The Sine Wave Of Friendship

By all rights, I shouldn’t be writing about anything mathematical. Nothing about the entire subject makes any sense to me. Sadly and truly, I mean not a crumb, nothing at all. I am so mathematically challenged, that I am not at all certain I have a left lobe in my cerebrum. There are far too many rules that govern the subject. Math is too structured and illogical. I have survived quite well, always counting on my oversized right lobe to get me into and out of any scrape or adventure life can offer. It has worked very well thus far. The rules that govern the logic of communication have a rhythm that makes sense. I wouldn’t blink at a good argument with Beelzebub

However, as the sands of time continue to drip, I have discovered that there is a mathematical rhythm that makes sense. It doesn’t break any rules. It doesn’t defy gravity and allow the sands of time to run back up to the top of the hourglass, no matter how appealing that may be. There have, however, been times that the idea has been very absurdly appealing. Even with the best of friendships, wounds occur. Oh, that we could turn the hourglass over or reverse the sine wave in order to mend.

But even that, the wounds are a part of the sine wave. Indeed, it brings to me an added awareness of the gifts and the synchronicity that life offers us each and every day.

That structured oscillation is the rhythm of life and friendship. There is a mathematical formula for that:

                                         y(t)= A sin (2Pf+j) = A sin (wt+j)

There is a formula for everything in math and physics. For me, that is the problem. Life is not a formula from where I sit.

For those who share my left lobe challenge, a sine wave is a wave of oscillation across a midline median. Think of the bouncing of a spring. Think of highs and lows. The highs and lows have amplitude and frequency. The wave can be close together, like lightning strikes in the center of a thunderstorm. The wave can also be far apart, like the ocean waves at sunset.

But what it comes down to and for me is the absolute definition of friendship. Perhaps there is a way to come to a different but similar conclusion that combines it all?

                        y(t)= A sin (2Pf+j) = A sin (wt+j) = <3

There was a moment recently where I read a blurb in which scientists recognized that if a friendship lasts more than seven years, it would likely last a lifetime. Apparently, lengthy friendships are rare and getting rarer all the time. People come and go in the rhythm of life. Hopefully, we remember them fondly. Other times we are willing to hold the door for them.

I have come to realize that I have the blessing of many friendships that can incriminate me with my childhood playground escapades at a cocktail party. They can regale with laughter some of my early choices in the dating game.

Of course, technologies beyond the telephone and postage stamp have played a large part. But, even before that, I had my “lifers”.

I call them my two o’ clock friends. If needed, and there have been times, I can call at two a.m. and laugh, cry, get and give advice and feel both real and the electronic hugs. It goes both ways, as does a sine wave. Even when the wave oscillates at low amplitude across the median, the heart connection is there. It is always there.

We have known each other through grooviness, definitely a high frequency oscillation. We have known each other through dorkyness and puberty; low frequency with a median that elevated and descended randomly.

Of course, in the path of our lives, through the daily mommy stuff and the administration of life, the wave still oscillates. We have our moments of annoyance, cookies and Chardonnay, stress and peace. Sometimes this can happen in the course of a couple of hours. That it happens and continues to oscillate and even when is what matters. That we have it, and when we have it, is what is the magic. That I have it on a daily basis takes the magic to a whole new stratum. Sometimes it is so ingrained we often we are simply not aware of it. Daily prestidigitation becomes as routine as checking e-mails.

That is how mathematics helped me. Awareness. Who would have thought? We get our lessons from whatever direction we need them to come from in order to be heard. Just keep listening. It is a heartbeat away.

The recent changes in my life have made me mathematical about my friends. I love my lifelong wavy friends, the ones who stay with our mutual heart connection. The connection is always there and omnipresent. It is almost sometimes idle, sometimes only whispering, like a sine wave barely moving. But it is there nonetheless.

I believe it will be there forever, long after we join the choir invisible whenever Gabriel blows that ethereal trumpet. When we cross over to the other shore, I think there will be a cocktail hour, a book club meeting, bridge club, shopping expedition, a golf foursome, a luncheon, or just one of my homies standing there with a bouquet of flowers and a box of tissue. Whatever is necessary will be provided. I can trust it will be there in someone’s manicured hand, arms open and ready to hug.

In this, I have discovered the magic of math. Albert Einstein said, “There are two ways to live: You can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle”.

But don’t expect me to ever grasp all of that algebraic stuff. And thank God for the people who invented online banking and checking.

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MORE ODDITIES IN THE WILD WEST

Anyone who has crossed the Mississippi in the back of a sparkling 1965 (or earlier) station wagon with his or her multiple siblings playing car bingo has met one.

I didn’t come to the awareness of the species until later in life. I was about eleven and my older half brother and I were being tortured by one of my father’s intermittent AAA® “family vacations”‘.

As near as I can figure, the old man decided this was the epitome of the family adventure. It played to his ego to go somewhere where he could come back and wax poetic about the collection of small and useless facts with his scotch drinking comrades. A compulsory slide show demonstrating his self imagined photography skills accompanied the endless evening.

So we were doubly tortured as the bro and I had to sit through the still life rerun with the accompanying stereophonic LONG playing accompaniment. It should be no surprise that we commiserated that this would be the last trip we were ever forced to make.

Enter that rarest of creatures of the Wild West: the Jackalope.

We were going out to visit my uncles in Idaho. My eight-year-old bladder was expected to maintain endurance until we made the entire trip. One accident in the back seat after five miles of pleading and crying taught him otherwise.

As my mom dug in the trunk for dry clothes and my father sought out the nearest liquor store, we found a diner and ordered sandwiches while reparations were made.

Next to the diner was the obligatory gift and souvenir shop.  I felt his eyes on me before I spied him.

The Jackalope.

At first glance, I thought it was the biggest wabbit I had ever seen. My dad, seeing my gaping slack jaw, explained that it was Bugs Bunny’s older brother and a member of a particularly aggressive branch of the species of lagomorphs. While the bunny and hares of this order were friendly, jackalopes were the enforcers. They were the aggressive and vicious goon squad of the gang.

Furthermore, we were heading into the worst of jackalope territory and I shouldn’t even think of getting out of the car. They were sneaky as well and would sneak up on unsuspecting eight-year-old girls who couldn’t control their bladders.

His sadistic streak won. I was petrified. I fled the gift shop as quickly as I could. All the while I could feel the creature’s eyes following me. His antlers were a lethal weapon – with me in mind. I refused, as always, to show any fear.

Flash forward to life here in the present. I hadn’t thought of the dreaded jackalope in several decades. Even as we travelled to our new permanent home in the Wild West, my encounter with the jackalope on the shelf in Wall Drug yielded no fear; only a smile remembering my old man’s demented sadism with a smile. He was, after all, a champion bullshitter.

Recently, I was reading our local paper. It has been in existence continuously since 1876, when Wild Bill and Custer were local residents. I found this advertisement in the classifieds:

Jackalope Ad

There is a large section of the classifieds devoted to the divine and desperate of items for sale. On any given day, one can ponder the purchase of a 1970 Ford Falcon (“runs great!”), a mink jacket (slightly used, one owner!), a 1/4 or 1/2 of fresh buffalo meat (one owner!).

But Frank and his entrepreneurial venture intrigued me. How did he come to this price point? What if he were flooded with hundreds of jackalopes from all over the entire state? Does size matter? Could he legitimately declare bankruptcy if the jackalope market tanked?

And, why, Frank? Has it long been your call in life to open the International Jackalope museum? Will it be a broad spectrum of jackalope demographics? The sweet, kind jackalopes as well as the jackalope felons and evildoers? What does an evildoing jackalope do to be evil?

When you live out here, passing fake mannequins checking speeders and trying to collect jackalopes for fun and profit becomes one of life’s bigger questions.
I’m thinking of calling Frank for the answer. It’s right up there with the meaning of life…

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The Angst of National Sibling Day

I am sitting in an airport waiting for my flight home.

I spent the weekend in Chicago visiting my son at his college and marveling at the amazing man he is becoming. While I was backing and forth-ing and smiling, I overheard someone say that Friday, the day I was flying into Chi-town, was National Siblings Day.

“A Day to Honor, Recognize, and Celebrate each other”.

Rick and me

Hmmm.

I have envy.

I saw many pictures of my friends and acquaintances who followed the suggestion and posted photos of their group of sibs. They all seem happy and glad to be in each other’s company.

I have a sibling.

He doesn’t know what state I live in. Actually, he is a half sibling and our mother didn’t speak to him for the last three years of her life. He gets to live with that one. My father did a major number on him. I would say he is a very wounded person who is very shut down. He had to in order to survive. The last time I laid eyes on him was at my father’s memorial service. He and his family came late, left early and never exchanged a word with me.

He did cry at my mother’s service six months earlier.

He would say he is fine.

He probably is. Married a woman of mediocre intelligence who provided him with a nest, as well as a welcoming Italian, if odd, family and two beautiful daughters.

I like that he doesn’t know where I live. I arranged it that way after a lifetime of jumping through his brotherly hoops hoping to get his approval and affection. All the while I was acting out my own demons bestowed by the paterfamilias. He was wrestling with the detritus of his childhood.

There are times, I must admit, where I still long for the connection. I want Christmases and Thanksgivings together with his family and mine. I want laughter and merriment and board games to work off the food coma that results from feasting together.

I have occasionally sent a Christmas card or a note.  There has been no response.  I no longer expect one or even waste the stamp.

It will never happen.

I drank the Kool Aid ® the television poured for me. I wanted to be The Beaver to his Wally, the Marcia to his Greg and the other Bradys. Instead we both survived out respective childhood as best we could. The scars are not visible. I have come to a peace about my parents. He barred the trap door.

The odd gift of this situation is the relationship my three children have now that they are crossing the threshold of adulthood. I have repeatedly told them over the years of the magic of being the only three people to share the same history.  They may have different perspectives, but they are the only ones.  All of them routinely talk, smack and otherwise, to each other on a regular basis of their own choosing. They tease, boss, laugh, and connect. It is a joy to know they do this of their own choosing with no cajoling on my part whatsoever. They have independent relationships with each other. A victory of the highest order over the scarred history of my brother and I.

There is one memory I hold out whenever the brother pops into my mind — or is forced there by a contrived “national” holiday.

We were in the park across the street from my parents’ house with his then small daughters. While they played on the slide and in the sand, he and I sat down on the swings. Slowly at first, we began to pump our legs and the swings gained momentum. We were in synchrony swinging back and forth at the same time. Higher and higher, we maintained our rhythm until we were at the maximum of the pendulum. There was very little conversation — none seemed to be needed. We just kept swinging and watching our extended legs touch the sky at the top of the arc. Slowly we let the momentum die down until it was time to go. We walked away in silence with a sense of contentment and the grasp of a moment not to occur again. The memory lingers when it surfaces and leaves me with a smile.

I understand the respective places of the heart we have chosen. But it makes National Sibling Day a farce. In observing friends with siblings, I think their relationships run the gamut. Some have angst, some have joy, most have a mixture of the gamut. But it is still family and the power to maintain the connection is up to the brothers and sisters.

But, I still miss you sometimes, Rick. Happy Siblings Day.

 

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Oddities in the Wild West

Our circumstances have changed. Even though life is about change, embracing it can be hard.

I now have a commuter marriage — an interstate commuter marriage– a very rural interstate commuter marriage. The queen visits the king and the king visits the queen. We appreciate every second of our time together and talk every day. The route to and from our time together is very rural. Very.

I have discovered that there are only a certain number of times I can manage a couple of verses of “This Land is Your Land” while admiring the wide open spaces. It is beautiful country. The antelope that ignore me as I whiz past have assured me this is a fact. I don’t even try my cell phone unless I see a tower in the distance. That would be pushing the rock up the hill.

One hour into the commute to see my husband, I pass the Mercantile/Post Office along the two lane highway and just outside of the town of Buffalo, with it’s one motel of Irish heritage, two gas stations, a Masonic temple, and a population of 330 people.

Two hours in, I stop and gas up and dispose of the last dose of caffeine and refuel with a fresh supply. Halfway there. I’m a comin’ honey, put the wine in the fridge — or the snow bank — whichever works.
Somewhere near hour three, I reach the bustling metropolis of Amidon, North Dakota.

Amidon, North Dakota proudly boasts that it is the smallest incorporated county seat in the United States. Who thinks of these accolades? Founded in 1913, the 2000 census showed a population of 33. In 2010, the population had dropped to 20. A few had apparently shuffled off to join the choir invisible in either the Lutheran or Catholic cemetery farther north on the highway. This drop in population caused Amidon to lose its tiny crown and bragging rights to Brewster, Nebraska. I speculate that the competition for the smallness remains fierce here in rural America. Amidon has retaliated by building a brand new county seat headquarters. Take that, Brewster.

But, should you ever go through the town of Amidon, be sure and stop at Mo’s Bunker Bar – an underground saloon. Really, it is indeed underground. You can’t miss it. But, please, make sure you can pass a sobriety test with the transgender mannequin in the cop car in the center of town and directly across from Mo’s.
You heard me. The Amidon Chamber of Commerce (if there is one) is quite proud of its famous police car.
You see, Highway 85 is one of the main highways to North Dakota and the Bakken Oil Field. The speed limit is 65 on this two lane thoroughfare to controversy but even the countless wide loads go at least 75.

So, when you are bopping along and hit Amidon, the speed limit gradually drops from 65 to 45 to 30 to 25. And there he/she is. Right there, in the heart of this bustling metropolis.

I believe officer friendly started life as a female mannequin in a dress shop in parts unknown. Someone acquired her and put her in a cop uniform and parked her behind the driver’s seat of the squad car. There she sits to this day.

When I was driving our kids up with me to see Dad, they bought into the charade too. After all, Barney/Betty might come to life. I’m certain no bullets will be involved. Barney/Betty is stoically mute on the subject.
The snow on the windshield is a clue. The fact that it is slumped over at a forty-five degree angle has all the accouterment of a store mannequin that formerly modeled ladies lingerie, and a moustache leads to my confusion. But I am not alone. The uniform leads to the thought of too many doughnuts.

Where do you get a doughnut out here? Nowhere. The nearest truck stop is 40 miles away. I also understand a trucker on his way north stopped with a map to ask the peace officer directions. It must be a source of great amusement to the 33 locals.

Urban legend has it that this positioning and posturing – or lack thereof- was intentional. And the Mayor (????) noticed the change in attitude as well as observing the speed limit. So Barney/Betty stays.

And it has gained notoriety. Will Ferrell mentioned this ruse in “The Legend of Ron Burgundy”.]
Amidon is famous. On the map.

I will still slow down, though I know the ruse.
Amidon

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584 Songs Later

My mother had seven brothers. She was the only girl. They all grew up in a small Minnesota farm town in the twenties and thirties of the last century, where Grandpa was one of the big cheeses in town. I grew up hearing about their antics as well as my Grandfather’s powerful presence at home, where he ruled with an iron hand. That was as well as in the community that kept his ego fed. I was lucky enough and tenacious enough (an inherited trait) to nag, cajole and wheedle my uncles and my mom into writing down their memories of growing up in the depression before they started to leave us.

These eight kids grew up as expected. They put their pennies in the church offering, passed “”whistle pants” down the line and passed the paper route from one to the next. They had some legendary antics such as stealing the undertaker’s hearse for a joy ride. Five brothers and one sister fought in World War II. My grandfather was proud to have five stars in his window and even tried to enlist himself; obligations be damned. Two more fought in Korea and the youngest went into the Navy during peacetime. As with millions of others from that era, when they came home, they put their official fighting experience behind them. Some fared better than others. Several dealt better with the memories than others. Three of the brothers married hometown honeys. All started having kids. My mom married a lawyer from Chicago, supposedly ringing the status bell of the time.

I am blessed with 29 first cousins; all maternal. My father had the good taste to be an only child.

Every few years, Gramps would convene a family reunion. I think it was every five years or so. The entire gang would of ever increasing cousins would reunite in Fairmont. There were picnics, sailing, canoeing. Many of us learned to swim in the lake where my uncle had built his home with his dad and his grandfather. I learned not to fish, thanks to one lone Bullhead. Uncle Pat always treated all of us to Dairy Queen at least once each visit.

I loved every minute of it.

Dad? He would brace himself by purchasing a case of Scotch. When my congregational relations declined to partake, he proceeded to kill it himself during the duration. There were enough cousins my age that I wasn’t faced with the usual evening routine involving Dad’s slurring and sarcasm. But, boy was my aunt pissed when there was an empty whiskey bottle outside the bedroom door every morning.

As with everything, time passed. Cousins got married. Cousins went off to war. Cousins went off to work. Grandpa died at the ripe old age of 90, the last major reunion having taken place in 1970.

From time to time, the family pipeline would yield news. There were the births of the children of the Uncles who had moved way out west to raise their kids. Our connection grew frail as we saw less and less of each other.

Two of my uncles and my mom died in the 1990s. I began to cherish the memoirs they had given me more and more. I also shook the family tree for interesting ancestors and discovered quite the cast of characters. Grandpa had also done this same thing in the fifties. He linked us to the Mayflower long before the World Wide Web existed.

Families weave their own webs, whether we know it or not. Through my research, I discovered the immigrants, the veterans of wars including the Revolutionary War, and the felons. Fortunately Mom left me a box of photos from the childhood of she and her brothers. I was able to identify and correlate them into their memoirs.

It was my version of fun. This may sound weird, but it was my joy. It was the jigsaw puzzle of my connection.
Then, through a series of life changes, my husband and I packed up the Conestoga wagon in the form of a Lincoln Navigator and headed to the Wild West ourselves. We began to have relatives who were passing through take the time to stop by.

With the advent of the Internet and social media, we cousins began to reconnect and catch up on our lives and adventures. There began to be rumblings of “wouldn’t it be nice to have a reunion”. No one had the time to take on the organization of a reunion single-handedly. The idea lay on the virtual table.

Enter spontaneous combustion.

The spark that started it happened in Idaho.

One cousin was loading up the RV and heading west to visit his mother, my aunt. All his sisters began talking about local cousins coming for lunch. Everyone signed on for that, which grew into, “hey the Uncle down the road is 91 and his wife is having her 90th birthday during this time”.

More cousins signed on. Enthusiasm fanned the flames.

It was a source of great indecision and even anxiety for me.

The past couple of years have been fraught with uncertainty, injustice and stress. When you are punch drunk and think you are coping, you are still punch drunk.

We had just returned from driving our twin sons to their respective colleges. My husband took a position and the necessary apartment in another state. I was exhausted and very hesitant to drive to Idaho.

This is not my usual character. Even as I age, I like to think that I am up for anything, especially if travel is involved. I used to think nothing of throwing a bag in the car and taking off for points known and unknown.

But that was then. Now I’m a woman travelling alone across the mountains in one long jaunt for lunch one day with relatives I hadn’t seen in years. There would be an overnight and dinner two hours away and then the trek would begin in reverse.

Two days of travel for two days of visiting Aunts, Uncles and cousins, a stop to visit my husband and finally home. A lot of mileage for what seemed a low return. That seemed to be a “no” in my book.

My intuition grabbed me by the throat. “DO IT”, it said.

My Uncle Bill is my favorite uncle. He is patient, kind, and was more of a father to me than my own was ever capable of. He helped me grow up and get a grip on what is real as opposed to the continuous chaos and adult drama I called family. If I missed this opportunity to see him, I might not have another. The sands of time in the hourglass of life do not flow upward.

I had to do it. A willing and eager dog sitter magically appeared to seal the decision.

I resurrected the girl that used to do this without blinking. But the experienced woman made sure the AAA® card was current. Off I went.

When I am driving for any extended period of time, I prefer to plug in my IPod.

I love my IPod. It is a classic and contains 13000 of the widest range of songs that anyone could conceive. I dare you. I’m proud of the eclectic diversity. There are show tunes, folk tunes from Chicago and beyond, roaring 20s, classical, rock, punk, comedy, and talking lectures I have attended, Broadway show tunes from four decades, as well as a helluva lot of Celtic music. There were the very obscure as well as the very, very obscure. I always hit random and take delight in whatever comes next. When I started my sojourn, I hit shuffle and started at number one.

As I headed west, and listened and smiled; and relived a route I hadn’t done in fifteen years, I relaxed. What is more, I began to understand that I had surrendered my personal power. Faced with being alone for longer times than I had experienced in years, I had become timid. This realization surprised me.

I am not a wimp; but I had become one. With each passing mile, a little bit of me came home to myself. I realized this was as much for me as reuniting with the people who knew my roots.

And then I arrived at my cousins’ territory…..

DSCN3086In the next three days, there was nothing but laughter, memories, both joyous and not, and teasing and camaraderie that I didn’t even know I had missed until I found it again. The teasing required the hide of a rhino. Tease hard, sack up, laugh or go home. I laughed a lot.

All of this brought out memories from fifteen different perspectives. My collective memory tome added fuel to the merriment. That was a huge honor for me. I had contributed. The different viewpoints and memories filled in the cracks.

It ended all too soon, as these things do. But we will all dine on it for months. There are new memories to add to the old.
The journey home was easy. It wasoyous, even. I sang along as the miles eastward flew by. Thank God there was no one else in the car.

When I pulled into my husband’s apartment, I had recaptured a part of myself I didn’t even know was missing. 1848 miles and 584 songs later, I had reclaimed my wholeness. Thanks, in no small part, to my clan.

But, Idaho drivers remain the worst in the nation. They are rated that way by national survey. It helped me realize I can still get my mojo back when needed. It was further empowerment to negotiate ex-patriot Californians crawling up my car’s rear end and not my own.

Thank you, dear cousins, one and all.

The connection continues and it is true magic. I cherish it.

Thank ye, me blood.

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The Clear View Behind

Just another round of errands driving around town.

Another check yet again.

Yes, it is still true. The back seat of my car is empty and we are heading home alone.

This time, however, confirms the permanence of the clear view behind us.

For over two decades, my rear view mirror was filled with the cultural detritus of everyday life.

It started with mobiles and dangling squeaking things designed to amuse, stimulate and developmentally enhance my babies’ road trip experience. This morphed into the proper classical music to raise their nubile intelligence quotients and prevent them from trying to steal the car keys for a spontaneous roadie.

The roadies would remain confined to hitching our sainted giant dog to the front of the Red Ryder© wagon for a ride up the driveway. This changed into the scenario of two little boys starting at the top of the gently sloped drive to gain Sir Isaac’s gravitational acceleration and cut cookies on the Big Wheels© with their older sister yelling “faster!” throughout…

The car seats and booster seats replaced the infant seat with alarming alacrity. The new models lifted everyone to their properly mandated federal safety standards and gave my husband and I the appropriate glimpse of what they were up to at any given moment. All the while, the dogs were busy licking faces clean of whatever fast food joy box food product that was serving to fill tummies and keep us all on schedule.

And there was the trip to the family fake reunion moment with two eighteen month olds who had had QUITE enough of the six hours in confinement, federally mandated or not. Their five-year-older sister could no longer cajole them through another round of “Ten Apples Up On Top”. We ended up sending back the Wall Street Journal for them to shred just to make that home stretch. By the time we arrived at my in-laws, the back of my SUV looked like a giant hamster ball.

The dogs eventually would never touch another French fry or cereal snack. Aversion therapy does work given enough time and effort…

And now, here we are, my husband and I. We are alone in the car having crossed five states and three time zones. I dubbed this “The Brady Bunch Tour”.  We would pretend to be Mike and Carol while we all happily sang camp songs ALL the way to our destination.

When my husband suggested this venture, (as opposed to shipping and flying and renting and stressing), I accused him of being nuts
But then I thought, “Maybe it’s the perfect way to transition through this change”.

There are no car seats anymore.

For the past five years, along with bouts of seriously malodorous sports gear, my rear view mirror has been gradually filled with boys morphing into men. It became a tool to view their increasingly fuzzy faces. Then nicked faces reeking of aftershave. Finally heads of men who could gaze back in that mirror at eye level.

What went unnoticed by me as the days of high school flew by, were the increasing number of times the back seat was empty. Rather than be seen in my rear view mirror, they would get to their practices, games, and gatherings by themselves.

But they would check to see that we were in the bleachers. They kept that smile to themselves. And, that was okay.

My sons have an amazing cadre of friends. Five had become eagle scouts together never letting anyone give up on this rigorous goal. All were good guys and honor roll members. College selections began to loom large on the horizon that had always been just around the next bend.

BAM! Senior year. Awards banquets, final track meet, final basketball game, senior night. Senior sports banquet. snowball dance, prom. These great guys were so very aware that the sands of time were running out on this phase of their lives.

I, on the other hand wasn’t aware at all.  I was too busy, as usual, to hear the clock ticking.  Too busy in the days of life; planning graduation open house, receptions, reminding them to send in their acceptance letters and trigger their scholarship awards?

“We’ve got it, Mom.”  And so they did.

Each time one of the guys turned eighteen; they were automatically indoctrinated into the “Society of Refined Gentlemen” of which they were all founding members. There would be a mass road trip to the local cigar store in our 1880s town.

“Got ID, son?”

“Yes sir.”

The “SRG” would then convene on our deck where Dad would grill burgers whilst classical music pervaded the forest behind them. Though I objected to the cigars, they were eighteen. They were men.

I’ll get the mustard….

When asked if I would miss them, my response was always the same: “This has been my job for the past two decades. Would I have them living in my basement at thirty? No! I have done my job”.

No one warned me a job could be too well done.

There was the last Ultimate Frisbee Tournament. The last pig roast. It’s time to pack, guys.

“One last barbecue at our house mom?”

“Yes.”  But ever the administrator with her eye on the agenda and a bribe and a threat for every occasion, “But you have to be packed and the car loaded for that to happen.  We need to get going in the morning.”

That morning we were leaving for our trek, there were still two extra guys crashed on our couches. That meant one more round of pancakes and bacon.

It’s time guys.

But mom had to take one last round of pictures. Of course. That’s what moms do — they document the moments that are so precious, so fleeting – even though there are probably some of those fast food fries still stuck in the back of the car for archaeological purposes.

The trip was fun. We had comedy CDs, visited friends from our hometown, laughter, wise cracks, and eagerness to get on with it. The last was from my twins. I was increasingly reluctant, though I did my best to hide it.

Somewhere in there, I, too, began to hear the drip of each grain of sand draining into the bottom of that hourglass.

And I realized I couldn’t stop it.

I had been commanded that I wouldn’t be “one of those moms” who would be clinging to her baby as she sobbed out her goodbyes.

“Not me. I promise.”

And I kept that promise. But randomly I look back in that empty rear view mirror. When no one is looking, I wipe away the tears.

Come home when you can. I love you more.

Me?  I’ll keep my eyes on the road ahead.

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Small Town Sports

Connor on ShouldersMaybe it’s just me. Perhaps this happens in every town where there is a high school and high school sports teams.

Helicopter parents aside, high school sports can make the political arena in Washington look like pikers.

I have a character flaw. I take people at face value. For a very long time, I operated on WYSIWYG.

Okay I was naive. No matter where you are in this world, there is always someone willing to step over you to forward their agenda and to hell with yours.

There was a salient moment when my sons were eight and on a basketball team. I actually watched one of their teammates try and knee another child in the groin. THEY WERE EIGHT AND IT WAS A SATURDAY MORNING GAME! A GAME!
We continued to emphasize fun and sportsmanship but clearly other people had other ideas for their eight year olds. Winning was everything.
Flash forward to now. One of my sons is six foot four. He loves basketball despite the fact that Michael Jordan retired and it has been years since we recovering Chicagoans relished the glory of seven rings. Nonetheless, he (who would sleep twenty three hours a day if he could), sucked it up for his entire high school career when two-a-day practices were mandatory, as was summer basketball camp.
Even with all his efforts, my husband and I spent most of every season watching him support his teammates and warm the bench. There were others in the same position. Each season, the coach would have a parent meeting. To stave off any psychosis, he would announce that he would be happy to talk about anything EXCEPT playing time.
The coach also played his varsity squad on the junior varsity games. And my son sat and sat and sat, along with three of his teammates. Finally, one of the moms in the same situation sent the devil be damned and called a meeting. In that meeting, she talked about rewarding effort. What is wrong with letting your bench warmers have some play time if we are down by twenty points with three minutes left? Her son, God Bless, said, “I’ll give up my time if you play the other three.” We both cried when I heard that. Integrity trumps court time every time.
This is their senior year and final season. No difference. Except that we got to witness how much their classmates went wild when these four fine men were introduced on senior night. Add to that fact that my son had to offer me his arm and you have a golden moment.
But better than that, THESE FOUR GOT PLAY TIME! We were down by 20. The crowd went wild! But that is not the end, not by a yard.
After the game was over, my son was lifted by his brother and a good friend and carried off on their shoulders (no easy task).
Ah, the magic of life.Stretch for Blog

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