I teased him that I was going to cry as he headed up the stairs, with the pug dog he calls "Girl-Girl" in his arms, just after I reminded him she would turn eleven this year, that he'd had her since he was eight years old. And then I surprised myself with real tears.
It is about 1:30 a.m., and I'm having trouble sleeping. It might have something to do with the fact that this is the 5th place I've tried to sleep this week. I'm in a 200 year old farmhouse near the North Fork of the Shenandoah River. The owner of the place has never seemed to like me, something to do with having married her son perhaps, but I'm not really sure. I prefer people I should be close to tell me if they have a problem with me. I get nervous and talk too much when I can tell someone is disdainful, and it snowballs, the more distant or snooty the person, the more I try to "warm-up", and the more they dislike me, and so forth, and so on. With others who are open and non-judgmental, and talk and share about themselves, I can still be be garrulous, but am just as often quiet and reflective. My sensitivity is, of course, my problem, and I should really care less about what others think, but the flip side of it, I believe, is a decent proclivity for attunement as a psychotherapist.
So, I cried as my stepson, TG, left the room, turning out the light as he went. I first carried him around, constantly, on my hip when he was five years old and weighed maybe 30 pounds. He is now about 5'10", 3 inches taller than me. While I was a graduate student, I'd work 9 month assistantships and stay home all summer and many holidays with him and his older brother while their father worked. I had the privilege of being a "stay-at-home-mom" to my stepsons during most of the summer for like six years. I had so much enthusiasm for those little boys;
I was like a camp counselor organizing zoo trips and swimming, bike rides and arts and crafts . . .Two summers we hosted a third boy, with an Irish Children's Summer Program which brought Protestant and Catholic kids from Northern Ireland to the states for the summer for "peace and reconciliation". The program was packed with activities, and my stepsons and I stayed on the go. Now for my little girls, I just don't have the kind of energy I did back then -- consequently, what I bring to their lives is typically more sedate, though their personalities are anything but.
It has been at least two years since I spent the night in the same house with TG, though I see him whenever he is in town. I try to work it out so he can borrow my car, my Mini Cooper, when he flies up for a visit. He is a fine young man and a safer driver than I am. I remember letting him shift gears with my hand over his before he could see over the dashboard - there you have an example of my unsafe driving - he shouldn't have even been in the front seat! His little sisters think he is the greatest boy in the whole world, as does our pug Matilda. He jokes every time he visits that he is going to put the snorting little dog in his suitcase and take her home with him.
So here I am at "Grammy's" on the couch with our other dog at my feet. Both dogs go with the girls back and forth between my place and Dad's - including going with him to Grammy's farm, when he comes up here; the dogs' shared custody was part of the divorce agreement. I'm at the farm, tonight, having driven back from DC after a day of 1. seeing clients in Georgetown, 2. putting things into my new residence (with help of dear BB, thank you) and 3. going on a date (here we are, warming up with a cocktail, before heading out for dinner.)
The children's father has to leave for Dulles at five a.m. to pick up Grammy and to drop off TG. I needed to get back to be with the girls in the morning. Boy, was it difficult to make that drive, to end a very lovely evening with a most enticing friend, and to come here. . . It will of course be worth it when the little darlings pile on top of me in the morning and take me out to the barn to see their ponies (even though it is 15 degrees.) And it was certainly nice to have even a few moments with TG. But reminders that stir a nostalgia, a longing for days past, are too abundant: all the old photographs of when the children were younger; the same old shaving case that their father has always used when he travels, sitting on the bathroom counter; the memory of sneaking out of this house with him, late one crisp autumn night, before we were married, to make love under the stars; visions of kids in the coops, chasing chickens. I wonder how much their father remembers and what emotions are attached to his memories? He will likely never say.
Not too long before we split up, my ex suffered the rupture of a cerebral aneurysm. I can't imagine what he went through internally, he's never talked much about it. But this event was the most difficult thing that ever happened in my life, and my life has not been exactly easy. He almost died. I remember standing in the emergency room newly pregnant, and with both girls and both boys there as well, the ER physician telling me their father could well NOT make it.
Our relationship was not perfect, but it was a really good marriage of almost ten years. We loved our family; I loved our life. I miscarried the unplanned pregnancy while he was in ICU. He recovered amazingly well, physically, cognitively, but for complex reasons that I may never fully understand, our marriage did not survive. He was back at work and engaged in most aspects of his life, but he was no longer willing to invest emotionally in us, and I was no longer willing to live without such intimacy. Of course we went to couple's therapy, and the therapist told me I might as well try to get blood from a stone. I was a wreck. We separated about four months after the hospitalization.
Life has gone on. In many ways, I feel mine is better than ever. But the nostalgia can be bitter. Children growing up can rip your heart out, even though you're proud of them. Here is a song I wrote for MG when she was tiny -- I sing it to the tune of "Rock-a-Bye Baby"
Good night my baby, my sweet kangaroo
You're safe in my pocket
And I'm here with you
One day you'll grow big
And hop off on your own
I'll be so proud
To see how you've grown
But right now my baby
My sweet kangaroo
You're safe in my pocket
And I'm here with you
Alright, I need to quit all this drivel.
It is now daylight. I managed to sleep a little prior to the four year old pouncing on me at 4:30 am. EG crooned that she had missed me and asked, "Why do you smell like Cherry Coke?" She went back to sleep around 6 am and we slept til 8:30. I took pictures of the farm, through the windows. Notice the thermometer - it was under 10 degrees Farenheit. There is a frozen floor mop hanging on the line next to it.
I loaded up the girls and the dogs in the Mini and headed home where there is still six inches of permafrost on the ground. I'm avoiding unpacking and bills, etc. I'm just glad it is warm in my home. I got to the point of being less surprised when my furnace was working. Here are my pre-blog Facebook status updates:
12/9/09: time to complain: My furnace is broken, I've shoveled snow & ice for hours this week, & I fell on the ice yesterday and am so sore - so all of you complaining about no snow - I'll switch places!
12/9/09: alright, no more kvetching - I am thankful I have power & a fireplace, and a friend who is going to check my furnace & that I am physically capable of "shovelating" (EG's word) snow for hours.
still 12/9/09: my adventure in frontier living continues - now the power is out - or maybe . . .hmm. . .Dominion is having their revenge.. . .Hmm. . .No furnace, no electricity. . . or it could be the 50 mph gusts of wind and coincidence
12/13/09: trying to not cry in frustration, but my bathroom is flooded, my furnace is still out, and it is colder right now in my house than it is outside. I have placed two furry critters under blankets with each child to help keep them warm. The fireplace is starting to warm the place up, but this is likely to be yet another night of crappy sleep.
12/14/09: I fixed the leaking pipe!! - of course as soon as I got the water soaked up from the bathroom, the cats knocked over a big glass of milk in the dining room and I had no dry towels to clean it up! But as I reflect on a little hardship - I think how much easier I have it than so many people in the world, homeless, in ghettos, and slums & am THANKFUL.
12/14/09: I have heat - after one week - the part came in and the furnace is fixed!! Yea!!
12/15/09: furnace isn't working, again :(
The furnace eventually was fixed, on December 18, but I still don't know how much it is going to cost me. I had a friend who works with heating and air, looking at the furnace in my basement when the power went out one night. I thought that he'd done something with control panel, but it turned out to be a downed power line. EG and I got ready for bed by the light of the fire truck. What an adventure, and one that -- suspiciously -- immediately followed my winning a trial against Dominion Electric Power. This is what happened.
It was about the second most difficult day of my adult life, two years ago. I was moving into my home, and had driven three hours to my mother's to obtain some furniture she had for me. I helped load a 40 ft. truck all day, and then started driving the U-Haul north. When it ran out of gas on the side of the road, the broken meter still showed it had half a tank. I waited with then seven-year-old MG on the interstate in howling winds and hail, and then ended up getting to our house much later than planned.
At my home, extending to the very edge of the drive, is an electric/telephone pole guide wire, that was not marked with any type of reflective material. As I drove the truck into the drive I heard and felt a catch and immediately stopped and put on the parking brake and the hazard lights. Getting out of the truck, and walking around to the passenger side I realized the wire was caught between the front wheel of the truck and the body of the truck. The wire had not been run over nor damaged. However, moving the truck either forward or backward at that time could have resulted in damage.
Later, I am not sure if it was the same day or several days later, as I was extremely busy with the details of moving, Dominion came back out and replaced the wire. At that time, with my daughters with me, because they were curious about what was going on, I spoke to the Dominion repair woman. My daughters were very interested in her truck and we struck up conversation as she worked. She said that the wire was very unsafe and that it should have been marked with reflective material, which she did when she replaced it.
I was absolutely shocked when a few months later, I received a bill from Dominion for $1224.73 for damages. I promptly called and expressed outrage, that it was mine and my daughter's safety that was endangered by the hazardous placement and lack of marking of their wire. I indicated that I wanted to fight the unfairness of this and was told they would send it to their legal department. Two years later, their lawyer finally showed up in court, and my lawyer fought a good fight with photos and a neighbor testifying that the wire had been hit by vehicles at least six times in the past and that the power company had promised to move it. Their patronizing lawyer asked me if I had any experience driving such a large vehicle, and I answered that actually, I had driven larger equipment, such as armored personnel carriers, onto C-5 and C-17 aircraft during my time in the Air Force. The judge ruled in my (the defendant's) favor, and now I have only to pay my attorney about half of what Dominion wanted.
That was on December 3, 2009. For a while there, with the furnace and everything, I was paranoid they were seeking revenge.
Now, I am just glad to be warm in my own home, with my daughters happy -- reading and playing games.
Having experiences as a child without heat and sometimes without power, here is a charity I like to give to:
And for all of us lucky enough to have adequate heat, but still cold, I highly recommend finding someone warm and cute to cuddle up with.