Thursday, June 29, 2006

On the reading front

I'm always reading - I get itchy and cranky and restless when I can't. Three books I've read lately that I very much enjoyed for different reasons are:

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride.

From the back cover: As a boy in Brooklyn's Red Hook projects, James McBride knew his mother was different. But when he asked about it, she'd simply say, "I'm light-skinned."...And when he asked what color God was, she said, "God is the color of water."

Lady Oracle, by Margaret Atwood. I got this one cheap at a used booksale, as I'm not sure how much I trust Atwood to have written something I'll like (having been burned by Oryx and Crake, which I continued to read with a sort of fascinated horror), but she is indeed a marvelous storyteller. She does a fabulous job of portraying a quirky, neurotic woman and making her likable.

sweetness in the belly, by Camilla Gibb. A moving, well-told story of an English orphan girl raised in Morocco and Ethiopia. Fascinating cross-cultural read.

And what are you all reading?

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The capricious nature of grief

Even when it's been a long time, and you've all settled into the way the world is now, even then - there will be days when you are working happily and humming to yourself and you find yourself working with the database records for someone named Victor and you find yourself with sudden tears in your eyes because your father's name was Victor and you miss him with a fierceness that takes your breath away.

On a good day, a day like today, that pain may comfort you, because of the way it reinforces that you loved him.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

And on the drive home

- When I parked this morning, I thought "I'm never going to get out of this parking spot." It's a small, cramped lot, and it has walls of varying heights on three sidesAnd indeed, I'd still be there, inching forward and backing and inching forward and backing up, if the homeless man standing begging on the sidewalk hadn't put down his cup of change and helped me with the backing up.

- I passed by a policeman with a radar gun, on a street I usually drive far too fast on, and I was miraculously driving the speed limit. For a second there, I was going to stop and tell him his radar gun was broken.

Also on the drive to work

- I noticed myself cranking the volume and singing along to Fat Bottomed Girls. (apparently they (we? I?) make the world go around)

- I spent two blocks trying to figure out if the woman on the moped in front of me was, in fact, wearing a pink spandex miniskirt or if it was shorts. The verdict: miniskirt. How do I know? I noticed the looks on the faces of the people walking past.

- I almost missed the second exit (the one I was taking to get back to the one I missed) because I was trying to retrace the rabbit trail my thoughts had been wandering down the first time. It's bad enough being that distracted once, but being that distracted twice in the five minutes by the same thing ...

Friday, June 23, 2006

And yet, I frequently get where I'm going in one piece

So I'm driving to work thinking that if TechnoBoy gets that 2 year contract, maybe by the end of it we'll be able to afford a really big holiday and take the kids out of school for a year, and maybe we could pick 12 different countries and spend a month in each one and speaking of being away, I wonder when my friend J and her family will be home from their sabbatical in France and Japan and I wonder if J's daughter has done any more writing on her fantasy-story-that-would-make-a-great-novel and how do people think up interesting plots anyway? like that Patricia McKillip one where whatwasthatcharacters name and Kane never actually died and how about that trilogy by that Australian woman that was so fascinating and what was the name on that enamel bracelet anyway and ACK! that was my exit! Maybe this guy in the van will let me ...

I shook my water bottle at him after I was far enough away that he couldn't see but I'm not sure it was his fault I was late for work.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

"Surely The Lord Has Done Great Things" Joel 2:21b

So you’ve read bits and pieces of the end of my infertility journey. Here’s some things I haven’t written about, yet –

- Struggling to give up wanting the first grandchild. We were married 9 years before any of TechnoBoy’s siblings were married – it seemed a reasonable thing to want.
- Finally getting to the point where it was okay if our child wasn’t the oldest grandchild – and the searing pain of having MusicBoy and his wife tell us, one February day, that they were expecting. I hadn’t gotten around to realizing that if their children were older than ours, they would have children when we didn’t. (Elementary, I know, but I can be slow) “I don’t think I can handle coming home for Christmas this year” I sobbed over the phone to my MIL.
“Oh” she said, “You’ll be winning the fight again by then.” (and you wonder why I would walk through fire for that woman)
- June, and H is the one telling us she’s having a baby. Again, I smile congratulations, and cry myself to sleep.

(It all sounds so selfish, so many years later. There’s no logic or reason to the soul-deep ache for a child. Words skitter off the surface.)

-August of 1995, TechnoBoy and I went away for the August long weekend and had such a beautiful weekend and I cried tears of joy on the way home, because I realized that for the first time in too many years to count, I had not spend one minute of that weekend wishing for a child to share this time with us. There was, finally, hope, for a happy and fulfilled life without the first grandchild, without surprising our families with a baby, maybe even without a child at all.

All those dreams God plucked from my stubbornly clenched hand, and when I had finally dropped them all, broken and grubby, at His feet, He picked them up and cleaned them off and gently, one by one, gave them back. (A is older than MusicBoy’s oldest boy by 2 mos, older than H’s oldest by 5 mos)

“God gave, He took, He will restore – He doeth all things well.” (Anonymous)

Seven Years Ago - June 13

6:00 a.m.

B is sleeping in a bassinet beside our bed. It’s the “next church day” and I waken to a small sound as A tiptoes into our room, past our bed, and peeks into the bassinet. She gasps in delight because he’s still there, hugs herself, and tiptoes, grinning, back to bed.

The Best Seven Years Ago Story Yet

June 11

TechnoBoy’s sister was on her way to our city on a business trip that had been planned since early spring. She was bringing her two daughters to visit (both younger than A) and my MIL to help with the babysitting.

She tells the story of that drive something like this. “And every few hours, the cell phone would ring, and it would be them again, wondering if we knew yet what time we would arrive, and I would think I AM TRAVELLING ACROSS TWO PROVINCES WITH TWO CHILDREN UNDER 3 AND I WILL GET THERE WHEN I FLIPPIN’ GET THERE AND STOP NAGGING ME ALREADY!!!!”

They arrived Friday around supper time, having left my FIL at the farm two provinces east the day before at around supper time. A met them at the door. “Please come upstairs”, she burbled.
“Where’s your mom?” my MIL asked.
“Just come upstairs.” (She did a very good job of not giving anything away, A did. I was hiding upstairs because I would not have done that good a job.)
A led them to the closed nursery door.
“Oh, that’s the nursery,” murmured my MIL, memories of our March loss fresh in her mind. “We don’t want to go in there.”
A flung the door wide open, and there was my FIL, holding B. Mom took a step backward, and in pictures taken even half an hour later, she still looks astonished. H said her first thought was that somehow TechnoGeek had rigged a computer to make it look “like my father was sitting in a rocking chair holding a baby.”

We had called my FIL earlier in the week because he wasn’t planning to come with Mom and H, and we wanted him to know what he’d be missing if he didn’t come. He said he’d never be able to come up with a believable excuse to come along at this late date, but he could maybe fly out after they left. (You would have to have known my FIL to know how astonishing that was) Two memories of those days:

1) TechnoBoy telling his Dad what our son’s name was. Dad wrote down the first name as TB spelled it out for him. And then when TB told him B’s second name, Arthur, which was my FIL’s first name, there was a long pause. “Sometimes when you tell me things” he finally said “I have to write them down so I remember them the next day.” Another long pause. “This one I don’t have to write down.”

2) H and Mom and the girls drove off the farmyard, on their way to us, Thursday at around 4 my time. At about 4:02 my time, my phone rang. “Hello?” I said and my calm reserved FIL interrupted me. “I’m about to burst!” he exclaimed. (oh yes, he did, those of you that knew this man) “I thought they’d never leave!!!! And then just as they were leaving, I wanted to call them back and ask them what they thought of the name Arthur!”

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Seven Years Ago, June 3 – June 10

When we first started trying to conceive, I hatched a grand plan. Because our parents and siblings all lived in a different city and/or province than we did, I would cleverly get pregnant in May or June, so I wouldn’t be showing if we happened to see anyone over summer holidays, and then I would show up for Christmas bursting at the seams with grandchild. What a great surprise! What fun it would be!

As the years wore on, I decided that if I ever managed to get pregnant, I was going to tell everyone I’d ever met immediately so that if I miscarried, I would at least have that moment when our friends rejoiced with us. I was going to milk whatever I got for all the joy it could give me.

When we adopted A, we told several people ahead of time that it was in the works. We told several people ahead of time when M was placed with us as well. B’s adoption was a bit different – he was already born when we met his mother, and it never felt like a very sure thing, and I really had a strong sense that God thought I should shut up about this one. (Shutting up is not my strong suit)

So we didn’t tell anyone. This was harder for me than for TechnoBoy, because apparently TechnoBoy wasn’t thinking about The Adoption day and night. Men. Who can fathom them?

We brought B home on a Tuesday. Thursday night our Bible study group from church was having a barbecue at our house, and I had such fun. The doorbell would ring and A would answer the door and say “Please come upstairs – my mommy has something to show you.” And she would lead them proudly to the nursery, where I was sitting and rocking our son.

We did this for days – showing up at gatherings and church services and doctor’s appointment with an extra child.

Surely the Lord had done great things.

Seven Years A Few Weeks Ago, But Still This Month

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you’ll have seen this entry, and this entry, and this entry. It’s all been leading up to this one.

June 2, 1999

I call my mother at seven in the morning. “Ask me what I’m doing today”, I urge her. She obeys. (She’s like that.) I take a deep breath.
“Going to pick up my son.”

I lose the address to the foster home on our way to Social Services to pick up the consent to adopt that B’s birthmother signed on June 1. Our social worker isn’t in when we get to Social Services, so we have to wait until she arrives because foster family’s addresses cannot be handed out to just anyone. This makes us late.

I call the foster mother from the car, on the cellphone. “I’m so sorry we’re late” I say, and I start into a long explanation. The foster mother’s gentle chuckle interrupts me. “He’s not going anywhere else. He’ll still be here.”

I start to believe this will happen.

The radio announcers voice breaks in. “And now for today’s power verse.”

I turn to TechnoDad. “That’s nonsense. The Bible is the Bible. If it’s powerful today, it’s powerful yesterday, and tomorrow.” I’m still ranting when he reads out Joel 2:21b. “Do not fear, rejoice and be glad. Surely the Lord has done great things.”

I shut right up.

There are flowers blooming along the sides of the walk, and the house is clean and pretty. The foster mother is warm and welcoming. We’ve known about B for a few weeks, but we’ve never seen him. Five weeks seems so old to me, ten pounds so big. I worry that he will feel like a stranger’s grown up boy that I am babysitting.

But there he is, my beautiful black haired boy, with his big dark eyes, and his watchful face, and he is tiny and perfect and breathtakingly beautiful and he doesn’t mind that we are late and although he will spend the next several weeks wailing forlornly at every new thing, already he is calm when I am holding him. “He still looks a baby!” I exclaim and everyone laughs at me.

We pick A up at the babysitter’s. A remembers March, and asks “When will we know if we get to keep him?”

“If he’s still here on the next church day, he’s ours”, I tell her. I always knew that as a mother, there would be times when my child would be facing potential heartbreak that I could do nothing about. I just didn’t think it would happen when she was 3 ½.

The first thing I do when we get home is take off the brand-new red and white Snugabye sleeper the foster mother dressed him in before we got there, and put on the baby blue Peter Rabbit sleeper I bought in February. Years later, I will read a short story by Angela Hunt in a book called The Story Jar, and the part that will make me cry and cry is the part where the mothers at the airport, meeting their Korean babies for the first time, kneel where they are to dress their babies in their own dreams.

He never wore that sleeper again.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Perfecting the Jerk

I don't have to go back to the chiro for another TWELVE days.

Man I'm a quick learner.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

How to look like a dork at work

1. Get an MP3 player for your birthday.

2. Sit at your desk bopping and moving to only you can hear.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Everybody's good at something.

I no longer need to go to the chiropractor three times a week - I'll be fine with just once a week.

Apparently I'm really good at getting jerked around.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Seven Years Ago This Week

I'm not telling, because seven years ago NEXT week is so much better and I don't want to give it away ahead of time!

(and if you already know - NO HINTS)


So I was at the doctor today. I generally appreciate my doctor's low-key approach - she's not the first to whip off a prescription for antibiotics for a 2 year old's ear infection, for instance - so I asked her what she thought of the chiropractors.

"Oh never do that", she said. "They can cause damage and people have died as a result of a chiropractic treatment, sometimes."

So I asked her what the alternative was.

"Well how much is it really bothering you?" she asked. Because I'm very slow that question didn't annoy me until about fifteen minutes ago. I couldn't work, walk, sit, lie down, or sleep, is how bad it was. What would my alternatives have been, really, if I'd gone to her earlier? "Learn to live with it"?
Because I can be pushy on occasion, I persisted - what did she think I should do now? Run before he made me a paraplegic? (boy am I going to feel silly if that happens now, making fun of her like that) She said if I had already started and the treatment was helping, there was probably no harm in seeing it through to the end.
And then I mentionned that I had had upper back pain every day of my life for the past four years, that has almost completely disappeared since I started seeing him, and that she had no satisfactory reply for.

This back pain has had me up nights, listening to my heart with a stethoscope from a kids doctor set, because I'd read that upper back pain can be a sign of heart attacks in women, and my father dropped dead of a heart attack in his early 60's, in apparent great health, other than a bad knee, so OBVIOUSLY I was next, for AT LEAST five years. Maybe longer.

I realized today that for the first time since my dad died, I did not go for my yearly physical convinced that there was something seriously wrong with me that the doctor had just missed. I sat there being poked and prodded and I had no concerns. (Other than skin tags in my armpits, but that's a separate horror) No secret worries that I was too nervous to voice.

If it takes getting my head ripped off three times a week to accomplish that - rip away, pal.

A Tale of Two Children

Let's call them P and Q, just for fun.

P is under considerable stress at the moment, as TechoDad is away for a day or two. P frowns upon change. A few moments from P's day:

Me: Let's go shopping for shorts! You both need new shorts, and it would be something to do.


P then bursts into tears.

Q and I tiptoe around the mess that has become P. I let P play games on my laptop while Q plays on the computer, and everyone tries not to look at anyone else.

P plays happily for 6.7 seconds, and then stands up, screaming, purple-faced at the computer screen. "THAT WAS A GOAL!"

I take P in my lap, muttering soothing words. Q feels my pain. "Hey, P, want to play hand hockey???"

I take Q aside, and explain the reason for P's current state. Q is a very competitive child, but I beg, quietly, for this game to be one-sided.
"Please lose, and make it look good," I say, because I know P will have a stroke if there's any other outcome.

Q considers this. Q is perceptive, and kind, and really likes to win. Finally, Q looks up.

"Can it just be a TIE game?"

The score is currently 5-5 and P is shouting things like "Play like you mean it!" and laughing maniacally and Q is taking it and winking conspiratorially at me.