Nothing

Today, I did nothing. Not the kind of nothing that means wrapped in the covers. The kind of nothing where my dad had to take care of a few things and I was just the running buddy who held stuff. I have a big backpack, and I have a lot of practice. My main job as a PK was to ride along with my dad and hold stuff. Maybe I should figure out a way to work it into my resume. Great at following people around and when they say, “will you hold this?,” will always say “yes.” I was almost to body man level when I forgot the most important thing. We were transferring everything from my dad’s rental car to his actual car because it was finally finished at the shop. His checkbook had fallen into a crevice, and it was the only thing I didn’t see. I did get the empty Fritos bag, though, so I got that goin’ for me.

Right now he’s at rehearsal for Christmas Eve services, but before he left, he let me play his brand new horn. I was amazed- I was playing better than I had in years, because the horn was designed to be able to do more with less air. Apparently, I am less full of hot air than I used to be, so the notes floated off effortlessly, even though I can’t remember the last time I even thought about my embouchure. I wasn’t trying for crazy high notes or anything. Those days are gone. But I remembered how to get that fat, lazy tone I had in high school, the kind you can fit inside if you close your eyes. My dad asked me if I wanted to come with him and play. I ultimately declined, but I thought about it. Playing on the brass line at Second Baptist is a lot of fun, because even if I have extreme theological differences with other brass players, they won’t come up. We’re too busy busting each other’s balls. That’s so universal it’s a light bulb joke.

How many trumpet players does it take to change a light bulb?

Five. One to actually change the bulb and four more to stand around and tell him/her how much better they could have done it.

I swear to Christ, trumpet players don’t mentally age past fifteen when their horns are in their hands.

I just knew that even if a few notes came out perfectly, that didn’t mean I had enough endurance to last a whole rehearsal, much less a performance, and the balance would be different if I was there for one and not the other. I didn’t even take a horn to DC, not having anywhere to practice and wanting to focus solely on singing, anyway. Now, I’m not even doing that. I should, though. I was doing some really good work back in the day, amazed at how my voice teacher was able to unlock me into a solo artist when before, I’d always felt like a trumpet player who faked it….. even though I started singing when I was three, and didn’t pick up trumpet until I was 11. Well, technically I was 12 or 13. My first year in band, I played the baritone/euphonium, because the mouthpiece was a lot bigger and therefore, did not press on my braces. Once the braces were off, I switched instruments- mostly because the euphonium was almost bigger than me.

I was an incredible trumpet player alone in a practice room, but I got stage fright so badly that it’s a miracle anyone ever asked me to play for anything. I’d also get so nervous that I’d get lost, and once, during a solo, I came in a measure early. The entire band caught me so that no one would notice, and the band director said he wished he could take them all out for a beer afterward. With singing, though, I am ten times more confident, and it shows. I’m not sure I can count any better, though. 😛

It feels weird not to be singing anywhere for Christmas, but I am glad to be free of the insane rehearsal schedule this year, just sitting back and watching. Advent and Christmas are all about watching, anyway. This year, I’m just taking it literally.

Doing nothing, but not the kind that means wrapped in the covers.

 

In Retrospect…

I’ve thought a lot about what I wrote yesterday, and having my mother die while I was trying to pull myself out of my own head was the best worst thing that could have happened. I got to see up close what it would have done to my family had I succeeded in my quest to get off the grid. I got to see the turmoil, the tears, & all of the absolute misery. I got to see how long it would have taken them to recover, if at all. Moreover, I wouldn’t wish anything I’ve felt on anyone else. It was learning everything I didn’t know I didn’t know.

There are some things that are impossible to experience until they happen. Thinking doesn’t prepare you for even a quarter of the ups and downs of grief. It doesn’t prepare you for either sleepless nights or, for better or for worse, dreaming. Sometimes I see my mother in her casket. At others, we are having the greatest time ever, in future fantasy or in past remembrance.

The first few days are just shock that strikes one dumb and deaf to the world around you… or perhaps it’s more dumb than deaf, because you can hear things, but you cannot comprehend or respond.

It is a delayed response. Everything you’ve heard builds up over time and you explode with the emotions seething under the anesthesia. Even people who are extraordinarily in touch with their emotions cannot possibly process all of it in the moment. And by “it,” I mean the most comforting things people around you have done, and the most stupid. But you can’t really get angry at people who say and do stupid things, because it’s never out of malice.

Very few people really know what to say, or worse, the people you thought would be there for you because you’re supposedly so close disappear, and the ones you never thought you’d hear from are johnny-on-the-spot. But you can’t get angry at that, either, because people tend to retreat out of fear. It takes bravery to confront the grieving…. to show up and say anything, even if it’s “wrong.”

In my own case, I didn’t really want anyone to say anything. I wanted silence and contact comfort. The behaviors I liked the most were friends simply saying, I’m sorry, and then just sitting there with me, an arm around my shoulder, and it being ok when companionable silence replaced conversation.

Everything about the situation was something I couldn’t explain, though through blogging, I tried. I did not have the capacity to reach out to people who would talk back. I only had the ability to write things out into the ether to try and capture how I felt so I could read it later. It didn’t matter to me if it made logical sense; I didn’t care what anyone else thought. Everything I felt about my mother’s death was my own story, and no one could tell it for me. I wrote even when I thought I couldn’t, because I believed in preserving that time in my life for posterity. I put in all of the crying jags, all of the private, angry, “fuck you” moments in my head because I couldn’t stand comments like “she’s in a better place.” Ummmm… I think her better place is with me. I had to bite my tongue through a shit ton of bad theology, and sometimes, still do. It’s also a horrible experience to handle pity. I feel sorry enough for myself without other people drawing attention to it.

I don’t feel sorry for anything in the past, because that’s useless. I feel sorry for everything I won’t get in the future. Actually, I take that back. The one thing I feel sorry about from my past is not being able to say goodbye…. like, what would I have said if I had known it would be our last conversation? Would I have said anything differently? I sort of doubt it. Black humor was never my mom’s thing, and it would have been my natural go-to. Although perhaps it would have become so, because what else can you do about knowing you’re dying but laugh? Sometimes the sadness is just too much. There has to be a release valve somewhere.

For me, that release valve was letting the Mento drop over the Diet Coke here, and for that, I am extremely grateful. Not only do I appreciate my own pensieve, I know this has gone far beyond me, reaching others who’ve lost their own parents. I know for certain that hearing how I navigated grief tapped into the way they did…. and nothing has ever been right or wrong…. just extraordinarily personal.

The one strange thing I’ve noticed in all my ruminations about what getting off the grid would have meant, I have never thought about what it would have been like to lose me. As an introverted writer, I am my own best friend, my own best company. Now I know that I would have lost someone close to me, too. I didn’t put that together until right this moment…. probably because I would have lost my best friend without even knowing it.

I wouldn’t even have thought to say goodbye.

Child Support

Dana and I are both getting to that age where we’re starting to think about kids… and every. single. time. we both start yawning uncontrollably and change the subject. The fact that we can’t even talk about it for a half hour is a stunning monument to our indifference on the subject. We think we would be great parents, and we also think that we’re able to love the other children in our lives more when we don’t have kids of our own, so that whichever child is visiting us is our favorite and gets to feel special when mom and dad are gone.

The thing I struggle with the most is whether I’ll regret not having a kid that lives with us full time. The things that I thought I’d be terrible with have been proven wrong in babysitting Wi-Phi, and other things have popped up. For instance, I am more patient and kind with a screaming kid than you can possibly imagine. I go into this Zen-like state that makes me immune to getting rattled, because I know the baby will pick up on the fact that I’m anxious and use it to their advantage later. It’s just one day of your child raising you after another. That part I’m ok with.

I am not ok with writing about my own children, I’m anxious to the point of nausea over the thought of interacting with other parents at the PTA, and most of that has to do with the competitive things that I’ve watched parents do and say to each other over the years, and I hate that culture with a passion. I watch people write things about mothers on web sites that make you wonder who peed in their Wheaties this morning, because obviously something is terribly, terribly wrong.

I’m fighting against old tapes that say I can’t be a mother because I’m gay. I know plenty of lesbian mothers, but it’s funny how the things you grow up with tend to stick until you really explode them, and I haven’t had the time or desire to sit with that one, yet, because it’s one of those knotty problems that will cause me to ruminate ad nauseum (or as my friend Aaron and I call it, “moo all over the place”).

Frankly, I’m also indolent as fuck when I get home in the evenings and I am so glad that our stance on parenthood doesn’t change with a couple of beers between us. Oh, wow. I just hit the nail on the head and I didn’t even realize it was true until this minute. I don’t want to do it because I don’t want to do the work. I’m not talking about the work after the kid is born. I mean I don’t want to have to ask my male friends for sperm, I don’t want to go to a clinic and be poked and prodded until I get pregnant, and I don’t want to have to raise thousands and thousands of dollars for the privilege. If it had happened organically in my 20s, it would have been one thing. But I’m three years away from forty. In some ways, it feels like I’ve missed my window on purpose as a way of self-sabotage.

On the other hand, forty isn’t too old for pregnancy and delivery, and 58 seems just the right age for me to have a wise-cracking high school senior that I will have to drag out of the principal’s office by his ear while wearing my bathrobe.

There are all of these feelings swirling in both Dana and me as we pray for discernment, but at the same time, I think we both already know. We’re doing a great job by being those friends who can come through at a moment’s notice when their kids are sick or they’ve got vacation plans and the sitter cancels.

I have also learned through my abuser that you don’t have to be a kid’s parent to have influence in their lives… that it’s not important to the kid whether I’m related to them by blood. I can still impart all kinds of wisdom from the prophets… Finn, Jake, and Lumpy Space Princess.