Tuesday, April 29, 2008

death and whatnot

In this book I was reading but then abandoned--Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay--two characters are talking about how Jewish people are supposed to be buried naked.

It's kind of an incidental snippet of conversation, but I think it's the thing I'll remember most from the 67 pages I read. My dad died of ALS seven years ago, and though, when it happened, I spent so much time thinking about him being dead--being dead and in the ground, even--I never actually thought about what he might or might not be wearing. So when I read this dialogue, I thought, Oh my god, he was naked!

I remembered sitting in some room in the funeral home with my family and Stupid Daddy and all of a sudden noticing the coffin in the corner, with an Israeli flag draped over it. "Is that him?" I asked Stupid Daddy, stupidly, and he said, "I think so." And then it was real. Or I should say it was real again, because that was the thing about him dying: it kept going away, and then it kept coming back again.

But even though I was aware of him being dead inside a box right there in front of me, I didn't think about clothing. And I didn't think about it during the funeral service, or at the cemetery, where friends and family dug the hole and he was lowered into it, or afterwards when, for many months, I would wonder what state of decomposition his body was in.

I guess, if pressed, I might have always just pictured him in a suit, since that's what he wore to work every day and was so comfortable in he didn't change his clothes--or even so much as loosen his tie--until it was time to get ready for bed.

For years after he died, I dreamed about him. In every dream, I would say, "So you're not really dead!" and there would be this rush of relief and joy. It always turned out, though, that he was sick--but not dying sick; stabilized sick. So he'd be in a wheelchair in one dream, or using a cane in another, but it didn't really matter because he was alive and he wasn't going to get any sicker.

I stopped dreaming about him a couple of years ago, but to this day I keep banging up against the reality that my kids will never meet their grandfather. It's new every time, like I'll crash into that thought with no warning, no "just so you know, you've had this realization before, you might want to put on some shin guards and a helmet, oh and by the way? you should be getting used to it by now." I just keep crashing.

Friday, April 25, 2008

we did vow honesty

Several weeks ago, Stupid Daddy and I were in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner. He leaned over to kiss the top of my head.

"You smell really bad," he said.

"REALLY?" I said, jerking away from him.

"Yeah." He leaned over and sniffed some more. "You know what you smell like? You know when you haven't flossed your teeth in a while and then you floss finally and it comes out just smelling completely nasty? That's what you smell like. Are you using a different shampoo?"

Yes, I thought. That's exactly it. I'm using a different shampoo: Avalon Organics Lavender and Dental Floss Funk. Now with extra ass!

"Oh my GOD!" I said, jerking away again. I extended my arm to him. "What about here?"

He leaned over and breathed in deeply. "Yep, there too."

"So my entire body smells like dental floss funk."

"Yeah, pretty much."

We stood there for a while contemplating a cause other than a change in beauty and hygiene products, even though that was a really good idea on his part. I thought it might have something to do with the copious amounts of fish oil I'd been consuming, but after several more deep inhalations, he confirmed that no, there wasn't even a note of fish in the odor; it really was just exclusively dental floss funk.

I spent the rest of the evening in self-imposed exile, trying not to think about the cloud of disgustingness that surrounded me. The next day, even after a shower, Stupid Daddy said I still stunk. But by night I was, according to his report, back to normal.

So we'll never know what it was. I'm just glad it's over with, though I have to say, I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to smell it myself.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

pushing it

This morning I called Stupid Daddy into the bathroom to look at the turd one of our cats had just deposited into the litter box. It was ten inches long, I swear.

The boys, who were having breakfast in front of a cartoon, dropped their spoons into their cereal and came running.

"I wanna see!" they said. "I wanna see!"

And so the four of us crowded into the bathroom, stood over the litter box, and marveled.

I just love those moments when I can bond with my boys over grossness. It's as if they're registering that I'm not really the killjoy I appear to be so much of the time, like yesterday, for example, when I found them at the picnic table on our front porch, attempting to dissect the dead mole our other cat had dropped on our front walk a few days ago by pressing the very dull blade of a Swiss Army knife into its middle, and wouldn't allow it.

Today, we all laughed together, and I was a cool mom once again.

And then I farted on Levi's head!!!!

Oh, wait. Wrong audience. I didn't really do that. Never mind.

Monday, April 21, 2008

like a river

A few weeks ago, I was in my local photo developing shop picking up some prints for a friend whose daughter I had recently photographed. Per her request, I had ordered a whole mess of 4 x 6's and one 5 x 7 enlargement. The guy behind the counter handed me a standard envelope.

"But there was supposed to be an enlargement," I said.

"It's in there," he said. "The 5 x 7's fit into that envelope."

Sure enough, they had filled the order exactly as I had asked. I found the 5 x 7 at the back and slid it out.

"Uh-oh," I said. "I probably should have done a better job cleaning up the boogers under her nose."

The owner, who was also behind the counter but had been busy with some paperwork up to this point, looked up and said, "Ah, so you found something else to worry about."

"Yeah, that's pretty much my m.o.," I said.

"You've got that rolling angst, then?"

Indeed, I do, thanks to some combination of genetics and the kind of upbringing you get when your mom is a Holocaust survivor who, when you call her on a Labor Day drive from Nashville to Asheville and there's not a cloud in the sky nor a single other car on the road, answers the phone like this: "Where are you stuck?"

I've managed to get by with this outlook, but long-term it's not exactly working for me. And, unlike my mom, I do know there's more to life than worry.

I'm working on it; really, I am. In the meantime, though, I found it strangely comforting that this guy could have sized me up after about 30 seconds of observation. And also? I loved that he gave my, um, condition such a wonderful name. Rolling angst. Drafters of the DSM-V, please take note.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

and then I told her she could get her own goddamn breakfast

This morning Lilah woke me up at 6:30.

"Mommy," she said, trying to locate me in the bed. (We sleep together on a couple of side-by-side futons, so it's easy for her to lose me--except on those nights when she decides she has to sleep right the fuck on top of me.) "Mommy, I want to eat. All right?"

6:30 is about two hours too early in my book, but there's never any hope of getting that girl back to sleep. And uncharacteristically, I didn't want to disturb Stupid Daddy, who had gotten home exceedingly late last night and was sleeping in the boys' room, as he has been for the past few weeks, in an attempt to train Levi to stay in his own bed. So I dutifully said, "All right," crawled off the bed, and scooped her up in my arms.

I was seriously fucking tired, and pissed off about the early wakeup, but then Lilah leaned her head into my neck and started sucking her thumb and I held her like that for a while. It was one of those times where the sacrifices I make as a mother--the lost sleep, the lost figure, the lost identity, all of it--seem totally worth it for a simple, quiet moment like this.

I guess she didn't quite feel the same.

She looked up at me, and in a sweet, soft voice, she said, "I love Daddy."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

watching too much Project Runway

In the car on the way to Target this afternoon, I told Ezra that earlier, I had to call a locksmith because I was locked out of our house. (Our cleaning people actually locked the back door on their way out, and since we never lock it except at night--please, Internet, don't come steal our stuff--we don't even own a key.)

I explained to him that the locksmith had a bag of special tools, and he had to spray some WD-40 first to get the parts working smoothly, and then he used a tool that looked like a pin, and then a tool that looked like a nail file, and he jiggled the one, and twisted the other, and he was fast and he was a pro and within a minute or two, the door swung open, and he said, "Welcome home."

"Not interesting!" Ezra decreed. And then, after a couple of beats, kind of coyly: "What outfit was he wearing?"

Edited to add: My husband has just informed me that keys for both the front and back doors are on my car key chain. So: Oops! That right there wasn't the best use of fifty bucks.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I just--

Grrssfkdjalsdfj. You know? That's just how I feel tonight. Just: everything is serious suck. On the inside. On the outside everything is same as always, which is, objectively, nothing to complain about. Oh, except our Internet connection keeps going bye-bye. And there is that hangnail on my right middle finger.

And speaking of middle fingers: fuck.

And speaking of going bye-bye: I don't want to disappear like I did last month, so basically I'm showing up to say I have nothing to say.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

earning their keep

True, Lilah takes an hour to get to sleep every night, and, yes, Ramona often wakes us up at five in the morning because she's hungry but won't eat until one of us shakes her bowl to "freshen" the kibble. In short, it is a fact that they are annoying as hell, these two.

But then Ramona will get right in there behind Lilah in the bed and go to sleep, and Lilah--in her sleep--will fling her arm across Ramona's back, and they will stay snuggled together like this for much of the night, and just when we're on the cusp of getting rid of them, it'll all of a sudden seem like maybe they're worth keeping around.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

I never should have taken that hit of acid

Last week, I started going to acupuncture to get Stupid Daddy off my back per my husband's thoughtful recommendation to see if I could get the anxiety and depression I've been dealing with my entire adult life--and especially lately--under control.

I tried acupuncture once before, when I was in my twenties, and didn't notice a lick of difference. (I've also tried a whole mess of other alternative stuff too--like reiki, holotropic breathwork, a vision quest, a shaman--and felt the same, even though I desperately wanted something to happen.) Still, I've never categorically written off the treatment; I just assumed I was one of those people it didn't work for.

But something's happening this time. Like today, I was lying on my stomach with a whole mess of needles in my back, peering through the hole those tables have so your spine can stay aligned. And all of a sudden, the view to the base of the table and the floor below telescoped, and I was floating way high above the table, and I was dying. I WAS DYING! And I was weeping because I was really sad that I wasn't going to see my family ever again. Stop it! It was really fucking sad.

And then, just like that, everything was back to normal again. I dozed and then they woke me up and I paid, which woke me up a bit more, but I've been spacey all day.

So I don't know what it all means, but I'm encouraged. Because I'm someone who has never ever left the ground, you know? Never left reality. My stagnant liver qi must be getting worked over. My yin and my yang must be working it out. This crazy needle shit must be working.

Monday, April 7, 2008

already proud of her girl parts

Lilah: Ezra have a penis?

Me: Yup.

Lilah: Daddy have a penis?

Me: Yes, he does.

Lilah: You have a penis, Mommy?

Me: No, I don't have a penis.

Lilah: Oh. I have a penis?

Me: No, you don't have a penis.

Lilah [face brightening]: I have a rash!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

married almost seven years

Him: You wanna have sex tonight?

Me: My eye hurts.

Friday, April 4, 2008

in very poor taste

Me: So [my second cousin] Nate is off to play baseball with a German league for the next six months.

Stupiddaddy [pouring some honey on his challah]: Wow. Cool.

Me: Yeah. Marcia [his mom] said she has mixed feelings about him playing for Germany. Can you believe it? I mean, what are these people still holding against Germany?

Stupiddaddy: Seriously. It's 2008, folks. But can you imagine--your mom must be aghast.

Me: Yeah.


Stupiddaddy: Hey--get it? Aghast? A-gassed?

[hysterical laughter]

Thursday, April 3, 2008

not exactly what I had in mind

Levi eats his hot dogs plain--no bun, no relish, no ketchup. After serving him one the other night, per his request, I realized how pathetic and unbalanced it looked rolling around alone on his red plate. Sure, it was an organic beef hot dog--not the bad-for-you kind--and sure, I have incredibly low standards for dinner on the nights that Stupid Daddy is away in Georgia, but still: a kid needs more than that to make a meal.

"Levi," I said, "what are you going to eat for dinner besides a hot dog?"

There was a long pause while he chomped down and chewed.

"Another hot dog."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

lies their mama told them

Levi is very excited about the prospect of turning five in July--although that might as well be the next century as far as he's concerned. Levi also has this annoying habit of climbing into bed with us every single night and then digging his feet under my back (no matter how warmly he's dressed), heaving himself on top of Stupid Daddy, and just generally fucking up our sleep.

So last week I decided to tell him that he couldn't turn five until he stayed in his own bed. And he totally fell for it! But he still gets into bed with us every night.

And lately, both boys have been asking me to feel how strong they are. Ezra actually flexes his biceps, but Levi just holds his arms in that position and I have to pretend that what I'm squeezing doesn't feel like cottage cheese. And they talk a lot about how eating good foods makes you stronger, and how exercise makes you stronger, and drinking milk makes you stronger--some propaganda campaign they're getting at their schools, I guess.

Tonight in the bath, after a very challenging hour of getting them home and fed, they started up with the muscle routine again: "Feel how strong I am, Mommy," and, "Feel this muscle!"

In a moment of inspiration, and with a knowing twinkle in my eye, I told them, "Did you guys know that following my instructions helps your muscles grow? Yup, it's true. Every time you pay attention and do what you're told, your muscles get a little bit stronger."

And they kind of looked at me like, Huh, okay, good to know. But getting them out of the bath and dressed and into bed wasn't the slightest bit easier.

So, in sum, honesty may be the best policy after all. Combined with a good spanking.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

bye-bye, y'all

Can I just say how much I love these two?

We got to hang out for a while on Sunday, and a little bit last night, and then again this afternoon, and I laughed my ass off for most of it. At the very least, I was smiling.

Tomorrow--already!--they're off, with their two big dogs, and their Nalgene bottles tucked away in exactly the right spot if Tex has anything to say about it, on their 12-hour drive back to Madison, where I think it's probably snowing again, and where they will--I'm certain of it--immediately begin plotting their move to Asheville so they can be closer to me.