Tag Archives: family

So I’ve Figured out This Much… #writing

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So I’ve Figured out This Much… #writing

The vertigo has been helpful, or at least it has pushed me into the direction I mean to head. I have been taking prednisone for it. On Tuesday (three days ago) I got an 80mg shot of it in my ass. From my understanding, that’s a strong dose. My doctor said, as she was seated on one of those round leatherette-upholstered low stools that roll around the linoleum while glancing between me and her computer, “Hmm. Should we just go for it and give you the 80? That would likely do the job… we may as well while we are here…” and she ordered it.

I don’t claim to know the difference between 2mg of prednisone and 100mg of it*.

*“Of it.” That was such a Doug Turnerism. He would say “of it” at the end of sentences… after the sentence had paused, even and we were ready to move on. And he’d just say “of it.” Like an old man. And I guess it’s because he was an old man… but it was like this all-encompassing tie off, so to speak, of what he was expressing… so that I suppose, to him … maybe it was a complete thought? That none of us would wonder if he were done? Or if he’d heard himself? Hard to say. Of it.

Anyway, the prednisone has kept me awake longer — and when I say “awake” I mean staring-at-the-ceiling-maybe-I-should-just-go-do-some-laundry-or-walk-the-dogs-in-the-cold-dark-night-alone-or-join-a-neighborhood-watch-patrol-do-they-even-have-those-anymore-maybe-we-should-get-a-ring-doorbell-but-that’s-an-Amazon-thing-no-better-not-do-that-but-what-will-help-us-stay-safe awake… in other words awake and stupid.

But I was also awake and aware enough to shift gears from thinking about letting Jeff Bezos have any more of my money for things than I’m comfortable with to figure out what to do about my writing at least for now and whereas Miriam, (a reference to my first book) is concerned.

I’m going to keep that manuscript and keep writing for the Unpulled Pin (fiction based on real shit) to flesh that out and because it’s so helpful to me emotionally, and it’s sort of essential to set the framework of her origin story. Then I’d launch into Miriam with a new beginning basically being me:

Miriam wanted to be a writer; and she was good at it, plus there was no getting away from it: it was in her blood for many generations and she sees it in her own children as well. She also wanted to be a good person. She also grew up with some really weird shit going on in her home. While some of it resembled Running with Scissors and it wasn’t as thoroughly dark as August: Osage County, it was haunting like Long Day’s Journey Into Night it was true that it ended ok, because Here She Was.

She knew her story was good enough to fill some pages, especially because she was healthier now, after, during and because of her therapy, yoga and having a family of her own, but she also knew that “tell alls” are for presidents and their lovers.

But this wasn’t going to be a “tell all” — she’s not out for blood anymore; that ship has sailed, but Miriam knew her story was interesting enough to share and be helpful for people who thought they were alone: upper middle class, adult children of well-educated, connected and upwardly mobile alcoholics.

So Miriam was at a crossroads: she could write her book about her story, but she’d have to tell the truth and to her, that “truth” part was at odds with being a good person. People who loved her parents didn’t really KNOW her parents, and while her parents were pretty fucked up people, they also deserved some dignity. But then she recalled what Anne Lamott said in Bird by Bird,

You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.

Sounds good.

So there’s that. It’s going to be a story about a story. Funny, now that I reflect on the last few days — I’ve been humming “Paperback Writer” to myself, especially the lines “It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear, and I need a job so I want to be a paperback writer…” What I’m doing is a story about a writer who wants to write a book. Pretty meta.

So I have determined that I will channel Miriam with me as my muse and maybe sass it up a bit from time to time to make things seem super outrageous so that people won’t know up from down? I’m not going to sweat the details right now — that’s a way to keep from writing. I’m just going to get going.

In the meantime, Mary Oliver beckons:

Later!

Change… Organic and Otherwise

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We rented a house on the Outer Banks (“OBX”) of North Carolina, which is a place in and of itself accustomed to change despite the earnest and feckless desires of mere mortals who decide to defy Nature by building houses yards from the Atlantic.

We arrived on a cool March afternoon after driving several hours from our roost near Washington, DC. The two younger sons traveled with me and my husband in our giant SUV. They in the back seat enjoying their various iDevices and occasionally participating in conversations as we collectively listened to the entertaining and dubious Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff.

The sky was overcast, the winds pretty fierce and the shoreline was booming as the high tide was due in a couple hours. My youngest son, known as “Thing 3” to anyone who’s familiar with my writing (which has taken a back seat to my 11-times a week yoga teaching schedule) has been renamed “Tech Support” from time to time because of his interest in all things technological. (Don’t confuse “interest” with “competency” as he’s still learning and when I got a new computer a few weeks ago he scrubbed my old one and it took a shit ton of data supposedly stored on the “CLOUD” with it… but it’s only 1s and 0s right?).

When we pulled in to the OBX driveway, he said, “we’re under a storm surge warning which will cause high surf from tomorrow night at 8pm until the following evening at 8pm.” He was correct. The waves were truly the highest I’ve ever seen and the accompanying winds gave me pause to recall my numerous dreams I’ve had wherein I’m in a seafront home and utterly surrounded by sea water. I haven’t had one of those dreams in a while, and as stirring as they can be, I don’t wake destroyed as one might expect.

Back in early March, most of the east coast endured a nor’easter named “Riley” (is it me? When did they start naming winter storms? Are they like the names of Mother Nature’s children? I think we should rename them things like “Scott Pruitt”; “industrial age” and “Valdez”) and what about gender neutral names? “Riley” is safe, I must say, different from “Katrina” or “Hanna” or “Andrew” I believe most storms used to be named after females, but it’s not so far off when we will have a Storm Robert or Nor’Easter Stan… I digress (get used to it).

Riley slammed where I live with 70mph gusts and 40mph sustained winds for an entire weekend. Power went out all over the region, but not at my house. My father stayed with us overnight and that was probably enough for everyone, mostly him. His power was restored the next afternoon. Where I’m from, Buffalo NY, my cousins got slammed with several feet of snow. Boston got hammered … it’s how it goes. But down here, in OBX, it appears that the seas still have not receded. Riley pushed the sands up the shore; buried in-ground pools and turned 6′ privacy fences to knee-high shin scrapers. Pools installed behind some of those now-demolished privacy fences are overcome with sand.

Here’s my view from the deck of the house we rented… the “bush” below is what’s left of the first dune garrison. I’ve marked up the photos immediately following to explain what the what used to be what.

In this next photo, the steps leading up the walkway used to take you to another “bridge” over the first dune garrison and then you would descend a second set of steps to sit access the beach. Locals tell me these steps, walkways and bridges were installed last Easter. Bummer. These first two photos are of the same property; the one immediately to my left (north). You’ll notice that things look relatively normal and typical for a winter recovery. What you won’t notice is the missing dune line because it’s been so completely taken out. Nor would you notice that the shore’s depth to the water is probably 100 feet shallower.These next photos so perfectly depict for me the example of the objective “luck of the draw” that Nature and Fate so deftly provide at every moment. This is the seaside of the house immediately to my right (south). I’ve marked it up to explain what the what used to be what. If you examine closely, in the area marked “pool” and you don’t believe me, you’ll see a set of entry / exit ladder handles for access to that pool (almost in the dead center of this photo). The fence line outside the pool and hot tub used to be 6′ off the ground. I doubt the owners of this property have personally viewed the situation. I can’t say I blame them. Slightly “above” the box marked “pool” is another box that denotes what used to be a pool next door.

This is what used to be the entrance driveway belonging to house to my right (south). The red area denotes a driveway. The green denotes the grass / foliage and the blue is the water that said ” HAHAHAHAHAAAAA!” to all those ideas of driveways and gardens.

While these situations certainly aren’t’ catastrophic and none of these properties are a total loss, these are changes. Most people who own beachfront property usually just have to clean out the cobwebs, freshen up the carpets, steam clean the curtains and wipe down their windows to prepare for the rental season. The owners to my south are probably wistfully recalling those days of such burdens. We met a man one morning during our walks who owns a home several doors south on the shore here. His name was Bob. (For reals.) “It was the most beautiful property on the island,” he said (and I get it, we all think our home is the best or our kids are the smartest and best looking), but even what survived the storm wasn’t terribly impressive to me… it looked pretty weathered and neglected compared to other properties around his house. He had “a gorgeous pool” since surrounded by and filled with sand. Hanging at a 45˚ angle was a woeful five-and-dime “TIKI BAR” sign hanging and flappimg from one nail. Just below it was a faded and operative rainbow-themed windsock that somehow fared better than his obliterated privacy wall. It’s weird what survives these storms. “I’m screwed,” he crowed. I nodded in sympathy even though I didn’t agree with his summary. The house is still standing. He’s not exactly homeless and the lot alone is worth at least $2mm. And it was not t his only residence — he chose this lifestyle to rent their home in OBX to vacationers and then travel by RV the rest of the year. But who am I to decide who’s screwed and who isn’t? Bob was sad, but he was feeling sorry for himself. I heard later from neighbors drinking beers on the 20′ of boardwalk in front of our house that Bob opted to NOT have the maintenance and cedar fortification of his dunes and now he’s reaping that. Walking by Bob’s place a few days later I noticed that all evidence of the pool is gone and the sand is flat where it used to be. It seems that everyone has a Tiki Bar here.

Riley and its ilk are largely organic phenomena. I have little doubt that humanity and our “advances” have greatly sped up the oft-debated climate change process, but by and large, isn’t all change, effected directly or indirectly by humans, thus organic seeing as how we arent’ exactly inorganic to the planet?

I miss writing. I enjoy the yoga teaching, but I really miss the writing. Things have changed so much in my life (as I’m sure it has in yours) in the last several months that at times I feel as though I’ve aged 10 years. In my little tribe we’ve experienced a fair amount of turbulence, but what is life without change? And change without turbulence really isn’t change, it’s just “different.” The short of it is that parenting is not for wimps. The long of it is that it’s been difficult being a parent. Three boys, all teenagers now, and the boundary-pushing, shitty attitudes and straight-out rebellion is exhausting. I’m not so absurd to say that “I wouldn’t change a thing because all of it is a blessing…” because trust me, I’d change plenty. Kids make stupid choices and end up hurting themselves. We all did it and we will all do it again and those of us who managed to get here, this far, I guess are the norm… there are a lot of us still out there, aren’t there? So does that mean that the odds my kids will all make it to 90 with fun and compelling stories but not horrific ones of personal destruction and devastation? I sure hope so. I don’t like change. I don’t like my kids growing up and I don’t like my dad getting older. I can fight it, like an idiot, or I can continue to look for the silver linings (not necessarily the blessings) of even the most crushing experiences, for every experience is a teacher.

Thank you.

Sometimes It’s Just Not Possible

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I was speaking the other day to my husband about my writing, about how I’m feeling stalled and repressed and my son happened to be within earshot. I said, “I’m trying to come at real stories and topics from a place of peace so I can share them with love rather than continuing a pathetic narrative of how life has done me wrong or how old habits and patterns of codependency float back to the surface and I end up feeling sorry for myself or victimized. I hate feeling victimized; I hate that narrative.” 

Funny. I said “hate” more than I said “love” just now. D’ja see that?  

My husband always has something balanced to say, and I didn’t really count on my son chiming in, but he did. He basically said that sometimes there are people out there who are so unhealthy and so entrenched in their patterns that they don’t act with love or with peace and so even through I’m trying to learn a lesson from it, to find the wisdom in it, sometimes it’s just not possible — other than to distill it through my own wishful thinking filter, which is really hard to do sometimes — to come up with any reasonable or balanced justification for the way people treat other people. Sometimes, he summarized, people are just full of hate and fear. 

“Sometimes, Mom, people are just really messed up and it’s not for you to sugar coat their behavior; that only rationalizes it. And more importantly, that’s not who you are. You’re not a sugar-coaster, Mom. You’re not a sledgehammer [anymore, I added], but you’re no spinmaster when it’s just too plain and obvious…”

He’s right and I know that I haven’t been writing with my intention of it coming from a place of peace because that would be inorganic. How can I try to find the love in an experience when love is absent and fear is the engine that created it? 

I was just talking to a dear friend from college. She and I share similar stories of our lives. She was talking about how she needs to say “no” more often; about how it’s ok to opt out and not do things for other people, especially if your heart isn’t in it. We talked about how sometimes we have to / end up doing things we’re not especially proud of or invested in because we happened to be there at the right time and while most of those experiences were inocuous in their own right, over time in the aggregate, they add up to a lot of “regret pebbles” that we end up carrying around. They encumber us and they unconsciously set us up for more similar experiences and repeated behaviors. 

I listened to her describe some of these experiences. I was patient and when it was right, I chimed in and she laughed in her usual way because she knew I was coming at this from the opposite corner. Not that I’ve figured it all out, but that I do believe that reframing (optimism is my ambition) helps us out. A lot. When we don’t know what to do. 

“Instead of coming at this from an aspect of saying ‘no,’ Bipsy, can you reframe it to include yourself instead of excluding others? Can you come at it from a place of ‘yes to myself’ instead of ‘no to you’?” We both laughed harder because we knew what I was proposing was basically inverting the entire paradigm of how we’ve been conditioned all our lives — because when we say “no” the whole world falls apart; people die; people suffer — to be hyper-vigilant, mistrustful, self-deprecating, and sarcastic… all these behaviors to cover the pain of being raised in a state of chaos by adults who really weren’t the best at “adulting.” 

We, as codependents, tend to have an issue / conflict with saying “no” to people because we want to be liked. But we see now that saying no is essential to our survival as healthy people with healthy boundaries. “Oddly, we were conditioned to say ‘yes’ to people who almost always communicated ‘no…'” I said and we both laughed again. Sort of. And then sighed at the same time. We were almost 3,000 miles apart at the time, but we were in the same space. 

I have no problem saying “no” to someone when my children or my husband or dear relations are at stake. Sometimes, however, it’s those same people I’m protecting that sometimes need to hear “no” from me. Or “yes” to something else. Compromises are the sweet elixir of the recovering codependent. We put that elixir on our ice cream. We indulge in it as liquid courage during difficult conversations. One of the best types of comments I’ve learned from my father to say to someone or about something that we just can’t see ourselves doing is to say, “That sounds like a good idea” — because it does, it’s a good idea to someone, but that’s it.    

I saw a person I used to know several months ago at an event of mutual interest. Our friendship break-off was sudden and horrid. We both chose our children over the other. That’s fine with me. I never will forget this person’s friendship and meaning in my life when we were fast and furious friends, but that time is over and that ship has sailed winded by an unforgivable act of betrayal. I decided at this months-ago event to just bite the bullet and say hello. Chances were very high that we would encounter each other at least half a dozen times in hallways or at the water fountain. We caught up in a superficial way and I dialed in and told her that it was nice to see her and catch up and that I will always hold her and our experiences dear in my heart. She said she missed me and that the ball was in my court about resuming our relationship. 

That was when I had to go with my gut. As much as I meant all the things I said to her in that moment, I didn’t have to say them. I felt like saying them because it’s what I was trained to do: take a shitty situation and make it better. I sipped from the elixir and I shouldn’t have. When I remembered why she and I were in this state of non-relationship it became clear again as to what happened and why. So I simply said, “Yeah. This is where we are. I loved you, but I don’t see it changing ever. My kids need to feel safe.” And that was that.   

It’s never to late to start to say no. 

I feel strong as a parent when I say no or choose us / me. Saying ‘yes’ to health and intelligent living doesn’t have to look like ‘no.’ It doesn’t have to feel exclusive. Because it’s not. You’ve weighed the options and decided to follow a certain decision. 

Take drinking, for instance. I don’t drink at all like I used to. Rarely do I have more than one glass of wine and if I happen to have two, that’s it. Socially, I will have a beer or a wine or a G&T and generally that’s it. This is at home, too. I’m not stupid: I’m genetically fucked. I’m primed to be a world-class alcoholic and if the way I feel — lighter, warmer but not hot, relaxed & easy like a Sunday morning, smooth in the muscles, sign here and everything will be taken care of to your liking, I’ll take another with a straw this time — less than 2 minutes after drinking a beer or a halfway into a glass of wine are not an indication that I’m playing with fire, nothing is.   

So I drink less. Or not at all. I try to stay present. I don’t let people pour for me without my awareness anymore. I don’t like waking up and feeling like shit. I don’t like not being able to fall asleep because it’s too hot it’s too dry it’s too hard it’s too soft it’s too much. Nothing –to me– is worth that feeling anymore. Will I slip up? Will I have three glasses of X? Yes, rarely but yes, and man, I tend to feel like a newborn the next morning. You’ve seen newborns, straight from the womb?

So instead of saying “no” to my friends or the booze, I say yes to a restful sleep. I say yes to remembering the evening. I say yes to acting responsible. I say yes to not terrifying my children. I say yes to my peace of mind. Should I falter, I have been very good though about no longer emotionally beating the shit out of myself. What’s done is done. You can’t nursing a bell, says Dr. Phil. I realize that beating myself up for something I can’t undo is a complete waste of time and mental bandwidth. 

But beating ourselves up sure keeps us in the spotlight, don’t it? So stop. For everyone’s peace of mind: stop flaggelating yourself. It’s embarrassing. It’s cyclical. 

I’m losing my train here. The point of this was to share that it’s hard to write or approach things from a place of love when you’ve been hurt. I try to paint a lot of stuff with rose tint but I think that’s more codependency at play. 

I saw a Mary Oliver quote the other day and it took my breath away. It was in a post at a blog I follow, “Adventures in Overthinking” titled Crescent Moons and Critical Morons.  


What is it that we plan to do with this one wild and precious life? 

I am going to be kinder to myself and write things the way they present themselves to me and I’m going to be ok with not always arriving at a conclusion that makes it all ok. Because sometimes it’s not. Sometimes when you’re treated like crap by people who are supposed to be your family, the anger is too much and it all feels waaaaaaaaay too familiar. As though you’re on a treadmill of your childhood’s worst possible moments because these are more people who have told you to count on them, despite all the flake flags you’ve ignored for years. 

So you try to talk to them about conditions, the situation, but you’re frequently interrupted by your host’s constant narrative of victimization and drama; the imprisonment of the golden handcuffs. They say they “hear” you and that they are your soft place to fall, yet instead after driving 460 miles they make you or your child sleep on the hard floor for three nights in a row. You cycle in your head about how they strung you along for months preceding the event, constantly changing the agenda  — and they connect with you about their time in Hawaii when their baggage was lost and they had to sit on the beach outside their condo for hours waiting for it to arrive. 

You try to discuss their reactivity, how the cellular reception is wonky and that you waited almost three hours for them to show up but yet they expected you to read their minds and you hear back from them that they bought all this expensive organic and healthy and non-GMO and locally produced food that’s gonna go to waste because you never showed up (because you were never instructed to). You try with love to listen sympathetically to their monologue about “bad” friends and betrayal by lovers in favor of those friends yet you remember watching them all open two bottles of Veuve Cliquot at 9am outside the window of your room. 

You then try to walk around the challenges of how they put drug-addled near-strangers ahead of you because they’re afraid of losing their love interest with the healthy investment portfolio (oh yeah, it’s getting real right now) and how they somehow managed to accuse you -hissingly- to third parties of taking their children to dinner, as if it’s a war crime. And how on your final night of “we can’t take it anymore” they somehow thought it ok to place their hand in the face of North America’s Kindest Man, my husband, when he tried to smooth things over — because that’s what he does, he’s The Smoother — and then drive away in a Neiman-Marcus grade huff of self-righteous indignation and fury, leaving their children -again- for you to shuttle back to Hotel California. But woe upon you, family relation: when you lose the endurance of The Smoother, may God have mercy on you. Because that’s when I get involved. 

I got involved because I’m done. Because as I mentioned in my post about our cat being stolen, that when I step in, you can almost count on it going nuclear and being totally FUBAR. I was ready because I was not going to do this again.  

This person made my husband swear and say, “That’s it. If it weren’t 11:45 at night and we had somewhere to go, we’d be #)C%!>@ leaving right now.” I unleashed the shitstorm of reality that people like me (tired of sipping the elixir of codependency and expecting different results) unleash. The results of unleashing that shitstorm can never be predicted because when you start your conversation, no matter how challenging, no matter how uncomfortable the details of how it all went pear-shaped (because very little of it had to do with me, it was a lot of projecting, looping and recycling of weird childhood feelings this person has NOT resolved), it’s very possible that you’ll be left standing amidst a cloud of gravel dust and disbelief in a driveway watching the driver of a European station wagon haul ass to Mommy. 

The Mommy who enrages them. The Mommy who doesn’t “get” them. The Mommy up the road.   

Those are just the highlights. 

But I won’t bore you with this story despite your pleas. I’ll incorporate it into my memoir or a “fiction” instead. 

Suffice it to say that this summer we opted to surround ourselves with people we love and people who love us and we hightailed it to North Carolina for an absolutely beautiful experience. While I was there I had two dreams about my mother. In one of them this relation and the father of this relation appeared at an event I was apparently hosting and serving a well-known (to my family) classic meal. I was approached and admonished by this father whose boisterous persona when alive was just as unfettered in my dream. He shouted at me in the dream the same strange, tribal id-chant he used shout when things got out of control to him. He was red-faced and utterly furious with me for behaving the way I did toward his child, reprimanding me for and accusing me of picking a fight…. I remember seeing my mother in the dream and she made fists and her jaw became set and she stared at him from behind with squinted, wild eyes. She was maybe 70. I said in the dream, “[TRIBAL CHANT] BACK TO YOU, MORTIMER! And what the hell are you doing here? You’re DEAD! You don’t belong in this dream!” And my mother (who is also dead) stood up and shook her fist and her signature bangles and said, ‘Great! Get ‘im, Maaal!” He bellowed at me, “This is not how you treat family!” And I bellowed back, fearless, “If you knew the whole story, you’d be on a different team, I promise you that, Morty.” My eyes darting between him and my mother, “We were NOT treated like family … or [hissing on my own now] maybe WE WERE…” and he and my mother both vaporized. They knew when to bolt.    

I’ve been told that it’s gossipy, uncouth and coarse to write about impolite things. But what if what you write about is people who treat people horribly? Doesn’t the story deserve venting? Doesn’t the fault lie more with the precipitating jerk than it does the person who decides to share the crappy behavior and end the delusion? What about when the person who recites the martyr narrative about the luggage in Hawaii and the expensive baby-dandelion-fed veal burgers is really the Veuve Cliquot-sipping despot? An inverse narcissist? Don’t roll your eyes.   

I can’t not write because I’m afraid of upsetting people. I read recently in Mother Land by Paul Theroux (awesome thick tome which reminds me of my mother and of the aforementioned relation): “At the end of his memoir, Family History, John Lanchester comments, ‘Once my mother wasn’t able to read my books, I finally began writing them.'” Theroux also continues to write about Miller, Wharton, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Lawrence, and others about how they dealt with their families’ and friends sentiments of their writing. It is empowering and it brings me back to Mary Oliver… what are we going to do with this wild and precious one life? 

I think the first thing we do is stop saying “no” and say “yes” instead. Yes to things that quicken our pulse. Yes to things that scare us. Yes to things we’ve not done before. Yes. 

This is it! This is the moment we’ve been waiting for! If you’re not there yet but you want to be, we can do it together. We just have to keep at least one hand on the steering wheel while we wave at the moon. 

Thank you.

Preparing for the Push Off

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I’ve been in denial about this for months.

It’s almost here. Three weeks from this past Thursday will be it. The day my first, my oldest son pushes off for college.

It started out subtly enough, the departing. In May, he had his final soccer game of his pre-college life. The U-19 league. So, soon after that last game I found myself repressing a lump in my throat as I confronted a simple thing. Just a swipe, really, but it felt as though my hand were made of iron and it was dragging along a magnet. Trying to move, trying to get my finger to drag over my laptop’s touchpad to deliberately press the “delete event” prompt from my family’s calendar and alerts for his soccer practice reminders.

I shouldn’t be so maudlin. I hadn’t been driving him to practice for months. He was a late-blooming driver. It was my pleasure to take him to practice or ride shotgun as he drove. Our conversations in the car varied from laughing about a Ben Bailey stand-up routine to talking about his friends, class work, or social disappointments. Sometimes it was just silence. Or really loud Kanye West. But those days are over. I no longer need to see the alerts on my phone about his practices. So I drag my right hand with my left hand to click “delete” on the alerts.

I don’t want to click “delete.” It is really hard to click delete on that alert.

I couldn’t possibly be prouder of the young man he’s become. He’s handsome, funny, really smart, creative, clever, sensitive, caring… all the things I wanted him to become. I didn’t do it though; he came with that software already installed. I suppose I helped him learn to use it, but we all know our kids are pre-formed before we get them.

I met him in the middle of the night more than 18 years ago. He was just eight pounds and almost 21 inches long. I remember, he was so quiet, the doctors thought there was something amiss. Perhaps he wasn’t breathing well. Maybe his brain was misfiring. But his eyes… his father knew he was just fine. His eyes were bright and blue-green and so serene. So calm and observant. “I knew those eyes the minute I saw them open,” his father said. “They were your eyes. They were just like yours…”

They put him in the “french fry warmer” as we called it, to keep him cozy. They invaded him with their suction devices and wiped him of his vernix. Soon he let them have it, a robust and brief goat-like bleat from that enormous head. It was just after midnight when he was born and I was totaled. I’d been dealing with dormant but annoying labor for about 25 hours. I wanted to see him.

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They did their tests and pokes on him. They were stupid, I think now. “Haven’t you ever met a mellow baby?” I remember thinking about them the next day. “Look at him, he’s perfect…” I would sigh and stare at this beautiful son… “Connor. Hello.” I met him in the morning, around 4. It was dark and he was hungry, so I learned to try to breastfeed him. It took a few days, but we figured it out.

Look at him now! 5’10” and 150. Hair almost as dark as mine when I was his age and his big green eyes.

“You should write Batman’s in My Shower now, Mom,” he said about a month ago. Batman’s in My Shower is the title I decided to give to a memoir back when my boys were 10 years younger than they are now. I wanted to write about becoming a mother and how it’s changed me.

The title comes from the truth that in my bathroom shower for years was at least one Batman action figure for my sons to play with while they bathed. The book would be about how my life melded with theirs and how my space became theirs as we grew into one another and gradually apart from one another. I remember holding one of the boys while he played with the doll and I washed his hair and cleaned his little squirming body as he would have Batman and a squirting goldfish battle it out under the Water-pik shower head typhoon.

Washing a child in a shower is like trying to wash a hairless cat that won’t scratch your face off because it actually likes the water spraying in its face. The cat is animated, no doubt, but it’s not deadly and it’s writhing and hissing joyous coos of delight as the baby shampoo (remember that smell?) lathers and runs down their faces.

The sole remaining Batman has a layer of soap scum in his armpits and crotch; his cape is hard and stiff like a chamois that’s been hung in the sun. He’s covered in a layer of dried soap and hard water residue from years of torrential cleansing. He’s perfect.

I haven’t dared to write more than a page of BiMS because that would mean that I’ve crossed over a benchmark, that the “memoir” is activated because the moment is past; that the “mothering” is over. So I sit here, in wait. Wondering when the feelings of the intensity of his impending departure will pass and I will feel light and airy again.

“Raise your hands if you have a student who will be living on campus and you live in the area…” said the admissions person at new student / new parent orientation last week. Her eyes scanned the ballroom. At least 30 hands, including my own, went up; some sheepishly, some defiantly.

“Make no mistake. If it’s five minutes or five hours or across the street or across the country, your child is leaving home,” I almost broke out into tears at that moment. I had to keep it together. She was right, that hag. My kid is leaving home. He is about a good run’s distance, 4 miles, from home, but he’s not going to be here every day when I wake up. Nor will he be here when I avoid making dinner.

You see, Connor has been my wingman for better part of a third of my life. He has grounded me, helped me chill out, provided a better reason than a paycheck to get up every morning, and has generally made me a better person. He has made me a better mother for his brothers. He has made me a better friend to my friends and he has made me a better daughter to my parents. I don’t want to foist too much upon him because that’s not fair. I’ve done a lot of Work too, he just made it a fantastic reason to do it.

I’ve prepared him a bit I hope too. I stopped washing his clothes for him about four years ago. He’s got it down — brights with brights. He’s good at it. That transition began subtly enough too, and I will own that I’ve relapsed a few times. Like a junkie, I’ve slipped back into Mom-mode for him and folded his t-shirts or even turned them right-side-out when they come out of the dryer. I have to stop myself sometimes from unbending his jeans from of the mind-boggling twisted rebar-like clump they’ve morphed into as I heave the next crate of wet clothes into the dryer. Some articles are easier than others to let go. Socks for one… I would rather eat McDonald’s, no. I take that back. I would still sort his socks over eating McDonald’s.

My father said to me about two weeks ago that what I’m about to experience, my child leaving home for college, is in his estimation one of the most emotionally arduous and profound experiences in my parenting. “I don’t know what it’s like to watch a child leave for college from such a deeply loving and supportive home, so you’ll have to excuse me as I soak all this in vicariously,” he admitted during that conversation. “My own mother, she was difficult. I couldn’t wait to get out of there, but she made it awful hard on me. I never looked back,” he added, “when I left for school.”

I never left home for college. I went to university locally. It was part of my life I suppose: my mother needed my vigilance. I would’ve loved to have lived on campus. I remember visiting my friends who lived in the dorms. Music, “The Cult” was always playing and the halls smelled like popcorn, pot, ramen, vanilla body spray, coffee, patchouli, Dr. Pepper, Finesse shampoo… beer…  I promised myself that if my kids ever wanted to live on campus — even if they went to school locally — that they would live on campus. I’m really glad we have chosen this.

I asked Connor about his own thoughts and impressions; if he’s ready to go, if he’s looking forward to it. “I’m excited. It’s nice though, to not want to leave, too. I’m lucky to be going, to be able to attend college, and I’m lucky to be not terribly ready to go… That it will be hard to go and nice to go… Does that make sense?”

He couldn’t have said it better.

I know I haven’t been writing here or personally anywhere is because of this. How do I go from being a hands-on, non-helicopter Mom of three to this? It is really perplexing. I bought a comforter set for his bed; sheets, pillows, all the towels and textiles. A 28-oz size bottle of Pert (his favorite) is in a bag and waiting for that first pump somewhere in his shower. Without a Batman, likely. I thought I was finished shopping and then I caught up with a bestie today who’s oldest son is also heading out soon for the first time (he’s very tight with my son) and I realized I don’t have pens for him. I didn’t buy pens or notebooks or a stapler. WHAT KIND OF A MOTHER SENDS HER KID OFF TO COLLEGE WITHOUT PENS??

I’ll tell you: the mother who really doesn’t want her kid to leave. Sure, he’s got a computer, but who needs that? We all know learning happens with a pen and paper. No. The “real learning” my son will experience will not be contained between the end papers of a textbook or in the hushed whirr of a hard drive. It’s waiting for him in the dormitory, in the lecture halls, at the dining hall, and in the random conversations with exhausted students in late-night study groups and eating fests.

Really? Did I just write ‘the real learning  … will not be contained between the end papers of a textbook’? Someone shove then trip me when I leave this room. I deserve it. Who knows where the real learning takes place? I hope it’s been taking place all along.  

I expect I will be an emotional disaster worthy of FEMA assistance when I leave him on the 25th. Every time that damned song from “Narnia” comes on my playlist, “The Call,” I start to blubber and sob, really deep ugly crying. It’s not ok. When he walks in the room, I’m all super sunshine and smiles! No, I’m not, and he gets it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from witnessing my mother, it’s that “the show must go on, kid” mentality is a one-way ticket to Xanaxia. I expect the music at the dorms on drop-off day will be Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off” or some unknown genre which will pulsate and grind and moan. It will be played at a precise megahertz to annoy the shit out of aging parents and get them the hell off campus tout de suite.

There’s a part of me which needs to go for a drive, a long drive to, say, Charlottesville or somewhere similar so I can process the reality that he’s out. If he were a challenging kid or obstinate or disrespectful or basically horrid, this would be so much easier. He’s not. He’s a GEM of a human. I’ll be real with you, we argue at times, and I think it might be happening more a little now than it ever did, and I wonder if that’s because we know what’s coming.

Is it like one of those “distancing-prep” dynamics wherein people begin to isolate and curl into their corners before a big departure? I am not sure, we are pretty real with each other. He’s all-too ready at times to tell me I’m the reason we are SPEAKING LOUDLY AND CURTLY AT EACH OTHER.

Maybe not Charlottesville… Maybe  I’ll go to the parking lot of his college and stalk him.

My youngest asked me the other day, “Do you think Connor will come home, Mom? You know, just to hang out…?” I honestly didn’t know what to say. I have no expectations. My youngest and my oldest are very similar in temperament. Five and a half years rests between them; we refer to those two as “the bookends” because they are so grounded and rational.

Connor needs this though, to have his own experiences, and I’m so happy for him that he will have them. I’m equally happy that my other sons will miss him a lot. My middle son is excited for him, and he’s really bummed out. “It will be weird around here, without him,” he said. “Like, for every morning of my life, he’s been here to play with or annoy or learn from. He’s taught me so much…” he turns away, stops talking and leaves the room. I start to well up. I know he’s welling up. It’s a frequent occurrence, these bloated, trailing-off conversations about Connor leaving for college.

We talk, we parents, about how we’re robbed of time with our kids. How they grow up and change so fast. How the days drag on but the years fly by… All the clichés and adages and truths. In the end though, we don’t want them here when they’re 33. We want them out and about and falling in love and starting their own families maybe or going to graduate school or getting married… we don’t want them in our basements. We don’t want them in their footie pajamas all their lives — EVEN IF we could have them at cute and floppy, sticky-fingered, sweet-smelling 22 months, all their lives, we wouldn’t want that. Not ever. Don’t tell me you would. “Just one more day… like this…” No. You want them to grow and learn and thrive and shave.

Another friend and I were talking last week. Her son who is Connor’s peer is her youngest of four. He and Connor “played soccer” together when they were five. He is leaving too, for a college five hours away. She was telling me about their conversation they had about his “drop off” at school. She said she asked him if he thought it would be like hers, when her parents helped her unpack her room and they made her bed, and put her posters on the wall and hung up her clothes in the closet… they met her roommate, and then they all went to dinner and walked around the town a little… then her parents spent the night in town and had breakfast in the morning together before they left her alone with her “new life.” She asked him if it would be like that for him or would it be the type of situation where they unpack their car, drop off the boxes and leave him in the dorm to figure it out. No lunch together, no walk around town, no overnight at the local Marriott. She waited, she said, her eyes uncertain, a twitch betraying her calm.

“He said, ‘It will be the second one, mom. Dump and drive. I’m ready. You’re ready. I’ll be back…'” and she sighed after she told me what he said, and we laughed about it, because it was so “him” to say that.

“But I’m not ready…” she said, quietly, her lips pursing as her eyes gazed around her roomy kitchen. Empty of chaos and crusted mac & cheese pans.

And the friends are leaving too. That’s a part of this gig that no one really tells you about: that when your kid takes off for college, his friends are likely doing that as well, so all those faces and sounds and cups you cleaned up and backpacks you danced around won’t regularly be in your way again, either. We’ve been blessed to know lots of his friends, and his girlfriend? Don’t even get me started. Every time I think of her leaving too … it’s not good. I am like Mike Myers playing Linda Richman and having to take a break during “Coffee Talk” and ask you all to tawk ahmonst y’seves becawse I’ve becohm verklempt.

Right now, it’s late. I’m up writing and he’s in the other room watching “Bob’s Burgers” and I can hear him snorting and giggling. It’s really late. He should be in bed.

I’ve got 20, shit, 19 days before my father watches my son eagerly leave his home reluctantly. God help me. If it’s so good for him, why does it hurt so much?

Thank you.