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21 May


fortyIt’s my birthday. I’m forty years old today. Forty years old. Isn’t this the birthday where I get canes and bifocals as gag gifts and t-shirts that say things like I’m not old, I’m vintage and at least one coffee mug with the words lordy, lordy look who’s forty printed along the side?

I’m not old enough to be forty. Really, I’m not. It’s not that I fear aging or think that anyone over forty is hideously uncool – it’s that I just cannot believe that I am grown-up enough to have the numbers 4 and 0 apply to me in any context other than grade point averages. I’m not a grown-up; I’m a girl in a state of arrested adolescence. Sure, I have kids, but if anything that has only driven the point home more clearly: ain’t nobody here but us childrens.

28 Apr

This Narrow Valley

There’s a home for the elderly that Emilia and Jasper and I pass every day on our walks to and from preschool and junior kindergarten and ballet lessons and karate. Emilia calls the ladies who live there her ladies – “we need to wave to my ladies, Mommy!” –  and she waves and blows kisses to them when we see them sitting in their enclosed verandah, and, when they come out outside for their daily constitutionals, she stops for chats and hugs. They give her extra candy at Halloween. She thinks that they’re awesome. “Just like Grandma, only not so far away and also they give me candy instead of cake.” Which is an important difference, you know.

The other day, after passing her ladies and dispensing the requisite waves and kisses, Emilia asked this: “why are some grandmas in wheelchairs?”

“Because they’re older, sweetie, and their bodies aren’t working so well anymore, and they can’t walk as much as they used to, so they need help. Wheelchairs help them get around.”

“Are they going to die? Because their bodies aren’t working?”

“Not just yet, I don’t think. But yes, when people get much older, they’re closer to dying.”

“And when their bodies aren’t working they’re closer to dying too?”

This is what you get when death is a semi-regular topic in your household. “Yes, sweetie, when their bodies aren’t working.”

“Is Tanner going to die?”

Ah. Ugh.

24 Mar

Clockwatching, Redux

tannerToday, Tanner goes to the doctor. This is, in itself, nothing new – Tanner sees a lot of doctors – but today, he’s seeing the doctor so that they can start fumbling toward answers to difficult questions concerning when and how and how long. How long until his food needs to blended? Until he needs to be intubated? Until he can no longer sit up on his own? Until his lungs are compromised? Until he cannot breath on his own? Until my sister can no longer look after him on her own? Until, until…

The clock ticks so much louder now. Tanner’s condition is aggressive, relentless: his muscles are breaking down quickly, and as his muscles break down, so does hope.

11 Mar

If Prayers Were Horses, Grievers Would Ride

Emilia wants to know what happens when we die. She asks a few times a week, on average, sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on whether or not we’ve spoken about my dad or about Tanner or about dinosaurs. Today, she asked because they’d been talking about the Easter story at school. She wanted to know why Jesus got to fly up into the sky, and Grandpa didn’t.

You burned him, didn’t you? she asks. How could he fly after that?

Explaining death is one thing. Explaining the cremation, the afterlife and Divine resurrection are something else entirely.

1 Mar

The Music From A Farther Room

I don’t quite know what to say about Joannie Rochette. I’ve been stunned by her bravery, humbled by her strength, amazed by her determination in the face such terrible sadness. When my father died, it was days before I could even walk in a straight line, weeks before I could hold myself reliably upright. After losing her mother, Joannie Rochette strapped on her skates and competed for an Olympic medal. Incredible. Courageous.

2 Feb

About Last Night

Jasper goes to playschool a couple of days a week. He loves it – loves it – and he knows exactly what days he’s scheduled to go. He toddles down the stairs on those mornings and heads straight for his coat and boots, which he tries to tug on over his pajamas.

SKOO! (School!) he yells. RUSSELL! ELLA! (friends) GO! GO! GO!

Yesterday was a school day. He’d been up throughout the previous night with a cough, and he’d felt a little warm at times the day before, but there are always bugs going around this time of year, and he seemed okay in the morning, and in any case, there he was, clutching his coat and boots and yelling skoo!

I hesitated, for a minute, maybe two. He didn’t feel warm, but he did have a cough, and he had been so, so sick before Christmas… but no, he wanted to go. And I wanted him to go. I had work to do. So I took him to school.

Some hours later, my phone rang, and the voice on the other end was a little panicked. Could I come right away? Jasper wasn’t well, he was hot, really hot, sweating through his clothes, his temperature 105 and climbing, and obviously in pain, and coughing, badly. I dropped what I was doing and ran straight there, not bothering to put on socks or scarf or hat or gloves, not stopping to lock the door, not stopping for anything. I just ran. And as I ran – the very short distance from where I was to where he was – I berated myself a hundred times with every step. I should have kept him home. I shouldn’t have taken him to school. I shouldn’t have let what was convenient and easy trump what was right.