A Random Image

Posts Tagged ‘sam’

 
|| March 13, 2013 || 5:38 pm || Comments (5) ||

Since the dawn of Nick’s new man-sized stature and 34″ inseam, there has been some frustration over jeans and khakis inside our normally-peaceful four walls. The kid is an absent-minded genius and just grabs pants that look like that could maybe-probably-perhaps belong to him, no matter what methods Maxim has employed to deter this sort of thing.

“Listen,” Maxim said tonight as we all stood in the kitchen conferring on dinner, “I just bought a bunch of new jeans with the money that Sam sent me for Christmas. I’m  here to tell you, son, that I am going to go ballistic if I have to go chasing them down even one time. I’m serious as a heart attack.”

Nick, now fully one inch taller than Maxim, looked passively on, nodding. I was amused, because I know what’s coming. Still, I added my two cents in:

“Don’t steal Daddy’s pants, don’t get anyone pregnant: Those are the rules around this joint.”

It was here that Maxim nodded sagely, “If you steal my pants, you are very likely to get someone pregnant.” He slung a thumb in my direction, “See her? I just touched her and here you are, son.”

 
|| December 11, 2012 || 5:23 am || Comments (11) ||

My father and my dad and my husband –all veterans, two of whom have served extensively in combat situations– all have distinct opinions on the overall accessibility of today’s military from a technology and media standpoint. As a former military brat and service member and wife I understand every argument they make against it.

Each and every one of them, in their own words, has expressed to me the need for a man down range to stay focused on where he’s at and what he’s doing at all times without compounding the heartache of homesickness or being distracted with any pettiness that is going on back home. I fully grok what they are saying. For the most part, I guess I don’t disagree.

As a military mom, though, things like Skype allow me to give my kid encouragement and reminders of who he is. Things like Facebook give me tender tugs telling me that though my son is a man doing a dangerous job, he is still the boy who had me sit down with him and show him how to tune a guitar and teach him about the circle of fifths and hey what key was that in and show me that chord again:

One of my favorite pictures of my father in country is of him sitting in a hut, barefooted and bare chested, pants pegged at the ankles and a harmonica slung around his neck. He’s cradling a guitar in front of him and his mouth is open in song. I own –at minimum– fifty service pictures of him, and that one gets the prized spot in my heart, because it shows something of who he is beyond the haircut and the uniform and the obvious tired that shows up in some of the photographs. It shows him to be a person grounded in something other than camouflage and orders and chasing clever, sadistic men through a wet canopy of trucked-up nerves.

I am forever telling my kids not to wish time away, but if I’m being dead honest with them and everybody else, then at present I am sloppily shoving days behind me like I’m paid to do so or sommat. This next year can’t possibly go fast enough for me. Tiny things like poorly-taped snippets of combat tedium shot in a curtained bunk warm my heart. I have to say, in all honesty, that they’d do so no matter whose kid was in them. And I’ll be damned if my brain can’t help but snag on (during my third or so viewing of that video up there) things like, “I think it would’ve made all the difference if the American public could have seen those nineteen- and twenty-year-olds with ukuleles in their hands, singing folk ditties, before they rolled home from Vietnam, before they disembarked from planes and ships bewildered and worn slap out and overwhelmed.

“America would have remembered that we sent boys in to do the work of men and sometimes the work of men is too much for anybody to fathom, even the men who are doing it.”

My son slings a rifle, my son sings songs that our people brought over to this country, my son loves his job and misses America right now. You miss him back, America, him and all the ones like him.

 
|| September 5, 2012 || 2:42 am || Comments (6) ||

Today Maxim got locked out of his PayPal account due to a goofy glitch in the system. There was money sitting in there, money that he needed –we needed– and he started to freak out a little bit in his Maxim way, while I sat over here in this chair plugging Very Important Words (these days all the words that are worth eight cents or more are Very Important Words, I’m afraid) into the part of the ether that in my head is called Clientspace.

(Clientspace is inhabited, just so you know, by other fools zooming around on their keyboards and jockeying for the eight-cents-or-more words and making pewpewpew noises at all the other kamikaze writerfolk who want to eat their lunches and steal their house payments, how dare they.)

It was simple: “Maxim. Just call them. It will be no big deal, I promise.” He was also having an issue with getting client e-mails through his domain, so that fueled his angst even more, because not only could he not get to the money that was already there and his, he was losing money that potentially could be his if he were only given air and opportunity. He was doing that thing where he channels his mom and something that is not truly fussable gets fussed over because it is more convenient and safer altogether than Fucking Way The Fuck Out Completely over the big deal stuff (and there is a veritable fuckton of that leeching at our ankles, let me just tell you) that could cause a collective nervous breakdown around this joint should we let it give us our marching orders.

Stuff is not the boss, okay? Not even the big deal stuff.  We are the bosses and sometimes stuff gets all snipey and back-bunchy and whoops, there we go, letting stuff get the better of us just because it’s being obstreperous. Stuff is an errant child and it is up to us to not let it drop its drawers and shit in the living room.

So, at one point about fifteen minutes in, Maxim pushed himself away from the desk, saying “I’ll be back in a minute.” My only response to that was a silent, “Thank. God.” because I had a deadline, you know? Me and Maxim and this everybody working out of the house thing….well, there are some kinks yet. There are no stabbable offenses thus far, but we are teetering Damn Closetm to hit-you-with-a-hammer-in-your-sleep-so-that-you-can-fully-understand-the-true-weight-of-interruption offense. The ongoing battle against writerly interruption has stepped up its motherfucking game, is what I’m saying. Sometime in July he asked me to devise a system by which he might know I was working and not longingly window shopping Amazon for fancy things like new music and helium tanks, so I came up with this,


My husband asked for a better indicator of when I was working, so I designed a simple notification interface for the back side of my lappy.

only that didn’t go so well, because that is a cheapo sticky note (someone perpetually makes off with the good ones [ed. note: SCOUT, ALL TEH MUFFINASSES KNOW IT'S YOU WITHOUT MY HAVING TO TELL THEM] and there are better things to waste money on these days….things like toilet paper and electricity) and it kept falling off, causing Maxim to say, “Hey, is the sticky note on the floor on purpose, or on accident? Because I need to know if I can interrupt you or not.”

Yes, the exasperated sound coming out of North Alabama is me, Entire Rest of the World. I’m sorry, I’ll try to keep it down over here.

So back around to it: Maxim came back into the room some twenty minutes later, armed with his shoulder bag full of important things and his hands full of paperwork, announcing, “I’m going to go sell some stuff because I need a boost to my ego. I’ll fuck with PayPal and e-mail when I return.”

“Great!” I said back brightly, “I’m making BLTs for dinner, so take your ti-iiiime!”

And I thought him a very smart man in that instance, because instead of caving to drudgery he did what he knew he’s great at and what would make him feel like rock star so that he could power through tedious, frustrating mess that he gets no joy from.

This year, man. This year in our lives. Some people know one chunk of it, other people know other parts of it, still others know an entirely different slice.  Suffice it to say it’s been hit after hit after hit. What sums it up for me, I guess, is May the thirty-first. That afternoon I got an e-mail from BlogHer announcing that I was a Voices of the Year Honoree for this year. AIRHORN!! RIDICULOUS AGOG FACE! SELF-PRIDE! ALL THE ELEVENTY!!1! IN MY HEART! because, to be real honest, there was a lot wrapped up for me in that acknowledgement. I’ve long felt overlooked by much of this community because I don’t fit the regular mold (hint: Nor do I have any real plans to going forward. Love me, hate me, I’ma do me no matter what side of the coin you call for yourself). This year’s list of honorees is an incredible roster, and whoa nelly, that was vindication in and of itself, to be bookended by such talent, and sitting in the company of some of my favorite voices in Cyberia. So, you know, super-high.

May the thirty-first, continued: Later that night we learned that Sam is to be deployed to Afghanistan for just under a year. My heart fell down to my toes and just dribbled out the ends of them and onto the carpet. Good thing we’re going to get rid of it anyway, this hideous carpet, because once you get heart-stains on it they never really go away.

Yeah, super-low.

That’s what the entirety of this year has been like, over and over and over again, with so many circumstances both big and small. I am yanked through the clouds at dizzying speeds, then I am flung so viciously against the hard plane of ground that I make dents.

Last week’s cloud flight was the announcement that Sam and Randi were expecting a child. This week’s cratering out was the phone call –on Labor Day, so cute– that Randi had miscarried. The eedle yellow and mint sleepers I have thus far gathered for this child (who I’d already had adventures with in my mind’s eye) sit on the table next to me as I type, in fact. They will go to the local foster parent resource center tomorrow.

It has taken me all the way up until September, but I’m finally learning part of what this year wants to teach me: Just don’t make any plans, either to the positive or to the negative. Just sit with it, this instance in this hour in this day. The Adapt and Overcome portion of my brain was dormant, a little rusty from comfort. It took a minute to get it humming.

There’s still so much looming, I can feel it. I’m not afraid. That seems such a strange thing to say, given all that’s gone on this year and the complete lack of surety here in this place that we’re still inhabiting. I may have hiccups of despair, but I’m not afraid and I’m okay and that counts for something. Some days that’s all there is and alright then, alright.

When he returned today, Maxim came bearing a box of Triscuits; he was convinced they would score him a gratitude lay. “This is what we’ve been reduced to,” I exclaimed in delight, “Triscuits are marital baubles!” We laughed together, long and deep and with giddy gulps.

So, then, uh, my kid is surprising me. That’s what they do, right? They surprise us. Kids are way meta with surprise, even: “I am even surprised that I managed to be surprised again. *boggle*” This is how they make us effectively insane as persons and (at least temporarily) ineffective as parents.

I keep forgetting to tell you that Mathias no longer wants to be Mathias to you. I think I announced this shit on Twitter one day, but I mostly write about myselfabsorbedself and my navelgazey perspective here in this space, so my kids don’t come up most of the time,

(I tell you with a great deal of delight that, ironically, my ‘u’ key is sticking today. This has great hippie-dippy Cosmic MeaningTM, but I am not about giving even two shits about that kind of thing today. Except that I find it funny that the universe is so intent on me not regarding others that ‘you’ becomes ‘yo’. So yeah, fuck you, everybody else, I’m on the Me Wagon for a couple of days.)

and when they do it’s because they are a player in my narrative, a supporting structure to the thinks that get kicked off in my headmeat.

So Mathias chooses to be Nick and I guess I’m cool with that; it’s just hard to adjust my fingers to typing ‘Nick’ rather than ‘Mathias’. Part of it, too, is this: Mathias is my baby. Nick is a nearly-grown person who is in so many ways already a man. It’s astounding, the self-possessed and confident way he already has about him at thirteen. Thirteen is supposed to be the age of awkward and foolish and slapdash. He is none of those things.

And, oh, all the ways in which he is a fine person! I respect my kid. You know, not just because he’s another human, but in the way I would respect another adult. It’s so fucking weird, y’all.

Okay. Nick, everyone. He is Nick. Let us all clasp hands and support one another through this trying change. We can do it, we totally can.

(I am looking at you, Chris. Cheerleaderboy lives on in our hearts and collective weirdo subconscious.)

One day last week there came a great knocking and clanging and it was perplexing, all of this unexpected noise from the center guts of the house. Onceupona, when Sam lived here, there was a perpetual and unending noise rolling through this joint whenever he was home. It ran between a muted guitar riff and the caterwauling of teenaged hysterics, but there was definitely always a ruckus emanating from Sam’s person. He gets this from me. However, in my defense, I am not a constant-ruckus person; I require the balance of silence and introspection in equal shares with my rowdy explosiveness. Sam’s very lowest every-moment setting is a steady rumble.

When Sam moved out, Quiet moved in. Quiet’s first cousin Civilized sat with us at dinner (the absence of beatboxing –which was STRICTLY AGAINST TABLE RULES, but Samuel charmed the pants off of those tedious rule-things constantly– and fart jokes ushers in an instant civility, so strange), the spectre of Mellow floated through everywhere, and this house was just a little off-square for a time. But we got used to the shape of Quiet, the tiny ways he displaced our Samuel’s lingering presence here,  and the coterie of cousins that he was constantly inviting in.

So yes, Quiet apparently stepped out for a latte or a nooner or sommat: Since a great knocking and clanging had not been in the household vernacular for some months and I went to investigate. Nick, who now for all intents and purposes is the shape of a grown man, had moved every stick of furniture in his room save for his massive desk-bookshelves combo. He’d only left that as it was because no other wall was really big enough to accomodate it.

He did a good job of it, too. The new layout made all kinds of sense and brought a cool new energy to his space. After the furniture shuffle, Nick began to remove things from his possession without prejudice and with a great sense of purpose. So far, six boxes of beautiful books have gone to friends in other states. A toybox and two big plastic bins, all slap full of toys, have gone to the thrift. A scooter, a box of jeans and a trash bag full of shirts followed them. Figurines and action figures (*wince*) and most of his Star Wars toys (DARTH VADER HELMET!!1! with voice changer) got the boot. The piggy bank his great-grandmother gave him and the ‘treasure box’ where he kept the special things he called ‘prizes’, these sacred objects, gone. No more lamp shaped like the head of Spider-Man. Goodbye, fish maracas and very awesome glockenspiel. Long-cherished blankies? Pshaw.

He did, however, spare the sock monkeys and his Father’s original Dr. Seuss books; they were boxed and shoved to the back of the closet. I suggested we Sistine Chapel the monkeys all over the ceiling of his room. For about half a second he got an amused-at-the-possibilities glint in his eye, then it passed and he hit me with a firm, decisive “No.” Well, hell. Kid, you are killing the fuck out of me.

But I’m delighted, you know?  His thorough shaking-up of things is brave after a fashion. He’s always been such a firm creature of habit. When we announced our intent to spend Christmas traveling a couple years back, you could see the physical effort he was exerting to hold himself together. There is also the fact that for years and years I was terrified that I was raising a hoarder of the highest magnitude. Every six months would find me in there completely overhauling his room from the ground up, swearingspittingfrothing, and I’d always end up with a minimum of three trash bags full of just utter nonsense and crap that had no business living in his dresser drawers and under his bed. So this whole overhauling his life thing, while sudden and unexpected, is weirdly rad.


My kid asked me for a world map. I found a still-wrapped one for a buck on thrift.

At the end of last year sometime Nick asked me for a gigundo world map to hang in his room. Only a couple months passed before I found one on thrift for a buck (I am amazed at how often this sort of thing occurs). In changing his room around, this giant world map ended up hanging at the head of his bed like a headboard. The kid’s poked little round-headed pins in it: Red pins are places he’s been, green pins are places he wants to go, and blue pins are places he wants to conquer and take over.

So far only Greenland and Iceland are screwed.

About four weeks ago Scout decided to scare the piss out of me and her dad. Said fright was caused by her standing in front of us having a conversation one minute, then falling out and convulsing the next. When roused and sufficiently coherent, she described an electrical storm in her frontal lobe.  Tests thus far are inconclusive. Which, you know, I prefer to view as HALLELUJAH NO BRAIN TUMOR.

….but the image of an electrical storm right behind her pretty little brow has haunted me.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

About a week after that, I got a call from Sam informing me that he was coming home for four days over Easter so that he could marry this Very Cute Person,

randi
:: randi, university of alabama campus, valentine’s day 2011 ::

who we will henceforth call ‘Randi’ in all our future talkstory adventures, Muffinasses. Don’t bother asking if I like her, silly; just look at her Loverboy teeshirt and her pleasant countenance! Those things should give you all the four-one-one that you need. Okay, okay….I will tell you this little bit of confessional information: One time, when Sam and Randi were both fifteen or thereabouts, I told Maxim in the quiet privacy of our bedroom, “Now that kid? I would love to have as a daughter-in-law.” She is that flavor of awesome, see? That sort of awesome that had the two of us making plans for coffee and conversation even when she and my son were no longer a couple at one (or two? ahem) point(s).

So initially the wedding plans went like this: While Sam was last home on leave, the couple made the announcement that they would marry next July. Hasty, yes? Yes, hasty. But look! Over a year to plan a wedding! Just enough time to do all this. We wish Randi would finish school! But we love her! You guys are so young and maybe wait a little longer! But who am I to speak against passion?? I would never be found guilty of such! Let’s have a wedding, shall we?

Then they said “Hey! We want to do this in December.” Okay, ah, start the New Year together in 2012! We get it! Makes some sense! Whoa, deadline, but not an unobtainable goal if we get started right now!

Then this July and my head exploded because “SAMUEL YOUR SISTER WILL BE OUT OF THE COUNTRY AND HOW DARE YOU PROPOSE A WEDDING WITHOUT HER, SHE WOULD NEVER DO THAT TO YOU AND THAT LEAVES US NO TIME TO HELP YOU PLAN, NOT TO MENTION GIVE YOU ANY SORT OF FINANCIAL HELP YOU MIGHT NEED AND WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK, SAM?? I HAVE A LOT TO BE CONCERNED WITH JUST NOW, PLEASE STOP WITH THIS WEDDING IN JULY NONSENSE RIGHT THIS MINUTE.”

“Mom?” Sometimes the connection is tinny when he calls, far-away sounding. This was one of those times. “Mother, I’ve  got a four-day pass over Easter weekend. I’m going to fly in Friday morning and that afternoon Randi’s dad (ed. note: Randi’s dad is a Babdiss preacherman, but we do not hold that against her in any way) is going to marry us in her parents’ back yard.” He wore a black shirt and ivory Vans and she wore an ivory dress and black Converse and now I’m a mother-in-law, so weird.

At least I am consistent, as always, in maintaining a whirlwind life.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

So. The week before Scout fell out and two weeks before Sam made the tinny phone call, the very week that Mathias announced that he was joining Civil Air Patrol, Maxim and I had a discussion that really entailed not much discussion at all and we decided to leave our church. Rat-tat-tat. We met with our Pastor and told him on the tenth of April, my mother’s birthday.

Individually, Maxim and I had both been feeling the nudge to ask the other what they thought about our relationship to our church and whether we were to continue it. When I finally brought my thoughts up to him and told him the timeline on them, he nodded sagely and cited the exact same thoughts along the exact same period of time. We were essentially completing one another’s sentences as we spoke, and ended the discussion with the promise to pray over the issue for two weeks and then go over our impressions together.

Then the not-discussion, then the leaving, then the strange feeling of being untethered from a church body but being very anchored spiritually. We –Maxim and I, and even Scout– have even gone so far as to acknowledge that it may be in the cards for us to remain unchurched altogether. None of us is opposed to this. Jesus did a lot of damage with two feet and an unafraid voice; He never kept to four walls, at least not for very long. We’re supposed to emulate that man, if we really believe what we say we do.

We will miss our church family bitterly. We will still see them socially, sure, but not several times a week. Hell, let’s be honest: We will probably not even get to see them several times a month. Life is a storm of unpredictability and a ruiner of plans. That’s part of what makes it so incredible, you know?

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

On Monday, April the eighteenth around two-thirty or so, I started to feel it. I guess it was something akin to a fissure in my brain opening, something that had been a sort of hairline crack becoming a gaping maw. I white-knuckled my way through the afternoon and then went home to gobble some Lexapro, thinking that my PMDD was rearing its head and hadn’t given me as much lead time as usual. I quickly got worse, my insides a low-roiling boil, threatening to bubble over; it made me physically sick. I could feel the lactic acid building and then depositing in my shoulders, my traps, in the backs of my thighs. It was a continual release of adrenaline and I was extremely nauseous by hour four of the whole thing. The whole of the afternoon a voice in my head gibbered about just wanting my bed, ohhhh if I can make it to the end of the workday I can have my bed,  but that evening I fumbled onto the couch and couldn’t move from there, where I fell into a fitful sleep by seven 0′clock.

I woke and dragged myself to the bedroom, still feeling sick and indeterminably broken, at around ten-thirty. The next morning I was due to drive Scout to her neurologist an hour away, and I thought that the Lexapro would grab hold while I slept (like it always did! magic! jazz hands, bitches! airhorns and goofy relieved grintastic visages and confetti or something equally as rad!), making me feel whole and right again upon waking.

I woke up lethargic and very, VERY resistant to the idea of leaving our home. In fact, I was somewhat terrified to even get out of bed. The low-boil feeling was still there and now I had a sense of defeat layered on top of it. I wanted to die, but it occurred to me that if I shot myself in the head my daughter would a) be angry that I ‘forgot’ to check her out of school b) be the one to find me c) be doubly fucked up as a result of having been angry at me just before finding my messy-headed self scattered willy-nilly across the bed. I tried to eat some breakfast. I threw it up. I showered and put on eyeliner, then comfortable clothes, then sunglasses that would obscure most of my face. It was a sheer act of my Legendary Stupidly Defiant Will that put me behind the steering wheel and on the road.

I am going to make a mistake. I am going to make a mistake and wreck us. My inner voice meant this in a more literal sense, but in writing that now I realize that there is more meaning to it. Anxiety’s theme song is I Am Going To Make A Mistake. It has a really catchy hook and gets stuck in a loop on your insides if all the conditions are right and you give it half a footing, did you know?

“I’m not feeling well,” I told Scout, “do you think you could manage driving if it turns out that I can’t?” She said she could, and I told her that I’d navigate the more difficult part of the drive and put her on the straightaway twenty minutes or so down the road. When that twenty minutes had passed, I’d started feeling better, so I passed on Scout driving for me and continued on. Ten minutes past that I was pulling into the empty lot next to an abandoned auto shop, so suddenly overcome that it was all I could do to exit the car and go around to the passenger side.

I reclined the seat, Scout slid in the new Damnwells and within a few minutes we were flying down Highway Tw0-Seventy-Eight; I was curled up on my side with my face six inches from my knees, staring at them intently, afraid that my brain was doing something I and it could never recover from, when ‘Sophia‘ came on

with a wink everything’s falling apart
and we’re lost in Lebanon

and then somehow I found my eyes fixed on the beyond out there past the vinyl and the doorhandle and the window, it rushed by oh it fell away and was replaced so fluidly and I hope I can hold onto myself well enough to finish this day, finish this day, finish. Finish it, this day.

Abel started
but Cain had to finish the job
for the God of Jealousy

No fever dream had ever been so brutal.

By four o’ clock that afternoon I became something resembling myself, but still only a poorly-remembered version of that, a slightly-staticky approximation. “It’s stress,” said Maxim the next day, and then the day after that I caught myself kneading the shit out of my left forearm with my right hand, to the point of extreme pain that I hadn’t even noticed in my absent-mindedness. It was then that I took into account that my nails were more gnawed than they ever had been –they were bleeding and painful at times– and I’d had this crazy rash on my chest that had appeared suddenly about two weeks prior. “I told you, stress,” Maxim affirmed once I recounted my realizations to him. I pondered the crevasse that had opened up in my brain, how extremely near to the base of it that the crack had run.

I circled the internal wagons. It took a week to really shake that feeling that I was just a fuzzy copy of my actual self, that I was play-acting at being something I was really not. I faked it till I maked it and I managed not to disappear. Feel free to mutter it under your breath, but don’t you ever tell me that miracles are the stuff of myth.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Wednesday, Twenty-Seven April:

The internet went out early in the day. Power was intermittent throughout the morning, but mostly there.  The mountain began to be battered. We came back from lunch, we left early for the day. Maxim happened to be off, so did Scout. My family was all snug in our home when I got there. I found out later that where others were hit once and hard, we were hit over and over hard. It was that evening before I found out that Tuscaloosa had lost one-seventh of itself and Cullman had fared poorly and the state park had played host to three twisters on the ground at once (a paramedic friend showed me a close shot he’d taken with his phone, holyHOLYfuck). A friend, upon finding out that we had no idea what was going on elsewhere, began to text snippets of information and news to me.

I called Randi, who was shaken but perfectly fine. A student at the University of Alabama, she had, she confessed, been terrified when the tornado set down a block from her apartment. She was coming home to the mountain as soon as she could. Her phone was messed up and she couldn’t make any calls or send any texts, but she could receive them. Sam, having just gone back to Texas less than twenty-four hours before, was on the other line, exceedingly not-okay with having left his bride.

Maxim showed me the snippet of radar he’d managed to pull up on his phone. “Unh, ah, there is this black area here right by us. I’ve never seen BLACK on any radar, have you?” No, no I had not, and it looked ugly, like a blotchy tumor on a rainbow landscape and wow, this is one of the rare times in life that merits one long, low whistle of disbelief punctuated with raised eyebrows. Things ramped up for us again. We stayed together, first in Mathias’ room reading and making LEGO magicks, then in the living room. When Maxim thought everything had passed, he went in search of ice and to check on his mother. He took Mathias with him.

He later professed the stupidity of leaving, because one of the events that occurred while he was out involved a massive oak falling across a pitch-black road a few feet ahead of him while he considered the merits of dropping a load in his pants. Another wave of storm had whipped itself at us and he’d been caught out in it. He crept back to his mom’s to wait it out. Back at home, Scout and I started hearing things hit the back side of the house.

“It’s still now,” I texted Maxim afterwards, “Come home, and hurry, but be safe.” My phone began dying. Maxim came home. “There is a tree in Dana’s house. It sliced clean through.” We didn’t get out to inspect, because I did not trust the dark and the clever way it might obscure dangling tree limbs with the potential to fall and crush or its ability to hide downed, soaked power lines an errant foot might find before a watchful eye could.

We made pallets for the children on our bedroom floor, set a lantern in the bathroom in case anyone had to get up later. It was dark, so dark, and I blessed this darkness, because it is a hardcore insomniac’s unspoken dream to have no glowing, buzzing streetlights slicing in from half a block away. There were no electronics humming, no tiny red lights becoming larger than life. “I AM GOING TO SLEEP LIKE A CHAMP TONIGHT!” I announced to no one in particular. We had laid our heads on our pillows and spoken a few words when one of us –I don’t even remember who, honestly– said, “Oh man, we got so lucky this time.” This was immediately punctuated with the explosive sound of a hundreds-of-years old tree a few yards away in the quick throes of giving over and going a fuck-all, messy horizontal.

I not only slept like a champ that night, I slept like a GOING-FOR-BROKE, FUNDAMENTALLY-DRIVEN, PIMP-ASS MOTHERHUMPIN’ CHAMP. But only for five and a half hours. I kept flopping around the bed after that, and then finally I got up and pulled on yoga pants and the notorious Pink Floyd shirt (that has made a-one-0r-a-two appearances within the voyeurnally tomes of yours truly) you might chance to remember. There were flip-flops involved, too. I slipped on a hoodie, leashed  up Banjo and set out. Only one other house on the whole block was occupied. Three of them had trees driven well into their innards. Others had broad, well-rooted oaks tipped over and leaving gigantic divots in the ground. Some of them had equally large trees snapped like toothpicks halfway up their trunks.

The three blocks surrounding our home were –and still are– a great mess. There are a bait of awful tales that I could run out in front of you, but I’ve already taxed your graces enough for tonight and I don’t think it’s in anyone’s interest for me to actively try and horrify you.  Let’s just say that I am very well aware that the most tragic thing that happened to me, basically, was having to endure an icy shower and hanging clothes on the line. Which, if you’ve been watching any of the news footage (which I have not even had time to go through in any real way) is the cosmic equivalent of stubbing my toe in the presence of legless people.

Translation: Don’t you !dare!! complain, dummy.

And so, I am not. In fact, I am going to post up, in the next little real soon day or two, things that have been so right about this place and its people since all the weathercarnage. I’ll include some ways you can help from where you are, too. Tonight my back is growing stiff and my eyelids are crackling.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This week Scouty turns eighteen. Twenty days after that, she will graduate high school.

scout, is, well.....holy crow, she's grown
:: ’she looks like an album cover,’ somebody said ::

Then it will be June and she will be exploring another country.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

This summer we will be taking Mathias to our nation’s capital because he is old enough to absorb some of what this country is, what this country remembers, what it knows and also what it would like to forget. He’s inquisitive and perceptive, a fact magnet and discussion-haver.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

Next weekend my son is coming home to get his bride and take her back to the desert with him. They are so young and passionate, and life is too fragile for them to be apart one second longer than they have to be. The world won’t be any less brutish, but they will each have the comfort of a bedmate’s tangled limbs and steady breathing to reassure them as they slumber. Important, too, is someone to laugh with when everything is all ludicrous as fuck and humor is the only thing left.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

It almost never fails: The day after a brutal, tornado-laden storm is picture-perfect, bright and mild and colorfully soft. This always blows my mind. Still, I am thankful for it, for the respite and I am moved to make this urgent wish:

Sonno beato, world, and all the children in it; sleep beautifully for a time.

I’m here. I’m still here. Everyone I know is accounted for. Everything is possible and I brought my spoon because I’ve always been one to dig in and that’s one trait I will fight to drag up to the grave’s lip before I have to be put in there.

 

Sometimes life is clumsy with us, and completely artless.

Two weekends ago, I bought a pack of cigarettes. I was in Georgia to have eight stingy hours with Samuel, to try and avoid words like ‘combat’ and ‘Afghanistan’ and ‘deployment’ while doing so. It’s weird, yeah, hearing me talk about avoidance? It’s weird to me, anyway.

turning blue
:: turning blue ::

We had the eight hours after the Turning Blue ceremony where Samuel’s father pinned an infantry cord on the newest member of our family to become active duty military. It was an especially poignant ceremony because it happened at the very place where Sam’s father had gone to basic,  jump school and part of Ranger school. Couple this with the fact that it also fell on Veteran’s Day, well….of course the patriotic Southerin belle in me was all a-swoon and falling over. Certain things about me are grossly predictable and sappy; I’m okay with that.

infantry cord
:: sam’s father pins his infantry cord ::

Sam is a smoker now, and a dipper. This is despite my protestations, despite my reminders of how hard he nudged me toward quitting (what I saw as) my paltry four-stick-a-day habit. One time, five years ago and in an attempt to entice me toward quitting, Maxim said to me, “You’re going to feel like a supreme jackass when one of the kids starts smoking.” Maxim’s always been a quiet prophet, and wise. He is scary on the rare occasions when he admonishes me, because he does it with gentle love or wry humor. What is a person with a warrior bent supposed to do with that?

I do indeed feel like a jackass. Maxim was absolutely right, as always. How can I be annoyed with his loving rightness?

Cue us riding down the road, Sam and Mathias in the back seat, headed back to our chalet for the remainder of the eight hours after a trip to IHOP. The boy spent his entire time in bootcamp fantasizing about pancakes, bacon, french fries; he had asked for IHOP in October on the weekend of his thirty-six hour pass, too. At a grocery store stop he bought a pack of cigarettes and a large can of snuff despite my warnings that the outcome might not be a great one. Besides, you’ve been without all this time, why start back now? Of course he assured me, this new man-person who is now six-three or thereabouts, it’s fine, Mother, I’ve got this. Oh for all the lost nickels that could be paid out on each time I have reassured people around me after this same fashion.

(It’s hard to navigate where to be a mother and where to be a woman who respects the fact that her son is grown and should be left to his decisions without a degree of unsolicited cautionary language (um, nagging?). My mouth and my brain, they pull at one another, while another part of me entirely stands aside to observe and thinks, ‘Myyyy, what a queer state of affairs this one is.’)

Okay, yes, riding down the road: We had begun to slow for a red light when suddenly the rear driver’s-side door swung open and Sam vomited explosively all over the pavement. Maxim quickly but easily navigated to the nearest parking lot –it belonged to a mechanic’s shop– where Sam finished hurling. I ordered Mathias out of our car and over to Nana’s, which had been following behind us. I could predict what lay in store for us if he smelled or saw or heard puking for thirty more seconds.

Sam mostly missed the car. What got on the door was on the molded vinyl portion of it and not the upholstered section that would have held stubbornly to the stench. His arm was extended out the door, fingers still laced in the door’s latch, and was covered in ick. “Don’t move!” I ordered.

“Don’t worry.” he offered back weakly. Too much nicotine too fast and Jack was a sick manboy: None of us had seen Sam put in a huge dip before leaving the grocery store parking lot. The grocery store where, as fate would have it, we’d bought paper towels and a case of water. I pulled some of both out of the trunk and went to work washing the kid and the car as best I could, with him apologizing the whole time.

All I could think about as I was matter-of-factly correcting the situation was this time when he was three and sick, so sick, that I spent a seemingly endless four days and nights cleaning him up, patting and comforting him and singing to him and wishing it off of him and onto myself. He is grown and he has spent the last sixteen weeks learning part of what he needs to be a man and I am still his mother and he still needs me and oh Universe, you with your fucked-up little sense of humor in showing us what we need to be shown when we need to be shown it…. In trying not to laugh, I looked down at the pavement and promptly grimaced. There were undigested french fries there, nearly whole, because Sam had not yet learned to eat slowly and enjoy his food again.

When I got Mathias back into the car and settled, I climbed into the front, where Maxim and I snuck sideways glances at one another and foolgrinned, laughing silently with the unspoken ‘I told you so!’ hanging quietly in the air between us. It was enough that we both acknowledged it; it didn’t beg to be said.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I had already spent much of that weekend in Georgia waiting,  tracing the roof of my mouth with the tip of my seized tongue and wondering where to put all these emotions inside of me, unsure of what to vent or how to catalog those that went unreleased in some fashion. Fucking was out of the question, as the walls and floors of the chalet carried every little nuance of sound, so I’d bought that pack of cigarettes.

We sneaked outside, me and Samuel and my sister, to smoke together and talk. Sam was so full of stories. They just poured out of him one on top of the other and most were hilarious but some plucked at the taut strings of worry and dread and panic I could feel humming inside of me. My face, for once, did not betray me. Then we were at an Italian restaurant that night, laughing, sharing off one another’s plates, watching the time carefully so as to have Sam back at the ordered hour to prepare for the next day’s graduation. There were an even dozen of us around the table, oblivious to our surroundings, when this really gorgeous woman stopped on her way out. She looked to be in her sixties, and was one of those effortlessly elegant creatures that you might track across the room with your eyes, wondering where she got that magic and if she might share it with you.

She inquired after any Veterans that might be at the table and then thanked the four of us that were. Then she extended her hand toward Sam, thanking him and telling him she appreciated him. He rose, taking her hand, thanking in return and ma’aming and she just kept expressing appreciation and my napkin is big but holy Christ there is so much happening in me and oh shit can I please get to the restroom before I burst into this high maddening wail in front of hell and half of Georgia?

And so I excused myself to go collect myself; I patted my face daintily with a paper towel soaked in cold water just like my mother showed me when she was endeavoring to teach me the combined arts of being a Genteel Southerin Laydeh and a Proper Military Wife and Mother.

Then we found ourselves leaving –just Maxim and Sam and me– the polite little city of Columbus to take Sam back to post for the evening. We dropped him off and he acted skittish, seeming unsure for the first time since all this leaving us began; Sam fiddled with his belongings, moving from Maxim to me and back again (twice. thrice!) for hugs and murmurs of support, surrounded by dozens of other young men doing something similar with their loved ones. We broke from one another and Samuel walked back toward the Company area, a lone figure moving hastily between other young men walking, relaxed, in pairs and teams of three or four. I thought then how, when I looked up the meaning of Sam’s name after he was born, that I was filled with chagrin at finding the words ‘wandering cub’. I got back into the car and for the first time in sixteen weeks I lost my shit good and proper, the kind of shit-losing where there are sounds coming out of you that you don’t recognize because you don’t (or haven’t really ever) employed them  in your life. I wailed the entire thirty minutes back to Uchee Creek, and upon discovering the rest of the family was still out for ice cream, I asked Maxim to go inside and gave myself the liberty of fifteen minutes more of it.

Nobody tells you about this sort of moment when you become a mother because there are no words for it and maybe, just maybe, it would be a deal-breaker.

soldier
:: soldier ::

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

On graduation day, we navigated the back roads and back gates of Fort Benning, throwing the post into a drastically different light. All we had seen to date was Sand Hill, (“Where men are made!”) which is dusty and brown and utilitarian for the most part. On main post I saw the vibrant military community I was accustomed to. I pointed out features of it to Mathias, who has no working history with the military whatsoever, having been born long after his grandfathers retired and his father and I had served.

About halfway to the National Infantry Museum, where graduation ceremonies were to be held, there was what can be best described as a lurch in my abdomen and then all hell kind of started breaking loose down there.

“You have to get me to a bathroom FAST, Maxim.” Cue mayhem and shenanigans. The road that the GPS wanted us to turn down was obstructed with a concrete barrier, which tacked an additional ten or so minutes onto our journey. Of course when we got to our destination the parking lot proved to be massive and slap full. Hell, the walk from the lot to the museum’s entrance alone was nearly the length of a football field.  There were a couple of ‘events’ between the time we entered the parking lot and the time I got to the bathroom; they were epic enough that upon my emergence twenty minutes later, Maxim stood waiting for me, grim-faced.

“Did you happen to bring a bottle of water?”

“I wasn’t really concerned with anyone’s hydration,” I hissed,  “I was focusing all my energy on not shitting myself.”

“I’m not asking for me, jackass.” With that he extended his closed fist toward me, turned it palm upward, then unfurled his fingers. There sitting in his palm was his emergency Xanax, glowing with the light of Heaven itself. In fact, I’m certain that tiny little angels were dancing all around it, singing angelic blessing over the hand that was so giving in the moment of a suffering woman’s need.

It was then that I realized that I must be scaring the piss out of my husband what with my keening snotfest and my uproarious bowels, because he does not come off with the Xanax EVER. The reason for this is twofold. One is because he has horrible panic attacks in the neighborhood of once a year and never knows when one might hit, so he keeps one lone Xanax on his person in reserve for that instance. Two is because his wife is a non-practicing junkie who would likely eat someone’s liver for its pharmaceutical content if she were strung out far enough, so why take unnecessary chances with the wagon hitting a rut and her taking a bad bounce off of it?

I scooped up that little coral-colored football quick-smart and dry swallowed it. Within thirty minutes, around the time the ceremony started, I had shaken hands with my mellow and promised it a pitcher of margaritas later if it would hang around long enough for me to get some good shots of the ceremonies.

the men of bravo company
:: the men of bravo company ::

They were, of course, stirring and beautiful.

::: :: ::: :: ::: :: :::

I was standing in the kitchen later that night, whipping up some supper. The kids were headed to a football game later, but right then Sam was hovering around the edges of my activities, talking. Sam was looking forward to this brief time at home a great deal; he had a mess of support and love showered on him via the post while he was in basic training. He would endeavor to see as many of these people as he could for the two days he was here.

“Mom, I want to tell you something, and I don’t want you to get your feelings hurt.”

I turned toward him. “Okay, shoot.”

“Well, when I was gone, I missed Scout most of all. I was SO stoked to get her letters.” I immediately thought of when they were small and how Sam, just a baby himself, was so excited to have a baby in the house. His first expectation every morning, even before he’d eaten, was to settle in on the sofa and ‘hold’ a tiny, birdlike Scout while she took a bottle. I was still breastfeeding then, but expressed milk just for this purpose, because he looked so forward to being near his sister and taking part in her care.

sibs
:: sibs ::

“That doesn’t hurt my feelings, Samuel. That’s one of the best things you could ever tell me. I won’t be around forever and I’ve always wanted the three of you to be close so that you’ll be involved in one another’s lives and look out for each other when I’m gone.”  He folded me into his arms then, kissing the top of my head the way he has ever since he shot up past six feet tall.

Sam then headed off to the other side of the house in search of Maxim and I turned back to the stove, finishing up the chicken enchiladas he’d requested as his first home-cooked meal in four months. I dropped my head and said quietly, half prayer and half admonition, “Just come home safe to us, Samuel. Go have your adventures and come home intact, inside and out.”

 
|| July 28, 2010 || 4:33 pm || Comments (9) ||

Scout called me from Chicago last night. She was there on a layover, headed to Detroit for her grandfather’s funeral. I was wandering around Birmingham with Mathias after having dropped her at the airport earlier in the day. Our shopping errands were long done.

“I miss Sam. Do you miss Sam?”

I asked her this question because I am afraid to ask Mathias. I don’t want him to fall apart, not yet. To further that end, I have been doing my own falling-apart quietly, quickly; yesterday this was done in bathrooms around the city. The one at Target was a little more epic than the others, but not by much. That particular come-apart was exacerbated by the fact that I was buying school supplies for Scouty and Mathias but none for Samuel. Then I hitched up my yoga pants, plastered on a smile  and said something along the lines of Holy God, mommy needs coffee…who wants to handle the Starbucks run? when I plowed out of the restroom.

Mother. He’s only been been gone nine hours and forty minutes.”

“You DO miss him, YOU DO! Not even I’m counting the hours!”

“Give me a break, Momma.”

“But do you miss him?”

“Not yet. Probably because I’m not there. It’ll be kind of hard when I get back. We shared the whole second floor, away from the rest of you guys.”

“I miss him.”

“Yeah. But you know what? The first forty-eight hours are the hardest. It’s going to be better.”

The house sat empty, because Maxim was working late and Scout was out of town. I kept Mathias in the city long past when it could have been considered practical. I wanted for there to be life at home, some sort of human racket, so the place wouldn’t feel so hollow when I got back. I wanted to be exhausted, in order to prevent any impulse  to rattle around and run into reminders of Sam at every turn, to see his shirts hanging in the laundry room, to find the stack of borrowed ceedees he’d placed on the table by the door.

A few hours ago I went up to his room to get empty hangers for the laundry and to put some of his clean things away. It was a bit of, ahem, a pit. “This is good,” I told Maxim, “I can choose to be annoyed with him rather than miss him. He kind of did me a favor, the little prick.”

One hour ago, Sam’s friend Jay came to get his car. Samuel is gifting him with it because Jay has it kind of rough and doesn’t have a car of his own. Sam is sometimes infuriatingly arrogant, but mostly he is good and generous and loving.

Ten minutes ago I got this text:

The drill instructor is taking my phone now. I love you, Mother. You’ll have my address soon.

I don’t know how to do this. How am I going to do this??