Playing the WASP Card

A week or so ago, I went to Lady Grace to buy some new bras. I have always had good luck there and I needed some new underwire bras as the old ones have been losing the war with the wire and have been stabbing me in awkward locations. I took my friend Seth with me because he loves fabric, fashion, and sewing, and didn’t mind going with me for something that odd. He is also the boyfriend of my friend Russell and a previous student of mine, so he tends to get dragged off to odd places all the time.

At the store, he drew a number of odd looks and when the manager finally got around to helping me (the computers were down, so not her fault), we had no luck finding anything in my size. I am, admittedly, overweight, but this had never been a problem before. I did try on a few things, however, and while I was in the dressing room, the manager, at some point, walked by Seth as he was looking around and stated, “These are not for you.”

I ended up ordering a style from the catalog in two colors, and we left which was when he told me about his experience. I expressed my annoyance about it but we laughed it off. Seth is not the type to really worry about other people’s biases, and I was just annoyed at my lack of success.

A couple of days ago, I got the call that the bra was in. This time, the woman who has been staying with us, Jada, went with me. When I got there, the manager showed me what had come in. Only one bra had been ordered as apparently the other color was unavailable, and when I tried it on, I was disappointed by the sheer fabric and the lack of a liner. (I prefer to avoid the ‘headlight’ phenomenon and like bras with a light liner to avoid embarrassment.) I told the manager that this was the first time I had not been able to find something in their store, and her “Sorry” was anything but sincere.

However, when she was telling me that the new line was in the middle of being photographed, she also took a moment to compliment me on my peacock pin. At this point, I was feeling a little exasperated. I had not been told that there was one less bra than I had planned on when they had called, I did not like the bra, and here was the woman suggesting that I order from the catalog, the source of the flimsy selection that had been ordered in the first place.

When she complimented me on the pin, I seized the opportunity to get a little back for Seth and myself. I told her point blank that it was from D.A.R. She looked at me blankly, and so I told her it was the Daughters of the American Revolution. She looked a little stunned then, and I further went on and mentioned that I had gotten it from Congress the previous year, not elaborating. She complimented it again, still looking a little bit taken aback, and then recovered herself and reminded me that I could get the catalog sent to me and could order them through the store at my convenience.

I will not be going back to that store. I plan on going to the Woburn store, where they have always been nice to me, this weekend and see if there really is nothing that I can buy. I have a hard time believing that in a store of that many bras that there is nothing I can purchase there. If I am right, then I will send a complaint to the headquarters and let them know about the manager’s treatment of both Seth and myself. After all, I should not have to be treated in such a way because of the company I keep, Seth should not have been spoken to in such a manner, and I should not have to resort to playing the WASP card just to get good service.

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Short story contest entry.

Wow! I actually made it into the short story contest’s second round. I am going to post the story here so as to share it more effectively.

Running With Safety Scissors.

The car was going nowhere. Mary sighed and climbed stiffly out of the driver’s seat, grateful that Nico was already at school, and the high school hadn’t called her called in to sub that day. She had stopped in downtown Derry to run to the post office, and when she came out, the stupid engine wouldn’t even turn over. The starter again. The car was old, she commiserated with herself. Sometimes she felt that old cars did things like this just to be spiteful for their years of long, unappreciated service. At least, it seemed that way on early Tuesday mornings like this one.

A large black greyhound, Corsi by name, panted at her from the backseat, and thrust his long, graceful nose out of the half open window. Marry scratched his head absently with one hand while flipping through her wallet for her AAA card with the other. The dog groaned and leaned against her hand with obvious pleasure.

Finding the card, she reached for her phone and dialed the number. Fifty minutes, the operator told her. Glancing around, Mary spied the little coffee house she sometimes visited, and decided that it would be as good a place as any to wait for the tow truck. The spring air wasn’t cold, exactly, but a cup of coffee and a warm place to hang out that allowed Corsi wouldn’t be bad either. This was not to mention that their muffins were gluten-free and totally worth the price they charged for them.

Securing the car, she let Corsi out and walked down the street towards the Daily Grind. Two motorcycles suddenly roared by, and Mary flinched. Big men on bikes terrified her like no other. Shaking, she entered the coffee shop and settled down to wait. It wasn’t too long before the tow truck showed up, and her guess of a dead starter was confirmed. Giving the driver the name of her usual mechanic, Mary then made a two more calls and went back to the Grind to wait. Ten minutes later, a blue HHR pulled into the parking lot, and her friend Margo stepped out of the car. Spying Mary, she walked into the shop.

“Kiddo, I don’t know when you were planning to get a new car, but now might be a good time.”

“You know I can’t. I haven’t saved that much, and with David out of work, his child support checks have dwindled to almost nil.”

“I’m not sure which is worse,” laughed Margo. “Being married to him and having him in and out of jobs or being divorced and having to deal with the excuses.”

“At least I don’t have to listen to him every day,” said Mary.

“Come on, let’s get this furry lug home,” said Margo, stooping to pat Corsi’s head. “You can tell me all about your date last night on the way.”

On the ride, Mary related her latest failure in online dating. Margo rolled her eyes when Mary mentioned the gluten-free dating site, but admitted that there were worse ways to meet men – not many, she amended quickly, but some. They pulled into Mary’s mother’s driveway where Mary and Nico lived, and Margo turned, looking Mary in the eyes.

“You,” said Margo, “have never taken any chances. You’ve been that way your whole life…with everything! Most people try something dangerous occasionally – skiing, acting, even underwater volleyball, for Christ’s sake – something that could get them hurt emotionally or even physically, but not you. You always take the safe way out, even when you try something new. It’s like running with safety scissors, hon. Even if you fall, you are not likely to get hurt.”

“I take it what you’re saying is that I should date a serial killer?” said Mary dryly.

“What I’m saying,” said Margo, “is that you should stretch your limits. I know Nico has Celiac’s and you like the gluten-free foods, but that doesn’t mean every guy you date has to. A lot of the guys on those dating sites are just plain weird.”

“So I should go to Gluten-Free Anonymous meetings and find someone that way?”

“That is so ten minutes ago,” said Margo, flipping her hair over her shoulder in mock distain. “No, I mean go out and meet people. Single dads at the PTA or guys at the dog park are too tame, too easy, too bland. Live a little.”

“How?”

“Don’t ask me that, hon. It’s your life. Go live it.”

They dropped Corsi off, and Margo drove Mary over to the garage. As she got ready to go, she looked at Mary thoughtfully.

“Don’t close yourself off to possibilities, or you’ll never find out what is truly out there,” she said. “Come out with me tonight to the Shaskeen. There’s a new band in town I want to check out and who knows? Leave the safety scissors at home for once and come out.”

“I’ll think about it,” said Mary. “If Mom can watch Nico, maybe I will.”

“Great, I’ll see you at seven,” laughed Margo and drove away.

*

Mary’s car was at the shop almost until their closing time of seven, and Mary had told Margo to go along without her. Mary’s mother had picked up Nico at school and was completely sympathetic to her daughter’s desire to have a little adult time once the car was fixed. It was Mary who almost backed out by mentally coming up with excuses not to go. She was subbing tomorrow, it was getting late, Nico would need her… In the end, she gave in to Margo’s repeated phone calls and drove up to Manchester. Her mechanic warned her not to drive too fast as the engine was held together with “duct tape and some chewing gum” as it was. She took the back way to Manchester, onto South Willow St, and into the heart of the city.

The Shaskeen was well known for its food and propensity to attract good bands. Whoever was playing that night must have been popular as Mary couldn’t find anywhere to park on the main street and was forced to park on one of the side streets that felt too much like a dark alley for her nervous imagination. She locked the door and walked quickly to cheerfully lit Elm Street. On the main street, she slowed down and made her way to the pub.

The dark wood and solid furniture gave off the aura of an Irish Pub inside the Shaskeen, and the brazen sound of rock music assaulted her ears from the back room. A poster near the door advertised that Stepping on Emma was playing that night, and Mary smiled to herself at the oddness of the name. She headed towards the back where Margo would be waiting, and Mary lost no time threading her way to her friend’s table. Margo was drinking a hard cider and swaying to the band, but when she saw Mary, she waved her over and ordered a round of cider for them both.

“Don’t worry; it’s gluten-free,” she laughed.

Mary laughed back and gratefully accepted the drink when the waitress came back a few minutes later.

“See anything you like?” asked Margo, waving her hand at the crowd.

“I am not bar-trolling,” said Mary, although she did look around the crowd and admire a few men in the crowd. They all seemed to have girlfriends, however, and she soon returned to talking – or yelling rather – to Margo over the sound of the band.

The band took a break a few numbers later, and Margo wandered off to talk to a girl friend she had seen come through the door. When she returned, she had three people in tow: her friend and two cute guys who worked with her. They all sat down at the table with Mary, and by the time the band had started up again, they were all embroiled in a conversation about recent films they had liked.

One of the guys, John, stood up and held his hand out to Mary, pulling her up and onto the dance floor where a several other couples were dancing. Mary smiled and danced with him for a few songs, then returned to the table to sit with Margo and her friend Sally to giggle for a few minutes at the other man, Billy, who got up and waltzed with John across the floor. The men returned to the table, and the conversation resumed. It was fun, Mary reflected, and she realized how much she missed being able to get out of the house and enjoy herself.

Eventually, several ciders later, Mary checked the time and discovered that it was after eleven. With work at seven the next morning, she decided it was more than time to go home. She rose, waved goodbye to the others, and left. Several bikers were parked near the side street as she drew near it. They were all large men, most with tattoos, and all of them wearing black leather vests embroidered with Harley-Davidson and other bike logos on the back. She hurried down the dark street, hoping that she didn’t look as nervous as she felt. Footsteps sounded behind her as she neared her car, and she turned to see John hurrying up behind her. With a wave of relief, she relaxed and waited for him to catch up.

“I was worried it was someone else,” she said, reaching her car. “Those bikers back there…”

He pushed her against her car and roughly turned her around. She looked up in surprise as he grabbed at her wrists and forced her away from the car into an actual alley between two of the buildings. It began to dawn on her what he intended, and she screamed, only to have him clamp his hand across her mouth, muffling the sound. He shoved her up against the brick wall of one of the buildings and held her there by sheer force.

Seconds later, he was roughly shoved away from her. She fell to the ground, seeing a huge shape bearing down on her attacker. John stumbled to his feet, and her savior punched him full in the face, knocking him out. The man then turned and looked to where she stood shrinking against the wall, too numb to move. It was one of the bikers.

“Are you alright?” he asked gently. Mary shook her head, and after taking one last disgusted look at the fallen would-be rapist, the biker motioned Mary to proceed him out of the alleyway while he made a phone call.

“The police are on their way,” he said after a moment. “They need you to make a statement. Are you up for that?”

Mary nodded, and the biker stood guard over her assailant until the police arrived. To her surprise, they greeted the biker with warmly and took a statement from both him and Mary. His name, it turned out, was Sean, and he was the cousin of one of the officers who had arrived on the scene. Everyone treated Mary with a great deal of respect, and once she gave her statement and agreed that she would press charges, they gave her a card and told her to come into the station in the morning to make a formal statement.

When they finally left with John revived and handcuffed in the back of the patrol car, Sean turned to Mary and smiled.

“Are you going to be alright?” he asked.

“I think so,” said Mary. “Can I…buy you a cup of coffee or something? As thanks?”

“I would like that. The Red Arrow is still open and is only a few blocks from here. Know where it is?” At her nod, he added, “I’ll meet you there.”

Mary drove over to the Arrow and found that Sean was already there, his bike parked near the entrance. Inside, they found a booth and for the next hour, Mary told Sean more about herself than she had to anyone in a long time. She told him about Nico and his gluten allergy, about her ex, about Margo’s failed attempt to save her from her fears, and about the safety scissors comment that had led to the near-disaster that night.

When she was done, Sean looked at her with respect.

“It’s got to be hard,” he said, “raising a kid with little income and no support from your ex.”

“I have my mom,” said Mary, defensively. “She supports me and helps out with Nico.”

“It’s not the same,” said Sean softly.

“It’s the best I can do,” said Mary, looking up and seeing the sympathy in Sean’s eyes.

The conversation faltered then. Mary paid the bill, and they walked out again into the chill spring air. Sean walked Mary to her car and turned to go as Mary got into her car and turned the key. The car was dead.

“Damn it!” exclaimed Mary, and hopped out of the car. “Sean!”

He had reached his bike, but left it and came back. Mary smiled and nervously eyed the bike.

“Can you give me a ride home?”

*

Nico ran into the room at six the following morning, bouncing on the bed, and startling Mary awake.

“Mommy, why is there a biker in the driveway?”

“A what? Oh!”

Mary slipped out of bed and got dressed in the clothes she had laid out the night before. She quickly called the school, and then ran outside to greet Sean who had promised her a ride to the station. Her mother had offered to take Nico to school that day, and Mary had gratefully accepted.

The big biker was on one knee in the driveway talking to her son with Corsi, tail wagging, next to them. They seemed to be having a conversation about toy cars, and Nico looked solemnly up at his mother, daring her to understand the serious topic of Matchboxes and Hot Wheels. When he had gone back inside to his grandmother, Mary accepted the spare helmet from Sean, and they drove back up to the Manchester Police Station.

The statement didn’t take long to give, and Mary went back to where Sean waited for her. He looked up at her smiled at her with such warmth that Mary felt taken aback by the sudden emotion.

“What shall we do now?” he said. “Sky’s the limit.”

“Are you asking me on a date?”

“Well, yes, I guess I am, actually,” said Sean, sounding a little surprised. “Is that okay?”

Mary reflected back over the previous night. It had been so terrible, but now, in front of her, there was something she had never looked for, something unconventional, but something real. Her fears melted away, and Mary returned Sean’s smile, tentatively at first, and then with more conviction.

“It is better than okay,” she said. “Safety scissors be damned. Adventure awaits!”

Sean laughed, and they went arm-in-arm out into the warm spring day.

Rememory – One Year – Part 2

It’s been a busy last month. No time to get to writing, I’m afraid, but that’s okay. I have a good memory for events.

After her collapse, the doctors rushed around us, and I called Rob to come in and be with me from where he was sleeping in the car. They inserted a breathing tube, but would not let us in, and as soon as the ambulance arrived, they rushed her onto it, leaving us to toddle behind. It was now 2:30 in the morning.

Driving into Boston at 2:45 am is like driving into the home of a sleepwalker. There is nobody around and the whole world looks asleep. We parked the car and walked up to the emergency room entrance. There were all of four people there, including the receptionist. We checked in and sat down, expecting a long wait until they were done doing whatever they needed to do. The television talked quietly to itself in the corner, and the people, all of whom seemed to work for the hospital and knew each other, chatted animatedly.

About ten minutes into the wait, a nurse came and told us to follow her back. We were led, not the ER, but to a small room bearing the label “Family Consultation Room” or some such thing. It was a small room with tan couches, tan walls, tan carpet, and other very neutral tones. I looked at Rob with worry in my eyes, and said, “This is not going to be good.” He nodded in agreement, and we sat down to wait. A scant few minutes later, a young doctor came in and sat down with us.

The news was fairly straightforward and horrifying. Two centimeters of blood had leaked into the area around her brain. The blood-brain barrier had been breached, and blood destroyed brain tissue. The compression on her brain combined with the blood was basically destroying everything my mother was and had ever been.They could operate. Cut her skull off, clean out the blood, patch her back together once the swelling went down. But she’d never be the same. He said she would probably not remember us, not be able to walk or talk, not be able to feed herself. She would not, in a nutshell, be my mother the way I knew her.

I remember reeling in shock from the idea, amazingly calm, but not really comprehending what he was saying. What was the alternative? Take her off the breathing tube and let her pass on her own. She might go right away, or she might live a few more days. I had my marching orders from her. She had told me, and my cousins, and Rob, and her neighbors that if it came to it, life without full mobility and function was not life. We made the decision to let her go.

Making the decision to let a parent die has to be the hardest decision ever. Making the three or four phone calls that followed was equally as hard. Calling people at 3:30 in the morning is never good news. Mary, Jen, James. Mary and Jen answered. James did not. I sent texts to him and Jilletta. Then we were led to the ER. It did not feel real.

Rememory – One Year – Part one

It’s been one year since mom passed. Or almost. I should say that it has been one year since mom fell and was sent to the hospital to die. That is a lot kinder, isn’t it?

Tuesday will be the one year anniversary. Just before 1:00 in the morning on the 29th of April, I lost my mother to a fall that took her life. A combination of too much cumadin and too little attention to details brought about the end of her life. None of us could have seen this coming. Falling down the stairs, yes. Falling over on the floor on her chest and bloodying her lip leading to a hemorrhage in her brain? Not in a million years.

She tripped rushing to answer the phone. Trying to rush between the walker and the secretary desk, she caught her foot on one of my dad’s toolboxes that had been there since he died five years before. She lost her balance and fell. When I called back a second time, she answered the phone and told me she had just fallen. I asked if she were okay, and she said yes. I asked if I should call into work and come down. She said no, but wanted to go take care of her lip. I was not to worry. So I didn’t.

If you knew my mother, this was pretty typical. She and I had talked, fought, and grumbed at each other for the last few years since Dad passed away because we were who we had left. I had the kids and Rob, of course, and all of my friends, but as far as parent-child relations, we were it. I called her several times a day, had dealt with three prolonged hospital stays – one following Dad’s death and two for poor eating and a wound in her leg that would not heal – and tried to keep a close eye on her from afar while I ran my almost-endless errands and daily routines. During our conversations, she talked about the ‘vampires’ who came almost daily to check her blood levels and monitor her cumadin levels. That morning, she said that the nurse had said that her blood was ‘like water’ it was so thin. I wondered if her doctor, one ass-hat of a physician named Laddy, ever even thought about the high dosage of cumadin Mom was on or remembered that she was supposed to have been weaned off of it four months prior to the fall.

I had come to trust my mother when she said she was alright, despite the fact that she had fallen down several of the old, treacherous stairs at the old house in Melrose and not told us until weeks later. She had actually told Rob before she told me, not wanting me to worry. She when she said that she was fine, I put it out of my mind and went o with my day. I had just come from tutoring and was on my way to teach a college class at Nashua Community. After that, I had to rush to my last class at Rivier with our beloved Writer’s of Americas class teacher who was retiring and moving to China to teach English. Profe’ was meeting us all at Margarita’s to have dinner as our last class. Mom was pushed to the back of my mind until 9:00 that night, eight hours after the fall. I am still beating myself up for not calling her sooner.

It was not until I had dropped of an inebriated classmate that I thought to call Mom. When I did, she said that her chest still hurt and I told her, over protestations, that we would come down. I made it home by ten, got the dogs out to the bathroom, and Rob and I were in Melrose by 10:15. She felt a bit dizzy and we got her to the car as quickly as we could, and to the hospital by 10:30. She did say that her head hurt a little, but I dismissed that as a result of the fall. I figured that the xrays would tell us what was wrong quickly enough, and if nothing was wrong, I’d be home in bed by 2:00 AM at the latest. Rob went out to nap in the car as we waited to hear the results of the xrays and CAT scan.

The doctor finally came back in and told my mother that she had a slight bleed in her brain and that she was being transferred to Mass General ‘as a precaution.’ I called Rob to come back in and settled down with Mom to wait for the ambulance. I am pretty sure that there was more than a little and it was more serious than it appeared. Either way, being told that panicked my hospital-phobic mother, and her blood pressure spiked. That was the beginning of the end.

Over the next forty-five minutes, I watched my mother go through what I now know as the classic signs of a brain hemorrhage. She started to complain of an incredible headache, was nauseous, and became disoriented. One of the nurses chalked her reactions to being psychosomatic and I partially agreed. Until she became disoriented, that is. She was trying to put used tissues back into the tissue box. Her voice was slurred and her actions were hesitant. I took the tissues from her and threw them out. When I looked back at her, her face didn’t look quite right, sort of slumped. I asked her to smile at me, and she gave me one of her silly grins. Then the doctor came and asked me to step out while the same nurse who thought she might be over-reacting gave her something to calm her down. Less than two minutes later, she had collapsed and was unresponsive. What I discovered later when I went to wash the clothes she had worn that night was that they were soaked through with urine. Her bladder had let go when she collapsed. All voluntary functions had ceased.

The Jerry Seinfeld Gurgle

The other day I had to explain to Rob why I heard Jerry Seinfeld being strangled in my head when he, Rob, over-pumped the gas.

Does anyone remember the old commercial with Jerry Seinfeld? He would watch someone pumping gas juuuusssst beyond the dollar mark, and say, ‘Ah, the classic over-squeeze!” It got so that every time I went over when pumping gas, I had that playing in my head. It drove me nuts! I had a head gremlin constantly chanting that in my head – worse than an Earworm!

Finally, it dawned on me how to deal with it, and the next time it happened, I envisioned choking Jerry Seinfeld (a la Bugs Bunny) as he said the words. It worked. I would start to hear the words, and then hear a lovely gargling sound. After a few times of envisioning this, all I got was a slight gurgle.

Sadly, to this day, I still get the gurgle sometimes, and when Rob pumped the gas Saturday, the old gremlin raised his ugly head. My giggling at the gurgle had to be explained then to Rob. I am still not sure if he thinks I am crazy or not.

Please note that I would not actually strangle anyone in real life, but the head gremlin had to go!

Unbelieveable

Ok, I have to get this poison out of my system. I can’t let it fester, and I can’t tell the person who deserves to hear it, so I am going to out this here and address it to who it needs to go to.

“You sick fuck. Tears? Really? OOOhhhh, you’re so upset, so hurt, that Will is moving in with me. Well, let me tell you this, buddy. Jilleta keeps asking me what the reasons Will is leaving are, and I can’t tell her because if I start to tell her, I am not going to stop. I am not going to stop until I run out of breath and scream and scream and scream. No one will stop me then. So in the interest of preserving civility, I won’t tell her to her face.

“But I’ll put it here.

“You have some nerve to cry after the way you’ve treated Will. I know that you have also gone out of your way to call me names and vilify me, but buddy, there ain’t nothing I’ve done that holds a candle to what you’ve pulled on Will. Oh, I know I screwed up some, what with Craig and then with Rob. Craig was a mistake from the get go, but Rob was salvation. But I’ll tell you: neither of them ever laid a finger on me. Craig was a twisted mess in his own right; his parents saw to that, just like yours. But Rob has been good in so many ways in which you failed.

“Kindness, for one. Empathy. All the qualities you lack or have had driven out of you by Fran the manipulative and Att the drunk. Both of them are such sterling examples of people to live up to. Your father muttering about bastards under his breath in front of Justin so he could hear it, and your mother calling you a ‘sicko’ when you finally got a new job and had to work over New Years to support your family. I know you have repressed that memory, but I heard echoes of that event in what Will has told me you called him over the last few days.

“‘Shithead,’ ‘useless,’ ‘betrayer’

“Sound familiar?

“Sound like Fran calling you ‘sicko’ all those years ago when you had to make a choice about your family’s security or kow towing to the almighty yearly pilgrimage? You learned your lesson well. You were sick for days trying to tell your mother no. Will has been sick for days trying to talk to you. Maybe, just maybe, there is a pattern.

“But what do I know? I am just that no good slut who left you for another man and abandoned her kids. I am the one who had to deal with leaving, fight you for every chance to see them, work my way through grad school, become a teacher, move back to Salem, and get a job. I am the one who took you to court to fight for more time with my kids when you didn’t want to let me see them more. I am the one who held my tongue as you requested so as not to ruin your chances at a good relationship with Jilleta. And I am the one who had to put up with abuse from you both for years.

“I have sought to have peace for years. And I get to be called liar, and slut. Rob gets to be called homewrecker. Rob saved my life, you ass. From you.

“For years, I have fought with irrational fears when dealing with you. I have suffered from a form of PTSD from having my head slammed into cabinets, and my arms punched. I have recognized the symptoms on the back of the bathroom stalls in the women’s room at West Parish Church. Yes, you did threaten my pets, yes you did threaten me, yes you did call all of my friends losers. Yes, yes, yes. PTSD from abuse has a lot of symptoms. I recognized a lot of them. But I was crazy. I needed therapy. The idea of you going to a counselor was laughable. Nothing was wrong with you!

“You have the audacity to suggest that Will needs therapy (which he might, because of you), and that he is autistic because he zones out on you and can’t recall what you are saying. Will is also suffering from abusive PTSD. He freezes when he talks to you because he has ceased to be able to answer for fear that no matter what he says, you will yell at him. He’s had that experience his whole life. It isn’t autism; it’s self-preservation. He can’t recall what you or Jilleta have said because he is literally shutting down. I saw him do it this afternoon while talking. He could not talk about it. He literally stopped hearing me. Later, at dinner, he shook and could not stop shaking because his body was reacting to all of the adrenaline he was pumping.

“I think you need to take a long look in the mirror. Your son loves you desperately, but because he decided to leave, as I did, you attacked him because it is all about you. It is going to take him years before he is able to fully cope with the fact that his father was part of an abusive cycle that probably went back before his grandfather. Abuse often begets abuse, but it DOESN’T HAVE TO. I plan to instill that idea into Will’s brain before he becomes a parent.

“Let me be VERY clear. If I hear ONE word from Rose that your treatment of her is less than sterling, I am going to report you. I have kept the peace for years, mostly out of respect of the children’s wishes, but somewhat out of fear. From here on out, however, I am going to act in the role of mandatory reporter as I am supposed to, and go after you. One word. You better keep your goddamned nose clean.

“Honestly, I don’t care what you say about me. I know the truth. I know who I am, and I have friends and family who love me. I have colleagues who respect me. I am worth ten of you because I do not wound with words or threaten the people I love to get them to do what I want. And I don’t lash out at them because they don’t do what I want. I am not having temper tantrums and seeking to hurt someone else because of my own pain

“Get some fucking counseling. You have three children who love you. One has already fled. If you don’t want them all to be driven away from you by your madness, get some help before you do something unredeemable. Rose and Quinn deserve better than to suffer from the mistakes your parents made and your inability to see when you need help.”

That is all. I am spent. It is midnight and I am very tired now. I hope that somehow, the essence of this post reaches you. Don’t let the kids lose their Dad when you can do something to fix it.

And the Winner is…

This post is a rant. I am not going to make it on facebook because I do not want to be all over the place with this, but I need to vent.

Are you fucking kidding me??? I have worked with your son for two years and you decide to end our agreement and tutoring, not with a phone call, not with a meeting, but with a fucking text message??? Who the hell do you think you are??

The background is this: I have been tutoring this wonderful kid for two years. When I first met him, he would not do anything. It was a constant struggle to get him to write, to do math, to read…he just gave up all the time.

Over the course of the last two years, he has bloomed. I watched him go from a three sentence paragraph to five to six sentences and from one paragraph essays to three pagers comparing Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Odyssey.” We discussed things along the way, but he did the writing. He is awesome. I am proud of him like you wouldn’t believe.

Now, that is just English. never mind the fact that we went through Physical Science, Algebra, Geometry, Spanish 1 (and almost all of Spanish 2 at the time of this writing), Digital Art, Digital Photography, Intro to Entreprenership, Like Management Skills (Health), and Economics. We did English 2,3, and most of 4. We were almost done.

I had taken a new full-time job since the college fiasco and the lessening of class hours for adjuncts and I had tried to make arrangements to meet with David for two nights a week to finish English and Spanish with him. I had tried repeatedly to call his mother and get her to talk to me about his guidance counselor’s recommendation, but no dice.

Then I get a text on Tuesday while I am at orientation. The change in his schedule was going to be too hectic (from 830-12 four times a week to 4-6 twice a week is too hectic?) and she had decided to pull him from the tutoring and teach him at home. Huh?

Now, to give you a perspective, here is the situation. When I was hired, I was told that I was going to be in charge of choosing his classes with him. I was given a copy of his transcripts, and told to figure things out. Then I was left alone with him for six weeks without VLACS and made to wing it. Six weeks to get this kid into VLACS. Seriously.

I bit my tongue and came up with creative games to do with him. We survived the six weeks and got rolling. I chose classes based on the curriculum set by his high school, and we went along pretty well for a year and a half, although my repeated requests to speak to his guidance counselor went unheeded. Last December, however, I was suddenly told that I was not choosing the correct classes. His mother then took over the reins…but not really. Eventually, I got him enrolled in Intro to Entrepreneurship and his last English class without much of her help. I had waited four weeks by that point. We simply did what we had to do.

So when the college thing happened, I found myself without a solid plan. I started trying to set up what I would do when this fall (2013) came. Then my mother died, and I was offered a job at Pelham very shortly after. I took it without much hesitation. I knew we were almost done, and we’d be down to one class – English. One more month would do it twice a week. He’d have to move one work day to the mornings. Dad was on board. I thought my student was on board. I never got a call back from Mom though. She never returned my calls.

Then the text.

So the upshot is this: You hire a professional English teacher, tell her to choose the classes your son needs, don’t give her access to the Guidance Counselor to get a picture of what he needs, yell at her for not picking the right classes when she has nothing to go by but the school website requirements which are vague (two arts, one gym, seven electives, etc) and has been asking to get help for months, take over the class choices, don’t actually pick classes for four weeks until I prompt your son, not return my calls, and basically ignore my attempts to contact you until you can send me a text message kicking me to the curb because I had to take another job? Because I have to support my family too?

And worst of all, I didn’t get to say goodbye.

You can’t work with a kid for two years and not grow attached. I looked forward to talking with him, playing Nile Online, explaining poetry, fighting through Geometry together, complaining about the stupid mistakes on the website, and generally sharing thoughts and dreams with him. But not even a goodbye.

I called Mom. She stated that this was a gift from God, to let him see that he can do the work himself, and this may be true. He is hitting the fourth section of the English. It is MacBeth and Byron heavy. It will be a difficult process to achieve. He will make it through or not. Mom said she had bought it on audio tape and had the movie all set for him. She said that she was going to take his fable of “Three Mice and a Rat” and make a little book out of it for him to show his kids when he gets older. She also said that they would have a big dinner when everything was done and that I would be invited since I had been such a big part of his success.

I am not going to bank on it. I suspect, as others have, that she is jealous that he worked well for me and that she wanted her little boy back. He is everything to her, and I can understand how hard it is for people to let their little boy grow up. Will just got his car today, and it was nerve-wracking letting him drive away in the little green Honda he is so happy about. He’s growing up. But even though her son is her little boy, he has been my student for two years. I have come to care a great deal about him, and pulling the rug out from under a kid like that, yanking the carpet of support out from under him, especially when his girlfriend is leaving for college in a week, is not the right thing to do. Mom might well be glad to have her little boy all back to herself. I wonder how he feels, however. I did text him and we did chat over the phone, but there is one thing that I know he is thinking.

He didn’t get to say goodbye either.

Good job, Mom.

Tonight’s brain is brought to you by…

Where my brain is tonight…

My friend posted: “It is a beautiful day. So was yesterday and the day before that. I was on my long-board a moment ago. Cotton candy marshmallow clouds in a perfectly sky-blue sky. It smells like nature. It’s nice and it’s peaceful. TGIF.”

My reply. “Mine would read. It is a beautiful day…except for the terrifying thunderstorm in Lowell this evening. Yesterday was better, but there was a funeral. Dark heavy clouds disbursing their burdens of gale-force winds and heat. It smells like ozone. I cringe under the bed. TGFIO (thank god Friday is over.)”

Mom’s Eulogy

Several people have asked me to post this since they missed the funeral. Here it is.

My mom passed a lot sooner than we were expecting. Had I known that my last comment to her while she was awake for would be “Can you open your other eye,” I am sure that I would have chosen something different to say. Something like “I love you” or I will take care of Thomas (her cat)”, or even “Rob will take care of me, so don’t worry.” These were all things I told her in the hospital over the next few days, and I am sure that on some level she heard me.

 

Over the last year or so, we had discussed what she wanted when the time came, something that I felt sure would be years in coming. I remember a surreal discussion on the day we discussed what kind of casket she wanted – cherry – and that was when she told me something that really surprised me. She said, “Don’t put any stuffed animals in the coffin with me.” Now I thought that she meant “Don’t embarrass me by doing anything silly,” but when I commented on what I thought she meant, she told me no, that was not what she had meant, but that she did not want any of her friends to be locked up alone in the dark for all eternity, never to see the light of day again. That was an eye opener because I had never thought of it that way, but could totally see what she was saying. I got it, and that day I understood my mother a little more.

 

We didn’t always see so eye to eye. We had our arguments, and our disagreements, usually over stupid things like replacing the television that no longer showed anything with blue in it or how to use the microwave, something that she never got and she somehow lost the written instructions I left for her at least once. But we did agree on teaching and the importance of being a teacher. I know she was proud of me, as one of the last things she did that night in the hospital was to tell her nurse how happy she was that I was graduating with my master’s and teaching. The conversations about teaching were among the good times that we had. Those and, of course, anything about my kids.

 

Dad’s death six years ago made us come closer together. She and I had never seen eye to eye about most things, but after Dad was gone, we pretty much had each other and my daily calls became a habit for both of us. Except for weekends, I would call her two to three times a day. I knew she was lonely, and I worried about her being alone in her house. Even now, I find that I keep reaching for the phone to tell her about the stupid detours in Boston or a myriad of other things that have gone on in the past few days. This has been one of the hardest things to accept about her passing. I can’t just call her and talk to her when I need to anymore.

 

At the very end, mom managed to slip away when we were all momentarily distracted. She was as private in her leaving as she had ever been in life, and managed to pass when no one was looking. She was one never to cause a stir and I think that she waited until all of our attention was focused elsewhere to leave us.

 

When we had first gotten to the hospital, my friend Jen suggested reading to her, and Rob brought a book from home that I had recommended for years that she read but she never go around to. This book, Watership Down, begins with the line “The primroses were over” and goes on to tell the story of a group of rabbits, led by one called Hazel, fleeing a doomed warren to find peace at last on the top of an English Down, or high hill. I had read some of it to Mom while we were in the hospital room, but had not had a chance to finish it. After Mom passed, Rob handed me the book, open to the last page, and I read the last passage aloud as I felt it was right to do so. I would like to share that passage with you now.

 

“One chilly, blustery morning in March, I cannot tell exactly how many springs later, Hazel was dozing and waking in his burrow. He had spent a good deal of time there lately, for he felt the cold and could not seem to smell or run so well as in days gone by. He had been dreaming in a confused way — something about rain and elder bloom — when he woke to realize that there was a rabbit lying quietly beside him — no doubt some young buck who had come to ask his advice. The sentry in the run outside should not really have let him in without asking first. Never mind, thought Hazel. He raised his head and said, “Do you want to talk to me?”

“Yes, that’s what I’ve come for,” replied the other. “You know me, don’t you?”

“Yes, of course,” said Hazel, hoping he would be able to remember his name in a moment. Then he saw that in the darkness of the burrow the stranger’s ears were shining with a faint silver light.

“Yes, my lord,” he said. “Yes, I know you”.

“You’ve been feeling tired,” said the stranger, “but I can do something about that. I’ve come to ask whether you’d care to join my Owsla. We shall be glad to have you and you’ll enjoy it. If you’re ready, we might go along now”.

They went out past the young sentry, who paid the visitor no attention. The sun was shining and in spite of the cold there were a few bucks and does at silflay, keeping out of the wind as they nibbled the shoots of spring grass. It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.

“You needn’t worry about them,” said his companion. “They’ll be all right-and thousands like them. If you’ll come along, I’ll show you what I mean.”

He reached the top of the bank in a single, powerful leap. Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom. ”

 

The passage is about things coming full circle. Things end and things begin, following the cycle they are meant to. Mom’s life was a circle, bright from one end to the other. She has inspired so many lives through her teaching and her generosity, and I will miss her terribly. But it’s like the passage says: we’ll be all right. We’ll all take care of each other, and she can take her rest knowing that her family is safe from harm.

Family History – part one

This is the story of a family that had a lot of money. It had grown, like so many small industries around the turn of the 20th century, from a small factory with maybe 20 workers into a gigantic industry with a huge building and a great deal of people who worked in and around the region of Lawrence, MA. This is a story of the loss of that money, those jobs, and those livelihood because of a major change in the way industry was managed and run. It is a story of slow decline, of standards being upheld in a world that no longer valued them, and of the eventual decline of the people who were part of it. It is the story of my family.

I came into this story well into the process of the decline, long after the business had moved to southern cities, and about six years after the time of the sixteen room house, the one my grandfather had commissioned to be built, had been sold. I knew nothing about the history for most of my life, catching only peripheral pieces of information such as mentions of the May Street well, the well that never went dry even in the most severe drought and which had the purest, cleanest water, or that my grandfather was in the mill industry. Very little was said about that time, and I wasn’t overly interested since my own life seemed to be chaotic enough with babies and divorce, going to grad school – twice – and then dealing with the death of my mother.

The was when everything began to change, and it was only about three months ago that it really did. I had done some research before, mainly out of curiosity, but nothing overly taxing. When I found the photographs, however, everything changed. This blog will be a series of events, chronicling the search for who my family really was. The photos are a mystery as is my whole history. My mother never talked, and according to my cousins, neither did my uncle. Something happened at some point.

My search for meaning has always been wrapped in fragments of a bygone era. Hints of great wealth abounded in my Nana and Grampy’s house – the Limoges dishes, the Waterford crystal goblets, the silver in the drawers wrapped with cellophane – that did not jive with the rest of the house. The enormous rocking horse, General, who lived down in the cellar. These are the things I knew, but which I could not place. Such was my heritage.

So this is a the story of a family whose lives were defined by a society that is well beyond our kenning. We, my cousins and I, are the beneficiaries of this mystery and none of us have escaped the oddity of the whole situation. It is a story that will take a great deal of defining. I think, however, that it is a story worth telling. There are at least two people who were affected in ways that made them odd and awkward in regular society. Neither of them are with us any longer, but both of them have stories yet to tell.

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Photo of my mother, Barbara, and her dog Rusty. Photo of my uncle, Thomas, and his friend Steven. Both of these were taken at the house at 53 School St, in Andover MA.