Sunday, December 4, 2016

Singing the Holiday Blues

Here's the thing:  I think I processed and recovered from the profound grief of losing a daughter pretty well.  Maybe I'll even give myself an A in that department.  It wasn't easy necessarily, and it took a lot of time, but I finally felt as though I "did it" - whatever "it" can be defined as.  Some people in my world - co-workers, casual friends and so on - thought I should have been over it long before I claimed my victory.  Others regard me as being callous because I did seemingly move on.

Over time you find there's just no winning.  People will not ever understand fully - even people who have experienced loss - because every situation and relationship is unique, and we all process things differently.  (I'd do well to remember what I just wrote myself sometimes, but that's another story for another day...)  But the point here is, you just have to accept that people can't walk in your shoes, even if they really, really want to, and the best you can probably hope for is the people who love you the most will just accept you in whatever state you're in, even if they don't truly get it.  And it's to those lovely people who stand by us that I write this.  There will be times we just need you that stretch way beyond when even we reasonably could foresee that we would.  Not your pity, just your support.  And I think the found myself in such a quandary curently.  I was really struggling.  And that will seem super weird to most people because this should be such a happy time with a new grandbaby in the house.  But, read on and I'll explain why in particular I think I got hit with the Holiday Blues so hard this year in particular.

If you know me, you know I think Christmas sucks no matter what.  I do delight in some of the trappings:  I adore Rudolph, for example.  And I'm willing to participate:  I will bake cookies and buy gifts, and the house is decorated from top to bottom, but the stress it all causes is like a ten ton weight on me.  And it has been this way for many years - decades even.  I'd be amazed if there aren't millions of women in particular who secretly feel the same way, but maybe aren't bold enough to confess it - because I have taken a lot of flak for being a Scrooge over the years, so it's a risky stance to take.  I try, I honestly do - but it never fails:  the horrid financial pressure, the time constraints, the expectations and the aftermath of not meeting those expectations.  It's all hard.  I'm not blaming poor Baby Jesus or anything, and I love buying presents for people, don't misunderstand, but - I've said this before and stand by it - we've so corrupted the holiday that the "Christmas spirit" is lost in all the material greed.  So, you walk around with all this holiday weight around your neck, like a holly covered albatross, and then everyone expects you to be happy and you're just wanting to say, "Fuck you.  I lost [insert name of person], so exactly what is it now you want me to be happy about?"  And then, on top of all of that, Real Life happens.  Your boss reprimands you for something that you don't feel was wrong (yes, that did happen, not just a random example), another co-worker was rude to you (and yeah, that happens daily), or - or maybe and - a trigger happens.

I've written in my original blog about triggers a lot - the things that gut punch you when you're least expecting it and send you into a downward spiral.  Over time, as you get stronger in your recovery, they happen less and less - not the things, but your strong reaction to them, but they do still happen and maybe they always will.  Hard to say.  But what's not hard to say is I had not one, but two such events in the course of a few days and it knocked my psyche silly for a while.  I won't bore you with the details, but suffice to say, while they were both unique in their cause and effect, they worked together to send me reeling into a pretty frightening depression for not one, but several days.  And it got me thinking, because it was a lonely, scary feeling, that maybe the best thing I can do with that is use it.  And use it to help all of you understand all of us when we get the holiday blues.

The first thing to tell you is what not to tell me.  Don't tell me please that I ought to be happy.  Or that I have so much to be happy about.  I know that.  And that conundrum of not being happy when you know "you should" just makes it worse.

Don't get mad at me.  It's not personal.  I'm not trying to act the way I do to punish you.  Try listening to how I feel, and you will likely see that.  By listening, it doesn't mean I expect you to know what to do or say.  But accepting me goes a long way.  And just knowing that someone knows what I'm going through and isn't judging me as a result goes still further.  But if I don't want to talk about it, I ask that you're okay with that.  Leave the offer out on the table.

I understand it's perplexing to deal with me in that state (try living it), so accept that I'm doing what I can to shake it off.  If I can't for some reason, then support me to reach out for assistance.  It's okay to ask for help, but sometimes we need a little help (if you will) to know that.

The bottom line is I missed my kid.  I felt the big hole where she is supposed to be.  I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing.  I mean, I miss her constantly and wonder about her:  what she would have turned out to be like and to do with her life, but also where did her soul go and is she okay now.  But I'm normally fine leading a full life with that "little" caveat.  But every so often I get out of balance.  I'm good at recalibrating myself.  I used my go-to coping skill - hockey - to shake the blues off of me.  Of course it helped that Sidney Crosby was amazing.  Others might not have the coping mechanisms I do.  Help them find their version of Sid.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Home for the Holidays (but whose home?)

For years Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday.  What was not to like?  It was centered around football and good food.  It lacked the pressure and expense of gift giving, so it was good, low key fun.  Then it became complicated.  A food-centric holiday with two eating disordered teenagers in the house, how could it not?  Add in the rest of the family - my mom and her expectations vs. my husband's side of the family and their traditions that I was now the keeper of - and it became nothing but a bad reality TV show without the camera crew.  In recent years, therefore, we've looked to take back the holiday and restore it to its once glorious state of laid back do-nothingness.  Our goal is to just revel in the day off full of sports, top it off with a good meal and, for me, maybe a beer or two (okay, two).   It's still a fair amount of work to get that big of a meal ready, and I still trot out the good china and linens, but we do it buffet style so we can grab our plates at halftime of the Cowboy game and get back in there to sit through the second half.  The biggest pressure Thursday, or so I thought, was trying to get everything cleaned up between the end of that one and the start of the Steelers game, for one, and then to try and stay awake after a belly through of turkey for a prime time match-up for another.  I achieved both goals, and the Steelers got their much needed win, and so you'd think it'd be a successful day.  Right?

Well, turns out a comment got made to the Baby Daddy by a family member and then repeated to my daughter - the new mom recovering from the difficult birth and post surgery complications working on hardly any sleep - that made her worry we'll be entering a turf war for every subsequent holiday from here on out.  Slow, easy days of do-nothingness a thing of the past?  Not if I can help it.

The brief flare up, that has since smoothed over some, made me think about my family growing up a lot.  My mom taught me many things and expressed a lot of unsolicited opinions on people and things, but she wasn't one to really offer up a lot of life advice.  So, it has stuck with me all these years that one thing she did say, and very adamantly, was, "don't travel for the holidays."  She broke her own rule several times to come to Texas, but, it is true, when I was growing up, clear across the country from where my mom and dad had their families, we stayed put for the holidays.  I woke up Christmas morning in my own bed all but once in all the years I lived with my parents.  I can realize now that it was probably pretty hard for my mom to be so far from the rest of her family, so one might wonder why she was so dead set on that principle.

She never really expanded on that thought, so that's a bit of a conjecture on my part.  She could have said it because it's a colossal hassle to travel laden with gifts, and the crowded airports are hardly worth it, but if you drive it's exhausting.  Maybe it was the expense.  Maybe all of it factored in.  Yet, I think, truly, it was also and primarily because it just removed all the politics of which family got the visit and when.  That, and, knowing her as I did, it was about establishing your own family rhythm, not being beholden to someone else's.  I got to walk - okay, run - out to my own living room and think Santa had come down my own chimney.  We all got to lounge around in pajamas until late morning and drink eggnog - my dad's laced with something or other - and then later in the day, I could talk to my friends on the phone and compare what we'd gotten or, once I was a teenager, we actually could see one another in the afternoons and actually show our stuff off.  We were our own little family, comfortable in our own little routine and that, as much as I will consistently relate how I hated being an only child, seemed right and natural.  My mom wasn't right about a lot of things, but it would seem in this case, she was on to something.

How and what would I say to a young family then, faced with competing grandparents?  Would I repeat my mother's counsel (I have stated what it was for the record), or do we work out arrangements like two opponents in a custody battle?  It's easy, I realize, for me to say something magnanimous now if I choose to because my new grandson lives in my house, but they won't always - maybe even by next year, they'll be out on their own.  I factored all of that in when I decided the best thing I can tell any young family is do what's best and right for your kids.  If that's splitting holidays and traveling to alternating grandparents houses on a pre-arranged schedule, great!  Then do that.  If you want the grandparents to come to you so the kids can stay in their own house, then work that out.  If you want privacy on the holiday as a family, I think, at least for my part, that's a situation I need to respect and understand.

Here's the thing I think we, as grandparents, need to understand:  we raised our families.  We had our shot.  Now it's our children's turn to do the same thing, and they have to find their own way to do that.  For my part, I want to maintain a house that is always welcoming to my family.  I hope my grandchildren always want to come over and spend time with me.  But I don't want it to turn into an obligation.  Then, whether you realize it or not, you've defeated the purpose.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ode to the Young Mother

You know, I hadn't thought long and hard on what it was like to be a young mother for some time until my baby had a baby.  For one thing, quite frankly, those weren't easy days and in some ways best forgotten.  I'm sure I'm not half of the only couple in the world where the birth of a baby strains the relationship.  And I know I'm not half of the only couple in the world where the new mouth strains the pocketbook to the breaking point.  But unless you have a full time nanny and untold amounts of money, I think having a newborn brings challenges for all moms - maybe a lot just don't admit it or have a venue to admit it.  I can't speak for my daughter, but I can speak for me, so I'm going to with a moral to the story in, here goes.

Vintage Pampers Ad
You watch all those commercials hawking diapers, baby soaps and lotions or toys with cooing babies and smiling moms all dressed in white - their faces perfectly made up and their hair lovely without a strand out of place.  You see the photos other moms post where they're smiling and rightfully bragging on the miracle of their child, and an unrealistic expectation builds in your mind.   You think to yourself, "I got this.  Something so small and pliable, who sleeps so much of the time.  How can this be hard?"

Then the baby comes and you realize that not only is it hard, it's exhausting, unrelenting, scary (because you have the life of another being solely in your hands), lonely, and thankless.  Yes, thankless.  I said it.  I own it.

Cast of The Bob Newhart Show
I wasn't prepared for the depth of the loneliness.  Kelsey was born in the days of basic cable being the only cable and daytime television, unless you like soaps, is a vast wasteland.  I would be so desperate for the sound of another adult human voice and all my friends were working.  My husband was a student still with a job to boot and never around.  So, I watched a lot of The Bob Newhart Show re-runs because that's all that was on in the middle of the day that was moderately tolerable.  And I became a great friend of David Letterman in the late night hours.  By the time my second baby came around Turner Classic Movies had been launched, so things were looking up.

But it's that thankless part that hit me in the gut like a punch.  I just never considered it beforehand.  You can have all the support and love in the world and still get tinged by it, because in the wee hours of the night - particularly if you're breast feeding - it's just you and that infant.  And that tiny baby is just not about to raise his or her head up and say, "Wow, thanks mom for getting up every two hours, foregoing showers for days at a time, and living with spit up all over your clothes constantly.  Thanks for giving up time with your friends, screwing up your career trajectory, for missing all those great concerts and awesome movies you really want to see, for blowing your figure up and being sore and tired.  I love you."  Instead, you get crying when they are hungry.  You get lots of dirty diapers and a TON of laundry.  Get them fed and maybe down for a nap and you have to decide what to do with that fleeting time:  eat, sleep, clean or shower?  I'll tell you that after a while you generally opt for the sleep.  But then other stuff slides and it causes issues.  And after a while, you start to feel sort of hopeless and alone.  And then you start to feel guilty because you're supposed to be happy like those women in those commercials.

At my lowest, working on two hours of sleep a night that maybe I didn't even get in a row, worrying how to pay the bills and dealing with an infant that cried all the time, I worried I didn't love her maybe.  I thought I did, but every day was such a struggle, that sometimes I actually wasn't sure.   I cared about her deeply and felt a strong obligation to care for her, but it wasn't the love I thought I should have for my child.  That unconditional love where angels sang on high every time I gazed down upon her.  I've never admitted that to anyone before.  But I do it now because I think it might be important for any other new mom who has the same sort of self doubts and feelings to know they aren't alone and to take heart.

Because, and I can remember this as clearly as on the day it happened, there will come a day when you do get that thank you and all of that melts away.  You'll get that first smile.  For me, I was changing her diaper about five long, hard weeks in, and she was looking up at me and gave me her first genuine smile (you'll know the difference from all the usual facial ticks that sort of look like they are in the realm of a smile).  My self doubts melted in an instant, and I knew with absolute certainty that I did indeed love her - and, better still, I knew she loved me back.  And, I'll tell you what, it's all yours.  You don't have to share that with anyone.  Maybe they'll start smiling at everything and everyone, and all the time.  But at that moment, they're meeting your eyes and realizing you are their mother and they love you for it.  It's your gift, and yours alone, for all that hard work and sacrifice.  And, suddenly, it's all so very worth it.

So, young mom - whomever you may be and wherever you are - when you're up alone, just you and a crying infant, at 3:00 in the morning and the rest of the world is asleep, take heart that there are others who know that your job is just damn hard.  But, also take heart in the fact that your baby loves you for it and will show you just as soon as he or she can.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Bun Comes Out of the Oven

Not all great things have great beginnings.

A week ago Tuesday, one day after my daughter's due date, on what I would learn in medical parlance is considered 40 +1, she was scheduled for a post-due date ultrasound.  Just an appointment; one of many we anticipated she'd have over the next week or so until Harrison decided to grace us with his presence.  But instead, the ultrasound showed there was a lack of fluid surrounding him, and they told her to go to the hospital that very day for a non stress test.  She wouldn't see the outside of that building for five more days.  Five long traumatic days.  Yet, when she finally emerged into the unusually warm sunshine of an early November day, she carried her son with her, so she wasn't complaining.

Yet, those days were anything but a relaxed, happy celebration of a blessed event.  Life seldom sticks to the script, but every so often it'd be nice if it takes the easier road, not the harder one.

To keep it as short as possible - here's the Reader's Digest version:  after the non stress test, the hospital did its own ultrasound and the two young doctors shared a look that said more than the black and white shadows on the screen did to me.  While their tone and demeanor were nothing but upbeat and positive when telling us she was going to be admitted and induced, I saw that brief glance between them.  But, no worries, as long as he came out of there in the next few hours, who really cares if there was not enough amniotic fluid to sustain him in utero any longer.  Well, 26 hours later, he was stalled.  Again, in medical terms I had long since forgotten since my days as a young mom, things stalled out at 8 cm dilated, +1, with the baby in traverse position.  So next came the c-section.

That would have provided enough drama to tell him about in the years to come when discussing the day he was born, all with the happy ending of a beautiful baby boy with ten fingers and ten toes.  But he was far from done.  A large baby, weighing in at 9 lbs., 3 oz., the staff was monitoring his blood sugar (apparently, this is standard for babies who are "large" or very small).  Harrison's blood sugar was rocky at best.  They were testing after every feeding and at 4:00 AM on Thursday morning it hit an unacceptable low and he was whisked off to NICU (Neonatal ICU - called "Nick-U").   And there my daughter had to go every few hours to feed him, wrestling with leeds and IV lines that tangled up as she tried to hold her newborn son, and having to wait for the nurse to pull him from an incubator and then return him to it when they were done, so she could wheel back to her room without him, past all the tragic stories contained in clear plastic bins within those eerily quiet units.

I could only watch and observe as her mother.  The pain was all hers.  The worry as a new, first time mom, was all hers.  And the lack of sleep through all of it was nothing I could salve.  They all told me that being a grandmother was such a joy, but sometimes, they forgot to tell me, it's painfully frustrating because there's nothing one can do to take all that pain and worry away from your child as she learns what it's like to worry over her own child.

Then, let's just face it and put it out there, there was the in-law factor.  This is not the ideal set of circumstances to meet the family of the other new parent for the first time.  Trust me on this.  My daughter's significant other has been estranged from his family for a while, but babies have an amazingly magnetizing effect to draw folks back in and together.  All fine.  But, just like I learned long ago with weddings, these so-called happy events are too emotionally charged sometimes to make for smooth meetings.  The best way I can describe it is we circled around like two hyena packs wanting claim over a juicy water buffalo named Harrison.

Which is not to say there is anything wrong with the in-laws.  But there was a natural distrust because of the circumstances.  Bluntly, I struggled with their not having been around at any time in the past, including the pregnancy, only to suddenly swoop in with what I perceived as cloying interest.  On the other hand, from their side of the fence, the fact that I was there constantly, staying in Marissa's room through over night each night, likely struck them as overly involved to the exclusion of the father and his side of the family.  They don't know us to know how close we are.  They haven't had three trimesters to work out that this tiny baby isn't the second coming of their lost husband/father (the fifth anniversary of his passing was two days later), like I've had to work out that he's not a lost daughter replacement.   Looking back, I should have pressed for a meet and greet long before those heightened circumstances, but at this point, it is what it is.  We'll learn one another and how to co-exist because we're tied together now, whether we end up liking it or not.  But it was just one more stressor for everyone that you never think about when you dream of how it will be when you're envisioning your grandson's first days.

But those days are behind him and us.  He's home now - healthy.  His mom is still tired, but it's so amazing to see her with him.  She has a natural touch.  She'll be a fantastic mom, so my job is just to care for her so she can care for him.   I plan on working hard and diligently at it.

So, in closing, while it may not have been the start anyone wanted to the journey of raising this boy, we're on the road, looking forward to the drive, and we're anxious for the adventures along the way!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

History Lesson, Part Five (The Final Chapter)

Dear Harrison,

Well, you're proving to be a bit stubborn and refusing to come out to meet us all, so I'll actually get to finish the narrative I started all those weeks ago and take you down the final step and introduce you to the final family member.  It's a bit of a fiction at the moment because the photo isn't actually up.  I can't decide which one to use.  Do I want something serious or artsy?

Or do I want more traditional family oriented?

Or maybe something that shows a whimsical side?

Who was the real girl?  She was all of those.  Plus she was other, less photogenic things at times.  Whoever she was in life, she was supposed to be your aunt.  And she would have doted on you because you are a product of her sister, whom she loved more than anything in the world (with her cat Tum Tum, whom you will get to know, a close second).

I never intended for your sister to go through life as an only child.  She could have used a sister's support over these past months - it's scary to face being a mom for the first time (take it from me).  She could have used the help when I'm old and calling her by my dog's name and vice versa.  But, that's not our reality now.  The photos you see around the house and the urn on the mantle are what you'll know of your aunt.  And the stories we tell you.

So what will we tell you?  Your mother will need to take the lead on how it comes about that you have an aunt you'll never know.  But I've spent time thinking how I'll behave if you ask me questions.  Once, not long after Kelsey died, I blogged about how my parents had sheltered me from life's harsh realities.  I speculated it was because they had seen first hand so much sorrow and ugliness - being children of the depression and young adults during World War II.  I mean, there were things we were taught to be afraid of:  communists mainly.  And nuclear war.  My dad's job when I was small was literally traveling around our state teaching people how to prepare and survive a nuclear attack.  Seriously.  (I'd loved to have thought to ask him at some point before he died if he seriously believed what he taught - I'm assuming he didn't and realized if Russia bombed us we'd all be gone in a matter of minutes.)  But other than that, we were never really raised to expect that bad things could happen to us if we stayed in school and obeyed the laws.  Life would be like all those innocent sitcoms that were so popular.  In response to that,  a friend of mine commented back that her parents hadn't raised her that way.  Her mother was more frank about the harshness of the real world.  At the point we were having that exchange, both of us had experienced sorrow and hard loss.  So it was interesting to think about, and I've never completely stopped thinking about it.  What is the better way to raise a child?  To protect them from all the things that go bump in the night?  Or make damn well sure they know that life is hard so it doesn't come as an unexpected shock and they can handle it better? 

The societal trend seems to be to lay the scary out for our children now.  I've also blogged about the trend I've noticed in young adult novels.  Growing up, I read books about Lad the dog (why I love collies), where life is mostly sunny days on pastoral farms, and my friends read about Little Houses on Prairies where no one ever got scalped or robbed by cut throat bandits.  We knew about the Holocaust and horrors of the past, but they were stories.  It was over.  Now our daughters are reading about Katniss Everdeen having to hunt other teenagers just to survive.   We seem more intent on preparing our kids to deal with a harsher reality.  And maybe that's a good thing.  Because, while we'll lay down our lives to protect you, sometimes our best efforts will not be enough to shelter you from sorrow and ugliness.  Yet, I don't want you growing up afraid or worried about things you can't control. 

Again, it's your mom's final call on which way we all lean, but I think if you ask me about her, I'm just going to give it to you straight and tell you the truth.  Your mother had a sister who had a complicated, insidious disease that she could not shake.  And at the end of the day, living with it was just too much.  After nine long, hard years, she'd had enough of it.  But I have to think if she could have looked into the future and seen the moment of your birth, she just might have found a way to fight it out because I know full well she would have wanted to be there to meet you.  

I won't be able to tell you she's an angel looking out for you from above.  I simply don't know.  I hope so.  I hope she's at peace now.  But that's all it is: hope with a bit of faith.  But here's the thing about tragedy that I do know and think you should know, and it's how I'll leave this for now:  you can overcome tragedy.  We did.  I hope it's not a first hand lesson you ever have to learn, but if you do:  just remember the living lesson we bring you.  We put our lives back together and here we are.  Kelsey might not be with us physically when we welcome you into the world in a few days, but we carry her in our hearts, and we are so glad we overcame that loss to be here for you and your mother now.  

See you soon,


Saturday, October 22, 2016

History Lesson, Part Four (Mothers and Daughters and Sons)

Dear Harrison,

Okay, so we better move this along because you'll be here soon and there will be very little time for a while to sit and reflect on our past because you'll keep us busy trying to care for our future:  you.  But even though it seems like the time is barreling down on us, it's probably not going to get here quick enough for your mom - while your due date is large on the horizon, you're just looming large for her.   But speaking of which, we have two more photo groupings to explore to, and this week we're taking a look at someone who will be very near and dear to you:  your mom.  And her mom with her (yep, that's right, that would be me).

You'll see as you are almost down the stairs a grouping of photos from the same shoot taken on a summer's evening at Zilker Park in Austin by my dear friend and talented photographer, Mel Cole.  She gave us the session as a gift right before we headed out for your mother's freshman year in college and then gave me this collage when I got back from dropping your mom on campus in North Carolina.  The fact that we're dressed nearly alike is pure coincidence; we did not coordinate our wardrobe at all, but I always supposed that said something about us and how we think.  Not exactly alike. many ways...

On that evening, at that moment, things were pretty good with our lives.  By this point, we as a family had come through a lot and your mom, in particular, had really battled to overcome all the dysfunction we had thrown at her.  We had no idea that we had more trials to come.  But life is like that - you can't see too far ahead.  And I think that's a good thing because life is not always sunny days, but knowing the storms that lay in your path will keep you from enjoying the ones that are.

But what the most amazing thing is about these photos, in my opinion, is that here we were, your mom and I, being so happy in one another's company.  It's not a given that mothers and daughters, particularly at that point in a young woman's life, will be "friends".  We're not even really supposed to be.  As a parent you have to be careful:  you're not there to be their friend, you are the parent.  But you do want to have a good and solid relationship with your children as a parent.  Dad's probably want the same thing, but I got to think it's more intense for a woman because we have a connection with our kids that is unique - you grow inside of us after all.  But mothers and daughters can be tough.  I was reading books in high school to try and figure out how to navigate my relationship with my own mother and, despite my studious best efforts, I'm not sure we ever got it completely down.

Plus, I can tell you for sure, you can love your family, but not really like them.  (As a matter of fact, when my mom was really mad at me, she would say that a lot, "I still love you, but I really don't like you right now.")  But we did both love and like one another.  We still do.  I often am not sure what I did to deserve it, but I count it as the single biggest blessing in my life.  And that's saying something.

So maybe you can take it with a grain of salt that I say this, but your mother is an amazing woman.  You should be proud to have her in your life.  From Day One when she told us we'd be grandparents, she's done nothing but take good care of you and try to make everything ready for you to be comfortable, safe and happy.  She's had a lot of support from friends and family, I in no way want to belittle that, but she's been fierce and determined in wanting what's best for you.  You weren't here to see it and later you'll take it for granted.  Which is why I think it's important that I point it out so that someday, when you're older, and I'm either gone or just not able to tell you these things, someone can dig this up and let you read it.  Because, take it from me, there's a lot of sacrifice that goes into raising a child that starts right from that first moment when you realize he or she is in there with you if you're going to do it right.  Your mom's done it right.

What I sincerely hope is that you get to a summer's evening like the one in those photos - where you've graduated from high school and are on the eve of heading off to college.  If someone takes a photo of you two on that day, there will be ghosts of your past standing in the frame along with you two:  the remnants of fights that you had, tears you made your mother shed, and vice versa probably.  You will have had times when you thought you hated her and maybe actually did.  There will be times she might wonder if the feeling was mutual.  You'll scare her to death when you miss curfew or do something worse.  I hope I'm wrong about some of these things, but I doubt I will be - it's just part of the maturation process we all go through:  the unfailing ability to be a complete and total dumbass.
And because she's human, your mom will screw up raising you sometimes.  Not as many times as you probably blame her of doing it, but often enough.  We don't get a manual on how to do this thing called parenting after all.

Yet, as long as you can come together at some point, accept all of that has just part of the family gig, forgive one another, respect one another and realize that all things were done and will be done out of love for you, then you'll both be fine.  And, while I'm already very proud of your mom, I'll be very proud of you on that day as well.

I can hardly wait to meet you for real.  Won't be long now.

Much love,


Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Banner Day

My Dearest Harrison,

We have two last steps to go down, and they're the most important, but indulge me a detour this week so I can share with you an experience that I had this week that was the kind of thing I started this blog to hopefully push myself into having more of and, maybe - just maybe - find the meaning of a single life along the way.  Because you won't credit this for a long time, but our lives are fleeting.  It seems like not so long ago that I was just a little girl myself.  Now my little girl is about to be your mom.  Where did that time go and what did it all mean?  And is it worth it?  Somedays you won't think so.  On those days, you need to remember that there will be other days like the one I just had.  And those are the days that sustain you through everything else.

Let me set the stage a bit.  Lots of people know about this, I realize, but you don't know, so... You'll find out - it might be the very first cognizant memory of me you have - that I really like the Steelers and the Penguins.  I've been a Steelers fan for decades, but hockey - well hockey came along a little later, but when I finally fell, I fell for it hard.  On June 12, 2009 the Penguins won the Stanley Cup.  The Steelers were already Super Bowl Champs.  What an amazing feeling for any sports fan - both of your favorite teams winning the highest prize in their respective sport in the same year.  It was beyond imagining.  Then on June 20, 2009 something bad happened.  You'll learn about that too, how can you not?  I don't remember much of that summer and on in to the fall - bits and pieces here and there.  I have no memory whatsoever of the banner raising at the start of the next season.  None.  I'm sure I watched it because I'm sure it was on TV.  Maybe I didn't even.  Who knows?  Ever since that time, I felt I was robbed of that experience.  Not by any individual.  By Fate, I guess if you have to label it.  It's complicated psychology for a young boy, but it was just something to hang some of the weight of my sorrow on really.  But whatever the reason, I've clung to that disappointment for all these years.  I vowed I would NOT miss another Penguins banner raising in my lifetime.

And I wanted another Stanley Cup for the team too, although players and coaches changed over the years.  They deserved it for what succor I took from watching them in these intervening years.  I've blogged about all that before too, so I'll cut to the chase: long story short, exactly seven years to the day from the last Stanley Cup they finally won another one.  Thursday night they raised the banner, and I was there.

Sometimes the enormity of the desire to experience something daunts the actual experience itself.  It'll happen to you over and over again.  It's disappointing, and often not for the fault of the actual thing - it's our own build up that destroys it.  We'll probably try and preach patience and temperance.  You'll undoubtedly ignore us and well, things will happen and leave you underwhelmed at best, and maybe even devastated.   But here's the way to look at them:  if everything was awesome all the time, you couldn't possibly take it all in and truly appreciate those rare moments that just blow your doors off.  Those moments make everything else worthwhile.

Thursday night was such a moment for me.  I mean, it would have been great to have had your mom at my side, but she was at home about ready to bring you into the world, and that's okay.  But the experience matched the dream I had held in my head for seven long years other than maybe that.   I could try and describe it to you, and I could paint a fair picture - particularly after you start going to the games with me and have that frame of reference.  But, there aren't words really to capture the emotion of the moment and that was really the essence of it - not the nearly 19 thousand glow sticks, not the slick video presentation on the video board, being mirrored on huge white banners hanging from the rafters.  Not the gleam off the Stanley Cup as Sid laid it on the pedestal.  Not watching the banner unfurl for the first time and be hoisted into place where you will see it in the years to come.  No, it was the collective emotion of all of us.  It radiated in waves.  That joy; that moment of sheer joy.  For that brief time, none of us were thinking about credit card debts, or fights we had with our significant others maybe, or jobs we don't always like.  We were just all in that moment.  Sharing a piece of a championship.  We were winners.  The other thing you'll experience plenty of in your time is people saying, "You had to be there."  Yeah, sometimes that's just true.

For me just personally it was more than all of that.  It meant I had survived.  I had come from that low, low time to this moment in one piece.  And all the times I didn't feel like I even wanted to, but somehow soldiered on one more day and then the next day because I had to - well...all those times were rewarded by giving me this incredible, immense moment.   If I had given up on myself and life, how could I have ever found myself sitting there in that arena, watching the team I love so much give us all this great gift?

I don't know when another moment like that one might come again.  It might be years.  But I have a sneaking suspicion for me the next big moment is actually only another couple of weeks away when I hold you in my arms for the first time.  But, the bottom line is this:  you'll have days when life is all black and horrible.  You just will.  I can't, your mom can't, no one can shelter you from all of that.  We'll try.  We won't succeed.  Not entirely.  So, on those days, just remember that there will be other better days and those are the ones that sustain you.