Sunday, October 25, 2015

Good grief...

I really need to relax. He'll get better at this. I swear he will. I know he will. God please let him get better at diving the car.

He just went to leave to take the dog for a walk at a local park about 5 miles away. He's in love with this new concept of freedom. That's nice. That's all fine and good. Yes.


He almost took Jess's friend Liz's front end off her car trying to back out of the driveway... I had to run out, waving my arms madly and stop him, and reposition the vehicle. Pulling out into the street he didn't accelerate fast enough so I heard a car coming up the road slam skid to a halt behind him.

Jesus, God, so help me.

If I got this kid this far in life and he gets killed pulling out of our own damn driveway I will lose my mind fully and completely.

Where is that Xanax?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Driving, and why I am a bad mom

My son got his learner's permit in February, after he was all done with the Eagle Scout project and passing the board. He is a one-task at a time kind of kid. He has to fully complete one thing before starting the  another. And now he's all set with graduating, Eagle, started college and stuff and life, he needed his license to drive to class.

We already went once to get him road tested. He didn't even get to drive. The proctor asked him to show the arm signals, you know the ones you use if your brake lights/signals are all out or if you're riding a bike.

He didn't know them.

He should know them from Boy Scouts and bike safety sessions but. He should have known them from the Blue Book that he was allegedly reading all along which has everything in it that would be on the test.

Seems he didn't recall, so he didn't even get to drive.

And my husband was kind of super pissed off, not at G but at the RMV in Massachusetts.

America, I will ask you this: When was the last time you actually saw a motorist use hand signals? Or a bicyclist in the city, or country, or anywhere that isn't a road race or rally?

Hell, most motorists don't even use their signal signals around here. This knowledge is allegedly super important enough to make it so you can't even take your road test but hell if anyone's ever going to use it. The RMV should also sit at a highway on ramp and watch how people respond to the Yield signs. Not so much.

But ... I digress.

That was the first weekend in September.

The RMV gave him the "fail sheet" circling the thing that he failed on. He now had the list of everything on the test. Which was good. Now we knew. We knew what he'd be tested on. And we commenced to working on all these things.

With the failure, we re-scheduled the next test on 10/23.

And because Doug is currently not allowed to take any time off, I had to be the one taking Geoff out to his next appointment.

Now, I'm a pretty even keeled person. I don't freak out easily. I'm not nervous. I can probably stare down a zombie apocalypse or calmly face and earthquake or flood without panic.

But put my son behind the wheel of my car and put me in the passenger's seat and I'm not so cool. I am a freaking wreck, a freak. And I think we're both going to die. And he doesn't pick up on it, I've asked him if I make him nervous, and he shook his head. So that's good... I guess.

We left early, the test was scheduled in a town about an hour away, a little longer with traffic. Oh, why didn't we get to take the test closer to home? Because the Massachusetts state RMV is a disaster, that's why. But I digress.

I handed Geoff the keys, showing that I trusted him to drive us there. He did exceptionally well but honest to God he needs to learn how to merge into traffic better and it doesn't seem like however much we go over it with him he'll ever get it.

This is why I'm nervous.

He also drives Grandma Slow, unlike any other 18 year old boy I've ever known. So people come up on him at 100 miles and hour, and he just kind of deals with it. He got passed on the right on a town road here, because the guy behind him didn't think he was going fast enough, at the speed limit. I kind of wanted to come around the bend and find the wreckage of his car wrapped around a tree but then I remembered this guy was someone's son and maybe one time his mom was super worried about his driving.

Anyway, two large construction area slow-downs and we eventually got there. I told him while we were driving along that he was doing so well I'd ride all the way to California with him driving that well. He did great. I eventually let go of the armrest on the car door that I'd been gripping to the point of white-knuckling. Sigh.

We checked at the RMV. Some woman came in with a guy she was sponsoring, and was kind of mad that you had to make an appointment to take the road test. She actually thought you just walk in there, fill out a form, and then ... go.

The proctor told us to position the car in the Road Test Only spot and wait for him. We were 20 minutes early. While we waited in the car,  I last-minute quizzed him on everything on the sheet. The proctor came out and had him do the arm signals and the safety check with the lights and the emergency brake.

"It says here you took the test once before," the man said. "What did you fail on?"

"Arm signals, sir." Geoff answered. The man smiled.

"Yes, the state does feel that is very important and we start there. So you didn't get to drive at all?"

"No sir, that is what brings us here today."

"West Newbury? How long did it take to get here?"

I answered "About 90 minutes, construction and traffic." He nodded and told me that this week he'd had people there from Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod, and he shook his head. I told him that we wanted an appointment closer to home but we took what was available first.

We departed, the proctor continued to be friendly and chatty, turning over his shoulder to talk to me. I wasn't sure if he was baiting me as I know that when you are in the back, you're not supposed to talk to anyone in the front seat.

I kept my answers to a minimum. When he asked Geoff questions, the boy's answers were cordial, and articulate.  Borderline charming while being incredibly serious.

The man asked him "So, you're 18. Are you in high school or college?" Geoff answered and let him know what he was up to. The man seemed impressed with the EMT program.

Part of me wished I'd put the "I'm proud of my Eagle Scout" sticker on the back of the car to make G look even more awesome.

"Geoff," the man asked, "are we going to have enough gas to do this test? Your gauge is on empty." Geoff answered that our gauge doesn't work so when the tripometer gets to 300 miles we refill the tank, we just have to remember to reset the counter when we do that. "We have only 168 miles on the counter so far sir, so I think we'll be fine."

The man smiled broadly and I thought, God... I love my kid and his seriousness.

The boy executed a 3 point turn flawlessly, but messed up a few other things. We started to drive back to the registry with no parallel parking so I started to think "aw crap... no. He's so gonna fail him," but he didn't.

"Geoff," he said "I'm going to pass you. But here are the things I think you need to work on, and I would recommend you spend a little more time practicing. Some of them you'll never use again, but they're important." When Geoff had to back up 100 feet in reverse, which he did perfectly, he didn't turn around and look over his shoulder. You're supposed to.

Doug had been working with him to teach him how to use his side mirrors because if he's ever driving an ambulance, he won't have the ability to turn and look over his shoulder - you can't see out that way.

I wanted to explain to the man but kept my mouth shut. Geoff did it perfectly, and I think that's all that mattered.

And like that. 10 minutes. Done. Certified. Legal.

We drove home and stopped at Wendy's for celebration lunch and I couldn't believe it. I still can't believe it.

Last night when Doug got home he suggested we go out for dinner but Geoff wanted to drive out to the Chinese restaurant and pick up take-out. So we called it in and he left in the Jeep. He was gone forever and I started to panic and worry... he got pulled over, he's dead in a ditch... but he came back and said the order took forever to complete, so that's why he was late returning.

This morning I woke up at 4am in a panic because I realized he'd be driving to school today. Driving on his own. To school. In Lawrence. Once a month his program has a Saturday session, so today was the day.  Jeeeesh. Panic! Worry! Argh!

I heard him go downstairs and followed. I offered to ride shotgun since he didn't have a parking permit, and I'd bring the car back and then come get him and he'd drive again. We'd take the BMW.  Heated seats. Superior comfort. Advanced German Engineering.

He could drive, and I'd remain silent while he made his road choices because I wanted to know that he knew 100% how to get there without me telling him.

But then I looked on the school website and saw that we could register for the permit, and he could park in the lot without difficulty if he put the receipt on the dashboard.

And he left. In the Jeep. Which will become his Jeep I think. With time.

I'll be nervous until he gets home... I think it'll take me a while to get comfortable with this new reality.

He hugged me before he left, and thanked me for all the patience and support. For going with him, for quizzing him, for giving him tips and instruction, and for figuring out the parking permit thing. He never gives hugs, so I was stunned ... I happily accepted it and told him it was my pleasure.

He asked me where were good nearby but far away parks to go hike that he can drive to on his own, with Brodie.

He asked if we need him to go grocery shopping this week.

He wants to drive, and I think I'm going to have to want to let him.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Carole with an E, the 50th, and some other things

The summer swiftly vanished, didn't it?

I thought often about the neglected blog, and the fact I should be taking time to sit with the laptop and write something. I've been excessively busy, and as my last post suggested possibly very tired. Also, without much important to say.

Not sure where to start with an update but here goes.

Get the sad part out first. My aunt passed away after a very long battle with cancer. But one that she took on with gusto and bravery. In the years since her diagnosis, she managed to travel the world, dance on Bourbon Street with her husband on their 50th anniversary and make it all the way to 53. She got some great-grandchildren out of the time as her grand daughter Melissa brought two adorable little girls into the world. She began to fade fast in early August. My cousin Debi quit her job to take care of doctors and appointments and housekeeping and an email list of hundreds of people who wanted to know "what's the update with Carole?" They ordered Hospice at Home, got the hospital bed moved into what used to be her sewing room, and streams of people came to visit, organized and appointments kept by Debi.

I got to say goodbye, and we had some good laughs before someone who wasn't on the schedule showed up to visit so I cut my visit short. The look on my aunt's face was priceless. "He's already been here. What's he doing?" and the side-eye she gave me cracked me up.

You don't get to say goodbye too often, with laughing. So. I think that was indicative of our relationship. "We had some really good times and a lot of fun, didn't we?" she asked me.

You betcha. We sure did.

Her funeral was packed. So many people and great stories. Again, my cousin Debi held up the family and ran the show. When you're the only girl out of four, you gotta know how to be in control or the boys will walk all over you. She had great strength and beauty, and such dignity... and her brothers were obviously thankful for that leadership. My cousin Mike had everyone in stitches with his stories. Tommy kept it brief and beautiful. David was a man of few words but a couple laughs, kind of a direct balance between Tommy and Mike.

And my poor uncle... 53 years of Carole, and now figuring things out for himself.

As he walked away from the graveside, my cousin Mike told me he looked over his shoulder and said "I'm right behind you, babe."

That broke the kids' hearts for sure, but they understood. And. He almost got his wish.

After the funeral he did not come to the mercy meal. Debi took him home and his siblings stayed with him.  He'd had a "stomach ache" for several days but kept saying it was stress, he was nervous, worried. He would go see the doctor after this was all over with Carole. No one should worry. He'll be okay.

Nope. Debi convinced him to go to the hospital that night, and while he was being examined she sent out a thank you email to everyone on the Carole distribution list and it turned into the Jim update list right then.

He had a hernia and his intestines had gotten pinched off into the hernia area, and infected, and on the verge of bursting.

He nearly died that night - emergency surgery at 2am. Again, Debi organizing things and continuing the update emails to the followers, family and friends.

They saved his life, and he ended up spending a couple of weeks in hospital recovering, and some time in a rehab, and finally came home this week.

At one point in the email updates, Debi asked "whoever has our family voodoo dolls, can you put them away now for a little bit, thanks!"

I am so proud of her strength and resilience. Proud to count her as my family.

Around the time of my son's Eagle ceremony in April, my sister began planning a 50th anniversary party for my parents. I'm very glad she is the motivated one, because I would have said "Oh, mom and dad's anniversary is next week let's take them out to dinner or something" because I literally don't think to do things much lately.

Also, because unlike my Aunt Carole and Uncle Jim dancing in New Orleans and celebrating, or my Auntie Bea and Uncle Kenny going on a cruise with all the kids and grandkids, my parents both would shrug their shoulders and go "meh" about doing anything.

So Linda, being the smart one, knew that the only way to pull this off was to have a surprise party. She lined up the venue, did the invitations, put together the "ruse" that would get my parents to the restaurant that day with help from my Auntie Bea, and I ordered the cake and flowers.

My aunt was so looking forward to this party. With that side-eye look she said "I can't believe I am going to miss this party!" And I told her, wellllllll you can hang in there, and we'll set up a computer with Skype and you can talk to them and see the party and everything, that'll be nice. And she sot me that look. Yeah right, Chrissie. Optimist. Not gonna happen. And it didn't, of course. She passed away before the event. Sadly.

The party was a great success, we had a ton of fun, and my parents were indeed surprised and I might add kind of shocked. A ton of people from my dad's side came up from New York to celebrate with us, which completely blew my mom and dad away. My Aunt Margie and Uncle John flew out from Arizona too, which was a real blessing.

Watching the three siblings that remain out of four (my uncle Herbie lives in Florida and cannot travel) it was very amusing to see all the childhood left-over behaviors like eye rolls and arm smacks when someone says something naughty.

So after the loss on one side of the family, having the other side swing back around to party with us was a real loving boost to all.

We rented rooms at a hotel a couple towns away from their house in Plymouth, MA, and spent Saturday night by the ocean, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, children and my parents talking and shooting the shit, having a laugh riot. The only thing missing was a bonfire in the middle of the circle.

At one point my dad was just walking around the hotel patio looking kind of stunned. I went over to him to ask if he was okay because, you know, with the last incident with my Uncle I kind of was afraid maybe after all the excitement there was something medically wrong. He was indeed just kind of stunned.

He said to me, "I can't believe you guys did this. We don't deserve this."

"What the hell do you mean, "we don't deserve this," dad?"

"We just... we don't really," he mumbled and wiped his nose and stared out into the darkness at the ocean.

My parents have had 50 years of marriage filled with the usual ups and downs, obviously. It was not a cake walk or a bed of roses. There wasn't a lot of joy between them. At one point, I think I was in high school, I said to my mom that it would just be better if they split up and just got it over with. She was furious with me. And I couldn't wait to leave for college and get away.

I didn't have the best role models for husband and wife, for sure. But it isn't about me.  They had each other. And as I left, as Linda eventually left... the animosity between them was a lot lessened. Because in the end, they had each other. When they moved up here to Massachusetts, they started new with new friends and new challenges. My dad has been in and out of the hospital and my mom has turned into Nurse Shirley organizing all of the medications and appointments.

There is a real deep co-dependency there, and sometimes yeah... I guess you can call it love. It's got to be love. Right?

And when my dad was standing there telling me that he felt like they didn't deserve a party, I think I instantly knew what he meant. I told him to shut up, that they did the best they could. I didn't say that this was a "survival" celebration, that you survived each other this long... but maybe that is what it is.

Contrats to B&S on your survival.

approx 1965
at my wedding, 1991

Geoff has been taking his classes for EMT and is doing well. He still needs to pass his road test so that is a slight challenge. He'll hopefully have that done in two weeks. Jess and her friends are looking for an apartment together, which is nice. I hope they find something they like and it is a good arrangement. She makes twice as much a week as they all do, so I am a little worried about her paying more than her "fair" share as it were, but that's not my business. I think about how people take care of me when they have more money than I do, and I take care of others when I have more money than they do, and in the end as long as we're all taking care of each other it's all good. No one should keep score. 

We were thinking of moving but I think we'll stay the winter here. Wood is ordered for delivery next week, and the wood stove cleaner comes in two weeks. We'll hunker down and last. 

I guess that is about it. Nothing else more exciting to report of great interest.