The things I would do for you

Tucking him in… 

“Sometimes I think a bad man is going to come in and take me.”

I look down at him. Sometimes I forget how little he still is even though he is so big. I crawl in bed with him and wrap my arms around him and do my best to find the words to ease his worried mind. 

These talks of fears and thoughts that lead us from one conversation to another and I get to see a small glimpse of what’s happening inside of his head. I get to see a little bit of what makes up the parts of who he is. 

We talk about the dog, our protector, our guardian. We talk about locks and latches and things that keep us safe. We talk about how I would never let anyone hurt him. How I would never let anyone take him away from me. I rub the hair away from his forehead and we talk about everything. 

He tells me of his nightmares… which he still calls nightmarers. He asks me how come I gave him my protector for his dreams when she won’t be able to keep my safe. I tell him the simple truth… that I care more about him than I do myself. 

I’m sure some of this has to do with his daddy being at work during the nighttime lately. He asked for him three times at bedtime tonight. It’s easier with him here. It feels safer with him here. 

Instead I will tuck him in and check on him again before laying down my weary head. Because he doesn’t know the extent of the things I would do for him. He doesn’t know how deep my love goes for him. He doesn’t know that I would do anything to keep him safe. 

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The things I want to say to you: pt. 2

It’s starting to get colder here and I’ve been missing you terribly. It seems as though when every November rolls in and October leaves me, the slight aching in my heart returns and it beats in a rhythm of longing for you.

Did you know that dad remembers you each year? He doesn’t say anything or announce it. Every year for the past three years, with the exception of this one, he has requested having Jack come for a sleepover. His quiet way of acknowledging my love for you. For giving me the break, allowing me to be on my island, and just miss you. He didn’t this year. It didn’t work out, or maybe he figured I wouldn’t want to be away from the baby also. He did show up tonight, as he does on more Sundays than not, with tired eyes, because he needed to hug the boys. I watch him with them. He tries so hard to be a great grandfather to them. He’s doing a great job and so is T. You’d appreciate the love she gives to them, I think. 

Tonight I’m wondering what you think of them. Most of the time I can get past you not being here to see them and I’m not really 100% sure about the afterlife. It makes me really sad that you’ve missed everything. 

I’ve distanced myself away from people who failed me after you left. As I got older and started my family I figured that they weren’t there for me then so why should I give them the most awesome privilege of knowing my kids? My family dissentigrated to almost no one, but has grown so much since then. 

I wish you were here. The baby favors you. People say he looks like his daddy and I suppose in someways he does. But when I look at him I see you. He has your serious stern eyes and your forehead wrinkles. He has your big brown eyes. And you can’t see them. You can’t see how much his personality resembles what yours was.

So now I guess I want to tell you what you’ve missed. Not the big things, the important things. Kayla got your sense of humor. She’s the funniest teenager I’ve ever met. Her jokes are ridiculous and stupid and lovely, just like yours were. Chris is not a saint, like you thought he’d be, but he is special. He’s a good kid. And he will grow up to be a good man and a good father. Noah, sweet Noah, is the most caring kid I have ever met. He’s sweet and generous and will take care of Jenny for anything she needs as he gets older. Mattie is me. So much like me that it makes my heart ache for her sometimes. Sensitive. She’s going to care for so many people in her lifetime but with as sensitive as she is she’s ten times as strong. My Jack is the best. He is smart and artistic and he genuinely cares about people. But my proudest thing is that he is kind.

Your middle has achieved more this year than she has in the past 10. I feel like you already knew what she was capable of. But you’d be so proud if you saw her now. 

I don’t know about your oldest. I wish I did. I feel like every time I see him there are so many things unsaid, and deep sadness for how things are. I will fix this one day. Not today, but soon.

And me. I have a family, a big one, that loves me. I have everything I’ve ever wanted. I have everything that I need. I have a good man and two beautiful boys. But I’m still missing you. 

Happy Birthday Momma, wherever you are. Come visit me in my dreams. I’d like to hear your voice again. I’d like to lay with you and talk about how wonderful everyone is. 

I am missing you.

Time ticks down. 

I am her and she is me. We are different genetically but our hearts, they’re sewn from the same cloth. She comes to me when life has us both reveed up. We are screaming inside with the answers to our deepest fears. The ones we only dare whisper to each other. We talk the talks of childhood and beliefs. We dance around our questions, our insecurities, our life. We talk about the internal clock that powers both of our hearts. Always ticking down, down, down.Running out. 

We talk about the things we don’t dare to ask. We look at each other with knowing eyes. I am her and she is I. We know because we were there, together, holding hands and gluing the soles of our shoes back together. Our mother may have called us beautiful from time to time, but she called us strong more times than that. Our mother raised warriors, survivors, and beasts. 

We never spoke about the monsters of our childhood because monsters weren’t real, even if you did see them crawling across the floor, faceless, in the dark. And we were there, together, holding hands and tucking our feet deep under the covers while shutting our eyes tight. As we grew and the monsters became real and they would yell, close to our faces, with alcohol drenched breath, about how stupid we were, how much of a disappointment we had become. We were there, holding hands, caring for our mothers and whispering in the night about how we’d wish he’d just die. 

I am her and she is I. Older now. Raising warriors, survivers, and beasts. Moving on and forgiving the monsters of our dreams. There is an invisible string that sometimes calls one of us across town. We look into each other and understand the things that are unspoken and we are together, restarting the clocks in our hearts, standing up and choosing to believe our stories won’t end the way they do in our dreams. 

I am her and she is me. 

Ketchup on crackers and cycles

When things got real bad I remember looking in the fridge and trying to figure out what I was going to feed your brother and sister. I didn’t have any money for food. One night I fed them ketchup on crackers. Thankfully, there was a neighbor in our apartment building that knew what was going on and she would invite us over for dinner. She knew I was too proud to ask. She shared all she had. 

In my life I can not count the times I saw my mother go hungry. By the time I came into this world things were a bit better for her. Maybe because she was constantly working to support us, busting her ass day and night, just to keep food on the table.

The relationship my sister and I have with food stem from this. From watching her as we grew up. This relationship isn’t noticeable unless you’re looking for it. It’s serving yourself last and least. And watching your babies eat and eating very slowly yourself… Just watching and when they’re done but you can tell they still want more you announce I’m not feeling very hungry… Would you like the rest? Handing over your plate. I have watched my sister do this and I have seen myself do the same. Because we remember and we know what it’s like to go to bed hungry.

The universe, currently, has been handing us a series of fuck yous. We are saving for the new house, the dog got sick, and now my car decided to break down. I am finding it hard to stay positive. I have been throwing mini pity parties for myself on occasion. Always in private though. Another thing I learned from her.

I sat last night thinking about how something has got to give. Something has got to go right because there’s been too much wrong happening all at once, making me question whether or not we should even be trying for our forever home.

I woke up today to a text telling me a got a job I was hoping to get. There’s one good thing. But I can’t shake this feeling like I should be doing more. Working more. Providing more. Saving more.

Things have been tight before and we’ve always made it through. I feel like there is a mountain in front of me and I’m not sure if I should climb it or sit down and have a picnic.

I’m tired and I just want things to be simple again. My thankfulness is low and my anxiety is high. I need some time to regroup.

I need a break.

Nineteen

I have moved nineteen times in my life. I am a master packer. I know how to choose what is of value, what to keep, and what to leave behind. Four of those moves were packed, moved, and unpacked within one day’s notice. My mother liked to move us in the middle of the night, or while her significant other was at work. Leaving behind the tv and one piece of furniture. No notice, just a note left behind on a recliner. The ultimate “f you” so to speak.

I made the decision at 22 to move down to North Carolina to be with Jason. He had been deployed for the seven months before hand and we had spent the 2 years of our relationship before that apart, only seeing each other when leave was available. It would be my first time living without my mother.

You know you can come with me? I’ve already asked him. I said one day, sitting on her bed. You don’t have to go to Jenny’s you can come with me and see the ocean. 

It is time for you to go, Jo. It’s time for you to blossom. 

And so I left.

My whole life if you asked me where my home was I would have probably replied with my grandmother’s house. Mostly because that’s where we’d end up whenever my mother’s relationships tanked, but also because that was the place I felt most comfortable. Most at home in my own skin. After I turned 19 I knew I couldn’t return there. My grandmother had passed and there was too many burnt bridges from fires my mother had started and never went back to put out. So home became my mom. A person not a place.

When I moved to be with Jason I felt very homesick. Calling my sister five times a day to chat. Sometimes I’d ask for Mom, sometimes I wouldn’t. Our talks became more and more less frequent. She got very sick. And it was the end of our story 3 months after my move. No amount of me flying home and sitting by her bedside could bring her back to me.

Jason became a rock for me. He’s quiet and internal 90 percent of the time. A man of few words. But he was there and I latched onto him for dear life. He sat next to me at the funeral. He held my hand and in time, he became my home. Our home in North Carolina felt temporary, because everything in the military was temporary. We got married, had Jack, and then decided to move home.

We moved in with my dad for six months. Then we rented a house in town that Jason had actually grown up in. After we lost Benjamin we became hell bent on buying a house. (A big distraction to ease the grief of our baby dying.) We bought our current home and have been here three years this month. I have loved this house and I have hated this house. But now that we are moving I’m becoming sentimental about what it has been for us.

We’ve always talked about our “forever home”. How one day we will have a place to be that we won’t need a vacation from. We found a house in a better area, with a good school, and a river and woods behind it. It’s big and beautiful. My hope is that it becomes a place where the boys feel completely comfortable and at ease. I want this to be it until we’re sixty five or so.

I am packing today.

Memories- guns and mental health

August. 21 years old. I walk into the house from my shift driving a fork lift for a local laundry soap manufacturing plant.

Jo I hear from her bedroom in the back.

Yeah? Walking into her room I can tell she has been crying. I can tell it’s not been a good day. What’s up? 

I thought about killing myself today… but I didn’t want you to be the one to find me. 

I stand there looking at her sitting in bed. Not really sure what to say or where to go from here.

Well okay.  I say. Well how were you planning on doing that, Mom? 

I was going to shoot myself in the head. But I didn’t want you to have to clean up the mess.

Okay. Okay. Um… just give me a minute? Okay? 

Okay. She says.

I walk upstairs and sit down on my bed to call my brother. He answers first try.

I need you to deal with this. I’m saying. I’m not doing it this time. He’s asking me questions, giving me direction, he’s telling me how to handle the situation this time. He says he’s coming. Just give him time and he’ll be there. Okay. I say. Okay.

I returned to her room and she’s still sitting there looking up at me like this is all a completely normal thing. A regular exchange of words in a normal household.

Where’s the gun, Mom? 

I’m not telling you. She says.

Mom, you need to give me the gun. Then I can help you. But I can’t help you until you give it to me, okay? Where is it? 

She pulls the gun from under her pillow. She hands it to me.

Okay. Good. I say. Good. Donny’s coming. He’s going to take care of you. 

And he’s there now, in the doorway to her room. He’s there to take this from me.

Mom, I called the hospital. I have to take you there. You understand that i’m going to take you there right? 

I’m not going back there. She says. You can’t make me go. 

I’m going to take you or I’m going to have to call someone to come get you. Okay? 

Okay. She says, pulling her legs over the side of the bed. Jo, at least get me my makeup? Okay. 

Okay.


It’s late. I am 17 and there is a knock on my wall. I go to her room to see what the trouble is.

Shh… close the door now. Close it. Okay? I’m going to tell you something and I need you to listen? Do you hear me? You do as I say now, okay? 

Okay. Okay.

Take this gun. You’re going to sleep in here tonight. If you grandfather comes into this room tonight I want you to shoot him. Do you hear me? You aim for his chest and you shoot him. 

What is going on? What are you talking about? 

You listen to me. He has gone crazy and if you want to live you shoot him. 

Okay. Okay. 

____________________________________________________________________

17. Two nights later I am sitting on the top of the stairs. I can see him sitting with the gun next to him on the end table.

Jodi. I don’t want you to be scared of me. Do you hear me? Don’t be scared. 

Okay. I say. Okay. 

____________________________________________________________________

21. My mom is in the hospital under supervision. She’s doing group therapy and gets to call home.

Where’s my gun, Jo? 

It’s in a safe place Mom, Okay? 

It better be there when I get back, okay? 

Okay. I say. Okay. 

____________________________________________________________________

17. Driving home from school. My mother flags me down in the middle of the road.

Don’t go home. She says. We can’t go back there. Grandpa has kicked us out. He said you could get some things for school if you need to but I can’t go back there. 

Okay. Okay. 

____________________________________________________________________

21. My mother is home from the hospital. She is in my room. She is tearing through my things.

Where is it? Where did you put it, Jo? 

It’s not here. Donny took it. It’s being destroyed. 

I am so pissed. She storms off crying.

Well okay. I say. Okay. 

____________________________________________________________________

17. Two weeks before the night my mother handed me the gun. She is in the hospital for complications with her sickness. I receive a phone call. There is hurried speech on her end.

I need you to come get me. She says.

Are they releasing you? I can bring you clothes.

No, I need you to come get me now. Meet me by the road. The nurses are trying to kill me. 

Then click. The line goes dead.

Shit. Shit. Shit. I drive circles around the hospital. Half expecting her to be there smoking a cigarette, still hooked up to her I.V. cart. She isn’t anywhere on the roads or side walks. I park. Then run as fast as I can up to the hospital. I nearly have my arm jerked out of socket when a male nurse a recognize grabs me spinning me around.

You’re Kelly’s daughter!

Yes.

I need you to come with me. He says. He’s leading me and talking quickly and quietly.

Your mom. He starts, looking around to make sure no one’s listening. She’s not okay right now. She’s lost all of her eggs out of her basket. Do you understand? Do you know what I’m saying? She tried to break a window with a chair on the forth floor, but she wasn’t strong enough. So she hid in a broom closest. She’s saying crazy things about the nursing staff. Do you hear me? The police are with her now. 

THE POLICE?! Shit. Okay. I say. Okay. 

When I arrive to her room she’s sitting in a chair with her legs crossed. Two police men standing on each side of her. She is spitting her words at them. She is explaining to me, in her most hateful and bitter tone, how the nurses were indeed trying to kill her.

She is telling me this like it is a normal exchange of words, in a normal family.

Okay.  I say. Okay. 

She is admitted onto the 8th floor, psych ward. She is there when I get back two hours later with my sister and a good friend.

There’s a fire on my bed. She says. Don’t you just love camping? 

My friend laughs. She spins her head around shooting daggers out of her eyes.

What the fuck are you laughing at, boy? 

The nurses come in and we are asked to leave.

Okay. I say. Okay. 

———————

21. My mother has been on antidepressants for two months. She is up cleaning the house.

Jo, I need to talk to you. I’m sorry. I’m going to be okay now. It’s going to be okay. 

Okay. I say. Okay.

Present:Not being able to breathe and hope. 

Laying in bed last night.

“So here’s how I’m feeling.” I kind of say to the air and to him, not knowing if he’s already asleep in the pitch black room.

“Yeah?” He mumbles

“I’m feeling like I’ll believe it when I see it. I know how terrible that sounds but I feel like I wont believe it until they allow me to bring a healthy, breathing baby home in two weeks.”

“Yeah. Me too.” He says.

I’m 35 weeks pregnant with a new little boy who doesn’t have a name. We can’t decide, we say, or maybe we don’t want to. They are supposed to be taking him out the Friday after next. Easy peasy. The doctor says. The doctor calls him one happy ass baby for most of my appointments. I feel like I’m always at the doctor. I’m always monitoring a perfectly healthy little boy in order to help myself not go crazy with a .1% chance of something tragic happening.

Reassurance has been the word of the past 8 months. Reassurance that he will be fine and my body won’t fail me again. Specialist appointments and words like high risk being thrown around. More blood tests and ultrasounds for everyone to tell me that there is still no reasoning on why my body did what it did.

So now we wait. Stuck in that waiting place, carrying the past and hoping for the future. But not too much hope because that would mean that we’d end up where we were last time when Ben was born sleeping.

I try to remain optimistic. I’ve done everything an expecting mother is supposed to do. All the clothes are washed, the rooms set up, this week the car seat will be installed… In a week maybe I’ll be able to breathe again. But not until I see him breathing.

Memory- The morning you were still born.

I was 37 weeks pregnant and I called off of work the night before on a hunch that I didn’t want to be working the next day. It was a Monday morning in March, exactly 3 years ago. I woke up in so much pain. I sat up in bed and felt a huge gush. It’s time. I think my water just broke. I think I’m in labor. There was rushing to get your big brother around. You are coming early. We are not ready. I go into the bathroom to wash up and change. There is so much blood. Should there be blood? I’m not sure. Phone calls are made. I am speaking to doctors on the phone while I’m in the bathtub, sitting in bloody water. Then we are rushing. And the pain has not stopped. It’s one continuous contraction. Surely it’s not supposed to be like this. 

Jack is dropped off at Noni’s. She is waiting at the door. Her face shows excitement. I can not get out of the car. We are rushing and I am cussing and saying why isn’t it stopping? Why does it hurt so bad? 

At the hospital we are rushed up to labor and delivery. They are asking so many questions and I am still in so much pain. The nurses scurry in and out of our room. I look at Jason pleading Why aren’t they doing anything? He needs OUT! There is a searching, then whispers, then and ultrasound technician looking seriously at the screen. And I know then. I know what everyone in the room but Jason knows, but no one is saying anything. Just tell me. I tell the technician. The doctor will be in shortly. She replies leaving us alone in the room with my other two nurses who are still standing on the other end of the room just looking at me.

The doctor comes in. Fetal demise. No heartbeat. He is saying these things. He is asking me what happened. Did I fall? What happened? What happened? I look to Jason. Did you hear what he said? He is just looking at me. He is just holding my hand, nervously. He is looking at me but not responding. Jason, did you hear him? He’s gone. The baby is dead. 

Your Daddy starts crying, quietly, in his way that he does. Emergency c-section they say. Immediately.

I need to call my sister. The phone sucks and isn’t working fast enough. She answers, excited, says she’ll be on her way soon. Don’t come up here. I repeat it over and over and she keeps asking why. The baby is gone. I need you to make some calls for me. 

I don’t know how much time passed. We are left alone in the room. I am not crying. I don’t know why I’m not crying but I can’t cry, not yet. We can’t stop talking to each other. He says. I nod. I don’t remember when the pain stopped or what they gave me… but at some point it did. They are saying it almost time to take you out. They are asking if we want to see you. Absolutely not. No. Too hard. He’s not here.  We are being wheeled away. Other loved ones have arrived with terrible looks on their faces and questions. So many questions. No one has any answers.

In the operating room it is somber and different. There is rushing to get you out but not to make sure you arrive safely. Now, they are trying to stop my bleeding. They are trying to save me. And the nurse is there, waiting to take you away into another room, to clean you up. Wait, I do want to see him! I do! Okay, Okay they say. Okay. There is pressure then relief and you are here. But there is no brilliant cry. There is no hustle to get you breathing. You are handed off to the nurse, covered up, and hustled out before anyone can lay eyes on you. Methodical, business-like, the business of dead babies. The operation takes less time then I remember my previous one. Before we know we are back in our room surrounded by both sets of your grandparents and a friend of Noni’s that worked at the hospital.

I looked around and remembered you were coming. They’re going to bring him in here. So if you don’t want to see him you can leave now. But before I can finish you’re here. The nurse has put you in a nightgown and a beautiful knitted blanket. She hands you to me.

You are so little, 5 lbs 9 oz. But what I wasn’t expecting was how perfect you are. You look a lot like your older brother. You have my nose and your Daddy’s olive skin and forehead. Peaking out from under your little hat is your black curly hair, another thing you got from Daddy. You are perfect. But you are so, so still.

—————————————————————————

Happy Birthday Benjamin Scott!

This morning has been a quiet one. Daddy is working until 5:30. Jack and I ate banana bread for breakfast and will hang your birthday decorations soon. We’ll be eating your third birthday cake this evening with your grandparents and thinking about who you would have been today. I think about you all the time. There is a space in our little family that only you can fill. You will be a big brother in May. I spend lots of days thinking about what it would have been like to be a mother to three boys. I miss you. Have the happiest of birthdays little bear.

 

1/3

We are nineteen and at a punk show where the music is loud and I can’t understand half of what the lead singer is screaming. He is new. Tall and handsome and I think he looks like fun. We are designated drivers for the night so we stand next to the table by the door while we watch our friends get drunk. People keep coming through the door and jostling me. Everyone is bumping into everyone else. The door swings open one more time and he puts his arm out to stop it from hitting me. Thanks! I yell He smiles.

I lean in close to him and ask Do you have windows in your bathroom?

What?! He’s looking at me like I’m crazy.

Come outside with me. This band blows! I grab his hand and he follows me. We talk outside and I learn his name. He tells me the school he went to and I silently judge him. We dance. I dance on my car. Then we sit on the hood and talk some more. Our friends slowly start stumbling out of the gun club, where the shows being held, and it’s time to get them home. I hold his hand on the way to his house. He’s hesitant but doesn’t let go. We pull up to his house. I’m going to kidnap you soon. I say. He says sure but I know he doesn’t believe me.

Two days later I do. I pick him up and drive him around to show him all of my secret places in our town. All of the reasons I love it. Later on in the night while we’re sitting on my friends porch, smoking, I look at him and smile.

What is it? He asks

You’re gonna love me someday. I tell him.

Again he doesn’t believe me. Little does he know that it’s true.

 

Jason turned 30 yesterday. It was also our seventh wedding anniversary. We chose the date mostly because of the military not allowing leave in November and because I, jokingly, reminded him he’d never forget our anniversary if it was on his birthday.

Jason and I have been together for 1/3 of our lives. This realization hit me tonight. Not like I shouldn’t have known. But it is strange how time can move so fast when you’re not watching it closely. We have literally became adults together and for some reason, tonight, that is blowing my mind.

I can’t believe how something I just thought would be fun turned into this great big thing… my life. I’m glad it did. I just want to state that I was right… He did end up loving me,even if he didn’t think he would.

 

 

 

 

So… What’s your thing?

I had someone ask this question this morning. Not necessary to me, but to the gaggle of ladies on the forum I follow… And it got me thinking…

WHAT IS MY THING?

I feel like I’ve had many “things” in the past… but now? My things were writing (mostly during and after high school), scrapbooking (post high school, pre-Jack), teaching/ crafting/ Momming (the last 6 years).

But as far as passion goes I’m not passionate about a single one of those things anymore. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll never stop Momming, because I love my babies, but I really don’t care what others think of me as a Mom anymore because I know my kid is having an awesome life.

I feel like I’m at a transition period in my life. Leaving the anxiety of my late twenties behind and going toward my early thirties with grace and deliberation. That’s been laying heavy on my heart this last couple of weeks, during my quiet time, living deliberately. 

There’s this quote that I love by Henry David Thoreau:

“I went to the woods because I wished to lived deliberately to front only the essential facts of life and to see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I die, discover that I had not lived.”

I’m not moving to the woods.

But I so desperately want to start living deliberately. I think that I past three years, with the exception of Jack (Jack is always an exception), my life has been one big race toward the future. Toward what? No one knows.

I want to focus myself enough to maintain a garden this year. I want to bake bread, instead of buying it. I want to stop paying restaurants for frozen food and make my own. I want to really taste my food. I want to bake. I want to sew. I want to learn to use essential oils. I want to learn natural ways to heal. I want to get healthy again, mentally and physically. I want to gain my optimism back and start loving everyone again. I want to make my marriage a priority. I want to love my husband bigger than the world again. I want to listen to my baby. Instead of rushing him through the day.

At the beginning of this I was scared I didn’t have a “thing” anymore. But I guess I do. It’s many things… deliberately slowing down to enjoy the present. I’m just starting out though and that’s the frustrating thing. I’ll let you know how it goes.