My father died one year ago today, in a haze of morphine and Frank Sinatra music.
Does this passage of time, then, put the acceptance stamp on it? Does it make it more real, that my father is, truly, gone?
No. Because grief is not measured in an orderly number of days. There are times when it seems he's been away for a long, long time. Then there are those moments when the thought of not seeing him again is astonishingly shocking.
The sadness I feel is not just for me. It is for my mom, who will not grow older with the man she spent over 49 years. It is for my children, too. What joy he would've taken in watching a parents' sweetest revenge: my having to raise a child who is, in essence, a stubborn, opinionated mini-me.
And the anger. Yes, I am angry with him, for not taking care of himself so he could be around for my mother, for my brother, sister and me, and for his four grandchildren.
That has not dissipated. Don't know if it ever will.
But today, I just want to remember the larger-than-life red-head with the raucous laugh. The guy who would come home from work and throw sky-high pop-ups with a tennis ball for me to catch.
The one who smelled of Kent cigarettes and Old Spice.
That is our perogative, the ones left behind. We choose what we want to remember, how we want to remember.
I had some time to kill before I went to physical therapy today, so I was lured by the siren song decided to go to Target.
I picked up all those must-have, can't-live-without items like Kashi Honey Sesame crackers and a six-pack of glue sticks and got into the checkout line. There was one woman in front of me and an ancient checker behind the register.
I've seen him before and he's a cute old Asian guy so I don't mind that he's not as speedy as some of the others. Turns out, he was the least of my problems.
The woman, after putting all her stuff in her cart, decides to write a check.
That's right. A CHECK.
Who the heck writes a check anymore? According to WalletPop, the personal check is one of the top 25 things that are fading out in our country, right along with outdoor plumbing and dial-up.
It's pretty obvious why. First she had to scramble around in her ginormous purse to find a pen. Why she wasn't filling out the check while the guy was ringing up her stuff I do not know. Anyway, the pen doesn't really work, but she's gamely making a go at it.
Meanwhile, I'm tapping my fingers, rolling my eyes and snapping my gum like a high schooler waiting for a homeroom pass. Okay, maybe not quite THAT obvious, but that's what my thought bubble was doing
Then she has to fish out her license. Luckily, the cash register now reads the license, unlike back in the day when I worked retail and had to meticulously print out the drivers license number and expiration on the check, AND ask for a phone number if it wasn't already printed on it.
Finally, after I read in TV Guide how Viki is dead AND in Star how Cher is married and signed a $600 million prenup AND sampled some cherry and mango Tic Tacs AND texted the Gettysburg Address to seven friends, it was my turn.
In went the credit card. Out it came. Done.
See, lady? I wanted to say. But I couldn't. She was out in the parking lot, using her door key to unlock her car before manually unrolling the windows.
For the past few weeks, we've had this very cool spider living on the outside frame of our garage door. He built a nice funnel-like web, where he chilled during the day and came out a little at sunset.
We've never seen a spider like him before. He's brown, almost tan. We saw an orange hourglass on the bottom of his abdomen, but since he wasn't black, we knew he isn't a black widow. And he has this really cool tiling on his top.
Every time we pull into the driveway, there he is. The kids like to check on him, especially because Sawyer is way into spiders.
Then last weekend, he was gone. Just like that. I was actually kinda sad. Our own little nature study was gone. And then, two days later, he was back, like a sailor returning from a wild time on shore leave.
So today, I decided to once again search the internet to see if I could identify him.
What we have here, folks, is a brown widow spider. The picture above is not our actual spider; it's one I found on the Web. They are reportedly MORE venomous than their cousins, the black widow, but are not aggressive. Their bites are more localized so you don't drop dead. But they do hurt.
So, when the kids and I went to the aquarium this morning, David went out in full battle gear. Actually, he just had a can of Raid.
Poor spider. Or should I say, poor dead spider.
I felt bad, but having a venomous spider in easy reach of my family was, you know, not so cool. And I'd never give a second thought to smushing it with the closest availabe shoe if it was in my house.
But there he was, minding his own business, just being his bad brown widow self. He was simply in the wrong place, wrong time.
Wait. Didn't he just learn to pedal his tricycle five minutes ago?
Another rite of passage for my little guy, another addition to the line that separates Baby from Kid.
Sunday, while Sage napped, David took Sawyer to the park with our neighbor and his twin sons (known as The Boys). David and The Boys' dad apparently got a wild hair to take the training wheels off the bikes.
I did not think this was going to go well. Sawyer, bless his heart, isn't the most coordinated child. In a lot of ways, he's physically timid. He was the last of his friends to climb or go down a slide by himself (although he rules in the pool). He told me he didn't go after the ball in soccer because he was afraid of getting kicked.
So riding a bike without training wheels? The same bike we got him for Christmas that he didn't even ride until about two months ago?
I'm sitting at home, and David calls. He puts Sawyer on the phone, and I hear "MOMMY!I'MRIDINGMYBIKEWITHOUTTRAININGWHEELSALLAROUNDTHEPARK17TIMES!" Rainbows and unicorns and cupcakes burst from his voice.
I have never heard him so excited - and so proud of himself. David said it took him 15 minutes, with the requisite tears and vows never to get on the bike again, before Sawyer just got it.
Who doesn't remember that exact glorious moment when you pedal pedal pedal and you're going and you don't notice that your Dad is no longer running along side you holding your seat.
You are, suddenly, flying. You are all motion and laughter and deliciously, gloriously free.
Then you freak out, and in my case, forget how to use the brakes. I got my tire caught in the sewer grate and did a beautiful front flip over the handlebars and onto the ground.
The best part is, I got back on. And so did Sawyer, even after crashing into the back of a car yesterday in our culdesac.
Riding a bike is a lifelong skill. If you can ride a bike, then you always can. It also gives me a glimpse into the future, of him taking off as he bikes to school or a friend's house.
With me just watching him pedal pedal pedal away from me.
Dara Torres is going to her fifth Olympics. Her fifth. No U.S. swimmer has ever done that. Think about it. Since she didn't compete in the last Olympics, it's a span of 24 years - she won the first of her nine medals in 1984.
Now she's 41. Her adorable, curly-haired two year-old daughter, Tessa, watched from the stands the other night, a lollypop twirling in her mouth, as her Mommy won the 100m freestyle.
Making the Olympic team completely blows out of the water the notion that women of a certain age must put aside their dreams because of a number. With killer abs and a long, lean body, Torres seems timeless.
The rumblings of steroid use that swirl around her are laughable. She's already been through that noise in her last Olympics, the 2000 Games in Sydney, when she won two golds and three bronzes - at the ripe old age of 33.
She was more than irritated. She decided to volunteer for extra drug testing, performed with the latest technology.
What pisses me off about the accusations is I think about all the hours she spends training: swimming lap after endless lap, lifting weights in the gym - all that time working out is time lost with her daughter, time she can never get back. Why would she do all that just to cheat?
Torres is already uncomfortable imagining life without Tessa for a month while she's in Beijing. Does this sound like someone who's on drugs?
She already has the glory. To take steroids to get back for one more go-around is ridiculous. She has nothing left to prove.
Torres' story reminds me of another Olympic hopeful. Aeron Arlin Genet runs Running Divas, which sells really cute running-related clothing. She sells her stuff at some of the big marathon events. I saw her at the expo for the San Diego Marathon. You might remember a certain purchase we made there:
Anyway, I asked her about her training. She was in the process of trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials in the 1,500 meters (the mile). We're talking somewhere below 4:30. Yes, that's under 4 minutes, 30 seconds for a mile. Try that at home, people!
She was shy by just a few seconds. She had a slight injury, but hoped she had enough to make it.
Did I mention that she's 40? She told me that she never imagined it'd be possible for her to still be competing at her age - against women half her age. I was in awe.
I checked her new blog recently, and unfortunately, she fell short of the mark and didn't qualify. But I loved how she said that she doesn't feel done. Not at all.
We don't lose our love of the rush. The desire is still there to push ourselves further than we thought possible. Even if we are not Olympic-caliber, we are out there, seeing how far or how fast or how long we can go. And we are stunned when it is farther, faster and longer than we ever thought possible.
Our bodies may be more beat up than they would've been 20 years ago. Maybe, like Torres said, we need bigger numbers on the scoreboard or timer to see them. Our eyes may be weaker, but not our hearts.
We are not our mothers' 40. We are our own. This is our time. And I pray that when Sage is my age, she sees not limitations, but expectations.
Today, Dara Torres set an American record in the 50m freestyle. I know I will be rooting hard for her next month - cheering for her, and for all of us "middle-aged" moms.
So you're driving, and some moron is swerving around in front of you. Slow down. Speed up. Slow down. Then s/he veers into your lane, completely cutting you off. Profanities (yours) fly in the air around you. And since it's before noon you figure s/he is sober, so there's just one other possibility.
That's right. The cellphone. Driving while chatting is especially challenging for those who are holding the phone with one hand and gesturing wildly with the other. Yet, those are always the people who are right in front of me.
Yes, yes, I also have been guilty of talking while driving. Sometimes it's the only chance I have to talk to anybody over the age of 4 1/2. Or maybe I'm just calling to check the timing of a playdate or whatever.
There was this one particular time when I was trying to call the editor of a freelance piece I was doing. I was using a Trio, which I'd just gotten, and I had no clue how it worked. I might have sailed through a red light - when the car in the other direction had a green left turn arrow. Luckily, he stopped, and I swerved and somehow missed slamming into a minivan. Scared the bejeebus out of me.
Anyway, this is no longer a problem. Why? Well, yeah, I got rid of the Trio. But California, as of July 1st, has made it illegal to talk on a handheld cell phone while driving.
And they aren't joking. Police are handing out tickets faster than you can say, "But, but, officer!"
No excuses. So when Cindy called me just before 6:30 on Friday morning, as I was on my way to meet her and Torrey for my run, I hit speaker phone and shouted "What, are you trying to get me arrested?"
Thing is, I don't get the whole bluetooth thing. Despite David's best efforts, I can't figure out how to work it. What do I push? How do I do it? I'm more distracted trying to flail at my ear than I ever was holding the stupid phone!
But apparently, this hands-free ordinance is a good one. According to scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, listening to a conversation while driving reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent (okay, but wait. Are they also including listening to small children while driving? Because I have to say, acknowledging every make of car on the road that Sawyer can point out - "Look, Mommy, a BMW! Did you see it? Did you? Oh! There's a Lexus. Mommy! Did you see it?" - while Sage is singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star at the top of her apparently opera-singer sized lungs from the back seat isn't exactly conducive of concentration. Just sayin'.).
You watch drivers now, and they're all sporting some sort of device hanging out of their ear, like some sort of weird tribal marking. Or maybe a gang tag.
Now I have to figure out what to do with my suddenly liberated hand. Cause, you know, keeping two hands on the steering wheel is so Driver's Ed!
I guess the next time some cellphone-holding, law-flouting crazy cuts me off, it'll be no effort at all to reward him with a hearty, unencumbered one-fingered salute.
Yes, people, I'm done with summer. It's not the heat (it's the humidity! badum-bum) that's getting to me. Or even the strange July Gloom that's starting to ruin trips to the beach.
I'm just, well, bored. I've got both kids full-time, which I haven't had in a year. Last summer, Sawyer spent six weeks going twice a week to preschool. This summer, he's not.
The mornings are semi-full of swimming lessons for Sage, trips to the pool, the beach club here in town (it's a pool, but it's walk-in and it's ringed in sand. The problem is they don't clean it nearly enough - twice a day would be perfect, not twice a week - and the ducks like to use it as their own personal litter box), and, fog permitting, the beach.
Meanwhile, I'm trying to fit in all my working out/training into the early morning hours, so after spending the rest of the morning out in the sun, all I want to do is take a nap. Unfortunately, Sawyer wants me to read him 713 books.
I'm a zombie by dinner. I actually fell asleep in Sawyer's bed last night after tucking him in.
I wish I was one of those moms like Melissa, who always seems to be doing fun/crafty things with her kids. I can never think of any projects that don't involve me someone getting frustrated and crying.
One thing I'm considering having them pick tufts of hair out of our shedding dogs and teaching them how to weave them into hats for the winter. Do you see what I'm talking about? Desperation!
I need a summer makeover. My poor kids, stuck with Boring Mommy. I mean, they always are, but I'm more exposed when I have to come up with something every day. EVERY DAY these kids want to, like, do stuff! The nerve.
I would love to hear what fun stuff you all are doing. Get me out of my rut, before I suck my kids into my vortex of ennui!
And for the best idea, I will send you your own dog fur hat!
ETA: Okay, upon further ponderance, I appear to be a self-indulgent, unappreciative simp who should be thanking my lucky stars that I'm able to stay home and have all this time with my kids. So in a small caveat, I must say that I AM extremely thankful.
My son is a talker. He will talk to anyone. About anything. It does not matter if you aren't talking to him. Ask Sage a question and Sawyer will fill you in.
He's always been verbally advanced, speaking in complex sentences before the age of 2. It's his talent.
But lately I've noticed something sneaking into his speech. I'm not clear how this happened. I don't do it. And we don't live THAT close to the Valley.
Here is an example of what he says:
"Mommy? Remember, when, I was, like, 3 1/2, and like, I, like, went, like, on an airplane?"
Ugh. He's already talking teenager at 4 1/2. I told you he was advanced!
What to do? At the moment I am sticking my fingers in my ears and shouting "LALALALA" so I can't hear it. Just kidding. But that's what I feel like doing. Actually, I'm just hoping if I ignore it it'll go away. Hasn't worked yet with the cellulite on my legs, but you never know.
I guess I should be thankful he's not yet inserting "dude" into every sentence, or various permutations of the word "fuck."