Click to join yourself in wishing your real grandpa happy birthday.
This is a day when you and I are alone. We have planned a virtual party for Grandpa in Dublin, Ireland. Its his birthday. We will make a cake (the kind that you like, because Grammie already made him a Strawberry Rhubarb pie, his favorite). You made one scrap paper pointy hat yesterday and we have two more to make for sissy and me. We plan to make a painting of grandpa and sit him in a chair for his party. All of this silliness may happen the way we plan or maybe not. We’ll see. Then we’ll Skype him in Dublin.
Uncle AJ comes home next Thursday and leaves again on Saturday to go to New York for job training. Then he comes home again, all trained up and moves to Southern California. With a job. Cool. I am amazed at something that is a thing that young people do. Although I did it, most of us do. Your young man daddy hasn’t been too successful at that. I feel sick about him this morning. He’s an ache in my belly. He and your mommy are so irresponsible, and so messy.
They opened up the shed, I told them to review its contents and put things there they cannot take with them (where ever they go?). But no place else will they store things. This is it. So make decisions about what fits. The shed is behind the cottage here. Its where they have kept things since they moved here into this place and then to Montana. It seems so reasonable to me, generous of me even. Mommy pulled things out and all day brought me things they had “lost”. One discovery after another occupied their time. That’s how sorting goes. I asked for your old crocs because they would fit sissy, but told them I wanted nothing else in the cottage. They only had one. But Liza has two feet. Kids things they wanted me to keep would move to the garage into my storage area. Okay. Fine. What a mess. Not okay.
Because they left it out overnight, and another and then I called and after two more days outside stuff everywhere, shed open, mice and rats running in and out, Metro exploring, peeing, well, you know, making a mess of it all. Then it rained. My tummy is in knots. I look out the window and see books, cardboard boxes of stuffed animals, clothes, paper goods all sopped. A sewing machine, and what else? I can’t look, but do. All Ruined!
Waste sickens me. One thing I can say for myself, is that I take care of things. My version of coping with a change overtime in my economic status from poor working class kid to professional is that I take care of things. My mom did too. So does my sister. Stuff isn’t just stuff, it’s all precious, usable by somebody and to be cared for in all cases. How is it that your daddy and mommy didn’t get that? Especially your daddy? He was raised with me as his mommy. Is is part of a developmental deficit? Diagnosis “spacial delay and inability to read social cues”. Screw that. Grow up. I called you and told you it was going to rain. I told you. I told you.
A fungus grows, begins with tiny spores that attach themselves on cool and damp, vulnerable places; take hold, ache and scream through host cells- at my temples, lower back, neck and shoulders and result in a few days of stomach afire and hot diarrhea. Daddy’s crop of spores results in a malformed growth, racked with disease and mutates into a spore producing packet of pus and gore. All inside of my guts. He breeds his patch of spore-filled mushy odiferous fungus; a smelly slime in me. And I walk right into it every time. I know that’s gross talk and someday when you read this you may wish you hadn’t. Your mommy adds another layer of goo and your grandma, always ill-prepared, slide right in, pops the spore puff and it begins all over- worsens each time, because of each last time it happened. Old spores ignite with mushy bubbling life and spew out, sputtering emptying me of all hope. Where is there space for such slime? For stinky, spore producing, dog vomit slime? Not on this earth, Not on my planet. Not on our planet.
But you say to me. Mommy and daddy want a blue house. I want to live in a blue one, not this ugly gray house. I’ll come visit you. Where did this idea come from? I’m too sick to process it. Too lousy with the smell of it all. I have to stop looking out the window at the evidence, at the slimy cardboard deep in damp books, children’s books, stop noticing. Let go of stuff, let go of them. Like a divorce, I have to fit them into your life. And endure the endless cramping ache, writhing pain that comes from noticing all the crap just outside my window. Walk by singing, You are my sunshine….gma
I want dance lessons, grandma. In the car is when these things come up. I remember these times with uncle AJ and your daddy. What do people do at dance lessons? I ask you. We dance in our tutus. And I have a tutu already. Hmmm. Okay. Next week you and I will go look at a dance class. We will watch first and then have a talk on the way home.
So I googled dance in Santa Cruz and read through all the options finding that even in classes for four-year-olds, boys are asked to wear sweats and t-shirts, not tutus. I don’t want to face this with you. Maybe you can use your tutu at home. Tomorrow we will go and watch a class. We will also go see a gymnastics class for children your age. I tell you that you will have to do what the teacher tells you. You aren’t going to be able to go play somewhere else like at school. You will be expected to join the group, like at Joya’s Mothersong. Everyone does the same thing; staying together. Its how you learn to leap, twirl, swing on bars and roll over safely. Okay? “Maybe yes and maybe no. We’ll see“, you admit. Maybe this summer we won’t go to preschool, but you’ll swim, jump around and twirl. Is that too much to take on? Maybe yes, maybe no, we’ll see.
Yesterday we spent most of the day here at home after a short visit to an open house at a small farm. You wanted to see the ducks, sheep, goats and garden. You surprised me by casually naming irises, lemon balm, calendula, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, rosemary, lavender, trumpet vines, coyote bushes and roses, of course. You really pay attention. All day you asked me, “How do you say this in Spanish, Grandma.” We got out a dictionary and I pronounced each word for you. You smiled and walked away repeating them all day. You searched for a box big enough to hold you and gave up, frustrated, finally sitting on the wooden potty chair instead. You began clucking as Sissy and I stared in wonder. Then you stood and said, I just made 5 eggs come out of my butt. Now I have to keep them warm. They hatched after a bit of sitting and you flapped around the living room pretending to chase off a bobcat, a hawk and our own dogs. My eggs were blue but my chicks are yellow, you tell Liza. Liza, unaware of how important the potty was for your play, opened the potty and dumped a load of rubber fish in. No. You screamed, grabbing onto a hank of the yellow, fluffy hair on the top of her head. That’s my nest! We talked about hurting her, what else you could have done and what her good idea was. That Liza, sniffed back her tears and helpfully, took out the fish, putting them back in their clear toy aquarium so you could have your nest back.
Liza is becoming resilient. She falls and picks herself up. (literally) She slams into the ground, flat-handed, scolding at it for hurting her. Yesterday she gathered her confidence to clamor up on the stool where I sit with my computer, opened it up and began to madly push buttons. The stool tipped over and so intent she was on the button pushing, she clung to the counter edge and continued to push, then dropped to the floor, konked her head and sobbed. She got up, still crying and righted the heavy stool, to get to the computer. Single minded and sure.
Your sister answers questions with Oh, yeah. Do you want to eat? Oh, yeah. From our morning song, Going to see Adrianna, oh yeah. She mixes English and Spanish, Sucio, mama. Agua, si. Eat eat, si, comb-ay (spanish-“come”), oh yeah. She zooms around the house busy with ideas. She pushes babies in strollers, plays with animal figures and boxes and stacks blocks. You and she run and plop on the bed, playing a chase game, over and over. Laughing. Someone always falls and bumps their heads. But I don’t stop the play unless it can go outside. The play together is lovely. She’s my chickie, you tell me. Does she know what to do? Yes. She flaps, see? And has to stay in a box with the lid on. Hmmm. You know what came next.
So many head bumps! Pink eye is over and both kids in back in daycare today. These days are rare, as it turns out. I have some time. I was going to garden but its so dang cold and windy. Grandpa is gone. He’s in Dublin , Ireland at a conference. We have had a lot of time all alone. Today daddy takes you to daycare. Ahhh. Last few weeks of that kind of help. They will move out by the weekend of June 3. No idea where. UGH. Hard time for your mommy and daddy. I told you they were going to move and find a place where you could visit and maybe even have a sleep-over. You asked why? I explained that mommy and daddy were grown-ups and it was time to find their own place. You moved onto another subject. I guess I have relaxed into this parent role a bit more. Less resentful, less angry, less frustrated. But I still find I have to watch my temper. So the feelings are sitting a little deeper, and are not really gone. Feelings are like that. We have to pay attention to them even when they hide, buddy.
I ramble. So I’ll stop for now. I am working on a short film for Grandma Janice Brown in Oregon. I wanted her to see our place, so I captured our day, including going to school and some scenery familiar to her along the way. I am learning to add music and how to edit. So I’ll get back to that now. Loving you, gma
This week you invited a friend over. Sam is 4, from England and attends your preschool. You two play sometimes, you said. He told you “It would be lovely to come visit with your chicks, Orien.” Okay, you told him and planned the visit. Wednesday we will make cookies and have Sam and his mom, Emma for a play date, as its called. Can you eat cookies? You asked him this morning. “I certainly hope they are chocolate chip.” Sam suggested slurping and rubbing his tummy. We have to make them, you told him. Chocolate chip it is!
You mailed Shelby a picture of the two of you then another to ask her to come play. Last week you went over there for water play and dinner and ended up staying the night. You were so happy about your play and told me that Shelby’s mom, Katie is your best friend.
Your drawing of you, clearly on the left, (the tiny line between the two legs) and Shelby on the right holding hands. You want her to join you on an airplane trip because she would really like to fly, you decide. You want to be the pilot, you told me. “Maybe even have a plane with floats to land on Echo Lake. And I’d better take my chicks so they aren’t alone.” The plane you designed has low windows for shorter passengers and upper windows for grown-ups. It has many wheels because two makes landing too bumpy. You are thinking and planning like a four-year old!
And melting down like one, too. Kick, scream, grunt and groan. Its bedtime again. Sleep (my favorite book this week) You are overly tired and have to get to sleep. You and grandpa are at odds. You are at odds with yourself. We put you in our bed to cry awhile (or Ellie will be awakened). You say through your tears, moans and sighs, “Life is too hard. And I’m confused.” Jeeze. You got it, buddy. It sure is. Good “using your words” to express that. This moment will be revisited many times over, little one. Again and Again. I lie with you as your sadness pours out until you fall asleep damply on my pillow.
Ellie dragged her blankie into school, sat down with little Eva and poured some milk, said bye bye, blew a kiss and focused on a warm pancake snack in front of her made by the four year olds in the next room. I’m on my own today. For the first time in a long time, I have all day. Ahhh. Now I can deal with Metro. I can’t let him spend his final crazy dog days in a shelter, moaning for home and then be put down because no one took him home. There has to be a better way. When a dog is miserable, embarrassed, mad, sad, worried all the time. His tumors cause him to build fluid in hid chest that has to be drained every two weeks. We tried drugs to relax him. He peed all over and laid in his own pee puddle. My vet won’t consider euthanizing. We have come to know that is best. None of the leads for a placement have panned out yet. I long for a sleep filled night. And to stop worrying over my dog. None of it is good.
I don’t want you and Liza to see me not loving him.
“Nina, Nina. Ooooh, yeah. Nina Nina, O-O-O-O-O, yeah. La la la.” Your sister sang all the way home from daycare; her feet kicking in time. Her eyebrows lift and she sings about her favorite person, Gina. That scowl that I feared would be her “always first” face, (the one that makes her look like mommy) seems to have melted into a soft contented and peaceful one. She seems happy. Gina spent a little time with her today at daycare. Liza has her own little school now (five days 8 to 4). She has skilled, educated and loving caregivers at Adrianna’s family child care home. Its one of several in Casa Pequena, a college children’s center FCCH network I started when I was director back in 1992. Its developed into a marvelous community of small business owners who care. I feel incredibly privileged to have such a great program available to the community and to us. I’m so confident while she’s there. It’s near Denny’s off Ocean Street and I worried at first about the numbers of homeless passing by this area near the river. Until today.
Today you and I took Liza to Adrianna’s then walked across the river footbridge (Thank you, Arnold) before taking you to the doctor for an infected eye. We strolled across while watching a couple of paddlers and two families of ducks. The babies enchanted us. Fuzzy little paddlers. I asked you which one would be you. You chose the one that was right behind mom. Funny I’d have chosen you as the one that swam off onto the island away from the rest and came splash-squawking back desperate for safety. This is sissy of course. You insisted. The habitat down there is clearly conducive to raising a family among the rushes and grasses of the shallow sandy bottomed river. One family were beautiful wood ducks or possibly ring-necked. It was a lovely walk and a much needed respite. The kind that makes me realize I have been too narrowly focused and too damn serious for too long. Look at this incredible world under our feet and at our doorstep.
Gina is going to see the children much less regularly now. Infrequently, I imagine. I expected it to be hard to say goodbye, to stop our arrangement, but was not expecting ” I would adopt Liza if I were employed and had health insurance.” She loves her. I didn’t know. Missed it. I saw it as a passionate, yet professional relationship. I recall my baby-desire when I was her age. The pull, pangs and slams. Life is so unfair. It just is, dammit. You and Liza are loving, wonderful and deserving children. Buddy, you and your sister are not available. You are still your mommy’s and daddy’s. Staying with Grandpa and me. And until we give mommy and daddy the year we promised for them to figure out how to be parents to you and sissy, there will be no change. You are here with us. And all of this stays as close to invisible to you as possible. We are so sorry Gina that you have a broken heart for a bit. You have been so important to us, all of us, during this time. You loved Liza, adored her, supported and cared for both children and taught me what there is to love about our Liza when I forgot. (She needed too much of me and for a few months we were at odds).
Now we’ll move on to a working mom kind of week; M-F daycare and weekends with your mom and dad. We’ll see how that works. Friday afternoons with dad and mom for dinner and bedtime at our house, Saturday and Sunday 9-2, Mom and Dad time. Daddy can pick up you kids on Fridays, take Liza to school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Works for me. Now I have to get back those subsidized health care benefits for you two and maybe find help with your daycare. We are pretty stretched and I am not making any money these days! Should I go back to work? Hmm.
Your uncle is still in Brazil teaching English to Portuguese speaking children and teenagers. He may have a surf sales job through NHS in Santa Cruz at a town about an hour away from where he lives, in a place called Florianopolis. He is excited about it and has worked so hard to get a position like this one. Good luck, Uncle Alex! Wouldn’t it be fun to go see him? Maybe someday.
Okay buddy, that’s the news. Take care of that eye and it will heal in a day or two. It is some kind of an infection inside the socket. A long word that I don’t recall like a sty in the eye tissues rather than the lid. OUCH, the doctor says it may hurt. I think it probably does, but you don’t realize it. You have cried about everything; more crying than I have seen in two months. You want the pumpkin bread I gave your mom, want to pick a flower that you couldn’t, cried when you spilled your juice, droppeda sandwich and numerous infractions initiated by your sister. Maybe you are off balance this week as Liza gets a new daycare. She is getting a lot of attention. You may have feelings about that. Crying may be good for that eye. Warm compresses feel nice, you say, the tears rinse out globs of matter and your eye seems less swollen afterwards.
Let’s hold one another, our friends, family and loved ones tenderly. Ourselves, too.
Picture: You holding two week old, Daisy.