Peacemonger Mom

My son just enlisted in the military. I'm a peace activist. Why couldn't he have rebelled in some other way, like being republican?

Monday, August 28, 2006

At least I'll get more done this way.

I'm amazed at how very angry I am at TB for what he's doing. I tried really hard when he was younger to encourage him to have a good relationship with his father, even when it was to my own detriment (and isn't this always the way it goes?). I know that I didn't do a great job with that - I was fighting my own issues and battles with regard to my relationship with TB's father, so I was probably not the best person to be giving advice, or to be encouraging in any way regarding that topic. But there was no one else - just me - for a time, anyway, and eventually there was Hon, who always wanted a good relationship with TB, but never got it...mostly because TB found it much more fun to shoot emotional potshots at Hon, and blame him for anything and everything possible. I suppose it's not just mothers who wind up taking the blame and the fall for their children - it's anyone who goes into a relationship with their heart outside their skin, just waiting for the hammer to fall - hoping it doesn't, but knowing that the opportunity is there all the time.

Unfortunately (I say unfortunately, because I truly believe that this is a bad way to live and to feel, and I hope it doesn't really last), the days that pass when I hear no word from TB are stacking up like bricks, or rocks, or any other strong and sheltering objects, and I am placing them around my exposed heart. I can take a lot, and I will take a lot, if I have to, but not the mind games, or the manipulations, or the immature disregard. Even though I am TB's mother, the one who should just lay down her life and give up everything for her child, I won't. This is not something that is beneficial to TB, and it certainly isn't beneficial to me. I could go to Ex with my hat in my hands, cringing and cowering, and ask that he please, please pass along a message, or tell me when he hears from TB. I could open myself up to even more hurt that way. But I have to ask, why should I take abuse just because I am his mother? Does birthing a child automatically mean that I am open to whatever emotional crap he decides to throw at me? Because he didn't agree with my parenting style? Or my decision to leave a violently drunk and abusive marriage?

Feh. I reject the stereotype of the long suffering, always willing, selfless mother. Excuse me, I am a human being before I am a mother, and that's the case even if I have been a mother longer than I was not one. Just because I don't remember what it was like to be PeacemongerGirl, doesn't mean that PeacemongerGirl doesn't exist somewhere in the makeup of PeacemongerMom. I love my son very, very much, and if he calls or writes or sends me smoke signals, I'll be open and responsive to him.

But I won't allow my life to end because of some issue he has with his father, or with me or with the brand of shampoo he's having to use, or any other million and one things that he might think are my fault, and that society might allow him to place at my feet because I wear the Scarlet M. I did the best I could do with him - he wasn't the most maleable of clays, if you know what I mean - I did my best, but sometimes the best just doesn't cut it. I won't just jump for joy and leak around the eyes if he writes me - no, I think I'm done with that for now. Now I'm just pissed. I suppose that that is the wrong thing to be as a peacemonger, but peacemongers get tired too, and irate and crabby and hurt. I'm hurt, and I'm pissed, and I hope I remember this if he does decide to write.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Distraction is my middle name.

Word has been heard from TB - unfortunately, not by me. He's contacted his father, he's contacted his stepmother, he's contacted his recruiter. He hasn't contacted me.

I would be lying if I said this wasn't very painful. I would be lying even more if I said that it didn't royally piss me off. When my father forwarded me the email he received from the recruiter with TB's mailing address, I was, literally, floored. It's one thing for TB to contact his father before me. I don't mind that so much. But his recruiter? Goodness. I've been dissed by the best now.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Quiet...and Waiting.

The silence of the evening has always called me to be thoughtful, to consider, to write and to make my lists. It was during the time that I was married to Ex that I honed the craft that was The List. I made lists like spiders made webs. It was my future I was listing – the days I would make money, and then control some aspect of my life.

Now there is no child in the house for me to put to bed, no child to worry over, and I have no noisy home. My home is silent (except for Hon’s work). I have to admit to a certain relief at this, because after all, the noise, the distraction and the business of a child is more than a full time job – it’s 24/7, there’s no one to ask for time off, there’s no one to ask for a raise. It’s just you, Momma, the person who brings the medicine when there’s illness, the one who takes off time from work with the ear infection and makes the last minute appointment with the doctor, the person who sits by the bed at night when there’s a warm forehead with a cool rag in your hand. Those were hard – but good – times. But the joy of the waiting at the end of the driveway, me and Dog, for The Boy to come home. It was good. And for The Girl, for her to come home, that was good as well. Dog got to know their schedules as well as I did (better, actually, because he sat at the door, and pressed his nose to the window, and when asked, “Want to go wait for The Boy?” would dash to the end of the driveway and look…then wait. Waiting is the hardest thing to learn. He learned it better than I.)

I don’t always pine, contrary to the tenor of this Weblog, for the noisy busy time of children. I do spend time thinking, researching, (obsessing) about my schoolwork. I cherish the time that I have worked for myself, that I have earned. I have raised TB, and he is, I believe, doing what he thinks is the only thing he can do. The thing that he thinks is best for him to do. And really, what is the ultimate goal of raising a child other than putting them on that path? That’s a path that they have to find themselves. I would expect a few false starts in the path-finding, obviously, because who knows what they want when they are 19? Or who really wants the same thing at 29 that they did at 19? It’s just a part of growing, and I grow as he grows.

He’s written now, to his dad. I know this because I suggested to my dad that he call Ex to see if any word from TB has been heard. All manner of word has been heard, according to Mrs. Ex, and they have heard via letter AND email. I have contemplated this now for two days, and I am learning how much thought goes into action. I used to just jump at the first inclination – the first possibility – for action. Someone said X and well, by Gahd, I said Y, and ran off to do whatever was contrary. I was a contrary kid. Apparently TB gets it natural.

But I am learning the subtle art of thoughtfulness, considering, contemplating. There is no rushing to this, no hurry. Although I would lie if I said I didn’t make a bee-line for the door when Dog alerted me to the mailman (BARK!) outside the door! (BARK!) Someone! (BARK!) is at! (BARK!! BARKBARKBARK!) the DOOR!!!!! (run in circles, jump a few times, hope for a treat BARKBARKBARK!) Oh. A few pieces of junk mail. A bill. Nothing handwritten…Although it’s nice to know that someone else is as frantic about the mail as I am.

But I am—really—learning the art of calming down about this. Actually, I am embracing the very old technique of my family – ignore the bad, and look for the good. I am looking for the good. Very, very hard.

TB may well discover a part of him, unknown to me, to him, to his dad, to anyone, that is in need of the type of strict discipline that I was unable to give him, and that his dad simply wasn’t around enough to give him. He may find a part of himself that I have never met. I hope that part of him decides to call me or write me sometime.

As I said earlier, there has been some news on the TB front. This is news that I have ruminated on for a couple of days now. My father called me yesterday morning to tell me that There Was News on the TB front, and sounded oh so much more relieved, so much more like My Dad. I sometimes wonder which part of this upsets me more: how much it bothers and upsets my mother and my father, or what might happen to TB.

Dad found that Ex and Mrs. Ex had heard from TB, and was very relieved to be able to relay this information to me. I was happy to hear it, and told Dad so. I then proceeded to begin the obsessing technique for which so many women (at least those featured on Sex and the City and other mindless shows) are known. If TB has decided to correspond with, and make PNOK, the Ex and Mrs. Ex, what does that do to what I will find out in the future? Will I learn anything from them? Will I hear anything from the military? Will I learn of terrible things by watching the evening news on PBS? I clearly won’t hear anything from Ex, as I knew that I wouldn’t. Will TB write me? If he doesn’t, and I get an address from Dad, which he has gotten from Ex and Mrs. Ex, should I write? Does TB even WANT to hear from me?

How is it that I – a mother, a being who is believed to know every single thing about her child, about every child – could not know what to do if given the contact information for her own child? Do I reach out to him? Or does he really just not want me in his life? I just don’t know, and all I can do is keep reaching. And keep waiting, with Dog, for the mail.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I never had problems with breast feeding. I anticipated problems. I envisioned problems. I read about problems. There were none. Not when TB developed his two bottom teeth (front) at the age of 3 months. Not when I went back to school after taking only a semester off. He got formula at the daycare, and at home, I fed him. I remember the very first time I ever left TB at home, alone, with his father.

One would think this would not be something that would stick in one’s mind.

I left him with Ex, and had errands to run. I was gone the better part of the day. Ex had bottles in the fridge to feed TB, he had been lectured (yes, lectured, hectored and bothered I’m sure) but this was MY responsibility, which I was handing off to someone else, it was mine alone, no one else’s, and I wanted someone – anyone – else to feel the same amount of urgency about what had – HAD – to be done. The baby must be fed. The baby must be changed. The baby must be ATTENDED TO. The cries must be answered, the midnight, 2 am cries, the cries that continue, no matter what you do. They MUST BE ATTENDED TO. One cannot ignore a crying child. Ex was asleep when I left, as was TB, next to him in the bed.

I went to run my errands. I believe that I may have even had a class that I had to attend. I’m not sure. I only recall that I was gone from the house for at least 6 hours.

Six hours, possibly less. It was long enough for the light in the room to have changed, to have moved, for the diaper on my baby to be full, for it to be so wet that I could see the granules of the diaper, full of urine. It was a long, long time.

I returned home, and TB was still exactly – exactly – where I had left him. His diaper was full. He was asleep. He was quiet. He was calm. He seemed happy.

Had he been fed? No. Had he been changed? No. He had slept, all day, beside his father. I, the feeding unit, the one who stood in line at the military commissary, leaking at the breasts and wondering how things were going at home (this, in the dark and scary days before the cell phone) had not been missed. At least, not visibly. How was this possible? How was it possible that his father’s mere presence beside him made him sleep, happily, without any tears, wails, or needing of comfort, for so long?

I have absolutely no idea. But this is a trend, and it is a trend that continues today.

I hope that TB feels his father near him. I hope that he thinks of him every single night when he goes to sleep. I hope that he misses him, and writes him, constantly. I hope that the time that he could spend writing to me, he spends writing to his dad.

I don’t know what unit he is with. I don’t know how to reach him. I don’t know who he has determined as his PNOK. I only know that his father, beside him, can make him sleep calmly, can make him see things, and be things, that I cannot.

I spoke with my father tonight, and had to grip very hard so as not to lose my composure on the phone with him. He worries – enormously – about TB, and also at the same time, feels that this is the only thing that TB could do to make things work out for him. I have so much trouble hearing my father sound worried, sound bad. I hung up the phone with bare seconds before I lost the little bit of control I had held onto during our conversation – control that I have held as I wake in the mornings, and Hun makes me laugh, while I feel, at the same time, an empty and dark space inside me, where the laughter can’t reach. I hold that control when I go to the mailbox, and see only mail, no Letters, nothing handwritten, nothing from Camp Hell, in TB’s hand, his handwriting that I can see in my mind as clearly as my own. No, the control will only go so far, and for so long. One gets tired, after all.

I went to Camp Casey this weekend. I saw the crosses, and I saw – more terribly, really – the crosses not put into the ground. They were in piles, around the campsite. They were stacked. They were the already dead, and the soon to be dead. I couldn’t help but look at them with a real visceral dread. I do not want to put flowers by one of these crosses. I don’t want one to be special to me. I want to see only the large field, and be shaken by the numbers. I don’t want to single one out.

I leak, now, like I did then, earlier, standing in the checkout line at the commissary, wondering if TB had been fed, and then suddenly I am wearing a wet blouse. I leak not from the breasts but from the eyes – it’s a slow leak, sometimes, and others, a fast leak, that leaves me unable to breathe and unable to see. It’s a leak from my eyes and from my heart, and it’s a leak that I seem very incapable to stop, just as before.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mom thinks I write horoscopes now.

Here's The Boy's from today, and I am not making this up:

Your mother could be on your mind today, Boy. The energy of the day could be inspiring you to think more about your family. If you aren't close to your mother, maybe that is a relationship that would benefit from some effort on your part. Think about what your mom needs right now, and see if you can build a bridge to a better friendship. It could be time to start from the present and move forward.

We haven't heard anything from him so far. I'm spending my days with video games, reading of stuff for my thesis, work on my thesis, and plans to go to Crawford to hopefully see Cindy Sheehan. Basic training begins within the next few days. Funny that Basic begins for TB at about the same time that I'm cranking up for the fall semester - going into exactly what I've always wanted to do - teach - and my own Basic Training.

I wonder what he's doing right now...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

No Address for the Letter, But Why Let That Stop Me?

Dearest B—

I wonder what you are doing right now, as I sit and play a video game, and recover from my semester. Summer semesters are always so awful, so intensely packed with things you have to do, and things you have to read, and it’s just too much, in too short of a time. I have sworn that this is my last summer session, unless I am teaching, and I will probably not like it any more then than I do now.

This is the first letter that I am sending to you in boot camp (if, that is, you send me your address). I told myself that I wouldn’t write ahead of time – that I would wait to hear from you before I began to write you letters. Obviously, that didn’t work.

I worry about you – you know that – and I won’t go into all the reasons that I do. You probably know them, and if you don’t, it’s probably just as well. I check the internet to see what is going on with you during certain phases of your boot camp (basic training? Boot camp? I don’t know what to call it – my knowledge of military phrases was summarily “booted” out of my brain as soon as was possible for me…) and I know that at this point in your training, you are still being taught by the Drill Instructors how to brush your teeth, how to walk in a straight line, how to behave -- in other words, like you belong in the situation where you find yourself. These are all things that I wanted so badly for you to learn, and that I tried so hard to teach you. I’m told that I didn’t fail in what I tried to do, but instead that I did my best, and sometimes people just don’t see eye to eye, including mothers and sons. I wish worse than anything that I knew exactly what sort of mother you wanted and needed me to be, and I wish even more that you knew the sort of boy I wanted you to be. Not for anything, though, do I want you to think that I would trade you for another Boy. You are my Boy, and I love you. I can’t imagine a life without you in it, and I only mean that I wanted you to grow into a young adult who wanted me in his life. It seems sometimes that that wasn’t the case.

Actually, what it seems is that you felt that you couldn’t love both me and your dad at the same time – that I would be hurt if you loved your dad, or that he would be hurt if you loved me. I can only speak for me, but I can tell you totally and without question that I wanted, always, for you and your dad to have a good relationship. I know how hard it is to have a family that winds up in divorce court. I didn’t, however, ever have a situation where I saw my dad hitting my mom, and I don’t know how that winds up dealing with your view of the world. Or, for that matter, your view of your dad...and now that I think of it, how it effects your view of your mother. I don’t want you (and really, honestly, never, ever did) to have some sort of idea that your dad isn’t worth your affection. I want you and your dad to get along, and love each other. I don’t think, though, that your dad is lacking in love or affection from you. I do think that your dad is lacking in understanding of the way to be a good dad. That doesn’t mean, though, that I think that you are lacking in understanding of how to be a good son. You are a good son, and your happy, smiling face got me through so many unhappy times. You and your blonde curls, your sweet voice, your hugs and kisses – you were always such an affectionate boy. Then something changed as you aged. I took it mostly as a desire not to be seen as “uncool” (or whatever it is that y’all call it now – uncrunk, or unfly or notgangsta or whatever it is that you say now), but you stopped being the sweet boy I birthed, and became a boy who seemed to want nothing to do with what I thought was important and good and the right way to live. I understand that at the age where you are, nothing really matters except yourself and your friends, and what your friends think, and what you are doing. But there is so much more in the world than just that. There is your soul, and the right thing to do, and the wrong thing. I don’t want you to feel like I am lecturing you (and honestly, I’m thinking that you’ve probably already skipped a lot of what I wrote and really, I will give you one hundred bucks if you tell me that you read this far, and actually read this and read the paragraph before, and the paragraph after. I’ll require some background, perhaps an essay. I know - you should send me a letter, boy, that has this phrase in it: I think that Abba is cool. That way I’ll know you read this, because I know that you have no idea who the hell Abba is. It’s an old folks band, and I taped them on my little cassette player off my AM radio when I was 9 thanks a lot). I know very well that you are beyond the lecturing point. You are a grown up, and I always thought that what I wanted for you was independence, making your own decisions, and doing what you thought was right, without anyone else telling you or influencing you. I thought that that was what I wanted for you and for me – as your mother.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up one day to find that you had, indeed, made your own decision (or at least a decision I couldn’t negate, nullify or refuse to accept, agree to, or sign a permission slip for) and suddenly that meant you were gone. It has been a real wakeup to me that what I thought I believed in during the past years with regards to you – and to DQ – while I still believe that it is what is best for you, may not actually be what I want for me. It’s still what I want for you, and nothing will make me change that (nothing that you or DQ could do will make me think that I know what you want/need better than you do). But I know that what I need is a closer relationship with you – you are My Boy, you are the reason that I kept myself sane and eventually got the two of us out of the poisonous situation that was my marriage to Ex. Spending all of my time trying to stay alive has a way of altering the way that one deals with every other aspect of life. It becomes very, very hard to play, or go to the park, or reveal too many emotions towards you, my son and the most important thing in my life, when having to worry every second of every day about how each action will be viewed, and how exactly to get through what’s in front of you. Please know that that was not your fault, that Ex and I were simply not suited for each other, and had some serious personality issues that really meant we would be much better off married to anyone other than each other – it had nothing to do with you. And I realize that this is a very late letter to send you, but I treat DQ as an adult, and did as soon as she turned 18, and I will try to do the same with you. I have had little practice with this, you see, because you took off after graduation and I had no way to reach you, and you didn’t call me, and I didn’t want to interfere in your life, and it all got so complicated. Not to mention, practicing on DQ isn’t the same as dealing with you – you and DQ are very, very different animals.

So there we go. That’s somewhere within shouting distance of where I want to start with regard to things with you – I feel like you are learning a lot where you are there at Ft. Hell about yourself, and what you actually can do (you do know that you have a pretty awful self image, right? And that you can do so much more than you give yourself credit for?). I know that you will do so well, and you have the strength and fortitude to get through whatever gets tossed at you in basic. I want you to do well in this, and I want you also to be willing to talk to me. I don’t know if you know it, but I want you to succeed at whatever it is that you choose to do. If your choice of things to do is career soldier, I want you to be the best soldier that you can. I would much rather that you did something that didn’t put you in danger, but this is your choice. What you want to do, and what you think is best is now, officially, The Thing to do. Becoming a “grown up” doesn’t just mean that suddenly you can stay up as late as you want. Sure, you CAN, but who wants the repercussions later? It’s all in the cause and effect. And that, my dear son, is the true meaning of being a grown up.

I hope things are good for you there at Ft. Hell, and I go to the webcam every day, just in case I can see you. I know I can’t but it makes me feel better – some – to know that I can see where you are. I had no idea that being a mother was going to come back and bite me in the ass so hard when you were an adult. Here I thought that labor and delivery was the tough part and your adulthood was going to be the easy time. Thanks. Thanks bunches. ☺

I want to hear from you, and if this letter ever gets mailed, it will mean that you actually wrote me and sent me your address. I feel a gap, a hole, a huge, enormous whistling pain in my heart not to be able to talk with you, see you, and know what you are doing and thinking and wanting. I miss you. And you don’t have to have the blonde curls to be my sweet boy, either.

I love you—


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Day Zero

TB left for boot camp today. My father drove him to the recruiter's station, and said that he got out of the truck, shook his hand, and TB walked across the street and went inside. I can see it in my mind, and feel it in my body, just from those few words, and it has had a profound, surprising effect on me, even though I have been preparing for this for the last month or so.

Bodily knowledge is something that we (by we I mean those in my program, those in my discipline, those of us who are feminists and who do a lot of thinking - or even those people, feminist or no, who do little conscious thinking, and much more acting) do a substantial amount of discussion of - how we teach through the body, how we occupy our spaces, bodily, how our physicality is more than what we are, yet is not the ultimate of who we are. Our bodies do not control our destinies, but are ultimately (I become more and more convinced of this - both from education and aging...and what is aging if not education in and of itself?) the place where our destinies are written - budding breasts and menstruation lead us to see ourselves finally as women, then sex, conception and birthing of a child, then the aging of our own bodies (good god, when did I develop my mother's legs?? And who said I needed veins that large in my shins?????). So much of our knowledge is gained from our bodies - from the physicalities of our experiences.

In class tonight (thank goodness, the last one of the summer, I am beyond exhausted and burnt out) we discussed teaching via, through, and in spite of, our bodies. I attended class with a rapidly settling feeling of having recently attended a strenuous kickboxing class, or perhaps moving day. My shoulders, my abdominal muscles, my back - especially the small of my back - felt as if I had been working out, doing physical labor, or had been subjected to a beating. While we discussed the bodily aspects of our pedagogies, and the pedagogies of others, I could feel the tensions of my body - my most recent bodily experience of mothering - settling down on me like a very heavy, wet wool blanket. My eyes began to ache. My head thrummed with stress and pain - mostly due to a lack of anything to eat, aside from the Fig Newmans I brought to share with CEO (she ate one, and declared that it was somewhat like a dog treat. Therefore, I ate the rest. Along with some organic chocolate. Must balance the diet, you know). As I sat there in class, increasingly incapable of concentrating on anything other than my physicality, and wondering what TB was doing right now, I realized that I really, really must begin caring - really caring - for myself, physically, bodily, or I will not make it through the coming semester. I am carrying my caring within myself, within my body.

I doodled in my notes, conceptualizing the writing on my body that I anticipate producing soon. I tried - really tried - to listen to my classmates, as they spoke, and I wanted, desperately, to produce something, some intelligent - semi intelligent - concept to throw out into the floor and thus legitimate my existence in class. Nothing occurred to me to say or offer up, even as I enacted the bodily experience of my teaching, and my mothering - with no children in the room, I still enacted my mothering, through my aching, the pains I was feeling - and continue to feel - I could only listen to my classmates in the context of my role as teacher of my children, and the bodily experience I have had, and continue to have - with both of them.

The many, many awakenings late at night, by a sick child. The ear infections. The bodily fluids. The administering of medications. The clothing of bodies. The feeding of bodies. The hygiene of bodies. Later, as they became teens, the late nights, wrapped in a fuzzy bathrobe, sitting on the bed next to each of them, listening, listening, listening. Hearing - practicing the active listening skills that I had no idea I had, nor that I even considered might exist. It was just love, love for them, desire for them to feel and appreciate that love, painful desire that they have what they need, what they each desired. Mothering is nothing if not aching muscles, aching back, crying joints and leaking eyes, breasts and souls.

My body was enfolded, many, many times throughout the day, by the incredible women I work with, and learn with, and exist with. Had I not been blessed with the beautiful, loving and amazing women I spent time with today, I have no idea how I could have made it through today, which lasted roughly ten to fifteen years, all within 24 hours.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Boy Comes To Be.

I knew something was wrong – I knew something was different. I could feel it. I could feel the difference in myself, but I had no word for it. I had no way to describe it, I only knew that something was up. At 19, I had little understanding of how my body worked, and even less understanding of what would be symptoms of pregnancy, illness, “women’s issues” – I had only been regularly menstruating for about a year, as my period had gone and come with the randomness of the rest of my decisions in my life. I gave my period roughly the same amount of concern as I did any other bodily aspects of my life: it was what it was, and I could do nothing about it, whether “it” was my period, a bladder infection, or an orgasm. Such was the control that I felt and experienced in my life – even those things that truly could be controlled were outside the realm of my reach.

My first symptom of pregnancy was not a missed period – how I really envied those women who could track their cycles down to the moment. No, my real first symptom was frequent urination. I remember saying to my then-husband that I was either with child or with bladder infection. I figured bladder infection. It wasn’t until my period had gone missing for 3+ months that I became worried to the point that I went to the school nurse. One negative pregnancy test followed another, three in all. Finally, I approached the nurse again without blood, and she performed yet another test, to which the answer was resoundingly positive.

I staggered across the street to my class, for which I was now very late (along with being late for other things, I mused with little humor). Years later, in clearing out boxes, I found my notes taken during that class. As I read them, I had no idea what the professor was speaking about that day, nor was there any hint as to any real content in the words. They were whorls, twists, doodles. They were as I was, at that moment – lost on a sea of incomprehensibility, the awful truth beginning to dawn in my brain. My life was to change, and I was not happy with that thought, as I was unhappy with life as it was – bringing in another responsibility, an innocent person to also pay the price of my folly, it was the ultimate in stupidity, in ignorance, in carelessness. How could I have done this?

I was 19, the year was 1986, Reagan was declaring ketchup in school lunches to be a vegetable, and I was a month or so into my first college experience (my major was chosen as I stood in line to register in the cavernous gymnasium – it was either major in paralegal technology or oral hygienist, and I had no interest in saliva or teeth). I lived in a small apartment, with my soldier-husband, stationed at Ft. Bragg. I was a military wife, soon to be a mother, and totally, completely at a loss as to how, exactly, one does either … much less both.

As I entered the classroom, ashen faced and shocked, I fell into a desk and began taking the notes which I still have, with the header of 10/8/86 in the left margin, and the professor’s name in the right margin – just as I had been taught to do in sixth grade. I mouthed the words – I’m pregnant – to my friends in class in response to their inquires as to my tardiness. The response from all was an equally silent – Congratulations – to which I nodded numbly. I tried repeatedly after class let out to reach Ex, with little success. He was, after all, a soldier, and soldiering is rarely done inside, within easy reach of a phone. Cell phones were a science fiction dream then, and pagers were only clipped to the belts of rich doctors. Thus I was given the opportunity to ensure the continuation of the life inside me: I called my mother-in-law and my own family while I could not reach Ex. The life of my child was created and existed within my body, yet it was unreal until I spoke it to my mother-in-law. Once spoken to her, it became impossible to abort. It was the first of many acts of protection of my child.

I was “delivered of” TB in a military hospital via cesarean section. The doctors tired of my cervix’s refusal to dilate, and had me sign the forms allowing them to operate as I rode wave after wave of pain and prayed only for release – death, gas, whatever. Nothing could be worse than what I was living, and no one held my hand or anxiously awaited what might spring from between my legs – I was alone with my unborn child in the work that we had to do, and it was the most alone I have ever felt. Through my own decisions I had alienated anyone who might sit with me, who might smooth the hair back from my sweaty face. I had no one to call for, no one to work for. I did not feel that I was “delivered of” The Boy – I felt a cog in a machine, an unworkable cog. A cog that had gummed up its own works, thus the need for a surgeon, an operating room, all the extra fuss. He did not want to arrive, and I, for one, did not blame him. Already, I was searching for an escape from this place, so why, I reasoned, would anyone actively work to get here?

In the hospital, I was uncharacteristically adamant in my decisions regarding the treatment of my son. Among other things that I decided, he was not to be circumcised. While I gave no thought to the danger inherent in doctors taking a scalpel to the skin of my abdomen, the muscle and organs of my body, I did not trust them to remove a small piece of skin from my son. Nor did I think it necessary to remove, and I stood firmly by this, even as I was sternly rebuked by the doctors. Even now I think the only reason I was successful in holding off the circumcision was that TB’s father agreed with me. The politics of the penis is much easier to navigate when one has an interpreter, I suppose.

I remember finally being presented with The Baby – he had a name, of course, it had long been established he would be C, but I couldn’t stop referring to him as The Baby, even though he was in truth now both The Baby and C. His father placed him in my arms, and I awaited the wash of love to splash over me. I felt fear. I felt surprise. I felt amazement. I felt gratitude not to be in labor or pregnant anymore – already I was reveling in the fact that I could go longer than an hour without a trip to the bathroom – but no eye-crossing, jaw-dropping, pulse-pounding feeling of unending, indescribable love. TB opened his eyes and looked at me. I looked at him. I felt his eyes open, deep in my core. I felt the responsibility, the huge, enormous, unspeakable responsibility of this child settle around my shoulders, and I didn’t mind. Fall in love? Not really.

Fall into adulthood, responsibility, sobriety? Yes. There was no one else, you see…after all, his father was violent, frequently drunk, and overwhelmingly immature. One day he went out to buy a dryer (cloth diapers were the norm in our house, due to cost) and returned not with the dryer I had harped for, but instead with a giant speaker system for the backseat of the car…the backseat where the baby seat went. The speaker was great, if the goal was to deafen passerby with eye watering and hair curling bass. The speaker did not dry diapers (although it was so loud, it probably could have). It was clear early on that I was alone in my motherhood. But isn’t that the case for all women in the United States, no matter the year? No matter the president? No matter the husband? Aren’t we all alone with our motherhood, in a way?

We were in a military town, surrounded by military families and by businesses who made a living off the military families. My family was about 4 hours away, and the relations I had with them at that time were strained, at best. I struggled to learn how to care for my son, and was taught how to fold and change cloth diapers by my husband, who then abruptly forgot how to carry out the task. My son and I spent many hours alone together, as Ex’s unit was called out to maneuvers and I stayed behind, nursing TB as I watched Oliver North testify before Congress. I walked my son back and forth as he wailed through his first of many ear infections. I walked him through the house, around the yard, and I listened to the particular cry that all infants have – the cry that would wake me from a sound sleep, night after night for a feeding, the cry that could peel the skin from my body with my desire for a good night’s sleep, the cry that had me wondering if perhaps **I** had died and was actually in hell. I frequently did not understand him and his loud requests, but I did my best, and I worked hard at mothering him. We were, after all, all we had.

I studied hard in school, having taken one semester off for the birth of TB, and eventually graduated without any particular honors, other than that of mother-student (or perhaps student-mother … I think that is more applicable). My work to care for TB as I navigated those early days of my marriage now seems to me to be simple: crying baby = check diaper, offer breast, rock, cuddle, tuck – the physicalities of life. My work with my son now is different. He is 19, and for want of a better term, has been estranged from both me and his father. I have spoken with him briefly over the past year, but not with any substance. I think of his blonde curls, his chubby baby body and my work to make life as good for that chubby body as possible – my fears that he would witness the violence that eventually bubbled up in our house and would then inherit that violence and carry it with him to his own home and wife, my worry that he would do any of the thousands of things that we worry about as mothers: drugs, alcohol, failing school, bad marriage, unpleasant job . . . all the things that can make a life miserable. All my worries stay with me, and I do my best to live the life I have now – I lived through a divorce, found a real love, have returned to school – but I still feel the worry and wonder that came from bearing my son … it leads me to wish I could return to 1987 and visit my young 20 year old self, holding infant-C with a look of confusion on my face, and say this: It is worth it, what you do, and you can only make decisions based on what knowledge you have at the time. You won’t break the baby as you hold him, and as he grows, so will you.

To borrow an analogy from Andrea O’Reilly, take hold of the oxygen mask that drops from the cabin ceiling and affix it to yourself, because only when you are taken care of can you take care of others.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


To those of you who have commented here, thanks. The reassurances and the knowledge that there are many other people in my spot and in the spot of my son makes me feel some better. I have had a few rather bad days, in that the time is rapidly approaching when TB leaves for basic. He emailed me yesterday before leaving for the beach with his aunt (she's nearly his age, so I'm hoping that they are getting along - I've always hoped he would have a good relationship with his Aunts, S1 and S2). He has promised to call me when he returns to his grandfather's house, where he's staying the night before heading out to basic the next day. I'm glad that my father will get to spend an evening with him before he leaves, although how much of an evening is up for grabs, as TB is planning to ask to borrow the car to hang out with his peeps.

I have been concentrating only on his basic training, and not what happens after that. Basic will seem like a very, very long time to him, I'd imagine, and he will hate it, I'm sure. I hope that he makes good friends, strong friendships, and has at least some enjoyable time at Ft. Hell. I think only of basic, because I really don't want to think about what comes next, and as Hun says, it's possible that TB might not make it through basic (my money is on TB making it, but who knows? It's totally up to him now). I have wondered how it is that I will make it through basic and the time after (I KNOW how TB will handle it: he'll sweat a lot). I was thinking about this as I drove to a friend's house today, to work on our thesises (thesi? thesee? Headaches, is more likely). CO and MJ will be what gets me through each day, and what makes the uncertain times easier. When I have been stressing, I talk to them, and I feel better. They don't have children, but they have plenty of empathy, and give me a totally free reign to yammer on however much I want. Which is, truly, the sign of a good friend. I expect that I will do a lot of leaning on them - something I am not and never have been particularly good at, and which I trace back not to any sort of stiff upper lip upbringing, but all the years married to Ex, who was your classic case of Assholicus GoneWildimus. Violence was always just around the corner at our house, and could pop out at the drop of a hat, and one of the really big heads-up that one is dealing with a batterer is the seclusion that the battered discovers herself (or himself) in suddenly. The time I spent married to Ex is long over with, and so far in the rear view mirror that I rarely - if ever - see it out of the corner of my eye.

But - the invitation of the military into my life again - somewhat like inviting the vampire into the home - has also brought with it vague, sulfurous wafts of the past days with Ex. I realize now that I can't beat myself up for any shortcomings in TB, simply because my time was spent grittily attempting to survive and make some sort of a future, a future that I sincerely hoped had no hospital visits in it and no surprise punches out of the blue. The two are simply very interrelated in my mind, as the first four or so years that I spent with Ex were spent as the ubiquitous Military Wife. With the advent of TB, there was suddenly much more fear in my life. And always, always, very few friends. The few that I had were offended, hurt or disgusted by Ex, and no relationship could be sustained between myself and them. I understand that now (as I did then) but I have yet to be one of those people who makes and keeps friends easily. I find that my relationships with women friends are initially very cordial and friendly, but it takes me some time to reach the point where I can actually become really close. I just can't seem to shake that sulfurous odor of yellings and beatings out of my clothes.

So now I seem to be learning how to be a better friend, and how to keep friends, and how to better make friends. And oh my, how much my life has improved.

Friday, August 04, 2006


So in order to bring peace to the Middle East, we need only to bring the sport of down hill snow skiing to the region. Oh, and fire Rumsfeld. What the hell is he talking about, blaming the fighting on the weather. Maybe we should hand out fans to the insurgents?

Still no word from TB. He leaves next week for basic, and I heard from my friend L who has a husband overseas in Iraq, and who is in the same unit (or whatever they call it - I'm still not up on the military jargon) that TB likely will be attached to - she told me to make sure that TB lists me as the Primary Next of Kin (I'll remember THAT one: it's referred to as PNOK), and made some other suggestions for staying in the loop, militarily speaking. I'm afraid that he'll list his father as next of kin, which will mean that either (a) I'll never hear anything about what's going on - I'll have to learn about his whereabouts from Jim Lehrer, or (b) I'll have to be in touch with his father on a regular basis, which makes me very uncomfortable.

I'm not as freaked out about my thesis writing now, but I'm certainly not sleeping much better. I feel about as out of touch with things as I ever have - my mind feels like it's in a big puddle of mud. This job is totally stressing me out. TB is totally stressing me out. I need a vacation.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Someone please think of the congresspeople!

Thank GOD they are addressing this terrible issue of ELEVATOR CROWDING! I mean, heaven forfend that these incredibly important people have to ride elevators with THE VERY PEOPLE WHO EMPLOY THEM!!!

Holy Jesus, Mary and Joseph in a hottub. This is an issue? A real issue that they're discussing? Well, far better that they discuss the fact that Rick Santorum had to push his own buttons (snicker) as opposed to discussing the possibility of...oh, I don't know...ending the freaking war, maybe?

Coasting along...

I'm currently coasting along, freaking right the hell out about my thesis and prospectus, and my new job, and my upcoming semester, and all the papers and reading that are due this summer, and then of course on top of that, all the worrying I'm doing about TB.

To make matters even better, according to L (from class, whose husband is in Iraq), it is currently 125 degrees in Iraq (and nearly that at Ft. Hell, where TB will be going for boot camp), said temperature being high enough to cause the liquid in one's eyes to begin to boil.

I am so not kidding.

SO! A little humor is in order, before I freak right the hell out.