year ago from David Bowie’s death,  I was waking up at five in the morning every day to call my father because it was 8 am there and I had the wicked, leaden guilt of a child living far away for a dying parent.  I was hyper-vigilant.  I tried to call doctors for him, to get information for him, I tried to help him use his phone, I tried to believe him when he thought he had kidney stones, when he was trying to get stronger for chemo.

A year ago I had an ultrasound and all of the pin pricks weren’t working and Dad finally got admitted to Sloane Kettering and his metastasized cancer was way beyond what we had anticipated, was fierce, was killing him.  I booked a ticket to come home right after the egg retrieval procedure and then at that ultrasound the doctor said –“It’s not working.  We should push everything back three to five days and give you more time.”

But I didn’t have time, dad didn’t have time.  We already pushed back because of Christmas.  My body was not delivering.  I was here in California, but my mind and my heart were reaching far for New Jersey.  I cried and said to my doctor–I don’t know what to do– and…he left the room.  He couldn’t tell me what to do.  The nurse said go home.  You can stop in the middle. Go home.

It was possible to take another month off–to keep the vitamins and the estrogen pills and the the unused Menopur, the Gonal-F, the others.

So I stopped in the middle and flew home on a red eye and was so immediately consumed by the circumstances around my father’s dying and death that I forgot about the little red pin pricks around my navel.  I didn’t even look at my body.  I know I showered every day.  I know I made coffee and stuff, but I don’t even remember looking in a mirror, let alone evaluating my skin.

I have no idea what the emotional/hormonal effects of stopping IVF in the middle are.  They seem silly compared to finding out your father is dying and then watching him die in 10 days.

_____________

After the funeral, when we got back from New Jersey, the IVF place said we could start again–they said not to worry about the costs, that they could help me find free samples of medicine (thousands of dollars of medicine) to supplement what had been wasted.

And I tried again.  In March.  And my body still wasn’t able to do it.  And along with the weird sweatshirt and twenty other things, I packaged up the unused drugs, needles and used sharps container.

img_8024-1

To deal with at a future date.  It would take an effort to dispose of them properly, and I had no effort left.

_______

And today, wanting to grieve, wanting to have the Anniversary Of Someone’s Death Sorrow, I’m too backed up still.  If I do that, I have to think about the little pinpricks and the Brazilian meditation music I listened to (her name is Ceu–it’s nice) and the months of no coffee and extra sweet potatoes and no sugar and everything for naught.

I have to think about losing my father, and losing the possibility of having a baby with my husband.  I have to think about last March when I had the ridiculous optimistic magical hopes that Dad’s spirit, existing “elsewhere” could pull some fate-strings and help us have a baby.  Bring us some luck after so much sadness, move us forward, but it was loss loss loss.

So I’m going to just Swiff some stuff.  And do the towels and sheets.  That’s plenty.  And even though I’ll probably never wear this again…

img_8029

I’ll keep the “hoodiebuddie” around for a little clutter, even though touching it makes me feel bad. Because it also makes me feel a little bit connected.  And as I write this, I am realizing that it’s 100% possible that Dad never even wore it–that it was just a thing that was purchased once and never used, but I’ll just hope. Like I’ll hope the rain that’s coming doesn’t spatter the dirt that’s in our screens onto the clean window panes. Come on. I mean, screens, right?

Spotting

I remember my mother’s 40th birthday because it was the first time I ever saw gag gifts. She got a hat that said “SHIT 40.” Horizontally it read: So Happy I’ve Turned ….40.  To a nine year old, it was the best hat in the world.  Shoebox greeting cards were hitting their stride, with that mouthy old lady sassing off about generation gaps and day drinking.  My very cute mom, in her Girl Scout Leader blouse (it was a surprise party) got an apron that said:

IMG_1884

I got: being an aging woman sucks, but not as much as being a pregnant woman. 

—-

31 years later, in April,  I was pregnant for the first time in my life.  And turning forty.  But forty was the new something else!  Everything was the new something else! Age meant nothing, nothing sucked, and nobody ironed-on messages anymore.  Everyone I knew would rather be pregnant than forty, or was forty and desperately trying to be pregnant. I was lucky.

We told our moms, and flew east to tell our siblings, my dad, our cousins, at a Big Dinner in Little Italy for twenty people.  

Dad was living in New Jersey with his girlfriend, and I flew out early to have a few days with them, since East Coast time was rare.  My father and I planted some spring things (he was a superior gardener), and although I was tempted to tell him early, I wanted to see his face with everyone else’s in the restaurant, so I waited with my little big secret.

Visiting dad was always a crap shoot.  Some hang time was fun—going to a craft fair or grilling dinner, but most visits were absurd: the Christmas when I was single and his girlfriend had split for a while, when he spent the holiday reading aloud many, many firsthand accounts of slaves, and telling me how he just had to get his idea to Oprah and it would be on Broadway.  Or the time he surprised me by taking me to his local writing class at The Bookworm, where I ‘got to’ sit behind the four adult students and ‘audit’ for two and a half hours. 

The night I got to New Jersey, dad told me we were going to a rehearsal for his girlfriend’s production of Steel Magnolias. I knew from experience that I had two options:  go watch a rehearsal of Steel Magnolias, or sit alone in his creepy house while he watched a rehearsal of Steel Magnolias.  So I opted to sit in the dark in Chester, NJ, and watch.

“It’s in the round,” Dad said on the ride over.

“Ohhhhhhhh” I said.

“And I want you to give the director notes, too.  I mean you’re a real actress.  So you can watch, and after just tell him what you think…”

And he continued talking and mentioned some specific blocking that had been SO OBVIOUS to him that the director had TOTALLY MISSED, but I stopped listening.  I felt pulled. 

“I’m not comfortable doing that-“

But Dad had made up his mind. He shrugged at me, basically saying ‘I don’t care.’ So he was assuming I’d give notes, and I would have to somehow not do it, because WHO SHOWS UP UNINVITED AT A DRESS REHEARSAL AND GIVES A DIRECTOR NOTES?

I know I should have said no to my father.  

But. I felt pulled.

I sat through that rehearsal and tried to think about relaxing things, peaceful things, I was still making a baby in there.  The director had a nice face. The show was good in the round. All the angles. This sink even worked.  That was cool.

I watched Truvy and Ouiser.  Yes, that’s how that’s spelled. I thought “Wheezer,” but no.  Maybe some ironic joke that a French name with “yes” is bestowed upon a character who loves to say no?  I don’t care? I’d only seen the movie?   Dad had us sit in “the tricky seats,” but I could still see everything.  

At intermission I said hello to the director, and wonderful, and everyone was great and thank you for letting me be there and I felt my dad get disappointed behind me and let it wash on by.  I asked where the bathroom was and was directed to a small one in the front that had a little sink that made it look like a little bathroom in someone’s little house.  Sweet.

I went in there, and as I was going I looked at the weird wallpaper, at the huge basket of extra toilet paper and then at my underwear, where there were three dots of dried blood.  I checked and that’s all there was, and then I ran outside and called my sister who is a nurse practitioner, who always helps me, who had a baby three years before and she said—it’s spotting, it’s probably nothing, it’s normal, call your OB.

I called my midwives and they said it’s spotting, it’s probably nothing, it’s normal, take it easy.

I called my mother who said, take it easy.

I watched act two and tried not to clench my whole body.  I tried to think more nice things.

The next day I met my husband at Columbus Circle.  I tried to relax.  I tried to take it easy.  I called a friend who recommended a hospital if I needed one.  I tried to relax.   We didn’t take the train, we took cabs.  We went to Lincoln Center and got last-minute opera tickets which, for someone who has memorized Moonstruck, is pretty much the most romantic thing to do in New York or the whole world. 

It was Wagner. It was amazing. I went to the bathroom several times, as serious as anyone ever was in a bathroom.  I made a mental note to remember that some people are really anxious in the bathroom and you never know what people are going through in the bathroom. To be nicer. Every time I came back to my seat, my husband looked at me with a question.  Three times I nodded no.  One time I nodded yes. There were a few more little dried spots.

Did I feel pregnant anymore? (opera opera opera)  I didn’t feel nauseas, but it was 12 weeks, when that was supposed to subside. (valkyries valkyries)  The little flicker in me was so fragile that I didn’t want to think it away, didn’t want to worry it away. (weird overdressed foreigners)  That night at the Ari B&B, I wrote a letter to the baby—hang in there, I kept writing, it’s me, your mom, hang in there. 

And the spotting stopped the next day.

Twenty of us met up at Vincent’s that night. We had little wine glasses and we got up and said—hey let’s have a toast, and we told everyone a baby was coming and they cheered, everybody, and it was a happy time.

My mother in law knew about the spotting and put her arm around me. She said—you look a little tired, why don’t you sit down.  So I sat down and looked at my phone.  My father and his girlfriend had missed the big dinner because her rehearsal ran late and he didn’t want to come without her. He was pulled in two directions. We paid the bill, everybody left, and we waited with a few last siblings and finally Dad arrived in his big Audi: angry, hassled, probably embarrassed, pulled between his girlfriend and his daughter.   He didn’t understand why people didn’t want to make way for expensive cars. We drove to another restaurant in Union Square. To have another dinner.

They had had so much traffic. The tunnel.  It was so hard for them.

I went to the bathroom.  When I got back to the table I nodded a small yes to my husband.

I wanted to recreate the happiness from a few hours ago, so I took a breath, leaned forward and said…

“Well, we have some great news…I’m-“

and as I said

“pregnant,” the waiter arrived, saying

“ready to order?”

And my father froze, torn, looking back and forth. He was pulled again.  Not between his daughter and his girlfriend, this time.  Now, he was pulled between his daughter and a waiter whom he had only just met and would never ever see again. Still.  He was pulled. The waiter–the daughter.  The daughter–the waiter.

And

he

said

“I’d like a hamburger, rare, just run it through the kitchen” and he gestured to his girlfriend, who ordered whatever she ordered, and we ordered whatever little thing we ordered because we’d had dinner.  We had already had dinner. And when the waiter stepped away, my father knew he blew it, tried to compensate, and delay-reacted with delight.

I don’t remember what he said. I just remember losing to that Union Square waiter.  I only remember the instant where my father didn’t say “Can you give us another minute?” The space  where my father could have totally ignored the waiter, could have stood up and cheered for us, but somehow couldn’t.

When I see this picture of my mother in her very-long gift apron and remember the Over-The-Hill…But Gaining Speed mug she got, I wonder if my father felt pulled even then.  I wonder if he was already looking over his shoulder for an escape.

I want to transport my 40-year-old mom to the present where Judd Apatow and Paul Rudd’s movie gave us a different, gentler look at this age, where aprons get a comeback anyway and some ARE EVEN SEXY, ANTHROPOLOGIE?  I want all of our mothers to not have been treated like that, for 50% of them not to have been left for a younger woman.

I know I can’t fix the past.  But  I can hope to have a kid or two, and to be able to show them how to handle being pulled, how to hold their own, and to know that standing up and cheering is far more important than very rare hamburgers. They’re called waiters for a reason.  Sometimes they can wait.