A Rush Of Disappointment

There are two songs I want played at my funeral. One is "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac. The other is "Jump Around" by House of Pain. Oops, I guess there are three of them.

The third is "Time Stand Still" by Rush.

It's funny how songs change over the years, right? I mean, let's take "Everlong" by The Foo Fighters as an example. I used to hear the song (the acoustic version is my favorite) and imagine me and Dave Grohl singing it together after making love in my bed, in those sweet moments before he realizes he's covered in dog hair. Now, I will forever think of David Letterman's last show. Because they decided to use the song, reportedly David L.'s favorite tune ever, as the sendoff for the show, complete with a video montage of vintage Dave and guests. So much for the furry fantasy.

Back to my funeral: so I love the Rush song "Time Stand Still". When I was a beer-chugging fangirl back in the 80's and early 90's, the song was sweet because OMG Aimee Mann was in it! Now that I am older, and have reproduced, the song has a different meaning. It's an ode to wistfulness we experience as time passes by us, and how awesome it would be if we could slow things down for just a little bit. I have the song in my iTunes and dammit if I don't get a little choked up every time shuffle spits it out at me.

"Summer's going fast, nights growing colder
Children growing up, old friends growing older
Freeze this moment a little bit longer
Make each sensation a little bit stronger"

See? Right in the gut, I tell you.

So it stands to reason that when Rush announced they were coming to Minneapolis, my homie Danielle and I were bound and determined to go.

Neither one of us has a lot of spare cash, or time. So dropping the $$ required to see three old dudes jamming on a stage inside of a giant entertainment center was no small sacrifice. In hindsight, probably not the brightest financial move, but sometimes you just have to shake your fists at the heavens and scream out, "LET ME BE ENTERTAINED!".

Danielle found us some sweet main floor seats on Craigslist, and we counted down the days with mirthful glee. I listened to all of my favorite Rush tunes while out on my walks, we debated the intelligence of buying souvenir t-shirts and we annoyed all of our family and friends with constant blathering about the Rush concert. We posted several variations of this video all the live long day, and quoted it, out loud and often:

Finally, the day arrived. We drove downtown a little early, to meet a couple of friends before the show for a cocktail and some food. It was a gorgeous Minneapolis spring day, we had the windows down and chattered excitedly on the drive.

Just two middle-aged ladies, with 8 kids between us, ready to be rocked. The air in my little Ford Focus was charged with electricity and also the smell of vodka and olives. I might have had a martini to calm my pre-concert nerves. (don't worry, Danielle drove. She always does.)

The concert was in St. Paul, at the Xcel Energy Center...home of the mighty Minnesota Wild hockey team. Driving is a mofo in downtown St. Paul, and parking isn't much better. But we did find a spot, and made our way to the show.

The first sign that we were no longer in our typical suburban mom world? ALL THE MEN. It was a veritable sausage fest in St. Paul. And most of the sausages were wearing Rush t-shirts. We stood out in the crowd not only because we had breasts, but also because we were wearing cute lady clothes. And jewelry.

Our seats were wonderful, on the floor and with a great view of the stage. Here we are moments before the Holy Trinity of Rock began playing:

Moments after we took this, the smell of marijuana started wafting through the air. Was it 1986 again??
Then, it happened. The lights dimmed and amid laser beams and pyrotechnics, the three members of Rush took the stage: Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart. Our hearts thumped along with the beat, and we looked at each other with animated glee. We were here! In the same room as Rush! And the smell of pot!

We waited patiently for one of our favorite songs to happen. And we waited some more. They had some funny videos playing, including this one:

Which was funny, of course, because I refer to all of my friends as hens. So we were LOLing about that, when BOOM it was Tom Sawyer time. YES! Finally, a song we knew and could do some serious slappin' da bass to. We were happy, and ready for more.

Only, there wasn't much more. It seems as though Rush decided this tour was going to be more of an in-depth journey into their song catalog. Meaning, most of the songs fans like Danielle and I know and love, the more "mainstream" hits, were left off the set list.

Now, we will be the first ones to admit we're not hardcore fans. We don't own albums from back in the day and haven't spent hours in our bedrooms, with doors locked and headphones on, absorbing the wisdom from Rush.

No. We are basically fair-weather fans. We like the songs they play on the radio. We love Tom Sawyer and Limelight and Fly By Night and Freewill. AND TIME STAND STILL.

As the concert wore on and the songs that floated above us were completely unknown to us, we looked like this:


Apparently, we were the only ones feeling cheated. As I looked around us, I saw thousands of men (and three women), standing in place and furiously air-drumming along to these songs I didn't know. I made eye contact with one of the women, and she smiled at me. Her smile said "Hey, fellow vagina-owner! I see you don't recognize these songs, either. The good news is, if you have to pee, there's no line!"

She was right. Intermission came, and we went out in search of a bathroom. Here is a picture of what the Ladies Room looks like at a Rush concert. During intermission.

It was so quiet in there.
Turns out, they only played three songs that we really liked: Tom Sawyer, The Spirit of Radio and Closer To The Heart.

No Fly By Night.
No Limelight.
No Freewill.


A friend of ours, who was also there, kind of mocked us in our indignation. Apparently we aren't "real fans". Not hardcore enough, I guess.

I get that. It's kind of how I feel when I hear people say how much they love Joss Whedon and then when you mention Dr. Horrible or some other random Whedon creation they have a blank stare for a sec and then talk about whether or not Captain America is going to be killed off in the next Avengers movie.

Or, someone who says they are big fans of Stephen King and yet they've never read some of his lesser-known works. Or his book "On Writing". Or any of the Dark Tower series. But they love The Shining! And The Stand!

But that doesn't mean they aren't true fans. And I'm betting Joss and Stephen would be just as happy to discuss their massively popular works as they would their non-mainstream ones.

Rumor has it that one of the reasons Rush doesn't play some of their bigger hits is because Geddy Lee can no longer hit those notes. Fair enough. We're all aging right along with you, Geddy, that's why I wasn't the one sneaking puffs off my one-hitter during your show. You can't hit the high ones, and I can't get baked at concerts like I did in the 80's. I understand! But I know that it wouldn't have mattered to me if he kind of fudged the high notes. My friend and I paid a substantial amount of money to see Rush play, and to only hear three songs we loved kind of sucked.

Maybe it's the whole "Freebird" thing, where they're just sick of playing certain songs. But couldn't they just play them, and then whine about it on their private jets? These guys are gazillionaires, yes, mostly because of the throngs of dudes who worship them and all of their music, but some of that money came from people like me and my friend. Maybe our love for them doesn't go as deep as all those guys air drumming and singing along to songs we'd never heard, but it's love, man.

Our friend sent a text to Danielle during the concert, it contained the set list. And as we looked it over, we realized that was it. The concert was only half over and we'd heard the music we paid to hear. She looked at me, I looked at her and then she sent me a text (seriously, we couldn't hear each other speak):

"We're leaving after this set. That okay with you?" I looked over at her, laughed, and texted back:

"Yep. C-ya!"

Dammit, Rush. We were so excited to hear you play some of our favorite jams. We cursed them on the way home, and a little bit the next day. And then, because time doesn't stand still, life went on.

But you can bet the next sausage fest I attend will most likely be at a German restaurant, and not a Rush concert.


Divorced And STILL Not Dating

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about being divorced and not dating. It ran on HuffPost Divorce and has always been one of my favorites.

Just prior to writing it, I'd been on the last, gimpy leg of my on again, off again relationship with the beau I called John McCain. We had taken a trip to Amsterdam and things just kind of fell apart afterwards. After a few dateless months, I declared myself SINGLE AS HELL and wrote about it.

Well, well, well. Here we are, almost exactly two years later. And not much has changed.

Oh, yes, those of you who have read my looney tunes updates know there's been some late night activity here and there. My as-for-now nameless booty call lovah scratched an itch or two or seventy for a nice long length of time. But that ended as 2015 began, so I am once again officially not dating. Climbing the walls? Yes, very much so. But totally not dating.

In the original post, I was quite confident my lack of love was due to prioritizing. Kids first. It was true then, as it is now. I do put my kids first...only now, their needs aren't as time consuming as they were just a couple short years ago. Yeah, I still do 100% of the parenting. They only go to their dad's house for a few hours on certain holidays, and sometimes he provides transportation if I absolutely can't. The parenting ball is always, always in my court. I've been doing it like this for so long it's the only way I know how to function.

The thing about your kids getting older is this: they leave. Charlie and Molly were both gone for the entirety of the school year. The other two, Henry and William, are still here, but more often than not they're busy with jobs, sports, activities and friends. We still have a packed basement on many weekend nights, but again...they don't need me like they used to. They can drive to get their own Taco Bell. Excuse me as I weep softly and also think about how good a 7-layer burrito sounds right now.

So, with the parenting gig winding down, I'm finding myself alone. A lot. The hermit in me is LOVING it. Those of you who fall under the introvert umbrella know exactly what I'm talking about. Before, socializing served two purposes: it was fun, and it got me the hell away from home for a few hours at a time. Now, I don't want to get away from my home. My home is quiet. My home is comfortable. My home has Netflix and my weekend uniform of leggings and sports bra and big sweatshirt.

I've found myself falling into a Loverboy routine of "workin' for the weekend", only everyone's not wondering if I'll come out tonight. They know I'm probably not. (Those of you who are younger than 40 will have to go to YouTube and look that shit up. I can't explain it.)

I still get invited out, thank God, and usually I accept those invitations. It's a tricky timeline, though...if I get an offer too far in advance, it gives me too much time to come up with a reason to not go. Not enough prior warning and I go into what experts call "hermit shock". It's what happens when a recluse imagines not sitting on their couch for two solid days.

I've become a really good napper, too. Were naps always so wonderful? My nap ritual is a thing of beauty: crawl on top of my made bed, pull a fuzzy blanket over me, turn on the fan (the remote control fan I bought for myself at Costco last year was THE BEST purchase ever), slip the eye mask over my baby blue/grays and drift away for an hour or two. Let me know if you hear of any paying sleep studies, okay?

But here's the catch: now that I have all this free time, it kind of feels like I'm supposed to be getting back out there. Sticking my toe back in the big ol' dating pond. I mean, it has been over 8 years. Most women have remarried by this time, if not well before.

Those of us who are still single this late in the game run the risk of becoming that eccentric, unmarried auntie who wears chunky necklaces and drapey Eileen Fisher tunics. "Yay! Aunt Jenny is here! I hope she brought that yummy spinach dip again!"

This is where I pause, and recite all of the self-soothing lines that have consoled me for so long: "It's okay to be alone." "Gurlll...dating takes so much time and effort. You're overbooked!" "If it's meant to be, you will meet Mr. Right." and the one that pops up with ever-increasing frequency: "You know, Jenny...you don't need a man to be happy."

I do believe that last one. Men don't equal happiness. However, lately I'm wondering if I'm not dating because I don't want to, or if I'm really afraid to. I worry that I don't know how to flirt anymore. Did I ever? And I'm scared that I am so rusty, I've forgotten how to tell if a guy really is that into you. What are the signs? For all I know, men are throwin' down the love gauntlet in front of me everywhere I go and I'm blind to it. Not very likely, I know. But still. You never know.

If my dating skills were a cluster of grapes before, they are most certainly a box a raisins by now.

I'm so out of the love loop, I don't remember the rules. How do you tell the difference between someone flirting with you vs. someone just being nice? Are all men without wedding rings fair game? Who is it okay to talk to? Is it alright to be chummy with my friend's husbands, or is that taboo simply because I'm single? Do I really need to join eHarmony again or should I hold out for two more years and check out the one for people over 50? Is it impolite to gently decline when someone says "There's this guy I know, I think you'd like him."?

Of course, since I'm me and I'm the person who compares herself to Hagrid, there's a tiny bit of insecurity involved. After a long stretch of being alone, it's hard to imagine letting someone in. Physically and emotionally. I'm so used to sleeping with a dog. It's one thing when the snoring and Dutch ovens come from a 75 pound Yellow Lab. It's going to be so weird having a guy next to me, doing those same things. The way I feel about putting myself out there again is a lot like the bit Amy Schumer did on her show, about actresses over a certain age. In case you haven't seen it (WARNING!! So, so many swears. Completely not safe to watch at work, on a bus w/ out earbuds or around children of pretty much any age):

Oh, I know! I know that was all about Hollywood's gross attitudes towards women and aging, but it sort of captures how I feel about having to go through the rituals of dating again. Am I still f**kable? Do I care?? (and P.S. what does it mean that as I watched this, I said out loud oooh look at that! Mismatched wine glasses! How cute!)

One other aspect of being divorced and not dating is how to deal with being a singleton in a sea of couples. Up until recently, this part of the single life hasn't really bothered me. There have been a few times here and there when my singleness has been like a big scarlet S on my chest...the most significant ones being "classy" evening events, such as the silent auctions held by the elementary school my kids once attended and where I now work. If ever a girl notices the absence of an arm to hang onto, it's at a party where she's surrounded by well-dressed duos.

Luckily, I don't attend silent auctions or really, any other fancy soirees on the regular. The other gatherings, like plain old parties or holiday things...they're not set up in such a way that being there by myself is a big deal. If I have to be, I can be charming and outgoing and even make small talk. My lady friends are fine sitting next to me around a bonfire while their men chat elsewhere. But...I was recently invited to a friend's birthday bash, which is taking place at another friend's cabin. As my friend explained the weekend to me, I was all "oooh yes! Girl's weekend at the cabin!" in my head. Until my friend said:

"So it's going to be us gals, the husbands, and whichever kids decide to come up as well."

Wait. Back it up, sister. Husbands? A testosterone filled monkey wrench was thrown into my plans.

I pictured all of us up at the cabin. Me, my girlfriends and their men. Everyone laughing and drinking, gathering around the fire, two by two, arms wrapped around shoulders, legs touching. And then me, sitting in a camp chair, probably brushing a kid's hair and checking facebook on my phone.

When did that happen? When did I become afraid to be somewhere sans date? This new development is kind of annoying.

I thought about all the single men I know (haha, all three of them) and wondered how strange/creepy/pushy it would be to ask one of them to come up with me. Not exactly as a date, of course, but with the understanding that we'd probably have to sleep in the same room, or on adjoining couches. I decided it would probably not be a wise thing to do. And so now, I'm considering not going. Who have I become??

All of this is my very long-winded way of saying yes, I'm divorced and still not dating.

Only this time, I can't say for certain why. For a good long while, I could give you a few very strong reasons. My kids. My work. My fear of being hurt again. Now, I seem to have even more reasons. And unlike my kids, these don't appear to be the kind of reasons that will grow up and move on.

Now, about that 7-layer burrito....


Close Encounters Of The Ex-Husband Kind

First of all, I must offer an apology. To all of you who have come here seeking advice and reassurance from me, to all of you who have emailed and messaged, pouring your hearts out and thanking me for showing you that it is possible to get through a really hard divorce and be okay:

I'm sorry.

Because I am always the one waving the flags, cheering loudly and preaching about how you will survive, how you will be able to forgive and how you will get over it. I'm the one answering your heartbreaking pleas for help with paragraphs full of empowerment and hope.

"You've got this, sister!" and
"Yes, it hurts like hell when your hopes and dreams are blown to bits but you WILL rise again and be fabulous!" and
"There will come a day when seeing him won't be like a sharp knife being thrust right between your shoulder blades."

I crow about how well parallel parenting has worked for me. How basically pretending my ex-husband doesn't exist has made everything okey-dokie. Peachy keen. The bee's freaking knees!

I'm sorry to inform you that I'm full of shit. Kind of.

Why do I say I'm full of shit? Because a couple of weeks ago, I came face-to-face with my ex, and I didn't handle it the way someone who is fully recovered would have.

I handled it like an immature tween. Or worse, like a temperamental preschooler.

Let me set it up for you, okay?

Three nights a week I work late. Our elementary school has a before/after school childcare program, and there needs to be someone in the front office until they are closed, for security purposes.

Our gymnasium is used by our local Park and Rec department after school hours. There are a variety of programs offered, everything from adult volleyball leagues to martial arts to toddler gymnastics.

When I'm in the office those three evenings, sometimes I encounter the people coming into our school to participate in the Park and Rec programs.

See where I'm going with this?

So there I was, in the office that is essentially my home-away-from-home, doing what I do. Making copies, filing stuff, entering super important facts onto super important spreadsheets. Minding my own sweet business.

There's a Park and Rec employee who has a desk outside of our office. He is the one who usually buzzes people in for those non-school activities.

That day, his buzzer was broken. So, every so often I'd hear a little bumpy noise at my door, and I'd buzz the people in.

I was walking back to my desk from the copy room, and I saw a person standing outside the door. I rushed over to hit the button, to let them in. And that's when I saw who it was.

It was my ex. I froze, people. Like a mother effing popsicle. Did I mention that he wasn't alone?

He was there with his child, his little toddler/person he made with Secretary.

It was like a scene from the Matrix, only instead of Keanu Reeves in a long black coat dodging slow motion bullets, it was ME in a flowy black burka top and leggings, begging the universe to rip open so I could escape.

Our eyes met, and his face showed some shock. And some disbelief. Here's what my face looked like, at first:

image: Salon.com
Yes, the Rachel Dratch/Debbie Downer look is hot, y'all. I was trying really hard to process the moment. In those few seconds, every single thing that has gone down over the past decade tumbled over and under and through me. The good. The bad. And oh my God...the ugly.

Seeing him knocked the air out of me. Seeing him being all fatherly and sweet with a little kid who looks SO MUCH like our sons? I'll be honest with you. It made me sick. It dug up the bones of all my supposedly dead issues and they did a macabre little jig, right there in that little school office. Neither of us said anything.

What was there to say? I suppose I could have played it cool. Played it like most mature people would have done. I could have said:

"Oh, hey. How's it going?" or
"Hello." or maybe
"Well, fancy meeting you here!"

I could have gone the really snarky route and said something bitchy.

"Wow! So you're actually parenting this one?" or
"Oh my gosh what a cutie. How long until you walk out of his life?" or perhaps
"Hi, Satan."

Of course I didn't say any of that. The mature things I didn't say because obviously, I'm not mature. The snarky things I didn't say because I do have a heart, and I respect my place of employment too much to drag that crap in there. Also, it's not cool to be a dick in front of kids.

But, what I did do is something I'm not proud of. It wasn't even something I did with any intention, it was a physical response. I swear on all things holy and pure, it was a knee-jerk reaction.

I made a face.
I made a freaking face at my ex-husband.

Now, like I said, it was something organic. It happened naturally, without any thought behind it whatsoever. I have scoured the internet looking for the perfect picture, but couldn't find one. So, I tried to replicate it in selfie form. Here's what I looked like:

Yes. It was the look of someone who had just stepped in dog poop. Barefoot.

He looked at me, and then looked down at his boy. I suppose to make sure none of the scathing lasers from my crazy Marty Feldman eye had burned the lad. He looked back at me, one more time, and I was still in face mode.

Only by that time, the shock was beginning to wear off and I'm sure the sadness showed.

After he left my office, I began shaking. Not like, withdrawal shakes or anything, but a trembling-hand sort of thing. I felt sick to my stomach, just a little bit. And there was something else.

I felt ashamed.

Ashamed that I didn't just say hello. Ashamed that there he was, enjoying a fun night with his child and there I was, working in an elementary school office, buzzing people in like a nightwatchman.

Ashamed that after all these years, after all these words, after all of my HEAR ME ROAR proclamations and after all of the so-called bravery and forgiveness and recovery I'm always spewing...

I made a face. That's all I had.

On the brief drive home I ranted to myself. Beat myself up a bit, and also, calling him out. Telling the imaginary him in my car what a shitty person I think he is, what a cruel man he is, what a heartless meanie he is. I gripped the steering wheel hard, like I was on the Autobahn instead of a little Minneapolis suburb street.

When I got home, the boys were gone. Out with friends, playing basketball at the park. I was alone with my shame and my anger. I texted my best friend and poured out the contents of my heart. She listened. She comforted.

I made a martini, and then I sat out on my porch and I cried.

How's that for "moving on"?
How's that for "getting over it"?

After I recovered from FaceGate '15, I decided a few things. Number One: maybe this parallel parenting thing isn't all it's cracked up to be. Perhaps if I was forced to interact with him on a more regular basis, seeing him wouldn't be such a shock. But there's the rub...we don't have many opportunities to be face to face. And as much as I'd like to nudge my maturity along, I sure as hell am not going to call him up and invite him to coffee just to desensitize myself.

Number Two, is that I need to admit to myself, and to those of you who are here seeking advice and support, that I'm not that strong. I'm not as far along in the healing process as I claim to be.

Number Three...this shit is hard. And some days are harder than others. We need to be forgiving, not only to those around us, but to ourselves. It's like I tell so many women just beginning this trek: You're going to screw up. And that's okay.

We are all going to be okay. Right?


Just Another Mother's Day

There are about 8 year's worth of good memories of my mother. In the soft, warm glow of the lamp on my nightstand, she'd sit on the edge of my bed and brush my hair.

"One, two, three" she'd count, all the way to one hundred. "One hundred brushes a night, Jennifer." She told me it would make my hair soft and shiny.

She'd curl up in bed with me, sometimes. She'd read books using funny voices and there were nights she'd read a dozen of them. Sometimes I'd fall asleep to the sound of her reciting the words of Maurice Sendak or Shel Silverstein or Beverly Cleary.

She would give me her leftover teaching supplies so I could play school. I'd create small, uniform rows of dolls and stuffed animals and I'd stand in front of my "class", going over the alphabet and counting by fives.

All of that changed, though, when she left us. Left me, my brother and my dad. She left us to be with a man, and sometimes when I play the game "What If" I wonder what life might have been like if she'd just disappeared with him, driven off into the sunset with her new beau. My dad did his best with two young kids, making dinners and getting us ready for school in the morning. We were sad, but we were okay. We were safe.

And then she came back for us. According to relatives, my dad fought, and fought hard, for custody. But this was the 70's, and unless mom was a derelict or in a mental institution, dads rarely got the kids. I wonder why she wanted us? Was it a final fuck you to my dad? Some sort of maternal urge she couldn't stifle?

Whatever it was, she won. My brother and I were packed up and moved into the tiny two bedroom apartment with my mom, and the man I soon discovered was a monster.

It wasn't long after that when the same woman who used to brush my hair and read to me stood by, silent, while her new husband beat me up. While he screamed at me, spit flying, fists clenched, she was there. Watching. Smoking a cigarette. Sometimes she'd shame him into apologizing afterwards. Other times, she'd tell me how I'd asked for it. She'd scold: "You shouldn't roll your eyes at him, Jennifer."

Mother's Day meant nothing back then, and it didn't until I got married and became a mom myself. Back then, we'd buy hanging baskets of geraniums and shuttle the kids to all of the grandmother's houses. We'd drop off flowers and cards and have the kids tell their grandmas, "Happy Mother's Day!" My own mother's house was part of the circuit, I'd done a fabulous job of blocking out the shit storm that had been my childhood. I'd watch as my own little babies would lean into her for a hug, watch her put her omnipresent cigarette down and, in her stained housecoat, receive the little arms that reached out towards her. The monster was always there. Always, always there. Standing off to the side, making small talk with my then husband. The absurdity of the situation went wholly unnoticed by everyone. Except me.

I had let my husband and children know, from the start, that I had no expectations for Mother's Day. A hug, a kiss, maybe a card they'd made. The fact that someone had picked a day in May and deemed it to be the one day we all celebrated our mothers didn't seem like a big deal to me. It was a way for restaurants and flower shops and the good folks at Hallmark to make a buck out of obligation and guilt. No thanks, I decided. Count me out.

After the divorce, there was exactly one Mother's Day when my now-ex-husband took the kids shopping. The kids later told me that he'd taken them to Target, pointed them in the direction of a clearance end-cap and instructed them to "pick something out for your mom. Make sure it's less than $20.00." They came home with two framed prints of cherry blossom trees. Done in black and pink. They were hideous, but I hung on to them for many years because they were, in essence, from my children.

From then on, the good teachers my children were lucky to have took care of Mother's Day presents. Little hand painted terra cotta pots with sprigs of Swedish Ivy, poems about mommies decorated with tiny handprints, tissue paper flowers. I loved all of these things, and saved a few of them.

Once they were out of elementary school, however, the teacher-guided, handmade presents ended. My kids always made sure to mention the day, always wished me a happy one. There were breakfasts in bed, attempts at best behaviors and all-around sweetness, adolescent-style.

We'd still visit my mom, although as both of us aged, it became harder to force the affection. I'd clench up as we pulled into the driveway, and my smiles were small and perfunctory as we walked through the threshold and into the cluttered, stinky house. Memories smothered me, and seeing my kids all tall and gangly and awkward just like I had been, within arm's reach of The Monster...it filled me with an unnamed dread.

The recovery time from these visits became longer and tougher. A few years ago, the nightmares started coming back, and the very sound of his voice would trigger black moods in me. I began letting her calls go to voicemail, and sometimes it would take me a day or two to finally listen to the message.

Always the same. The television droning on in the background. Her heavy breathing, then asking me in that Harvey Fierstein voice "Can you get me a few packs of cigarettes, Jennifer?" And ever so faintly, under the combined din of the voices on the t.v. and her wheezing, there'd be his voice. I could hear it, and it scared me even though I was sitting in my own living room and it was simply a recording.

"WHO ARE YOU CALLING NOW??" The voice would get closer and I'd hear my mom fumbling with the phone. "GODDAMMIT, WHO NOW?!" And then nothing.

Mother's Day fills me with many feelings, none of which they make cards for: overwhelming guilt. Sadness. Regret. And always, the wondering about how it could have been. How it should have been.

For a long time, I felt shame about my reaction to this day. I'd hide my real feelings, gloss over the pain and put on a happy face when that Sunday in May rolled around. My kids, who are all old enough to make their own gestures, treat me well. They tell me they love me, they call. They buy me lunch and small gifts.

And they always put up with my annual plea to do nothing. They listen, quietly, to my diatribe about how I am lucky to have so many Mother's Days throughout the year.

I am, you know that? I am so lucky. I had no idea how to be a mother to children past the age of eight, and somehow I have kids who like me, who aren't afraid of me. Kids who write moving, beautiful tributes to me in classes, kids who tell me their friends love coming over because "you're nice to them", kids who will go to The Avengers movies with me. Even a 21 year old kid who wants to move back home "for a couple of months" because he knows this is a soft place to land.

Despite all of that, I still can't stand this day. I look at my phone and I count down the hours until it's almost too late to call her. I can picture her, cigarette in hand, looking at her own phone, waiting for it to ring. I can see him, poking his head in the door of her room, making a comment about me and my ungratefulness.

I breathe in. Breathe out. I'll call her, and over the sound of the local newsmen yammering in the background I will wish her a Happy Mother's Day. I'll hear her breathing. I'll shut my eyes, tight against the threatening tears, as I fight to not see her sitting on the edge of my bed, brushing my hair.

"One, two, three..." 

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