Archive | May, 2012

Cautionary Tale ?

31 May

My curling iron has a warning tag attached to the electrical cord that reads, “Caution! Product May Burn EYES!”

Wow…I did NOT know that.

I CAN tell you, from years of hard-won personal experience, that a curling iron may burn your fingers, your forehead, your scalp, cheekbones, the super-sensitive skin on the back of your neck where the roots of your hair meet flesh, the tippy-top of your earlobe, and your big toe (if you are doubly blessed with butterfingers and slow reflexes – which I am).  I can also tell you with absolute certainty that a curling iron will  burn a mark in a wooden table, if the kickstand thingy has broken off. It will leave a lovely scorch mark on the edge of your bathroom sink. It will most assuredly burn your favorite irreplaceable silk blouse if, in a moment of hair-spray-induced blindness, you set the curling iron down without looking. A curling iron will burn the palm of an unsuspecting toddler, the paw of a curious cat, and the nose of a dog who equates the smell of burning hair with the arrival of dinner. I can, as I said, tell you all of this from personal experience; from forgetting, time and time again that this wand of beauty is actually a molten laser of searing, scorching pain.

But I did NOT know that it can burn EYES. It says so, right there on that warning label. Which tells me one thing – that at some point, somewhere, somehow, someone burned their eye with a hot curling iron, and the subsequent lawsuit resulted in the mandatory warning label I now see every time I fix my hair.

Well, I suppose it’s a good thing, then, that someone put that warning label there. I certainly feel much better, now that I know. I feel confident that, knowing it can BURN EYES, I will – in the future – never, EVER place that hot steel wand on my eyelids.  I mean, I may have done it before…before I was enlightened, educated…but now I can breathe a sigh of relief at this near-miss.

That’s about all I have to say for today.  Stay tuned for my next post, which I sense will have much to do with the not-so-mutually-exclusive topics of absurd lawsuits and natural selection.


Garden of Weedin’

20 May

I weeded a garden today. I didn’t want to.

I wanted to stay home, and try to combat this awful depressed feeling by getting some work done around my own house. I wanted to spend some time relaxing, drinking coffee and reading all afternoon, and perhaps find something interesting to write about. I wanted some time to just feel better, period, because I have not been feeling well lately, and the “simple” medical fix is not working as well as expected. So believe me, the very last thing I wanted to do was to spend my time weeding someone else’s  garden.

But there’s this woman that I work for whose husband has been battling Alzheimer’s for several years, and at this point, the disease is winning. She cares for him with part-time help from home health aides, but his care is her entire responsibility. They both agreed in the early stages of this – and she would have it no other way – that he would stay at home as long as she was able to take care of him. So her every waking moment revolves around his doctors, his medicine, his routine, his meals, his personal care, safety, and comfort. If there is any time left over from dealing with all of this, there’s the unrelenting stress and worry about him, and the uncertainty of what each coming day will hold. And if, by some miracle, she is able to steal a moment or two here or there, she tries to address simple household tasks, like laundry, cleaning, paying bills, or gardening.

The truth is, she just doesn’t have enough time. Not by a long shot. There isn’t enough time to take care of him, and the house, and the yard and gardens. There isn’t enough time to get everything done.

There isn’t enough time left to spend with her best friend, as he slips away more and more every day. There isn’t time to hold on to the man she loves, as he becomes unrecognizable. Not enough time to sit and remember this man who was her confidant, friend, lover, her rock and her safe place, because she’s too busy taking care of the confused, slow, sometimes angry stranger that she sleeps next to every night.

She is almost out of time with the man she loves. I can’t imagine how that must feel. She buried her first husband many years ago, the result of a tragic accident. I can’t imagine how that must have felt. I wonder about how many nights she cried herself to sleep all those years ago, wishing she’d had a chance to say goodbye, and then I think of now, and I wonder if she thinks this long, sad goodbye is somehow better.

I come, I visit, and I clean. So far he still remembers me, most days. This is important, because when he starts to forget who I am, my presence might agitate him. Strangers stress him out. But she needs the help, so I hope he remembers me as long as possible. I talk to him about things he always liked to hear me talk about – my writing, my kids, my job. He likes to hear me sing, too, so I play recordings for him when I get new ones made. Today was the first time I felt like he couldn’t place me; he looked at me suspiciously, and with a little fear. He was having a very bad day. Dementia is like that – good days, bad days. Seeing him on either kind of day makes me sad, because I remember the good, kind, soft-spoken man he always was. And my soft heart can’t handle this much sadness without wanting to do SOMETHING to help, so…

I weeded her garden.

I admit, at first, I was kneeling there in her garden, yanking out weeds and really wishing I were home working in my own garden. I wondered how fast I could rush through this and get home. My legs and feet were hurting, I was tired, and there were so many of those little buggers I thought I might never get done.

After about an hour, she came outside to check on me. She was so appreciative of my efforts, so grateful. She hugged me, handed me a bottle of water, and went back inside to take care of her husband. I watched her walk into the house, this woman – this kind, loving woman, bearing the weight of the world on her small shoulders.

I sat back down in the garden, wiped a tear off my face with a grimy, dirty hand, and yanked out the nearest weed with a vengeance. I held it in my hand for a moment, and thought to myself, “I am so grateful that I have TIME to weed my own garden!” Then I tossed it into the weed pile. I pulled out another, and thought to myself, “I am so grateful to have my health!” Tossed that one in the weed pile too. The third weed was my gratitude to being able to sit outside in the sun; the fourth was tossed into the pile as I proclaimed my gratitude for having healthy children. This quickly became the way I spent the next four hours – pulling a weed out of the ground, and silently stating to myself something I was grateful for, before throwing it into the weed pile.

I thought, with nearly a hundred weeds to go, I would soon run out of things to be grateful for.

I did not.

And as I worked my way through that woman’s entire garden, challenging myself with each tug to find something to be thankful for in my own life, I found that list was actually never-ending. Big things, small things – friendships, family, things I have that make my life easier, people I know who make my life better.  I could recreate that endless list here, but you get the point.  The afternoon I thought would be such a chore turned into a full day of gratitude, one scrappy, thorny little weed at a time.

So, yes, I weeded a garden today, even though I didn’t want to.

And I ended up giving my soul a much-needed weeding too.

It was a very good day.

Baby Books and Cartoon Moons

13 May

(Originally published 12/2/2010)

 There are two kinds of mothers. The first remembers the dates and details of everything each child has ever done since the moment of their birth; every illness, injury, playmate, Halloween costume, the names of every teacher, and who came to their middle child’s third birthday party. These moms can rattle off baby stats like professional sportscasters: lengths and weights of their newborns, when they cut their first teeth, took their first steps, said their first word, had their first haircuts – and they can do it all without sneaking a refresher look at the baby books they so carefully scrapbooked over the years. I, for one, am glad these women exist because I’ve often thought there aren’t enough self-righteous people on the planet. I also believe in harmony and balance, and mothers like these are the yin to my yang, for I am the second kind – the one who couldn’t update the baby books because she kept losing them. They would surface occasionally under piles of mail or laundry, and I’d take a moment to reminisce over the birth announcement I’d tucked inside. Then I’d stick it on top of the refridgerator, resolving to get back to it when I had a little more time. Of course, when you have two children, time is the joke of the century, and the next thing you know, one’s in college…the other is shaving his face…and you have absolutely NO idea when they took their first steps or which one had the chickenpox. Someone recently asked me how much my son weighed at birth, and I blanked. I stood there, stalling, while my brain tried desperately to think of how much babies GENERALLY weigh so I could MAKE SOMETHING UP! This is unconscienable to many people, I know; mothers are supposed to be keepers of their children’s memories. I am not one such mother. In fact, I’ve been known to exasperate my kids by whipping out a pencil and scrap paper so I can perform the math necessary to figure out how old they will be on their next birthdays. This alone has caused my children to threaten to put themselves in foster care.




     Dear reader, before you run to the nearest magistrate to have my parental rights revoked, allow me to redeem myself. I may not have documented every milestone in their lives, and I admit I’m horrible with dates and statistics, but I remember the moments. Hundreds of them. I don’t even carry them in my brain for fear of losing them to a head injury; I carry them in my soul, because they make up every piece of who I am:  Creeping into my daughter’s room in the morning to peer over the rail of her crib and be rewarded by that incomparable baby smile, the one that lets you know you are her WHOLE WORLD. Walking around the house late at night with my son nestled in my arms, looking up at me; we were kindred insomniacs and I would sing to him for hours. The time he told me, “Mommy, I used to be an angel, but then I fell to the earth, and that’s when you found me, took off my wings, and brought me home with you.” The night in the car when he called a crescent moon a “cartoon moon”, and how we’ve called them “cartoon moons” ever since. The time my daughter convinced her little classmates that she and I practiced witchcraft at home, and if they didn’t play with her, we would cast spells on them. (They were terrified of her for a whole marking period. So was the teacher. That was one hysterical parent-teacher conference, but that’s a story for another day…) I remember the look on her face when she let go of the coffee table and took her first independent steps toward me, as clearly as I remember my heartache as I drove away after settling her into her college dorm room. Etched into my heart is the sound of my son’s little voice, every time he cried, “Mommy!” He sounds different now, but I’ll always hear the little voice. I’ll never forget the precious look on his 4-month old face when they removed the bandages after his eye surgery. It was a fairly routine glaucoma surgery, but there’s always risk and fear, and when the doctor took the bandages off, it was clear the operation was a success – he saw me and his little face lit up like Christmas. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.



    There is one thing I have in common with the Ubermoms – ask me to tell you about giving birth to either of them, and you’d better grab a chair and a box of tissues. Every mother remembers with startling – often graphic – detail every minute of the most miraculous day of her life, and loves to share the story over and over again with anyone who will listen. And boy, oh boy, nobody loves to hear these stories more than other mothers! Get a few of them together over coffee, and it’s like “Band of Brothers” with estrogen; it only takes one to start, and then the war stories begin to flow, replete with tears and laughter and appropriate moments of silence. Not one woman needs to express how giving birth to a child was their finest hour; every woman in the room simply understands this. We never need to say out loud how watching them grow up and away makes us feel because we’re all in the same foxhole. This is why women can share knowing looks with complete strangers in supermarkets and restaurants. Our badges aren’t on our clothing. They’re in our hearts, and they shine through our eyes as courage and wisdom. 




     As the kids start growing away from me, I find myself savoring these memories. I will start writing them down; their baby books will likely be hardbound novels with no clips of baby hair to be found, but they will be just as appreciated. Someday. And maybe my documentarian shortcomings will be forgiven. Years from now, when my memory starts to fade and these little moments slip quietly from me, my children can read them back into my soul, and share them with their own children. Speaking of which, I have every intention of ensuring that my grandchildren have the most fantastic baby books EVER. It’s pretty likely I’ll have caught up on the laundry by then, and will have the time to spare. I will record every vital statistic, capture every milestone, put in pictures and handwritten stories and create scrapbooks that Martha Stewart would envy. And I’m already picturing that on the front of each one, right above the hand-embroidered name of my grandchild, there will be a drawing of a cartoon moon.





Today’s Rant

13 May

(Originally published 6/2/2011)

 It’s that time of year…school is about to let out, and 16-year-olds are pounding the pavement, looking for a summer job. Working in a restaurant, I have spent much of the last two weeks breaking the sad news to all these hopefuls that we are fully staffed and not hiring at the moment. The crestfallen looks on their formerly exuberant faces reminds me of what it was like to be young; to believe that all you had to do is walk in, ask for a job, and get one. Like it’s supposed to just be THAT easy. Hahaha…ah, youth. But lest you think I’m a complete cynic, lacking in compassion, I confess that I do feel badly enough to at least allow them to fill out an application. Everyone has to start somewhere, and learning the application process is part of life, right? Besides, as I was reminded today, there are few things that bring a smile to a world-weary face like mine; reading the job application of a teenager will always do the trick.


     One such hopeful came in today, and her application inspired this train of thought (which I suspect will shortly turn into a full-blown rant…). Let me set the stage for you: she was young and beautiful, very wholesome and healthy looking, great teeth and a positive, respectful attitude. When I explained that we weren’t currently hiring but that she was welcome to hand in an application, she thanked me graciously and asked if she could sit down and fill it out right there. She had even brought her own pen. I liked her right away; the girl that came in a few days ago was barefoot and wearing a string bikini…TO ASK FOR A JOB…but I digress…


     The best part of my night was later, when I was winding down from a busy dinner rush. I sat down for a few minutes, savoring the blast from the air conditioner as it blew across my grimy, sweaty face. I was sipping my coffee and dabbing my forehead with a napkin, and I read her application then. It was full of the usual pertinent information, and of course she was able to work any hours we might require – she is, after all, a kid, so her schedule’s wide open. Most generic applications (like ours) ask you to list any special skills you have. This, my friends, is the best part of any form filled out by a teenager, and today’s applicant did not disappoint. Under special skills, she had written, “I am friendly, I work well with others, and I’m not shy.” My face has been hurting ever since, because it is simply not possible to contain that much laughter in one head. Even a head as big and powerful as mine.


     Do you remember your first job? Filling out your first application? You had no work experience, and even less real-life experience. In fact, your experience was so pitiful that you didn’t even know enough to leave the “special skills” section blank, so you dug deep, deep into your 15-or 16- year old life experience to come up with SOMETHING! What should I write here? What do they want to know about me? What will impress them enough to hire me?? Oh, I know…”I’m not shy! I’m friendly!” Now, I’m not trying to be mean. I give the kid props for coming in, properly dressed and saying and doing all the right things. It’s not her fault that she’s, well, just a kid, and that her particular skillset could land her an excellent job as a puppy. Or a talking Barbie doll.


     I remember looking for my first job. I was fifteen, and when it came time to answer that “skills” question, I blanked, nervous that my answer wouldn’t be good enough. Years later I would come to know that nobody gives a crap about that anyway, and it was probably added to the application process as a litmus test for creativity. But then, I attempted to impress by telling my would-be employer that I was smart, friendly, and learned quickly. I remember feeling proud as I handed in the application, and even prouder when I got the job; clearly my answer was the right one. Little did I know that my boss had sized me up and correctly guessed that I was not a social butterfly, so I would always be available on weekends. That was really all that mattered. Like I said, the ignorance of youth. Go figure.



     Twenty-five years later, I am past the point where I will ever need to fill out an application again. Probably. If a job search were necessary, I am a professional now, a real bonafide grown-up, so a resume would be the most likely vehicle. But…if I could…just once…fill out one of those generic applications, I would welcome the part where it asks me for “any special skills I may have.” And I would feel just ever-so-slightly sorry for the application processor, because my answer would read something like this:


     “After 25 years of working with people, for people, and even being self-employed, I have gained a wealth of skills. I can manage people, am highly organized and efficient, can deal fairly and successfully with employers, employees and vendors alike; my customer service skills are unparallelled, and I know how to streamline processes to save time, which is always saving money. But more importantly, I don’t take crap from anybody, anymore. I can ferret out liars, wannabes, and false advertisers. I can deflect bullshit like Superman deflects bullets. The years have taught me not to waste precious energy in a futile fight against sexual discrimination, but to learn who the offenders are and bat my eyelashes at them to get the job done. Twenty years of being a single mother has taught me preparedness and how to pull off a top-notch job with substandard resources – or sometimes none at all. I know the value of a great sense of humor and a good long cry. I know that sometimes you have to keep trudging through, even when you just don’t think you can, because people depend on you. I have, myself, been driven to the edge of despair by tough economic times, betrayal, and even heartbreak, so I have compassion for the people I deal with every day, aware that they, too, have a story to tell. I am a thinker, a solver, a healer, a mother, an accountant, a mechanic, a janitor, a plumber, an electrician, a doctor, a therapist, an organizer, a sympathizer, a writer, a singer, a practical and a dreamer. Skills, you ask? Oh, yes. I’ve GOT skills. And your organization would be DAMN LUCKY to have me. P.S. I am friendly, and I’m not shy.”


     I almost feel a little bad now for poking fun at this girl who has given me so much to think about tonight. Her only ailment is that she’s young and hopeful; a decade or two in the real world will cure her of both. In the meantime, thank you, mystery teenage applicant, for the opportunity to reflect on how far I have come in my own life, and what these years have taught me. I think I’ll add another event to my bucket list; when I’m seventy, I want to apply for a position as a Wal-Mart greeter. Just so I can fill out the application. I’ll have another thirty years’ worth of skills and sarcasm to add to the list, and boy, oh boy, I can’t wait to read what I’m going to have to say then…


“UNREMARKABLE” – A Pathology of My Mother’s Heart

13 May

“Life began with waking up and loving my mother’s face.” ~ George Eliot

I am a mixed bag of emotions on Mother’s Day, from pride in my own children to guilt at my failures in the mothering department; from anger at my own mother to loving and missing her, and wishing for another chance to pick up the phone and call her. I witness the selfless acts of mother-women all around me, and my heart swells to be part of this sisterhood, and am amazed for the thousandth time at the inherent strength of women, and mothers.

My mother died too soon, and by her own choice.  Perhaps her depression was caused by some sort of chemical imbalance, or maybe it was just that her life was too hard.  Perhaps it was an accident, even, and she didn’t really mean to pull the trigger; perhaps it was something darker, and worse, and the man she was married to shouldn’t be walking around free from prosecution. We will never really know the answers to any of this. We will question it forever, and each of us, in the quiet part of our hearts, will settle on an answer that gives us peace, and lets us remember her in the best way that we can.

I remember running to the mailbox every day after her funeral, hoping that her last act on this earth was to write each of her four children a letter. (In later conversations with my sister and brothers, it turned out they had done the same.)  My hopes began to dwindle after five days or so, but I still thought it possible – I mean, sometimes mail gets delayed, right? But the mailbox remained empty. No answers there.

She had gone Christmas shopping, and there were gifts for us, and for her grandchildren, all wrapped and ready to go. In fact, I was told they were near her, and she was facing them, possibly looking at them, when she checked out. When mine was brought to me, I tore into it like a 5-year-old on Christmas morning. Not with childish joy, though. All I wanted to find in this package was a clue, or some kind of gift that had special meaning only for me; a message from my mom.  But it was just a plain old set of picture frames. I cried again that day. No answers there, either.

We had heard there was a suicide note, but it had been taken into evidence by the police, and we had no idea what it said. For two months, we all imagined our occasionally-effervescent and always dramatic mother had written a novella, one that would explain everything.  There was no way this woman – who cried at the Folger’s Coffee Christmas commercial – who had “Irish Eyes” emblazoned on the bugshield of her pick-up truck – who LOVED to be the life of the party, and the center of attention – well, there was just no way she would exit this play without one last fantastic monologue.  But when we finally got the note…it was short, and confusing, and not at all reminiscent of the woman we had hoped her to be.  No answers there, either.

There was one last chance at an explanation: her autopsy. One running theory was that she had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and couldn’t bear it for herself, or wanted to spare all of us.  (You see, when people die, no matter how they die, we do tend to give them the benefit of the doubt on things.) My sister picked up the autopsy report from the police station, and came to my house. I put on a pot of coffee, and we opened the envelope.  In short, there were no answers there, either. There was no illness, no cancer.  We lost her again on that day, two months after her funeral, when it punched us in the face that we would never understand what led our mother to put a gun in her own mouth and pull the trigger.

I remember reading through the medical examiner’s report, sifting through his  forms and technical jargon, trying desperately to fashion a new picture of my mother that I’d never seen before.  There were sections on his report for each of her major organs – their appearance, color, shape, etc., and the weight in grams of each one. I was halfway down the list – heart, lungs, liver – before it dawned on me just HOW this guy knew how much each one weighed…the process involved…cutting each part out of my mother and putting it on a scale!! Oh my God!! In a fresh burst of tears, I asked my sister if she thought he put them all back IN before her burial, and if so, did he put them back in the RIGHT WAY?? Or did he just toss them in there, like body organ soup, because – let’s face it – who would know the difference anyway? These are questions that no child, no matter how old they are, should ever have to wonder about their mother.

There was one other curious thing about the autopsy report. Apparently medical examiners have their own lingo, and after two pots of coffee and a serious crying jag, it just gets funny. When there is nothing noteworthy about a person’s body parts, they use the word, “unremarkable”.  So my sister and I, recovering from the horror of the whole organ-weighing epiphany, and with not a tear left to cry between the two of us, read out loud that her lungs were “unremarkable”. Her liver was “unremarkable”.  The irony – that we wanted something REMARKABLE, so we’d have an answer, goddammit – was juxtaposed against the memory of our mom’s self-deprecating sense of humor. She would have been laughing as hard as we were at that point – loud, cathartic, belly-laughs that hurt like hell – at the thought that her breasts were “unremarkable”.

It’s taken me most of the last nine years to come to this, but I believe the medical examiner was wrong about one thing.  My mother’s heart was not “unremarkable.”  It was maybe the most incredible thing about her.  That woman LOVED.  She didn’t make the best choices about who should receive her love, and that led to more terrible choices. It was for those choices that I spent most of my life being angry at her, even before she died.  It was because of those choices that I chose to stay away from her, and didn’t even call to wish her a Merry Christmas two weeks before she took her own life. It was those choices that caused me a lifetime of pain, and while I can’t change the past, I can certainly try to think of her choices in a different way.  In her own troubled way, she did the best she could.  In her own mind, she was loving all of us, and really trying. And in the quiet part of my own heart, I have come to believe that she didn’t take her own life because she was selfish, and didn’t love us enough; I think she knew full well the pain her choices created for those of us she loved the most – her children – and her “unremarkable” heart just wasn’t strong enough to bear it all. As I said, we all have had to find an answer that gives us peace.

I’ll have more thoughts on my mother, I’m sure. And some days, I might be a little pissed off again at her. But today, on this sunny, beautiful Mother’s Day, ten years after the last time I was able to call my own mother and say hello…I can only feel happiness at the thought that, at the beginning of my life, before things got muddled and dark through the years, there was me and my mom. I can’t remember being an infant, and looking up at her face – the face that must have meant the entire universe to me – but somewhere deep inside I can remember the feeling. I know she held me, cared for me, fed me, sang to me, showed me off to friends and family…and I know I was loved by the remarkable heart of a woman. My mother.

Slugs and Snails and Puppy-Dog Tails

8 May

You know those stories you read about wonderful, inspiring children? The sweet anecdotes that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, and make you want to sit and do arts and crafts with your own kids? You know the ones – little toddler fists filled with broken dandelions…Mother’s Day cards with a carefully scribbled “You’re the BEST Mom I ever had!”…and the really heartwarming stories about children so miraculous and special it makes your uterus twinge with longing….


This is not one of those stories.


Let me tell you what I’ve got.


He’s 16.


My refridgerator is empty. Always.


So is my wallet.


In fact, most of the kitchen cabinets are empty too, because while he is skilled at bringing glasses and dishes up the stairs into his room, he hasn’t mastered bringing them back DOWN.


He uses a towel ONE TIME. Just once, then it ends up on the floor, which means more laundry for me. I’ve explained the process to him eight times – use it, hang it up. I’ve even acted it out, in real time. Once I drew a picture. But despite the look of understanding on his face – despite the appropriate head-nodding in agreement – my morning trip to the bathroom always ends up with my sleepy feet on a cold, wet towel. Sometimes two.


I leave him a list of a couple household chores…he does one thing, then claims he didn’t see anything else on the list. He doesn’t understand my exasperation when I point out that his argument makes no sense…he did #3 on the list; how did he manage to “not see” numbers 1 and 2??


I gave up trying to record a tv show. There is no room on the DVR for one episode of Frozen Planet, when the entire thing is full of Family Guy reruns, Pawn Stars, X-Play, and Swamp People.


When he empties the dishwasher, it’s pretty much a crapshoot as to where I will later find ANYTHING. His definition of “putting things away” is “putting them all in the one cabinet I can most easily reach from this position”. A simple cake-baking becomes an all-afternoon scavenger hunt. Once, he dumped all the silverware into the drawer, on top of the dividers. In a pile. Near as I can figure, he then had to work harder to get the drawer shut than if he had just put them all facing the right way in the first place.


He has yet to remember a Mother’s Day or my birthday without assistance.


He has taken procrastination to an art form I may never even achieve. School clothes are tossed into the washer 45 minutes before the bus comes. Homework – if it gets done at all – consists of whatever the teachers will allow him to make up the last week of the marking period. Chores are done ten minutes before I arrive home from work.


He gets in trouble at school so often that I am afraid to use my real name on school grounds.


He revels in the velocity and odiousness of his own farts.


Like I said, he is 16.


And just when I am at my wit’s end…when I can’t stand his selfishness for ONE MORE DAY…when I’m wondering how far a woman can be pushed before it’s considered justifiable homicide…when I’m considering military school, the peace corps, or foster care as viable options…..


I wake up in the middle of the night, having fallen asleep on the sofa, and I’m covered with a blanket, the tv is off, and the house has been locked up.


He even covered my toes, so they wouldn’t catch a draft and wake me up.


He covered my TOES.


He hugs me, too. Every morning, and every day when I get home from work. And every day, he asks me how my day was. And if I tell him…he listens.


I’ve seen him drop his basketball and go running to help a neighbor.


I’ve heard him get angry if he thinks someone hurt me or his sister.


I often find him curled up with our family cat. It makes me smile.


He came to my gig this weekend – he wanted to. He helped carry equipment without being asked, and made sure I had a bottle of water. And when I got nervous, he motioned for me to just keep looking at him, and he kept my gaze, and smiled at me the whole time. He was proud of me, and proud of himself for being able to help me. So was I.


He’s not a bad kid.


And sometimes…if I’m very lucky, and the planets align just right…when he empties the dishwasher, he puts all the forks facing the same way, and for a fleeting moment I glimpse a responsible, thoughtful adult…and it gives me hope.


He’s just 16.


There’s time yet.


And I have plenty of towels.