I woke up today and as is my rather obsessive custom, grabbed my laptop to check email and social media. The first thing I saw was a Facebook notice from my oldest. It said simply “Daddy’s home.” When I read it, the breath I didn’t realize I was holding came out in a big whoosh and tears of joy streamed down my face.
Home in Virginia after a few excruciatingly long months in Afghanistan. Those simple words convey so much.
Those are the words that rattle around in my head, heart and soul each time I see one of these messages or see him when he comes down to L.A.
His government job has him going there more often than when he was in the military. He doesn’t have some cushy civilian life there. It’s dangerous and he is often in harm’s way. He still serves his country, though in another capacity. Whenever I mention my worry, his comment to me is always, “Aw mom, you know I love this shit.” These are just words to dispel the worry of a mother. Something to make me feel better. Yes, he’s this gung-ho type of guy, but still. I worry. I think about odds. I get more grey hair and another furrow in my forehead as I calculate times he’s been there and wonder if this time he will come back. I push such thoughts away whenever they creep in and go about my daily life, holding a breath I don’t realize I’m holding, saying a silent prayer every moment, and willing him to come home safely with all my being. I hope, I pray, I love, I worry. I live for days like today.
Today rocks. I’ll breathe deep. Relax and bask in the knowledge that he is home safe and see him soon when he comes down to visit.
He might return soon. I know that, but today I’ll just breathe.
L.A. was hit by a rainstorm yesterday. Not news in some parts of the world, but in drought-ridden California, rain is news. Heck, it’s an event. In yesterday’s case, it was lots of rain, big time wind and even thunder, which I love.
My oldest blew in with the storm. He’s been in Afghanistan for months, then onto Virginia where he lives and soon to be gone to parts unknown but most probably dangerous. The nature of his work is secret, scary and he loves it. I’m the one who worries and when I voice it, get the response he has on automatic for his mother, “ah Mom, you know I love this shit and thrive on it.” Yeah, ok. We won’t talk about the scars on his leg from mortar fire (he doesn’t know one of his siblings spilled on that or that I know).
So he blew in with the wind, and today, with they L.A. sky so scintillatingly blue, as it is after big winds or the rain, he walked into a restaurant where I waited with more family. He looked tired, worn, a little haggard and absolutely wonderful. The two little kids at each side look just like him and they were too absorbed in Angry Birds and the possibility of pancakes to notice the suddenly teary grandmother clinging to their father.
I don’t know. One minute I was sitting at a table laughing with my son-in-law and next thing I know, I was buried in a big bear hug by my very military looking firstborn. It was all I could do not to cry and make a scene. I did over-cling though for just enough time to get people in the restaurant staring. Then that first “I haven’t seen you since before you were in Afghanistan last time and omg you’re safe” realization passed and I was able to act like a normal person, not a frantically worried, relieved mother, and sit down to calmly order pancakes for my grandchildren.
Max hates butter on his, Zoey eats extra butter. When asked if he wanted his pancakes cut into squares or triangles, Max opted for little squares. Me asking earned me an arched eyebrow from their Dad, an “oh Lord, my mother over-complicates and spoils them too much” look, a beautiful smile from Max and a nod of approval from Zoey. These are the little things a grandmother files away in her memory for the next visit.
They’re at the hotel now, resting. We’re going out to dinner later, probably somewhere kid-friendly here in town. I can’t wait. I saved my tears of relief for my solitude where my son can’t see them. He’s only here for a day, but what a day we’re having. Pancakes, hugs, smiles, laughter and blue skies. It doesn’t get better than this.
It was the summer 1985 and I was reeling. I’d left an abusive husband with four little kids. Stolen out in the middle of the night, never to return. I was overwhelmed, I was scared, I was alone. There was very little support for me but I was determined. The kids and I, we’d make it come hell or high water.
I was only twenty-four years old and a suddenly single mother of four with no education, work experience or support. Forget about child support when you’re running from a crazy dude. All I wanted to do was cry. Looking back on it now, I see I was probably clinically depressed. I do remember days when everything felt so completely hopeless. My family wasn’t very supportive, except for my grandfather who was dying and my cousin Maria. My sisters and mom had nothing nice to say or do. Just gossip. My only refuge was music and my children (when they weren’t driving me crazy). My oldest who was six, pretty much hated me for leaving his Daddy. He had no way of understanding what was going on and I couldn’t tell him, couldn’t explain. I just took the hits.
Till one August day when there was a hint of a breeze.
“Dance with me,” I said.
“Come on kiddo.”
I sighed and then a new song came on. The radio (yes, before iTunes) announcer said her name was Whitney Houston. The voice was gorgeous; lush and beautiful belting out a song I’d never heard before. From behind me, I head a small voice.
“Okay, I’ll dance.”
I swung my son around and for the rest of the song all was well with us. I can’t listen to that song, without thinking of my son and how much I love him. I always remember that day when he showed me that somewhere in there, he still loved me.
I’ve missed your voice Whitney Houston and now the whole world will miss it forever, always wishing there had been more, because like me, everyone was touched by your music. I’m sorry the world lost you. Thanks for a very special memory and may you rest in peace.
*Whitney Houston won the 1986 Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and the American Music Award for Favorite R&B/Soul Video for “Saving All My Love For You”
It’s the little things that make up the sum of my life.
Like Jasmine who came to me yesterday with knots in her hair. “Grammy, I’ve been waiting for you to come over and take them out, because you are gentle.”
Or Aiden who gets up in the morning and climbs into the blankets with me, kisses me on the forehead and says, “Grammy, you’re my cuddle bunny.”
Yeah. Those things that catch at my heart, that show me I am loved, cared for, valued.
It doesn’t matter how shitty the day or week has been, little things like that, that come out of nowhere keep me going.
It’s been a rough month financially and I’ve worried so much that my hair started to fall out. I noticed it when my laptop keyboard kept having long strands of hair on it. By the time I finished pulling it all away, I had a sizeable bundle of hair. None of it grey, damn it. None of the grey strands fell out. I think there’s a conspiracy going on with my hair.
Still, I’ve managed to pull myself through yet again in a Hail Mary last minute save that seem to be my trademark. Just when things are worst, I find a way. Like my Grandma Lupe used to tell me, “when God closes a door, he invariably opens a window.” Some days, it’s almost impossible to find that window and when you find it, it’s so tiny you think it won’t let in the light, but it does.
I was talking to my son yesterday who is going through some stuff with his ex-wife and I told him, “There’s always a way.” I don’t think he believes me, but there always is. Sometimes, you just have to calm down, smell the roses in your life, find the little things that make you smile before you can see the solution. Life is up, down and all around but it is never hopeless no matter how hopeless you may feel at any given moment.
Just watch for the little things.
I live in a telenovela. Seriously.
I have a thirty-two year old son in Afghanistan, a thirty year old son living in the older one’s home in Virgina and they are fighting.
It’s NOT funny.
It’s just like when they were little and I’d have to pull them off each other. “Stop picking on your brother!”
This morning I wake up and there’s 99 lines of text chat on Facebook from Albert bitching about Phillip. In my email box there is a long string of one liner emails from Phillip saying he’s moving out and Albert is a pain in the ass. Um. And this is before showering, breakfast and COFFEE for Christ’s sake!
So I’m chatting to Albert in Facebook, trying to get him to calm down and in email to Phillip trying to talk him down from total depression and potential suicide. (Yes, it’s dramatic. I told you I live in a telenovela). Neither is budging. As I’m going back and forth, I’m trying to do normal things like go brush my teeth, cook something to eat, function. It’s NOT happening.
So I take my laptop into the kitchen and just start cooking. Cooking is my zen. I make my Mexican version of Potatoes O’Brien (maybe I should call them Papas O’Brien or Potatoes O’Xicano) with hot serrano chiles instead of bell peppers and some blueberry pancakes from scratch. Not the most go together breakfast, but hey I was trying to pull the kids off each other.
It’s now 4:00 p.m. and this drama has been going on ALL DAY. Albert’s offline so I’m trying to find solutions for Phillip and calm him down. I’m thinking I’m getting somewhere when I get a bitchy email from Albert’s wife. Good God! Now what? So I read it and she’s basically slapping Phillip down farther while pretending to be supportive and while she’s at it, let’s slam ME. Um. How the hell did I get dragged into this? DRAMA.
So I email her back politely asking what is going on and get a NASTY email back saying she can’t stand me and is glad I live on the other side of the country. Um ok. I could have told her she didn’t like me. The feeling is mutual, only I’m always polite and NEVER email her.
I’m glad I live on the other side of the country too. I’ve had more drama today than I’ve had in six months.
The funny thing is tomorrow they’ll all love each other again and somehow I will become the villian. Motherhood, ain’t it grand?
They melt my heart.
I’ve been spending weekends with them lately. Grammy sleep overs we call them. Those weekends are great for me. I get to spend time with the kids, relax from my stressed out life and just kinda hang. It’s great. I’m always recharged after those weekends and I know the kids like it too.
I didn’t realize how important those weekends had become to them until this Thanksgiving weekend. I went over on Wednesday and left last night so we had LOTS of time together, which was fabulous. As Jasmine, climbed into her bed on Thursday night, belly full of Thanksgiving goodness; she said to me, “Grammy, I can sleep so much better when you are sleeping here.” My heart melted.
Friday, Aiden slid into the living room (socks and hardwood floors are great for little boys) and said, “Hey Grammy, you know what? When you sleep here, I’m not scared to sleep in my own bed and I don’t have to sleep with Babe (his mother).”
In the kitchen on Saturday night, as we were making brownies their smiles were radiant and singing as they pitched in and anxiously waited for their treats. They love helping in the kitchen. There’s no fighting or bickering they each take turns and each one does their job. As I served them their still warm brownies and milk, Jasmine said, “I LOVE having you here Grammy, you make my day.” as Aiden nodded in agreement, chipmunk cheeks full of chocolatey goodness. He swallowed, wiped his mouth and said, “Yes, Grammy you make our day.”
I can’t stand it. They are just too cute.
I’ve spent the day in bed fighting off a nasty migraine and I sure am missing the relaxing, long weekend spent with two very special kids that happen to adore me. If nothing goes right in my life, I don’t care. I have them; they love me and that’s all that matters.
Thank you J & A, you two make my whole life.
Education is important in my family. I encourage it, push for it, do whatever I can to facilitate it. If my grandchildren want to learn something, I find a way to teach it to them. We’ve built websites together, Jasmine has free rein of my Kindle and laptop, nothing is held back from them in terms of educating themselves and empowering themselves. My secret shame has always been that I didn’t finish high school. I was a straight A student and loved school, always wanted to go to college even though I knew the only way I’d get there was through a scholarship. While my grandparents encouraged education, my mother did not.
In any case, I didn’t finish. Call it being discouraged, constantly ripped apart in two directions, whatever. The conditions were so stressful that I threw up my hands and ran, a move I deeply regret. Over the years, I’ve tried going back to school, but raising four kids as a single mother made it near impossible. I worked hard and every once in a while, I’d try to go back to school but something always got in the way. Life would happen and I didn’t go back.
It’s still a goal though and if I had had something like Univision’s website with encouraging videos, the opportunity for a scholarship, articles about how I could best educate myself back when I was a teen; maybe things would have been different.
Jasmine, who is eight and I recently had a conversation about educational empowerment. She wants to go to the Zoo Magnet when she’s in Middle School and wanted to know how to go about it. I suggested talking to her new third grade teacher, telling him what she wanted and to ask what she needs to prepare for it. Surprisingly, she did just that the first day of school. She told me excitedly that her teacher was impressed by her determination and would do what he could to help her along as well as find out what she needed to get into that magnet school. I think she’s going to be fine.
*This is a LATISM sponsored post. Thoughts and opinions are my own.
Some days it just hurts like hell to be a mother.
Like when your grown child leaves to the Middle East and puts himself in danger, or when you have a falling out.
My oldest and I have never had it easy. Well, when he was a baby we were close until he was six years old when I suddenly became the enemy. We’ve had our ups and downs; periods where we don’t speak at all. We’re both hot-headed, sensitive, and stubborn. He’ll get upset if someone says we are alike but in a lot of instances; we are.
He’s somewhere in the sky right now,
I’ve grown used to his leavings. He’s thirty-two and he’s been leaving home since he was seventeen when he first joined the Navy. At first, I’d dissolve into tears and have sleepless night after sleepless night. I got stronger, got used to him being gone and learned how to deal with the worry of having a child at war.
You do get used to it in a strange sort of way. You build a barrier around yourself and that barrier is made of hope, love, prayers, memories, whatever you have as a mother to protect yourself from the constant barrage of worry knowing the danger he’s in. You deal. You learn not to cry in front of them or let them see just how damned freaked out you are when they email or chat from a place where mortar fire is a daily instance. You save that for late nights and learn to watch sad movies so you have an excuse to cry.
Today, I am channelling La Llorona, that weeping, wailing woman of Mexican legend. I’m crying and have been since about three a.m. this morning. Puro llanto. The kind that makes you want to listen to Vicente Fernandez or Ana Gabriel. The kind of llanto that makes you think you could fill a river with your tears.
Llanto – Spanish for to cry or weep
Tomorrow I’ll be fine. Tomorrow I’ll get up, do some cooking, work, chat on Twitter, be normal and the llanto from today will have left me cleansed, stronger, and able to carry on until the next time.
Today I am the weeping woman.
I see my grandchildren every week. Saturdays are sacred and sometimes, I end up spending the whole weekend. We wander round Los Angeles, head to the zoo, bookstores, museums or just hang at their house depending upon the weather or finances. Since I see them all the time, I’ve never really noticed just how grown up they are.
Till last night.
Last night it was decided that a Grammy slumber party was going to be happening. Anabel, their other Grandmother took the night off while Marissa worked and I opted to stay in with the kids. Getting them into their pajamas and ready for bed, Jasmine asked if she could listen to her mom’s iTunes for a bit. “Sure,” I said bracing myself for the sweet (sarcasm much?) sounds of Disney, Nickelodeon or the Chipmunks. I was surprised to hear Beyonce’s Run the World (Girls). I looked at Jasmine.
“Well not really, Grammy. It doesn’t have naughty lyrics and Babe (her mom) says I can. I was going to listen to Justin Bieber, but I thought that might annoy you.” says Jasmine in all seriousness.
“Justin Bieber?” The words come out of my mouth in a cross between a choke and a shriek of total dismay.
Six-year old Aiden chimes in. “Yes Grammy, Justin Bieber is a very poplar (he means popular, not the tree) guy, a star and lots of girls like him, but I think he has funny hair.”
Jasmine says, “His hair is cute. I like Lady Gaga too Grammy, oh and Rhianna, Mozart and Beethoven. I also like music from musicals and Big Time Rush.”
Aiden nods sagely. “Yes Grammy, I like some of those but not the girl music. I like Il Divo best though.”
By now, I’m kind of frozen in wonder. Awestruck really. When did they grow up?
I have my bleak days when things just seem unsurmountable. Nine times out of ten, just as I start to feel crappy, my text message lights up with a small note from my daughter-in-law Marissa, saying simply, “how you doing?” I usually smile and all the bleakness washes away. We text back and forth for a bit and by the end of it, I have forgotten whatever it was that made my day crappy.
It’s the little things.
Like when she texts to say Jasmine had a great day in school, or that Aiden has a new friend. Or when she just IM’s me because she has a headache and wants someone to soothe her. I love this girl. Over the years, we’ve grown closer and closer. She’s my confidant, my friend and yes, my daughter by virtue of much more than marriage to my youngest son. We’ve banded together and forged a strong bond. I taught her to love reading, she taught me to laugh more. We get our nails done together and when she picks me up on a Saturday morning, she always knows to bring hazelnut flavored coffee. Even my kids don’t know that.
Marissa is the one who tells the boys, “No, don’t get your mom THAT for Christmas! Get her books!” She’s the one who got everyone rounded up to pitch in for that Kitchen-Aid stand mixer I lusted for for years, but wouldn’t spend the money on myself. She emails me pictures of the kid’s special moments and always remembers what makes me smile.
In short, she’s a joy.
I don’t know how I ever did without her as part of my family and it seems she’s always been there. She’s a special person and she’s loved beyond words.