Hands.


I sat in the living room, the babble of the television filling the space. I wasn’t really listening. I watched her chest, making sure it was rising and falling as it should. Her hands were folded softly on her lap as she slept.

“You’ve got a huge decision to make,” some overly coiffed handy-man said from the screen. Immediately I was filled with anger. That happens a lot. The anger, it’s my least favorite emotion. I suppose it’s necessary.   The people on the T.V., their huge decision: picking out drapes.  My huge decision: I may have to pick out a dress for my mother to be buried in.

I haven’t allowed myself to fully accept that there is a very real possibility that I may lose my mother until this week. It’s debilitating. I really haven’t been myself. The waves of nausea that come and go as they please make it difficult to concentrate.

This isn’t fair.

Tears welled in my eyes, making everything look like a watery kaleidoscope. I cursed myself.  All I wanted to do was look at my beautiful, sleeping mother through clear eyes.  I was trying to mentally photograph her and my body was sabotaging me.

I wanted to look at her hands.

Her favorite story to tell me is how she knew she was having a girl.  I was born before a time when expectant mothers had sonograms.  And way before a time when expectant mothers had 3-D sonograms at baby showers.  Stop it, you weirdos. It’s creepy.  It’s like looking at a vacuum bagged frog. Really.

She’d look at me lovingly and say, “Your brothers bounced around in there like they were playing basketball; you played the harp.” She’d flutter her fingers to demonstrate my in utero musical skills.  “Your Grandma Carpenter was really worried about me” she’d always pause to laugh.  “I was so sick of blue, I told her I wasn’t bringing home another boy!”

“Then we brought you home, in a lace dress so stiff you couldn’t move.  And we looked at your hands,”  If my father is in the room when the story is being told, she will always turn to him and say, “Joe, remember how beautiful her hands were? How long her fingers were?”

My mother has beautiful hands too.  They are soft and full of love, I am not ready to let them go.

About these ads

She is little. She is mighty. She is stupid.


“Hi, I’d like to make an appointment to get my dog groomed.”

“I’m sorry, what?” The voice on the other end sounded annoyed.

I repeated myself. This time she heard me.

“Please hold,” the woman said tersely.

“I don’t think I like this broad’s attitude,” I mumbled to Betty.  As I sat on hold I wondered what other people said when they called there.  Even if she didn’t hear me, there’s probably a 90% chance that most of the people that call are asking to get their dog cleaned.

It is after all…a dog grooming place.  Linda’s Classy Canines or something.  The name of the establishment isn’t the slightest bit misleading. I didn’t call there under the assumption that they were going prepare my taxes or refinish my kitchen cabinets.  “If they’re gonna be rude we can take our business elsewhere,”  Betty didn’t seem to care.

It’s not like there are a lot of words in the English language that sound like “appointment”.  Sure, maybe “anointment”…but Linda isn’t the high priestess of clean dog butts. I was really reading too far into what the tone of her voice meant.

Maybe I’m doing it wrong?  Maybe there’s some kind of lingo I’m supposed to be using?  I’m not so good at industry inspeak. Should I have asked her to pimp my puppy?  Did I just expose myself as some kind of fledgling nuevo-yuppie?  I’m not used to paying for services I should do myself.

I realized I had been on hold for a very long time after that last thought barreled through my brain.  My phone tallied my call time as 5:15.  But, I call bullshit.  It was way longer.

I ended the call, thoroughly convinced that Linda has abandoned us and I have issues with asking for help.  Betty was asleep on the pile of dirty clothes in the living room, blissfully unaware that the state of her fur is causing me such inner-turmoil.

I come from a long line of dog lovers.  It pains me to see her go from Betty White to Betty Bathwater Grey with Black Spots.  I know I must stop the metamorphosis before she goes full on Barry White.

I come from a long line of Do-it-yourself-ers.  It pains me to know I am paying someone to do something I can do myself.  I’m the same way when it comes to oil changes, lawn maintenance, and cleaning people.  If I can do it myself, I should. My brain can’t grab hold of the concept.

I come from a long line of people that do not like to be bitten by little, fluffy dogs.  It pains me…to uh, be in pain. Therein lies the problem.  She never breaks the skin, but she makes it clear that she is displeased.  No one likes to be growled at through the whole lathering process or given the silent treatment.

I may not have said this in so many words before, but Betty isn’t exactly a Rhodes Scholar and she’s…an asshole.  She’s the only dog I’ve ever owned that has her own slogan, “She is little. She is mighty. She is stupid.”  What she lacks in brains, she makes up for in cute.  She’s very, very cute. Like, seriously…she might be the cutest dog on the planet.

Image

See?

It’s taken me a while to come to terms with this.  I used to defend her zest for life, now I find myself apologizing for it.  She’s not extra zesty, she’s a jerk.  Our last walk confirms this.  First, on the way downstairs she walked into the neighbors apartment and barked at her.  After that she picked a fight with a dog twice her size.  When I’d finally had enough of her crap, we came back upstairs and she proceeded to shit on the floor while making eye contact with me.  Who does that? The size of the chip she’s got on her shoulder should crush her tiny frame.  Kanye West probably would have been a much better name for her.

You really don’t have to do anything to become the target of her ire, you basically just have to be a creature that doesn’t reside with her and be within barking distance.  Dogs, cats, ducks, squirrels, alligators…they all trigger an eruption of aggression.  She snorts and paws at the ground, raucous yipping quickly follows.  Whatever she’s barking at is initially stunned, but that doesn’t last long…I imagine it’s a lot like being yelled at by disgruntled, tumbling bag of cotton balls.

Since she is such a problem child, I was apprehensive about taking her to the groomers.  But, we took her anyway.  Surprisingly when we picked her up, she was very clean…and also not dead.  Why is that surprising? Well, she’s my dog…and there are times when I’ve wanted to strangle her during a bath.  They didn’t utter the words, “Don’t come back.” In fact, they said she was “Hilarious”.  I’ve never found having something angrily gnaw on my pinky to be the least bit humorous, but to each their own.

“Let’s face it Betty, Linda…or whatever her name is…is our only hope!  Everyone else thinks you’re obnoxious,” I said as she provided a chorus of sleepy puppy sounds. I put my tail between my legs and called back. This time Linda wasn’t such a bitch, so I didn’t say anything about being left on hold long enough to question my ability to be an effective human being.  It’s a small price to pay for a fabulous looking and undead dog.

It is what it isn’t.


Shut off the alarm.  Get out of bed. Get lunch made.  Wake up the boy. Get him chocolate milk.  Feel his forehead, make sure he isn’t warm.  Pull him out of bed.  My mother has cancer.

Search in vain for a matching pair of socks.  Curse myself for not putting the laundry away.  Find two socks that are similar from the ankle up.  Ask him to remove the underwear from his head.  My mother has cancer.

Say, “No. You can’t stay home with mommy, you’re going to school,” for the eighth time in seven minutes.  He’s going to be late.  Hugs and kisses. “Have a wonderful day and try your very hardest”.  Watch him skip away as I remind him he’s my favorite everything.  My mother has cancer.

Sit down to write.  Write something happy and upbeat.  Delete it.  It’s bullshit anyway.  Wonder how my brother’s chemo is going.  Tell myself not to think about cancer.

Call my mother. Talk about cancer.  Ask about radiation.  Try not to cry.  Listen to her cry.  Say something funny.  Feel helpless.  Hang up.  Cry.

Compose myself.  Decide it’s time to do laundry.  Remove Betty from laundry pile, where she is using my favorite pants as a pillow.  Betty helps sort the lights and darks. I ask her to remove the underwear from her mouth.  My mother has cancer.

Check the peephole.  Wait until the neighbor is out of the hallway. It’s so difficult to form a sentence these days. My words are at a premium, I can’t afford to waste them on small talk.  I still look like I’ve been crying; I don’t want to have to explain my mother has cancer.

“Oh geeze I’m sorry…I didn’t realize it was your mom. I thought you said your brother or aunt has cancer”

“I did.”

“So, wait…what?”

“I did.”

“Your brother?”

“And my aunt and my mother…”

“Wow.”

“Yep.”

Wait a bit longer for good measure.  Run into the neighbor anyway.  I decide I’d make a very bad ninja.  She hugs me, tells me I look terrible.  I laugh.

I do look terrible.  I’m glad she’s honest.  She doesn’t understand what this is like.  She doesn’t pretend to.  I wonder why I avoid her.

“It is what it is,” I say as I make my way to the laundry at the end of the hall.  I don’t know why I say these things.  It isn’t what it is.  It’s guilt.  It’s regret.  It’s paralyzing.  My mother has cancer.

Send my apologies to Aunt Carmen


It’s every major holiday, sometimes it’s an invitation, or a “how are you?”  It’s been going on so long.  I stopped responding, but it doesn’t seem to matter.  “Happy New Year!” for maybe 10 consecutive years.  “Greg is having a concert,” the messages taunt me.  I keep hoping for some kind of clue…some insight, but it never comes.  It’s maddening. I’m stuck in a group text message, and I don’t know who in the hell these people are.  

I’m so far in that I think it would be incredibly rude to ask, “Who is this?”  I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out who Greg is and what kind of instrument he plays?  Maybe I don’t know these people at all, maybe it’s a wrong number?  I’ve kept this charade up with the hope that someone other that Greg would be mentioned by name, no dice.  

Text messaging is such an accepted form of communication that my parents are doing it.  

Both of them.  

With one another, and other people.  

This is a big deal.  

You may find yourself asking, “Gee Scarp  (or Sara…either one is acceptable nomenclature), why is this a big deal?”  And, I’ll tell you…right away…I won’t keep you guessing.  For the last 30ish years, my father has worn the same damn Casio digital watch.  

Why?

Because the ones with the alarms and shit are complicated.  

Do you know how hard it is to find just a digital watch on Christmas Eve?

Anywho. My dad has never been “into” technology, so if he’s doing it there’s reason to suspect that there are people his age that are using text messaging as their sole means of communication.

This is where my mind starts to wander.  Let’s say I don’t actually know who the fuck is sending me Greg’s concert updates…and it is a wrong number.  I could potentially be the reason your Aunt Carmen was so pissed off at Aunt Judy on Thanksgiving.

Aunt Judy missed all of your cousin Greg’s clarinet solos, and she knows Carmen went out of her way to schlep to your stupid dance recitals. Yeah, she went all the way downtown to see you, sat for hours to watch kids covered in sequins…with whore makeup on. Only to be rewarded with you, stomping around the stage like a water buffalo. It was six years, six years she sat through this shit? Judy can’t make a concert?

By the way, I see her point. Aunt Judy is...kind of a bitch.

It’s all my fault. Your family is falling apart because you’re a terrible tap-dancer and I don’t know who Greg is.

I’m sorry. It’s too late, I can’t turn back now.

Happy New Year.  

Keep rockin’ Greg!

She


“If we ever go to war with Russia, I’m aligning myself with the Cephalopods.”

His face was hidden in the shadows. “Um, what?” she said, because…well…anyone would say that.

As a whisper of smoke spun before her left eye, a human figure emerged from behind the dumpster. His eyes said, “I really trust Cephalopods.” His pants said, “I just pissed myself.”

The orange rind stuck on his cheek indicated he slept on his left side. She showed no fear as he approached her, mainly because she was still trying to remember what the fuck a Cephalopod was.

“Who will you follow?” he asked. She looked around. She was at the end of a driveway that lead to a very busy hospital. There were people everywhere; deciding he was harmless, she spoke. “Um, yeah…Communism isn’t my thing…so I’m on Team Cephalopod. You have some shit on your face, Dude.”

She, being the kind of broad who feels people should know when they have shit on themselves, didn’t hold back. She made the international “you have shit on you” rotating hand/pointed index finger gesture around the perimeter of her face.

He didn’t acknowledge her, but never took his lifeless eyes of off her. She thought he might need a smoke. She opened a white and gold box adorned with the Philip Morris family crest, and removed one of her remaining 20 Class A Cigarettes.

Her arm was outstretched in front of her…she held the cigarette. She posed like a runner preparing to pass the baton. He shuffled towards her. It was the slowest, and most pointless, reversed relay race known to man. There would be no winner.

She admired his shuffling skills. She could not recall a time where she’d ever seen someone move so fast without lifting their feet from the ground. The air temperature was nearly 85 degrees. He wore a sweatshirt and long pants, she wondered why…but who was she to question.

He moved past her, grabbing the cigarette. She thought of Arlo Guthrie, she had no reason for doing so…except for Arlo Guthrie has evoked the stench of urine in her mind since she was a child. No offense meant, Arlo.

They would never cross paths again. Slowly wandering away from her, his inner soldier prepared for war…while she Googled cephalopod.

Can I help you?


There’s something about me.  Something about my face or the way I carry myself. Something about my clothes.  There’s just something…always has been.

I guess we all have a certain je ne sais quoi that dictates how other humans interact with us. My “I don’t know what” says, “I work here”.  Moreover, my “I don’t know what” says, “I work here, and I’m not doing my job”.

Even when my mouth says, “I don’t work here,” the “I don’t know what” always finds a way to scramble the message.

It happens all the time, even in places where the employees wear uniforms. A few weeks ago I was shopping sans small child. Shopping without the constant chorus of “I want that” is like a vacation. I was wearing my favorite green t-shirt and green cargo pants. This particular shirt has a picture of a moose and bear on it, and says “Nature and shit” below the picture. Definitely not the red and khaki garb of the staff.

As I stood in the aisle browsing, I was approached by an older guy. He was preppy looking, and wore clothing that indicated he was into golf. His outfit was wonderfully coordinated, right down to his stupid looking visor. He had a cocky, better than you, my wife picks out my clothes air about him.

I have no idea how long he was standing there, but was made aware of his presence when he rudely cleared his throat. “AHEMMM. Are these disposable?” he barked at me, clearly annoyed. He was holding a box, but it was an item I was not familiar with.

As he glared at me, he let out a sigh. It was a sigh that indicated he was unhappy. His attitude was interrupting my mini retail vacation, and I was briefly confused by his aggressive behavior. “Technically, everything is disposable. It just depends on how much you like it,” I responded, smiling.

I went back to my browsing. I could still feel his presence. His eyes were burning holes in the back of my head. From over my shoulder his voice boomed “All you damn kids think you’re so damn funny! Well, it won’t be so funny when I call your manager…WILL IT?

Normally, if a person is polite I offer assistance; even though I will not be compensated.  I could have just turned around and said, “Why don’t you ask someone who works here?” correcting the surly moron, but we all know that’s not what I did.

I turned and faced him, again smiling “May I?” I asked, as I took the box from him. “Oh, sure! NOOOW you’re going to help me???!!! You think I won’t report you!? You’re all the same. You only WORK when you think you’re going to get fired! Well, you’ve GOT another thing COMING, MISSY!!” Yes, he called me missy.

He went on for what seemed like an hour…talking about why people like me are the reason the country is in the state it’s in, and how I’ll work minimum wage my whole life because I have no work ethic.

I let him ramble, while humming “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” in my head.  He kept getting louder…about the time I got to the “his truth is marching on” part, a woman in a red shirt, khaki pants, and a name tag appeared out of nowhere.  “Can I help you?” she asked the almost screaming jerk.

“YEAH, I’m glad SOMEONE who works here does their JOB! You need to have a little CHAT with your EMPLOYEE! It seems she missed the part about COURTESY when she did her training course!!! She’s a DISGRACE and should be FIRED IMMEDIATELY!” His visor was now visibly moving because the veins on the side of his head were pulsing.

I was still smiling, this displeased him even more. “Look at her, she’s just smiling at me like some kind of MORON!” The employee was confused, her expression showed she was trying to choose her words carefully. I handed her the box, and softly said, “He wants to know if these are disposable.”

“Yeah….that’s ALL I asked her…after I stood behind her for five minutes, waiting for her to acknowledge me! And do you know what she said!!???” he paused, I’m assuming for dramatic effect. “Everything is DISPOSABLE, it depends on HOW MUCH YOU LIKE IT!!!!”

“C’mon, you have to admit. That was hilarious,” I said to the bewildered employee. “This is what you call customer service?” he snorted, while throwing up his hands. It was at this point that the employee finally spoke again, “Uh, Sir. She doesn’t work here,” she half-mumbled.

“WHAT!!!??” the golf dork exclaimed. “Not even on the weekends,” I replied, laughing. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?” He was speaking through a clenched jaw. “You didn’t ask me if I worked here. You sounded pretty passionate, I thought it’d be rude to interrupt you,” I continued.

“Well, that’s just not funny,” he stammered. Clearly this guy doesn’t know funny.  You would think he would have stopped there, but he didn’t.  Self-important jerks never know when to leave well enough alone.  “You know…I’m not here to entertain you. I’m a very busy man,”. There’s a lot of personality traits I despise, he seemed to have them all.  He couldn’t just sit there in his wrongness and be wrong.  “Well, Muffin. I’m not here to assist you, so I guess we’re even,” I replied almost singing.

I probably could have stood there in the dental care aisle and exchanged barbs with this dude all day.  But, I decided to excuse myself before he could say anything else…I had things to do. I’m a very busy woman.

An open letter from my uterus.


Dear Members of Congress,

Even though we have never been formally introduced, you sure talk about me a lot. No, not me specifically. You don’t sit there in your little robes and address the reproductive organs of Sara Carpenter, but you might as well. To loosely quote the late Whitney Houston, “I’m every uterus, it’s all in me, Chaka Khan!”. Ok, well she didn’t say “uterus”…she said “woman,” but I didn’t adlib the “Chaka Khan!” thing. It seems that you are only concerned with me; not the muscles, bones, brain, or well-being that make up the mammal that transports me. Since you’re so focused on me, I thought I’d drop you a line to thank you for your interest.

You debate, ad nauseum, about what I should or should not be doing. I feel like the Kim Kardashian of Congress. Except, you won’t be able to sneak a peek of me at Fashion Week in Paris…because I’m a uterus and don’t photograph well.

I consider myself a modest, private organ. But, it recently occurred to me that all the things you fight about revolve around me. Since I’m so passionately debated, I’m going to tell you how I want to live my life. Because, you know, I’m a big fan of life…it’s kind of my thing. I want to decide whether or not I let a 9 month, silent “Occupy Uterus” protest take place within my confines. I want to decide whether or not I make a legal, life-long commitment to another uterine vessel. I want to make the same income as the vessel attached to the penis, for doing the same job. Lastly, I want the government that is so concerned with the life that I create to give a damn about it after it is born.

Your preachy Pro-Life rhetoric ends at birth. After that, you don’t care what goes on. You don’t care…if you did you wouldn’t have brought the government to a halt with your childish bickering. What’s wrong with you? I’m a simple, silly, little organ…but do you mean to tell me that driving a car and owning a home is more of a privilege than being alive? Both of those privileges require insurance. Why? Just because you can put a dollar amount on their replacement? What about me? What’s my value? Right now, you’re implying that I am worth nothing.

You are often referred to as “The Body of Congress”. One might assume that if the government was an actual living, breathing human…you would be the right and left sides of the brain. This assumption is incorrect; your behavior at this very moment makes you the rectum.

Kind regards,

Sara’s Uterus

I’ll buy dinner


“I’m going to buy the groceries tonight, okay?” he held up his change purse and shook it. I smiled, thinking his gesture was gush-worthy. “No, buddy. You save your money. I’ll pay for the things we need,” I asserted…in my soft, motherly, “aren’t you wonderful?” voice. “Nope, I got this,” he said, as he skipped along beside me.

There were people entering the store along with us, they could hear us as we chatted. I hadn’t noticed that they were watching until I made eye contact with an older woman, she was smiling at my boy. I was so very proud that his act of kindness was getting so much attention. The woman patted my son on the head as she walked by us. “He’s a good boy,” she whispered to me. “I’ve got, like… a hundred monies,” he said as he giggled, and showed her his change purse. “You’re very rich, I wish I had a hundred monies!” the woman responded. “I’m buying dinner tonight, I get to pick what we’re having!” it’s not often he engages strangers, but she had a grandma aura about her.

“Oh! What are you having?” she asked, I waited for his response. I was fully expecting him to say something along the lines of chicken nuggets or pizza. He looked around the store grinning, he was basking in all the attention he was receiving. After a few seconds, he opened his little mouth…“I haven’t decided, but what Mommy made for dinner last night was disgusting. It lacked imagination”.

The woman looked at me, unsure of how she should react. Since I was already hysterically laughing…she followed my lead. “We watch a lot of Food Network,” said in between snorts. This exchange set the tone for the rest of our shopping trip.

At his request, I let him drive the cart. We meandered up and down the aisles, him periodically swerving wildly to “check the suspension” and asking to put things in the cart. “Can we have that?” he said, as he pointed to a box of laxatives. “Um, no,” I replied. “But, it’s blue and it’s candy,” he persisted. He had caught the eye of another shopper, a man this time. He smiled at us as he listened to my boy present his argument. “Blue is my favorite color and I like chocolate. I’ll make you a deal, if I get this candy I won’t get in on the car seats.” His negotiation skills need work.

“Buddy, that’s not candy. It’s medicine,” he wasn’t buying my story. “No, medicine looks yucky. What kind of medicine is it mom?” his sarcasm was apparent as he spoke. “It’s a laxative,” I was trying to get out of having to explain this wonder of modern medicine to him in public. “What’s alactive?” I was having no luck. “Well, it’s something you take when you have to poop and you can’t,” I said. “Why does it have a picture of chocolate on it then?” he said in disgust. “It should have a picture of burritos on it!” I try not to laugh when the boy is being logical and serious…but the man within earshot did not have this restraint.

We walked away during the roaring laughter, my son was puzzled. “What’s wrong with that man?” he whispered. “Too much alactive,” I replied…not looking at him for fear my composure would crumble. He accepted my answer as fact. I hope to God he doesn’t go to school and warn his classmates about the frightening side effects of stool softener.

With just a few more things to purchase, I prayed the next few aisles would be empty. My prayers went unanswered. We were too far away from the bakery to grab a free cookie to put in his mouth, I was kicking myself for not stopping when we had the chance. Cookie gag is my go-to boy silencer. We had to get dog food, I agreed to let him select their meals for the week. He was very excited to have this responsibility.

My son, like most people, has difficulty controlling the volume of his voice when he is excited. There were a lot of pet friendly folks around us as he carefully inspected the packaging. He selected the cans with the dogs on them that most resemble his pets. As he showed me one with a fluffy, white pooch, he loudly exclaimed “MOM! Remember that time I CAME INTO YOUR BEDROOM AND FOUND BETTY WHITE SITTING ON YOUR FACE?”

It may have been a tactical error to name our puppy after a celebrity, because the entire store is now under the impression that I am involved in a lesbian relationship (not that there’s anything wrong with that) with a 90-something year old actress. I didn’t even bother explaining. We just hightailed it to the check-out. When he asked for a candybar at the register, I happily obliged, knowing I’d be able to make it to the car without being mortified.

One hundred and twenty-ten


He climbed into the backseat, chocolate stains in the corners of his mouth. He was talking a mile a minute. As I helped him get situated I caught a whiff of his scent. He smelled like fresh air, dirt, and playground. It’s his signature fragrance, the odor that follows him all day except for the few minutes he’s clean after he gets out of the tub.

Conversations with the boy carry on at light speed, with or without the presence of someone to respond. “Mom, we need to go to the store. There’s these things you can buy, they’re little. You go like this, and you make nickelesses.” His hand gestures, as you can imagine, did not clarify what skill you must possess to complete the task. “Necklace, buddy. It’s pronounced NEEECK-LACE.” He completely ignored my correction. “Can you get me the things at the store? Someone was making them at lunch.  They come in different colors.  I want blue, blue is my favorite color now. ” He’s at an age where he’s making all kinds of strange requests, I wish he came with a decoder ring. I changed the subject.

“How was school, buddy?” I asked, as we drove out of the parking lot. “Good,” and then there was silence. Next came the part of the day I like to call “academic interrogation”. He treats everything pertaining to learning guarded, like a State Secret. “What did you learn about today?” I prodded. “Nothing,” he chirped. “Did you know I speak chicken?” I had no idea he was multi-lingual. As he began to cluck loudly to the music on the radio I tried to come up with a creative way to find out what in the hell he’d done for the last six hours.

“Did you go to the library?” I managed to eek out in between clucks. “Bock…bock bock bock,” he responded through giggles. “That means, yes…I read a book,” I was really grateful for the translation, as my chicken is rusty. “Was the book about chickens?” It seemed like a logical question to ask. “No, why would you think that?” his response let me know that I was irritating him. “The book was about a boat, a big boat…it had pictures of sea quibbles in it.”

I work in the marine industry. I have lived around the ocean my whole life. Sea quibbles are new to me. “Remember when you were a little girl…and that big boat sunked?” I did not remember this event. “Remember all the people jumped out into the water? And, it was cold?” Nope, still not ringing a bell. “What’s a sea quibble?” I asked. “Those things that stick to the boat, they look like boogers. They were all over the wreckage.” he answered. (Yes, he said wreckage.)

Suddenly it clicked and I didn’t like where this conversation was heading. “Do you mean barnacles?” I asked, as I glanced up in the rearview mirror. “Yeah, those things!” he said, as he tried to touch his tongue to his nose. Cautiously I continued with my questions, afraid of what I was about to hear. “Did the big boat hit an iceberg?” I almost whispered, hoping he wouldn’t hear me. “Yep!”

“Honey, that happened…like… a hundred years ago.” I informed him. “Duh! I know that!” he was too far away for me to reach behind my seat and swat at him. “How old do you think Mommy is?” He thought for a minute, “you’re like a hundred and twenty-ten…but, you look good for your age.”

If this isn’t of payback of Titanic proportions, I don’t know what is.  I took comfort in the fact that he didn’t come up with an actual number, and the one he did use contained the word “twenty”.  I can remember thinking my parents were really old when I was a kid, but by my son’s account I’m old enough to be dead. I guess we all do this to our parents at some point. Make them feel decrepit.  I once asked my mother what she remembered about WW2, she bopped me on the head with a wooden spoon and set me straight. From now on, I’m never going anywhere without a wooden spoon.

Six


*This isn’t funny

“I’ll take you,” he said, as I stood in their living room. I didn’t want to impose, but it was clear that my father wasn’t going to accept no for an answer. He and my mother can be very persuasive when they want to be. I was relieved, my foot was double it’s normal size and throbbing. I couldn’t really walk, but I didn’t want them to know that. The pain was making it difficult to concentrate on anything other than the fact that my foot really fucking hurt.

He was worried. I could tell by his expression. I hate it when he worries about me, but I was glad to give him something else to worry about. As we drove to Urgent Care, I remembered all the time I spent with my father as a child. I found myself wishing I could go back to those days, when my universe consisted of a half-acre lot on a hill in North Miami. Set far back off the busy street, the house was protected by the giant U-shaped, asphalt driveway. It was a great place to roller skate, or fall…and scrape your knees to shit.

I was six-years-old when that busy street and a grey Datsun almost took the life of my favorite dog. I vividly remember my older brother Todd, cradling him and running towards the house, shirtless, and wearing shorts that today…only Richard Simmons would approve of. It was 1980 something.

“Sweetums got hit by a car,” he yelled to my mother as he ran through the door. They were both terrified, I could hear it in Todd’s voice and see it in the dog’s chattering underbite. Time stood still that day. Sweetums and I never ventured very close to the street after that.

My dad quietly sat with me in the examination room. As the doctor examined my foot, he watched intently. “You didn’t see what bit you?” The doctor looked at me quizzically. “It looks like you were bitten by some fire ants, I would think you would have noticed that.” Yes, I had to agree with her. One would think I would have noticed a swarm of angry insects turning my foot into a blistering, oozing, lump of flesh…but I didn’t. I hadn’t noticed very much in the last few days. I wasn’t going to explain. It wouldn’t help identify my symptoms. “I’m going to give you an antibiotic and I want you to keep your foot elevated and on ice”.

My dad and I drove home in relative silence. I was still ruminating on my old house and the memories that were made in between the dark brown carpet and white tile roof. I thought of the time I spent with my brothers. Like flipping through an album of old polaroid pictures, the memories ran through my brain…stopping at the ones that made me smile. The three of us were all very mischievous in our own right. Todd, being the oldest…was our ringleader.

“Say… I want a banana,” he giggled,  I was screaming and in the throes of a late-night tantrum. I was still in my crib, sharing a room with my brothers. Wailing, with tears, sweat, and snot rolling down my face, he’d come to my bedside to comfort me. It was an exercise in futility. He couldn’t figure out what I wanted…I’m not sure I knew either. I was demanding to see my parents. By the time my mom and dad arrived to the bedroom, I was screaming “I WANT A BANANA,” at the top of my little lungs. I don’t know what happened after that, my memory fails me. I can only imagine that my fruit induced meltdown must have puzzled them, as my brothers laughed under their sheets.

I thought of the day my parents went out to run errands and Todd convinced me it was a good idea to help him ambush our brother Mike with bottle rockets as he lay napping in their bedroom. I wasn’t allowed to light the bottle rockets…because that would have been dangerous. I was allowed to laugh and provide moral support.

Then I remembered the day we all sat on my parent’s bed, my brothers on either side of me, recording our own book on tape. I wasn’t old enough to read, so they took turns reading “Leo the Lop” aloud while I made the “beep” sound to signal that the page should be turned. I was an excellent beeper. These memories brought me the levity I so desperately needed. Uncovering them surprised me, my adult brain rarely reflects on my childhood in such great detail.

Later that night as I followed the doctors orders, I laid in my bed and tried to sleep. I was joined by my boy, who has just turned six. With a lisp that can only be created by a loose front tooth he whispered, “Momma? I had a bad dream.” This is our new bedtime ritual. “That’s impossible buddy, I just put you to bed for the 18th time tonight. You have to be asleep to dream.” I recited, as I do almost every night.

He ignored me, and went on to tell me that a sasquatch had crashed his birthday party, demolished his cake, and ran into the woods with his presents. I looked at him, impressed with his creativity. “But that didn’t happen, right? You had a wonderful party, right?” “Yep,” he chirped.

A few minutes went by and he spoke again. This time he whispered, “Momma? I’m worried about your foot…and I’m worried that my Uncle Todd is going to die of cancer.” My heart sank as my eyes welled-up with tears, I fumbled for the right words to say. “Baby, it’s not your job to worry,” I said, my voice cracking with every word. “My foot will be fine. Uncle Todd isn’t going to die, his doctors are going to fix him.”

He snuggled closer to me, putting his little head on my chest, and thought for a few seconds. “Momma?  What’s cancer?” Again, I fumbled. I could feel my tears leaking out of the corners of my eyes and hear them land on the pillowcase, close to my ears. “Cancer is something that can make people very sick. It’s also a very good reason to let people know you love them, even when you think they know”.

“Do you think he wants to borrow Elmo? Elmo always makes me feel better when I’m really sick.” I bit my lip, inhaling deeply. “No, baby. Uncle Todd would want you to keep him, just in case you need him,” I managed to squeak out.

In the days since I learned my older brother has Stage 4 Colon Cancer, time has again stood still. My text messages to him now contain the words “treatment” and “Oncologist” instead of “beer” and “barbeque”. I never in a million years thought this would be my…his…our…reality. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.

He’s very optimistic. His doctors assure him that this is treatable, but he’d be lying if he said he wasn’t scared, too. As he has done with everything in his life, he’s determined to beat this. Judging by his track record, my money is on Todd. He starts his treatment tomorrow. I wish I could be there to stand by his side in the darkness, comfort him, or at very least…suggest he demand a banana, if all other words fail him.

Although I won’t be with him physically, I will be with him in spirit…as will the rest of my family. I believe once this very scary chapter is over, when Todd is on the road to recovery, we will all “beep” joyfully as we turn the page.