I’m Back, She’s Back, His Back

The best hug ever.

My daughter and the Pea reunite after 8 weeks.

There’s been so much happening around here lately. It’s as if a bee and a one-armed paper hanger mated and produced a dam-building beaver. Seriously busy. The Pea turned three, then we had Christmas, immediately followed by Amadeus’ birthday, then New Years Eve. My ex-husband remarried, which caused quite a commotion, and my daughter went off to Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base for eight weeks. Amadeus and I took up some of the slack, chasing the Pea and playing games, singing songs, reading books and tucking her bright and tiny personage into bed at night. Her father is very much a part of her life, and we were both impressed and thankful at how well he cared for her while Mommy was learning to kick ass in Texas.

I returned a few days ago from her graduation in San Antonio. Amadeus had planned to go with me, but he came down with the flu and we decided it was best for him to stay home. It was the first time we’d been apart since, well–ever. I had separation anxiety something awful. It felt as though I’d left my left arm behind, with my purse and cell phone attached.

Still, it was a fun and action-packed week. Baby Daddy, Pea and I rented a car and drove for what seemed a hundred hours, and for a few days we were a part of Lackland, which is sort of like Disneyland without the rides, the enchantment or the fun. Actually, it was pretty exciting. I wouldn’t have traded seeing my daughter and her daughter (the Pea) reunite for anything in this world. It was beautiful and tearful and oh-so-happy. My daughter got a weekend pass and she was able to undo her severe little bun and take a solo shower at the hotel–the first thing she’d been able to do alone since her arrival in Texas two months before. At basic training, recruits aren’t allowed to eat or breathe or pee by themselves. They also stay incredibly sleep-deprived.

I was surprised at how herself she still was, the way she’d gone through the entire experience with her gorgeous, shiny personality still intact. At the same time, she was abiding by a huge new set of rules, especially when in public–the wearing of the starchy blue uniform, the hat pinned in place, the salutes and the strict curfews and the flashlight that she had to carry on the way back to her dorm. She took us to an NBA game one night (go Spurs), and I couldn’t believe how many people walked up and congratulated her, thanking her for what she’d done. She was a little embarrassed by the attention, especially when the announcer asked all of the military people in the audience to stand and be recognized. I’m amazed by the woman she’s become, by her confidence and the fact that she’s ready and willing to do what it takes to defend our freedom. Hell, I got lost trying to buy her some cotton candy that night.

We were there for five jam-packed days. There was a parade and a coin ceremony and a graduation. My ex-husband came with his new wife and step-daughter and their hotel room was five doors down from ours. The Pea wore a snazzy bath towel cape and flew between our rooms, until she conked out from exhaustion. We adults hung out and drank wine and talked late into the night. My ex’s new wife is sweet and rather fascinating, and I’m truly happy for the two of them. It felt as though we were all old friends, and it was just so nice.

We drank gallons of coffee and ate at a gajillion restaurants and by the end of the week I was so full that I was ordering appetizers instead of entrees. We took the Pea to SeaWorld and cruised the San Antonio River Walk. The downtown area was a wondrous mosaic of palm trees, colorful old architecture, bustling people and streets made of brick. Amid the traffic were trolleys and carriages, Segways, bikes and pedicabs. It was peaceful and harried all at once, and it made my heart and eyeballs very happy.

Throughout it all, I felt this background longing, missing Amadeus’ presence and wishing he’d been there. We all missed him. Despite the fun, there was a hole in the fabric of the celebration. My daughter bought him a cheesy t-shirt that said, “Proud Air Force Step-Dad,” which almost made me cry. I love the fact that she loves my husband, that she considers him her family, and vice versa. He’s as impressed by her accomplishments as I am. I’m also pretty delighted that the new step-mom is so swell. My children and the Grandpea have a new loved one.

The festivities were fun, but I was excited to return to our home sweet home. In my mind, I saw my sweetie standing in the doorway in anticipation, or the two of us running toward each other across the driveway to greet each other, like lovers running in slow motion across a field of daisies in the movies. Instead, I found him laid out on the sofa like a slab of ham. He’d finally gotten over the flu, and had planned to surprise me while I was gone. He’d bought a beautiful rug for the living room, hung a pretty shelf and a new towel rack in the bathroom. He’d even gotten another new rug for the kitchen floor. His next task was to rearrange the living room furniture, but he has a stupid and unfortunate condition called Spondylolisthesis (which hurts to even say), and when he bent to move a chair, he wrecked his poor back, a few short hours before I returned. He didn’t tell me because he didn’t want me to worry. So, instead of our anticipated hugs and kisses and squeezes, we instead squeezed him into the car and made an emergency run to the doctor for an exam and some meds. He’s been in ham slab position for a week now. Oh, the joys of middle age. We’re sexy as hell in our brains, bent and achy in our bodies. Did I mention that we joined AARP?

The same day we returned from our road trip, my daughter flew home from Lackland, and my sister and her family arrived from Nashville to celebrate her achievement. Amadeus had been eagerly looking forward to all of it, but was so incapacitated he could barely move. Weeks earlier, he’d bought basketball tickets for himself and my brother-in-law–perfect, center court seats–but there was just no way he could go. My sister and I put together a small “welcome home” party for my daughter one night, and Amadeus attended for a while, sporting his new t-shirt, but he was miserable and we left early. As I write this, days later, he’s on the sofa with a heating pad in a mild Hydrocodone fog. He thinks my name is Janelle and that we live in Argentina. My poor baby.

Anyway, everyone’s left, and things are almost back to normal. It’s been a whirlwindy couple of months. In between all of these life changes and celebrations, I’ve been writing like a madwoman. I just published a new story, finished up some essays and I’ve started a novel. I’ll tell you about all of it soon, but I’m going to end this little update and check on Amadeus.

Love,
Janelle

Beginning Again, Again

I don’t know where to begin, so I’ll just begin.

Texas was wonderful and horrible and magical and dreadful, and in the end, I decided to leave, at least temporarily.

The weather was fantastic- I didn’t even mind the summer heat, which makes pencils melt and good fairies ill-tempered. It was great for my Fibromyalgia.

The people of the Lone Star State- at least the ones I met- are in a category all their own. Being there was like being in a foreign country, full of crazy, colorful citizens whom, overall, I found to be tough and independent and uniquely nutty and kind.  I forged more friendships (and did more socializing) in my ten months there than I did in seventeen years in Arkansas.

But Arkansas is where I’ve returned. Texas sort of scared me. It felt too big for me, and ultimately, I felt ill-equipped to handle myself there.  Sometimes I wonder if I’m equipped to handle myself anywhere anymore.  More on Texas later.

My children are in Arkansas, and my daughter is pregnant. I want to hang around in the background here in case she needs me.  I want to be near my son, in case he decides that shooting pool with his mother might be a fun thing to do.  I felt that it would be easy to find a permanent position, since the unemployment rate here is low, and so is the cost of living.

Life is often schizophrenic for me. There always seems to be beauty and miracles in even the most dismal situations. I came here without a home or a job, and just enough money in my pocket for gas to get here.  At first, I stayed at my daughter’s, but she has a one-bedroom apartment, and there wasn’t enough room for her hormones and mine. I quickly realized that I needed to find some alternate digs, and fast. Frantically, I  looked for work, submitting resumes and applying to temp agencies, to no avail  (although recently that has changed).

There’s something about the weather here that made my Fibromyalgia kick in and go into overdrive. It changed from background noise to blasting, full-tilt amplification throughout my body. Many days I wonder if I’ll ever be fully functional again, physically or mentally, because being in constant pain depresses and frightens me.

I texted a Texas pal a few days after I arrived: “I may have made a serious mistake.”

~~~~~~~~~~

I have the most Lovely Friend here. Shanti is a beautiful black woman, with dreadlocks to die for, who looks and acts twenty years younger than the calendar indicates she should (note to self:  Sign up for yoga and become a vegetarian– NOW).  She’s wise and gentle and cheerful, and her heart is so big, you could fit the state of Texas inside with room to spare. I’ve known her for about thirteen years or so, and once I dreamed that she was speaking to me, and every time she opened her mouth, pearls kept pouring out. It was symbolic of all of the wisdom she’s bestowed upon me over the years.

Shanti and her and her husband John were married for thirty years, and were madly in love with each other. I visited their farm last September. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December, and died in June.  I called my Lovely Friend Shanti shortly after I got here. She invited me to her house for lunch, and we ate and laughed and cried and talked about John– his illness, his humor, their marriage, his life and death.  It was overwhelmingly beautiful, hearing about their strength and love during his final days. In those months of his illness, he did everything he could to make sure she was going to be okay after he left this world, from buying her a lighter weight Weed Eater to getting his personal affairs in order.  On her side of things, Shanti found them a house in town near the hospital, helped to keep him comfortable, and posted updates on a website to keep friends and family apprised of his condition. Eating was difficult for John, and no sooner would he mention something that he felt he might be able to keep down, than Shanti was in the car, on her way to the grocery store to buy it. Squash. Bananas. Jello. Asparagus. If he needed help moving from point A to point B, she was there at his side to do it.

They sowed what they’d reaped from their goodness to others over the years. Friends helped with a yard sale at the farm, and neighbors drove away truckloads of stuff that Shanti and John no longer needed. People  helped with the move, cooked food, cleaned house, did repairs and watched over John when Shanti had a conference or workshop to attend. A group of singers came to sing songs to him, in order for him to approve the ones that he wanted at his funeral.  In the evenings, John and Shanti sat side by side in their recliners, watching movies, reading each other poetry and talking about how much they’d miss each other.

As our visit was ending and we’d wiped our eyes, Shanti said, “Moonie, you should move in here with me. It would be so helpful to me. My days are full, but my nights are so lonely. I have no one to come home to.”

“Leave it to you to make it sound like I’d be doing you a favor,” I laughed. Leave it to Shanti to make it sound like inviting an unemployed, depressed, partially disabled mess to share her home would be a good thing. She repeated the request a few more times over the next couple of weeks.  As she described the emptiness, her loneliness, the way she wandered around the house lost without her husband, I saw that, in a way, we were both in the same place, and that just maybe, it would be a good thing, at least for a while.

At first, I fretted a lot. I still had no formal job, though I tried to help Shanti as much as I could. “It doesn’t seem equitable,” I’d tell her. Finally, after hearing me whine about the inequality of the situation for about the eigthieth time,  she said this:

“You have no idea what you do for me. You are working, but you just don’t see it, because it’s not the standard way that we’ve come to define “work.” Before you came, my world was black, and now it’s white. It was always night time, and now there’s day. You are my best friend, and you’ve always been my best friend. You aren’t pretentious and I connect with you deeply, like I connect with no one else. It doesn’t matter how long we’re apart, it’s always this way. “

*Sniffle.*

So here I am, a couple of months later. I sleep on a little daybed in the living room, and Theo, the Tiny Dog of Wonder, sleeps with me. Most evenings, my Lovely Friend and I sit side by side in recliners like two old spinsters. We watch “The Wire” and “Deadwood” and talk and laugh a lot. John is often here with us, I think, watching over us and laughing too.

La Cerveza Mas Fina

corona55I just said hi to the next door neighbor, asked him if tomorrow was trash day  and admired his delightfully frosty-looking Corona. He said hi and yes, then gave me his beer, which he assured me he had not yet swigged.

See? People here are so nice, they’d give you the beer off their patio table.  I gladly took it (though of course I’ll repay). It’s been a Corona day. Actually, it’s verging on a Corona year.