Tag Archives: family systems

Walk of Shame

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I’d been up since 4:36 today. Despite the predicament of not knowing his whereabouts, I was in a cheerful mood.

The sun was barely up; the rosy-hued morning just cresting the bare trees. It’s a cold dawn in late November, the temps were down to the teens last night.

The boys see him first, “There he is, Mom.”

“He looks so smug, all slow and casual…” my oldest son says, a little sad that this is what’s become of our family.

My stomach churned inside itself as though a baker were kneading it to make a gut dough. I didn’t want the children to be exposed to this: his blatant flouting of the family trust, his perpetual shenanigans so close to the holidays. There was no avoiding it I s’pose. I was done lying to myself and covering up for him after all our years together.

“Do we let him in? I’m so confused by it all. Why doesn’t he stay with us? Doesn’t he love us?” asked my middle son.

“Let him in, but keep him in the hallway, I can tell by a sniff of his neck where he’s been and who’s been keeping him away and I want to look into his eyes. I want to watch him try to hide from me what and who he’s been seeing and who’s been making him so comfortable. Don’t tell your baby brother; he’ll be devastated. He just made Gingerbread cookies yesterday hoping to eat them with him nearby,” I said as I was packing lunches and pulling hats and gloves from the storage container in the closet.

“He’s not cold, that’s for sure. Not like he’s been out all night; nope. Someone kept him nice and warm…” said one of the boys.

He looked away; he couldn’t be bothered with any of us, really.

“Love? Did one of you ask about ‘love‘? He doesn’t love anything but himself. He never has. He’s like a robot — I just make a nice home for him, feed him, try to hold him — but he won’t let me, he wiggles out of my arms any chance he gets. He’s always looking over my shoulder for the next sucker. It really gnaws at your sense of family and place in the world,” I answered as I looked at him.

He heard everything I said. He looked right at me. His eyes laser clear, deep and green. It looked like he hadn’t shaved in weeks, his face was beautiful though, just gorgeous — it was the face I fell for so long ago. But I knew instantly when he slowly closed his eyes and turned his head that he was no longer interested in having this conversation. When our dog greeted him he showed complete indifference; he almost growled at him.

who could walk away from this guy?

who could walk away from this guy?

“Don’t you dare do that to Murphy! He worries himself sick about you! Sure, he eats what you leave behind, and he will gladly take your sleeping spot when you’re not here, but that’s because he knows I’m confused and sad that you’re with her. Don’t look at me like that….” I said.

What did he ever do for me? Oh sure, a slow meaningful glance now and then or a stroke of my leg, but I wasn’t appreciated. He treated me like staff.  I close in on him, sniff his collarbone and his shoulders. He turns his head, gives me the jaw, so to speak. I move to meet his face. We were an inch apart, our breaths heat one another, eyes lock.

I melt.

“You know we raked 30 bags of leaves this weekend — withOUT you?!? You walked right by them on your way into the housssse,” I hiss as I push him away.

he didn't help. never does.

he didn’t help. never does.

“I can smell her on you. Her perfume, fresh jasmine and essential oil-infused coconut balm that she makes and uses on her hands; she gave me some you know after we carved that pumpkin for her, it’s great stuff, I’ve started using on my face, I don’t break out … ugh! But you don’t care! Look at me!! Loooooook at meeeeeee you sonnabeech! Don’t you care about us?! WHERE WERE YOU LAST NIGHT?! I called and called … you NEVER answer!”

Why do I bother?

Cold hearted, he is. I turn back to him, lock his shoulders in my hands but he wriggles himself free of my desperate grasp. I stand there, enraged at the insult. The boys are engrossed and ashamed at the same time.

My older son looks outside, then at the clock. “Mom, we can’t … the bus will be at the stop soon. C’mon, D. I can’t really start my day, my week with this stuff. This is between them. This isn’t for kids: we are not to blame,” he said, tugging on his younger brother’s backpack.

“That’s right, boys. This isn’t your problem. I appreciate you holding him back though. I didn’t want him to get one step further into the house without inspecting him. Have a good day. Try to forget about this. It’s none of your fault. It never was. It’s between me and him,” I said, glaring at him.

He walks away from me, coughing. Sometimes he can’t get away from me fast enough.

my brother drew this.

my brother drew this.

“Well, you sure haven’t been missing any meals!” I can’t help myself. My rage has kicked into full gear; I’m blind. I’m sure the boys can hear me with the door closed, screaming at him, crying, asking him to stay with us, to live with us, to stop going to her, them, for days on end without a trace of him.

“Did you know I asked her about you? She looked right at me and said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve seen ‘im since Saturday…’ It being WEDNESDAY…” he says nothing, just stares into the distance.

By now we’ve moved to the kitchen, just beneath my youngest son’s bedroom. I start in again. He gazes out the back door into the frigid morning, the sun is higher but it’s still dark.

“Sure. Just keep doing what you do… keep coming and going… at your whim. Meanwhile, three boys, a dog and I are here wondering if you’re safe, or if you’ve been picked up… will I get the call from the holding cells?, ‘Mrs. Field… we have him … again…'”

“You disgust me. I have to wake my son for school. Don’t bother joining me. If he asks me if you came home, I’ll tell him you’re here and that you’re happy to hear his questions…”

He slinked into the living room and sat in his special chair. He said nothing. He doesn’t engage me in these fights. He doesn’t care.

gandalfcouch

roboCat.

It’s not me, it’s him I’ve decided. I give up. He stays out all night. Doesn’t come home for days. The boys wonder where he is. I ask people we know if they’ve seen him — some have and some haven’t. But this morning… that walk of shame… I know where he’s been.

“Just let it go, Mol,” my husband said. “He’s a dick.”

“That’s right… he is a dick…” I agree.

Thank you.

Friday Fiction 2.1 — Your Mother Will See You Now

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When Luther went home for the long holiday weekend, amongst his toiletries, he packed a suit, a blazer, two pairs of “shiny shoes” as Claire called them, a set of running shoes, his iPod, some ties: one for the plane, one for day, one for dinner, one for Mass, and his journal.

He was not at all concerned about flying, but his nerves were a wreck; he was looking forward to runs in the park with his labrador, “Charlie” and for long walks with his dad by the lake. He was even looking forward to seeing his sister’s husband, Griff, the hotshot lawyer who always managed to make big husky Luther feel like a chump. A chump was a god compared to how Luther felt around his mother.

[go here for the first part of this story: https://mollyfielddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/friday-fiction-friends-2-0-familiarity-breeds-fonder-over-greener-ponds/ ]

Although she had never directly expressed her dismay or disappointment with Luther’s job, or his lack of a steady girlfriend, or his seemingly directionless life to Luther, it’s what she said to all his relatives, friends, the mailman and the pharmacist that gave her away.

“How’s the card company, Luther?” Mr. Everwood would say from his perch above the pharmacy floor when he’d go by to pick up a refill for his father. “We don’t carry those cards in this shop. People don’t seem to like ’em…” he would add on, his voice fading into a mutter about an obscene greeting card scandal years before that had nothing to do with Hansen’s Greetings, the country’s second-largest greeting card company.

For the first couple inquiries, Luther would try to talk up the company, but after his first year ended, he’d decided that Mr. Everwood wasn’t really interested in a conversation; he’d always wander off mid-sentence looking for his reading glasses which were usually hanging from a black polyester cord around his neck.

When he boarded the jet to take him to Nantucket, Luther put his bags in the overhead compartment. His carry-on fit perfectly beneath his window seat on the small aircraft. Luther was a big guy, 6’3″ 195, athletic, and broad-shouldered. He had inherited the Irish farmer in his father’s side of the family. His sister, Maureen, was much slighter than he, but what she lacked in physicality, she made up for in personality. He stood up in the aisle for as long as possible, stretching his aching legs as he’d waited for his section mate to show up. Once that unknown fellow traveler arrived, Luther would be locked into his seat for five hours. He looked at his phone. The flight was already 7 minutes behind schedule, he sighed, loosened his tie and decided to take off his jacket.

Luther came from ‘good breeding’ and he learned early on to dress appropriately for a flight; it was a sign of respect to the captain and the staff of aircraft. His grandfather was a commercial pilot after flying for the Navy during the Vietnam War. His grandfather told everyone to dress for a funeral when flying because, “you never know if you’ll be buried at sea” when flying over the water, but he also said it was important to dress well because often those pilots were retired military officers who risked their lives for our country, so “dress up or get off my plane!” was his oft-heard refrain he’d offer to anyone who flew with him.

He turned around and prepared to put his jacket up in the overhead compartment when his section mate arrived. They’d just about bumped right into each other. It was a young woman, about 20, who asked if she was in the right place on the plane. She was tall, just about Claire’s height, Luther noticed, and dressed smartly for the flight.

“Uh… row 22 seat B, yup, that’s you. Right here. Can I get your bag for you? I’m happy to –”

“No, thanks, I’ve got it. I’m on the volleyball team at school, so I’m used to doing shoulder presses and all that. You putting your jacket up there or are you getting it down? Need me to –”

“Sure, great. Once you put your bag up there, if you could take my jacket, here, it’s all folded and ready, and plop that on top of my bag, that would be awesome,” he said as he stretched and twisted his back before submitting himself to the cramped seat which waited below him.

The blonde student-athlete took his jacket and gently placed it on top of his bag.

“It’s gonna shift around in there, just so you know, I put it right on top as you suggested, but if it comes out all rumpled…” she said, pursing the right corner of her mouth and raising her right eyebrow, “don’t blame me; blame the pilot.”

“Then it’ll be rumpled. The humidity on Nantucket should straighten it out in no time once we get back on land. My name’s Luther, thank you for your help,” he said, extending his hand as he prepared to sit down.

“Chris, and you’re welcome. My pleasure,” she answered with a big bright smile. “You going home or vacation up there? I’m heading home for summer break; classes just ended yesterday and I’ve got two weeks before volleyball training starts over again,” she asked, not looking at him, but acquainting herself with her seat, the safety belt, the magazines and her arranging her iPod.

Luther padded his shirt pocket for his iPod, then his hip pockets, still nothing. “I am … doing neither. …. My parents live up there; it’s where I grew up, but I don’t consider it home. Anyway, I’m rambling. I’m heading to Nantucket for a long weekend with my family and I’m looking forward to seeing our dog,” he said. “Aha, there it is, in my carry-on,” his voice muffled into his chest because he was all compressed like a shrimp.

“Your dog?” Chris asked.

“No, my iPod. My dog… Ha ha… that’s funny.”

“Well, you’d be surprised about what people bring on planes, Luther,” she said.

He agreed. “If you need anything that I can help you with, please let me know; I’m just gonna plug in here and zone out.”

Chris nodded, she was a few steps ahead of him with her pillow scrunched under her head alongside the headrest.

He fell asleep quickly. Images of leather chairs and Persian rugs flooded his dreams. A small room, the sunlight which made it past the leafy birch out front dappled the wood floor, high mahogany walls, lots of books, a maple roll-top desk and a matching swivel chair on casters with a black leather seat awaited him. He sat on the chair; his hands resting like paws on the armrests, his feet didn’t touch the floor, they swung loosely from the cushion which was cool to the backs of his bare legs in seersucker short-pants. He could see his blue and white saddle shoes swish back and forth. Waiting here meant trouble. Waiting here meant he had some explaining to do. Waiting here meant he got thirsty real fast. A door swung open and a fierce-looking woman in a grey suit spoke to Luther, “Your mother will see you now, Luther.”

“Yes mother,” said Luther to the woman.

Luther jostled in his seat. The song he’d fallen asleep to hadn’t even ended. The plane was still on the ground. His cell phone was ringing, it was his mother calling.

(c) Molly Field 2013

 

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here is the next installment: https://mollyfielddotcom.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/friday-fiction-2-1-perfect-is-the-enemy-of-good/

well, that’s it for me – about 1200 words. i’ve been sick all week with strep throat and it’s late (thursday night – i have an appointment friday); i’d write more, but we have the whole month of May to write about mothers … all fiction of course. 😉

Here is the prompt:

  • May is the month to celebrating motherhood. Start this week’s post with the following:”Your mother….”

please read the other Friday Fiction Friends who are participating today:

http://worldsworstmoms.com/fiction-friday-part-15-under-frangelicas-wing/

http://debiehive.blogspot.com/2013/05/fiction-friday-challenge-unraveling.html

http://clearlykristal.com/?p=3445

http://susannenelson.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/fiction-friday-17-mothers/

http://www.bulamamani.com/belated-friday-fiction-9/

http://neargenius1.blogspot.com/2013/05/friday-fiction-returns-may-prompt-1.html

Post 200. Be Present, Regret Nothing, Take Chances.

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I hail from a pretty private branch of a pretty private family tree and even though I consider my family’s branch to be a bit more open, it still doesn’t mean we’re like… super open.

Thus I have determined, likely as a vestige of those thoughts and mannerisms, that nuance and subtlety is always going to win over dropping a grand piano; that restraint, grace and pacing is always more appealing than simply stating things because I feel they need to be stated.

As I grew up, I was dynamic, extroverted, real, on point, and often passionate. I was anything but present, unless that meant taking a moment and dragging it on as long as possible.

me and my mom. i was about 9, she was about 43. i remember that dress she wore - it was one of her favorites and who could blame her: cotton pullover t-shirt dress? talk about easy and fashionable.

me and my mom. i was about 9, she was about 43. i remember that dress she wore – it was one of her favorites and who could blame her: cotton pullover t-shirt dress? talk about easy and fashionable.

Nothing has changed since my younger years other than my delivery. I have learned through experience that my mothers’ friends frequent admonitions, that I needed to dial back or be more respectful, were correct and that no one likes a blowhard, arms akimbo, wild-eyed mayhem maker. No one. So I’ve learned to dial back, speak slower, make my point but do it softer while just as intensely.

I alluded last week on Tuesday that I will likely write every once in a while about my parents’ aging and how I’m processing it. I could make that sentence more direct: “How I process my parents’ aging” but I don’t believe that does the situation justice. I mentioned my family’s privacy above because I will try to honor it as I continue to chronicle our evolution as my parents age. Try to come at it from my perspective.

As I allow myself to turn the table, as I endeavor to put on my parents’ well-worn, comfortable, and sensible shoes, I realize that what they’re going through has got to be the absolute worst battle they will surely lose. There has to be nothing worse than digging in your heels against life’s most inevitable lesson: that we all die and wonder a lot of the time, “what if I’d chosen this instead of that” or “what if I’d said it this way instead of that way…”

My parents like to say, “go to God” when a loved one has died.

I like that. It’s not so much that it’s the Christian aspect of the phrase, but it’s the mystical aspect to it. It shows me there’s something else, something waiting; something more.

My parents live about six miles from me despite the county’s attempts to turn that into eight miles in the name of progress.

I have been in touch with a consultant to aid us all through the next stages of their lives here on earth. She is a character herself, this woman. A little stiff, a touch too efficient, but compassionate nonetheless. I suppose it’s her years of experience that have done the opposite of softening her to the inevitabilities of life: death, and has honed her to be ready, be that efficient consultant. It’s a challenging job for certain: full of fits and starts that her clients undoubtedly put her through during these processes.

I thank God for people like her: to be able to see all of what’s before them and cut through the clatter and chatter and clutter to the end point: living well to die well.

She tells me I am a good daughter, to advocate for my parents this way. She has no idea. I am not a good daughter. I have been hewn and sculpted by my parents’ choices which shaped me into the woman I have become. But as I am not a totally bad daughter, they were not totally bad parents either. There’s a phrase that describes this perfectly: “you get what you give.”

The consultant and I will meet on Valentine’s Day this week. After yoga. At a middle-eastern shopping center restaurant where we will talk about my parents and their situation over hummous, toasted pita points, shwarma, tzatziki and cucumber medallions.

I am the only child of theirs in the area. I am the only daughter, the only vessel, if you will, able to manage, carry and internalize all of this and continue on.

Men can’t help how they are designed, but they are not meant for this kind of Work. This is not a sexist statement, it’s just true, is all. Women are containers, we have wombs, we bear children, we take in, we bear pain and we deal — one way or another, and some ways are better than others, but we deal. Men are externalizers, except when they internalize which never works because by their very design and my 6th grade emotional estimation, they are not supposed to linger long; they disperse their seed and they move on. This is proven time and again in almost every animal kingdom other than birds which mate for life. If I’ve offended you I’m sorry. 21st Century man has come and evolved a very long way since those days when Kroc inseminated Kreika, Tngu and Phlark in the same cave and moved on, but the fact of the matter is that women bear the kids and sometimes, the men walk out. Just sometimes. I’ve only heard of it happening a couple times. And sometimes those fathers might stick around but their minds move on.

So being the only daughter and nearest my parents means this bowling ball inevitably will roll my way. I am a duckpin. In the corner. Number 10, hiding behind all the others and hoping that heavy, slow, lumberingly Brunswick or AMF ball, its approach like thunder in the distance, will find its way into the gutter and not hit me, but I know it will. I am a member of the sandwich generation and the way I see it: you haven’t fully lived until you are.

When the time comes, when it gets intense and sad and truly inevitable (as if it isn’t already), my sibs will be on board; I know this. But no way you slice this: it’s going to be work.

This is post 200; that means about 330,000 words +/- 15,000 words. I wanted to make this post smart, and true. That’s not to say I believe I’ve ever written anything stupid and fake. There are plenty of posts I’ve started and haven’t written:

I started and stopped posts 13 times. It's not that they stunk, but I wasn't ready and some of them simply didn't matter anymore.

I started and stopped posts 13 times. It’s not that they stunk, but I wasn’t ready and some of them simply didn’t matter anymore.

I wanted this post to be relevant. But in the end: for whom is it relevant? Most likely me and anyone else who is about to embark on this journey about aging parents.

I’m going to do my best to close each one of these posts about my parents with a positive memory or affectionate thought and how I sense it rather than to stitch them closed with butcher’s string and thoughts of pain, remorse or fear.

Her features are long faded; her beautiful cheekbones still winning out but her eyes feel lost now. She smiles sweetly, most of the time in regard to a memory or a thought which pleases her. I envy her that; her ability to stay in those happy places. My mind races at times to sadder moments, times when she broke my heart instead. The lump in my throat is very painful at the moment; sharp, severe. My therapy-educated mind is telling me to sit with it; feel the feelings. Let out the cry of disappointment, let out the sensations of fear and sadness. I can’t articulate it, but I will honor them. I suppose it doesn’t help that this song, “Mother of God” which is incredibly close to how I grew up at times, is playing in the background:


My mother has a gown-length muskrat coat she used to wear all the time in the winter; growing up in Buffalo, NY, that was about 5 months long sometimes. As a child, I would sink my face into it, pull it around me as I spun and wedged myself between her legs and the coat’s red silk monogrammed liner. She could’ve had a mink or a raccoon or a beaver or a fox or a seal coat, but she chose muskrat; which is just like her: that muskrat coat could be worn by a man, too, from what I recall: broad shoulders. Something fantastic about her buying a muskrat coat… her rebellion and artistic fancies winning over convention and beating aristocratic tradition with a tuned ukelele, three of which she owns. Something happened though, something changed her and I’ll never know what that was.

Someone mentioned witnessing her own mother and her mother-in-law and this person grew perplexed about how to avoid turning into either one of them, set in her ways, fearful and acerbic. I didn’t have an answer. I just told her to do what I try to do every day: Be Present, Regret Nothing, Take Chances. And one more: Believe in yourself.

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Thank you.