The Day I Tried To Live

Yesterday was a day like any other day. The kids went to school, I did some work, my pantry got cleaned and and my kitchen got a good scrub. My son checked the mail and found a package from Bonnie Burton and Lucasfilm in the box. We opened it, messed with all the Star Wars stuff inside, and then had dinner. I sent one picture of the stuff to Twitter and one to my ex, who is arguably the World's Biggest Star Wars fan. He called, mostly to tell me I was a succubus, but partly to catch up, and as I hung up I wished him a happy 35th birthday tomorrow.

Right about then I really realized that today is his 35th birthday. That means it's January 8th. It's also Elvis' birthday and the day that my boss and his wife find out what flavor baby they're having. And if it's January 8th, tomorrow is the 9th. For the first time, um, ever, it just crept up on me like that, when I wasn't even looking for it.

One thing, with sickening predictability, has continued to lead directly to the other.

It's been 18 years since January 9th. 18 years is a long time to be without your mother. 18 years is just enough time, apparently, for that scar to start to heal. January 7th was no less hard, no less frightening, and yet I managed to let the mundane little aspects of this new life I was re-born into 18 years ago drown that hardness, that fear, right out until just about dinner-time. Maybe there's an actual reason that 18 is the year we are considered adults after all.

And while I was thinking about all of this last night, I realized that in two weeks my little baby nephew will turn 18, too. Hello, one thing...meet the other.

I just cannot believe that it took me all of this time to realize that 13 days after everything I ever knew and loved ended, everything he was ever to know and love began. That maybe in some weird way, that boy who was born in a hospital bed on January 22nd, 1992 in Fresno, California is the new version of the child that died on January 9th, 1992 in a telephone booth at the Philadelphia International Airport. That maybe that explains why I love him so much more than is reasonable for an auntie-in-law-by-adoption to love a nephew she didn't even meet until he was seven. That maybe he's the ying to my yang, my balance, my reckoning...maybe he's my Phoenix.

Maybe my nephew is what makes all of those awful years, all of those terrifying hours, okay. Or maybe it's the dishes that always have to be washed and the baby dolls that have to be played with and the newsletters that have to be written and the toilets that have to get unplugged. Maybe it's this new life that is so much more real and consistent and predictable and mundane than that old one ever was. Maybe it's this family which isn't glued together with a shoddy DNA code and the stickiness of fear, but that it's my family, my choice, and we hold each other together with so much more love than I ever thought the world was capable of feeling.

Whatever it is, it's working. I almost forgot that every January has a 9 in it. I was almost able to let it pass my by this year. Tomorrow my husband and I will leave the kids tied to the radiators and go out to dinner. We'll drink a bottle of fabulous wine and eat something with unpronounceable ingredients in it and we will celebrate this life that is perfect and wonderful and all I ever needed, this life that only took the shattered remnants of an old, ruined one to build itself up on. Maybe we'll go to the gym after, maybe we'll come home, watch a movie, and catch up on 9 days of New Year's sexolutions.  Whatever happens tomorrow, well, it just happens.  This life will keep marching on and I will keep living it.

Come what may, I will keep living.

If It Walks Like A Duck And Talks Like A Duck, It's So Totally The Swine Flu

I wait until it's too late to take my kids to the doctor. I have an 11 year old with asthma because I listened to the doctor who said he had a cold and didn't start ignoring the doctor until the pneumonia had almost fixed itself and his lungs had almost said, "Fine, do it yourself."

We did it ourselves for a week in Children's Hospital to get his pulse-ox above 80. We'll be doing it ourselves for the rest of his life, with the assistance of steroidal inhalants.

I under-react or I over-react, medically. Usually, one directly follows the other. Like the time I, oh yes I did, apologized to the mother of the girl who's feet hit my 2 year old's face at full-speed on a gymnastics center swing and threw her 20 feet across the gym floor. I actually checked on that girl to make sure she was okay before I realized, "Hey, my child is no longer conscious." Then I lost my fucking mind and cried sososo hard that we waited for exactly 3.2 seconds in a Canadian emergency room to be seen. They sent two doctors...one for her, one for me.

I wish I was kidding.

However, when it comes to blood and bones and oxygen, I don't fuck around. You bleed? You visit the ER. You wheeze? We go to the ER. You break? I take a quick pregnancy test because you and me are about to spend some time under an x-ray machine. Even if it's your eye socket and even I know there isn't a cast in the world for a broken eye socket.

So my daughter has been sick since Christmas Eve. My mother in law has been, too. They've been boogie-nosed, fever burning, cold-sweating, sleeping all day, up all night petri-dishes. My mother in law said her lungs felt like dried up coal. My daughter said her ears were screaming at her. But they did it together, at the same time, and that screams of virus. I don't go to the doctor for viruses. I also don't pay people to tell me I have blue eyes or blond hair. I can see that for myself, thanks, and I have plenty of other things I'd like to waste $20 on.

Fevers don't scare me, either. Once you have a kid who bottoms out a thermometer so many times his doctor tells you to stop bringing him in every time he does it, you giggle off 103. Because you know how to treat it. I KNOW how to treat a fever. It's my superpower; that and stain removal.

But after a good week, week and a half, of fevers and no sleep and sneezing and coughing that just kept getting worse, I started to worry. One girl is 4, one is 68, and neither are strong enough to endure something like, oh, say, the swine flu.

And that's when I realized that I'd been ignoring the swine flu in a child and an elderly woman with asthma. All of the symptoms were right there in front of me...fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. We won't discuss the diarrhea.

My daughter started waking up in the middle of the night on fucking FIRE and twitching in my arms. Twitching, people. My mother in law started sleeping so late into the day, I started sending her son to poke her and make sure she was still alive. When death became a symptom we were actively checking for, I made them go to the doctor.

I walked into the ER and said I KNEW they both had the swine flu and they were dying and please save them from my reckless endangerment. They each were examined thoroughly and I was reminded that when a child tells you her ears are screaming at her, she typically has an infection. IN HER EARS. And my mother in law? Bronchitis. My first clue would have been that the place where her BRONCHIAL TUBES live felt dried up.

This was exactly as embarrassing as that time I ran my child to the ER at 3 in the morning because I KNEW she was asphyxiating and they KNEW she had the croup. Which, yeah....I'd effectively treated numerous times using only a shower and the agreeable Colorado nighttime air for over a decade with my boys. AND I've read Anne of Green Gables, like, a bazillion times.

They bill you three thousand dollars to sit in an ER overnight and watch Ed, Edd and Eddie re-runs with a one year old. Just sayin'.

On Life And Death

I am one of those 'black thumb' kinds of people. It's almost a gift the way I can take any simple living thing and kill the shit out of it. Just ask any one of my 12 ex-hamsters.

I've been especially blessed in my talent for killing plants. My ex once bought my a lovely succulent glass-menagerie-arrangement thingy for a birthday or an anniversary or something, because the guy who sold it to him assured him that cactus and aloe and jade were nigh unkillable. And I'd feel much worse about not being able to remember why he bought it for me if I hadn't killed the fucking thing in less than a week.

One of my best friends made a a series of window-boxes full of fresh herbs for my 27th birthday, and that I can remember which only goes to show you how much more important my girlfriends are to me than my lovers, but that doesn't really make a difference when it comes to harbingering death.

The herbs made it two weeks. I am the shittiest friend alive.

But then I moved to Vancouver and maybe it was the optimal climate but realistically it was the searing loneliness that drove me to try my hand at growing plants again. I started small, at Ikea, with two $0.99 houseplants no bigger than my palm. I loved those things like I'd loved everyone I left behind in Denver. I named them and spoke to them every day. I encouraged them to grow. I fed them extra nutrients and pruned them. And I'll be damned if those bitches didn't THRIVE.

Two Ikea houseplants turned into a Red Emerald Philodendrons that I rescued from the grocery store window and a jade that I found crammed in the back of a book store and countless other stray plants that we looking for a reject like me to take them home and save them.

I did kill the jade. Bygones.

The rest of them lived, and how they lived. I eventually moved into my little garden at my little townhouse and planted all sorts of things. I got so fancy as to plant for seasons. I even planted fruits. I got good. And then I had to move to Texas and they don't exactly let you bring plants across the border, so I had to leave them all behind.

It was arguably just as hard for me to watch all of my houseplants go home with the wife of my international truck driver as it was to say goodbye to the people I'd spent every single day with for three years. Which is just fucking ridiculous, but it's true.

I've started trying to collect a few houseplants for our new home, but I just haven't quite felt it yet. I haven't ventured out to make any new friends, either, so there's that. But sometimes in life, the right thing comes along from whence you least expect it and makes everything right again.

My son got a Chia Pet for Christmas. I think I'm in love with it.

I know it's only going to live for four weeks or something and then it will leave me like everything leaves me and I'll spiral into some horrid depression that can only be cured by chocolate ice cream and George Clooney, but for now I am slightly overly obsessed with this little miracle of dollar-store science. I water it every morning. I stroke it's newly-sprouted, well, um....sprouts? and I talk to it. I encourage it to 'be all you can be, little buddy!' and then I realize that I need to take up drinking or skeet shooting or something because I'M TALKING TO A FUCKING CHIA PET but I don't care, really. I'm giving something life again, and that's what I've been missing.

AH-HA. *cue moment of clarity*

So it's either talk to the Chia Pet like a crazy woman, or have another baby. And move into a shoe.