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.

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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.

When I was a little girl I asked my mother what will I be…

Life happenings are beginning to stir in my little corner of the world. So many changes have occurred in the past two years bringing me further into adulthood. With summer here and me rapidly approaching my thirty first birthday I am reminded of my childhood and the things that I was taught to believe in. 

My mother had a gift from God, she said. A specialness about her. A way of knowing things before they would happen. She proved this right many times as I was growing up. Allowing me to pour more and more of my faith into her. Allowing her word to be the final one and one that I eventually learned not to question. As I reached my teenage years, after the mystical happenings of my childhood, I’d lay on her bed and ask her about my future. Basic things… Who I would marry, how many children I would have, if I’d be happy. 

In my teenage years of falling in and out of young love I’d ask her again and again- is he the one? Always to be answered with a sorry; not yet. 

I brought Jason home shortly after my nineteenth birthday. He was shaggy haired and bright eyed. I asked him to please understand before he entered the house… To please not judge, but that my mother wanted to meet him. And as I walked him through my box packed living room that contained no furniture but my bed and a tv on the floor back to my mother’s room where she was sitting waiting patiently in bed I sincerely hoped he’d understand. She asked him questions like she always did as him and I sat on the foot of her bed. After the brief interrogation we started for the living room only to have her whisper, calling me back, with a him. 

Now I did marry him and I did bare his children. Not the correct number or gender that I was told. 

Three babies; two boys, one girl. 

 I have carried four children. But am left with two living boys. 

After my miscarriage, my third baby, baby a… I sat on my sister’s porch and asked her if she thought that was it for me… Three children, my two boys- Jack and Ben- and now that third baby, in my mind a girl- our Alex. But now, a year since that loss I have healthy seven week old Will.  

There’s really not a logical point for that thought process. Just that I’ve been in thinking about it. 

We’re going to be moving again soon. Starting another chapter somewhere new. I wish my mom was here to share some more of her specialness.  

Que sera, sera… Whatever will be will be.

I can do hard things.

I’m sitting on the operating table with my legs dangling over the edge, hugging both a pillow and a nurse I met an hour ago.

Stay super still now. Just a pinch. It’s going to sting. The anesthesiologist is messing with my spine. I’m in my head. Words of encouragement are coming at me from three different people at once. I can do hard things. I think. Suddenly, I am very nervous. Breathe. Remember to breathe.

Babies his gestational age don’t come out breathing. The nurse in the E.R. told me the week before. She didn’t know my medical history. She changed her tune when she found out. Better out than in. She said trying to save face.

Now they are laying me back and covering  my view with the paper cloth. Jason is there now. Oxygen and a can you feel that? I’m pinching you very hard. And we are holding hands, trying to focus on each other instead of everything else. He is breathing hard. Are you okay? I think he may pass out. We can do hard things. This is the last time we have to do this. The last time. 

They are talking on the other side of the paper. There is pressure but not pain. They are tugging and sucking and moving everything around. Are you okay? I can do hard things. 

I am vomiting. It’s from them moving everything the anesthesiologist says. Are you ready? He is pulling at the clamps. He is pulling the paper down. Are you ready?  And I hear it. He is screaming! You have to breathe to scream! Hello! Hello! I say I love you! 


This is the last time we have to do this. We can do hard things. And now I can breathe again.

———————————

William Jay- born Friday, May 6th at 8:01 a.m. – screaming

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.

 

Memory

  
Yesterday marked the eighth  anniversary of my mother’s death. This year it was met with a school cancellation because of snow and because of this a less melancholy Momma. Spending the morning playing in the snow with Jack and was what my heart needed to feel full of love rather than longing. I thought about writing of the memory of her leaving us yesterday, but couldn’t bring myself to do that. So instead I’ve decided to make a list of all of the pieces of her I see in myself.

  • My undying love for Van Morrison, Billy Joel, and Elton John.
  • Dancing in my kitchen to music that’s way too loud; whether I am making dinner or doing the dishes.
  • Cuddling my boy. I’m not the typically the parent who plays… But I will cuddle the crap out of you and watch as many shows as your little heart desires.
  • Waking up= pulling those curtains open wide! Let that sunshine in! 
  • Slow wake ups. Yelling is not meant for the morning.
  • Christmas insanity that normally starts before Thanksgiving.
  • Unconditional love and support for my children.
  • Hot headed anger and irritation that can happen in the split of a moment. “Now don’t make me cuss, damnit!” 
  • Not wanting to repeat myself. “What did I say? So… I what does that mean then?”
  • Running away from my problems. (Literally the biggest, most disappointing quality to receive from her.) 
  • Getting way too excited and emotional about life. 

I’m sure there are way more that I am not thinking of currently… But there’s my list. Sometimes I hope Jack remembers me in the crazy fantastic way that I remember her. Hopefully it’ll be a long time before I become a memory. 

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.

Shut it down.

My heart is heavy. Has been for about a week now. No explanation for it, just got heavy.

Winter is coming to Ohio soon. Before we know it we’ll be dealing with that white stuff that I think is both beautiful and sickening.

I don’t know why i’m not sharing right now. Sometimes I get trapped inside myself and just need to stay quiet. People have been quite disappointing lately. Like why share when responses are either ridiculous or self centered…? So I don’t share.

I’m missing my mother today. It’s her birthday. Which I didn’t even realize until I just looked down on the date on my computer. Awesome. Happy Birthday Mom… from your daughter who can’t remember how old you’d be or even that you’re birthday is coming before it is here. Shit.

I should be writing some kind of fantastic Mom memory today… because there are plenty. But instead I’m pissed at myself that I forgot now. So there’s that. I’ll probably delete this post later. So there’s that.