Ikea Hates All the Single Ladies, or, If You Like it Then You Shoulda Putta Hex Bit On It

I'm writing this post from bed. This is more remarkable than you'd think:

A) after toying with this for over a week, I'm admitting defeat and officially saying that I have the stomach apocalypse.

B) I am actually in my bed, not on a mattress on the floor.

Last weekend while the kids went to their dads, I put my bed up -- my very pretty, very king sized, very Ikea bed.

I've put together my share of Ikea furniture in my day, but in hindsight I realize that I've put together my share of Ikea furniture in my day with soon-to-be-ex. Have I ever put Ikea furniture together, alone?

Um.

Er.

No?

No, I don't think I have. You know why? BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE. I live in a part of the country that is densely populated with the religion that doesn't totally always frown on polygamy, and now I get why every city densely populated with this religious group has an Ikea in close proximity -- you need at least seven sister wives to put the [expletive expletive] furniture together.

For a company so big on space-conservation, you think they'd be a little more sympathetic to the single and/or child-labour-less, but alas, Ikea hates single people and punishes us with bed frames that require a degree in Tetris and the superpower of being able to hault physics for at least two hours at a time in order to assemble. Oh, and the $7.99 Ikea toolkit. Which, for the record, is the best $7.99 I've ever spent.  

So I'm up off the floor, in my platform bed, which is just high enough for a puke bucket, which I think I might need because I Can Haz the Tummy Crab. Hooked on Fonics Worked for Me aside: When you tell your daughter you're sorry she has a tummy cramp, she's going to hear tummy *crab* and be convinced for years to come that she has an actual crab in her tummy and must puke and/or poop it out. Everyone in your family will adopt the term tummy crab, and it will eventually stop grossing you the fuck out. 

Everyone in your family will adopt the word tummy crab because everyone in your family will GET a tummy crab. Even the dog was hurling last week. We got the King Tummy Crab, it seems. Last week we all had [something something poop @suebob just stopped reading this post poop something] and then yesterday, I kept almost passing out from the near constant nauseous-dizzies. Last time that happened, I ended up with a tummy crab and a half.

This time I have neither the means nor the uterus for that deliciousness, so while I'm waving my >>llama eyes<< at Jesus and yelling at him to get off mah barren wasteland, I'm pretty sure I just still have the flu. 

Which leads me to my grandmother. 

No, I haven't taken any medicine today, why do you ask?

My grandmother wasn't allowed in our house, or us in hers, for the better part of my life. This was partly due to the fact that my mother had a tortured relationship with her, but also because my grandmother enjoyed the finer points of Satanism for a while, before diving into the channeling of shockingly uninspired historic figures. Really, if you're going to summon one's spirit to speak through you, do your homework. Pick someone better than George Washington. LIVE A LITTLE. 

But everybody needs somebody sometimes, even my mother, and when we were particularly ill, she'd like Grandmom come over to take care of us. And I miss that, I cannot lie. There is nothing better than someone taking care of you when you're sick. My daughter this morning offered to walk her own self to the bus stop so I could stay home and get my tummy crab out, and while there's no way I'm ready for that nonsense yet, it made me smile to know she cares.

And my grandmother, for all her craziness, did 'sick kid' like a G6, yo.

She would read to us and brush our hair and play us songs from Oklahoma on the piano and make us eat weak tea and dry toast all day long. Weak tea and dry toast aren't actually items, they are the world for sick-food, kind of like my little brother referred to my aunt & uncle, Jean and Wayne, as JeanaWayne. Both of them. It was a title, and so is Weak Tea and Dry Toast. The tea was never weak, and it was full of sugar and milk, and the toast had the most perfectly halfway-melted pads of butter swirled around grape jelly on top of it. Still, Weak Tea and Dry Toast. 

Which is what I'm nomming on right now, trying to keep everything in that should just come out already, because I'm an idiot. But I'm an idiot who can't stand the idea of hurling out a Tummy Crab, no matter how much better I know I'll feel after. 

My big brother actually started a Facebook thread asking people what their family's sick-foods are, and I find this a fascinating adventure into culture and tradition. So, I'm curious, what are your sick-foods? 

Entertain me, please. 

I also remember what your scabs taste like. My therapist will be billing you for that later.

I can hardly remember how you laughed, but I remember the taste of your blood like it is still hot on the tip of my tongue. I watch you bleed over and over and over and over again in my dreams, and I can't make it stop, ever. I try; I keep trying to get enough cherry juice stains on my shirt that they will believe me when I tell them I drank it, and you will finally have one quiet night in your life. 

I can hardly remember how you laughed, but I can see you under the surface of your childrens' smiling faces, like they are reel-to-reel films of the life we used to dream about people living when we hid in the back of that tiny, dark closet covered in the salty paste of sheet after sheet of the Publisher's Clearing House stamps we pretended tasted like candy with each lick. 

I can hardly remember how you laughed, but I remember the way your hair smelled, and what your voice sounded like whispered through a hole in a wall, and I remember precisely what if felt like to be safe under your left arm that was just enough bigger than me that I knew there was one place on earth I would always be okay.

I remember everything about you. I remember things you can't, and won't, and shouldn't. I remember mostly that you are the finest human I have ever met in this life, and that I am the luckiest person in the world, beccause I have gotten to take this entrie journey with you, save the 16 months you had without me. 

That just means you turn 40 first. Neener neener.

Happy birthday, Eddie. You were the best present our parents ever gave me. 

I love you. Like, a lot and stuff, yo.

Forward

I have this friend who has something like 600 cousins, and not in the 'OH-EM-GEE he has like sixty-eleven hundred cousins, squee!' way, either. He actually has 600ish cousiny-relations who all live within a reasonable proximity to one another, but more significantly, they all know each other. They know which ones are lawyers and which ones are accountants and who is in construction and how many are pregnant and they never want for anything.

My friend has 600+ people who would, at a moment's notice, lend him their expertise, their support and their good lobster pot. There is a difference between expecting others to do things for you and simply knowing there are those out there who will, and I believe that difference is called Having a Village. 

I do not have 600 cousins. I have one living biological cousin and I haven't seen her since her sister died in 1996. I guarantee you I won't ever see her again, either. I have three, maybe four (I'm not entirely sure) step-cousins, but I don't know so much as their full names. I don't even know the full names of any of my grandparents save my father's father. 

What I do have is one big brother and the most amazingly magical motley assortment of people who I've picked up along the way, people I can turn to when I need it - no matter what it happens to be. I know which ones understand me when I'm breaking, and I know which ones are willing to play mom or sister, and I know which ones to call upon on a Thursday night when I'm trying to write the most important document of my life thus far. I know they will answer, and I know they will charge for the guns with me if I ask it of them.

It's not ever going to be the same as having a bona fide family; I'll always feel like I'm imposing, like I'm not showing enough gratitude, like I'm not giving enough back. I'll forever wonder why my Six Hundred doesn't ride back the way my parents, my church and every person I ever tried to love did, but it isn't mine to reason why, I guess.

It is mine to charge forward, wildy. It is mine to do and die. There is a difference between living up to someone else's expectations and simply wanting to become the person everyone who loves you believes you can be, and I believe that difference is called Being Part of a Village.

With ::knuckles of respect:: to Lord Tennyson for, like, all of it.

Tick Tock

I started Christmas shopping on December 15th at 10 am and finished on December 17th at 3 pm. For six people. I never, ever want to see the interior of a retail establishment again.

My husband has been working 15-17 hour days every day for I can’t tell you how many weeks. He hasn’t had a day in about three weeks and won’t until Christmas day. That means that I am in charge of Christmas, solely, and that only sucks for everyone involved because I am still not 100% sure how the whole thing is done. I can cook the dinner and I can wrap the presents and I can help the kids make the reindeer food, but ask me to buy stocking stuffers, I dare you.

What? The? Fuck? Goes? In? A? Stocking?

Rhetorical question, people. I’ve had it explained to me a bazillion times but I’ve also had quantum physics and pornography explained to me about as many times, and I don’t get those either.

That’s not entirely true. I totally get Quantum Physics.

Shopping for the kids is easy, of course. I just track the changes in barometric pressure and humidity that occur in the room when different commercials air or catalogs are sifted through, measure that against the density of drool stains in the furniture/on the laundry/soaked into the carpet and voila! I know what they want! They want Heeley’s! So I buy them the damn Heeley’s that cost me $99.95 a pair when I first bought some 5 or 6 years ago after I had to wait in line for 15 hours outside the super-posh shoe shop like I was looking for a Cabbage Patch Doll in 1982 or something and today cost exactly $22.95 at the local gas station and that is just proof that there is a god and he is indeed punishing me for breeding a decade before it was appropriate for me to.

Shopping for my husband is less easy, because all he ever wants is some new fangled, cross weighted, Calla-titl-ike golf club and I can no sooner understand the Navi’s language than I can that which is spoken in the neighborhood Pro Shop. So I end up getting him flannel pajamas with cartoon moose all over them, with the promise that maybe, someday, I’ll take them off of him to aid in his re-masculination. He seems happy with this arrangement.

Shopping for myself is simply soul crushing, but in it’s defense, I have desperately needed a decent roasting pan since the 1900’s and now I don’t.

Shopping for my mother in law is making me cry.

I did all my shopping in two days and was feeling very smug and proud of myself for having p0wned Christmas with ruthless efficiency and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and then I wrapped everything and realized that I got my mother in law and myself two gifts. Which is FINE. Who needs more than two gifts? No one, except i got everyone ELSE in this house, like, 10. And I just don’t think I’m a big enough person to handle the “mom, why does Santa hate your mother in law” question with any level of dignity.

So I set out to get her more presents. Except, she’s a fairly progressive sort of woman. She like brilliantly executed tacky Jesus stuff, African decor and clothes from Chico’s. I live in the Land of Beer and Walmart, Texas...and she lives in a 400 square foot apartment. It’s not like I can get her anything much bigger than a zippo or she’ll have to store it in her fridge. And I can't get her anything she'll like because the closest thing to a boutique store I have near me is Claire's and I think my mother in law is allergic to glitter and nickel and unicorns.

So I'm walking through Walgreens this morning with a basket full of Depends undergarments, Metamucil and personal lubricant because when in doubt, always go funny, right? But then I started to think, what if she doesn't think it's funny? What if she thinks I am the Worst Human Alive? What if we are stuck here together for an entire week with her hating my face? Or, what if she doesn't think it's funny at all, but instead quite useful a gift and then the joke is on me because there was personal lubricant in that box and oh my god what have I done and that's when I bought her some angel magnets in the likeness of her grandchildren and called it a day.

Little White Maybes

I've found that, as a parent, there are days when it becomes very important to be able to plainly, sincerely and most of all honestly lie my ass off to my kids.

Today was one of those days.

It wasn't so much that Christmas is four days away, and it wasn't so much that my grandfather died before I was born and I never knew him, just like my kids' grandfather did. It wasn't just that my other grandfather had some twisted, weird relationship with my father, and didn't really have all that much of an interest in us, his grandchildren, and he died with that being the only thing I ever really knew about him. It isn't exactly that my father and I have that same, weird relationship, or that he hasn't seen or spoken to me or my kids in four years and three weeks. It isn't even that he's had, I'm pretty sure, four open heart surgeries in a decade, and I don't know how many times the human heart will let you look at it before it melts your face off all Raiders-style.

What it is, I think, is that I have this thing for birthdays.

I didn't care that I never had Christmas. I rather enjoyed laying under our car, waiting for the kids in the neighborhood to come egg our house because we didn't give out trick-or-tricks, and grabbed their ankles right before they could toss their eggs at our windows, which scared the holy fuck out of them and made the whole lack of candy thing totally worth it for us. I always cared about the birthday thing, though. I always wanted to celebrate everyone's birthday. It seemed like something that should be a big deal, something note-worthy at the very least. When I stopped being Insane Fundamentalist Judeo-Christian Girl, which is so totally a superpower, birthdays were my first indulgence in pure, unadulterated sin.

Turns out, there were funner sins to be had, most of them adulterated, but I still enjoy a nice birthday. And today was my father's 60th.

Thirty years from now, when he's long gone and I am the 60 year old, when I have grandchildren of my own and am staring down the business end of a life-span, what is ultimately going to matter to me? That I was right? That I made my point? More importantly, what is going to matter to my kids? What story will they carry with them of their grandfather, who is, in his own right, just maybe not so much as a parent but still, an amazing slice of human being? Will they tell their children that their mom's dad just wasn't that into her after all, and that he died before they could know him?

Do I want to pass on these cycles in my family, in my babies, or not?

These are things easier said than done. I preach about breaking cycles of abuse, of perpetuated victimization, but here I sit creating the exact same story that shades my past. I can say I'm "protecting" my kids from some mythical man who lives 3,000 miles away and never saw them much anyway, and I can create the memory of him that fits that, or I can realize that either way, it's a created memory. Either way, your grandparents are not the people they are in real life. Grandparents are superheros. They wear big, red capes with G on them and they fly into your life and heal wounds with tea and beat off monsters with books and build bridges to your past out of the ether.

So today, I knelt down in my kitchen and I lied to my kids.

I told them that my issues with my father have nothing to do with them, that we're both stubborn and old and dumb and that's why he hasn't called in four years, but that he's 60 and there really couldn't be any better gift to give their grandfather than them. That is was the right thing to do. That they didn't need to stick up for me, because I'm just being an asshole anyway and this is all going to work itself out soon. And then I dialed his number and handed them the phone.

And then I smoked a pack of cigarettes outside while they talked to him inside.

The boys talked to him for almost an hour. They talked to him about what hot copy of what movie he's got his hands on this week, about girls at school and the weather, about video games and new bands, and as I listened from the other room, I was 12 years old, sitting on my living room floor, talking to that same man from 3,000 different miles away about those exact same things all over again. He hung up without asking to talk to me, which stung, but he hung up with two very happy grandsons who smiled the entire night and planned what they were going to text him tomorrow, and bragged about his band, and giggled over his jokes, just like I remember doing some lifetime ago.

Today, I gave my father the greatest gift I could ever give anyone, the most precious thing to me in the whole world, for his 60th birthday present. Today, I gave my children permission to create their own stories and their own memories of their grandfather. Today, I gave our family a maybe. We'll see where it goes.