What I meant when I said what I said

Sun, 20 Oct 2013 23:26:35 +0000 § Leave a comment

NOTE: I’m going to work a little blue here towards the end. A little. Not a lot. You’ve been warned.

“No. 1 on the top 10 things I hate about motherhood: Other mothers.”

The Wife’s pronouncement came Friday night at the Dinosaur Barbque as we waited on delivery of our ribs. It’s not a new feeling for her. When The Kid was The Baby, The Wife would go to the parenting forums, seeking methods to developing sleep schedules and such, only to find herself aghast at the Alphadog Earth Mothers whose breasts have produced enough milk to feed the Asian subcontinent, had children who latched the first time, made their own food and used only organic diapers and never used wipes with alcohol in them AND WHY WOULD YOU DO TO THAT TO YOUR BABY YOU HORRIFIC UNFIT WOMAN WHO IS JUST A STEP ABOVE SUSAN SMITH BUT NOT BY MUCH SO TURN IN YOUR CAR KEYS ANYWAYS JUST IN CASE.

“I’ve been doing this wrong since she was born. Hell, I didn’t even give birth correctly.” (You may or may not know that The Kid was delivered via emergency surgery.)

The Wife’s barbecue-tinged insight was the result of my story of how Twitter exploded in my face the other day. The Wife thinks I should just let this go, and learn the lesson of Josh Lyman from The West Wing‘s 16th episode in season three. After 16 years, you would think that she a) recognized that my bitterness knows no bounds and b) I don’t learn lessons from others’ mistakes. Or my own.

Earlier this year, I chronicled our story of The Kid’s Celiac disease diagnosis and our introduction to the world of gluten-free food. In an effort to start some conversations with other gluten-free diet/Celiac disease bloggers out there and get some feedback, I reached out on Twitter and asked for the thoughts of about two dozen people in that realm. Most offered well wishes, some offered their sympathy to The Wife and me, as we had a very scared then-2 1/2 year old going through all of these tests with no comprehension as to why. Others offered suggestions of brands, support groups, and organizations that I should investigate. Some said nothing.

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Commencement

Sat, 11 Jun 2011 10:51:42 +0000 § Leave a comment

June 13, 2010//5:30 p.m.

St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center//Room 5103

Any discussion of your birth and the few days surrounding it requires a flashback to Labor Day 2006. That Friday evening, Mike and Allison were at the house for pizza, beer and the Syracuse University football game. I, as I was known to do at the time, had quite a bit to drink. After Mike and Allison left, I proceeded to launch into a lecture about anything and everything. I remember little about this evening, but one of the items I spouted was a willingness to develop a progeny.

This was a progression in my feelings towards children. Originally (and we’ll call this period of time up to your mother and I getting married), I was opposed to having children. It was selfishness (I didn’t want to be bothered with the burden) and fear (Your long deceased grandmother instilled a pretty reticent fear of breaking things). Around the time your mother and I were married, I relented some. Instead of outright opposition to children, I became simply indifferent. If children happened, great. If not, oh well. My Labor Day lecture was a colossal turning point, which your mother never let me forget. And, on June 13, 2010, I’m pretty glad she didn’t.

Neither your mother or I were ready in 2006. We put off the discussion for a little while, and we watched as Sean Olley came along and grew up. Phil and Julie had Maggie and Philip in near rapid succession in 2007 and 2009. In 2008, we went to visit your cousin Michael and his wife Miyako in Las Vegas. During our trip, we spent a lot of time with Takuma, who you will eventually meet. So, at this point, there was a certain amount of readiness on our part. We were as secure as ever, financially and personally. In the summer of 2009, your mother announced that we would begin trying to have you. But, the entire plan almost unraveled.

Picture it: Kitty Hawk, July 2009 (it’s sad that you may never know what “The Golden Girls” were). Between you and me, Maggie was intolerable and Julie was worse. Everything Maggie did resulted in a nuclear response from Julie. It was…bad. Bad enough where I began to question whether I could be tolerant enough to manage parenting without absolutely losing my own shit every time you touched something.

If messengers take strange forms, the one that set me straight was three-foot-tall, tow-headed wonder. Sean bailed us all out. The Saturday after we returned from the Outer Banks, we went to Mike and Allison’s house for dinner and drinks. My primary intention was to make sure that it was Julie and Maggie and NOT children in general. After an evening of playing with Sean, who as of this writing has never been anything less than an absolute joy, my faith was restored.

• • •

You had been a textbook pregnancy. No complications. No worries. The worst your mother felt was when she ate broccoli. As we approached the June 9 due date, we figured that you would be just as textbook, if not early. We never did anticipate Murphy’s Law — if it can go wrong, it will go wrong.

• • •

At about 6 a.m. on June 10, your mother woke me with a suspicion that her water had broken. We Googled what had happened and checked the books and everything led us to believe that this was the case. I called into work, cancelled my class and we contacted the doctor. The on-call doctor, Dr. Kavety, had us go to the office. There was fetal monitoring, a sonogram, a confirmation of gender and an exam. The doctor said that the water had not, in fact, broken and that something called a “bloody show” occurred. Frankly, I don’t want to hear those words ever again. We were sent home with instructions to return the next day. I went to the office and cancelled my evening class. For dinner, we had a spinach salad with chicken and your mother devoured a hunk of chocolate cake.

Now, I want you to picture this. Your mother considered not waking me up. She almost let me go to work that morning.

• • •

The doctor had told us that we should make arrangements to head to the hospital if the contractions were five minutes apart for one hour. Your mother woke me up again at about midnight on June 11 saying that she had been informally timing them at around five minutes apart. After an hour of more formal timing, we called the doctor who had us come in.

Within hours, we were back in the 2007 Honda Pilot and headed back to Camillus. You were pointed in the right direction, but your mother did not show any progress. The nurses suggested warm baths to take the edge off the pain. Imagine the look on your mother’s face.

• • •

My default position is sleeping, so I ran your mother a bath, setup the bathroom and proceeded to fall asleep around 5 a.m. By 8, your mother was in extreme pain. Based on our experience at the hospital, I thought that she could soldier through until 10 a.m. when a doctor would be available by phone. By 8:15, I was back on the phone with Dr. Kavety.

• • •

The contractions were not moving any quicker, but the intensity was much worse. We were shuffled from triage to delivery within minutes. While your mother was being settled, I turned on the World Cup (Mexico v. South Africa). It’s not that I was trying to be inattentive, but understand that the contractions were so bad that your mother was on the verge of losing consciousness and gripping the bedrails as if she was going skydiving.

In 2010, the fetal monitors looked like two yo-yos (we’ll have to see if yo-yos exist when you finally read this) with wires, which connected your mother’s stomach to a computer. The screen looked like a seismograph, measuring your heart rate and rate of contractions. Monitored at the nurse’s station, an alarm sounds when the heart rate drops below 100 for too long.

Sometime during the first half of the soccer match, a nurse named Kim Mather was preparing a needle to deliver pain medication to your mother’s back when one of those alarms sounded. Your heart rate took a dive to about 75 beats per minute. Dr. Kavety joined the room with another nurse–Lori Falke, who’s daughter was in your mother’s history class. They tried to jostle you around to see if you were on the umbilical cord. That seemed to do the trick, but the pain meds went away for the moment. Within 30-60 seconds, your heart rate took another plunge. This alarm brought another legion of nurses in to watch the monitor and discuss strategies for restoring your breathing. You dropped to 75, again, but rebounded into the low 90s. The third dive was below 75 and Dr. Kavety decided that it was time for you to come out the hard way. Later, the doctor told me that she wanted to let the delivery go naturally, but she was not about to put anyone’s life at risk to let it happen.

I didn’t think anything about it at the time. The doctor told me that I would be staying in the room, as your mother was going to receive a general anesthetic. As you and your mother were being shuttled away to the small operating room, I heard someone say that the “big room” was ready. The severity of the situation hits me now as I type this, but consciously I was trying not to vomit and only subconciously heard Dr. Kavety say, “We don’t enough time to get there.” (For reference, the “big room” was about 20 feet away.)

There was not much I could do. I texted your aunt and had her call your grandparents. The soccer match was in its second half and the nurse refused to get me a sedative. So, I sat in the chair, said a small prayer and focused on the one thing that could distract me–22 Mexicans and South Africans running up and down a grass field. Ordinarily, this would be an event I would listen to at work. Even a day before, your mother and I would have probably sat on the couch and watched it together. But, here I was, stuck in a terribly uncomfortable chair, with the worst case of anxiety I’ve felt in a very long time (we’ll talk about this later) and I was relying on 22 men who had no connection to me or the moment to distract me long enough to not a) Burst into the OR, b) Vomit, c) Faint, d) Have that heart attack, e) Take someone hostage for a valium.

I finished my short, but poignant prayer (we’ll also talk about spirituality at some point), and looked up to see a smiling nurse in the room. As Mike said a few days later, I was at the point where either two people, one person or no one would be coming home with me. If there is a fear in my life (besides bridges, tunnels and maggots) it’s that the doctor would tell me that something was wrong.

The nurse asked if I heard “that.” I replied that I could only hear ringing in my ears. The nurse walked me into the hall and asked me if I could hear crying. I nodded and was told that the screaming belonged to you and that, at 10:51 a.m., you had been pulled out. A few minutes later, Lori gave me an update and, soon after that, brought you in. As I write this, I’m still amazed at this entire process. I’m not going to lie to you…it wasn’t love at first sight. I still wasn’t feeling anything. All I knew is that beneath the wad of blankets was a wriggling body that was my daughter. It was a feeling of shellshock that I cannot explain.

You see, your mother has been at my side for every event of my 16 years. Whether it was job offers and awards, marriage, bad days at work or death, we’ve been together. For the first time in what seemed like ever, your mother wasn’t there. I could have said, “You have to see this” or “Can you believe this?” but it would have been to the four walls in the room. Here we were together, and I had no one to be excited with. Instead, we talked. Actually, I rambled. It’s my coping mechanism. I will nervously stream every thought in my head. It soothes me and helps me relate to the situation at hand.

I held you for about the first two hours, as your mother took some time recovering from the anesthesia and received pain medicine. I don’t know how it is done when you read this there are two ways for human children to be born–naturally, through the, well, naturally, and by Caesarian section. Getting its name from that Caesar guy, it involves cutting the abdomen horizontally, removing the mother’s innards and, then, the baby. It is particularly painful and traumatic to the body and the recovery can be rough at first. Within two hours, your mother was capable of holding you. By night, she was breastfeeding you. By the next day, she appeared more human, describing her shower as the “best shower in the worst shower” that she’s ever taken.

Things you either cannot prepare for or do not understand until they happen to you

Sat, 11 Jun 2011 00:01:03 +0000 § Leave a comment

  1. How much your first job sucks.
  2. That jury duty really isn’t that bad. It’s actually kind of fun.
  3. That the death of parent haunts you for years.
  4. That your parents are the best and worst thing to ever happen to you.
  5. That therapy doesn’t fix anything unless you are ready to fix something.
  6. The unconditional love you have for your child.

A funeral exchange

Fri, 10 Jun 2011 23:47:51 +0000 § Leave a comment

“Hi. I’m Sandy.”

“Hello. I’m Jared.”

“I am Louise’s oldest daughter.”

“Please don’t hold this against me, but I’m Marietta’s nephew.”

Mortality

Thu, 03 Mar 2011 15:01:57 +0000 § Leave a comment

It’s been rattling around in my head since Chuck posted the obituary for Her on his Facebook page. Reading the obituaries is something passed down in some ethnic families. The Italians have turned going to funerals into a hobby. I remember as a kid always having to detour somewhere so my parents could take my grandmother or Aunt Anna to Pirro’s, Farone’s or Bagozzi’s for a wake. Even now, it’s like a morbid game between my father and I as to who calls who first when someone we know dies.

Anyhow, Chuck posted the obituary for a friend of his and acquaintance of mine from college. She and I weren’t particularly close and probably said no more than 15 words to each other in college. She was nice enough, from what I remember, but we really had no occasion to talk to each other. We were friends on Facebook, but I have to admit that I selfishly hid Her sometime ago. This is a fact that one of my friends and I shared. Both of us were going through the rocky conception/early pregnancy stages at the time She had a miscarriage. The miscarriage was frightening enough, especially knowing the stat that nearly one in five pregnancies end that way. She had a particularly tough time and was emoting with great sadness and anger. Frankly, just a few weeks into the process myself, I couldn’t read the messages and not have an anxiety attack. I hid Her.

I unhid Her sometime later to find out that Her miscarriage was caused by antibodies that attacked the baby. Apparently, She was suffering from a bone marrow-related illness called Epstein-Barr virus. I followed along on her Caring Bridge site and saw that things were progressing smoothly. I thought nothing of it.

Her Facebook statuses said that She was coming home after a bone-marrow transplant a couple of weeks ago. Again, I thought nothing of it. Then, She kinda disappeared.

Friends who attended the services were able to piece together that She was responding slowly to the transplant, but not slow enough that the doctors were worried. Then, about a week ago, things took a sudden and rapid turn. By the weekend, She was dead.

As I’ve said to a couple of mutual acquaintances, I’m sure that other members of the Class of 1999 have died, but I didn’t know any of them. While She moved in some mutual circles, I couldn’t rightfully call Her a friend. I knew Her name, but that was really about it. I found out more about Her as a Facebook friend then I did in four years on the same campus together.

As I sat there and stared at the obituary, I thought a lot about life and where I am thus far. I also thought a lot about death and the voids I would leave… It’s not perfect. It’s certainly not to a plan, but where I am today is where I am. I can sit back and watch it pass me by, I can get so involved that I miss the little things, or I can toe the center line and try to catch a little of everything. Some people don’t like sitting on the fence. Me? There’s a nice view. I can always hop down to get in the game when I want and, when it’s time to rest, I can always get my seat back.

I hope She is at peace and starting to enjoy her time on the perpetual fence.

Salud.

Gone

Sat, 05 Feb 2011 16:46:46 +0000 § Leave a comment

In the litany of pre-college connections that The Wife and I share, there was Uncle Tom. Quiet, opinionated, funny Uncle Tom.

Uncle Tom was a fixture at Ducky’s Tavern, a neighborhood watering hole from back in the days when PBR was a blue-collar beer, not a hipster douche trend, and when no one looked down on someone bringing a three-year-old with them on a Saturday. My Saturdays, from about three to six years old were spent sitting on the safe or in front of a arcade bowling game at Ducky’s. My father was a regular and, as regulars do, he had a barstool to occupy…specifically the one on the short end of the L-shaped bar near the bathroom. The cast of characters included some shady folk–gamblers and bookies–as well as people named Twerpy, Corky and Farmer. And, there was Uncle Tom.

I met The Wife as a freshman in college and it didn’t take long for my father to start connecting dots. Uncle Tom married Aunt Barb. Aunt Barb’s sister is The Wife’s mother. Instant connection. So, when The Wife’s family annexed ours for holidays following my mother’s death and the Western migration of one segment of my family, it was not so much a stranger being introduced. It was another guy from Ducky’s who stopped by for dinner.

My father-in-law says that the Uncle Tom was not always such an affable character. Having come into the picture in the mid-1990s, I missed the crusty, quiet guy who would sit in the corner at holidays and watch golf on television. Two events changed him. The first was his early 1990s heart attack, the trigger which started us that ended in Uncle Tom’s passing last evening. Gone was the smoking, the days at Ducky’s and the high-cholesterol, high-fat meat-and-potatoes diet. The second was the birth of his first grandchild in 2001. What I saw was a warm, loving grandfather with a biting sense of humor and an answer for everything.

About 13 months ago, I stood in the back of the funeral home that will host his wake this week. He told me that he couldn’t believe that The Wife’s grandfather had died. Today, I feel the same way.

mmxi

Sat, 01 Jan 2011 03:14:26 +0000 § Leave a comment

I turned to The Wife at the red light and said, “I don’t know. It just doesn’t feel like New Years Eve.”

Of course it didn’t. This is the first eve that I can remember when I wasn’t at a party held in my house or the house of my youth. Tonight, The Wife and I feasted on the finest sushi and sashimi in the Salt City, while the The Baby hung out with the in-laws. It’s 9:47 p.m. I’m in my sweats and getting ready to settle in with a pre-slumber crossword puzzle.

New Years has always been a big holiday in my family, almost moreso than Christmas. It was our holiday, or at least the one in my family held at my parent’s house. The Italians are very matrilineal in their family structure, so holiday were always with my mother’s side. Thanksgiving and Christmas Day were at one aunt’s; Christmas Eve and Easter at my others. New Years was ours, partially as a function of age. My sister and I are the youngest of the four cousins and this being the late-night holiday, it was easier to put us to bed after Dick Clark counted down from 10.

Traditions wane, but I tried to keep this one going. Some years have been bigger than others. We’ve had years at my parents with 20+ for dinner. After my mother died, the holiday continued to be held in high esteem. When hee moved, the holiday shifted to me. Some years has seen five or six for dinner. Others have seated 10 to 15 around my dining room table. I like entertaining and cooking for others. Cooking is therapeutic for me, not for the kudos but the challenge of preparing a meal for a crowd. Last year, we had 13. I stuffed a pork loin.

Tonight…it was different. The in-laws came over and had takeout. We went for hamachi and brought home dessert. The Baby was asleep by 7. I’ll be out before the clock strike 10:30.

Part of it is The Baby. She runs on a rigid schedule. No nap exceeds 45 minutes. You can set your clock every morning at 6 a.m. when she rouses. So, the early mornings put a damper on late-night fun.

Part of it is the expense. Christmas dinner wiped me out financially, to be honest. I could have still pulled off something elegant and fun, but that really wasn’t it. The “it” was the feeling, and I wasn’t feeling it.

At the next red light, I remarked that with the exception of The Baby, 2010 was a colossal letdown. She concurred adding that it was a polar year; enormous highs and deep trenches. For me, this was no less evident than Christmastime. It took until that week before I really felt the full burst of the holiday. Prior to that, it was just an annoying collection of songs (except for those sung by Bing Crosby) and a lot of high gloss ads in my Sunday paper. I never really got that rush of holiday fever, which extended to New Years. So, as I sit here on the eve writing a blog post, I think back to years past.

It’s 10 o’clock, so right about now my father would be bringing the oil back in. Hours earlier, smelt had been deep fried and devoured. The oil had sufficiently cooled and the dough had risen, just in time for the two to meet. My grandmother and aunt, and later my father, would deep fry two types of dough. One was a straight-up dough ball; the other had the salty surprise of an anchovy in the middle. Dessert was dealt with a while ago. The dough was, well, the next course. There might be an odd game of cards or Trivial Pursuit on the horizon. Otherwise, the anticipation of midnight was the subject.

Tonight, there is a bowl game on television, The Baby in her crib and The Wife, working hard at finishing the double-truck crossword which ran one week ago in the paper. I’m getting ready to tackle today’s New York Times offering. No fried dough (I don’t deep fry anything. That smells takes days to get out of the house.). No card games. No sneaking shots of vodka in my Sprite when a grown-up wasn’t looking. No one is hemming or hawing about leaving before midnight.

There will be no midnight phones calls of well wishes (I turned on the Do Not Disturb function on my phone), or tasteless impressions of Dick Clark (I don’t intend on being awake.).

Maybe next year my holiday mojo will return. Maybe it won’t. That’s 12 months away. Twelve months of uncertainty, change and what’s next. Twelve months which I look forward to with cautious optimism and curiosity. And, if my dining room table is full 365 days from now, all the better.

My New Years wish for you and I are full tables, metaphorically speaking. Surround your table with those things which nourish you, those things which you desire and those people who you wish to share it all with. Use the utensils and tools to get you by, and don’t be afraid to ask some to pass something to you. And, savor every sip, bite, and flavor.

To 2011…