The Last, Last Time

On September the 10th, 2005 at 11:15 in the morning, Dave and I were married in front of 150 of our closest friends and family. We drank sangria and danced with our loved ones until the wee hours of the morning, celebrating our union.

Today, December the 31st at 11:17 in the morning, Dave and I were divorced in a courtroom filled with absolutely no one we’d ever met. There are no cakes or balloons, no flowers and excited friends, no dancing, and certainly no sangria. No divorce party awaits me when I’m off work. Hell, I don’t even get a cookie for the years I put into the marriage.

Today, I woke up married and will go to bed divorced.

I don’t know if there will be tears or if I’ve cried them all out. For me, grieving the loss of the dream of a happy marriage began three and a half years ago (four?):

Me (rolling over, going to sleep): “I love you.”

Dave: (nothing)

Figuring he was asleep – the man could sleep through a tornado being serenaded through our house in by the world’s largest marching band – I wanted to make sure he heard me. “I love you” This time, a bit louder.

Dave: (nothing)

Jokingly, I said, “what, you don’t love me anymore?”

No,” he stated as flatly as if I’d asked him if I could pave the driveway with cheese. “I don’t.”

With that, he rolled over and fell asleep.

I laid awake, eyes wide in the dark, until the sun began to peek through the shades.

There it was, the awful truth, all wrapped up in absolutely no pomp and circumstance: my husband didn’t love me. As someone who’d already deemed herself probably unlovable, this crushed me. It was my fault, I guess, in that sense. He didn’t love me anymore. We (obviously) separated shortly thereafter. Turns out, there’s not a whole lot of places to go when the ugly truth is spoken.

I was, understandably, devastated. While I plastered a smile onto my face and went about my business as usual, there it was in the back of my head: “I should get the dishes unloaded and reload the dishwasher and oh yeah, Dave doesn’t love me anymore. Wonder when we’ll get divorced,” and “maybe if I pluck my eyebrows, I’ll look less like a sea hag and oh yeah, my husband doesn’t love me anymore. It’s probably time for a divorce.

I couldn’t escape those words and what they meant no matter where I went.

I’d try to talk about divorce to my married friends sometimes, which proved a lesson in futility. They’d either minimize it, “Well, you can be married without loving each other,” or avoid me like the divorce plague was catching. Not sure I blame them on that one. What do you say to someone who’s husband doesn’t love her? I don’t know. Like, “I just got divorced 12 minutes ago,” I don’t know that there’s much that can be said.

I don’t know what we intended to have happen during our separation. Maybe he’d somehow learn to love me again? Maybe we’d wake up one day and this would all be a dream? Maybe a separation doesn’t mean divorce? Maybe I’d be able to live with knowing that, at one point, my husband didn’t love me? Maybe things weren’t as bad as they seem?

They were.

And separation didn’t, obviously, help.

The D Word was thrown around. Dave had already made a “special friend” by the time I moved from the home I’d once jokingly stated I’d have to be pried out of with a crowbar on October 1, 2012. I now reside in my beloved tiny apartment a mere 6 minutes from the home I once tenderly loved my flowers, my children, my husband in. The family, the dream I’d desperately wanted, within walking distance – light years away.

I may no longer mourn what might-have-been’s but I can’t help but wish that I’d paid more attention to those last times. It’s funny, when you’re married, you begin to make presumptions about the future; there’s always time to make more happy memories, the last time is the last time for now, tomorrow is another day.

Like the last time you see your baby crawl before she starts walking like a big girl, you don’t know it’s going to be the very last time you see a child of yours crawls. You don’t know that the last time you make love to your partner of ten years is going to be the last time. You don’t know that the last time you sit, eating dinner and shooting the shit around the big table you spent weeks of your life polishing will be the last time. It simply doesn’t register as something that should carry any more weight than it did. You don’t think to memorize the details, the way the food tasted, the way his body felt, the giggles of laughter during conversations around the table. There’d be other nights, other dinners, other conversations.

Until there aren’t.

What I wish, more than all, is that I could go back in time and re-experience those memories. I’d watch my husband dance with our daughter before her surgery because, “he was her legs because she couldn’t use hers yet,” knowing that memory would be one I’d cherish for the rest of my days. I’ll never again laughingly serenade Dave with my best (terrible) Rod Stewart impression while he does the dishes. That’s over. Those were the last times. Ever.

Oh, how I wish I’d have taken the time to recognize those moments as fleeting, soon to be only a memory stored under “Happyness,” in my brain. There are always new good times to be had, for sure, but never again will I be able to be proud to call someone “my husband,” so excited, so proud to use that term for someone who had simply been “my fiance,” mere months before.

But today, for the first time in ten years, I can say that I am totally and completely a single woman. There will be no cakes or parties tonight, only a quiet recognition of the way things are.

Now.

My Mother, The Criminal

As the great God Britney once said, “Mama, I’m in love with a criminal,” which I think she meant as “Mama, why are you a criminal?” At least, that’s my interpretation of the song, because really, who wants to sing about their criminal mother? (answer: shockingly few, unless you call the poet Eminem to the stage).

Note to Eminem: I’m the real Slim Shady and I’m standing the fuck up.

Now, my mother isn’t the type of criminal mastermind that could pull off a bank heist or steal back a priceless piece of lost Nazi art – the woman is still baffled by caller ID and call waiting. She has an email address, I think, but I’m not sure she knows what it is or how to access all the important forwards my father sends her, which, now that I think on it, is probably a blessing of sorts.

No, she’s a far more nefarious sort.

I say that because she’s got terrible arthritis and looks like, well, a grandmother, and who thinks Grandma is about to commit illegal activities? Honestly, it’s the most perfect cover I’ve seen.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was dining from the infectious disease menu, my mother helped me run some errands because, well, I could hardly walk and I felt pretty pathetic at the very thought of using one of those motorized carts to get me through the store without having people lob things in my direction because I’m not technically disabled. I’m telling you Pranksters, after busting my foot while pregnant, I have a whole new sympathy for people with disabilities. People treat you so bizarrely when you have your foot in Das Boot – like that must mean that you probably can’t hear properly. I don’t know HOW many clerks screamed very slowly at me while I purchased my People Magazines and edamame.

Alas, I digress.

A few days ago, my mother braved seeing her daughter, Typhoid Becky, and swung over for a visit to bring me some Jello, which, it turns out, there IS always room for. We were chatting about this and that, nothing nefarious (unless you count my hideous Christmas tree, which you probably should as a crime against humanity) until she laid it out for me.

“They really need to put better lighting on your apartment complex,” she dropped on me.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “I don’t know how many times people have driven to the other entrance to the other side of my complex.”

“I did that the other day!” She exclaimed.

I just nodded and giggled, figuring it was akin to her using the GPS on her car – baffling, yet somehow she managed to make it meow when it hits certain streets. See? NEFARIOUS.

Then the bomb dropped.

“I found the apartment I thought was yours and walked into it,” she told me, laughing a bit.

My jaw dropped.

“You did WHAT?” I asked her, aghast that she’d walked into my neighbors home.

“Yeah, it was all decorated weirdly like yours and everything! It was only when I noticed the shoes were too small for you that I realized I had the wrong place.”

“MOM!” I scolded. “What did this person DO?”

“No one was home,” she claimed, almost… proudly.

My jaw hung open, collecting flies.

“You’re damn lucky no one called the police,” I finally replied.

“I’m an old lady,” she said. “I’d beat them with my cane.”

“You don’t have a cane, Ma,” I pointed out.

“Yeah,” she replied. “But I could improvise.”

When my head smacked the desk, no one was surprised.

Possession Is Nine Tenths Of The Law?

This one time (…in band camp) I swore my bed was possessed. I had nightmares every night I slept in it, although, to be fair, none of them involved me spewing oatmeal or cottage cheese out of my mouth while levitating or turning my head around at a 360 degree turn, and my mom, having trouble sleeping one night, slept in it while I was off sleeping somewhere else (I can only surmise I was thoroughly up to no good). That night, she too, had a nightmare.

Clearly, the bed was possessed.

My mother and I decided that the best course of action was, naturally, to perform an exorcism. I mean, what else can you do when you have a (possibly) possessed bed? We burned some sage or incense or something and put up a crucifix that my brother had (allegedly) stolen from somewhere or another chanting, “The power of Christ compels you.”

It worked. The nightmares stopped.

I hadn’t thought about possession or The Exorcist until it dawned on me that they’d made an Exorcist Part II and then I was just plain annoyed – I mean, where can you go from there? (Answer: Egypt)

Last Wednesday, I was taking a gander at the snaps I’d taken of Alex’s first day of school on my mostly-broken iPhone and realized I should probably actually export the things to my computer. There were some pretty cute snaps in there and well, how else can I put together a long montage video to play at his high school prom? I mean, I do have a therapy fund set up for the kid – I may as well do as many horrifying things as I can while I can.

I sat all happy-crappy at my computer after plugging the glorified email machine into the back, waiting to see my gloriously bad photos get imported into iPhoto. This, of course, somehow made my computer extremely unhappy, so I had to sit there for upwards of 45 seconds while it flashed the circle button, which usually means I’ve got too many tabs open at once or have been looking at Internet porn so often that I’d managed to snag me a virus.

(better than an STD, I guess, but I’m unclear as to whether or not computers can catch those things)

Instead of my craptastic pictures taken through a broken lens, I got, well, these, which I promptly framed. Possessed iPhones don’t happen every day, y’know.

possessed iPhone

Amelia decided that the small kindergarten seats were bullshit and immediately found the teacher’s seat. At the time, she was NOT, in fact, possessed, although the doll behind her makes that statement questionable.

*shudders*

possessed iPhone

And my rose, which I’d been lovingly trimming blackspot from, well, it appears to have been overtaken by The Devil. Partially.

iphone is possessed

Howdy there, Half of Alex! Happy first day of school! Don’t kill anyone, okay?

possessed iphone

Who knew the kid was divided so neatly down the line?

This is only marginally better than the time Dave’s old camera decided that all pictures forevermore would look as though they’d come from a lens dripping with Vasoline. It was quite good for the complexion, but made everything appear to have been shot in soft-core porn lighting.

I guess it’s time for another exorcism, Pranksters.

————-

Oh! And if you love music…

————

So dish! What kinds of weird crap have your electronics done over the years?

Isis

I married Isis on the fifth day of May,
But I could not hold on to her very long

So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away
For the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong.

We drove through the night, relator chirping about in the frontseat while I sat in the back, staring out the window, watching the scenery, crystallized in the cold January ice, seeing things I’d seen before, only different. Dave sat in front, chattering about with the realtor as I blew into my hands, trying to blow the cold clear on out.

Carefully, we approached the last house on our list for the night, a hulking monstrosity built in the 1970’s, similar – but not identical to – the house I grew up in. Cold crunched the tires, making a somber squeak, as we pulled into the driveway, the lights blazing inside bode a warm welcome from the howling night. Dave and the relator zipped on ahead to greet the owner as I stood there a moment alone, under the tree, which, in the frigid January wind, tinkled mournfully like the world’s saddest windchimes. I looked up and noticed the streetlights as they caught the ice encasing the branches, and the whole world seemed to shimmer for a moment.

I stood there mesmerized, not feeling the cold seeping into my bones.

“Becky,” Dave called. “You ready to go in?”

————-

As we rode through the canyons, through the devilish cold,
I was thinkin’ about Isis, how she thought I was so reckless.

“It’s so beautiful,” I said that spring as we drove through our neighborhood, the trees lush and green, their branches happily intertwined from either side of the street as though they were trying their hardest form a canopy above. I could spy bits of blue sky between the leaves, but driving ahead, it appeared as though we were driving through a secret cove to our home.

“It really is,” Dave agreed, “It really is.”

————-

Then I rode back to find Isis just to tell her I love her.

She was there in the meadow where the creek used to rise,

Blinded by sleep and in need of a bed.

“What’s this?” I asked, blinded by exhaustion and in dire need of a bed to rest my body as the early morning dawn rose, the sun wrangling it’s way upward, as if to remind us that if we had forgotten, once again, we’d been up most of the night at the hospital with our young son and infant daughter. The words ran together in an alarming manner as I tried to piece together the letter that had been unceremoniously shoved into the mailbox under the tree I had, what felt like a lifetime before, stood and listened to the music it had created.

I gasped as though I’d been sucker-punched.

“The tree,” I said. “It’s dying.”

“Which one?” Dave asked me, blearily trying to understand the words I was stringing together. I nodded at the Ash tree, which had once sung me a mournful song, as if to warn me that things would not always remain the same. Tears inexplicably filled my eyes, which I quickly swiped away, blaming them on exhaustion.

“That one,” I said simply. “That one.”

————-

I came to a high place of darkness and light,
The dividing line ran through the center of town.

“They’re clearing the Ash trees from our side of town,” my mom told me one afternoon, the following summer. “They neighborhood looks so different.”

I fixed my gaze on the tree outside my window which had once sung a lone haunting melody, and, lost in thought, murmured my displeasure as my daughter crawled up my leg, trying to figure out what Mama was staring at.

“They haven’t started here, yet,” I said hopefully, still looking at my tree. “Maybe my tree will be okay.”

She simply stared at me, words unspoken.

——————

The wind it was howlin’ and the snow was outrageous,
We chopped through the night and we chopped through the dawn.

The earth woke up this spring, telling me tales of a mild winter, the ground cold, but not frozen as I planted flowers of purple and pink, the tree slowly waving its barren branches above me as if to warn me. You don’t mean it, I said to the tree as I worked in the yard, growing something beautiful where none had grown before. You can’t mean it.

The tulips I’d planted years before bowed and bobbed in the warm spring breeze, as if to say, “almost time, almost time.”

Silly flowers, I thought. What do you know about death and dying? All you know is rebirth, starting over.

isis

The tree dropped a branch, long since dead, next to me as I worked the earth, as if to say, “believe me now?”

I didn’t.

—————-

When he died, I was hopin’ that it wasn’t contagious,
But I made up my mind that I had to go on.

“Mama,” my daughter asked a couple of weeks ago. “Why’s there a purple and pink dot on the tree?”

My heart sunk.

“Because it’s dying,” I said simply. “It’s time.”

—————

I broke into the tomb, but the casket was empty
There was no jewels, no nothin’ – I felt I’d been had.

“Did you see that there are no-parking signs outside?” Dave asked on Monday.

I nodded.

“The city must be taking down our tree,” he continued.

I nodded.

Finally,” he said as if he’d been waiting his whole life for that sign.

I nodded again, turning my back so he couldn’t see the tears.

—————–

How she told me that one day we would meet up again,
And things would be different the next time we wed.
If I only could hang on and just be her friend

I still can’t remember all the best things she said.

Branches half dead now, entire sections of the tree destroyed, the tree still stands in front of my house, as if to thumb its finger at passers-by: yeah, I’m still here.

Not for long. Not for long.

Trying in one last attempt to save itself, the tree has grown saplings that jaunt merrily from the bottom, a sign of renewal in a time of death. I want to run out, screaming, give up and give in – let go, it’s over.

It’s time, I tell the tree each morning. It’s time. It’s over. Give up. I’m sorry I didn’t listen – you were right.

The branches sway lovingly at me, creaking a new tune – it’s final tune: we must move on, we must move on.

This time, I listen.

I still can remember the way that you smiled,
On the fifth day of May in the drizzlin’ rain

Next On Fox News At Nine: When Fireworks Attack

Dear Pranksters,

Before I get into my post “When Fireworks Attack,” I simply wanted you to know how grateful I am for you.

The love, kindness and advice you’ve given me has been what’s keeping me going. I know that being surrounded by items that were given out of love will help remind me that I am not alone, even when I am at my worst.

If you’re interested in helping or offering me advice, I’d more than welcome your help and advice.

I’ve been asked to create an Amazon Wish List for things I’m going to need in the future as the Internet is throwing me a house-warming party (which blows my mind). The only problem is that I have NO IDEA what to ask for.

I’ve also been offered any awesome stuff you have hanging around which I plan to write your name on as a reminder of the people who DO love me. Hokey? YES. But I don’t care.

Anyway, that being here nor there, I wanted you to know that I’ve been patiently going through your comments and have created a massive Google spreadsheet with all of your advice – I will be returning all comments and emails because, well, I love you dearly, and your support has overwhelmed in in the very best of ways.

Anyone going through a similar situation should be reading the comments on this post – the advice is incredible.

Love,

Your Aunt Becky

P.S. Remind me to screenshot my rad google document – it’s amazingly gorgeous.

PPS. SHUT UP, I am NOT Type A.*

—————–

I recall how deeply offended I was when Illinois banned sparklers, thereby banning fun, which I wrote about angrily a couple of summers ago. Because banning sparklers is bullshit.

Or so I maintained…

On our way down to NashTucky, we’d been powering on through as we drove, determined to get to the Gaylord Hotel – where we were staying – in time so that we could get a balcony that opened into the atrium of the hotel. It just seemed like a good damn idea and really, I wanted a damn cheeseburger WITHOUT a side of E. Coli, which is what I’d assumed I’d get if we stopped off to eat. Now that I think of it, spending my birthday weekend partying with E.Coli could’ve been pretty full of the awesome. Although, to be fair, not as awesome a time as the dude we met walking into the hotel who was carrying two boxes of shitty cheap beer to take to his room.

HE knows how to party.

Alas, I digress.

Our eyeballs floating in urine, we finally agreed that a piss break was necessary – I didn’t particularly want to check into the hotel reeking of urine and, well, I’m pretty sure Dawn would’ve dismembered my body and left it in her front seat as a reminder to anyone who dared think of peeing in her car again.

We pulled off the highway and noted that the area we’d walked into was fairly…shady (and I am being generous). Let’s leave it at: I was simply glad it was daytime.

When we saw the fireworks store attached to the gas station, Dawn and I both reached higher and higher heights of orgasmic potential because we’re both accustomed to Illinois banning fun (and impeaching our corrupt governors). It was so cornball, so cheesy, so hilarious that we laughed our way into the gas station, which, based on the dour expression of the dude behind the counter, was not appropriate behavior for those who enter HIS store. We made a beeline for the bathroom, and I graciously allowed Dawn to go first.

“Just don’t stink it up with shit,” I warned, “Or I may have to poop in your pillow tonight.”

She laughed, grabbing her bladder and yelling, “DON’T MAKE ME LAUGH, SLORE!”

I took the opportunity to mosey around the fireworks section of the store, seeing if I could find the one thing I remembered loving during my childhood: sparklers. Money was tight, which meant I wasn’t about to be buying my children (who want for NOTHING) lavish gifts. Sparklers it was. I gleefully handed them to Dawn, after she took what appeared to be six hours peeing in the dingy bathroom, pointing her at the large selection of pork skin related products on display.

“What. The. Fuck. Is. Up. With. Fried. Pork. Skins?” I asked, under my breath.

“Dude, it’s a Southern thing,” she whispered back, like that was supposed explain anything.

I took a befuddled pee while wondering what “It’s a Southern thing” meant, exactly, before returning to retrieve my beloved sparklers and pay for them and get the fuck out of what was now a decidedly creepy-ass place. The more we stayed, the higher my hackles rose.

I walked up to the front counter with my requisite diet Coke and the package of sparklers, marveling at how, in a mere seven hours, I’d managed to get ALL my kids something I just KNEW they’d love. Sure, they might like the explodey-rockets better, but I was no dummy – I get broken toes from making sandwiches, what could those scary fireworks do to me?

I didn’t intend to find out.

The man behind the counter simply glowered at me as he rung up my items, not, for one moment, taking his eyes off of me, even as I noted things like the large collection of “tobacco” pipes prominently displayed at the front register. I figured that as my kids aren’t allowed to consider smoking until they’re AT LEAST 12, I’d made a stellar decision with the sparklers. I mean, sparklers, WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE?

His eyes never left me, even after he was done ringing me up. I could GUESS what I owed, but wasn’t sure, so I looked around to see if there was some sort of price total thing I wasn’t noticing, and therefore, should be pulling out my wallet and handing over ten bucks.

“Uh,” I started, “What do I owe?”

He rattled off some number and I handed him a ten-spot.

Soon, Dawn and I were back in the car.

“Let’s get the fuck outta here,” she all but screamed.

“Wait, dude, I need to snap a picture before the fucking zombies come and eat us,” I pleaded.

So I did.

when-fireworks-attack-chemical-burns

Ha! GOTCHA – that’s NOT the picture of the store (but that’d be rad)

when-fireworks-attack-chemical-burns

That totally is. And with a storefront like that, how can you go wrong?

(answer: zombies)

“Do I bring this shit inside?” gesturing to my fireworks, I asked Dawn as we parked the car at the hotel.

“Do fireworks explode in the heat?” she countered.

“I don’t fucking know,” I replied.

“Better to be safe than sorry,” she said smugly.

“I hope your mouth hurt a little from saying that,” I said, as I grabbed my bag which weighed approximately 73,625 pounds.

I considered putting them in the room safe just because, but decided I’d probably forget them and then I’d get the hotel all bomb squad on my ass.

I got home late on July 15, my birthday, to find that my (now crabby) kids were waiting up for me. It was a shining moment in a fairly depressing day. My three kids swarmed me, begging for hugs, love, and other types of birthday wishes, as they sang an off-key version of “Happy Birthday.” I melted inside.

That sweetness was, of course, followed up by “What’d you bring us?” which I’d expected. Frankly, I’m shocked they hadn’t started with that. Kids, man, I tell you.

I grabbed the box of sparklers from my bag and said, “SPARKLERS!”

Dave smiled, “COOL!”

My kids were decidedly nonplussed until I said, “they’re fireworks, kiddos.” That seemed to assuage the hurt of not being brought a) Batman or 2) Large amounts of candy. “Can we do dem now?” Mimi was the first to ask, already getting her shoes on heading for the back door.

“No, babies. Mama’s tired. Maybe we can do them another day – like Saturday!”

They grumbled and moaned about it, stomping up to bed, clearly having forgotten it was my birthday and, therefore, a day to be “nice to Mama.” I just laughed. Kids, man. They know how to knock your ass the fuck down.

By the following weekend, I decided that it was high time we get our sparkler on (kinda like getting your sexy on, but better). I grabbed the two Littles (the big one was at his grandmother’s house in Wisconsin) and headed out back with Dave, ready to dazzle and delight them. I don’t know who was more excited – the kids or the adults.

I’d grabbed a lighter and the box of fireworks – three! whopping! colors! and sat down on the back patio under the spiffy umbrella I’d saved up to buy for five years. The kids danced around me, and I decided that rather than wait for Dave, I’d get a sparkler started on my own. I mean, I was being fucking BRAVE and shit, now, right? And for fuck’s sake, they were sparklers not some of those weird rocket things.

when-fireworks-attack-chemical-burns

I snapped the lighter so the flame grew as I hovered the sparkler over it.

Hrms.

That seems to be taking a HELL of a long time to light. Perhaps I simply didn’t remember that sparklers took 800 years to light. Seemed about my speed, considering I can never find my pants.

I kept holding the lighter over the sparkler, which looked a lot more chode-like than I’d recalled, but childhood memories being what they are, what can you expect.

After a couple more seconds, and the addition of Dave onto the patio, BAM, it lit.

Boy, did it light. It lit so fucking well that this happened:

when-fireworks-attack-chemical-burnsSo that, my Pranksters, is why Illinois banned sparklers. Not because they wanted to “ban fun,” but because they wanted to ban 3rd degree chemical burns.

Let my busted finger be a lesson to you, Pranksters: fireworks = bad. Especially if Aunt Becky is involved.

*lie

Won’t Be Idle With Despair

If I could tell the world just one thing…

The January air was cold, crisp, the sort of Chicago winter that seared your boogers to the insides of your nose and made your eyes water, your tears freezing as soon as they emerged from your tear ducts. I was just crossing the river, the grey of the cold January afternoon oppressively suffocating me as I noted the chunks of ice floating down the river. I wished I could fall down there with them, and wake up to a new day, a new life.

I was driving my dad’s old car, the roads wet and icy, the salt making a jaunty click-click sound against the bottom of my red Acura Integra, the one I’d inherited to replace my del Sol for something, well, with a backseat. A backseat that held one tiny infant, with a shock of black hair who squalled and cried, even as we drove. I hadn’t slept in days. To keep me awake, and to drown out the sound of my tiny sons wails, I put on one of my most favorite Christmas albums.

….it’d be that we’re all okay.

I was baffled by my new baby.

His dislikes included me, air, food, being touched, the world, gravity, the universe, and, well, life. Babies are supposed to love this shit, right? If babies are supposed to love this shit, then it’s clearly some character flaw of mine that he couldn’t even look me in the eyes.

In 2001, autism wasn’t The Thing – no one walked, or ran, for a cure – no one really knew much about it. And I certainly didn’t suspect that he had a problem.

He was just…temperamental. And he probably sensed that I was a bad mother, a piece of shit person, and could tell that he’d drawn the shitty card when he was born to me.

In the end, only kindness matters.

My heart was as heavy and oppressive, like my mood.

I’d waddled back home at twenty, pregnant with my young son, tail between my proverbial legs. My parents graciously allowed me back into their home and helped me set up a nursery for him, but, like any other kind deed, this one came with strings so long that I nearly hung myself on them. And my son’s father, angry that I’d had the audacity to get pregnant while on birth control, (while we get along now) well, he wasn’t particularly kind to me.

The last person I recalled being truly kind to me was one of the nurses in the hospital as she wheeled me out to the car with my new baby.

Five months before.

Not to worry, because worry is wasteful and useless in times like these.

Since I could recall, I’d dreamed of going to medical school and becoming a doctor. I’d never considered having children, never thought that I’d be a parent but here I was. And there he was.

I couldn’t figure out what next. If I wanted a life with my son, I’d have to give up on the only dream I’d ever known – becoming a doctor. If I didn’t want a life with my son, well, I could go to medical school, see him on weekends and in between rotations, living with my parents until I was forty, but despite his dislike of me, I was pretty fond of the little guy.

Stuck between a rock and a bigger rock, the future a black question mark of yawning uncertainty, I drove aimlessly around, trying to make the kid sleep, trying to outrun my demons, trying to figure out what next.

I won’t be made useless.

I’d never not had a plan before. It was like waking up to realize I’d lost the right half of my body. I’d dreamed of medical school since I was a toddler – the dream was over. But what to fill it with?

I didn’t have that answer. I didn’t know where to look for an answer. I didn’t know what to do next. The emptiness was overwhelming.

My hands are small I know, but they’re not yours, they are my own.

Everywhere I turned, someone else was telling me what to do. What not to do. How I was ruining my child. How I needed to do this or that. How I shouldn’t ever think of doing this again. I was twenty-one – there was no one in my corner telling me that I could do it if I just got all EYE OF THE MOTHERFUCKING TIGER about it.

I’ll gather myself around my fears.

Maybe I wasn’t the most qualified of people to raise my son; maybe my brother and sister-in-law were (my mother had asked them if they’d adopt my son should I “go off the rails on a crazy train”). Maybe he was better off without me. But he wasn’t going to get that chance. Whether he liked it or not, I was going to parent the SHIT out of him. I was gonna get him a family and we were going to make it.

For light does the darkness most fear.

The dark days outnumbered the light ones for a good long time. I had to learn to smile and nod as I was told that I was doing a bad job at parenting. Every jab, every poke, every complaint about me, I learned to smile and nod. “Yes, that’s right, I am a bad mother, you’re so right.” I ground my teeth into nubs and smiled.

Soon, my path veered dramatically. I entered nursing school, found a new plan and met the man I would marry. The man who would encourage me, after only reading emails I’d sent, to write.

I won’t be made useless.

Maybe my “plan” was gone – so what? The world was a big place – plenty of room for new plans. I would not be made useless. I would do something to make my small boy proud. I’d get him the family he needed, I’d get away from his father, and I’d give him the siblings that helped the autistic child emerge from his own world to join ours.

I did. I found my words as he found his, and together we were able to carve out a new plan – a better plan.

I won’t be idle with despair.

There have been months, years full of despair, sadness. My heart, however, has never been as empty as it was that day, crossing the mighty Fox River, me against the world. If I could tell my former self that day that, “hey, your life will be nothing like you thought it would be, but that’s okay,” I would. I’d give that girl a hug. I’d let her know that it was okay to be scared. It was okay to feel weak and powerless because, well, she was.

But not deep inside. Deep inside, there was a drive, a dream, to become more. To be better. To do something with herself.

And she has.

And I will.

I am never broken.

THAT Was Halloween

Despite the fact that Twix had sent me 70 (70!) candy bars to “make my house the coolest on the block” (which, I have to add, is much cooler than the 3 Wolf Moon decals on my windows)(lie), I decided at 2PM – a mere hour before my children descended upon me – that we must! get! more! candy!

I’m going to blame the ten pounds of candy I went out to buy on my fever – not from more cowbell – but from my mysterious Oregon Trail disease.

(also: anyone want to come over and eat ten pounds of candy?)

By the time we got home, sweaty, feverish and hallucinating, it was nearly time for the crotch parasites to descend upon us in a whirling Halloween snowball of excitement. I realized it was probably in my own best interest to pull out the costumes and get them ready for the kids to whirl into.

So I trundled around the house, sweating on everything as I looked for Alex’s Halloween costume. He decided that he was going to recycle last year’s costume, because obviously.

See also:

The world’s manliest butterfly. Or Flutterbye. Whatever.

I found everything but the shirt, which is a fucking Halloween miracle.

That done, I figured it was time to get the costumes we HAD bought for the other two out of the bag and ready to be thrown on. I grabbed the costumes, as I reached for my camera and noticed that something smelled….funny. Like dank, dark, basement mildewy gross.

I assumed it was probably my Mysterious Oregon Trail Disease and continued trying to figure out how to turn on my DS-LR.

But…what WAS that smell?

After I’d managed to take the lens cap off – a good hour later – I grabbed the costumes from the bags and realized, much to my horror, that there was PEE on on them. CAT PEE.

In an unrelated note: anyone want four cats? They’re VERY well behaved.

Both the small one and the big one had cat whiz on their costumes. Shitballs.

Frantically, we threw them under the sink, trying to get the SMELL out of the costumes before the kids got home and freaked the fuck out. Which, I couldn’t blame them for. I mean, EW.

T-Minus five minutes found us trying to dry off the costumes with a hair dryer, making my kitchen smell delightfully like a tantalizing mixture of frying cat pee and burning plastic. Thankfully, the kids didn’t notice.

The small one – who picked out her OWN costume, thankyouverymuch – this year:

Rocket Grrrrrrl.

And while some parents may want their kids to grow up to become doctors, lawyers, or business executives, I couldn’t be prouder that my son chose one thing – the ONE thing – I’d always wanted him to be.

Like mother:

Like son:

*happy sigh*

If you came to my door last night, you saw this:

And probably died a little inside. I know I did.

I wore a blue shirt and pretended to be The Twitter Fail Whale.

However, I failed. I failed at failing.

My life is at an all time high.

Legacy

I knew from a very young age what I was going to be when I grew up. While the other kids focused their sights upon flying into space or fighting fires, in kindergarten I neatly drew a picture of myself, one that my mother has framed somewhere, that says, “Rebecca Sherrick” “Obstetrician.”

Because that was what I planned to be.

Would it have worked out if I hadn’t popped Benjamin from my nether regions, a pregnancy unexpected, a life forever changed by the furious meeting of two gametes?

I honestly can’t say. Who can see what might-have-been when what-is is right in front of our faces?

When I went back to school, a single mother with an autistic baby slung ’round her hip, I re-enrolled (which is highly UNLIKE Rick Rolling) as a nursing student, which meant two things:

a) None of the credits I’d obtained during my brief stint as a Bio/Chem major were accepted and I had to re-enroll in different, easier versions of similar classes.

2) I had to come to terms with letting go of a dream I’d had as long as I can recall.

The first year of pre-req’s was heaven for me. I’d already completed the more complicated and challenging versions of the same classes, so I quickly rose to the top of the class. I was chosen to TA for numerous science classes, putting me smack-dab back into the lab.

I couldn’t have been happier.

I left my first class as Student Nurse Aunt Becky in tears. I’m sure I looked half-insane, walking to the train, my bag full of books I didn’t give a shit about, openly sobbing the kind of ugly cry that comes from a broken heart.

Rather than entrench myself in sorrow any longer than I had to, I simply made new plans. I’d re-enroll in school and become a microbiologist once my son was old “enough.” I’d juggled single parenthood and schooling as much as I ever wanted to and I intended to see at least some fraction of the kid’s childhood.

I did and I have.

Nursing career handily abandoned as, for the first time ever, I was able to stay home with my son, things didn’t go quite as expected. The quirks I still found so charming made for lonely company as he preferred to live inside his head to being with his mother. Coming off an over-worked, beat-my-A’s-with-more-A’s high, I had hours upon hours each day to fill.

With something. Anything to make my life feel worth living again.

I obsessed over the grout between bathroom tiles – which, no matter how many toothbrushes I wore to nubs- could never quite come clean, my son happily watched the same video about the planets over and over. I waited for something, anything to tell me what the fuck I was supposed to do next.

“Why don’t you start a blog?” The Daver asked after I tearfully wept, once again, that “I hadn’t worked my ass off to sit around and wonder which fucking brand of dishsoap was better.”

I couldn’t have thought of anything I’d like to have done less than blogging. I’d never so much kept a journal, so blogging, writing down my thoughts so that someone, somewhere could be equally bored by them?

Fuck no.

Until I decided to do it.

Learning that I could write things that didn’t involve this:

was like learning I could breathe underwater. All this time that I tried to find meaning in the bathroom tiles had been for nothing. Because I had this ability and I could use it.

And now I do.

I’ve spent nearly four years here at Mommy Wants Vodka, and three before that at Mushroom Printing, telling stories. Some good, some awful, most mediocre. I’ve used my words to let you into my world. To see things as I do. To touch each of you reading these words in some way, even if it’s a disgusted “God, this chick sucks.”

The words I have written, the friends I have made, the connections I’ve foraged has been so much more than I’d anticipated. I have been beyond blessed.

And yet, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about going back into academia. To return to those glorious calculations and those beautiful microscopes, leaving the world of words squarely in my past. I wonder if that’s even possible; to shut one beloved door so firmly. I don’t have an answer.

So I’m left wondering: is this my legacy? A few pixels blinking on your computer screen? Words turned into sentences turned into paragraphs?

Moreover, is this enough?

Can’t Blog, Spam’ll Eat Me

I was entirely shocked to find not a single Mountain Folk in Assville, NC, where I spent the weekend. I’d been hoping for some banjos, a dog named Blue, or perhaps, a fuckton of toothless yokels.

I saw none. I was mildly distressed by this.

In fact, Assville, NC, is a HIPPIE town. An EXPENSIVE Hippie Town. Who knew? My parents would have felt right at home.

(I did, however, eventually see a guy playing a banjo)

(that pretty much ruled)

Anyhow, I woke up Sunday morning and checked my email because I cannot possibly function if my email remains unchecked. I mean, what if TODAY is the day that House, MD calls me and begs me to write for his show?

My email was, as per usual, full of stupid sites whose email lists I cannot manage to remove myself from, and a curious thing. I had at least fifty new posts for Band Back Together. That’s, um, out of the ordinary. But, I congratulated myself, perhaps it was all the people I’d just MET. Maybe I had, in fact, strong-armed into writing for us and/or working WITH us.

So I clicked to see what the title of one of the posts was:

“The Many Benefits Related To Obtaining Superior Mortgages.”

FANCY. Also: SPAMMY.

I clicked through and saw that all of the fifty new posts were, in fact, spam. Well, that’s not so fancy. Spam users I’m used to. Spam posts? That’s a whole ‘nother ball game.

That put me in a not-so-sparkly mood.

As bloggers, we’re all familiar with spam. I currently have 500 spam comments that are awaiting my glistening eyes to sort through. That’s just from yesterday.

But Band Back Together is different than a personal blog because it’s not just my ass blathering away at you. See, everyone who posts must first create their own account – email, username, password – so really, it’s their blog too. Same goes for Mushroom Printing.

Spam users: joe@teethbrightening.com I expect. Spam posts? Not so much. But these posts just kept rolling in. I deleted over a hundred and thirty of them before installing a simple capcha for anyone registering. (It’s a math problem, not those stupid letters, because those letters are BULLSHIT.)

I was Furious George until I came across this gem in my inbox:

farting

And then I felt my life was, in a word, complete.

Perhaps I should publish it. I’d bet that would help MORE than a few people.

————

I wrote this about Special Needs Parenting, over at Cafe Mom. You should read it.

————

What are you feeling ranty about, Pranksters?

(you can publish any snarky rants over at Mushroom Printing, too)

Home….Improvements?

Last year – or perhaps it was two years ago – I decided that my house looked like a serial killer lived here. Not just a serial killer’s GIRLFRIEND (I heart you, Dexter), but a reclusive serial killer who probably chopped up hookers to make light fixtures out of their boobs.

The overgrown shrubbery had practically obscured all the windows in the front and I intended to remove them. All 958 of them.

I’d bought myself a pickax and a number of loppers capable of removing my fingers with a quick motion and set to work. I did manage to remove a few of the bushes myself before I paid the neighbor kid to remove the rest. When I’d started the process, see, I hadn’t expected that the early landscapers would plant so many fucking bushes atop each other.

But they did. Thanks, old landscapers.

After my neighbor was off spending the check I wrote him on a new iPod, I surveyed my lawn. Clearly something had to go in the gigantic trench the bushes had left behind. But…what? I’m no arborist or botanist and frankly, by that point, I’d rather have gouged out my eyeball with my pickax than replant some.

I made mention of this requirement to The Daver.

Me: “It looks like we’ve dug a foxhole in our front yard.”

The Daver: “Yep.”

Me: “Like any moment, World War II vets are going to pour into the holes and start shooting at the neighbor’s dogs.”

The Daver: “Yep.”

Me: “Or maybe a moat.”

The Daver: “Yep.”

Me: “But it can’t be a moat without a fire-breathing dragon and some cannons. Can we get a fire-breathing dragon?”

The Daver (not even looking up from his work): “Nope.”

Me: “Well, I need to replant some shit in there.”

The Daver: “Yep.”

Me: “Maybe some of those plants that eat people.”

The Daver: “Nope.”

Me: “Okay, then what?”

The Daver: “That’s your job to figure out.”

Me: “I hate planning.”

The Daver (now looking up, exasperated): “You need to sit down, figure out what will grow in there, the supplies you’ll need to install them, the places you can purchase these plants, and how long it will take you to put them in. I want an itemized list.”

Me: “Hrms. Maybe I can put the old, dead bushes back.”

The Daver: “Nope.”

Me (flicking off the back of his head): “Bite me.”

Asking me for an itemized list, cross-indexed and color-coded is a lot like asking me to turn into a bullfrog. Much as you might like it, it just ain’t gonna happen.

So my foxhole sat through the winter, sadly unoccupied by any roving WWII vets or fire-breathing dragons.

This spring, rather than broach the subject again, I simply went to Lowe’s and bought a bunch of flowering shrubs, giggling because the term “flowering shrub” sounds like a wicked STD.

Feeling particularly eye of the motherfucking tiger, I planted them a couple of weeks ago. And when I did, I realized there was a conspiracy afoot.

I needed to buy dirt.

Let me say that again: I needed to buy DIRT. Somehow the shit manages to find it’s way into my carpets and all over my children, and yet, I had to go spend real dollar bills on DIRT. In fact, I needed to purchase a substantial amount of dirt. Clearly, this was The Man keeping us (me) down.

It was also bullshit.

I haven’t exactly BOUGHT the dirt yet, which means I now have what appears to be a foxhole with shrubs growing out of it. I suppose the roving WWII vets will be pleased that their foxhole has been decorated with some fancy new shrubs.

Even with the occasional rain of bullets from down below, I’m certain my neighbors are thrilled that it no longer looks like a serial killer resides here.

Probably.

—————

Who wants to come over and fill in my foxhole for with me?