She seemed lonely, this little girl, immediately targeting Steve and Owen and I as Friendly People To Talk To (and clearly she was not getting this vibe from me, you all know that, right?); she floated by us in the pool for a really long time, bobbing along next to Owen with their matching orange water wings, asking where we lived and how long it took us to get there. After listening very intently to Steve give her the salient details, she wisely nodded her head and said, “I only know Jerome, Idaho. That sounds like another world to me.” I think she must have been about six, so to her, the distance of 80 miles probably is another world to her. She flirted with both Steve and Owen in a way that only sweet little girls can, innocent and shy. Me, she sent sidelong glances far more adult than one would expect from a child, as if establishing what possible threat I might pose to her. Still, after she kept trying to fix the valves on her water wings so they would stop poking her in the armpits and I helped her with them, I was suddenly just a mom and she warmed up to me. Her parents were there, too, just out of reach but still watching closely as she paddled around us and inveigled herself into our little group. Smiling at us, sending us the questioning glances that clearly say, “Is she bothering you?” while I sent glances back saying,”No, she is fine.”
Later, she kept going to the high dive and climbing up, only to stand there for a few minutes and turn around and go back down. This happened probably five or six times in a row, this brave little girl going to the edge and looking over, then shaking her head and backing away. Several times she got all the way to the end and jumped a little, bouncing on the board a bit, but she just couldn’t make herself take that leap. I noticed that every time she climbed back up, people were stopping their playing to watch her, the entire pool holding its collective breath each time as she got just a little bit closer.
Finally, she was there on the very edge, in her bike shorts and bikini top, her chubby little girl tummy sticking out, her eyes closed in concentration. She wasn’t an especially striking child, indistinguishable from any other mildly cute little girl, but standing on the edge with her eyes screwed shut, balancing on her toes, she was beautiful. She stood there, trying to gather up the nerve to jump, and just stopped. The entire pool had become dead quiet, even the smallest of us just watching; and she bounced a little more, bounced again, and stopped. She opened her eyes, looked over the edge, and her shoulders slumped. She turned to go back down, the poor little defeated girl realizing that she just wasn’t going to make it, and I would tell by the look of her body that she wasn’t going to be trying again.
Someone, somewhere in the room, started speaking, quietly, “Come on, you can do it. Jump.” Since the room was already silent, the voice carried-it sounded like a child, but everyone heard it. “Jump,” the voice said, and it was a plea. The hidden voice of every person in that room-and there were probably 100 people altogether-crying out for the times each of us has been afraid to jump; off a high dive, into a relationship, out of a relationship, into anything that is too big and too scary to face alone, the voice crying out to each one of us who has had to face some personal demon. Slowly, slowly, another voice joined, and another, until every single person in the room was chanting, “Jump, jump.”
She stopped halfway across the board and turned around, and I could see her back straighten up as she looked at all of us watching her, heard our combined voices giving her support and encouragement, and she walked to the edge again. She didn’t close her eyes this time, but instead kept them wide open and excited; she arched her back gracefully and stood on her toes and bounced; once, twice, three times and one of the most beautiful dives I have ever seen. No form, a huge splash, but perfect in every way.
In the few seconds between the dive and her resurface, the room was quiet again; each one of us holding our breath with her, feeling the way the water engulfed her head and the way the surface shimmered underwater. When her head broke the surface, the room erupted in cheers and shouts and the sound of clapping hands, and I know I wasn’t the only one crying.
I don’t think I have ever seen something quite that moving, and I still tear up when I think about it. This little girl who only knows Jerome, Idaho touched a lot of lives that day. Persistence and courage, the fact that if you have people supporting you and cheering you on you can face even the biggest fears. That sometimes, standing on the edge, the only thing you can do is to close your eyes and jump.
***I also have a new post up here. Call me a blog whore if you will, but there is talk of this particular Moms blog being pulled, and we who contribute really don’t want to see that happen. So go read and comment, please.
Sam was invited to a camp out with some people from the church down the street from us. A Father-Son Camp Out, and my visiting teacher’s husband has said that he would be happy to take Sam on the trip (Sam DID ask Steve, but Steve couldn’t because we have a family wedding to go to that same night). I have thought about it and talked to a couple of different people about it and what it all boils down to is that I can’t let him go. I have always been fairly cautious with my kids, but since the CF incident I have become even more so. I don’t know these people; I don’t know anything about them at all, I haven’t been around any of them even in a church context (because I don’t go to that church, and in fact am trying hard to get away from it), and I cannot imagine allowing some man I don’t know take my 10 year old son on a camp out with 50 other men and boys I don’t know.
It is odd now, this new feeling of distrust. Well, in many ways it isn’t new; I mean, I tend to have to know a person quite some time before I allow my children to go places or be alone with them (and in fact, it was probably close to two years AFTER CF and I became friends before I allowed him to take the kids anywhere or be alone with them even for a minute), so it isn’t as if I blindly trust just anyone. However, long gone are the days when a church camp out seems both fun and harmless, a nice diversion for a son who could really use it. Because anything can happen. ANYTHING.
So anyway, it’s gotten a little worse, because I know this: I know that predators can and do molest a child in a room full of people, in the stall in a restroom, in a fucking car going down the road. I know that predators like to gain the trust of a victim, even if it is a temporary, short term trust involved in, say, helping a shoe to be tied, wiping a tear, picking up a dropped backpack. I know that predators look just like the rest of us, that they appear normal and talk normal and SEEM normal.
This is why I totally lost my mind when we went swimming over the weekend. And it scared me a little bit. I don’t want anyone touching my kids, for any reason. Don’t lean down and help my three year old adjust his water wings; both myself and his father are right here and can do that. Do NOT offer to help my 10 year old learn to do a back flip off the diving board; that is why he has an older sibling. I flipped my lid at Steve when he told Sam, “Just go on in the dressing room and start getting changed, I’ll get the towels out of your moms bag.” “The fuck he IS going in there by himself!” I said, while Steve looked at me like I had grown a third eye and fangs. But that is how it FELT; this visceral fear, this gut clenching fear that someone else is going to hurt one of my kids. A little girl grabbed Owen’s arm and was trying to help him down the stairs into the pool and it was all I could do to stop myself from body slamming her.
I have to get over this; Hannah’s counselor says it is typical, normal, under the circumstances, and has given me and Hannah both “permission” to feel this way for now. I feel it as the kids’ parent, she feels it as a protective older sibling. “If what you need to do to be okay is to make Sam go into the women’s restroom with you, do it. If you need to call his name every ten minutes when he is playing outside so he can check in, do it. If for the time being you don’t want to let him go into the neighbors yard where they have a ten foot fence? Even though he has gone over the jump on the trampoline before? Then don’t let him.” It feels nice to be supported in this, it feels good to know that this is normal, but it is also a little bit scary. I could so easily turn into one of those parents who just never lets her kids go anywhere. I won’t, because I will work really hard to NOT become that parent, but man, it is a struggle.
Hm, this isn’t the post I had planned, not by a long shot. But it is what came out, so I guess I will run with it. I hope you all had a wonderful three-day weekend. Despite my insanity at the pool, mine was pretty good; I’ll post more about it later.
Is it Thursday already? The week has flown by with a variety of different happenings here, and I feel a little sheepish that I was so excited to get this computer so as to be able to post from home, give the blogs I read more attention, whatever, and it just hasn’t happened. Isn’t that crazy? Maybe it means I have more of a life than previously thought, I don’t know.
I have had two different classes for work this week, one regarding a new product one of our companies is introducing and an Ethics class. The one with the company was really neat because I know and like a lot of the people who go there; the class itself was okay, but then afterward we all went to lunch together and that was the fun part. Here is this insurance company who had something like $2 MILLION dollars in pure profit last year, yet the CEO and the VP of Marketing were the ones presenting the class, hobnobbing with us “common folk.” Not only that, but it has been about a year since I have seen the VP and not only did she give me a HUG when I saw her, but she remembered my name and said, “Now isn’t that baby of yours just about three now?” Well, yes, he will be three on Friday. There is some, what is it? Ego? Pride? I don’t know, but when our agency was one of three there who received an award for the lowest losses (because the fewer losses, the grater the profit, both for our agency but for the company), as well as having been one of the few who showed impressive growth in the last year; the pride comes from the fact that this company only writes home and small businesses, and that is what I DO-so I had some small part in that. Also, the company is filled with really strong, beautiful professional women, and they like me-and think that I am some kind of amazing person for singlehandedly raising four kids while doing the job that I do. Come on; what red-blooded woman wouldn’t love that kind of stuff?
The Ethics class was a licensing requirement, and it was excellent. The one I went to last year was, um, how should I put this…dry as dust? Boring as hell? Yes, that covers it. This one was very well-presented, and there was a lot of class participation. At first I was all like, “Oh, great, fucking small groups, WTF?” but within minutes, I felt myself particularly grateful for the opportunity. I was sitting with three agents who have been in the business for WAY longer than I, in one case since before I was BORN, and man, what a wealth of information! There was one woman there who was stunning in her beauty and very articulate, very well-educated, and she was intimidating as hell to me. But listening to her and talking with her, I found that there was no reason to be. She is a life/health agent, I am home and auto, so we both had stuff to learn from each other. Very neat. At lunch, she and I sat together (the other three on our group didn’t stay for lunch) and next thing I knew, we were talking about how loneliness doesn’t kill you but it sure does suck, about her unexpected second marriage that has been just as good as her first (her husband died of cancer after 27 years of marriage)…it was really neat.
Other things have happened, too; Sam had a 10th birthday, so there was the party at Jacquie’s with pizza and cake, and of course different things going on with Steve (I think they are good things but time will tell), getting Hannah ready to go camping and trying to get all of the end of the school year business managed….you know how it is. I know this isn’t much of a post, either, but it’s all I’ve got tonight.
As a person who doesn’t like change much, this having a computer at home thing is a little bit hard to get used to. At work, I am the only one who uses the computer, so I have everything I need or want right at my fingertips. Want to post a picture? click click click, there it is. Want to find a quote quickly, or check my account balance while also emailing? No problem. I know where everything is, I know how to access it quickly, and all is well. Not so now; we can all log on as different users, which is cool because we all have our own “stuff,” but then there is also the main user which is my dad. So if we buy a new program and install it, it has to be installed under his user name since all the current programs are registered to him. Anyway, I was all cool and technologically “with it” and got the pictures all uploaded and in a folder, but the folder is on my dad’s section and can I figure out how to access it? The answer is easy: do you see any pictures in this post? You would think, too, that I would have spent a lot more time trying to get everything figured out and set up the way I want it, but life somehow gets in the way.
Anyway, despite the fears and worries about Steve, the weekend was actually good. Once I knew where he was and that he was safe, I could stop worrying and just keep moving. It isn’t about trying to get him to stop drinking-because I can’t. It isn’t about trying to fix his problems, because again, I can’t. But there is no way to NOT worry when you know someone is on a runner and no one is quite sure where they are. So once I knew those most basic things, I could live with it. I was quite pleased with myself when on Saturday afternoon he finally called to see if his sister could drop him off at my house and I said, “No. You are not going to come to my house drunk and pass out here. You are more than welcome to come here if and when you sober up, but not until then.” He was miffed, but oh fucking well. He did come over in the evening, and that was fine; I think he was expecting a fight, or expecting me to lecture him or something, and I didn’t. Because to what end? He knows how I feel, he knows what’s at stake for him (on a LOT of different levels; with me and Owen, on a legal front, with his job…), he knows well I will neither lie for him nor clean up his messes for him (I don’t loan or give money, I don’t bail out of jail, he can’t move in with me. I will feed him and let him stay the night on occasion, but that’s it), so why get into a fight about it? I can’t say anything that is going to make him suddenly see the light, so to speak. So me distancing myself from him in that respect felt really good-I just simply refused to engage. He kept saying things like, “Do you hate me?” and fuck, how can I say that I do? I DON’T hate him; quite the opposite. But I hate what alcohol does to him, I hate the lack of ability and willingness to work a program, I hate that he knows there is a better way (not easier, but better), and he chooses not to do the work. Every time he would say that, I would counter with, “I don’t hate you; I am just disgusted with the whole situation.”
Sorry; I went off on a tangent there; I was talking about the weekend in general. We had the Pinewood Derby for Scouts for Sam on Saturday morning, and that was actually a lot of fun. There were 21 cars this year so Sam didn’t do as well; he made it to the last heats but then got totally creamed by the competition. However, all the boys got prizes for something, and the races were very exciting, so it was all good. I think for Sam, the most important thing was having people there to watch him and cheer him on.
Afterwards, we went home so Owen could nap, then we headed off to the museum so the kids could do their History assignment; Eli and Hannah both had friends staying over who also had to do the assignment, so we carted them there and dropped them off. While they were doing that, Sam and Owen and I washed the car-and it was hilarious to watch both Owen and Sam together trying to control the water hose. So much fun! We all got soaked and that soap stained our hands pink, but then we went to the park and dried off in the sun before picking the other kids up.
And yesterday was lovely. I got up and had coffee and made waffles, and we cleaned the house, and then Owen and I both took a long, much-needed nap. As you all know, I haven’t been sleeping well for the last little while, so it was wonderful to actually lay down in a dark room and be ABLE to fall asleep, and sleep hard. O. and I both woke up much refreshed and ready for anything-which was a trip to the park with Hannah and Sam for Owen, and grocery shopping for Eli and I. It sounds stupid, I know, but because I have been so tired lately, I haven’t even been able to muster up the energy to go to the grocery store-the very thought has been enough to make me weep-so even something as simple as feeling energized enough to buy groceries was a blessing. Also through the course of the day, I got the fence fixed ( I hope) so that the dogs can’t get out anymore, watched our backyard neighbor get arrested, and later, the kids got the lawn mowed. All in all, a lot of sweetness in my life to make up for the bitter. And isn’t that the nature of life?
I am finishing this at work; Steve called to let me know that his probation officer didn’t show up (he was supposed to meet with him this morning, obviously, and I am annoyed that he didn’t actually have to because it is just another opportunity for S. to escape the consequences, but whatever, right?), and that he was on his way to work-and asking what I thought he should do. I was also proud of myself for this: I told him it was his decision to make, but that he needs to stop and think about all he has to lose by continuing to work there, where no one holds him accountable, where his brother almost encourages him to drink, and then not pay him on top of it. I actually can’t remember everything I said, but when I got off the phone I told my co-worked, “Isn’t it lovely to have cubicles where you have to hear all my personal business?” and she said, “I am just proud of you for standing up to him and telling it like it is.” High praise.
And this week has begun, and it is a good, beautiful morning. I just got my first non-garnished paycheck and damn, does that feel good. Don’t know how long it will last, as I know there are a couple more out there, but for the moment it is nice to see it, and to know that even though I shouldn’t have had to pay any of it in the first place, I did it, you know? The week promises to be busy, as I have meetings and another class all week, but that’s a good thing. All in all, I am feeling pretty contented today. I love it when tools of recovery, tools of life, really kick in and I can be okay even when things are not okay for someone I love. I feel blessed and grateful that my fears and worries can be balanced out by the sweet things in life, feel just so, so lucky today!
A Saturday morning and I am sitting at my computer AT HOME, having already been through my reader and cleaned it out, played a couple of games, drank almost a post of coffee and it’s just after 8:00 am. I am still not sleeping well, so when Owen woke me up at 6:00 or so it was just like a normal day; too little sleep, start the day off tired, try to make it through until bedtime tonight. Pretty soon my day time posts are going to start sounding like my midnight ramblings, because lack of sleep gives me the same feeling of having no barriers, no filter-quite like when I used to drink but wasn’t quite drunk yet. Lack of sleep also makes one feel slightly hung over, too, which is just a reminder that I don’t want to go back out there.
Seems like when things go wrong, they really go wrong. Steve and I got into an argument a few nights ago about his drinking, and though I talked to him yesterday afternoon and everything was fine, he now isn’t answering his phone nor, obviously, calling me back. Because of his history, because I know that he is in a town with a brother who is also an alcoholic, this worries me. He has a breathalyzer on his pickup so he can’t drive it when he is drinking, but he also has access to lots of other vehicles, and in fact was drinking while plowing a field the night we argued. No matter how upset he has been at me in the past, and vice-versa, the only times he has ever simply not called me back or answered was when he was drinking heavily, so of course my assumption is that he is on a runner. That itself is troublesome; even though his drinking isn’t MY problem, even though I have long since trying to stop him or make him stop or drag him to meetings by the hand (can’t carry the drunk, can only carry the message), it doesn’t stop me from wishing and hoping he will get it.
More troublesome, though, is the fact that anything could have happened. This is one of the problems with loving a practicing alcoholic; even though I am almost 100% sure that he is just drinking and trying to avoid having to deal with the consequences, there is that other little percent that worries he has been in an accident, or in jail, or maybe killed someone while drinking. Of course the very female part of me worries about stupid stuff like they went to a bar and he hooked up with some hootch and they are snuggled cozily up in her bed. I would be lying out my ass if I didn’t worry about that on some level (and yes, I know that I don’t want him at all ever if that is the case, but it doesn’t stop the idea or worry from hurting), because hey, I am a recovering drunk; I know the things they do. I would think that if something major happened, someone from his family would CALL me, but again, I don’t know. You have to understand the dynamics of their family before assuming that I would be one of the first ones to know, and I have neither the time nor the energy to get into THAT. Anyway, so even though reason says he is just pissed at me or whatever, there is still a pit of dread in my stomach about the whole thing.
Also, dad isn’t doing as well as they had hoped he would be, which is worrisome. He has congestive heart failure, but they took him off some of his meds in order to re-hydrate him, which in turn has caused fluid to start building up around his heart, which has made his rhythms get all wonky. His blood pressure is also unstable right now, and I think they are simply trying to balance everything in order to keep him stable enough to start getting better. I may be going over to see him later today; just depends on what my sister says when she calls after rounds.
Sigh. So much. My newest post is up over at the Rocky Mountain Moms Blog, too, should you be so inclined. Now, I have to go get in the shower because our day begins in earnest very shortly; we have a Pinewood Derby to go to, the older kids have an assignment to complete involving a two hour visit to the local museum, and then there is the relentless housework and laundry. Perhaps tonight things will be much better, right?