Damn it, Kenneth!

The woman who fixed me up with the Big Guy introduced him as Ken. I learned later that he was Kenny to his co-workers and childhood friends, but that nickname never felt right to me. He was always just Ken, in the same way that my sisters will always be Sue and Barbie to me despite the fact that they are Susan and Barbara to the rest of the world.

I’m not going to talk about my sisters’ name for me. Nope. Suffice it to say that calling them Sue and Barbie definitely makes me the nice sister when it comes to nicknames.

I admit, however, that I sometimes called my husband Kenneth, although that was only under very specific circumstances and usually as part of the phrase Damn it, Kenneth.

For the most part, Damn it, Kenneth was reserved for those moments when he was gleefully jumping on my last nerve or when he had just committed some random act of life-endangering idiocy that was guaranteed to take ten years off my life. To be fair, Damn it, Kenneth was usually preceded by a frustrated growl on my part, but usually ended with a chuckle because the man could so damn funny and aggravating and ridiculous all at the same time.

I came home one day and found him standing on the top rung of a ladder, using a plunger to change the bulb in the yard light. While I had to give him a few bonus points for creative use of a toilet plunger, I pretty much came unglued about his use of the ladder.

Well, not the ladder itself. I took issue with the way he chose to position the ladder.

It was balanced on top of a wet picnic table.

The picnic table was suspended a few feet in the air, one end perched on a rotted tree stump and the other resting on the open tailgate of his truck.

Which was parked on a hill.

An icy hill.

“Easy, Wheezie,” he said soothingly while I screeched at him. “I’ve survived this far, haven’t I?”

“Damn it, Kenneth! Get down!”

“In a minute.” He took his time finishing up and clambered down safely, grinning the whole time. “Jeez, anyone would think I’d never done that before. You worry too much.”

“….damn it, Kenneth.”

He learned to tell me about some of his riskier ideas after the fact, probably to keep me from killing him.  When he and his brother had to transport their bull, T-Bone, to a new home, they discovered that the latch on the door of their livestock trailer was broken.

“So you rode on the outside of the trailer?” I demanded.

“Well, somebody had to hold the door shut.”

“So you rode on the outside of the trailer.”

“Yep.”

“While it was moving.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You could have been killed!”

“But I wasn’t.” And there it was, the cheeky grin and shrug that said Hey, it was no big deal.

“…. damn it, Kenneth.”

At times, it seemed as thought the man had zero sense of self-preservation. He drove demolition derby and raced a souped-up 1973 Chevy Impala at the local racetrack for fun. Sure, he made sure his cars and gear met all safety requirements, but that didn’t make it easier for me to accept his risk-taking. I’d sit in the stands and cheer for him, but I nearly hyperventilated every time the announcer shouted something about the number twelve land yacht spinning out or breaking down or pulling out to pass another car.

His brother was his entire pit crew. Before every race, Little Brother would give him three pieces of advice.

“Keep it clean,” he’d say.

“Of course.”

“Stay outta the wall.”

“Will do.”

“Don’t do anything that might scare Amy into labor.”

“No promises.”

“Damn it, Kenneth!” I’d shout.

He always called me “Wheezie” when I yelled at him for doing stupid things. “Quit your wheezing,” he’d chuckle. “I’ve survived everything I’ve tried so far. Stop worrying.”

Knowing his penchant for taking stupid risks, my panic levels went through the roof when I learned his fire department was planning a day of ice rescue training. I knew that the training would involve putting one of their firefighters in a special protective suit and dropping him into the freezing water to be rescued by his co-workers. I also knew that my Big Guy was going to step up and volunteer to put on the suit.

I had two problems with this idea. First, he was a really big guy. He was over six feet tall and broad shouldered, bulky without quite being fat, and I knew he was perhaps the largest man on the department. I didn’t have a lot of faith that the others would be strong enough to drag him out of the water.

The second problem was, to put it simply, that the Big Guy couldn’t swim. He thought he could, but he couldn’t. He could stay afloat, but that’s not the same thing as swimming, really. He and his father had once survived capsizing their canoe in a frigid Canadian lake, and he was thoroughly convinced that his ability to avoid drowning meant his swimming skills rivaled those of Michael Phelps.

I believed him when he promised he wouldn’t put on the suit. I trusted him to stay out of the water. Even when he came home that night shivering and blue-lipped, I believed he was just cold from standing on the dock for hours, rescuing other firefighters.  I even felt sorry for him and poured a liberal shot of whiskey into his hot cocoa.

Then I saw the pictures posted on the department’s Facebook page. There he was, bobbing around in the water, being dragged out on his belly, being helped out of the dripping wet rescue suit.

“DAMN IT, KENNETH!”

“Heh,” he chuckled. “Saw the pictures, huh?”

Even after we separated, there were many Damn it, Kenneth moments, like when a tornado touched down a mile from the house and he sent me text messages assuring me that he was safely in the basement. He was not, in fact, anywhere near the basement. He was happily watching the funnel cloud from the living room window. I saw that as progress since he wasn’t actually outside watching it touch down.

I think we all began to see him as being somewhat invincible. Or at least very, very lucky. It seemed as though he could survive anything.

Until he didn’t.

Can you take me to Urgent Care? He texted me one afternoon.

The Big Guy didn’t do doctors. He just didn’t. He never really saw medical care as a necessity except in the most dire of circumstances. So if he was asking for help going to see a doctor, I knew something was seriously wrong.

He was embarrassed when the doctor said it was just a cold and prescribed an inhaler. “Go to a different doctor,” I said. “Get a second opinion.”

“Nah, I’m feeling better already,” the Big Guy said, giving me a ghost of his usual grin.

A few days later, he texted again to let me know that he was being admitted to the hospital. Influenza A, he told me. No biggie. Stupid doctors.

The official cause of death was “Complications of Influenza A.” He hung on for almost a week after his heart stopped the first time, and our hearts shattered when he didn’t wake up, leaving his loved ones to make the hardest decision anyone should have to face.

We never thought we’d lose him so young; we certainly never thought we’d lose him to something as ridiculous as the flu. He should have gone out doing something utterly idiotic and dangerous, grinning while I stood there shouting Damn it, Kenneth!

Yeah…

… damn it, Kenneth.

 

Batshit Crazy

About a year ago, I published My Mirror Lies to Me, my third collection of funny stories and musings on life in my little corner of rural Michigan. In one chapter,  I talked about the time my husband, his brother,  and my father encountered some bats while working on our house.

I was reminded of that story this week, when workers discovered a mummified bat within the walls of that same house twenty-odd years later. Let that sink in for a minute.

They found a mummified bat within the walls of my house.

Seriously, this kind of stuff doesn’t happen to other people, does it?

At any rate, Mr. Mummy Bat’s unexpected appearance made me want to share the other bat story. So here is a short peek inside a chapter of My Mirror Lies to Me. I hope you enjoy it!

Batshit Crazy

A few years ago, blueberries became the big trend worldwide. Everyone, it seems, has been singing the praises of those little buggers for their health benefits and anti-oxidant properties.

Yeah, I could have told them that. I live right in the middle of “Blueberry Country.” Between the sandy soil, the moist air along the lakeshore, and the short but intense summers, this part of the world was made for growing blueberries.

I grew up here. I’ve gone blueberry picking every summer, although I’d probably owe a small fortune to those farmers if they ever got smart enough to put my chunky ass on a scale before and after an hour in the field. I freely admit that I put twice as many in my belly as I put in the bucket, and so do my kids. If I take them picking later on in the afternoon, I can usually get away with not having to make dinner that day.

Here in Blueberry Country, we put blueberries in everything. Blueberry muffins. Blueberry waffles with blueberry syrup. Blueberry wine. Even blueberry bratwursts, for God’s sake. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing as tasty as a handful of fresh blueberries on top of a bowl of vanilla ice cream.

They are delicious, but I really don’t understand how anyone absorbs any kind of health benefits from eating them. It’s not like we actually digest them. They come out in the same condition they go in. Better, in some cases. I’m afraid to even glance down at the toilet during blueberry season because I know I’m going to start worrying about the fact that I remember chewing those berries that are now floating whole in the bowl.

It’s like stomach acids have some sort of restorative properties when it comes to blueberries.

This doesn’t just happen to humans, either. The birds around here begin dropping bright purple grenades during blueberry season. Cars, laundry on clotheslines, slow-moving pets — nothing is safe.

Just to go off a tangent for a moment here, I’d like to share something that makes me unique.

I have been hit by seagull poop at least once every summer of my life.

Every.

Single.

Summer.

That’s fifty-one summers of seagull shit, people. Granted, I don’t remember the first few shitbombs, but family members tell me that the streak started early in my life.

And it’s not just a Michigan thing. One year, I went camping in Virginia with a friend and a seagull crapped on me at the campground. In Virginia. It’s like they have a secret seagull messaging system to make sure I get hit no matter where I go.

I even got nailed by one as I left work last night. At night. Birds don’t fly at night. That particular seagull must have been perched on the lightpost outside the hotel for hours, just waiting to complete its mission.

And yes, I know for a fact that most birds don’t fly at night. I learned that in the early days of my marriage, when the Big Guy and I sat in our backyard sharing a romantic moment under the stars. “Look at the pretty night birds over by the porch light,” I sighed, blissfully ignorant about my new life in the country.

“Birds don’t fly at night,” he told me. “Those are bats.”

Birds may not fly at night, but I sure did that night. I flew up the steps and through the door so fast that I’m pretty sure my feet never touched the ground.

I’ve learned since then that bats are truly wonderful creatures. They are complex animals with amazing talents, and they do so much to help control the insect population. Bats are not inherently a bad thing.

But they don’t belong in my house.

During our first few summers there, we were under constant bat attack. A bat can slip through the tiniest of openings, and our house was an old, old farmhouse that we were renovating, so there were many tiny openings. And big openings, for that matter. We seemed to have a bat or two flapping its way through the living room at least once a week every summer.

At one point, the Big Guy ventured up into the attic and discovered that it was Bat Central up there. I was one hundred percent in favor of abandoning the house and moving back into the city, but he swore he could take care of them. “We just need to figure out where they’re getting in, and then seal it up,” he told me.

True to his word, he gathered up a few friends and family members to stand in a loose circle around the house at dusk one night. As the sky grew darker, bats began to leave the cozy home they had made for themselves in our house. There was a narrow crack between the siding and the chimney, and that turned out to be a bit of a bat on-ramp.

He counted well over one hundred bats flying out through that crack.  When he thought they were all gone, he climbed a ladder and sprayed insulation foam into the entire crack to prevent them from coming back into our house in the morning. Later, he made a more lasting repair to the opening and solved the problem once and for all.

However, that left the problem of an attic full of bat poop. You can call it guano if you’d like, and rave about its wonderful properties as a fertilizer. But when it’s in my home, I’m going to call it what it is: shit. Bat shit. Nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.

We had an attic full of it.

Unfortunately, not all of the bats left the house that night, so the problem sort of came to a head when the Big Guy rounded up his little brother and my father to help him while I was at work a few days later. It’s important to note here that the “little brother” is a ridiculously tall individual who makes the Big Guy seem more like a Medium Guy when they’re together. So I’m just going to refer to him as the Bigger Guy from here on out.

They didn’t tell anyone their plans for the day, probably because they knew I would have insisted on a few more safety precautions than they liked to use. I only figured it out because my mother-in-law was one of my clients that day, and she mentioned that she thought “the boys” were on their way to play tennis because they had stopped by her house that morning to borrow some tennis racquets.

Neither one of them plays tennis.

A tennis racquet is, however, the perfect defensive weapon when dealing with bats.

It wasn’t until years later that the Big Guy told me what actually transpired that day. Those three great big men went upstairs to begin ripping out the second floor ceilings to start the upstairs renovations. They took the tennis racquets to defend themselves against any remaining bats.

Apparently, none of them realized just how much batshit there really was in the attic. When they started ripping things apart, it began an ugly chain reaction that none of them would ever forget.

Along with the hundreds of pounds of batshit, the attic was also full of old bricks from some long-forgotten project started by the previous owner. Guano-covered bricks and boards began raining down, first on the Bigger Guy’s head and then on all three of them as the hole above them widened.

None of them had thought to wear any kind of hat or helmet, of course, or gloves. And I guess real men don’t wear masks, not even when dealing with hundreds of pounds of nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.

They were covered with it. They breathed it in. It went into their eyes and ears and most likely other bodily orifices that I don’t want to think about. The two brothers leaned on each other, choking and gagging and gasping for air, tennis racquets forgotten in their hands as a few angry, homeless bats flapped around their heads.

My dad, however, stood a few feet away, staring at the guano on his arms with a calculating look in his eyes.

“You know,” he mused, “people would pay a lot of money for this stuff.”

“No,” the Big Guy told him. “We are not selling batshit from my attic. And we are never, ever telling anyone about this. No one. Not even Amy.”

“Especially not Amy,” the Bigger Guy agreed. “She’ll move out if she hears about this.”

“Just seems like sort of a gift from Mother Nature, you know?” my dad persisted. “Guano is worth a lot of money as fertilizer, and you’ve sure got a lot of it.”

“Batshit is not a gift, Dean,” the Big Guy said firmly.

He finally told me the whole story just before my father’s funeral a few years later. It was, he insisted, one of his favorite memories of Dad.

It made me feel good, too, in a way, because it made me realize that I’m luckier than my father  even though we both shared the same knack for being hit with bird poop. I may get nailed with wads of smelly, slimy, warm seagull shit every summer of my life, but I think I can say with all certainty that I will probably never share his experience of being buried under tons of guano.

Or, as I prefer to call it, nasty-ass, motherfucking batshit.

Whippoorwill

Hey, everybody!

As some of you know, I put together a bunch of my earliest funny blog posts in a book called Have a Goode One a few years ago.  It wasn’t a great title and I knew nothing about making a good book cover, and it basically sank to the bottom of Amazon’s rankings. The nineteen people who bought it seemed to enjoy it, though.

However, I’m still very proud of the material, so I decided to give it another chance. I’ve re-vamped it with a new title, a better cover, and a little bit of rearranging of the essays on the inside.

For those of you who already own this one, a hearty “thank you!” I’m working hard to convince Amazon to “push” the new version out to you, and I promise to keep you all updated on that. But I really want to make sure that you know this is not a new book. I don’t want to trick anyone into buying something they already own!

For the rest of you, Faster Than a Whippoorwill’s Ass is now available. It focuses mainly on parenting, marriage, and country life, with a few other topics thrown in just for snicks. It’s a little bit naughty in spots, and I freely admit to just a bit of profanity here and there, but it was an awful lot of fun to write. I hope you all have just as much fun reading it.

The new cover was designed by my friend and fellow author Margaret Brazear.

 

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Fairly

It’s National Poetry Month, and I have a confession to make: I am a poetry nerd.  There, I said it.

I wanted to talk about my favorite poem here to celebrate National Poetry Month, but I don’t think I can narrow it down to just one. After all, I quote “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” every morning when I make my coffee and tell myself that “I have measured out my life in coffee spoons.” I think of Ferlinghetti’s “Christ Climbed down” at Christmas every year. Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” springs to mind every time I lose a loved one, and I start reciting Sandburg’s “The Sins of Kalamazoo” every time I drive through my home town of Kalamzoo, Michigan.

But when I sat down to write this morning, one poem jumped into my mind. It’s one I first heard back in high school and has stayed with me all these years, although I don’t think I ever really understood it before now. It’s “Well, I Have Lost You” by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

You see, it’s been a year and a half since my husband and I split. We talk almost every day now; we are better friends than we ever were as a married couple. Friends and family don’t understand why we don’t hate each other, why our divorce hasn’t been more bitter and angry. I can’t put it into words, but good ol’ Edna did it for me.

Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly;
In my own way, and with my full consent.
Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely
Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.

In other words, no one “stole” him from me. I lost him fairly. No one destroyed our marriage. We did this to ourselves. We both allowed it to happen, and I think this past year has been all about both of us growing up and accepting the fact that we did our best. Our best just wasn’t good enough.

At the end of our marriage, he fell in love with another woman. I don’t blame her, and I don’t blame him. We were done long before she came into the picture. Yes, there have been tears and bad feelings and heartache on both sides, but there is no villain here.

The marriage died a natural death.

Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping
I will confess; but that’s permitted me

It hasn’t been easy for any of us, and that’s okay. It’s okay that we’ve cried and raged and said some awful, hurtful, wicked things to each other. And about each other. Like the poem says, “that’s permitted.” We are allowed to mourn the loss of our future together.

Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping
Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.

These lines remind me of another verse that was popular in the 1970’s: “if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it is yours; If it doesn’t, it never was.” It’s been credited to Richard Bach, Jess Lair, and even Sting, but perhaps Ms. Millay said it first and best.

Basically, they are just different ways of saying “I don’t want to keep someone who doesn’t want to be kept” or “I love you enough to let you go.”

Or even “I deserve better than someone who doesn’t want to be with me.”

It’s not about slamming doors or marching away in anger. It’s about quietly accepting the fact that the relationship is over and then simply letting go. No one is quitting or giving up; we’re just . . . releasing each other.

If I had loved you less or played you slyly
I might have held you for a summer more,
But at the cost of words I value highly,
And no such summer as the one before.

I could have played games. I could have been manipulative and controlling and begged him to stay. Or he could have begged me for one more try. We could have lied to each other and eventually hurt each other even more under the guise of “trying.”

I’m not saying that either one of us is terribly honorable or any kind of a saint. We’ve both gotten in our digs at each other, scored a couple of hits below the belt. I’ve had my days when I was the perfectly bitter and angry ex-wife, and I know there were days when he couldn’t stand the sight of me. At the same time, I know we’ve both wondered if we should have tried a little harder, made one last effort, given it one last shot.

We “might have held you for a summer more,” but our last summer together was miserable. We weren’t fighting, we were just . . . existing. Avoiding. I look back at my blog posts from that summer, and I see my own desperate efforts to convince the world and myself that we were blissfully happy. Meanwhile, we were running in place, scrambling for traction on an icy road, losing a little bit of ground every day.

Miserable. Lonely. So alone and yet always within arm’s reach.

Friends and family wonder why we don’t hate each other. They ask why we are still apart if we get along so well now. There are nudges and winks and sly looks from those around us, as if to say, “See? I knew you guys would get back together.”

And that, folks, is why the last line of this poem really speaks to me:

Should I outlive this anguish—and men do—
I shall have only good to say of you.

Anguish. Yup, that’s the word I’ve been looking for all this time. Anguish. It’s more than pain, more than regret, more than sadness. Anguish.  But we’re going to survive it – outlive it —  and go on because that’s what people do after a divorce.  We’ll never forget each other, or even really say good-bye, but we’re going to get through this.

And in time, I will have only good to say of him, and he will have only good to say of me. Not because we belong together or even entertain the hope of any kind of reconciliation, but because we once loved each other and thought we would be together forever. Because we’ve both felt that anguish and tried to heal.

Because . . . we lost each other fairly and with full consent.

Well, I Have Lost You by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Well, I have lost you; and I lost you fairly;
In my own way, and with my full consent.
Say what you will, kings in a tumbrel rarely
Went to their deaths more proud than this one went.
Some nights of apprehension and hot weeping
I will confess; but that’s permitted me;
Day dried my eyes; I was not one for keeping
Rubbed in a cage a wing that would be free.
If I had loved you less or played you slyly
I might have held you for a summer more,
But at the cost of words I value highly,
And no such summer as the one before.
Should I outlive this anguish—and men do—
I shall have only good to say of you.

I Do

Back in 1996, a friend issued an ultimatum when I was planning my wedding. “If you invite any of your little gay friends, don’t invite me,” she stated. “I don’t want to be around sinners.”

I met her through an adult Sunday School class, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. She, along with most of the people in that particular church, stood firm in the belief that homosexuality is wrong. Period. No questions, no discussion. In her mind, all gay people go to hell, no matter what.

Subject closed. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Game over.

It had been a sore subject between the two of us. I considered myself a good Christian, and I still do. I have friends who are gay, and some of them are good Christians as well. Some are Pagans; some are Atheist, and one is Jewish.   But those people all have two things in common: they are my friends, and they don’t need my approval of their sexual orientation.

I am proud to say that I told my church friend I was going to invite whoever the hell I wanted to my wedding, and it was up to her whether to show up or not.

She didn’t come to my wedding.

I am not a theologian. I am not prepared to sit down and discuss the words of the Bible and debate over which sins are worse than other sins. I don’t know. Maybe that makes me ignorant; maybe it makes me a blind fool to follow a religion without studying it in any great depth.

Gossip is a sin, but let me tell you which of my neighbors are heavy drinkers or are facing foreclosure.   Gluttony is a sin, but just watch what happens when I get my hands on a Toblerone. I can go straight to hell for taking the Lord’s name in vain, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never gotten through a twenty-four hour period without uttering at least one hearty “God damn it!”

But do I believe in Heaven? More to the point, do I believe I am going there when I die?

Absolutely.

I also believe in same-sex marriage. I believe that two people who love each other should be together.

Why is that such a big deal?

I’ve heard the arguments that same-sex marriage makes a mockery of the “sanctity of marriage.” That it devalues “normal” marriage in some way.   That marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman, and that is all.  No exceptions.

But when I look around at the “normal” marriages around me, I see more divorces than long-lasting unions. The majority of my friends and relatives refer to their first marriage or first husband; I was the Big Guy’s second wife, and he has already given a ring to his future third wife.   The “sanctity of marriage” doesn’t seem to keep straight people from lying or cheating on their spouses. Maybe I’m just bitter because of the collapse of my own marriage, but it seems as though everyone around me has a tale to tell of infidelity or hurt.

Sure, same-sex marriages often deal with the same issues. I am not suggesting that one is better than the other. But as far as making a mockery of marriage? That ship sailed a long time ago, and it had nothing to do with homosexuality. Or Christianity, for that matter.

Marriage is hard work. Gay or straight, young or old, Christian or not, an average of 50% of all marriages today are going to end in divorce. Fifty percent.

When I married my husband, I didn’t expect to become a middle-aged single mother. I didn’t expect us to stop communicating; I never thought he could fall in love with someone else and leave me behind. I thought we were going to be one of the successful marriages, and I had visions of our spending our sunset years together. I loved him, and he loved me, and we were both naïve enough to think that was going to be enough.

It wasn’t.

But we tried. We really tried. And it wasn’t all bad; if I had the chance to go back in time and do it again, I would. In a heartbeat. Even knowing how much it was going to hurt when we went our separate ways in eighteen years, I would do it all again because the good parts of our marriage outnumbered the bad ones.   I am glad I had the chance to be married to him.

Which is my roundabout way of saying that I believe everyone deserves a chance to try to make it work. If two people love each other and are strong enough to take that risk, to make that bet that they are going to be in the fifty percent of marriages that succeed, then why shouldn’t they have that opportunity?

One of my high school friends is going through a rough patch right now. Life keeps bitch-slapping her with one tragedy after another, one devastating loss after another. And through it all, my friend’s wife has been there for her. My friend and her wife are both strong, beautiful women who are raising a strong and beautiful daughter, and their love for each other will help them survive anything. There is not a doubt in my mind that they belong together.

How can anyone say their love is wrong?

I believe in God, but not a God who would doom these women to Hell. I believe God is just and kind, and that He gave us the capacity to love; I believe that the people who can’t see this are the ones who are truly doomed.

Love is just . . . love. You find it or you don’t.   Gay or straight, the luckiest people in the world are the ones who find it and keep it.

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Treading Water

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I don’t know how to do this.

For nearly eighteen years, I’ve been part of a team. We bought a house together, paid our bills together, made three babies together.  We shared holidays and we carpooled when the roads were bad.  We held hands and dried each other’s tears at funerals; we leaned on each other in tough times and laughed together in good times.

It’s time for both of us to sink or swim on our own.

It would be easier if I could hate him.  I want to hate him. I want to rage and shriek with fury.  I want to be Anne Bancroft in “How to Make an American Quilt”, hurling porcelain dolls at him and turning the broken shards into a lasting work of art so I can revisit my anger for years.

But I can’t hate him.  We never stopped loving each other.  We stopped liking each other.  We stopped talking.  We stopped being a couple.  We stopped telling the truth, and we stopped being in love.

I am making plans for a future without him:  I am trying to buy my own home, and I have a job interview next week.  We are being cordial—friendly, actually – and making decisions about who gets which car and how we’re going to share custody of the kids.  But in the end, I’m going to be alone.

I’m going to be a single mom.

I can’t call my mom for advice.   She’s been gone for almost thirty years.  I can read books on coping with divorce, and I can ask others for advice, but when it comes right down to it, I am going to be alone.    Sinking or swimming, all by myself.

It’s going to be all right.  I never sink, no matter how choppy the water gets.

In the past month, I have cried a lot.  Talked a lot.  Thought a lot.  Haven’t slept much.  Thrown up more than I care to admit.  But I’ve also talked to my husband – really talked, actually communicated on a level we haven’t reached in years.  I’ve seen a spark of the man I married, a hint of his old smile, and I remember why I fell in love with him.

And I’ve seen the old me, too.

I miss the sweet and funny guy that I married.  I miss the strong, independent person I used to be.  I miss our naiveté, and I am mourning the loss of everything that could have been.  Should have been, if only we had learned to communicate like this a long, long time ago.   As much as it hurts to admit, we can never be at our best as long as we are together.

The thing I miss the most is sleeping with him. I don’t mean having sex; I mean sleeping.  On our left side, a pair of spoons. His arm around my waist, our fingers twined together, his breath in my hair.  Even after all those years, even after the worst fights, we always slept like that.  Close together, drawing warmth from each other.  He was my cocoon. My security blanket.  My protector.

He took care of me when I broke my neck.  He cried with me when I lost my father.  And he held me in his arms the night we broke each other’s hearts and spoke the word aloud for the first time.

Divorce.

I don’t hate him.  But we are sinking together, and we both need to swim.

On our own.

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/12/04/prompt-sink-swim/

Girl vs. Squirrel

Growing up in a suburb of Kalamazoo, Michigan, the only wildlife I had to deal with was the rowdy family that lived on the curve at the end of our street.  We had two mice in our home in my entire childhood, and our cat was more afraid of them than we were.  After I moved away, I heard stories of coyotes encroaching on Lexington Avenue, but I found it a pretty big stretch to believe that coyotes only managed to run off with the most disliked of family pets.

When I married The Big Guy and moved to the country, I understood that we were going to have to deal with the occasional mouse.  We would probably have a few raccoons in the yard, he told me.  Maybe a possum or two.   Wild turkeys roaming free across our driveway.  I think I handled it all with aplomb, although the hubcap-size snapping turtle at the back door left me fairly rattled for a few days.

Squirrels in my kitchen were an entirely different matter.  Okay, I used to think squirrels were adorable little critters;   now, however, I realize that a squirrel is just a rat with delusions of grandeur.

The first one showed up on a muggy summer night when The Big Guy was working late.  I heard a noise in the kitchen and watched my beagle go into High Alert – she shot out of the room with her tail between her legs and hid behind me as though pursued by a two-ton monster.  I tiptoed toward the kitchen and flicked the light switch, expecting Godzilla but seeing what looked like an oversized mouse with a pretty tail.

It sat on my table and blinked at me in an offended sort of way.  I had an absurd urge to apologize for disturbing it.  Then reality set in.  There was a wild animal in my home, it was late at night, and I was wearing only the skimpiest of summer nighties that left lots and lots of exposed skin for Merle the Squirrel to nibble.  I imagined all kinds of dreaded squirrel diseases ravaging my body.

My first impulse was to leave the house, get into my car and drive to my big sister’s house in Kalamazoo.  But that involved crossing the back yard in the dark, and I was more afraid of the possible raccoons and possums than of the squirrel.

The Big Guy’s hunting boots were beside the door.  I stepped into them to protect my bare toes and grabbed the hockey stick that he always left behind the door.  I grabbed it because it had a long handle, and the only other long-handled item I could think of was the broom that was in the room with the squirrel.  I also grabbed Zeke the cat, who gave me an annoyed prrrrt at being awakened.

Armed with a cat and a hockey stick, I went back to my kitchen with some vague idea of tossing Zeke into the arena and using the hockey stick to defend myself if he failed me.  Zeke, unfortunately, wasn’t fully on board with that plan.

“Get ‘im,” I urged, aiming him at the intruder.  He yowled, twisted in mid-air, and promptly climbed my body like a human scratching post.   The squirrel vanished under the china cabinet.

It was at that moment that The Big Guy made his appearance.  He didn’t say a word as his eyes swept up and down my body, taking in the barely-there nightie, hunting boots and hockey stick.  I watched the smile spread slowly across his face as he carefully set down his lunchbox and hung his keys on the hook.  His voice was husky when he spoke.

“Aw, Honey,” he rasped.  “You dressed up for me?”

By the time I convinced him that I was dressed for self defense and not some weird sexual role-playing, the dog had gathered her courage and was barking and scratching at the china cabinet.   “Don’t let it get away,”  The Big Guy ordered.  He hustled into his office.  I expected him to return with a net or a trap or something reasonable.  Something that a normal person might use to combat a squirrel invasion.

The gun was unexpected.

I had no way of knowing that it fired BBs, not actual bullets.  All I knew was that my previously sane husband was standing in the kitchen doorway with what looked like a hunting rifle.  It made an ominous ssschk-sschuck sound as he pumped up the air pressure.

“In the kitchen?”  I demanded.  “Really?”

“Like you were doing better with the hockey stick?”

The BBs started pinging off the walls.  I prayed for my Grandmother’s Depression Glass in the china cabinet and then started praying for myself as a crazed look came into The Big Guy’s eyes.  It was like Buck Fever had settled in over a two-pound rodent.  I eyed the keys on the hook and wondered what scared me more:  the squirrel, the possible raccoons between me and the car, or The Big Guy.

Then it was over.  He used the dustpan to take the corpse outside and then came back in with an entirely different kind of craziness in his eyes.  He pried the hockey stick out of my grasp and pulled me close.  “The outfit is still working for me,” he whispered.

Apparently, squirrels aren’t the only ones with delusions.