Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Childhood Independence and Child Murder

July 29, 2011

A few weeks ago, my son asked for permission to walk around the neighborhood by himself.

When pressed for details about where he wanted to go, he couldn’t state his planned route, and couldn’t name the streets and avenues he would be walking.  I encouraged him to lower his sights from taking a stroll around the block to just walking to the corner, crossing the street by himself, going to the next corner, and coming back home

Even this abbreviated route gave me pause. I live in a very busy section of Harlem. My teenage daughter goes out alone with her friends, but my son, at 10, is not nearly as street-savvy as she is.

But I let my son go on his excursion. The joy on his face when he returned, safely, was palpable.

“I did it!” he shouted.

The illusion of independence fell with the news of Leiby Kletzky, the 8-year-old Brooklyn child who was murdered and dismembered by a stranger the first time his parents let him walk home alone from summer camp. My son greeted me with the news when I came home from work:

“Mommy, a boy my age was taken and killed.”

My son knew all the details of the case. He even compared it to the case of Etan Patz. A family friend, Lisa Cohen, wrote the book After Etan, about the abduction and murder of 6-year-old Etan Patz in New York City in the 1970s. My son learned of the Patz case through Cohen’s book. Two cases, a generation apart, sharing eerily similar details.

My son made the connection.

“Guess I can’t go out by myself anymore,” he said.

My son is two years older than Kletzky and four years older than Patz, but he sees the two little boys as “his age.” As a mom, it’s hard not to hear a story about an abducted and murdered child and not think of your own.

Cohen wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News, in which she encouraged parents not to change their parenting solely because of the Kletzky case. Because I know Cohen not just as a writer and filmmaker, but as a caring mom, I spent a few days thinking about her op-ed. I thought about how scary news stories about child murder help parents explain “stranger danger” and many other evils.

When I was in middle school, an old perv in the apartment across the street from my bus stop would shake his penis out his front window at us schoolgirls waiting for the morning bus. We told our parents, and for a few weeks, our dads waited with us for the bus. But we had to keep taking the bus to school. We had to learn how to deal with it – and to stop looking.

And so I decided Cohen was right. Kletzky’s death, though tragic, was no reason to stop letting my son go out alone in the neighborhood. I talked to my son about not living in fear. But I also decided he needed to know his surroundings better.

Now, I make him listen to and repeat subway announcements. I point out to him the subway express and local stops. I grill him on neighborhood landmarks. I have told him how to know when he is facing north (uptown) and south (downtown).

Recently, I let him go to the neighborhood drugstore by himself. I made sure  he knew what to buy, reminded him to count his change, and gave him responses to some basic “what to do if” scenarios. I was nervous until he came back safely, with correct change and no horrible experiences to report.

It’s too soon to let him go completely. He admits he’s not ready to take public transportation by himself. We have time to prepare.

The best we can do as parents is arm our children with information and the tools to develop good judgment. We have to teach them to be responsible, and ready them for independence. We can’t always protect them from the consequences of their choices.

And we can’t destroy ourselves with guilt if the bad thing we are afraid might happen, actually does happen.

This post was originally published on CocoaMamas.com.

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I Am Not the Father

June 19, 2011

Lately, it’s become fashionable to wish single mothers Happy Father’s Day.

Miss me with that.

I am a single mother raising two kids alone. I do it by necessity, since my kids’ father has chosen, for the most part, to be absent from their lives since our divorce.

I also do it a little bit by choice. Some women in my shoes would have initiated a search for Mr. Stepdad a long time ago. Marrying a man for the sole purpose of providing my kids with a replacement father does not interest me in the least.

Being a single mother does not also make me a single father. Or some type of mother-father hybrid. I am a woman, and I can only approach parenting from a woman’s perspective. I grew up with my father and mother, but my mother was the more dominant influence in our home. For better or worse, I adopted her style of parenting even when I was married.

The notion that a woman raising children by herself is acting as both mother and father is misguided and harmful. It does a disservice to all of the fathers – including the single fathers – who are also working hard, every day, to raise their children. We single mothers enjoy the appreciation, but on Father’s Day, fathers, not mothers, deserve all the love.

My kids do benefit from positive male influences. Unfortunately, their father isn’t one. I don’t live near my family, so my children don’t have uncles and older male cousins who take the place of their absent father in providing this influence. They do have teachers. coaches, their friends’ fathers, and my significant other.

None of them can take the place of a loving, caring father, but my ex-husband is not a loving, caring father. They wouldn’t have a nuturing dad in their lives even if their dad were still around. A psychotherapist told me recently, if the absent parent does substantial damage to the child when he or she is present, it is better for that parent to remain absent. My children are not better off without a father, but they are better off without a father who is still so hurt from his own childhood that he inflicts pain upon his own children almost without knowing.

I am not a hero. I am not “holding it down.” I’m doing what I have to do. I take care of my children because I’m supposed to.

I take care of my kids because I love them and I need them and they need me. I do it alone because their father is unwilling and unable to participate. That doesn’t mean I fill both roles.

I am a mother. That’s more than enough.

So while I appreciate the acknowledgment of single mothers on Father’s Day, don’t wish me a Happy Father’s Day. I am a lot of things to my kids, but a father is most certainly not one of them.

Single Mommy Blues

April 16, 2011

It seems we mothers spend a lot of time – and ink – talking about how hard it is to be a mother.

Numerous books, parenting blogs and websites are devoted to the topic. On playgrounds and playdates, mothers huddle together and talk about how incredibly difficult this motherhood game really is.

And yet the voices of some of us mothers mostly remain unheard.

The point of this post is not to compare notes to see which moms have it worst. Mothering is hard. It’s hard whether you’re single or married, whether you’re successfully co-parenting with a cooperative ex, or doing it all by yourself, whether you have the help of a village or only the help you are able to pay for.

But I want to talk about the special hardships faced by single mothers who are doing it alone. Really alone. Without the help of a reliable spouse, co-parent, or a network of friends or family members who pitch in whenever possible.

For several years after my divorce, I sacrificed having a personal life for the sake of my kids. Weekends were consumed by soccer, gymnastics, baseball, softball, tennis, golf, ice skating – you name an activity, we probably tried it. Dating? Hah! I wasn’t ready. Focusing on the kids was a great way to avoid thinking about how badly I’d flubbed the whole “picking the right partner” thing.

I didn’t become SuperMom because I wanted to. I did it because I lacked an alternative. I live in New York City. My family is in Michigan. My ex-husband was – and is -absent and uninvolved.

I had the help I was willing to pay for. I paid full-time rates for part-time babysitters to ensure I had someone to pick the kids up from school and care for them on half-days and school holidays. The extra expense killed my budget, but my work schedule was too demanding to enable me to rely on afterschool programs.

Recently, I tried co-parenting with my ex-husband, an experiment that now seems short-lived. His last overnight visit with the kids was New Year’s weekend. He is too unreliable to keep a regular visiting schedule, and I don’t have the energy to deal with the litany of excuses.

Although single parenting would be tough even if I worked at home, my demanding executive job makes the juggling even more difficult. Plus, in addition to my day job, I do speaking enagements and lectures. I write, for this blog and others, on my own time.

I even finally started dating again.

The writing, the dating, the lecturing, and some occasional exercise are things I do for myself. But they take away from the time I spend with my kids. I can no longer devote every weekend to their activities. And I feel incredibly guilty about it.

For example: my son is a natural baseball talent. Yet I don’t have time to take him to a baseball coach to work on his skills. I don’t have time – or a good enough pitching/throwing arm – to take him to the park and help him work on his catching, fielding and hitting. I haven’t found time to have him try out for a travel team – and even if he did, I’m not sure I would be able to haul him around from game to game.

His father, who played baseball in high school, takes no interest in his son’s baseball development. I get angry about this sometimes, and then I realize being angry is futile.

Well-meaning friends tell me to stop beating up on myself. They tell me to focus on the fact that, all by myself, I have raised smart, independent thinkers who are thriving in some of New York City’s most competitive schools.

I do acknowledge my blessings. But still, I’m tired. So please forgive me for indulging in a bit of whining.

Mothering is hard for all mothers. It is especially hard for us single women who are parenting completely by ourselves. And because we’re so used to doing everything all by ourselves, we don’t ask for help easily. Or always know how to accept it graciously, without constantly thanking the person who agreed to step in for us. Or apologizing for being burdensome.

So if you know a single mom who parents by herself, maybe you can offer her a little help. If your kids are friends, maybe you can offer to pick her kid up from school and host a playdate at your house. Or you can invite her kid to a weekend playdate or sleepover. Let her be the last parent to pick up her child from the birthday party. Because whether she says it or not, she values every single moment she gets to spend by herself. But she may not feel she has the right to ask for that time.

And try not to get too annoyed when she keeps saying “thank you.”

First published on CocoaMamas.com

My First Haters

May 31, 2010

 

I’ve always been opinionated, and I’m not shy about expressing my opinions, whether in a real-life discussion or on my blog.  I suppose it was inevitable, therefore, that some of my posts would rub some people the wrong way.

That doesn’t bother me.  I’m all for spirited debate.  Except . . . I haven’t gotten any.

It seems some of the people who disliked my posts, in particular the one about men, or the one about celebrity divorce settlements, chose not to post comments on my blog.  They also chose not to debate me on Twitter or Facebook, where I usually post my newest blog posts.

What they did choose to do was make cowardly ad hominem attacks on Twitter.

I’ve gotten one or two “you’re divorced, right? figures” comments on this blog.  I haven’t thought much of them.  What exactly does it figure?  Figures that I, a divorced woman, would be interested in the subject of divorce? 

Or does it “figure” that I’m divorced because I’m a bitter, unlovable hag, as evidenced by my writing and my opinions?

Apparently I’m supposed to believe the latter.

Sorry, but no.  Anyone else who wants to believe that about me, believe away.  And feel free to believe, based on a few blog posts and tweets, that you know all you need to know about my marriage and my divorce.  As long as I write about divorce and custody issues, I guess it’s understandable that people would try to construct a story about my own divorce.  Until and unless I choose to publish my divorce story, good luck with that.

I’m just disappointed that the people in question chose to resort to personal attacks, instead of making rational counter-arguments to the positions with which they disagreed. 

In the end, though, I’m pleased that people are reading and reacting to what I write.  Thanks to everyone who visits my blog and read my posts.  Whether you agree or disagree, I appreciate your readership. 

I do not, however, tolerate personal attacks, on me or any of my commenters.  As long as you keep it respectful, debate away.

Child/Spousal Support Awards of the Rich and Famous, and You

May 12, 2010

Every time there’s a news story about the divorce/custody battles of rich people, the Twitterverse explodes, with people complaining like their own pockets just got hit.  Reports that Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt will have to pay his estranged wife $637,000 in temporary spousal support sparked all kinds of outrage.  On Twitter, one man said, “I just don’t think you should get married if you can lose more than a 3rd world country in the divorce.”   Women, too, wondered if the prospect of going broke in divorce justifies delaying or avoiding marriage

Get a grip, people.

I’ve been married.  I’ve been divorced.  And I lost a whole lot of money in the process.  But the money didn’t go to my ex.  It went to our lawyers (both of whom I had to pay).  It went to the lawyers because instead of accepting a reasonable settlement offer, my ex went looking for one of those huge celebrity paydays and wound up with next to nothing. 

Anyone who is afraid to get married because of a celebrity divorce, or who expects their own divorce settlement will be like winning MegaMillions, is delusional.  The following facts may help you get over your fears or fantasies:

1. You’re probably not rich, and you’re probably not married to a rich person.  Accordingly, it’s unlikely you’d emerge from a divorce either super rich or financially devastated.  My marriage was coyote ugly, and I would have gnawed off an arm and a leg if that’s what it took to free myself.  Still, if we’d been able to settle, we both would have wound up better off.  Hopefully, your marriage won’t end in divorce, but if it does, divorce will cost a lot less, financially and emotionally, if neither party makes unreasonable and unrealistic demands.

2. Child support and spousal support are not the same.  Child support is awarded to help take care of the children’s needs.  Awards are made based on complex formulas that vary state-to-state, but that generally take each spouse’s then-current income and expenses into account.  The fact that Kelis may have sold a bunch of records 5 years ago is irrelevant to her current income and her child’s current needs.

3. Spousal support is where “big payback” fantasies go to die.  Spousal support is awarded to help take care of the needs of the spouse.  It is awarded most often in cases where a spouse has suspended his or her own career to support the career of the primary wage earner.  That’s probably not you.  If both spouses are working and earn enough to sustain themselves, it’s unlikely spousal support would be awarded to the lower wage-earner. 

Jamie McCourt’s job was being the wife of a rich baseball team owner.  She helped her husband maintain a certain community profile and image–including by being a non-working spouse.  As a result, she has every right to expect him to contribute towards her living expenses until the divorce judgment is final.

4. Rich people have expenses you can’t imagine.  Perhaps you think Kelis should be shopping for her child at The Children’s Place.  Maybe you think Jamie McCourt should move into a West Hollywood day rate motel until she can get a job at Hooters.  That’s what you’d do, right?

That’s why you’re not rich.

If a person’s net worth eclipses the GDP of a third world country, he’s expecting to have to shell out some dough to his soon-to-be ex.  News reports mention that Jamie McCourt originally sought $1 million per month in spousal support.  What’s really telling is that Frank McCourt offered her $150,000/month—nearly $100,000 more than the Kelis child support award that had people up in arms.  Truly rich?  Nas and Kelis aren’t even close.  If Frank McCourt could afford to offer $150K/month, another $500K/month probably isn’t going to bankrupt him.

5. For the benefit of the person who tweeted “The chick isn’t even hot” in reference to Jamie McCourt’s support award: hotness is not a factor considered by any court in entering an award of child or spousal support.  If it were, every star male athlete, actor and entertainer would be vying to marry the ugliest woman on the planet.

6. A pre-nup is unnecessary if you don’t have shyt to begin with.

So the next time you find yourself worried about the latest celebrity divorce payout, remember—unless you’re the celebrity in question, it’s just gossip to you.

Jillian Michaels – The Biggest Loser

April 27, 2010

When  The Biggest Loser’s Jillian Michaels stated that she would prefer to adopt rather than give birth because, as she put it, “I can’t handle doing that to my body,” I understood, in part, where Michaels is coming from.  Her body is her career.  Her very livelihood depends on her looking fit and trim. 

Plus, she’s a star of a popular TV show.  It would be difficult for her to train Biggest Loser contestants pregnant.   American audiences would not want to watch an immensely pregnant woman yelling at people and forcing them to run or lift weights.  The pressure on her to immediately drop the baby weight and return to her pre-pregnancy shape would be intense.  And contrary to popular belief, not every woman wants children, and not every woman who wants children, wants to give birth.

Logical or not, Michaels’ comments could prove to be a costly marketing move.

In addition to The Biggest Loser, Michaels has a burgeoning franchise centered around weight loss products.  Her website, jillianmichaels.com, features her eponymous weight loss program and sells DVDs, books and fitness equipment.  The Jillian Michaels’ 30-Day Shred is an intense weight-loss and exercise regimen. 

In defending herself, Michaels adopted the oh-so-familiar claim that her comments were taken out of context.  But whether or not Michaels was talking about the effect of pregnancy on a woman’s figure, she should have known her statement would be taken as implying she didn’t ever want to be fat again (Michaels has admitted to weighing as much as 175 — oh, the horror!). 

Michaels’ biggest mistake may have been her criticism of “mommybloggers” in particular for their “disappointing” response.  Most of her customers are — you guessed it — women, many of whom are mothers who are looking for help shedding the excess baby weight.  Alienating the customer base = bad marketing.

Michaels reminds me of the character played by Ali Larter in Legally Blonde — the fitness maven who swore Reese Witherspoon’s Elle Woods to keep her alibi to a murder charge secret, because admitting to getting liposuction would expose her as a fraud.  Regardless of what she meant, in saying she would prefer to adopt because she “can’t do that” to her body, Michaels sounds as if she doesn’t have much confidence in her own weight loss products and philosophy.  And if you don’t even believe in what you’re selling, why should I buy it?

A Good Woman – Part I

April 18, 2010

The day after my mother’s funeral, her baby sister,  my Aunt Mary, said to her grieving nieces:

“Well, your Mama sure had her ways, but couldn’t nobody say that Lennie wasn’t a good woman.”

We all nodded.  Mama most definitely had her ways, but the fact that she was a good woman was undeniable. 

I’ve thought about my aunt’s comment from time to time since my mom passed:

What made Mama a good woman?

Was it her unshakeable faith, her complete and utter devotion to the Lord?  Perhaps.  Mama was a Christian, but she was no church Christian.  She didn’t play church politics well at all.  In fact, she told me she was not-so-politely asked to leave her prayer group at her home church; she said it was because she was constantly challenging the group leader’s understanding of the Bible (of course, my mom was right and they were wrong).  Although her funeral was held at her home church, she hadn’t actually been inside it in years.

Mama called herself a student of the Bible.  We counted at least 30 bibles among her possessions, most of them ordered from the TV preachers she took to following when she stopped going to church.  She was not a Biblical scholar, but she had practically memorized the Bible.  She had committed her favorite passages to memory, and her recall didn’t diminish even as other parts of her memory began to fail. 

She gave, or tried to give, each of us a Bible.  She gave me two — a NIV translation, because I told her I preferred the NIV to the King James, and a Bible that had both the NIV and the King James texts side by side.  She must have been amused when, about a week before she died, I started quoting Scripture to her, using it to try to get her to consent to the medical treatment she had refused.

Mama was a good woman because she couldn’t stand to see people suffer.  It never ceased to amaze me — and, admittedly, sometimes disgusted me as well — the way she would feed the men and women who had been children with us, the ones who hadn’t done well enough to leave the block, many of them now mired in drug and alcohol addictions.  My mother hated to see people go hungry, especially children.  She was always sending a plate of food, whatever she had cooked that day, to families on the block.

We had neighbors who would come to her yard with buckets to draw water from the outside tap as if it were a well, because their water had been shut off.  I was outdone. 

Mama said, “They have children in that house.  They can’t be in that house with children and no water.”  And when I said too much in protest, she let me know it was her house, her water bill and her decision.   She never stopped doing what she could for the people in our neighborhood, until the day she died. 

We worried that people were taking advantage of an old lady living on a fixed income.  We feared that one of those people would decide to press that advantage by breaking into her home and robbing her, or worse.  Mama pooh-poohed us all.  She refused to leave her home, even when a stray bullet lodged itself in the wall just above her bed.  The neighborhood people never tried to harm her, and grieved her loss as deeply as the family did.

My mother was a good woman, but she was no saint.  As my aunt said, she had her ways.  She could be petty and small-minded.  She had a tongue that could cut you deep.  She always knew where the soft spot was, how deep to stick the knife and how far to twist it.  She defined stubbornness.  Once she had made up her mind about something, there was nothing — no logic, no reasoning, no nothing — that could change her mind.  She was as petulant as a two-year-old when she didn’t get her way.

All of those things mean she was human. 

But she was a good woman.

Mama raised us girls to be good women.  We were taught to cover our bosoms and our behinds, to close our legs and open our minds.  We were encouraged to be outspoken, independent, self-reliant.  She had seen first-hand how being financially dependent on a man could backfire, and wanted none of that for us.  As kids, we hadn’t been allowed to socialize with the people she wound up taking care of in her old age, after we moved away and they were left behind, struggling.  We were taught to comport ourselves with decorum, to treat others with respect, to associate with other good people, and to never give up on ourselves.

She was disgusted by Monica Lewinsky and would have been horrified by Rielle Hunter and Kiely Williams.  To her, a woman who used sex to get ahead was a prostitute, period.  Her insistence that looks were irrelevant, that only brains mattered, was so extreme that it seems only my oldest sister Cheryl knew she had any looks to trade upon, but it worked.  I may question her methods, but I can’t argue with the results.

I’m not a good woman in the same way that my mother was.  I’m not trying to feed the hungry in my neighborhood.  I consider myself a Christian, but some of my views of Christianity would shock and perhaps disappoint my mother.  I worry whether I have energy to fight the NYC Department of Education for my kids, the way she fought the Detroit Public Schools system to ensure that I received the best free public education I possibly could. 

And yet, I think I qualify.  I’m open-hearted and caring.  I believe everyone, from CEOs of multi-national conglomerates to the homeless, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  I often decry the lack of civility in our discourse with each other, especially as people interact more and more with people they do not know personally via social media.   And while I try to get my daughter to feel good about herself inside and out, both beauty and brains, I’m an old-fashioned stickler for necklines up, hemlines down, knees together.

My mother lived long enough to see the type of woman I’ve become.  I’m pretty confident she approved.

Life, Love and Up in the Air

January 4, 2010

It’s been a long time since a movie made me think about life, love, loneliness and mortality.  Jason Reitman’s “Up in the Air” did.

George Clooney stars as Ryan Bingham, who works as a career termination consultant.  His company is retained by other companies to fire the employees they don’t have the balls to fire.

(Although the job is presented in the movie as being rather distasteful, it actually sounds like a great idea to me. Firing people is difficult, tricky business, and most managers completely botch it.  Many terminated employees would be better off in the hands of a professional firm.)

Clooney’s character is so good at his job because he has almost no emotional attachments. He is a committed bachelor. He spends most of the year traveling. He buys ties at the airport Brooks Brothers outpost. He fits everything into one rolling carry-on suitcase.  His apartment even looks more like a Residence Inn-type hotel room.

The theme song of this movie should have been Erykah Badu’s “Bag Lady.”

Eventually, of course, he meets a woman, Alex (the stunning Vera Farmiga), with whom he shares an instant kinship. She is a fellow traveler, living in and out of airports. The relationship starts as an on-the-road convenience, but Ryan comes to want more. Clooney and Farmiga have a easy, believable chemistry that makes you root for their budding romance, as improbable and doomed as it seems.

A subplot about Ryan’s sister’s wedding injects a good deal of humor into the story and allows Clooney to deliver the movie’s knockout line and ultimate theme: “Life is better with company.”

That line resonates as the movie progresses to its uncertain conclusion, and long after the credits have rolled.

It’s a simple and unavoidable truth. Life is better with company.

“Life is better with company” explains why people stay in bad friendships, relationships and marriages. It explains why people have a hard time letting go of their kids. Why they spend a fortune caring for their sick and dying pets. Why end of life care is such a tough subject.  Why divorce statistics fail to tell the true picture of what is wrong and what is right with the institution of marriage.

It is hard to let go of people. It is hard choosing to be alone.

I should know.

I stayed in a bad relationship for more than eight years. I married my ex-husband four-and-a-half years into that bad relationship, even though it wasn’t working before we got married, and I knew deep in my heart it was never going to work out.

I didn’t love my ex-husband. He wasn’t good company. He belittled every thing I cared about. He criticized everything I did, or tried to do. We fought constantly, physically on occasion.

And yet I stayed with him, had another child by him, married him seven days before that second child was born, because I could not stand to be one of the few black female partners at a major law firm and yet, just a “baby momma.”  I hated not being married to the father of my two kids, even though I didn’t think he was good husband material.  I believed that it would be harder to raise those children alone than with company, even bad company.

If he had been able to be just a little bit nicer — just a little bit kinder — I would still be with him today.

Of course, I was wrong. And of course, it didn’t work. Before my son’s 3rd birthday, we had an Amazing Race to the courthouse to file divorce papers. He beat me by two weeks — including the extra week it took to convert my complaint into an answer and counterclaim.

I have been single ever since our separation.  I did not date during our separation, in part because he had accused me of infidelity, and I didn’t want to give that lie any substantiation.

I did not date for many years after our divorce, because somewhere deep inside, I believed everything he had said about me for most of our relationship: that I was fat, unattractive, stupid, unworthy of my Harvard Law School degree, a bad mother, bad in bed, just undesirable on every level.

I don’t blame him for the fact that I internalized the things he said. I didn’t have to. I chose to. I consumed his steady diet of negative comments and failed to counter them with positive, self-affirming beliefs. In litigation, expert testimony generally is deemed pretty credible. When my ex-husband made comments about my appearance and desirability, I gave them the weight of expert testimony. 

Somewhere inside,  I said to myself, “Well, he’s a man, he would know whether or not I’m desirable. So it must be true.”

But it’s been five years since my divorce.  In that time, I lost a lot of weight (even though I could have viewed myself as desirable with or without the extra pounds). I got a new job and regained confidence in my abilities as a lawyer. I began writing again on a more regular basis, and felt empowered by the positive feedback I received from others.

And yet, in the five years since my divorce, I have remained single.  I do not date on a regular basis. I am not seeing anyone currently. I haven’t been in a relationship since I separated from my husband.

“Up in the Air” made me question why.

There have been times, many times, where I’ve found myself saying to myself, “I don’t need a relationship. I’m not lonely. I’ve got these kids in the house with me. That’s more than enough company.

“I do all I can to escape them to find some alone time. The last thing I need is some man making demands on my time.”

Some days, I really believe this.  I am not at the Ryan Bingham level of detachment, but I do feel even the best love/sex relationships can be burdensome. And I agree that less-than-ideal relationships are excess baggage better off discarded. You really can move a lot more easily and freely through life if you heed Erykah Badu’s advice and “pack light.”

As a mom, I miss my alone time. The kids don’t respect my privacy. They barge into my room day and night. They get into my bed and try to stay there all night. My daughter goes into my closet at will and tries on my clothes, my shoes, my boots, my coats.

When I do manage to carve out some private space, I hold it dearly and protect it fiercely.

I am not sure I want to share that rare private space with another person.

Except — life is better with company.

I saw “Up in the Air” alone. Before the movie started, I smugly compared myself to the couples searching for two seats together in the crowded movie theater.  It was easy for me to buy a single ticket and find a single seat in the crowded theater. Watching a movie is such a singular, solitary experience, so why do people bother going to movies together, I wondered. Why go through all the hassle just to sit next to each other, silently watching a movie in the dark?  

After the movie ended, as we all filed out of the theater, people were discussing and even arguing over what the ending did or did not mean. I had my own thoughts on the subject and wanted to join one of those discussions, but couldn’t, because I’d gone alone. I was then reminded that the after-movie discussion is why people go to the movies on dates, or with friends or family. 

Being alone in that moment,  having just watched a movie about a man who wants to be with someone but who will probably wind up alone, made me feel sadder than I’ve felt in a long time.

Watching “Up in the Air” made me realize that being without a partner is a choice I’ve made.  It’s not because it’s so hard to find people to date and eventually be in a relationship with, despite the current “why can’t successful black women marry?” topic that has become so disturbingly popular in the media.

I’ve chosen to be alone, much as George Clooney’s character did in the movie, because for a while, it was easier to deal with life without carrying around the baggage of another person. After the divorce, as I worked at establishing myself in a new job and making a new home and a new life for myself and my children as a single parent, it simply was easier to do it alone.

But it’s not an irreversible choice.

At one point in “Up in the Air,” a character asks Ryan, about marriage, “What’s the point?” He answers, truthfully, that there is no “point.” Because it’s not like getting married and having the kids and the grandkids will change the ultimate outcome of your life.

We’re all going to die.

Life is short, and getting shorter by the day.

But everything that happens between birth and death is a choice. 

For years, I chose to be alone.

Perhaps now, it’s time for me to have some company on this journey.

Fighting Christmas Depression

December 12, 2009

Used under license from FreeFoto.com

I wrote this on December 21, 2008.  A lot has changed in a year.

Everyone always says that Christmas is not — or shouldn’t be — about giving, but receiving. Over the years, people have offered me wonderful, well-meaning suggestions for raising children who want to spend Christmas serving others instead of being served, children who are more excited about giving than they are about receiving.

I have not met the children of these well-meaning folks. I am sure their children are terrific. But in my experience, young children are terrifically selfish and self-centered. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect them not to want stuff. A lot of it.

I tried out a few of those suggestions on Cami. Earlier today, I said, “Hey, how about next year, we stay home for Christmas and serve at a soup kitchen?”

“You’re kidding, right?”

“No, I’m not kidding. Why would I kid about something like that?”

“Ummm . . . then no.”

“Why not?”

“Because – eww – I don’t want to spend my Christmas serving at a soup kitchen! Christmas is MY day! Christmas break is the longest break of the year. I don’t want to spend it serving other people. Let other people serve other people.”

“Well, Cami, if everyone said let someone else do it, then no one would do it.”

She looked at me. “Seriously, Mom, you don’t want to go to a soup kitchen, either. Where is this coming from, anyway?”

I knew better than to ask Randy.

My children are not, at this stage in their lives and development, interested in giving. They don’t even buy me a gift for Christmas. My children want stuff. A lot of it. And they’re not shy about demanding it.

I also wanted stuff at Christmastime when I was a kid, but I knew not to expect it. My father was a Ford auto worker. My mother worked only occasionally outside the home, typically in low-paying service jobs. And I am the youngest of six. Even in years where there were no worries about union strikes or company layoffs, big Christmases simply weren’t an option. I would study the JC Penney and Sears catalogs like I used to study our encyclopedias, and a trip to Hudson’s was like a trip to Heaven, but I wasn’t silly enough to actually think I was getting much of anything.

I make just enough money, I guess, to delude my children into thinking that they should have presents under a tree somewhere. Indeed, that there should be a tree somewhere, with presents for them under it. I suppose I have no one to blame for that but myself.

When I was married, my ex-husband and I shopped separately for the kids. As with everything else, we couldn’t agree on what to buy or how much to spend. While I was buying robots from Sharper Image and globes from Imaginarium and educational software and books from Barnes & Noble and magnetic building toys from Toys R Us and FAO Schwarz, he would be at some down-market toy store in or outside Philadelphia, buying up every marked-down, leftover, on sale toy he could find.

The net result was that the kids always had a lot of gifts under the tree. They treated each group of toys with equal disdain. They would ignore my educational toys until there was nothing, absolutely nothing, else to do. The stuff he bought would be played with, broken, and in the garbage by New Year’s Day. Yet, every year, they expected more, and we obliged.

The first year of my separation, I had no energy for Christmas. I couldn’t imagine trimming a tree and cooking and shopping and wrapping and baking and creating this wonderful special Christmas all by myself. I wasn’t feeling wonderful and I wasn’t feeling special. I was feeling broke. The divorce was nasty, contentious and expensive, and took place during a down economic cycle. I had just taken a job paying about 40% of what I used to earn as a law firm partner, and I watched legal bills, on top of day-to-day living expenses, eat through the rest of my savings like cartoon termites.

In desperation, I turned to my good friend Claire, who loves my children and Christmas seemingly in equal measure. Her own children are now adults, and she missed having little people at home baking cookies for Santa, decorating the tree, singing Christmas carols, and running downstairs at break-neck speed on Christmas morning to tear open wrapper after wrapper and squeal in delight. So I brought her my kids for Christmas. My mother loaned me some money to buy the kids a few presents – and Claire supplied the rest.

Going to Auntie Claire’s for Christmas has now become a tradition of sorts for us, if four years can make a tradition. My financial situation is more stable now, so I try to bring more than just greedy kids to Virginia. Despite my baking phobia, I even bake cookies at Claire’s – chocolate chip ones, following the recipe on the back of the Nestle’s chips. I’m told they’re good, and whether they actually are or not, someone always eats them. Thanks to Claire and her family, my kids get that wonderful, special Christmas experience that I couldn’t and still can’t provide them on my own.

But the kids’ Christmas gift expectations haven’t changed since the divorce, even though their father hasn’t participated in the spending frenzy in over three years. I still feel a certain amount of pressure every year to make sure that, in addition to tree-trimming and cookies for Santa and a fantastic Christmas feast, they also have a decent number of gifts under the tree.

It wears me out.

This year, Cami told me, “Oh, I only want two things for Christmas this year – a laptop and a pair of UGGs.”

“Oh, so only $2000, and I’m done with you?”

“You wouldn’t have to get such an expensive laptop,” she offered as a compromise.

Later, she added a Blackberry to the mix, in place of the iPhone requested previously. I have never, ever, in my entire life, received a $2000 Christmas gift. From anyone. Not even myself. The package is an easy no. Other than the Blackberry, which is patently ridiculous, the components are harder.

Cami makes a convincing argument for needing a laptop. She uses the computer a lot for school. She has a school e-mail account, which is supposed to be used to email assignments and communicate with teachers and peers about assignments. Of course, it is also used for gossip, chat, uploading songs and music videos, and other non-academic purposes. I wouldn’t mind the extra activity, except my daughter cannot multi-task. Excess socializing, at school and online, led to poor grades and placed her on academic probation for the first grading period. Her grades have improved recently, but I have decided she’s not mature enough to handle the responsibility of having a laptop in the privacy of her room. That’s part of the story – the part I tell her whenever she renews the laptop discussion.

The rest of the story is financial, because if I could afford a laptop, I’d buy one and figure out a way to enforce responsible use. The real reason I’m not buying Cami a laptop, even though it almost rises to the level of a “need,” is that I do not want to spend thousands of dollars on Christmas presents right now, with the economy in such bad shape. Watching friends get laid off from high six-figure Wall Street jobs serves as a reminder that my job is not guaranteed. It would be illogical to deplete the emergency fund so the kids can have a fabulous Christmas, and with tax season just around the corner and summer camp payments coming due right after that, Christmas needs to be a low-key affair this year.

I feel badly about always having to say no. I know many, if not most, of her friends at school have laptops. The layout of my apartment requires that the desktop computer remain in my room. She can use the computer in my room for homework, but after a while, I get tired of having her in my room, and I start demanding that she “get on with it.” I tell myself that I’m keeping her from wasting time and teaching her to be efficient, but mostly I’m just being a nag, and I know it.

And as for the UGGs – no, they’re not definitely not a need, any more than the Blackberry. Yet I remember ogling pearl-button angora sweaters at Hudson’s the same way she ogles the UGGs in my Bloomingdale’s catalogs. I would love to get her at least one thing she doesn’t need but just wants. In light of the tough economy and looming bills, I can’t justify buying the UGGs, either. It may be irrational, but that bothers me.

Then there’s my son. I thought he would be easy. When we first started talking about Santa lists, he mentioned only a Bakugan toy costing about $20 at Toys R Us. I guess he must have then spoken to Cami, because the next time we talked, his list had expanded to include a new Nintendo DS, a Wii, and a lot of new games. He still believes in Santa, so I told him that since a lot of mommies and daddies lost their jobs this year, Santa was not giving anyone a lot of Christmas gifts this year, and was instead helping the mommies and daddies with some of the things they need, too.

 He was fine with that explanation, but yesterday, I made the mistake of reminding Cami, in front of him, that “I’m not buying a lot of stuff this year.” He caught on.

“So, Mom, it’s you? Santa isn’t real?”

Cami immediately jumped up from the computer to whisper in my ear that they’d just had a discussion in her Philosophy class about the morality of perpetuating the Santa myth. I wasn’t interested in philosophy in that moment. I told her to shut up and sit down.

“Randy,” I said, “will it make a difference to you one way or the other?”

He didn’t hesitate. “I want Santa to be real.”

“Well, Randy,” Cami piped up, the weight of Kant behind her, “I have some bad news.”

I hissed at her the way our cat used to hiss at the dog we no longer have, the way I now hiss at the cat when she’s on my furniture. He already isn’t getting 75% of the items on his Christmas list. If Santa is still important to him, why take it away?

Cami often misses non-verbal clues, but between that hiss and the look on my face, she stopped cold.

“Well, then,” I told Randy, daring my daughter to contradict me, “if that’s what you want to believe, that’s what it is.”

He was momentarily satisfied, although he’s made a few doubting references to Santa since then.

I know it’s silly for me to be even slightly depressed about not being able to spend a lot of money on Christmas presents this year. I know – it’s meaningless, they won’t remember the presents but they’ll remember the great times with friends and family for a lifetime – yada yada yada.

And bull.

I don’t remember the presents I actually did receive, the few Christmases when we did get presents, but boy do I remember, even today, the stuff I wanted and didn’t get. Not all of it, of course, but a lot of it. I don’t yet know what I’m getting them, but they will have presents under the tree. Not everything they wanted, and some things – like clothing – that they don’t want, but definitely need.

I know we’ll have a great time at Claire’s, and the kids will be happy with whatever they get. I just hope, by Christmas morning, I manage to get over my own disappointment at not being able to do more.

Losing Mom

October 23, 2009

“This is the second big tragedy of the summer,” my eight-year-old son announced glumly, tears welling up in his eyes.

I was momentarily grateful for the thought patterns of an eight-year-old, which put a smile on my face for the first time all day.  I couldn’t fault my son for ranking the death of his grandmother second to the death of Michael Jackson as the summer’s worst tragedy.  Grandma didn’t have a Thriller video in her legacy.  But then, on the other hand, Michael Jackson couldn’t bake pies like Grandma.

For me, it’s no contest.  As my son later said, “This must be even harder for you, Mom, because Grandma was my grandma, but she was your mom.”

Indeed.

I got the call I had been dreading and anticipating and wishing away at about a quarter to 5 a.m. on August 14.  I knew it was bad news.  “No good news comes at this time of morning,” I muttered to myself as I awoke to answer the phone.  The only question in my mind was, was the bad news about Mom or my brother Greg?

“Carolyn, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but Mama died this morning,” my sister Cheryl said.

“Oh.  Okay.”

At least, that’s what I think I said.  I don’t remember what I actually said, or what we specifically talked about.  I understood that my brother Greg had found my mother in the dining room floor, unresponsive.  She had fallen out of her favorite chair at the table, the chair where she ate, received visitors, and sat to read her Bible every night.  Greg called my other siblings in the Detroit area and told everyone to “come, just come.”   Someone called 911.  The EMS medics pronounced her dead of a massive heart attack.  My oldest sister called me.

These are the facts as I know them.   I wasn’t there when my dad died, and I wasn’t there when my mom died.   My own selfish ambitions had taken me far away from the city of Detroit long before.  Somewhere deep inside, I feel just the tiniest bit of guilt about that.

I went upstairs and told my 12-year-old daughter, then gently extricated myself from her arms to go downstairs and tell my nephew, my second oldest sister’s son, who was visiting from Howard University. 

I decided not to tell my son until later.  It was his last day of baseball camp, and I saw no need to ruin his day.  I told him after he returned home from camp, after more of the details of the broad strokes of the day had been filled in, after I had accepted in my head but not my heart the truth behind those words:

Mama died.

My mother suffered her first heart attack in about March 2004, during her second and last visit to New York City.  She had come to help me.  My marriage was falling apart and my husband was erratic and unstable.  I was afraid of him and didn’t know who else to call. 

In the back of my head, I must have had a vision of my mother going to help my aunt get rid of her incorrigible husband many years ago.  Mama had packed her brother-in-law’s things in garbage bags, set the bags out on the front porch, locked the doors and put a huge pot of water on the stove to boil.  When he came home and demanded to be let in, my mother gave him two options: take his shit and get to steppin’, or force open the door and get a pot of boiling hot water thrown in his face.  He chose the first option and went to his mama’s house.

I don’t think I expected my mother to put a pot of water on the stove to boil for my ex.  Nor did I ask her to.  I did figure he’d stop acting like a madman with her around.   It never occurred to me to ask Mama how she was feeling, if she was up for the trip.  She offered to come and I accepted.

When I picked her up from LaGuardia Airport, I was startled a bit, as I had been in the last several years, to realize that this little old lady in the wheelchair was my mother.  I wasn’t used to thinking of her as old.  Mama had always been a giant, even though she was only 5′ 2″.  She was formidable and stubborn, with an iron will that could move mountains.  If Mama said it was so, then that’s how it was, or how it was going to be.  She had been more God to me in my childhood than the Holy Trinity combined.

As always, Mama was a little old lady until she started talking, and then she was back to just being Mom.  I drove her home, and she seemed fine.  She said she was hungry.  I hadn’t cooked.  My kitchen cabinets were pretty bare, but I did have a tin of sardines (but the good ones, packed in olive oil, OK?).  I offered her sardines and crackers, and she accepted.

A few minutes after she started eating, she ran to the bathroom.

I raised an eyebrow.  I hadn’t seen my mother run like that in decades.  I heard the sound of retching.

“Mom, are you OK?”

“I’m fine,” she said, and then I heard the sound of vomiting again.

Mom was on the floor, clutching the toilet, vomiting like I’d never seen before.  She told me the sardines must have given her heartburn. 

“I feel this pressure in my chest, and that’s what’s making me feel like I have to throw up,” she managed to explain before vomiting again.

I ran out of the bathroom and picked up the phone.  “Mom, I’m calling EMS,” I said.

“For what?”

“For you.”

“I don’t need no EMS.  This is just heartburn,” she protested.

“Then they’ll send you back home,” I said as the 911 operator began to take my information.

I am not a doctor, and had never heard heart attack symptoms described as pressure and nausea, but something in the questions the dispatcher asked — something in her tone — made a little thought enter my mind: “Mama’s having a heart attack.”

That little thought was confirmed when the EMT techs showed up and gave Mom a nitroglycerin tablet to put under her tongue.  By this time, my ex-husband had come downstairs to see what the commotion was all about.

“She’s having a heart attack,” he announced, even though the EMT techs hadn’t said anything.  “My mother had heart trouble.  I’ve seen this before.”

Shut up, I hissed at him in my head, but I said nothing.  There was no point in arguing with him and causing her additional distress.

But he had been right.  She was rushed to St. Luke’s/Roosevelt Hospital, and within two hours, she was in the cath lab, getting two stents implanted into her arteries to clear near-complete blockages. 

I found out later that Mom had been having symptoms all week before she boarded that plane.  She had been out of breath after walking a very short distance.  She had complained of “heartburn” and mild nausea all week.  She had her first heart attack within two hours after landing at LaGuardia Airport.  I shudder to think what would have happened if her flight had been delayed.

Back then, we were told she had achieved a good result.  She was treated just as her heart attack symptoms began, so there was little damage to the heart muscle.  She was advised to get a pacemaker, but she refused.  So she was advised to start a program of moderate exercise, change her diet, control her high blood pressure by taking her medication regularly, take the anti-cholesterol drug Plavix, and put herself under the regular care of a cardiologist when she returned home to Detroit.

Mom did . . . pretty much none of the above.  She kept frying her foods and cooking with salt.  She continued to refuse a pacemaker.  She stopped taking the Plavix.  She refused to take the new blood pressure medication she had been prescribed.  She saw her cardiologist a couple of times, and then stopped.  She tried walking around the block, but after a few outings, she realized she was too weak to do it alone.  She feared collapsing or being attacked by some thugs in the neighborhood who decided to prey on an old lady.  She sat in her favorite chair and rarely left the house.

And that was how she liked it.

I argued with my mom, begged her to go the doctor more often, implored her to listen to her doctors when she was hospitalized again three years later, and it was pretty clear things were not going in the right direction. 

(There was one final hospitalization prior to her death, but she was released with a bunch of prescriptions she never would have been able to take on her own, and she died at home, as she obviously wished.)

I wasn’t the only one, of course.  My sister Caroletta worked even harder to try to get Mom to do what we thought was the right thing.  Mom said and did just enough to shut us up, and then went right back to doing what she was going to do.

My mother’s will was unlike anything I have ever encountered from anyone else in my life, with the possible exception of my 12-year-old.  When she made her mind up to do something, there was no stopping her.  This was a woman who sat in the back of my elementary school classrooms to see and hear first-hand what and how I was being taught.  When she was dissatisfied, she would call the teacher out into the hallway to speak with her.  When that didn’t get the results she wanted, she went to the principal and threatened to go all the way to the school board.

(Did I mention I was an unpopular kid in elementary school?  You’re not surprised, are you?)

Mom fought for me to get a great education in a mediocre Detroit public elementary school.  She somehow coerced my notoriously cheap father into sending me to Catholic school for 8th grade, because she worried I was succuumbing to the negative influences of the bad neighborhood middle school. 

I tricked her a bit for high school, by failing to tell her I’d gotten accepted to the Catholic high school she wanted to send me to, so that I could go to Cass Technical High School, Detroit’s top citywide public high school, instead.  But by then, she didn’t have to fight for me anymore.  She believed in me so much that I was more than a bit cocky when it came to academic achievement.  I’d learned from the master how to fight for myself.

My mother also was a woman of incredible talent.  Her vegetable garden was the stuff of legend, where everything grew and nothing ever died.  (We used to joke that Mom’s garden was the real Pet Sematary, but we were too afraid to bury a dead thing there to test out that theory for real.)  She made pies — as recently as a month before her death — that were better than any restaurant — “store-bought,” as she said with disdain — pie I’ve ever eaten.  Because of her — and my father, but mostly her — I made it from the “hood” to Harvard Law School, to partner of one of the country’s most prestigious law firms and vice president of one of the world’s premier cosmetics companies.

And it bothers me to no end that she never turned that iron will on herself, and willed herself to live, instead of allowing herself to die.

Since her next-to-last hospitalization, I would periodically dream about getting that phone call, hearing those words — “Mama died.”  And then I would immediately wake myself up, thinking, “That’s silly.  Mama’s not dead.”  I wish I could wake up and find out this was still a dream, that I could just call Mama and hear her voice and assure myself that she was truly, 100% alive.

I know better, but I still wish.

I used to think of Mama as a series of contradictions.  She used to infuriate me because I couldn’t make sense of some of her decisions, including her decision to refuse medical treatment and accept the risk of a massive cardiac arrest.  Since her death, I’ve been consumed by trying to resolve those surface contradictions to find the common thread.  For example: Mama was an excellent cook and would prepare meals for people for free, but never took up the suggestion that she could open a restaurant or catering business of her own.   She made all my clothes until I was in middle school and decided I was too old to still wear “hand-made” clothes.  She would give our neighbor, who ran a tailoring business out of her home, advanced sewing tips, but she wouldn’t try to get business of her own. 

She was a snob extraordinaire, but not in the usual sense.  She was not impressed by money, or people with money, or the things they possessed.  She taught us that class had nothing at all to do with wealth, and that there were plenty of people with money who lacked class, and vice versa.  She wouldn’t let us associate with the classless, regardless of income or family net worth. 

Yet she couldn’t stand to see people go hungry.  The same people we were not allowed to play or associate with as children, grew up to be the adults, the neighborhood drunks and winos and crackheads, who she fed and whose children she fed, because it wasn’t the childrens’ fault that their parents put their substance abuse ahead of their children.  She leveraged all of her talents for the care of her family, and when we were gone, she took care of the people in the neighborhood, the struggling adults who had been children with her children, and who became like her surrogate children.

I’m no longer as angry with my mother as I was when she died.  I was angry with her because I had convinced myself that her death was due to her stubbornness, that it was avoidable, that she could have been with us many, many more years had she only cooperated, acquiesced, done as she was told.  As I type those words, I am reminded of the beginning of the Book of Ecclesiastes:  “Meaningless!  Meaningless!  says the Teacher.  Utterly meaningless!  Everything is meaningless.”  On one hand, I wonder — what difference does another five, ten, fifteen years make, compared to the eternity that you spend in death? 

On the other hand — in five years, her youngest great-grandchild would have been five, and would remember her great-grandma.  In five years, my children would be 13 and 18, respectively.  She would have been able to see both of my kids reach adulthood and young adulthood.  

We would have had five more years to try to crack those apple and sweet potato pie recipes.

Five more years of everything I miss about her, and would miss about her even more five years from now.

So I try to hold onto the things that make me smile, the special moments that were our moments alone, that no one else shared. 

When I was growing up, my mother was a notorious prude when it came to topics like sex.  When I started my period, she handed me a book.  When I had questions about sex, she handed me a different book.  “Let me know if  you have any questions,” she said in a way that made it clear that questions were not welcome and would not be easily entertained. 

I had tons of questions, most of which were answered by the porno books and magazines I found under my brothers’ mattresses, or in Harold Robbins’ novels.

After she came to New York to help me with my ex-husband, my mother and I began having “girl talks.”  

Somehow, a floodgate opened up that I wasn’t expecting.  When I would come to Detroit to visit– after the kids were in bed and her favorite televangelists were off the TV — we would sit at the dining room table, Mom in her favorite chair and me in the chair next to it, and chit chat about woman stuff. 

And by woman stuff, I mean sex.  

And by sex, I mean the stuff you don’t usually discuss with your 70-something year-old mom. 

Mom did most of the chatting.   I was too busy most of the time being appalled.

And oh, boy, did Mom have some stories.

I was real good at listening — and laughing — but less so at sharing.   Once, she asked me very directly about my sex life with my ex-husband — after oversharing some info about my dad that I never needed to know — and I totally punted.  I gave her enough of a response to keep the “girl chat” thing going, but inwardly, I froze.   Talk to my mother, my Mom, about stuff like oral sex and anal sex and oh my God are you fucking kidding me?

And yet, in these months after her death, it’s the girl chats that make me feel the least like crying, that make me feel warm and special and happy, as if she was still here.

There is no “over it.”  Every day without her gets a bit easier, until it doesn’t.  I have dates embedded in my brain that will forever be difficult:  August 14, November 21 (her birthday), Thanksgiving, Christmas. 

Then there are just the times I want to call her, the random triggers that I suspect will never go away.  I recently traveled to Las Vegas and Miami within the same week.  When Mom was alive, I would always call her before I got on a plane and give her all my flight information, just in case.  I would call when I landed, to let her know I landed safely.  I would call when I boarded and de-planed again at my final destination.  And if I traveled someplace I’d never been to before, I would tell her all about the places I’d been, in hopes that one day I could encourage her to travel more, to see more of the world.

This time, I felt lost when I was traveling.  I kept texting my flight information to my sisters, since someone in the world should know where I was.  I wanted so badly after those recent trips to pick up the phone and call her and tell her all about Vegas and Miami.

After a few months, people stop asking you how you’re doing, are you OK.  People sort of expect you to get over it and move on.  And death is a subject most people want to avoid, anway. 

So, in case you were wondering:  I’m OK, except for those times I’m not.  I’ll never be over it.  I’ll never stop missing my Mom.  I’ll never stop wanting her to be at the other end of a phone line when I call, or rising up from her favorite chair when I enter her house.  It will never be OK that she’s gone, until I’m no longer here.

Other than that, I’m fine.