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Age Is Just A Number

25 Sep

We have all heard the longstanding cliché, age is just a number. It is the typical go-to saying when someone advanced in years (whatever that means) acts in a manner, whether playful or foolish, usually reserved for youth. A somersault on the grass performed by a sixty-something year old, a cannonball splash by a grandparent with targeted intent, or in my case a McDonald’s “Happy Meal” on the rare occasion I crave junk-food and can’t pass up the toy prize. Whatever the case may be we engage the right to act outside of our number by calling upon the quip.

Yet as a mom navigating this new life of one living child, age is NOT just a number. It is a scary question presented to me in new social settings. Do you have children? Yes, an easy enough question to answer…I have two, a boy and a girl. How old are they? This second interrogatory statement is not so easy to avert, though avert it I try–

Person: How old are they?
Me: My baby is almost 21 years old.

I lead with “my baby” to imply that my other child is obviously older, a tactic I use to hopefully satisfy the question and move on from there. I am happy to report this technique is often successful, because I then respond with a “re-direct” of sorts–

Me: My baby is almost 21 years old. Yes, I am older than I look. And you, what was it you said you do again? OR, tell me more about that project your involved in. OR, tell me about your children, what are they into? Sports? Art? etc.

Re-direction is my safety net because with my daughter coming up on 21 years of age this Fall, she will, within the next year, surpass the age her older brother lived up to. Yes Cole lived only 22 years on Earth and his baby sister is gaining ground upon him, which is weird as they were nearly 5 years apart. It is also a difficult task for me to undertake, accounting for Cole’s age. He would be 25 years old according to our earthly calculations. But since he no longer inhabits earth is he still aging? Is he 25? Is he 22? And if he’s stuck at 22 how do I answer the question when he is supposed to be the older of my two children, when his baby sister becomes older than he? Do I change his name to Benjamin Button?

My Averting Plan is flawed.

In fact, this past month I attended a lovely gathering with wonderful people where my typical line failed me. We were all new to each other and so the opportunity was ripe to ask personal questions. Now please keep in mind I tend to be a master of the re-direct, so the fact I was caught and cornered fell upon me with some surprise. No matter how I skirted the topic of my children, this new acquaintance circled back for a landing. Finally, exhausting all averting techniques, I fumbled and gave some sort of sloppy response such as, “My son is in Heaven, he left us at 22 years and I don’t know how old he is currently.” Super party foul! Thankfully a watchful friend came to my rescue, though not in time to completely prevent the mess my statement made. She was able to jump in and take the conversation in a new direction–whew!

I imagine loosing a spouse presents a similar social incongruity. Are you married? The widow/widower is put in the tough position of facing the inevitable. This not only forces the opening of a wound, but creates a divide within a social situation where joyous enthusiasm is roaming free. Let’s face it, death is not usually invited, nor welcomed, to a party. And honestly I am trying my best to keep it at home.

But what is a mother to do when age is NOT just a number? When it rules my story and is tough to avoid? I don’t have the answer at the moment, I am too busy averting!

Cole Bent and mother

Cole at 18 years still hanging with his mom, me.

 

 

 

 

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Taken for Gran-ite

20 Jul

I’m sure most of us, above the age of 13, have been advised “don’t take life for granted” or “life is short, don’t take the people you love for granted.”  Well if anybody understands the brevity of life, it is I (and those connected to me).  However, in order to live, I am finding out that the only way to carry on is to, in fact, take those we love for granted.  We have to.  We have to consider that we will speak again, see each other again, and fulfill our future plans together.  It is imperative for our mental health that we consider the next day will come!

Now mind you, as each next day comes (at rapid speed) I am still trying to grapple with the yesterday gone by.  And while in my grappling state, momentary living–living in the moment rather, gets to be a tough concept to abide by.  Especially as my life keeps traveling at a rate too fast for me to handle.  Check this out…

  • Brian and I spend the day with our son, Cole.  May 16, 2013
  • A telephone call from a sheriff and Cole’s best friend tells us our son is gone.  May 17, 2013
  • We bury our son at Miramar National Cemetery, San Diego.  Dates at this point are escaping my memory
  • We leave for a pre-planned (business/pleasure) trip to Europe.
  • We return from Europe and turn around and fly to Japan (business/with pleasure attached).  July 1-7
  • Home from Japan with severe jet-lag, the following Monday (July 15), I begin a new job an hour from my home.
  • Here I sit, on my couch, the Saturday after navigating my first week of work.

I have mounds of mail to attend to.  I am late paying my visa bill.  My toilet is sporting a new “brown color ring” on the inside of the bowl.  My kitchen counter looks like a cross between OfficeMax and the grocery store.  I have the census bureau sending me threatening notifications about the fact I am “obligated by law” to fill out the form.  My laundry is still under the impression that “konichiwa” is the proper greeting of the day.  I have phone calls I haven’t made and follow up I haven’t done in connection to the death of my son.  We have been offered a historical home to live in, in San Diego (next door to my new job), for free–minus utilities.  And while the offer is extremely generous and financially appealing, the idea of it terrifies me.  AND–this is a big “and”– I have family and friends who are in sorrow with us and who have been left in the dust of our whirlwind as well.

So when I actually try to get my head around my life, my yesterday, my today, and my tomorrow–I find myself needing, absolutely requiring, that my loved ones, my circumstances, my world,  remain intact.  I mean it is all happening too fast for me…  I have to “take for granted” that they will be here tomorrow, if I am to make it through my today.

Now I must go de-clutter the kitchen counter, put the roast in the crock-pot, cut the fruit so it doesn’t rot, sort the beans and put them to boil, make breakfast for the rousing crew, and fill out the damn census form before John-Law comes a knocking at my door.

Any thoughts from the peanut gallery (a term I use to pay homage to my children–they are my peanuts–and I can still hear Cole’s voice)?

Lest I Digress

10 Jul
I am going to segue from the present course of my mourning to share a bit of comedic error as experienced by me, while in Japan.  If you are a long time reader of my writing, you already know that I find those things connected to our natural bodily functions to be quite comical.  If you are new, brace yourself! 😉
I like Japan!  Of course, I knew in advance it would be an easier trip than Europe due to the non-stop flight and the fact the Japanese do not go on strike!  And even though our schedule was packed and fully coordinated, the travel and hotel situation ran smoothly.  I also think the language barrier was a nice respite for me as it allowed many opportunities for me to be silent (which my soul appreciates right now).  But onward to the fun of the day…

The toilets.

What is not to love?  You sit down and the seat is heated.  There are so many buttons to push, and me being a sworn-in button-pushingaholic, must push each and every one.  Now this approach can be quite surprising and depending on where the water pressure adjustment has been set, can also be quite alarming—think drugstore enema (Fleet I believe).  But oh how fun, they even have a button which makes an artificial flushing sound, just in case you want to have a noise louder than your bodily functions.  I especially like this button as it is identified by a music symbol…I am now “in the know” that the sound of a flushing toilet is considered music!

Japanese Bidet

“Action Jackson”
Hotel room bidet button panel

I have had a bit of trouble twice (well if I am honest, I had a bit of trouble often–everything is written in Japanese, of which I know zilch).  The first time was when we visited a national shrine.  The toilet situation was more ‘traditional’, I guess you could say.  A porcelain hole in the ground.  It looks quite like a male urinal and I had to go outside to “verify” I was in fact in the ladies restroom.  Turns out I was but I still didn’t know how to maneuver the apparatus–the porcelain one and my own.  I’ll enclose a photo (of the toilet only!).
Japanese toilet

Skip to the loo my darlin’

I came across another one of these toilets at a ‘location photo shoot’ which happened to be in a Japanese hot-rod shop.  Now I wasn’t too worried when I had to urinate because, unlike the States, all toilet facilities, up to that point, had been very clean.  And the hot-rod shop, Pumkin Sally (http://pumpkinsally.blogspot.jp/), was no different.  But the porcelain hole, instead of being on the ground, was on a step up with two metal plates along each side of it.  …consider me clueless!  I was hoping not to spray the walls, or the floor for that matter, as my anatomy isn’t exactly a “straight shot!”

Well yesterday evening, while conversing with the wife of our host and the head buyer for men’s clothing for the Freak’s Stores, I had the opportunity to share my photos with them.  As we were looking through the batch, the toilet from the shrine came up.  I explained I had no clue how to use it, and thankfully my new male friend took it upon himself (while fully clothed mind you), to show me the proper “squat” method—turns out my “point and shoot” was all wrong!

My most favorite toilet experience came from a most ironic location.  Our friend and tour guide took us to lunch at an American style cafe.  It was there I received the warmest of welcomes.  The toilet option for the restaurant was a single stall, one for males and one for females.  You know, the kind with the sink and toilet in one little room, and one person at a time (ideally).  Well when I went in to use the bathroom, I opened the door and stepped a foot over the threshold when all of a sudden the toilet seat sprung up, as if to say, “Welcome, Rivka, to Japan!” I thought it the coolest thing ever and found myself torn between needing to empty a certain organ-like sac, and wanting to run back to my table and have everyone come and check it out.  …my bladder won.  But my table mates were given an enthusiastic description of the event upon my return. 🙂

I must say, Tokyo is a beautiful city–day or night.  And I will take their public restroom over any in America–hands, feet, and squatter down!

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