Mockingbirds….or, I’d Like to Speak to the Manager

I was sitting outside this morning with my husband when he asked, “Do you hear the mockingbirds?”

“Yes”, I said. Actually, I said, “Yes?” which is my way of trying not to admit I wouldn’t know a mockingbird chirp from a whooping cough.

Used to my stubbornness and apparently not in the mood to make me admit my ignorance, he supplied the answer for me.

“They pick up each other’s calls. One will change and then they all change.”

“How do they know who is the leader”, I asked.

“They don’t”, he said as if that was not the most troubling answer ever.

So now he sleeps peacefully and my brain runs in circles with All The Questions such as:

  1. What calls do I unknowingly imitate – of mom, of female, of middle aged, of wife of daughter – and who exactly am I imitating?
  2. Is there a leader in all of this? Who is in charge?

I have always been someone who wants to understand the rules, memorize them, and then follow them to the letter. This works really well for me in a school or work setting, not so much in life in general.

Here are things I believe, but which I could not say how or why I came to believe them:

Being a Mom means love, fierce devotion, tireless commitment.

If you are a Mom in the midst of this journey with your children, here’s a piece of information: if you nail that you’re doing just fine. I wish I did not have to learn that one in hindsight as it would have saved me a lot of sleepless nights about What I Was Not Doing. Oh, and…

…No matter how hard you love and protect and guide, there will be That Mom, you know the one, she runs the bake sale and custom decorates her child’s dorm room and in all ways makes you feel inferior. Hint: That mom is not making you feel anything, you are choosing to feel it. Let her and her glue gun go, you’re doing just fine.

My parents taught me how to be a daughter. I have been imitating their call to do my best, demonstrate character, don’t act a fool, and call them on a regular basis. The angriest my Dad ever got at me were in the times when I behaved in a way that was petty or small or unkind. My Mom’s list isn’t that different from my Dad’s, although I believe she would add, “Whatever you do, do it well.” She would also add, “Write the damn book already”, but that’s another post.

I am looking for the leader to guide my call-and-repeat journey of middle age.

I am not even sure who those voices are or where they are, the universe seems determined to silence us. Now that our uteri (that’s really the plural of uterus, weird huh?) are no longer active, it seems we are supposed to quietly exit Stage Left. I don’t say this with bitterness, I offer this as Exhibit A:

A Google search of “Middle aged female icons” returned this:

Oh lordy, where to begin. Not a single name appears on the first screen of results. I’m not a search engine expert, but I do know that a Google search reflects the items that are most often searched for or clicked on. This means Ladies, that Whoever We’ve Left In Charge, says we are to be tastefully coiffed and blessedly silent.

Which brings me to: who is in charge? You are. I am. She is. All of us are with our stretch marks and our wisdom and our laugh lines and our journey and our laughter and our sorrow and our victories and defeats. If you are reading this and you are older than 40, you have survived some stuff and been knocked down by some stuff and regret a few things and have learned a LOT. You are the life wisdom equivalent of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

I believe a coup is in order and that we are just the ones to do it, so stand tall, speak up, interrupt if you have to. Oh, and wear whatever the hell you want to.



Father’s Day

The first Father’s Day without my Dad was hard. Really hard. I took it personally that people had Fathers to call or see and I did not.

This is my 3rd Father’s Day without him and while I miss my Dad, I’m sure I always will, I’m not sad today.

My son just picked up my husband, his stepfather, for lunch. This is not an ordinary lunch. This is a victory lunch, a healing lunch, a miracle lunch, a blessing lunch.

Noah and Roadrunner did not get off to a smooth start when they met three years ago. Some of the reasons were predictable, two alpha men staking their claim on me. Noah was disparaging of Roadrunner and often downright rude. Roadrunner could not believe I had not done more during Noah’s childhood to communicate that I’m the Mama, he’s the child. I’m in charge, he is not.

Noah could not believe that he was being asked to take this man seriously. It wasn’t personal, it was more, as he like to point out, “You’ve dated more men since we moved to Tennessee than I have dated women, and I’m the one who was 13 when we moved here.” He had no reason to believe that Roadrunner would stick around, so why bother?

For the first 2 years I tried everything to bring them together. I ran interference between them, pleaded with them to give the other another chance, then another, then another.

In 2017 Noah had the first of a handful of mental health crises. No one saw them coming, he was fine one day, and the next, not fine at all. Hospitalized not fine. Bewildered and terrified not fine.

I would love to report that Roadrunner stood by Noah, they realized how much they need each other, now they go to the baseball game every Sunday, the end. Roadrunner absolutely stood by Noah, he walked us through the storm (and the 2nd and the 3rd and the 4th) with unbelievable love and grace.

Noah, on the other hand, zigged and zagged. At times he leaned on Roadrunner more than me, because Roadrunner didn’t look at him with the sad ‘mom eyes’. At times he took all of his rage out on Roadrunner because he was the one person who would not tolerate Noah’s denial and subsequent refusal to take care of himself.

I used to pray to God to give the words to bring these men together. One day, God told me, “It’s not your fight.” That God, He knows a thing or two.

The minute I stopped running interference and let their relationship unfold as it was going to, it started to get better. Not immediately, blinding ray of sun through the clouds level, but it got better. They got to figure out how to love one another in their way which created a much stronger bond than my pleading and intervention ever would have.

I’ve long held the belief that love cures all, and in my lifetime I’ve never seen it fail. Of course I’ve seen relationships fall apart, be strained, threaten to splinter. In every one of those cases, even the ones that did implode, it was because love was not the primary ingredient. Resentment or jealousy or disappointment or fear was. Many times I was the one with those negative feelings and the one who could not or would not get past them.

Love will not necessarily make you rich or skinny or a better cook, but it will most certainly make you stronger. Choose love at every fork in the road and you’ll not go wrong.

Happy Father’s Day to all.

What doesn’t kill you doesn’t kill you….

I woke up this morning with a burning need to write. This has never happened to me. Ever. I’ve tiptoed around writing most of my adult life, as a reader I’ve worshiped at the feet of writers, but I’ve never felt compelled to write with the force I did this morning.

Here’s a true story – for the past two weeks my face has been covered in an ugly rash. It looks like the worst case of acne you ever had as a 14 year old. Yes, I saw a doctor and he declared it ‘contact dermatitis’, which near as I can figure is doctor-speak for ‘there’s no telling what you’ve gone and gotten all over yourself but it won’t kill you.’

This might sound insane, but I’m pretty sure this rash is caused by pent-up angst which, having flooded my internal systems, is now spilling over to the outside.

I’m not going to declare that today is the day I commit to regular writing because….well….check the dates of my previous posts, separated by months and even years. I will say this, based on hard, heartbreaking, and repeated experience: anxiety thrives in the dark corners of your brain, it seeks them out, builds a fence around itself, and then taunts you like an angry monkey. There is no key to this fence, you can’t climb over it or under it. You can muffle the sounds of its taunts with food or exercise or booze or bad relationships, but you will never silence it until you find a way to flood that corner of your brain with light. Once you do this you will see that what you thought was a mighty fanged monkey is actually a mangy stuffed animal with cymbals that can only make noise if its batteries are charged.

You know what to do in this situation. You do the same thing your parents did to you and you did to your kids, and parents will do until the end of time – you pull the battery out, declare the toy to be broken, dry the child’s tears, distract him with something else (read: quieter), and then roll along.

My form of taking the battery out of the monster is writing publicly. Maybe yours is something else, it doesn’t matter as long as it brings you peace.

Bottom of the ninth

Today is the 1 year mark of the death of my father.

I still haven’t fully processed his loss. This past year brought some situations that demanded to be addressed right now, so grief got pushed to the back of the line.

I started following the Detroit Tigers as a way to feel close to my Dad. He watched every game, would boot me off the phone if he thought his boys needed him. He would claim to be joking that he believed his vigilance made a difference in the game’s outcome, but I don’t think he was.

I stream the games on the radio. Baseball is perfect for radio as it’s a slow and meandering sport which gives the announcers a lot of time to talk. They have time to tell stories, sometimes of the players, about how the game has evolved over the years, of dugout shenanigans. The language they use is old-fashioned – buggy whip being my favorite, and unlike other sports, it doesn’t call for flashy language or many exclamations.

Toward the end of my Dad’s life he told me a lot of stories. He would preface each with, “I may have already told you this one”, and each time I said he hadn’t. Sometimes he had, but I never passed up an opportunity to hear my Dad tell a story. It’s not that my Dad was a great spinner of yarns, it’s that his voice was a balm to me. It’s the voice that read me stories when I was little, the voice I heard singing while he did the dishes, the calming voice of reassurance over and over in my life that I would be fine, that life always works out, whatever the evidence to the contrary.

It was also the voice that told me to never hang my head. Ever.

I find the narrative of baseball soothing. There’s a civility and pace to it that mirrors my Dad’s. There’s a quiet hope in baseball too – that the player sent down to the minors will soon be pulled up, the pitcher having a bad game will regain his groove, that there’s one more game left in the series to turn things around.

My Dad believed, right up to his final days, that things might turn around for him, that he might get an extra inning. I believed it too, right up to the moment he exhaled his final breath.

I miss my Dad terribly, but when I watch the Tigers it’s more bearable, the slow and dependable pace of the game reminiscent of the feeling of being his daughter.