Tag Archives: parent

Dumbass

 

Namcy sits quietly in her bed, coloring.  Her brother comes in and glances at the work. She tries to hide it. He overpowers her and holds it up.

“Pink, purple, purple, pink!” He jeers. 

Her mother, drawn into the room by the commotion, catches him by the ear. “Give that back to her, Aaron,” she says.

Nancy snatches the papers out of his weakened grip. “Dumbass,” she hisses.

“Nancy!” her mother says. “Nice girls don’t say nasty things. And they color inside the lines, to practice their hand-eye coordination.”

After they leave the room, Nancy puts her crayons away.

 

Nancy sits in the back row in her high school class.

“Who knows the answer?” The teacher calls.

Nobody answers. If no one else is going to try… Nancy raises a timid hand.

“Yes, Nancy?” the teacher says.

“Twenty-three?”

The teacher shakes her head. “No, that’s incorrect. How did you get that answer?”

“Um… in my head.”

“Come up to the board and show me.”

Nancy feels a flush spreading as she walks up to the board, in front of everyone, and slowly hashes out her incorrect question in front of her bemused classmates. The pressure makes her slow, awkward. She can hardly hold the chalk, much less think.

“No, see here,” the teacher says. “You’ve skipped this entire row.”

 A titter from behind her.

“Don’t worry about them,” the teacher says. “We’ll go as slow as you need to go.”

 

The family eats together at the dinner table, Aaron declares his acceptance into Penn State.

“Of course you were accepted,” her mother says.

“We’re proud of you,” her father says.

Nancy focuses on her potatoes. 

 

He walks into the drugstore where she works. Underneath his T-shirt he’s lean as a whippet, unlike herself. She appreciates the nape of his neck as he picks out a drink, making sure to avert her eyes before he makes his way back to her register. She’s good at watching people without being noticed.

He pays for the drink in cash. As she accepts the money, she risks another glance at his face, and is caught like a moth in his electric blue eyes. 

He isn’t looking at her the way others do.

He sees her.

 

Nancy’s hands are shaking. She sits crumpled next to him on the bed.

She should have been smarter about it. But she could never say no to him. No, that’s not right. She can’t blame him. It was her responsibility to prevent this kind of thing. She has simply failed again. What will her mother say?

“You don’t want to get it taken care of?” Robby says.

She cradles her hands around her belly. “If you think I should,” she whispers.

“Well,” he says, pausing to irritably suck his cigarette, “we’ll have to get married then.”

Even when she doesn’t ask, he always knows what she wants. She’ll be able to move out of her mother’s house. He is doing this for her. He is saving her. She feels a rush of gratitude.

 

Nancy is six months along. She is making dinner when she delivers the news to Robby.

“A girl, huh,” he says. “Shit. She’s not going to be much to look at.”

“No, Robby,” Nancy says softly. 

Robby glowers at her. “What did you say.”

Her voice remains low. She can’t even look at him but she must say this now. “You don’t get to talk about her that way. Not her.”

“You don’t get to fucking tell me what to do!”

He hits her for the first time. She turns to protect her belly from hitting the stove as she falls.

They never talk about it again. He quits drinking and doesn’t hit her for a year.

 

When their baby is born, Nancy watches, tense as a predator, whenever he draws near to the baby. Robby senses that anything directed at Elsa will be the end of them. Eventually he learns to avoid their daughter.

Nancy isn’t always safe. She can accept that as long as Elsa is safe.

 

Elsa is four years old, coloring quietly. Robby sees the pages on the floor, bends over to examine them. Nancy stiffens, but Robby is focusing on Elsa and misses her warning. She sees in his body language what is coming.

“C’mon Elsa. There’s no such thing as a green dog,” he says.

Before Elsa’s eyes even have a chance to widen, Nancy is there. She scoops her daughter up in her arms. Robby and Elsa are both startled by her interference.

“What?” Robby says. 

Nancy heads to the kitchen counter, grabs the car keys.

“Are you crazy?” Robby says.

She leaves the house through the front door. Elsa starts crying.

“What is your fucking problem!?” 

Nancy shuts the car door and calls out the window at him. “You dumbass.”

She drives away, leaving him standing in the doorway, unable to believe.

She fears the future, protecting Elsa alone against the world. But she’ll figure something out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Russian Dolls

 

She was using the circular saw, and she got distracted. It cut deep into her hand.

She watched it sinking into her skin and raised the saw free before she ever felt anything. Then the pain found her, searing the nerves from her hand to her elbow. She curled up reflexively around the wound and tried not to faint while drops of blood plip-plipped on the garage floor. After a full minute, she regained her equilibrium enough to move. The damaged half of her hand had already drained into an alarming shade of pale.

The hospital. They had to go to the hospital.

She went inside, wrapped her hand tightly in a dishcloth to keep the blood in, and called to her son.

“Alex!” Her voice trembled.

Normally he might have called back, but her uncharacteristic tone sent him running down the stairs. He saw her bloody, limp hand and almost gagged.

“Alex, I need you to drive me to the hospital.”

“God, mom. God. Let’s call an ambulance.”

“No… too expensive. I need you to drive me there.”

“Money doesn’t matter! Your hand matters! What if you pass out? What if I crash?”

She understood his lack of confidence. Alex only had his permit. But she wasn’t worried. “You’re a good driver, Alex. It’ll be fine. We’re going now.”

Her parental authority won out. He got the keys as she struggled into the passenger seat of the car. Her hand throbbed magnificently… at least, the parts she could still feel. The part of her hand above the pinky and ring fingers was so deeply severed, there were no connected nerves remaining. She couldn’t move them at all. Funny how she hadn’t even noticed the damage she was doing until it was this deep.

 

They waited for a long time before the doctor came in. He looked at her hand, cleaned it up, and declared that her fingers would have a fifty percent chance of functionality after surgery. The odds of them still working after healing on its own? Only ten percent.

“What will surgery cost?” She said.

“Tough to estimate,” the doctor said. “At minimum, several thousand dollars. But your insurance will help with that. The receptionist can get you started on paperwork and give you an actual estimate.”

“Right,” she said. She looked at Alex, who already knew what she was thinking. He shook his head at her fiercely.

“Thank you, doctor,” she said formally.

When the doctor left the room, she got off the table, fought back a wave of nausea, and headed for the door. Alex boldly intercepted, blocking her exit. Sometimes she forgot how tall he was getting.

“Mom! Don’t you dare.”

He sounded so much like her. She would have laughed if she’d had the strength.

“It costs too much,” she said firmly.

“It doesn’t matter,” he retorted.

“Just take me home,” she said. “He said it might heal on its own.”

“No way.”

“And if it doesn’t, I don’t need those fingers anyway. I’ve got others.”

“You’ll stay here and get treatment!” He said, fists clenched in frustration.

She looked at her hand. It was already prematurely aged from worry. Now it was a ghoulish rainbow of mottled purple, sickly blue, weak white, screaming red. No good colors there. She looked at Alex, his rich chestnut hair and intelligent brown eyes. 

She had grown up poor. The constant worry of her childhood, the deprivation her family endured, were bitter memories. He would have everything she never had. All the money she scraped together was going into his college fund. There was no way she was going to send him into adulthood saddled with debt and the weight of a poverty mentality. She was willing to sacrifice a couple of fingers for that. For him.

“We’re going,” she said. She gingerly made her way past him and through the door, leaving him no choice but to follow.

“God damn it mom,” he said. He was trying not to cry. “Why won’t you just let them help you?”

“Language,” she chided gently.

 

That night, after putting his mom to a fitful sleep with a freshly bandaged hand, Alex lay down in his own bed, but his eyes would not close. A throbbing headache expanded in his right temple, pressuring the backs of his eyeballs, forcing neon geometry across his vision of the dark ceiling.

He got up, went to the bathroom medicine cabinet, and pulled out a bottle of painkillers. It was light in his hand, nearly empty. He often got headaches like this. These pills had become a comfortable friend to him.

How much did a bottle like this cost, again?

He sighed, ran his thumb longingly over the cap, then put the bottle back. If Mom could take that, he could take this. Money was too tight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journal – past fears, future fears

 

Reading about Huntington’s
Brings back memories of caregiving
The stress, the pain, the joy, the pain, the guilt
The pain, the pain
My heart aches, it’s full of love for her
But I’ve got nowhere to put it.
She knew what she meant to us.
We told her we loved her.
Remember her calling “I love you” to our backs as we left
When she finally managed to get her tongue around the words
Was it three years ago that we lost her?
Is that all?
Is that a lot?
The wound has reopened
And it feels like she’s still in the nursing home
I’m once again feeling that terrible weight
“I have to visit her, it’s been a while.”
Seeing her crumpled up
Like an empty can.

Sitting in my car
The car she gave me
The car she loved so much
She would still ask after that car
Say things like, I’m glad you have it now.
I would sit in the cab
In the nursing home parking lot
Stare at my young hands
Resting on the wheel, just where hers did
Wonder whose hands they were
Building courage, every time
To go see her
For her sake, to go see her
Because of what she did for me
Because she gave me so much joy
Because we laughed together in that car
Getting pizza, renting movies
She drove me to college in that car for a year
We gave rides to a pathetic classmate of mine
Mom scolded me for not talking nice about her behind her back
Although we were both exhausted by her unending need.
I would sit in that car
Alone now
Behind the wheel now
Despair gnawing on my brain
Dread gnawing on my gut
Knowing I would have to face her again
Face her dying again
Face her confused tears again
Watch her cough and choke again
Her hands clenched into cold blue granite
Argue away her demands for ice cream, diet coke, diet coke, one more diet coke
They said only two cokes mom… okay I’ll sneak you one more
In my childhood I said yes ma’am
I obeyed without question
It was my joy to obey
She accepted me well; I never rebelled against her
Until she was dying
Then
I finally learned to tell her no
I’d spend an hour
Either fielding her demands
Or talking her down from a mental precipice
On good days, I just got to listen
As she rambled through her own fanciful mind
Picking gems here and there for me to examine
Her imagination truly unfettered.
Every day hurt.

I’m going to have to go through it all
All of it
Again.
The spiral is coming back around
And points this way.
It’s still far off
Barely visible on the horizon.

Well
I’ve done things I’m afraid of before.
I’ve gone to the dentist
I went and went until I wasn’t afraid
I’ve taken the worst they can throw at me
And trounced that fear.
I’ve ridden roller coasters
I’ve jumped from great heights
I’ve walked alone down dark hallways with the lights off.
I visited mom.
I can face fears.
I can face reality.
I can face grisly horrors
I can face and embrace the darkness.
Shit happens.
We all gotta die.
We all gotta lose someone.
It’s okay to be scared
But being scared is a waste of precious time.
I am strong
I am brave
I can take a lot of fucking punishment.
I can take a lot of grief.
I can take a lot of burden.
I’ve been there.
I will be there again.
I’ve been well taught
How to bear things with stoicism and grace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Journal – the best compliments

I realized I’ve been hiding my real writings recently.  Oops, bad Sarah. No secrets. Be open.

It sure was comfortable while it lasted, haha.

 

Something nice to muse upon… what is the best compliment you ever received?

 


I was watching old home movies
I saw mom laughing again
The elegance in her hands
Her purity

Kid me came up to her with the camera
I said, “What are your thoughts on life?”
“I’m for it,” she quipped.
“What are your thoughts on death?”
“Also for it.”
Her philosophy would be tested and proved
later in life,
later in death.
She may not have known this word for it,
But she was very Tao.

I always saw mom in me
Her philosophical side,
Her creativity
Her crazies
Her acceptance.

The best compliment I ever received
Was from friends who never really knew mom
They told me I was just like Dad.
Something I had never considered before.
But once I did I knew it was true.

I got his outrageous side,
His caring
His extroversion
His stoicism
His sense of humor.

Both were nonconformist
Both were strong
Both were smart
Both were brave
Both were loving.

I am lucky, so lucky
To have had such parents
I am lucky to have a family
Bound tightly together in common tragedy
I know true tribalism
It’s wonderful
To know who you are
To have a place
To have a role.

Everyone has ever been so good to me
As good as they knew how
They have taught me how to be good to others
Some lessons better than others
I am grateful for everyone
I try to deserve what I have
But not too hard.
Trying too hard to deserve something
Makes you deserve it less,
grow unbalanced.
I must love me
If I am to love others.
Odd that being in the presence of my heroes
Should make me feel so small
We spend our time
Building each other up
And I always leave
Feeling smaller
Undeserving
These people are my people
My family
I love them unconditionally
And they me
I just have to love myself
Unconditionally.

The cat gave me a compliment today.
She waited outside the shower for half an hour
I take long showers
And when I came out
She purred, happy to see me
Rubbed against my wet leg
Knowing she would get wet
Deciding it was worth it.

My sister tells me to come visit.
I say, I have a nasty cold.
She says, then I’ll make you soup.
The joy of my visit outweighs
The physical discomfort I bring.

Love should not be measured in sacrifice.
The pleasure should outweigh the pain
By a grand margin.
However, it can be a small proof
Here and there
Little heartwarming gestures.
Someone gives you roses
You know they gave up some time and money for them.
Someone gives you food
They made just for you.
Someone reads your blog
Every day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Defenders

 

Ba-thump.
His infant daughter gripped his fingertip with her whole hand. Linda was small, fragile, beautiful, everything in the world. All he wanted was to protect her.
Ba-thump.
Looking directly into Mary’s eyes for the first time. He’d never had the courage to talk to her until now. Her eyes were pthalo blue.
Ba-thump.
Speeding around the curves on his motorcycle, feeling the freedom, roaring wind in his ears drowning out all grief.
Ba-thump.
Standing before the congregation to deliver his final sermon. Odd that he would be nervous now, considering he’d stood here many times before with ease, even boredom.
Ba-thump.
Coming under the blankets just as his mom opened the door. Had she seen? She grabbed his laundry and left nonchalantly. No way to tell. She was a master of polite pretense.
Ba-thump.
Kissing Mary’s lips at their wedding.
Ba-thump.
Kissing Mary’s brow at her funeral.
Ba-thump.
The car rolling over him.
Ba-thump.
Cold.
Ba-thump.
He hadn’t bungee jumped yet. Linda had begged him until he promised she could go, but only if he came along to supervise. She was more brave than he’d ever been.
Ba-thump.
In utero, everywhere pulsing. The voices of his parents carried through to him, muddled by protective walls of warm flesh. “Let’s sing for him,” his father said. His mother laughed. Soon the comforting vibrations of familiar song thrummed into his core. He hadn’t understood what he’d heard at the time, but he recognized the hymn now.
His heart skipped a beat.
Instead of catching, his heart missed the next beat as well.
This pavement was cruel. He was frightened. It hurt. Something was very, very wrong with his body. It felt unbearably still, without a heartbeat.
Linda. He needed to stay here for Linda. He willed his heart into action one more time.
Ba…thum.
Vision flickering. As his consciousness mingled red with the motor oil and spread down the road, somebody took his hand. Maybe it was impossible, but it felt like his father’s grip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

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