Saturday, August 30, 2014


She is six years old and she's usually in your face, a tough little broad.  Her mother approves and I agree. Women need to be aggressive and loud to get their mission across, Gloria and Bella would approve. The little one and I were leaving the liquor store with well, a few bottles and she yelled at the clerks. "Okay, good-by everybody. We're going to go home and have some fun with all this booze."  No wonder I feel like I'm being watched.

But then she got different. Remote, tight-lipped, beyond my reach. "Did you have a bad day at school?" No. "Are you mad at me?" No.
That's all I got.

She's regressing. She wants warm milk in a sippie cup. She wants to sit in a stroller and not walk with me. She's begging her mom to buy her a car seat although she's 17 pounds over the weight limit. She's surrounds herself with old stuffed and stained toys, a fortress against an unrecognizable world.  "Will my dad be at your house for Thanksgiving?"  I'm not going to explain this to her, she does not understand the dynamics. Her mom can do it. This child's vulnerability is like a slap in my face. I can't protect her.

My job shouldn't be this hard. I'm a grandma. Through the generations we have done the grunt work. My great-great grandma and her spinster daughter traveled from one family to the next, stitching quilts, baking cinnamon rolls, holding babies while everybody else went about their work.

This is what I want to do but my job is redefined. Now I chauffer children to golf practice, boy scout meetings, gymnastics class. There is little if no conversation during these car rides. Screens are up, I hear a little snicker, a reaction to some online jolly. I am lonely.

My daughter is reclusive, wrapped tightly in the cocoon of a second divorce, not sure how to deal with the overwhelming angst of it all.  I don't know what to say.

I lie on my back in the pool and stare at the changing cloud patterns.  I know women are not accomplished at spacial perception but I study those clouds and see many things, skawking ducks and elephants wearing clown hats and an entire train chugging across the blueness.

I am lonely, exceedingly lonely, so much pain in my family.

We give each other facials. It is comforting.


Monday, August 25, 2014

an introvert attends a wedding reception

Drat, another social event. Didn't I just attend one last month? I hate summer. People celebrate way too many things.  Our friends are all married as are most of their kids. But now the kids' kids are getting married and it's not right we are still getting invited. I could run that kid over in my Chevy Impala and not know who I flattened. I say if I haven't talked to this person in the last three days I should not have to attend his event.

We pull up to the Community Center and I see the HyVee catering vans. HyVee, the King of Midwestern Groceries but could somebody please do something different? How about that fancy new Thai restaurant on the west end or something cajun packing lots of heat?  Instead, yet another fried chicken dinner and those little beef slabs that look like Spam and taste weird. I toss our wedding card into the giant gold fish bowl festooned with purple ribbons. I had penned "to the happy couple" on the envelope with a little heart and arrow, a dead-give away to the fact that I do not know their names.

I crackle as I walk across the floor. I am wearing my daughter's platform sandals, one size too large and packaging tape is stuck inside to keep them on my feet. Up ahead is a table with platters and platters of cake pops. Ooooooh, cake pops. Maybe this might have some worthwhile results afterall. They are all wrapped in cellophane which will make their removal from the building less mess.

"Don't you think Ron's wife looks like a hooker?" My husband's head snaps in my direction. He is eyeing me very carefully knowing that after three drinks I tend to say things out loud that should remain in my head. I give him a little smile and try to look level-headed and steady-eyed. See? I'm still miles away from a drunken demeanor. He slowly turns back to the conversation, something about somebody's golf ball collection and knows he is now on babysitting duty.

But I behave myself and eat the shitty chicken and miniature meat-like slabs. I am content as the evening drags itself to its beer-soaked end. The groom is having trouble removing the garter off the bride's thigh. Behind him are the groomsmen woot-woot-wooting like barbarian clansmen. Content, knowing  there are six cake pops in my purse and four more in each of my husband's pockets.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

it is 1970

It is 1970 and I am eighteen years old. I have just graduated from an inferior Catholic convent school. My parents wanted me to go the bigger newer Catholic high school but I balked and kicked my feet. My friends were going to the obscure school hosted by the dwindling Sisters of the Visitation and it was all that was important to me, being with my friends.  Our gym teacher smoked and coughed in a corner of our windowless basement gym and the nuns had us in the convent kitchen shelling corn when we should have been studying logarithms or something.

So I wore the idiotic freshman beanie and the itchy plaid skirts and hoped I would never grow up. My parents wouldn't let me cross the street until I was five years old and then they had to because I needed to go to kindergarten.  I'm not sure why but they always thought I was making the best and correct decisions for myself. And I wasn't, that's how good an actor I was.

I worked at S.S.Kresge's as a cashier in an aqua blue plastic apron cinched at the waist, not an attractive look for a short girl with no waistline. I folded underwear and bagged orange slices for $1.35 an hour. College was on the peripheral and it scared me. I really didn't want to learn anything else. But I bought green pillowcases for the move to a state university along with my Simon and Garfunkel albums and my beat-up Schwinn.

During my first six months of college life I had many new beginnings. Got drunk, got stoned, got laid. Fathers, give your daughters some stretching room. Sit on them too long and they will explode in a fury of passion and curiosity. My first night drunk I got up to leave the bar and three men stood up. Apparently, I had promised all of them they could accompany me home.  Next morning I showed up for my Intro to Psych class, all 1500 of us in a theatre setting and I begged the guy on the aisle to change seats with me. I did not trust my stomach still roiling with its boozy contents. What did Steve Martin say about Intro to Psych? "They teach you just enough to think you're crazy." I already knew I was crazy.

 My roommate, an art major wore a gloriously hand-embroidered navy blue cloak and stored our joints in her paint box and I worried about the toxic stains we were inhaling. My throat was furiously raw on Monday mornings from all the pot and she suggested I take up smoking to "tenderize" my throat. Thus began a lifelong love relationship with menthol Marlboros, like smoking toothpaste. I would watch that roommate draw. She would sketch an apple, pick up that apple and take a bite, sketch it again and so on, bite after bite. I envied that.

I liked the 70's. We were smug and safe in our generation knowing that our sheer numbers would conquer all. My brothers smoked pot in their bedroom and my mother would shout, "what are you burning up there?" Incense, ma, incense. One brother dropped acid and thought about flying out a third floor window. He went to the emergency room and my dad thought he had a bad case of flu. You can't bring that kind of magic back.

Friday, August 1, 2014

blank for awhile

My first marriage was to a musician, a jazz-classical guitarist sentenced to playing 80's rock and roll in a small Midwestern town. "Do I want to make music or do I want to make money?" was his lament in the short eight-and-a half years of our unlucky union. My twenties were a time of two steps forward and one step back or was it one step forward and two steps . . .  I was overly medicated on really strong antidepressants and floating on the ceiling most of the time. "Just put a string around my ankle and pull me down when you get home from work," I instructed that first husband. He was unamused.

In one desperate attempt to escape a mind swimming with suicidal homicidal self-defeating really awful thoughts I left. I packed up a box of cleaning solvents and bought a new broom and dustpan. I didn't know where I was going but it would be clean. I found a foul apartment on a foul street and the first morning I awoke the kitchen was swarming with thick slick cockroaches. I screamed and went to my drug store cashier job. I had not worked in ten years, I took what I could get. My first paycheck went for $80 worth of chemicals that are probably illegal now but they worked on those slimy critters. I slept unfettered but the toxins lay heavy in those small rooms and I'll probably develop a scary cancer somewhere down the road. I spent the next year stoned on really good weed, thanks to sleazy friends I thought were my friends. I needed to go blank for awhile.

I woke up. I came gasping to the surface and realized, this is wrong. I collected my children, said good-by to that first husband as he sped off to what he thought would be a SUPER DUPER CAREER WITH J.C.PENNEY IN OMAHA and they screwed him royally, firing their mature managers - and Joe was a good one - to employ younger, greener wimps for less money, the usual pattern. Our youngest son spent the next few months firing baseballs at the siding on my house, splintering the shingles, angry young boy. Can't seem to get past all this, probably need therapy.