smile and shrug

…what else can I do?

I love her too

Her father sleeps on the impossibly narrow emergency gurney they squeezed into the room.  Her mother has gone home to shower and gather supplies for yet another night captive in this tiny emergency room triage bay that isn’t meant for sleepovers but has become one regardless.

I sit quietly with this girl I’ve come to love, on the end of the standard hospital bed made up now with her own special fuzzy blanket, special pillows, and assorted stuffed companions.  It will be her second night here.  A board game is between us and she studies it with intense thought.  We don’t talk about why she is here, but I know we are both thinking about it.  We don’t talk about what worries and struggles she is facing, has faced, has tried so valiently to manage, but we are both thinking about them.

I also think about her parents.  The man I love, and the woman who used to be his wife.  Both gentle, kind, smart, loving, dedicated parents – both distraught and broken as they watch their youngest child, their one girl cross legged and small in this emergency room, on hold and waiting endless hours to be moved to a different place entirely.  I don’t know what to do for any of them except to be here.  To sit and watch and wait with them, to let them sleep and shower and escape however briefly they can, and to watch over this girl for them.  I love her too, and I think of my own children so far away from me and the chronic worry I have over them and vow to give this one girl all that I can while her momma is away and hope that somewhere, in some other time, someone may do the same for my children.

When her mother comes back, looking no more rested or refreshed, our girl breaks a little and a flood of worries erupts from her.  The three of us encircle her, answering the questions we can and reassuring her about the ones we can’t yet answer.  The light from the bathroom dimly lights the far side of the room and her bed is in shadows but her eyes peirce through that darkness anyway.  Can she see us the way we see her?  We encourage her, shore up her bravery, reframe her fears for her, we get her to laughing, we are laughing.  This girl laughing is the sound of life – a life we are all struggling to ensure remains with us.

I wonder what fears and worries her momma will battle through the night while her daughter sleeps.   No, I don’t wonder, I know them all too well.  She is not my girl, but I love her too.  I lie awake most of that night thinking about all of them for myself while her father sleeps beside me, his hand still clutching mine like I am his anchor in this storm.  He has often been my anchor in my own storm and if I can hold his hand while he sleeps and I can take on the task of worrying for him, it’s the very least I can do.  I love his girl too.




Be There

I am talking to my son on the phone.  “What can I do buddy?” I ask.  His voice is not the teen-man deep I’ve finally gotten accustomed to but the broken tearful child I long to hold on my lap and comfort.  “Just stay on the phone with me mom…” and of course I do.

What else can I do?  I am 70 miles away from him with an empty gas tank and not even the legal right to go to him and pick him up.  It’s 20* outside, almost 10pm, and he is alone on the jungle gym at a school playground a few blocks from the house where he lives with his dad.  He is broken, crying, angry, confused, and he has big big issues to deal with, big big decisions to make.  And I can’t offer anything but my voice on the phone.  God how my heart aches.

“You know my friend A?” he says.  I murmur softly and he continues.  “We have a theory that rough patches are just that, just patches and sometimes though it’s like God takes a great big dump on you and then hands you a miniature pooper scooper and it’s really hard.”  I laugh a little and then say, “remember that movie where the guy is buried up to his neck and a passerby puts a chopstick in his mouth and tells him to dig? it’s like that right?” He laughs and agrees.  It is, it is like that indeed.  And sometimes digging your way out takes a really long time.  I’ve been digging for 3 years now and I don’t feel any closer to freedom now than I did to begin with.  But I have this: a son who calls me and the ability to offer him love from a cell phone on a cold dark night.  You can’t really bury love.

I need to share that old 12-step poem with him next time I see him, remind him that he has the choice to change things, to accept things, and that he is indeed smart enough to know when to change it or when to accept it.  He is a good kid, will be a good man.  He made a few mistakes, but they aren’t mistakes that every teenager hasn’t already made.  They aren’t terrible horrible character defining mistakes, they are normal stupid teenager mistakes and he is still good, wonderful, and loved.  I tell him this, over and over, “you are good, you are wonderful, you are loved!  It was a mistake, but a normal everyday one, you are fine, you are good, you are wonderful, I love you…”  I thank him for telling me the truth, and I beg him to always tell me the truth because I couldn’t bear it if I had to doubt him.  There may still be parts he isn’t telling me, but given the detail he DID tell me, I’m pretty sure he told me all there was.  He is brave, my son, my brave good wonderful loveable son.  I’m so glad I was there to get that phone call from him.

I wanted to go, get in my car and drive, to go and pick him up, make him hot tea and wrap a blanket around his thin shoulders, to tuck him in like a little boy, to hold as much of his 6ft tall body as my little self can and rock him back and forth.  I couldn’t do any of that, but yet I was there anyway, in the way I could be, which was better than not being there at all.

Please God, isn’t it time for me to be there yet?



I made cupcakes for the kids.  After I made the cupcakes and let them cool completely, I cored out a small divot in each and filled the space with colored frosting then replaced the little ‘lid’ of the divot to cover the frosting.  I then covered each cupcake in white frosting and set them aside.

When the kids were all here they first noticed the cupcakes and immediately asked for them.  “oh, no, those are for Jojo’s birthday that was earlier in the week, after dinner we’ll have them and give him his gifts” was my response.  They were fine with that.  At one point my daughter did ask, “so mom… did you find out if we are having a boy or a girl???” and I put her off with a comment about waiting until all the kids were here together and since Jojo was working we’d need to wait until he was here with us which which she agreed with.

After dinner I brought out the cupcakes, gently and shallowly put a few candles in one, and we sang happy birthday to the newly 18 Jojo.  As soon as the candles were out all the kids grabbed the cupcakes and started peeling off the wrappers.  “WAIT!!” I yelled.

“Wait… there is a surprise inside the cupcakes.  I filled the middle of the cupcake with colored frosting and when you see it you will know if you are having a brother or a sister…” 4 big-eyed faces stared at me for a brief moment then I saw the lightbulb flash behind their eyes and they all grinned.  Jojo took charge – “ok, peel off the wrapper and then on my count we’ll all take a bite, ready… 1…2…THREE!”  his deep voice still held that little boy excited tone and I felt my eyes tearing up already.  All four kids bit down into their cupcakes at the same time but it was the two older ones, my son and my guy’s son who yelled in unison: “IT’S A BOY!!!”

We are having a boy.

I have, in order, girl boy girl – so my new son will be the perfect balance.

My guy has, in order, girl boy boy girl – so our new son will fall right in line.  By age, all combined, it looks like this:  Girl Boy Girl Boy Boy Girl Girl… Boy.  The loveliest pattern I’ve ever known.  This baby ties together two fractured families and weaves a storyline of love against all odds.  This baby will be sooooo loved by soooo many people.  Lucky baby!




just to show you the level of joy that night – each of my “step”kids took pictures of the cupcakes and the ultrasound pictures with their phones to send to their mom (who is a lovely lady and has been very supportive and kind) and my son has already decided to play a song on his guitar to the new baby upon his arrival: Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up”…  do you know how many tears of joy I’ve shed lately? Joy and pride at such open hearts and generous spirits we already have produced. Lucky US!

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