Going Dark: Day 2

Today I went back to work. Gaby was home with the kids, so she was worried things would be super difficult.

At work, I had to use my computer, of course, and email. But I refrained from checking my phone as much as usual. That might not sound like an accomplishment, but, if you really think about how many times a day you pick up your phone for funsies, it’s a lot. However, since Gaby was home with the kids and wasn’t allowed to text (or use any screens) she did use the landline to call me…about six times. That sounds like too many, but when I compare it to the texts we generally send each other throughout the day, it’s nothing. It does feel like a lot when the phone rings so many times, though. There were many, many times I felt like picking up the phone to send her a quick text about random stuff I was thinking about, but I couldn’t. It occurred to me that I had to write it down for later, or just try to remember everything. I chose just trying to remember.

Gaby was busy today. She went grocery shopping. She made two loaves of white bread. She made a dinner inspired by Alice Waters, consisting of a lemon roasted chicken with garlic and parsley, jasmine rice, and carrot salad (the carrots shredded by hand). She prepared the material for the homemade cheez-its she wants to make for Cyrus tomorrow. In addition, she cut potatoes for french fries later this week. Today, she says, she learned what a 1950’s housewife might’ve felt like. She worked her ass off all day and couldn’t imagine a partner coming home, eating the dinner she spent all day making, maybe saying thanks you, and then going to bed.

One of the phone calls she made to me today was to tell me that Erika was reading on the couch, of her own free will, and that Cyrus was going outside to play…by himself. Gaby took this picture for you: She was making bread in the kitchen. It was warm and smelled of yeast, whereas outside it was 15 degrees with some leftover snow on the ground.  From the kitchen window she saw him outside chasing the neighbor’s chickens, picking up random things in the yard, and running back inside to “check on” her. He did this for 30 minutes. For one of the first times ever, he had an urge to go outside.

The kids just spent an entire day without netflix or video games. (Erika and her friends did go to see a movie, but nothing here at the house.) Apparently, Cyrus was also working in his activity book and drawing, too. Erika’s friends are still here. Three teenage girls are doing facials in the basement. I’m not sure if the guests have their phone on them (I’m sure they do), but when I went down there to grab something, I saw them all playing with Erika’s new Polaroid camera. So. It’s possible to do things without internet.

I forgot to tell you how awful my morning was. I woke up to a dead car battery. Like, super dead. Like, I used dad’s charger overnight and it was at 14% this morning. So, Gaby had to take me to work. But not until I found my wallet. So, that took about 45 minutes of cussing and looking around the house. Eventually, I found the wallet. The battery is still dead, though.

Gaby picked me up at work with Cyrus, and we went to buy a battery. I came home feeling pretty butch about changing it, but my stupid car has some stupid battery bracket that I can’t reach without a long ratchet-y wrench. Don’t worry, I’ll have the tool to do it tomorrow. I’m telling you all of this because usually on days like this, I’d come home and have several glasses of whiskey and play on my phone while Gaby watches some sci-fi show I don’t like until we just fell asleep. But. I had just one beer, instead.

I think we sent out a few letters today. And I should mention that Gaby has been making a lot of phone calls. Like. Right now she’s on the phone. Right beside me. So, it’s hard for me to concentrate on what I’m writing. I’d wait and revise later, but it’s nearly our bedtime.

I’ve just told Gaby that I’ve noticed her phone calls. She’s made many. She is a communicator at heart. For example, she’s been on the phone for about an hour and a half with an old friend she hasn’t talked to in a long time. I’ve seen her posted up on the kitchen with the phone cord stretched.

Oh, one more thing, while Gaby was on the phone, Erika and her friends where in the kitchen trying to pick up and listen in. Ha. Just like old fashioned times. In the 80s.

And here is a picture I took today: I was putting clothes away and Gaby was on the phone. Cyrus has a record/cd player in his room and he called to me, “mom, can I listen to led zepplin?”  I helped him get it going. Then, a few minutes later, when he might’ve gotten bored of it and followed me back into our room, I looked across the hallway and saw him staring at the record player, his arms folded and head resting, fixated by “babe, I’m gonna leave you.”

 

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Day 1: First Day of Darkness

Erika said I could share her protest card with you all. It is written in three different colors of markers on a high quality cardstock card:

“Dear Someone

I am so very sorry you are receiving this letter. My mother has made it a RULE that we are not allowed to use Anything, no devices not even internet! You must be thinking ‘good for you guys!’ Well you do it then. I must write letters to talk or I must use a weird cord phone. I am here to PROTEST! Save the internet, save the world!

Sinseraly,

A Young Teen Who Cares!”

 

So, that’s most of that.

Here is my log for the day:

8:03 AM

So it’s been only a few hours. Gaby, Cyrus, and I are at the kitchen table. Cyrus is eating breakfast. Gaby is looking at cookbooks trying to find cool recipes for snacks to make while we go super unprocessed with our food.

I have nothing to do with my hands right now. I switched over the laundry. I made coffee. I sat in silence for a few minutes on the couch.

Cyrus is keeping me busy right now. I’m feeding him the high-calorie smoothie through a meat injector syringe. He’s also being fed a Hawaiian roll with cheese, butter, and mayo. He won’t eat it by himself. I load the syringe and squirt it into his mouth each time. I pick up the sandwich and wait for him to accept a bite, like a little bird. They syringe drips everywhere. We do this every morning.

6:00 PM

We went to mom and Dad’s for our christmas celebration. Mom, of course, had a whole spread of food. My inclination was to take a picture with my phone to put on instagram. But. On the table: turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, black eye peas, cottage cheese, rolls, carrots, cheese, deer sausage, crackers, salad, maybe that was all. Now just picture it.

I guess we’ve already cheated today. Dad had the tv on. I tried not to pay attention. I had to use my phone once to look up our home phone number. I haven’t memorized it yet. Gaby struggled this morning while getting dressed; she reached over for her phone, for no reason, to see what was happening. Thankfully, it was turned off.

Erika has spent the day bargaining and trying to make sound arguments against this  whole stupid idea.

*She comes into the kitchen to wonder how her friend’s mom will know that Gaby called. It’s really causing her a lot of anxiety*

For me, I have a slight urge to turn on the tv and rewatch Bojack Horseman, while folding laundry or doing anything, really.

But right now we’re all around the dining room table. Gaby is menu planning and making a grocery list. Erika seems to be writing a card to someone, but she says she’s protesting. Cyrus is very busy with a PJ Masks activity book he got for Christmas. Me, I’m journaling. On paper. With a pen. This is another moment I might document with a picture for social media. But. Again. It’s a nice picture. Everyone is busy with a book or paper. It feels good.

I wonder, though, once I’m done journaling, how I can busy myself. We forgot to buy an alarm clock, so I’m going to ask Mom for a wake-up call. It’s only 6:15. I  to go to bed at 9:30. What to do.

***

You’ll be happy to know that after finishing up my journal entry, I folded some more laundry. We listened to the radio. Then Erika, Cyrus, and I played guitar, cuatro, and maracas for about 35 minutes. I sang off key, but it didn’t keep it from being a pretty good time. Gaby wrote several letters to people while we did this. And she tells me, right now, she started crafting her own cards, too.

Also. Erika drew several protest signs which read “Save the Internet, Save the World!”  and “Save the WIFI!”  And ” #itsnot1950

Day 1 difficulty level: Mild/Easy.

Tomorrow I go back to work and Gaby is at home with the kids since there’s no school. I hope she journals for you then.

 

 

Going Dark

The idea started when I had a hankerin’ to google that show, “1900 House.”  It aired on PBS some time around the turn of the century. I mean, the 21st century. It’s a reality show where a family in London is selected and put into a period house where they must live for 3 months without modern technology; the house is completely set-up with antiques, including the wall paper and gas lights; they send and receive mail 3 times a day; the women wear corsets, even to do house work; they have a budget and must buy only locally produced food from the butcher (who makes house calls), and they have to use a cook stove to make their food. I think I saw the show originally when I was living in a basement apartment in Houston, making grilled cheese in a toaster and eating angel hair pasta with butter. What I liked about the show is the challenge. And. How much it reminds me of the stories I hear from both sides of my family. Mom grew up without running water on a farm far away from town. Dad didn’t have running water until, well, I can’t remember, maybe they got it when he was in his early teens. They both grew up with an outhouse. They both grew up killing their own animals and helping out around the farm or house.

I suppose I’ve lived back in time already, in ways some people my age have not. I have helped hunt and process the carcasses of animals my family would come to eat. I grew up with just one television station (until Dad bought a satellite dish). I used a rotary phone and had to make sure our neighbors weren’t on the party line before I dialed out. And, in a move which horrified my parents, I lived in small cabin in Fairbanks with no running water and an outhouse for several years.

I don’t have some romanticized idea about “country living” or “living off the land.”  I know it’s hard. I know it sucks. I’ve seen the look in my mom’s eyes when she is asked about her childhood. I moved to Fairbanks to get away from what I knew, that’s true, but it wasn’t with the same stars in my eyes that some others had there. One woman, someone with money from a large city, thought this was how she was going to commune with nature or have some more authentic human experience than what she’d had growing up.  When I lived in Houston and worked at an upscale camping store, my coworkers were shocked I didn’t hike or camp much, seeing as how I was from the country. All I could say was, you know, when you’re from the middle of nowhere, you don’t really feel a need to get more into the middle of nowhere. I walked through the woods all the time.  It wasn’t until I lived in such a huge city for a few years that I understood the urge to run screaming from the concrete and into the woods where no one could see me.

Did I mention there are other shows? Like, Frontier House, Colonial House, Plymouth House, Texas Ranch House, and there’s a newer one on PBS, called, like, Victorian Slum House. I have no idea who would sign up to be a part of that experiment.

I’m telling you all of this because, while I was watching, I was wondering if I could live without modern advances. I mean. Of course I could. I have. I’m capable of doing a lot. But the more important question is, can I live without some of them in a world where everyone uses them? Gaby and I discussed all of this (she was stoked about the idea), shared a google doc, and made a plan. Will eliminating the internet from our house help with Cyrus’s video game addiction or Erika’s need to have Netflix playing at all times? Will I read more or play the guitar? What will Gaby do without the video calls with her family? Will our family become closer or just ignore each other while reading books? We’re going to test it. I should mention, though, that Gaby and I are the only ones excited about it. Erika, who is 13, is certainly opposed.

In preparation for our 30 days of darkness, I’ve purchased an 8 dollar phone and added a landline. I wanted to get a rotary phone, but Mom didn’t have one lying around, and they cost about 60 dollars now. So far, Erika has screamed from upstairs, “How do you even dial a number?” and “How do you hang up?” HAHAHAHAHAHA. (Still taking donations for a rotary phone if you have one). How am I supposed to text my friends about sleepovers!? she shouts. Pick up the phone, we say, and make a call.

I bought jacks, marbles, pick up sticks, and a new family board game called Karuba.

The rules are this:

-no cell phones used in the house (Gaby needs hers for clients. I need mine for Chef Gaby)

-no internet (except when I get to blog to you about our experiences and Erika for homework which will be monitored at the kitchen table.)

-no tv. (I’m changing the netflix password, too. eeeeevvvvviiillll)

-no video games (basically, no screens)

-We can listen to the radio, but no streaming music. We have a record player and cd player.

-We will write letters. (This is how I corresponded with my first girlfriend; there was no internet. This is how Gaby grew up in the Andes. There was only one phone in her neighborhood that everyone had to share)

-We will talk on the phone.

-Our diet will focus on eating locally raised meats and veggies as much as possible and whole grains. Any breads, pastas, or snacks will be made from scratch. (like cheez-its, fig bars, cereal)

-Make an effort to minimize the stuff we have. We already kind of hate stuff, but we’ll keep donating.

 

All of this begins tomorrow. It’s no 1900 House, but maybe more like…1949 house.

What am I hoping to experience, you might ask. I want Cyrus to learn to play independently; he has wonderful toys and books that he won’t touch unless someone is engaged with him. For myself, I need to learn how to be quiet and still. I don’t do that very well. Maybe I’ll listen to music I forgot I had. Maybe I’ll read a book because all of the children will be reading, too.

Maybe we’ll all lose our minds. Maybe we’ll all find ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

Letter to the Principal

Dear Principal

Last Thursday at the parent teacher conference you mentioned trying to look at the bullying situation through a parent’s lens. From everything you said to me, I’m certain you weren’t quite able to do that. Let me help you see:

Cyrus was born at 25 weeks and 3 days. He was a half-baked fetus who weighed as much as a bottle of ketchup. When he was born, he had no nipples or lips, and his ears were just little flaps of skin easily rolled up if his head was positioned the wrong way. His eyes were closed, like a newborn puppy. It was seven hours after he was born that we, his parents, were finally allowed to see him and touch him. His hand was barely large enough to grip the tip of my pinky. His skin was red and shiny, all the pieces of skull visible through his scalp.

He died several times in the first weeks of his life and had seizures which made his right arm move like he was pumping his fist at a concert. It was then that I started calling him a rock star. He lived in a plastic cube attached to a thousand multicolored cables. He looked something like a motherboard, or like a fuse box, or a large sweet potato decorated with silly string.

His stay in the hospital was 134 days. Over that time, his eyes opened, his lips and ears filled out, he started smiling, but he never learned to eat. After two surgeries: one to reattach his retinas and one to insert a feeding tube and close off his esophagus so he can’t vomit or get heartburn, he came home. And home is where he stayed for a full year, hooked to a feeding pump every three hours for 45 minutes. Home is where the therapists came three times a week, and sometimes the nurses, and sometimes a social worker smelling of stale perfume.

His doctors said he’d never walk and would probably never talk. He had appointments with cardiologists, pediatricians, gastroenterologists, speech language pathologists, ophthalmologists, neurologisists. He wore a helmet for more than six months. He wore braces on his legs for three years.

He learned to walk when he was two and a half, though he never rolled over or crawled. He talked before that, a lot before that.

That pretty much brings us up to the present. Feeding tubes, appointments, seizures,  discussion of milestones, the word delay, the use of the word miracle.  

As you might be able to imagine, this was and can still sometimes be pretty traumatic. There is constant worry of what happens next. There comes a feeling of calm, that things might finally be okay, then something awful happens: a seizure, a black bean stuck in his esophagus, a broken arm which requires surgery. A broken arm. A broken arm which requires surgery. A broken arm which requires surgery now and a year from now.

Now that I’ve adjusted the prescription, let me say some more.

I admit that I’m very protective of my child. I admit that sometimes I let him get away with things because I’m so thankful he’s alive or walking or talking or able to button his pajamas. I admit that I still cry tears of joy when he picks up a pencil and writes a letter. Any letter at all. I am still in awe that he’s able to attend a regular public school at all.However, this does not cloud my judgment or opinion of what is right and wrong in a public school environment.

During the conference you made it a point to tell the story of the pencil, that Cyrus accidentally stabbed someone while they were playing. You then said if someone would’ve done it to him, I would’ve thought it was bullying. You made it clear, once again, that bullying requires an imbalance of power, and that one must feel afraid, that it must be repeated. That is the legal definition of bullying, you said on the phone not too long ago.

I am clever enough to understand the implication of the pencil incident, and it’s offensive. You seem to think I’m incapable of grasping the difference between bullying and accidents that happen during play. I understand you don’t believe anyone is doing anything bad to him because you don’t see it, that he still hangs out with them, that he might be making it up, that I’m over reacting. I understand you don’t know that decisions I make are based on logical, rational thinking, not emotion, as you have implied while trying to see through my parent lens.

I find your tone to be condescending and dismissive.

Here is what I know: Cyrus comes home daily to say he’s being bullied. He has said this since the beginning of the school year. Like you, I wasn’t sure if it was true, and he was unable to communicate the details, so I said nothing to the school or teachers because it wasn’t clear to me what was happening, and I am not one to start drama. Then he broke his arm again, for the third time, at school. It was conveyed to me that adults reported how it happened, that he was chasing a ball and fell. When I asked for more information, to see the accident report, everyone became silent. No one knew the protocol. As you know, it took 9 days to get a copy of the accident report which does not list a witness, as it is required to do. When I asked for a meeting and spoke with everyone, I was told, in fact, no adult saw it happen and that the report was based on what the kids playing said they saw. The group he was playing with includes two of the kid he calls his bullies. It’s interesting that the one day the para (yes, who isn’t his) wasn’t there, this happened. I find this suspect, and I hope you would, too, were you in my situation. I am not upset that an adult wasn’t there, I am upset that the information was hazy. If someone would’ve said, “no adult saw it,” I would’ve have understood. But what ensued was a battle for me to find out the truth.

That alone was upsetting and led me to wonder about what’s happening at school. When he breaks his arm, people are quick to ask what’s wrong with him, what’s wrong with his bones. Poor, fragile, premature Cyrus. Poor Cyrus with the feeding tube. And there are people around him who feed on this energy and attention; It’s not me. The orthopaedic surgeons have said repeatedly that his bones are normal. Yes, he is a little clumsy because he is delayed. He has poor motor skills, as most premature kids do. He has a thick set of glasses. A bully would know that and could easily take advantage.    

Beside the broken arm, there is more and it is most disturbing. Cyrus has said that his bullies have told him to suck his nuts. To be honest, I don’t care that a kid told him to suck his nuts. As I write it, it’s humorous (though I wonder about the environment a kid who would say this comes from). And, if this were the only thing that was said to him, whatever. I heard so much worse when I was his age. What is distressing is someone telling him to kill himself and to break his arm again. The “suck my nuts” I used as an example to prove a specific situation occurred; this is not something Cyrus would say and heard it from someone else. I filled out the bullying report based on this. The school did the investigation and found nothing, of course, so it didn’t happen, though I’m told with what feels like little sincerity that if he perceives someone as bullying, then it’s true.

A seven year old told my seven year old to kill himself.  

 

What is important for you to know is this: I’ve been lied to. I’ve been talked down to. There is a real or perceived imbalance of power. It has been repeated or has the potential to repeat.

 

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Death by a Thousand Cuts

I’ve been trying to count the number of times Cyrus has been in the hospital, or the ER in the past year. The number starts at 4 and goes as high as, I don’t know, 12. This doesn’t include the major surgery he had last August and the three procedures leading up to a perforated esophagus. So, in the past two years, that’s, what…nearly 20 hospital visits. And that doesn’t include regular appointments he has with therapists.

Last week he broke his arm, again, the fourth break since last October. Today he had a follow-up appointment to make sure everything was in place. Hey. Guess what. It wasn’t. So, Cyrus has to get a pin inserted into his radius, the length of it. That means general anesthesia. A new cast for four weeks. And he’ll have to go through it again in a year when the pin is removed.

Alone, this is not a huge deal. Two broken bones is not a huge deal. Three really isn’t either, I guess. Four seems like a bit. But for me, and for Cyrus, of course, these four broken bones are added onto 7 years of procedures and white coats. Of a beginning so traumatic, I’m still recovering.  So is he, though I don’t know if he understands.

And, as always, just when things start to seem okay, when maybe I feel like he’s going to catch up with his peers and not break anything else or finally start eating, something happens. He falls. He gets something stuck in his esophagus. He’s put into more special ed classes because he can’t write really well because he broke his dominant hand twice because no one knows why.

Gaby said tonight that living with Cyrus was like constantly building a house of straw, piece by piece, only to have it blown over with the smallest breath.

I describe his situation as death by a thousand cuts.

I describe my own mental health the same way.

This is where I’ll mention that this is the third time he’s broken his arm at school. And this is the time where I’m finally suspicious. I’ve been fighting with the school and the district for a week to see a copy of his accident reports; I’ll spare you the narrative,  but I’ll say this: no one knows the protocol for getting copies, the person in charge is out because he daughter got married, this woman is a CFO?, I’ll have to file a written request, It won’t be ready in time for the meeting scheduled at school, but hey, I can read over the shoulder of the principal when I get to the meeting, the adult who is supposed to always be by his side was not, somehow some adults wrote the report but I can’t know who they are, his bully might’ve been there when it happened. The school is willing to do anything to help poor, poor Cyrus and why does his bones break so easily (there’s obviously something wrong with him)? You should wrap him in bubble wrap. ha.ha.ha.

All of this has taken a toll on Cyrus. He is either shaking in fear when he sees a white coat, or he is explaining all the steps that will happen, naming all the equipment and acting like it’s no big deal. The last time in the ER when the doctor asked if he knew why he was there he sighed and said, “I broke my arm again,” while continuing to play on the iPad.

My amazing and supportive partner, Gaby, who has lived with him for a little over a year has gone from optimistic and unaffected to crying right along with me when something else happens.

All I want is for Cyrus to be okay, for a whole year. Just a year without anything major would be an improvement.

Last week as I drove Cyrus to school, we were listening to his playlist. O Fortuna was playing and I’m not even lying. He was looking out the window, into the fog and rain, his bright yellow casted arm held with his other hand. Just the night before he’d mentioned that he didn’t have any friends at school, that his teacher is mean, that his bully bothered him again. And here was this kid, his blonde hair a mess, just sitting calmly while I drove him to a place where no one likes him, where he breaks his bones, where he is forced to navigate the world as we all had to. He wasn’t crying or screaming. He just seemed to accept his fate.

 

There are days when all of Cyrus’s past just rushes over me and I have an anxiety attack. There are days when I’m capable of forgetting everything. Here, let me mix some metaphors: Some of the days you’ve known me, the straw house has just been blown over. Most days you see me, we’re rebuilding, piece by fragile piece. I guess I’m telling you because I need you to understand that if you see me not really functioning, if I can’t show up to the planned event, if I just put on my headphones,  I have reasons. A thousand of them. Or. One. Just one reason.

That should be enough.

 

 

Responding to the Friend Request from a Middle School Boyfriend

I see your face there, requesting my friendship. You have the same look in your eyes as when you requested other, more intimate things from me. You look much older now, though, a lot like your dad.

Your profile pic has one of those  waving American flag filters and the words, “I stand” written across it. This is one clue that already makes me wary to hit the “confirm” button. It seems on this important issue, we don’t agree at all: Why I Sit, Part I. and Why I Sit, Part II.  If you read those, it might be enough to change your mind about wanting to be my friend. Hell, even if you don’t read those, the title should give you a very important hint.

I’m sure you know that I’m a lesbian; it was a small town, and I came out just a year after you graduated high school. That must’ve been around the last time I saw you: 1997.  I don’t think I’m wrong when I say you’ve voted against me for probably the past two decades. What you might not know is that my partner is a Spanish-speaking immigrant. Let that sink in, buddy. Okay. Maybe I’m incorrectly assuming a whole lot about you from that one profile picture.

So,  enough about why you don’t want to really be my friend,  I want to tell you why I can’t be yours.

There’s a very good reason I will not be accepting your friend request. You see, I did some thinking a while back: Getting Trumped. If you look closely, you might find yourself in there somewhere. Of course, that’s assuming you recognize the situation. Let me repeat it. You’re #1. As in, the first time I remember a man sexually assaulting me.  Here it is in case you don’t have time to read the full piece about the Cheeto-faced leader of the free world grabbing women’s pussies and bragging about it and how it affected women:

#1

Though I honestly can’t remember if this is the first time [someone sexually assaulted me], I do remember it vividly. I remember it because I was old enough to almost understand. I was 13. And he was my boyfriend. It was on the bus on our way to a track meet. He was a track star in our tiny school. He could climb the rope in gym, upside down. We sat in those green plasticy leather seats. He put his hand on my leg, my knee. That I enjoyed. Or, at least, didn’t mind. But his buddies were in the seat in front of us. They turned around and peered over. And there were only guys behind us, too. I was trapped against the window. His hand kept moving down and closer. I asked him to stop. I told him to stop. But those guys in the seat ahead were watching and he had something to prove. And they kept saying, “C’mon, he’s your boyfriend!” And I kept saying no, download (1)politely. I didn’t want to be uncool. I also didn’t want his hands anywhere near me. But he did. I mean, my pants were on and everything, so I wasn’t sure if it counted for something I should tell someone. He just kept his hand there for a moment and wiggled a finger. I felt like puking. I broke up with him not long after that.

***

Maybe I mis-remembered breaking up with you. Now that I think about it, I think you broke up with me, and you sent someone to tell me (as middle schoolers do) right before I got on the bus, and I think the reason was because I didn’t put-out. Whatever the fuck that means when you’re in 8th grade. I think the reason I remember it as me breaking up with you is because I felt so relieved. Maybe I just wanted to come out the hero in this story.

Besides that incident, there were many times in the hallways of slamming lockers, where you’d try to kiss me and I’d tell you that I didn’t want to because I didn’t want people looking at me and it made me uncomfortable and you’d try to convince me and you’d do it anyway and stick your tongue in my mouth. I remember how you smelled and the jeans you wore. I remember that some of your guy friends saw and would say shit like, “Way to go, dude.”

I figure by now in this explanation of why I won’t accept your friend request you’re pretty pissed. That’s fine. Maybe you are saying, like, she’s a fucking dyke, anyway, that’s why she wasn’t into it. Or maybe give me a break, I was a kid and didn’t know any better.  Well, believe it or not, I “dated” quite a few guys in my teenage years. Almost all of them treated me with respect. There were teenage boys who were kind and listened when I said no. And here’s a weird thing, I feel like I have to thank them for being good and respectful. I feel like it’s unusual that they would behave appropriately.

How fucking horrible.

That I should applaud young men for being decent.

Maybe, too, you’re thinking, like why didn’t you say anything or break up with me? Good question. You see, society taught me that guys will be the aggressor and if I don’t accept sometimes, I lose them. And it’s bad to lose a man. And, wait, I think you broke up with me because, what was the reason again? Oh, right. Because I didn’t “put-out.”  But maybe it was more like, I didn’t accept your aggression.

Now it’s 24 years later and I’d like to go back to help young Christina in her time of need.

When I relive that moment, I imagine I punch you square in the face. All of my friends are watching this time. You don’t really cry until you get home later in the evening.

It didn’t hurt as much as it scared you, but you feel so humiliated, so powerless.

 

 

 

The Sum of His Parts

Seven years ago around this time I wrote this.  If you don’t have time to read it, no worries; I can fill you in. Cyrus had been in the hospital for two months, weighed less than 5 pounds, still, and two of the family’s cats died within that time span. I wrote about the book of Job in the Bible. How I felt like I was being tested. How fucking dramatic and ridiculous that whole story is.

But here I sit, in the hospital with Cyrus again. The machines have been beeping for 15 minutes straight, rousing him from sleep, with the same noise they made seven years ago, when the oxygen in his blood fell from 100% to 15%. When he nearly died all the time. When he had seizures. When I became not just a parent, but joined the preemie parent club. A group in which I wanted no membership.

So, in the scheme of all the awful things that could happen (and have happened) to Cyrus, another broken arm isn’t bad. Unless you start to do the math of the amount of times he’s been in the hospital the past year. It’s something like 6 or 7. He’s been put under general anesthesia at least half of those times. A major surgery in August. Two broken arms since November. And now. Third time’s the fucking charm.

It’s his left arm. A level 3 supracondylar fracture. He had a level 2 in November; they had to place two pins and a cast. It’ll happen again in the morning. He just got the cast off his right arm on April 4 and was cleared for physical activity 10 days ago.

Now. Why do I tell you this? I’m not sure.

There are definitely times I want your sympathy, your kind words, your anger and bitterness of the injustices in the world of parenting. (Yes, the most self-serving, first world problems)

Sometimes I tell you because maybe I want to justify my overprotective parenting or his constant need for help up and down stairs. If you notice, he grabs my hand a lot for help. He knows he needs it. He’s so cautious.

This happened today, reportedly, when he was walking through the cafeteria at school. One minute he was walking; the next he was on the ground crying and holding his elbow. When the nurse called and said he fell, I could only say, “C’mon. No.”

Some of you have wondered at his condition: does he have weak bones? Was that caused by being a preemie? What do the doctors say? What can be done?

So far the answer seems to be bad luck. But I know that his motor skills aren’t equal to those of other kids his age. He stumbles a lot. His eyesight isn’t great. He lacks maybe 20 degrees of peripheral vision.

The even shittier thing is that when he last had this break, he was just learning to write well. He started writing with his right hand, and things got all confused. He basically had to go back to the beginning. And now. He’s almost to second grade and in 25% SPED classes because he can’t really write. He eats through a tube in his stomach. He goes to therapies. Blah blah fucking blah. You know all of this already.

Doctors struggle to treat him as a whole human person. Even the doctor this afternoon, who listened when I said he had severe anxiety about being in a hospital, admitted she hadn’t looked up his medical history “that far back”-which meant November. It’s become a joke when someone walks in the room and says, “any medical history?” I scoff. And that’s the exact word I mean to use. I tell them they can read all about him in the system. He should have seven whole years of information there. If they press, I give the abridged version, “25 weeker. Seizures. ROP. Nissen. Feeding tube.” Cyrus’s ailments and procedures aren’t countable on all my fingers anymore.

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This space intentionally blank for you to grasp the million dollar bill from the NICU, plus all procedures that came after.

Now. Think about all that without insurance.

The trauma plus the bill would be more than enough to kill and entire family.

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Every time something happens, some doctor says, “He’s doing great for a 25 weeker!” (You throw really good. For a girl.)  I know that he is great. I’m so happy he is alive and thriving. He is intelligent and caring. He is relaxed. He seems to be some sort of gamer nerd in the making. He also wants to be a football player. But just once I would like a doctor to say how amazing he is. Period. Or to look at him like he’s been through it all. Like he’s older than 7. I want someone who recognizes that he’s not just a kid with a broken arm, but a kid who’s had a whole bunch of bullshit happen to him. A kid who has never gone a year without a hospital visit. A kid who is afraid of steps and running. A kid who is afraid to eat. A kid who screams, sweats, and shakes when he sees one of the kids’ hospital gowns with “sleepy tiger” written all over it under cutesy pictures of a cartoon tiger.

I said so many years ago that I’d take broken bones over seizures and eating issues any day.

I guess I didn’t realize my wish would come true.