Winter Of the Ghost

I opened the bathroom door and stepped out, exhaling loudly.  “Bye Dad,” I said and waved again, heading towards the front door.  We had already said our goodbyes before I had to go to the bathroom again; unsure if it was something I ate or the new stomach bug that had been making rounds at work and daycare I had veered on the side of caution and used their facilities before our half hour journey home had begun.  

My father, a living ghost of the man he had been less than two years ago, turned to his left towards me in a mechanical movement and partially raised his right arm at a ninety degree angle as high as he could.  “Bye bye,” he responded and turned back towards the television set.  His movements reminded me of the Tin Man.  

That was the best he could do. 

Outside, RB and my mother were talking in the driveway.  My mother stood next to the open Jeep door with RB a couple feet away on the grass, cigarette smoke rising from his curled right hand.  As I came closer I could hear the conversation was about my father’s condition.  

I was welcomed into it right away by my mother: “So your idiot uncle (one of her brothers) called the other day and said, ‘I saw a picture of Casey and he really doesn’t look good.’”  I didn’t ask what picture.

BB was chattering happily to himself inside the car, loudly exuding pleasure at the fact he was able to twist and scrape off his right sneaker against the backseat he was still facing, despite his ever growing stature.  It had fallen lifelessly onto the seat next to him.

“I told him, ‘No shit, he’s dying.’”  

She added a shrug for emphasis and I looked down at my black sneakers.  There was a light coat of white powder around the toes, a remnant of the Easter Bunny’s ‘trail’ (baking soda) that I had very carefully spread around the first floor of the house at two thirty that morning in eager anticipation of BB waking up.  It seemed so long ago.  

“He said, ‘I don’t think it’s ALS,’” she continued.  “Well, after two years of doctor’s appointments and different tests and everything I’m not sure what else he thinks it could be.  They showed me that test that he got at the neurologists.  I saw it and there was nothing there.  He has no feeling at all, even in his tongue.  What else could it be?”    

The wind began to pick up again, negating the warmth that the delicious sunshine had sprinkled over us.  I shivered and rubbed my arms, glancing over at my coat in the backseat.  BB continued to talk to himself, and I noticed him again just as he successfully tugged off his right sock.  His ethereal face, still cherub shaped, blossomed full of joy.  

“He said he didn’t mean to be mean or offensive by saying that,” my mother continued.  Rick managed to flicked his cigarette butt into the street, against the wind, and it danced away.  We were supposed to get rain but it had managed to hold off all day; dark clouds were beginning to gather above us. “But I told him, ‘It is what it is.’”  She added another shrug of her wide, broad shoulders.      

It seemed like we had been deprived of the sun for so long, when in reality it was really just a few short months of darkness, in the scheme of things.  It was just another winter.  

It was what it was.    


New Year’s Baby

Today was a wasted day after a fun New Year’s Eve celebrated with neighbors, friends, and vodka.  BB made what we thought would be a brief appearance, and in hindsight it was a terrible idea.  Much to the delight of our guests we (okay, I) brought him downstairs to join us in ringing in the New Year since he woke up, as customary, at about quarter to 12.  

Rookie mistake.

The problem was that BB didn’t want to go back to bed until almost 2am.  We assumed he’d sleep in, since he got a full two hours less sleep than normal; second mistake.  My little cherub first woke up at 6:15am, which, of course, woke me up as well.  

Despite BB and Mommy getting a kick ass nap today (him 3 hours, me an honorable mention at 2.5 hours) I was dead to the world.  I’m going to insist that I had a pretty killer sinus headache and it had absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned vodka I consumed.  My temper was short, and it didn’t help that BB chose today to leap head first into his hitting phase – yay!  Most of the ideas I had in my head as far as resolutions (one of my goals is to post a list at some point) remained unfulfilled, at least for today, since I fell asleep at 8pm.  Tomorrow’s another day, we all have 364 days to try harder.  

I survived Christmas, and all I got was this lousy ____.

Well, it’s over.  The long drawn out Holiday madness that simultaneously gave people “all the feels” and brought out some of the worst behavior in adults since last Christmas (looking at you, racist rant posted on YouTube lady at JC Penney).  We consumed to our heart’s content both food wise and with physical possessions, and now we’ll complain about our pudgy physiques and children who refuse to show gratitude for the rest of the year.  If I was a betting woman I’d say we’re probably not going to change anything and whine when we get the exact same results next year.  Sound about right?  My oldest niece wasn’t freaking out about her fucking Hatchimal, the gift parents were actually printing out apology letters from Santa for (in itself, are you kidding me?  Santa shouldn’t be apologizing for shit – half these kids are assholes and should be getting thrown in Krampus’ sack, not being rewarded for not being brats one month out of the year), because she got so much other stuff.  When I asked her and her siblings if they’d be getting rid of toys they don’t use anymore because of their massive accumulations of new stuff, they looked at me like I had four fucking heads and actually asked, “Why?”  There are children dying in Allepo and Detroit still doesn’t have clean water, but we’re complaining that we all have too much stuff; the ultimate #firstworldproblem.  

I’d like to say we were conscious of it and tried not to buy much for BB, but as parents we failed to take that message to heart for ourselves and attempted to bury our feelings with shit.  

We’re just as guilty as everyone else and it’s nobody’s fault but our own.  But hey, all we can do is try harder and make a conscious effort for next year.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to work so I can buy more crap we don’t need. 

Ho ho ho. 

This Time Last Year

Last Christmas I never could have imagined the pain I would be in now.  The baby was young but excited about brightly colored paper, empty boxes and the two cats lazily taunting him just out of his reach.  We laughed and dreamed how it would be next year, with him being more mobile and somewhat understanding of his surroundings. 

The Holidays started out fine, and early, this year.  The tree was up in a reasonable time, our annual color scheme (blue and white this year) chosen, and corresponding wrapping paper was purchased after some difficulty to match what few unbreakable ornaments BB and the cats couldn’t reach.  Most of our gifts were purchased on Black Friday and I developed an Excel spreadsheet to try to stay on top of “budgets” (this phrase was used very loosely), gifts purchased, cards and gifts needed to be wrapped.  I was excited and looking forward to it. 

Now, on Christmas Eve, everything has changed. 

My grandmother is gone due to old age, although it doesn’t make it any easier; this will be our first Christmas without her.  My father was effectively granted a death sentence via diagnosis of a degenerative disease recently, after having varied and severe undiagnosed symptoms over the last two years.  I’m struggling to come to terms with the ugly reality that this may be our last Christmas with him, especially because I blamed his drinking for most of it.  There is a lot of guilt on my end still, and I haven’t been able to find the words to apologize for it yet.  

I’m unhappy with my husband most of the time, even on days when he’s done nothing wrong.  I no longer have the same feelings for him I did when we were first courting, or newly married.  The butterflies have long flown away and were replaced with solemn emptiness; most days I am lonely even with him sitting/sleeping next to me.  Every time I try to talk about my feelings, without the judgment and cynicism I’m plagued with, it all falls apart.  He offers me love and shaky promises I know won’t be fulfilled, and I fall into uneasy sleep, haunted by endless unhappy possibilities.  Technology inhibited our ability to communicate and built the initial wedge between us, but ultimately the reason for our failing love is the darkness within my own heart.  

Professionally I’m unfulfilled.  Politically I’m scared.  My life has become the ultimate metaphor for a sinking ship.  The only thing keeping me from drowning is the love of my son and the magic his smile brings every day; it’s my drug, and without it I’m unable to live.  For now, while being smothered by perpetual grief, he is the only joy I have.  And I’m so grateful for it.  I’m hoping these are just “Holiday Blues” and I’ll be able to shake it off sooner rather than later.  

In between happy snapshots and posts on social media, this is Christmas 2016. 

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