Browsing Tag

parents

Grief, Guest Posts, Pregnancy

I Was A Mother Waiting To Make The Call

May 8, 2017
call

By Mallory McDuff

I waited until I was three months pregnant to tell him about the baby. Then he died three days after my phone call, when my six-year old daughter shared the news of a baby sister in her future, squealing her delight in a high-pitched voice that sounded like a toddler, although she was quite pragmatic and focused for a first-grader. What drove me to call on that day rather than later in the week, when it would have been too late? And why was I devastated by his sudden death but comforted by his support of this unusual pregnancy?

“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” my mother always said, describing the twists and turns in our lives that both confound and amaze us. This phone call to my father was definitely a mystery, one of those encounters I could never have predicted, even if I’d written the script in advance.

For starters, I’d gotten pregnant while separated from my husband, separated for nearly three years, as we avoided the eventuality of the end of our marriage, much like we often waited until the last minute to do our taxes. While we waited for something to happen (a move, an affair, a sudden desire to teach English in Japan?), I got pregnant, much to my joy-filled delight. We were separated, but not separated enough, I learned to say to anyone who questioned the timeline. Hearing that quip, people stopped asking questions, which was the intended outcome. This conception came several years after we ended a second pregnancy due to a genetic disorder affecting the baby, a gut-wrenching decision made from a foundation of love in the midst of a crumbling marriage. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood, parenting

A Visit From My Retired Parents Helped Reset My Anxiety Clock

February 23, 2017

By Marilyn Maloney

I’ve been riding a knife edge for too long. I have always worried, mostly about nothing, death, being alone when I’m old, some odd pain that could be a blood clot. Or not.

My daughter has been having more seizures lately. She is nine and lives with Leukodystrophy, causing her cerebral palsy, seizures, impaired swallowing, and overall low muscle tone. Researchers suspect they have found the genetic cause, and will tell us as soon as they prove their suspicions. Four long years have gone by since their discovery, and Maddy has developed daily seizures that can last up to a minute. Lately they have increased in intensity. Instead of a barely noticeable eye flutter, they come with a grimace and outstretched arm.

My son wakes up sniffling, followed by the telltale cough. His eczema puts his IgE levels 50 times higher than they should be, so the blood tests say he’s allergic to everything except cocoa. This year he developed asthma. The ER had a teddy bear on his bed when he was admitted, and “Jack” the bear sleeps with him now.

We pump Jimmy full of five different medications when the cough shows up, following his Asthma Action Plan from the Immunologist. Steroid inhaler each morning and night, steroid nasal spray and Zyrtec before school, albuterol before recess, and we pray we never need the Epi-pen. I label all his foods and send him “emergency snacks” in case he ever forgets his lunch. He has a pre-K crush on the school nurse. And the teachers like him, so he already ran out of emergency cookies. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Surviving

There Are Ghosts Here

January 9, 2017
room

By Summer Krafft

This is what being his daughter has always looked like: trying to keep a panic attack silent in a room that does not lock.

There are ghosts here.

Outside the door is a hallway. At the end of the hallway are two doors and a staircase. Down the staircase, there is The Man –The Man who has always seemed more wolf than man. And I am back here, in response to his call. “Something’s wrong,” he said. “It’s bad,” he said. “You need to come immediately,” he said. “It’s not the kind of thing you tell your daughter over the phone.” So I boarded the plane across the country. When we got to the house, I inhaled a sharp breath before walking through the front door, the one I had walked through so often as a child.

I hadn’t seen him since he’d had the strokes. Memory began to make its way back in and I needed to keep as much space between his hands and my body as possible. When I got there, I noticed the way his left leg dragged when he walked. I noticed how often he lost his words -The Man who made a career on language, suddenly wordless. I noticed the storm clouds forming in his eyes. Continue Reading…

Adoption, Guest Posts

There Is Nothing Wrong With Broken

October 17, 2016
adoption

By Brook Biggs

It is dark, the world has gone to sleep. Midnight passed and the dawn is still several hours away. In her crib, a little girl sleeps soundly. Who knows what dreams flicker through her mind’s eye; her thin eyelids quiver rapidly in sleep. All throughout the tiny house, the noises that create day have been silenced to paint night. A soft tread is heard in the hall just outside the sleeping child’s room. The door opens silently, a mere whisper against the old carpet on the floor. A woman enters, the weight and exhaustion of multiple jobs pull at her shoulders. She creeps towards the crib, towards the child she has not seen since the night before, and when her eyes find the outline of her child through the darkness, a mixture of grief and happiness collide in her eyes. This is her baby, her youngest, her daughter whom she loves but cannot keep. This is the child she will soon give away.

Reaching into the crib, unable to stop herself, the mother carefully scoops the child up into her arms. The little girl stirs but continues to sleep, resting her head in the nook of her mother’s neck, cradled into the arms created for comfort. Using her feet to find her way, the mother shuffles forward until she finds what she is looking for. The rocking chair is old but it is sturdy and it rocked the mother’s first child. Now it will rock this second child, the motion undulating a rhythm that defies the turmoil in the woman’s heart. She has gone back and forth on this. She has berated her mind, her absent spouse, her lot in life and still, the moment comes back, always, to the day she will walk away from her child. The sway of the chair, the breath of her sleeping child on her neck, the tears running down her cheeks, and the guilt tearing holes in her heart will not let her forget the despair of choice. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts, healing

What David Bowie Taught Me about Art, Death And Letting Go

October 14, 2016

By Grace Loh Prasad

The Montclair Railroad Trail is a mile-long, tree-lined path carved into the side of the Oakland Hills. From 1913 until 1957, the trail was part of a passenger rail line that ran from San Francisco through Oakland to Sacramento and Chico. Today it’s hard to imagine that trains once rolled on this narrow path through abundant eucalyptus and oak trees; no traces remain of the railroad or the station that once sat at the foot of Paso Robles, an area now occupied by a row of large, immaculate homes with two-car garages and shaded patios.

We go running on the trail almost every week. Years ago I pushed my son Devin in a stroller here; now he runs beside me and we race the last twenty yards over the footbridge to the stairs that lead to Montclair Village. Every now and then I run alone. I study the trees and I think about how old they must be, about how they have witnessed so much – the railroad being built then abandoned; houses rising one by one; families arriving, expanding and eventually leaving, to be replaced by new families. Time passes, but the trees always remain, season after season, year after year. Continue Reading…

Grief, Guest Posts

Visitation

August 1, 2016
parents

By Donna Steiner

Yesterday at dusk a deer walked through the yard.  For about two seconds, we made eye contact.  The deer stood still, body facing away, head turned toward me.  “Be careful, baby,” I said, quietly.  She had just crossed the road, and I was referring to cars, and hunters.

This morning I went outside and scanned the vicinity, visually tracing her path.  I live on a ridge, which means she’d climbed uphill.  She may have begun at the base of the ridge, where a stream carves through stands of trees and knots of underbrush.  I’ve seen other deer down there, sipping clean water or, having heard the retort of a hunter’s gun, standing stock-still.  Hunters aren’t permitted in the area, but posted bans are rarely enforced.  One day I watched a deer stand, unmoving, for over 30 minutes.  I needed binoculars to see to the base of the ridge.  Every ten minutes or so I’d go back and check – the deer did not relent.  Her life depended on her stillness – if she moved, she’d be shot.

I’ve lived in several locales that were appealing to hunters, and there were times I’ve worried that I would inadvertently become a target.  When I wander into the yard, I try to remember to wear something bright and colorful.  More often than not, however, I realize upon returning indoors that I’ve been clad in earth tones, moving slowly, potentially mistakable for a creature not human.  Generally, when I hear gunshots, I stay inside. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, writing

Guidelines For Submission

July 13, 2016
writing

By Katie Lee Ellision

When an essay I had written about my father was accepted for publication in 2013, I decided on a rule for letting him know about it. I would send him a finalized copy of the piece before it went live or to print–not so that he could decide whether or not it would be published, but just so that he knew what I had written and where it would be. I thought this was fair to both of us. So when I got the final from the editor, I called my father up, though we hadn’t been speaking much at that point.

I won’t spend time on the details about why my father and I hadn’t been in regular touch—that’s a much bigger story I’m writing. What I do want to talk about–and for a long time I couldn’t talk about anything else–is his reaction and its effect on me and my writing.

When I called to tell him about the publication, he was congratulatory and eager to read it.

“So…” he said, “is this about you and me when you were a kid or…?”

“Just read it, dad,” I said, and he said okay. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go, loss

Proof of Loss.

January 12, 2015

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beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Sara Marchant.

When my husband comes home he walks right by the cradle in the laundry room, still drying from its hard scrubbing. His excitement makes him more unobservant than usual. He has news for me. He rushes in, past where I stand at the kitchen counter, already exclaiming before he sees what I am doing.

“The owners took me aside and gave me a raise. It’s supposed to be secret because I’m the only one. At their last meeting they discovered I’m responsible for 60% of the revenue and decided they should keep me happy.” His hands are on his hips. He is containing his exuberance.

“That’s great,” I say, genuinely happy but intent upon my task. “It’s about time.”

“Yeah,” he agrees and then looks up, I assume, for he goes very quiet. I am not looking directly at him, having turned back to my task on the counter. I sneak peeks at him from the corner of my eye as his silence continues. He is standing next to the dining room table he has appropriated for his ‘office.’ He has dropped his wallet, keys, and hat on the table, but stands staring at me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go

Summer in Canaan Valley.

November 15, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

 

By Jean Kim.

On an early summer day in 1988, PJ, our neighbor’s cat, went on a rampage.

Earlier that morning before the rampage, I had seen an adorable baby bunny frozen with fear, on the ground near our front door and next to some blooming azaleas. I’d never seen one so tiny, a fuzzy brown bundle you could fit in your hand but perfectly shaped. Its dark eyes were as still as its body, as they stared out in bewilderment.

The air was fragrant with June blossoms; it was the first truly warm day of the year, and it seemed everyone and everything in our suburban neighborhood was rousing to life. I had turned 14 a couple months earlier. Mom was gardening and said she’d seen another baby bunny.

Our amusement quickly turned to horror. PJ, a golden tabby, often strolled across the street to our yard. We noticed him darting around more quickly than usual. I heard my mother suddenly yell at him and try to chase him back. She waved a shovel. But it was too late.

Mom told me to wait in the open garage. (Overprotective as always, she still thought of me as a young child.) She scurried about the yard and was carrying something in her arms. She came over, and I saw she was holding two of the bunnies.

She said, “They’re the only ones left. There were more, but he ate them.”

Continue Reading…

Uncategorized

One Dad’s Search for Beauty in His Daily Parenting Routine.

March 3, 2014

By Steve Edwards.

Before I tell you about the snowy owl I saw on Christmas or why I got pulled over by the police twice in the last three days, let me say a little about my life and daily routine. I’m a husband, a father of a four-year-old boy with special needs, and I have (and my wife does, too, for that matter) a full-time job. I teach a 4/4 load as an assistant professor—writing and literature courses, mostly—at a university in central Massachusetts, and the entirety of my paycheck goes to paying for my son’s medicine, doctor’s bills and specialized pre-school. My wife’s paycheck goes toward the rest of our expenses—rent, heat, food, student loans. We make good money but barely scrape by. Sometimes we try to laugh it off, calling it our “posh special needs lifestyle.”

I get up at six and make coffee. My wife has an hour commute and is out the door about the time our son leaps from bed and starts asking what’s for breakfast. I make him toast and get together his meds. He has four of them—I think. I’ve done this routine so many times, I do it without thinking at all really. But I think it’s four. Drops go in his milk. Then a plunger-vile of another prescription. Then a teaspoon of another. Then a capsule I break open over applesauce or sorbet.

After breakfast I turn on the TV for him so I can pack his lunch, pack my lunch, then set out his clothes for the day and iron my own clothes (though admittedly, I have a gray sweater and a pair of brown cords that are in pretty high rotation because they don’t have to be ironed.) Once I’ve gotten us ready for the day, my next big task is getting my son to put on his jacket. For some reason, the thought of wearing his jacket sends my son into apocalyptical fits. He will rage and cry and curl up in a ball in the corner. I would just take him outside without his jacket—hell with it—but it’s Massachusetts, and winter, and this morning it was 5 degrees. Some days, after I’ve gotten the jacket on him and gotten him out to the car, I say, “Oops. I forgot something inside. I’ll be right back.” Then I rush inside and let out a string of profanities at the top of my lungs.

After that, I drive an hour to my son’s special preschool (where, thank god, he gets amazing care and support). Then it’s another hour commute to my job. And that’s pretty much the morning—frenetic and mind-numbingly dull at the same time. The rest of the day, I meet with students and try to appear like a normal human to my colleagues who probably wonder why I am wearing that sweater and those cords AGAIN. After work, I race home, clean up the breakfast dishes and prepare dinner for my wife and son who are both exhausted from their days, and cranky (as am I, most nights). An hour of after-dinner television or music and it’s bedtime for my son. You can imagine how well this goes over: he yells, screams, swats at us, cries his eyes out, and then—once he’s finally in bed—turns so angelic I hate to say goodnight because this is the only good part of the day. “Sing me a song, Daddy,” he says. “Sing me ‘Thunder Road.’”

And of course I do. You have to.

That’s a typical day for us in what has been anything but a typical year. At the end of the summer, I had a kidney stone and had to make a midnight run to the emergency room. Two days later, with no warning at all, our son’s preschool (a different one from where he goes now) said he needed a full-time aide or they wouldn’t allow him back. Spoiler alert: we didn’t think he needed a full-time developmental aide, and we couldn’t have afforded a full-time developmental aide even if we did. So they effectively booted him from preschool two days after my kidney stone and only a week before my fall semester started. After a mad scramble to find him a new school—because if we didn’t find him a new school, either my wife or I would have had to quit our jobs in order to pay for the services our son did, in fact, need—after all that, my wife got sick with pneumonia. She hacked and coughed and was practically bed-ridden for three and a half weeks in the month of October.

Then (yes, there’s more) after she had recovered, she slipped while carrying our sleeping boy from the car to the house and badly damaged her left knee. She was on crutches for a month, and, thankfully, only needed a cortisone shot and not full blown reconstructive surgery. But she was in severe pain every day, and it often woke her at night if she shifted in her sleep. And none of these challenges, of course, made it any easier for my wife or I to do our jobs, to work with our special needs child, or manage the bills that kept pouring in like so much floodwater in a basement.

So it doesn’t surprise me that, through it all, I forgot to get the sticker for my car that certifies it has been inspected by the state to meet emissions standards. In Massachusetts it’s something you have to do every year, and, as an environmentalist, I’m glad the state makes at least a cursory effort to protect our air and water. That’s why I drive a Prius—to lessen my environmental impact. But what can I say, Prius or not: I forgot to get the inspection. I didn’t have the sticker.

The first day I got pulled over was a Wednesday morning after a big snowstorm, and preschool had been delayed for two hours. This meant that instead of prepping for the class I had to teach that afternoon, I was watching Barney & Friends with my kid. I drove by the police car, it pulled out behind me and the lights came on.

The officer took my license and registration back to his cruiser and ran them through his computer, then returned and pointed out my expired state inspection sticker. I was frustrated by the delay in an already delayed day, and annoyed that that was the reason he had pulled me over (Didn’t he have something better to do?), but I thanked the officer for only giving me a warning ticket and was on my way. The encounter took about fifteen minutes, and I made mental plans to get the inspection on Saturday. Which is exactly what I explained to the officer who pulled me over this morning for the exact same reason. Only this time I was driving my son to an early 8 a.m. appointment with his speech therapist and we were on a busy stretch of road.

We were on a busy stretch of road at the busiest time of the morning commute. I passed the police car, thought about Wednesday morning’s episode, and breathed a sigh of relief when it didn’t pull out behind me. But then—off in the distance, in my rearview mirror: flashing blue lights. Surely, I thought, he can’t be rushing after me. He wouldn’t force the eight or ten cars behind me, at the height of the morning commute, to pull over just so he could hassle me for having an expired state inspections sticker on my Prius on the way to take my special needs child to speech therapy.

Wrong.

“License and registration,” the officer said as the cars on the road whooshed by and my son repeatedly asked why the police man was talking to us.

I handed the officer my license and registration, and I showed him the warning ticket I’d gotten on Wednesday. I told him that I had made arrangements to get the inspection done on Saturday.

“Just be sure you do that,” he said sternly, handing back my papers. “You’re two months expired. You’re living on borrowed time.”

“I’m going Saturday,” I said again.

“It only takes fifteen-twenty minutes,” he said.

I told him a third time that I would get it done Saturday and thanked him, and after we had started off down the road and the officer had turned, I banged the steering wheel and in frustration yelled, “FUCK!”

And in back my son said, “FUCK!”

Before we got pulled over this morning, I had been thinking that I would write something about Beauty and the necessity of Beauty for getting through hard times. I had been thinking about our trip on Christmas Day. We drove out to the coast, north of Boston—just the three of us—to gorgeous Plum Island and the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. It was cold but clear. Fourteen degrees. Breezy. Along one of the roads by the water some cars were stopped, and some people had big-lensed cameras held up to their faces. They had spotted a snowy owl. At my wife’s suggestion, I pulled over and grabbed my binoculars and ran out to catch a glimpse of the bird.

Before getting pulled over this morning, I thought I would reflect on the incredible and almost healing beauty of that owl’s stoic countenance among the rustling beach grasses, the Atlantic gleaming like a dark blue crystal in the distance. I wanted to say: THIS. This matters. Beauty matters.

But after getting pulled over, that sweet thought was gone, replaced by adrenaline and anger and resentment.

I wanted to tell the officer that I didn’t have fifteen minutes to just buzz by and get an inspection, that we all lived on borrowed time. I wanted to tell my son not to say the F-word. I wanted to tell myself not to say the F-word in front of my son. I wanted my wife to again be the healthy, happy and wonderful woman I had married five years ago, and I wanted to again be her healthy, happy and wonderful husband, and not the sleep-deprived, stressed out, anxious, grumpy mess I had become. I wanted my son to just be better. To be healed somehow. To not yell and scream and cry all the time. To not be overcome by mysterious waves of gut pain. To not say to his mother in stern tones: “Mommy, you are NOT my friend! YOU ARE NOT!” I wanted us all to feel good for a change. I wanted that, and the only thing I could do was to keep driving and breathe deep and hope that that owl might glide back into my thoughts on silent wings.

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*This article originally appeared on The Good Men Project.

Steve Edwards lives in Massachusetts with his wife and son. He is author of the memoir Breaking into the Backcountry, the story of his seven months of solitude as the caretaker of a 95-acre homestead along the Rogue National Wild and Scenic River in southern Oregon. You can find him online at steveedwardswriter.com and @The_Big_Quiet on Twitter.

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane and the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a Retreat in Costa Rica at the end of March and her annual retreat to Tuscany is in July 2014. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is NYC in March followed by Dallas, Seattle and London.