Monday, August 22, 2016

The Grind

Maybe, if I lay very still. . .

But it's too late.  Eden has already heard Marcos downstairs, and she's taken this as her signal that it's time to start the day.  I know she's on her way, so I roll over and glance at the clock on my phone - 5:45 - before she appears at my bedside. I turn to look at her and see my pile of hair and remember that last night was hair washing night, which means this morning is hair straightening morning.  I've got to stop planning my Monday mornings this way.

"Good morning baby bear."

"Momma.  Let's go downstairs."  She replaces her soggy lovey with the bear head back in her mouth and stands there, clutching her blanket.  Neither are supposed to leave her room, but since she realized she can get herself out of bed and down the hall in the morning, all bets are off.

"Why don't you lay in momma's bed for a minute with Mr. Bear."

"No.  I want to go downstairs."  I stagger towards the bathroom, toying with the possibility of just tying my hair into a sloppy ponytail.  After all, it's Monday, there's a lot going on in the office today, but none of it involves my appearance in a court proceeding.  Maybe I can even skip make-up today.  But when I turn on the light and I'm greeted by the frizzy tangle of hair I realize not straightening it today is not an option.  No one else will care, really, but every time I walk into the bathroom and see my reflection, that feeling of defeat and self-loathing will overcome me again.  I've finally reached a point where people seem to ask if I am pregnant again only once a week, compared to daily.  I'm starting to look like a person again, instead of a zombie.  No sense in ruining that streak.

I manage to straighten one of the five sections of hair that I've methodically developed over the years before Eden's chatter wakes up Delilah, and we can hear her on the monitor.

"Delilah's awake!  Let's go check on her!"

"No, Eden, let's give her a minute. . ." but she's already dashed off down the hall and over the monitor I can hear Delilah's door creak open and Eden say to her, "It's okay Delilah."  I sigh at my reflection and turn off the straightening iron before collecting Delilah from her bed and heading downstairs.

When we get to the kitchen I see that Marcos has already started warming Delilah's bottle.  I change her diaper and set her on the floor to play with Eden while I start Eden's breakfast.  With Marcos' assistance I manage to get Eden set up at the table to eat her oatmeal while I settle down with Delilah for a bottle.  Marcos kisses our goodbyes, and he's out the door and for a few minutes I enjoy Eden's happy response to the cubes of cheese I've put on her breakfast plate this morning, and Delilah's head on my chest as she drinks her bottle.  I know that she is on the cusp of ditching at least one of her four daily bottles, and I am worried it will be one of only two that I get to offer her on a daily basis.  Soon, Eden is telling me that she's finished and she wants to get out of her chair.  I ask her to wait while I finish feeding Delilah, but she won't and before I can stop her she's rattling the chair to free herself and in the instant before she's slid from the chair to the ground I imagine her tumbling backwards and striking her head against the wall just right, like some Million Dollar Baby moment, paralyzing her for life.  But she lands safely and scampers off to play.  Delilah has finished her bottle, and is struggling to get from my arms to the floor.  Our brief harmony is over, and so I say to Eden, "Come on, Eden Bear.  Let's go upstairs and get ready for our day."

"No Momma.  I'm just going to stay down here.  I'm going to watch Dora the Explorer."

"No, no Dora this morning.  You know we don't watch cartoons in the morning, we watch the news.  Come upstairs."

"No Momma."  Delilah is hanging from my arms, laughing at our interaction.  I run her upstairs to my room and set her down, careful to lock the baby gate behind me as I head back down for Eden.  I find Eden in the baby bouncer, her new favorite place to be.  She's so tall that really, once she's in the harness, there's not much for her to do but kneel.  I pull her from the chair and set her down, asking her to come upstairs, but instead she runs into the living room and throws herself onto the floor.  "I'm just going to lay on Ice Bat."

"Eden, it's time to go upstairs."

"No Momma."

"Eden, come upstairs.  Delilah is having a pizza party.  We're going to have a pizza party without you."  This catches her attention, and she runs towards the stairs and climbs anxiously, joining Delilah on my bedroom floor to play with her plastic plates, spoons, and pizza.

I had promised myself when we moved that my room would be my retreat.  I wouldn't allow toys to overtake it, but there, on my neatly made bed I dropped three stuffed animals for the girls to play with while I got dressed.  On my floor, just vacuumed last night, plastic utensils and a toy laptop and a set of animal flashcards and some board books are already strewn, just in the time it took me to go down the hall to get the girls' clothes for the day.  I alternate between straightening the rest of my hair, changing diapers, dressing the girls, dressing myself, and trying to cover the monstrous, stress-induced zit that has erupted between my unkempt eyebrows, all while singing along to the Sesame Street radio station on Pandora and shouting at Eden over and over and over again not to jump on the bed, ironically, while "5 Little Monkeys" plays over the radio.

We make it back downstairs by 7:20.  Eden has refused to wear shorts.  Eden has refused to wear shoes.  But Eden allowed me to brush her hair this morning and I consider this a small victory, earning her the right to go pantsless today.

"Momma, I want Nature Cat."  I look at the clock.  7:22.  I cave.

"One episode of Nature Cat, okay Baby Bear."

I'm now that mom.  No, not the mom that lets her kid watch TV in the morning.  I'm sure there's lots of moms, great moms, that do that.

I'm the mom that can't spend two hours with her children without having to run to the television for help.  I'm the mom who dreads the sound of her children rousing early, before she is ready.  The mom that counts down the minutes before it is time to leave for work, for an escape, only to spend the next 9 hours counting down the minutes until she gets to see her girls again, and then in turn to spend the evening counting down the minutes before it is time to start bedtime routine.  My dogs, my beloved dogs, stare at us longingly from the windows - Sometimes I go days without even touching them so entrenched am I in just getting through the day with my children.

I am the mom who finds on the weekends, her children are strangers to her.  I don't know what to do with them when we are together for a whole day.  Who are they?  What should we play?  What do we talk about?  Is it naptime yet?  How do other women do this, day after day, with a smile on their face?  I feel like such an asshole.  I look to the front door wistfully, wondering if we all wouldn't be better served if I just walked out and never came back.

With a guilty conscience, I snap myself back into the moment and finish packing lunches for the day, and loading my car with the diaper bag, my purse, my own lunch, and a pack of Delilah's diapers that my dad will need for her care this week.  Eden refuses one of my requests and as a consequence, I turn off Nature Cat before the episode is complete.  I take Delilah to the car and plead with Eden to follow me.  She won't, but instead climbs back into the bouncer, so I run back inside, lift her out, and carry her to the car, no pants, no shoes, but grateful for the attached garage so that I don't have to feel so very bad about having left Delilah for a few seconds.  Life was easier when she was in the carrier and I could just drag them both out together, but, ob la di ob la da, right?

"Momma, I want Delilah's Song," Eden requests from the back seat.

"Not today,"  I respond and begin clicking through the radio stations as we drive.  I'm searching for some song to make my morning.  I know that with today's technology I can just click over to my USB drive and play something from there, or stream a song that I know and love.  But I want to the song to be brought to me, some sign from the universe that everything will be okay.  I drop the girls off at Papa's house where the patience for them is greater, the hands on deck more plentiful, and besides, Delilah is almost ready for a nap, giving a slight reprieve to their caretaker.  I get back in my car, still searching the radio, through the local stations, through Sirius radio, looking for something to soften the blow of the morning.  Hundreds of radio stations are available to me at my fingertips, but nothing suffices.  I land on an old default karaoke song, Patty Loveless' "Blame It On Your Heart," but today I just don't feel like shouting about someone's lying, cheating, cold deadbeating, two-timing, double-dealing, mean, mistreating, loving heart.  I settle instead for the "Loco-Motion," the Grand Funk Railroad version, though I would have preferred Little Eva or Kylie Minogue.

These are the first moments to myself that I have had since I woke up, yet I've felt so alone the whole time.  I'm lonely - In the evenings as I march through the monotony of the work week, on the weekends as I try to find ways to interact with my girls while we are all cooped up inside to avoid the 100+ degree heat and smokey air hovering from a local wildfire.  I know that life changes when you have kids, and I know that I longed for these girls, ached for them.  Imagine my surprise when they didn't provide all of the answers, but instead caused me to have to look even deeper into my soul on a quest for - What?  I don't know anymore.  I'm drowning. I feel the waves threatening me, so real that while stopped at a red light I tilt my head up towards the imaginary surface so that I can breathe.  Green light.  Go.

I am at my office early.  I was the first to arrive on this dreadful day - The day our new case management system is launched firm-wide, causing guaranteed disarray in each of our 15 offices throughout the state.  Clients will call, annoyed at our inability to smoothly access and work this system, still demanding that we meet their needs in this world of glorified customer service called worker's compensation defense.  My billing, finally falling into place after four years of acclimating to an environment wherein I must account for every minute of the work day, is bound to suffer in this change - even the best attorneys will suffer this.  I know that I should get a head start on the day and aim to get my hours in, but instead I open my web browser, turn to this page, and write.  And write, and write, and write.  And write, and write, and write some more.

And then, it's back to the grind.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Alex Rodriguez: This is the Way the World Ends - Not With a Bang But a Whimper


    Here we go round the prickly pear
    Prickly pear prickly pear
    Here we go round the prickly pear
    At five o'clock in the morning.

    Between the idea
    And the reality
    Between the motion
    And the act
    Falls the Shadow
                                   For Thine is the Kingdom
    Between the conception
    And the creation
    Between the emotion
    And the response
    Falls the Shadow
                                   Life is very long
    Between the desire
    And the spasm
    Between the potency
    And the existence
    Between the essence
    And the descent
    Falls the Shadow
                                   For Thine is the Kingdom
    For Thine is
    Life is
    For Thine is the
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    This is the way the world ends
    Not with a bang but a whimper.

-Excerpt from "The Hollow Men"
T.S. Elliott

Tonight, this mid-August night with 48 games left to go in the 162 game season and with what I anticipate will be little fanfare, Alex Rodriguez will play in his last game with the New York Yankees, for a team experiencing a lackluster season and currently riding in 4th place in the AL East.  Unlike when Derek Jeter retired one year ago, there will be no parade of celebrities from all avenues of entertainment tipping their hats in respect.  After 22 years with the MLB, Alex Rodriguez retire with 696 career home runs to his name, making him 4th in the history of Major League Baseball.  With so much focus on his batting, the public might easily forget that he was once a stellar short stop, taking what in baseball would constitute a demotion when he was traded to play third base to Derek Jeter's short stop upon his transfer to the Yankees.  But tonight, Alex Rodriguez will be riding the bench, waiting for his chance to bat - Request for him to play third base in this inconsequential game against the Tampa Bay Rays has been denied. 

Once upon a time, though, Alex Rodriguez held all of the potential in the world.  He was the child of Dominican immigrants who moved to the Dominican Republic for a brief period when Alex was a child, before returning to the United States where he grew up in Florida.  Though he was recruited by colleges to play both baseball and football in 1993, he elected to sign with the Seattle Mariners when he was a first-round amateur draft pick.  By 1995, he was finishing the season in the major leagues. 

A few years later during my senior year of high school I caught my first glimpse of the young, green eyed ball-player, and it was love.  I had to know who he was and when I found out, I had start watching the game that I had abandoned when I was 14 years old and lost two teeth after being struck in the face by a softball.   I began following the MLB, a passion shared with my brother Timothy, and although for different reasons, together we became Mariners fans.  They were primed for glory at that point, boasting a roster including Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr., Randy Johnson, Jay Buhner, and Edgar Martinez.  Of course, baseball fans know how that ended as the team started piecing off in the coming years, resulting in the 2001 Mariners still holding the record as the team with the most regular season wins, only to lose their shot at the World Series in the first round of the playoffs.   

It was following the 2000 season and going into the 2001 season that Alex Rodriguez became a free agent and was signed by the Texas Rangers with what was, at the time, the largest contact in sports history.  By that time, I had fallen in love again, this time with the Seattle Mariners, and I elected to give them my loyalties and say good-bye to Alex.

But like all great loves, I frequently wondered how he was doing.  He wasn't hard to keep track of - After three years with the Rangers he was traded to the New York Yankees, where he has remained, and remained in the spotlight for a number of unsavory reason, most memorable to me: A speculated affair with Madonna while both he and she were married.  What the world will most remember, of course, is the scandal created by suspicions followed by hard evidence of the use of performance enhancing drugs.  The shadow of this controversy, which began to take root in 2007, never really left his side.  Nearly ten years later, his use, the suspicions, and his bold-faced, vociferous denial of the accusations are how he will likely be remembered.  

Sometimes, things just don't work out the way we think they will.  Just as Alex Rodriguez likely thought he would be playing in tonight's game to the adoring cheers of his fans, I thought I would be watching this game with my five-year old son by my side.  Somehow, nothing calls my attention to Gabriel's absence like a baseball game - I guess because up until January 31, 2011 I was planning his own career in the Major Leagues, before I switched to planning his funeral.  Perhaps because, although I believe I am slowly but surely instilling in my daughters a love for this subtle yet spectacular game, I know that they will not get to play in the MLB.  Perhaps the dream - statistically unlikely to come true in the first place - will be renewed if and when I have another son, or maybe it died with Gabriel.  But when I hear the crack of the bat or the smack of a third strike rocketed into a mitt, I also hear the silence of a little boy who is not cheering beside me. 

Tonight, I will watch the man who was once my favorite player, donning a uniform that now brings so many mixed emotions for me, as he says goodbye to a game that we both love.  Derek Jeter was quoted just today as saying "I've spent 22 years playing against, playing with and watching Alex from afar, and there are two things that stand out to me the most:  The conversations we had when we were young - hoping for the opportunity to play at the Major League level and then somehow finding a way to stick around - and the championship we won together in 2009.  That was a season everyone on that team can cherish.What people don't realize is how much time, effort and work that Alex put in on a daily basis.  He lives and breathes baseball.  I know it will be difficult for him to not be on the field, but I am sure he will continue to give back to the game."  

He lives and breathes baseball, even with the darkest of clouds hanging over his head.  Tonight I will watch this game with my girls and I expect I will feel what I always feel:  Not only the ache of missing the little boy that I always dreamed of, but what has also become a familiar feeling, as though my chest has been cracked open and I am watching my heart sing and dance in the two little girls that I'd also always dreamed of, even if they aren't exactly what I expected.  At bedtime, apropos for this special night, we'll read one of my favorite bedtime stories to share with Eden and Delilah, "Good Night Yankees."  

"Good night to each player, you played a great game.  We're rooting for you to make the hall of fame.  Good night to all the young Yankees fans, too.  All falling asleep, dreaming of their Major League debut."  

Goodnight, Alex Rodriguez. Thank you for the memories.