Many years ago, as in about 45 years ago, my Mothah gave my father a Valentine. It was a pair of red, nylon boxer shorts. It was a joke. He never even had them on his body-not even once-because I, the one year old, snagged them and held on to them, well, for the better part of the next 45 years! I liked the way the nylon felt on my face when it got cold. If I set Britch (as in short for britches) to the side in my bed, I could grab him a few minutes later, and he felt so good to hold on to! Unfortunately, Britch’s friend, Nightie, did not make it. Nightie was one of Mothah’s hot pink, nylon nightgown’s that I also commandeered and took for my own. Sometimes, I would actually wear Britch and just carry Nightie around. Nightie disintegrated years and years ago-from so much love. I think she must have been made from nylon not as durable as Britch…because Britch lives! The other night, The Baby got into my bed because his Daddy was at a meeting. He had his Bunny and Penguin with him, and those are their names: Bunny and Penguin. They are (as if you wondered) a Bunny and a Penguin. Why complicate things? I think The Baby is very practical. Mini Me’s first teddy bear from Build-A-Bear was named Jim. Try to explain that one. Any way, we were chatting before going to sleep and I told The Baby all about Britch and Nightie. He stared at me with his eyes wide. You mean you actually slept with your father’s, um, I mean Poppy’s, underwear??? The Baby said to me. I chuckled. If you put it that way, I suppose it does sound a little…well….let’s just say strange and leave it at that. YES! I told him, and guess what? I still have him! The Baby’s eyes got wider as I jumped out of the bed. I only had to look in 3 drawers before I found Britch. See, I always know where Britch is. Just like The Middle Child always knows where Bippo is. Just like The Baby always knows where Bunny and Penguin are! I held him up for The Baby to look at. He was mystified. How, in God’s name, could his mother still have her security blanket? And furthermore, why in the hell was it a pair of nylon boxer shorts that are now unrecognizable as such? In fact, the only evidence at all that Britch was, at one time, britches of any sort, is the tag that says “Size 32”. I showed The Baby Britch’s paint stain. I got Britch in some wet, white paint at some point. It’s still there. Anyway, we finally went to sleep. The next day, I got up and made up the bed. That night, we got to go to see the Atlanta Braves play at their new stadium. We got home at midnight. I was in the bathroom, brushing my teeth, when I heard JC (who never turns down our bed) yell out: OH MY GOD! Is that BRITCH? I spit on the mirror-from laughing. I walked into our room and he was looking at me, eyebrows raised. YES, HELL, IT IS BRITCH! I said, WHAT OF IT? I snapped a quick pic of Britch in our bed. He was still looking at me. That is seriously fucked up, he said. It is not! I said, and explained the whole thing. Then, not really caring what he thought about it, I got into the bed and turned out my light. Whatever, I said, and I went to sleep with Britch in my clutches.
I will never forget it. It was Tuesday night, November 8, 2016. Election Day, of all days. We were in my family room. Mothah was on the small couch. JC was on the big couch. I was in my chair. The Baby was sitting between me and JC, on the arm of the big couch, belting out songs from Hamilton, nearly at the top of his little lungs. JC was on his laptop, trying to figure out Mothah’s Hilton Honors account, as she had no recollection of even opening that account or filling out any information regarding Hilton or Honors of any kind, yet there was a Hilton Honors account- in her name– associated with our upcoming reservation at the Midtown Manhattan Hilton. Go figure. We needed that damn number, or we were going to be sans internet for three whole days. I was on my laptop, trying to escape the chaos-at least in my mind. The Election was on the television. This was a lot going on, if I even need to point that out. I was trying like hell to block out the noise of The Baby’s singing and the television, when Mothah said, “Jennifah, I need to talk with you about my Advance Directive.” I looked up, over my glasses and across the room. “WHAT?” I said. “I want to talk to you about my Advance Directive,” Mothah said again. “RIGHT NOW?” I said, having to raising my voice over my little Daveed Diggs, who was mid- What’d I Miss? in my right ear. “Jennifah, it’s nevah a good time, so I figure that now is just as good a time as any”, she said. I had to admit that she had a good point. Lately, it seemed I had had zero time to talk to anyone but myself, and when, was it, really, a good time to talk about anyone’s Advance Directive??? I told The Baby to hush the Hamilton for a few, and turned down the television. Mothah began: Alright. I have finished my Advance Directive. This is in case I evah have to be on life support or any decisions regarding my life have to be made without my input-all of the directions are in my Advance Directive. It’s all taken care of and you don’t need to worry about a thing, Jennifah. “Okay,” I said, wondering if I was supposed to feel some relief at this declaration. I need to tell you something about it-something that is in the Advance Directive, Mothah went on. She had my complete attention. If, at any time, you and youah (your) brothah cannot agree on ‘when to pull the plug’ , “MOTHER!,” I interrupted, as The Baby was listening, wide-eyed and completely enrapt in the conversation. No, Jennifah, it’s fine if he hears this! she said. I backed down, simply because I still do what she tells me to (most of the time) and she continued: If there comes a time when you and Eli (my brother) cannot agree to ‘pull the plug’, you are to play Rochambeau until one of “WHAT?!” I practically yelled, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? ROCHAMBEAU?!” YES, JENNIFAH, ROCHAMBEAU!! she yelled back at me. Now, let me just tell you, in case you do not know, because I have found that many do not know, that Rochambeau is another name for ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’. (Now, I am not going to go into the many theories of why this is, because there are too many, and, well, the truth is that nobody really knows why. If you are interested in learning about some of the theories, then Google it. It’s a very interesting read if you have nothing better to do! ) I had this sudden mental image of Eli and myself…standing at Mothah’s hospital bedside, where she would be all hooked up to monitors, and with tubes coming out and going in everywhere, her hair looking like Kramer on Seinfeld….and the two of us playing ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ to see who would get to decide when to ‘pull the plug’. I started laughing. Surely she was not serious! But she was serious. Dead Serious (pun intended) LOL. I MEAN IT, JENNIFAH! IT’S IN THE PAPAH’S! AND IT HAS BEEN NOTORIZED! Mothah said. Oh Lord. That meant somebody outside of our extended family had actually witnessed this! Mothah had more to say about it: Now, Jennifah, I came to this decision because I realized that if I was on life suppoht, that Eli might be ready to ‘pull the plug’ aftah, say, seven days, but then you would want to give me a few m0re weeks, and y’all would get into a fight. Rochambeau will keep you from fighting with each othah. You have to do it, Jennifah, because it is in my Advance Directive. “Okay”, I said, “We will. Can we stop this now?” Yes, Mothah said, laughing. She knows I hate talking about the mere possibility of her not being immortal. The Baby started up another Hamilton song and JC turned the tv volume back up. He had managed to locate Mothah’s Hilton Honors account, somehow. I sat in my chair, realizing yet again, that I have bat-shit-crazy blood running through my veins, and thinking that perhaps (in 25 years or so) I should start honing my ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ skills….. Seriously, people. I could not make this shit up if I tried.
A few weeks ago, my fellow Hamilton-obsessed friend told me about Daveed Diggs’ band, Clipping, coming to The Earl on November 2. Tickets were $12. I immediately bought two online. It was on a Wednesday night. I would have to go to work the next day, but I figured what the hell? It was Daveed! I’d missed him in Hamilton. He hadn’t left the show yet on July 6, when The Middle Child and I saw it, but he was not performing that day. THIS, I decided, THIS, was my chance to see Daveed Diggs. JC has taken Mini Me to many concerts-often waiting behind the venue with other fans for an autograph or a photo. I figured we could just do the same thing for moi…
There were three bands playing on November 2, and the order in which they were going to play got changed around a time or two. When I found out that Clipping was not going on until 11:00 pm, yes, I said, PM, I thought I might have to pass on Daveed. I sat in my chair at work and thought about how late 11:00 PM was, and how tired I was going to be the next day, and how early I like to go to bed. Who, exactly, was I trying to kid, here? I was never gonna make it. I realized that I had not left the house to go to an event that started that late since, well, perhaps…1994?! Here was the quandary: either I man up and stay up and maybe meet Daveed Diggs, OR I wuss out and be my normal, boring self and stay at home and go to bed by 10:00. Which would it be? It wasn’t that hard of a decision-for someone who flew to NYC and slept on the damn sidewalk for 2.5 days to see Hamilton?! Of course I manned the hell up. I could not, for the life of me, figure out what to wear to The Earl. I had never been there before. JC said not to wear any good shoes-it was like a fraternity house. Oh Lort! He said I should expect tattoos and nose rings and such. Tattoos? I said to him. I have five of those! I’d fit right in! I finally settled on this cute little black dress that I bought at J.Crew in Chicago. I know you are already laughing. I paired it with my leopard print cardigan. It is still hot here in Atlanta, but I wore my flat, tall, black biker boots that zip up the back. My purse has a studded strap, so I thought with that and the couple of tattoos that would be visible, I might sort of fit in-maybe. (No. Nada. Nein. Never. Not even a little bit)The Shankman’s picked us up about 8:30. I was already yawning. When we walked into The Earl, I gasped. As in for my life. JC told me it was an all smoking place-one of the few left here. I had told myself I could handle it. No asthmatic can handle it. In fact, only heavy smokers could truly handle that. Thank God I remembered my inhaler. The front part of The Earl is a restaurant and bar, and we were going to eat first, so we were seated at a booth. We seemed to be the only table having to use the iPhone flashlight to read the menu. Lauren was sitting across from me and Scott, across from JC. About 5 minutes into it, Daveed walks out into the bar. OMG. We were dying. Just me and Lauren, of course. Scott and JC were trying to talk to us and we were totally not even paying them any attention. We decided that we would not bother Daveed while he was so obviously trying to order food. I did get JC to snap a pic of him from the back. LOL. (He is standing at the bar and has on red Chuck Taylor’s) Youth Code was playing before Clipping. We decided to go in and see what they were all about. That lasted about 3 minutes. I could feel my heart beating outside of my body. We went back into the restaurant part of The Earl to wait for Clipping. The last game of the World Series was on in the bar, so that was enough entertainment for us old people. Finally, 11:00 rolled around, and it was time! I am 46 years old. My brother was a devout listener of RunDMC and Eazy-E, Boyz-N-The-Hood, NWA, all the old school Rap–or what I consider old school Rap. I saw Straight Outta Compton and it made me cry. I like to think that I know what Rap is. I knew that Clipping was Rap; HOWEVER, and this is a great, big, GIANT, however: I did not bother to check it out beforehand. Nope. Did not even listen to a single song. Not a one. So, there we all are, and there is a huge screen with nothing but static playing on it on the stage, and Daveed Diggs comes out and everyone starts screaming, and he says, “Yo! ATL, What the fuck is UP?!” and I thought to myself, this is SO not Hamilton! Right after I had that thought, I felt incredibly guilty for having it. I know Daveed Diggs does not want to be identified as “that guy from Hamilton” for the rest of his life. He was not at The Earl to perform selections from Hamilton. I knew it wasn’t going to be Hamilton. I don’t know exactly what I expected, since I never bothered to check it out before we got there!!! The show starts, and it is Rap, but it is a very eclectic style of Rap-almost as if he is rapping, well, clippings of news reels? During the first song, I did not know if I could make it for an hour. By the third song, I was developing an ear for it. By the time we got to Shooter, I was in love. Daveed would say “Shooter” into the mic and we would whisper it back to him: shooter… Just imagine me, in my little J.Crew dress, with my left hand up in the air, moving to this:
Cause he got guns and that shit gon’ bang>Yeah, the shooter brought guns and the shit go bang, hands up>Got guns in this bitch, go bang>Motherfucker better run when this shit go
This my favorite Clipping song. It is awesome. At one point, I had to go to the restroom, but I really did not want to, for fear that I might miss something. I heard a bunch of screaming, DAMN IT. I knew it! When I came out, Daveed had taken his shirt off!! Look, people, for women my age, that is hot entertainment. At one point, he came down into the audience and I was one person away and I thought to myself that I could reach out and touch him. Of course, I did not do it, as that would have been completely inappropriate. He had his shirt on again by then anyway. When he was out in the audience, people kept taking pictures of him with their flashes on! I could not believe it! They were practically blinding the poor man. The girl standing next to me did it three or four times. I really wanted to reach over and knock her phone out of her hand. I think it would have been really easy to do because she looked pretty drunk. Her big doofus husband or boyfriend had broken in front of me and was blocking my view. I took the high road and decided that they were going to feel shitty enough the next morning.
These guys are what I call intellectual rappers. Clipping is made up of William Hutson (Rale), Jonathan Snipes (Captain Ahab) , and Daveed Diggs. If the information I found online is correct, Hutson and Snipes both attended UCLA and Diggs went to Brown. Snipes is a stage sound designer. Hutson has a PhD in Theater and Performance Studies. Daveed Diggs has recently been on “Black-ish”, in addition to his Tony winning year long run as Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette in Hamilton. Clipping’s songs are about real life, but in a way that I have never heard lyrics written before. It’s artsy and beautiful. I know you are looking at the refrain I wrote out for you above and thinking to yourself, “yeah, right, I don’t see anything artsy and beautiful about that”. I gave you that particular section so that you could imagine me in my little outfit, at that particular show. There is a difference! How about this:
Got a towel on his face, mophead>Gettin’ money in the desert, hot bread>Wish he had a way home, bread crumbs>Drink himself into a coma, red rum>Soldier’s eyes playin’ tricks, sandwich>Need to get more info, bandwith>Bunch of signs there to read, pamphlets>But that was not to be, Hamlet…..
Same song. I’m telling you, I really think Clipping is great. When it was over, JC and Scott went back into the bar of The Earl to catch some more of the ball game, since it was into extra innings. Lauren and I waited to see if Daveed was going to come out to greet his stalker fans. We were trying to play it cool-you know-as if we look like we hang out regularly at The Earl. After about 10 minutes, right when we were going to call it a night, he walked out! A line immediately formed and he was giving autographs and taking pictures. Scott and JC came back in with our Clipping LP’s we had bought earlier. I had Sharpie’s in my purse. I know to always come prepared to a show. Hell, I had tried to bring both of our Hamiltome’s, but changed my mind at the last minute. Those things are huge. Plus, The Middle Child said, “Mom, do you really want to be the creepy lady with the Hamilton tattoo and two Hamiltome’s in her purse?” The answer was HELL NO, I DID NOT. When it was my turn, I had my phone ready. I showed Daveed the picture of The Baby, dressed as him for Halloween. He cracked up and asked me if I had to make all of that. I got to tell him about me and The Middle Child going to NYC and sleeping on the sidewalk. He could not believe it. Then, after we had our photo made, I showed him my pièce de résistance….my tattoo. He emphatically exclaimed that I was: hardcore! We both laughed and I thanked him and told him how wonderful he was and is and then our little group walked back into the bar of The Earl, where we watched the ball game for another 15 minutes. On the way to the car, Lauren and I happened to glance to our right and there was Daveed and the band-loading their van. We stood there, watching them load music equipment …until JC and Scott brought us back to reality with their arm waving and yelling at us to come on-they were several hundred feet ahead of us. At the same time, we heard cheering coming from both sides of the street. The Cubs had just won the Series. We went into the closest open bar to watch the excitement on screen. We got home about 1:15am. I bolted upright when my alarm went off at 5:00am, petrified I would be late to work-knowing everyone would know where I had been, as it was chronicled on Facebook. I made it through the work day, counting the minutes until I could go home. I still felt as though I was breathing in the smoky air of The Earl. I have been sober for 14 years, so I was not hungover from drinking–only from lack of sleep and an over rush of adrenaline, which will still put a hurtin’ on me. Several times, throughout the day, I had asked myself the question: was it worth it? The answer then, and now, remains the same: HELL YES! and I would do it again! I will always remember what I was doing the night the Chicago Cubs won the World Series after 108 years: I had just met Daveed Diggs, but was actually standing in an alley watching him load his van- just like a stalker. Go figure.
Preface: I am well aware that this is entirely too long 😉 I actually cut some of it out and left the best parts, so just be thankful for that.
Sunday was a week since we moved Mini Me to college. I think I have tried to write this story a hundred times. I feel like I am missing a limb. The first time I cooked dinner and went to set the table, I realized that I only needed to set four places, and the knife, that was plunged into my heart last weekend, twisted again. It was not that Mini Me has eaten every single meal with us all of his life, it was that that time was different. It seemed more permanent. Like for real. I am going to tell you about taking Mini Me to Belmont last weekend, and it is not like the beautiful, sweet stories people have been sending me on Facebook. Please don’t misunderstand me–I appreciate all of the well wishes and kind words and thoughts, more than anyone knows. It helps to know that people are thinking of me. But….I really need to tell you that most of those stories are exactly that: Stories. And that is just a nice way of me calling a real loud and clear ‘BULLSHIT’. I am here to tell you the truth.
I have gone back to work, after an 8.5 year leave. This has not proven to be the easiest task on the planet, but despite my best efforts, I am actually enjoying the hell out of it. This job thing does get in the way of a lot of my would-be normal, day to day activities. I could not just randomly gather all of the shit that Mini Me needed, whenever I felt like it, on my random, every other day trips to Target. Those no longer exist. I also could not just give Mini Me my debit card and say, here ya’ go, sonny! Go get whatever you think you might need! I never have the energy to go to Target after dinner, and somehow, the weekends preceding his departure had been filled with other things, sooooo the morning of the day we left, I ran to Target to do some last-minute-Mini-Me shopping.
My list was relatively short. I ended up with two shopping carts and a grand total of just under $400. It took me over an hour and a half because I kept getting text messages from all three children. Most of these were unnecessary. I do not need a text message response of “NP” or “OK” or “THX” or “It would be really cool if you would bring home Starbucks”. This only makes my shopping trip longer, with me having to dig for my phone in my black hole of a purse. If the important points of our textversation are over, then, for the love of God, just leave it alone. When I got home, I backed the car into the carport so that I could unload all of the shit I had just bought, only to take it inside the house, repack it and then reload it into the same car. Mini Me and I had decided to try to pack the car before JC got home. We knew that if we had the car half loaded when he got there, he would make us unload it and he would start over. JC likes to load the car. In his defense, he is a good car-loader. BUT….we had a LOT of stuff to load and we knew, from many previous packing experiences, that JC would require one or more of us to bring all of the shit out to the car, and stay out there and watch while he thought about what would be loaded and when. Then, if he changed his mind and thought of a better plan, he would make us help unload it and start over. This may happen multiple times before he got it right. This sort of perfectionism drives me insane, and I refuse to take part in it. Mini Me and I started haulin’ ass. We actually got most of it done before JC got home. Since all 5 of us were going to Nashville, it was decided that Mini Me and JC would ride in the other car, and I would drive The Middle Child and The Baby in the minivan, that was packed so full that I could not see out of the rear view mirror. We were getting ready to walk out the door and JC and Mini Me and I were in the kitchen alone. I burst into tears, realizing that this was it. This was the last time we would be here, in our house, like this. Mini Me grabbed me and hugged me hard.
We hit Atlanta rush hour and Chattanooga rush hour, which was par for the course. Somewhere beyond Adairsville, Georgia, when I had started to make up some time, I came upon a Scion, riding leisurely in the left hand lane. Left lane riders really piss me off. Also, about this time, The Middle Child and The Baby were starting to bitch at each other. Unable to pass on the right, my road rage took over, and I rode the Scion’s bumper for about 10 minutes. When I could finally pass on the right, I happened to glance over at Scion, to give a scowl, and saw a Native American woman shooting me a bird….her giant dream catcher dangling from her rear view mirror. I thought to myself that there was seriously something wrong with that picture. Bitch. I blew her doors off and traveled onward. The Middle Child and The Baby and I were having a lot of fun between fights. We were listening to the only thing we listen to, ever: The Hamilton Soundtrack. We tested ourselves and we made it almost 1 hour without listening to it. We then decided that there was simply nothing better to listen to, so we just turned it back on and never considered listening to anything else again. I now have to make sure that I remind The Baby, each and every morning, before he gets out of the car at school, that he may under no circumstances be caught singing under his breath (or at the top of his lungs) any of the following lyrics: How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore….; ….he’s been kicking ass as the ambassador to France; …..Sittin’ there, useless as two shits, hey, turn around, bend over, I’ll show you where my shoe fits!; or the ever so great: Southern Mother Fuckin’ Democratic Republicans, OH! I am seriously just waiting on the school to call me. Two out of three of my children sing incessantly. I think they don’t even know they do it about 95% of the time. I’m telling you….the call is coming. “Broadway Musical Soundtrack” had best be enough to get us both off the shit list. Anyway, we found ourselves to be a little hungry, and were overjoyed to realize that the bag of Mini Me’s snack foods was, indeed, in the minivan, and also easily accessible! The 3 of us put back an entire big bag of Boom Chicka Pop kettle corn in less than 30 minutes. With traffic and rain, it took us 5 full hours to get to Nashville. And guess what? We arrived in the nick of time for JC and Mini Me to get to the Butch Walker concert. Imagine that! So guess what else? The Middle Child, The Baby, and I ordered room service for dinner. Imagine that!
We had to be at Belmont the next morning at a specified time. I can no longer remember what that specified time was, but sure as hell, we were running late. I was the last one to get ready, so everyone just left me in the room and told me they would see me in the car as they ran out of the door. I told them if they left me, I’d kill every damn one of them. We managed to pull up within 5 or so minutes of our designated time frame. There was a team of students, all dressed in Belmont shirts, waiting to greet us at the front door of Kennedy Hall. They immediately asked for our student’s name, which we provided, not realizing, that when we opened all of the doors of the minivan, the team of Belmont students would start cheering his name and clapping for him. The most fun thing to watch was the Belmont students unloading my car! Within 5-7 minutes, my entire Honda Odyssey had been completely emptied, and the only thing I’d carried was the Ryan Adams Boxed Vinyl Set. Things got a little testy in the dorm room, what with all 5 of us in there, trying to help unpack and give helpful decorating and organizing tips of how we would do it. Eventually, 4 of us were banished to the lobby for 15 minutes so that Mini Me could collect himself, because he was on the verge of cussing us all out. It had already become abundantly clear that my little ‘last minute’ jaunt to Target just hadn’t cut the mustard, and we would be making another trip after lunch at Edley’s. I really thought that if we could just raise our blood sugar a tad, we would all be much better off. Oh, how wrong I was. All 5 of us fought our way through Target. To be fair, Target had about 2500 customers, and all of us seemed to be in the same general vicinity: lamps, rugs, towels, white boards, printers, food, school supplies, household goods….basically the entire store. It was a clusterfuck of such gigantic proportions, that I thought I might have a panic attack at any moment. Those times make me really bitchy and snappish. JC said we should have gone to Wal-Mart. He was right. And, damn it, I cannot think of any time I have ever made the statement that ‘we should have gone to Wal-Mart’. It really pissed me off that he said it because I felt like he was blaming me for us being in Target! I said You were driving the damn car! Why didn’t you just drive us to the damn Wal-Mart if you wanted to go there so bad? Huh? He said because you said go to Target. And I said, well, I’d a heap rather go to a Target any damn day before a damn Wal-Mart! ( knowing, as the words were coming out of my mouth, that at that moment, I probably looked as though I belonged at a Wal-Mart) And The Middle Child was all like PARENTS! STOP IT! So, we did. We had only about $179.87 worth of shit in the shopping cart, so we just checked on out of Target and guess where we went to get the last 3-5 items on the list? YOU GOT IT! Wal-Mart. It was nice to shop for those 3-5 things in a less clustered atmosphere, I do have to admit. By the end of that shopping extravaganza, most of us were just plain done. I dropped JC and Mini Me off at the dorm and I took The Middle Child and The Baby back to the Hilton. We ended up ordering pizza and watching some completely inappropriate crime show-Dateline or something-before calling it a night. JC ubered back to the hotel, and Mini Me was spending the night in his dorm, but we would spend the day with him the next day.
The next day, we ate lunch at Edley’s. I know I said we did that the day before. We did do it the day before. And we did it again. We really like Edley’s. So what? Then, we went and picked up this red, microfiber futon we found on Craigslist, for the dorm room. It was brand new, in the box. It was really awesome. What was not really awesome was that when we got in the car to leave, all the doors to the van had been open while we were loading the damn thing, and the van was now full of baby yellow jackets. Like we were parked on a yellow jacket nest or something….Nobody got stung, and it only took us about 5 minutes of riding with all the windows down and the sunroof open and screaming to get them all out. In fact, I am quite sure that the screaming was the main factor that contributed to getting them out. Fun times, I am talking about, People, fun times. We went to Carter Vintage Guitar. It is one of our Nashville Rituals. Mini Me loves to go in there and play guitars. I decided to sit in the car with The Baby, who was screaming about how much he hates Carter Vintage Guitar, and how boring it is to go in there, and how much he did not want to go in there, and why were we making him do such an awful, miserable thing like going into Carter Vintage Guitar when he so really, really did not want to go? I damn sure did not want to go into Carter Vintage Guitar and have to listen to that whiny bullshit. I’d just assume sit and listen to it in the comfort of the van. We also had promised The Baby that we would take him to Third Man Records-another one of our Nashville rituals. The longer we sat in the car, the later it got, and the whinier The Baby got. OH MY GOD! When are they gonna come out? This is awful. I can’t stand this. Please go get them. Please make them leave. Can’t we just leave them here….I told you I did not want to come to Carter Vintage Guitar!!!! As you can imagine, I really wanted to bitch slap The Baby, but he had a point. I looked at the clock on my phone and was shocked to see that it was almost 5:00pm, Nashville time. That meant it was almost 6:00pm, Atlanta time. I had to work the next day. The kids had school. We had to get this show on the road. I started texting The Middle Child, and JC. They came out a few minutes later. Mini Me jumped into the front seat and slammed the door like he might break the damn thing off it’s hinges. He then went off on a tirade about some guitar that was apparently like the Holy Grail of guitars. He was really pissed off. I finally pieced together what had happened. He was enjoying playing guitars, and then JC handed him this fancy schmancy one to play, and it was like the bomb. Like a $7-8000.00 bomb, which is really not all that big of a bomb in the world of guitars. He was thoroughly pissed off that JC would actually hand him a guitar to play that we had no intentions of buying. Now, this whole situation was ridiculous. Mini Me has gone in Carter Vintage and Gruhn’s and played instruments that cost a whole lot more than this guitar I am telling you about, and he has known every time that nobody was buying a damn thing, unless it was a time when we were looking to buy a damn thing. He knew this particular day, that nobody was buying a damn thing. But he went off like the spawn of satan. He said some things that I am not going to repeat–mostly because I think he regretted them the instant they came out of his mouth, the second time he said them, since he said them more than once 😉 I sat there and thought to myself that just maybe, this whole leaving him here at college, 4 hours away from home, was not going to be as hard as I had imagined…little fucker. In fact, I thought we might just ought to leave his ass right there, in the parking lot of Carter Vintage Guitar and let him walk his ass back to his dorm! We went to Third Man Records and JC sat in the car. His feelings were hurt by the awful things that had come out of the spawn of satan’s mouth. Usually, all of us are pretty quick to apologize when we have done something we know is wrong. That apology we were waiting on did not come until we were headed back to the dorm a little while later, but when it came, it was very sincere. I had heard about this ‘spawn of satan’ behavior. It is apparently a quite common defense mechanism…..I had hoped we would be able to avoid it, but I should have seen it coming a mile away. After we unloaded the futon and put it together, we asked Mini Me to come outside to tell us goodbye.
I really thought I was going to be fine. I really did. I did not feel the least bit weepy. Then, I turned around and saw Mini Me hug The Middle Child, and I heard an audible sob come from her, and that–that was all she wrote.
I sobbed most of the way home, but managed to belt out a few Hamilton songs with The Middle Child in between breakdowns. I called Mothah and Daddy. JC had The Baby with him in the other car. I think he knew that after our stint in the van at Carter Vintage Guitar, The Baby and I needed a small break from each other. When we pulled into our driveway, I felt this surge of sadness come over me because we had actually come home without Mini Me. He really was not here. I went straight to his room and the tears just kept falling. It seemed so empty without him. I grabbed the gray blanket off his bed and carried it with me (I have slept with it every night since). I went into the playroom and looked at the side that was and is his side–the music side. There were still a few guitars hanging on the wall, and of course the piano is there, but the cables and mic’s and amp’s-all that stuff is gone. And my Mini Me is not there. Elvis has left the building.
I have been a cynic since the fifth grade. In my opinion, I’m lucky I made it that far. I can pinpoint the exact moment that my life changed for the worse. It was going so well. We lived in a nice neighborhood. We had a pool at our house. We had a sauna in our house. We had a bidet in our house. We moved into this house in 1978, people. Mothah, who is like 5 ft. 2 (if that) , drove a Cadillac. Granted, it did look like a pimp mobile. It was navy blue with some glitter in the paint and it was a two door. It was loooong. I think it may have been called a sedan-de-ville. It had crackled white leather seats and a white leather top and wire wheels. Can’t you just hear some Curtis Mayfield playing in the background as you are reading? Superfly…. I know you are laughing your asses off, just imagining this. When my brother or I would get out of the car, the doors were so heavy, we could not hold onto them and they would go flying off onto the sidewalk and get stuck, making this awful scraping sound. ( I am laughing my ass off just typing this) We could lay in the back window, on the speaker area- and we loved to do that. I think Eli and I could lay up there at the same time-one of our head’s at each end. Seat belts existed back then, but of course were not a requirement. Daddy had an orange Corvette. God, that thing was U-G-L-Y-it-didn’t-have-no-alibi-it was UGLY, but baby, we were stylin’ and profilin’. I walked to school or rode my bike, and guess what? The school was not in sight from my house. In fact, it was about a mile away. I don’t remember anything sinister ever happening. Imagine that. Well….except for the time that I cut through a yard I was not supposed to cut through, and these people’s dog bit me on the butt. Mothah said, “Well, Jennifah, you shouldn’t have cut through their yahd.” Imagine that. We used to roller skate up and down the hill in front of my house in boot skates with metal wheels. I can remember saving up my babysitting money (.50 an hour) to buy the skates. They were $12.99. Skating down that hill is how I broke my wrist. We played in the creek behind my house. We played “Cowboys and Indians” and none of us had ever heard the phrase politically correct before. We played with all different kinds of toy weapons-guns, knives, bows and arrows. We loved cap guns too-those were lots of fun! None of it was never deemed inappropriate. We ran in a pack of neighborhood kids-after school and in the summer. It was just the way it was. Life was carefree and fun-until the fifth grade. I almost hit a snag before the fifth grade , when a friend of mine told me about the horrors of sex. I think that was around the third or fourth grade. I was certain she was wrong about all of that. That was such vile and disgusting information– I had to go to Mothah and ask-just to make sure that something so nasty was not in my future. I was instantly sorry I had opened that can of worms. It resulted in my having to watch NOVA’s The Miracle of Life video and then having a Q and A session with Mothah afterwards, that was mostly silent. NOVA had explained it all very well. The only real question I had was, “How could I get out of doing it ?” and I don’t recall asking Mothah that. I could forget about sex, I decided. I just put that nasty junk out of my mind, as it was a long way off for me. Sex was nothing compared to the complete and utter devastation that came in fifth grade, when this same friend, who shall remain nameless, as we are still friends today, informed me that indeed, there was no Santa. I assured her that this time, she was dead up wrong and how dare she take the name of Santa in vain like that? She started laughing and asked me how I could actually believe that a fat man in a red suit traveled in a sleigh, with reindeer, to every house on earth, in one night, delivering gifts to every child? I thought about that for a moment and had to admit that the idea was a bit ludicrous….yet I went back to defending the great name of Santa….When I got home from school, I went to Mothah, hoping like hell she was going to tell me that of course, my friend had it all wrong, Santa was totally real! He was magic! Magic was real! Yet, to my disappointment, that is not what happened. She told me a beautiful story about how Santa is love. Santa is how your parents show their love for you at Christmas time. I can’t remember now exactly how she said it, but it was beautiful and we both cried. I looked at her, sobbing, and I said, “Well, I guess this means that there is no Easter Bunny and no Tooth Fairy either?” and she nodded her head. And that was it. Fuckety fuck me. Life, as I knew it, was over. And things have never been the same again, and they never will be. I will say that things improved, somewhat, when I had children of my own, and could do the whole Santa-Easter Bunny-Tooth Fairy-thing myself, but, it’s still not the same as it was . It will never be the same as it was. Damn it.
It was a momentous day in my career as a writer, as that is what I call what I do, as opposed to being just a blogger. Bloggers are writers! We are writers who blog our writings. Anyway, back to my momentous day…. I was asked to come speak to The Baby’s second grade class about creative writing and about writing my blog! I was so excited. I knew that The Baby’s teacher read my blog, because she had emailed me about how much she liked it and related to it with two teenagers of her own. There is just one thing, though….I write how I talk….which is quite, um….sailor-esque. I kind of equated my invitation to speak to the class to Heidi Fleiss being asked to speak about running her own business. Well, maybe not that bad! hehehe 😉 I did know that there probably were some parents (some maybe blog readers 😉 some maybe not!) who, if they knew that this momentous event was going to occur, would probably have tried to put a stop to it. This, in and of itself, made me even more excited. (I am sure that those parents would just have been worried I might let the name of my blog slip and then their kids would sneak online and read the profanity! I did not tell them the name of my blog!) I will say; however, The Baby knows the name of it! Kids these days just know how to access anything on the computer! I decided to take some early examples of my writing. Mothah had put my very first “book”, The Adventures of Lady Clinton in my senior scrapbook, along with a copy of a poem I wrote for the Valentine’s edition of the Hughes News in 7th grade. I grabbed those and a copy of Hobba Hobba Jobba , my collection of short stories I had bound for a creative writing class at the University of Georgia. I also picked up two photo books I had made for my family, because I had also added narratives to the pictures, and those are great examples of creative writing–made easy. The Baby and I set out for his school. He asked to see some of my stuff along the way. I could tell he was looking at the poem because he gasped and said, “MOM! look at this date!” Of course I could not look, as I was driving on 85 S. “It says February 14, 1984! MOM! You were 14 years old!” He said it as if it were 200 years ago. I gripped the steering wheel a little harder than I already was in morning rush hour traffic. “Yep. I was the same age as your sister is right now, ” I said, and I tried to muster a smile. It was very difficult. It seemed like yesterday. Okay. Maybe day before yesterday, but still–not 31 years ago. He babbled a little and I got lost in thought in my head about days of yore at Hughes Middle School in Greenville, SC…. We got to his school and I told him I loved him and I would be back at 9:00am sharp, then I headed straight to Starbucks to get my head on straight.
The teacher was telling the class about me when I got to the classroom door. The students were all seated on the rug–waiting for me. The Baby was sitting in a chair in front of the rest of the class, next to the chair where I would sit. I came in and took my coat off and sat down. Immediately, 9 or 10 hands shot into the air. The teacher told them to put their hands down, as there would be a time for questions when I was finished talking to them. I told the kids that I had known from a very early age that I wanted to write, and I showed them The Adventures of Lady Clinton. The table of contents page is actually typed from my old electric typewriter, so we talked about that, and about correct tape, and how there was no “spell-check” in the olden days…. I told them I could not pass The Adventures of Lady Clinton around because it was an ancient artifact, and it might fall apart. I was being serious about not passing it around because I did not want it to get torn up, but they believed me about the ancient artifact without question. That was somewhat disturbing to me. We moved on to the poem. I showed them the date. They did not gasp in horror, so that was somewhat redeeming. When we got to the collection of short stories, we talked about book binding and how typewriters changed over time. I then opened one of my photo books, and I happened to open it to a page that had a picture of Jack with his 7 inch Mohawk. This is not important right this minute. Remember it for later. I told the class that I had always wanted to write a book, but I had never taken the time. 5 months ago, I decided that I should start a blog, because if I could not even start and maintain a blog, then I would probably never write an actual book. The teacher then helped with a question session. It was quite entertaining. I did get mostly amazing questions. Do you write on your blog every day? No. If I wrote on my blog every day, people would get tired of reading it. If I did not write often enough, people would get tired of waiting for me to write. I try to write on it at least once a week, maybe twice. Where did you get your inspiration from to be a writer? From my Aunt Amy. She is also a writer. She was my English teacher in high school, and taught me how to write. Where did Aunt Amy get her inspiration to write? From famous writers, I think. Then we started to go downhill a little….Where did the famous writers get their inspiration to write? I don’t know. What came first? The chicken or the egg? Then we got to the real doozy: What was my favorite blog post I have ever written? I had to say that my favorite blog post is one I wrote about taking Mini Me (though in class, I used his real name, as that is how the class knows him) to the grocery store and he said a bad word. Of course I should have lied. Because that, my friends, that, opened up a can of worms that I should have expected! But, flaky, artist, airhead that I am……I never saw it coming. Hands shot up into the air right and left like I was playing whack-a-mole on steroids. WHAT WAS THE WORD HE SAID? was what every kid wanted to know, of course! Holy shit. How stupid was I? The teacher tried valiantly to put this fire out. One kid mouthed to me across the room, “DID IT START WITH THE LETTER F?” Oh. MY. GOD. I was laughing. I mouthed back to him, “NO!” “JUST GIVE US THE LETTER IT STARTED WITH!” “NO!” “PLEASE!” “NO!” “WE ARE LITTLE KIDS! WE PROBABLY WON’T GUESS IT ANYWAY!”, one even said. My head was kind of spinning at this point. I looked straight ahead and watched this one little girl, in her sort of metallic longish jacket, sitting in her chair with it leaning back on it’s back legs. She had her legs spread apart and her ankles hooked around the front legs of the chair. Her wildish hair had some colorful streaks in it and she had on a little make up. She stared at me and got her lip gloss out of her pocket and put it on while she watched me. I smiled at her and she smiled back. She reminded me a lot of The Middle Child at that age. Everyone was coming back under control and I made a mental note to try not to make a stupid mistake like that again. These were 7 and 8 year olds, for the love of God. Of course they want to know what bad word Mini Me said! Finally, we moved on. The teacher asked me how important I thought it was to proof read and how important drafts are. I told the class that even after I have proofread a blog post 3 or 4 times, I might publish it and still find something I have to correct, and I correct it. Proofreading and drafts are extremely important! They all groaned. They apparently hate proofreading and drafts. This was not at all surprising. In second grade, it takes some of them forever to write a sentence! Next question: Why did you let Mini Me (but by his real name) get a Mohawk? The teacher put a stop to this one. She said, “We are asking questions about writing, and that is not about writing. I should have known that one was coming too. How many books have I written? None. Unless you mean the paper ones like The Adventures of Lady Clinton. Then probably hundreds! My mother would probably tell you I killed an entire forest, using paper. No, I did not tell them that. I’m telling you that. What was the hardest part about writing your blog? Writing my blog is not hard. It was the technical part! I was determined to buy my own domain and set it up all by myself, with zero help from my computer guru husband or my children, who know far more than I! It was not terribly hard, but I had to learn new stuff. I managed to do it, and I consider it a huge accomplishment! What do you write about? Hmmm…. 😉 That one I had to think about before I spoke…I write about my family and everyday life. Sometimes I write stories from when I was growing up. Have you ever written a story about your entire family? I think so. I think maybe the one about The Santa Photo has all of us in it-I would have to go back and read it again. Then, I think maybe my favorite question….When you write, do you sit down and think about what you are going to write or does it come to you like AHA! THAT’S WHAT I’M GOING TO WRITE ABOUT! My answer was BOTH! I had to say that if it comes to me like AHA!, if I am driving, I have to hope I remember it later! If it is something really, really good that I am super excited about, I might pull over and write the topic down in the notes section on my phone. I explained that I don’t really have a set time to write every day. I may not finish something in one swoop. I have to stop to do laundry or drive carpool or cook dinner. I urged them all to make the time for their passions like writing when they get a little older. I have to say that I was quite impressed by my captive, yet very engaged audience. One kid even asked the teacher if they could go write after I left. The teacher and I both told the kids that there are places where kids can blog for free, but we both told the kids that they should never do anything like that without their parent’s permission. They all thanked me for coming and I thanked them for having me. I hugged The Baby goodbye and told him I loved him. As I was leaving, I felt a tug on my sleeve. I turned around and that same kid from earlier was standing there. He whispered, “Come on, just tell me what that word started with! That word Mini Me said in the grocery store– I won’t tell anybody–I promise!” Don’t worry. I did not tell him.
When I was pregnant with Mini Me, I was terrified that something would be terribly wrong with him–mostly because of all of the terrible things I had done during my very in-depth studies for my PhD in partying at the University of Georgia. Of course I was not pregnant with Mini Me during these studies, but I was convinced that I had done irreparable damage to my body that would cause great harm to my unborn child. I went to my OB/GYN and asked if there was any way that he could tell if the baby had a port wine birth stain all over his face. My doctor just looked at me as if I had totally lost my mind. “Um, no. I’m afraid I cannot. Does that run in your family? Because that is a hereditary condition.” I looked at him and said, “NO. IT DOES NOT, BUT IT HAS TO START SOMEWHERE, DOESN’T IT?” I had him there. He just looked away and said I should not bother myself with such concerns and I had absolutely no reason to worry about a port wine birth stain. Ahhh, but I did. I drank so much red wine in college, I was sure that there was some stored up in there just waiting to stain that baby all over his face to punish me. Of course I did not think of this prior to getting pregnant. All I thought about was the adorable baby that was to be. I did not think about the 65 extra unwanted pounds or the purple stretch marks that would cover the bottom part of my belly. I did not think about the sleepless nights. The many, many sleepless nights. Around the eighth month of my pregnancy, when I was having trouble sleeping, Mothah was in town for a visit. “Jennifah, I hate to tell you this, but honey, you have had youah last good night of sleep.Forevah.” I just looked at her. What she really meant was this: In the sleep department, I was totally fucked. For the rest of my life. She was right. We brought Mini Me home from the hospital and put him in the family cradle next to our bed. He screamed his ass off. We would pick him up, swaddle him, rock him, etc. , put him back in the cradle. He would scream his ass off. This is how Mini Me ended up sleeping in our bed. It was the only way that I could get any sleep. I say I because JC could sleep through the atomic bomb going off in our bedroom. Now, this was 1998. I knew that I was not supposed to put Mini Me in our bed. I had sworn I wouldn’t. I will just go ahead and admit that, pretty much, everything that I swore I would not do as a parent, I have done. And then some. Because before you are a parent, you don’t have a fucking clue. So shut the hell up with all of your “well I would do this and I would do that” because frankly, you don’t know what the hell you would do. So Mini Me slept in our bed for three years. I am not really sure how we even got The Middle Child. Maybe Mini Me went to his MiMi’s or his MiMa’s to spend the weekend. He would do that. And yes, he had to sleep with them too.
The Middle Child came into this world and did not want to sleep with us. She wanted to sleep in her Moses basket beside our bed. She slept in it until she was too big for it. We could even put her down in it awake and she would go to sleep with zero crying whatsoever. I remember thinking “where did this angel come from?” I guessed God had sent her to make up for the spawn of….okay I won’t say it. I know I shouldn’t. I don’t really mean it, but dammit he was a difficult sleeper! When The Middle Child moved to her crib, we could put her in it, again awake, and she would roll over, suck her thumb, and go to sleep with zero crying whatsoever, sometimes she would say “Night Night” and roll over and just go to sleep. This, my friends, was a dream come true. When she got a little older, if she got tired, she might just disappear and we would find her asleep in her bed! I could not have asked for anything more.
If you happened to read “The Prize At The End Of The Cancer”, it is basically The Baby’s birth story. He entered this world under extreme circumstances, and I was not in the best mental or physical condition that I could have been in at the time of his birth. I say that not to excuse what I am about to tell you, but in an attempt to explain my actions. The Baby, like his brother Mini Me, did not like being put in a cradle or a crib. We would swaddle him and put him down and he, too, would scream his ass off. This would make me cry uncontrollably. It broke my heart into a million pieces. The thought of his sweet little self, back there in that big, beautiful, yet awful, $500 crib, surrounded by wonderful, yet somehow awful and scary bedding, swaddled in the softest, yet most horrible blankets, and clothed in the most wonderful, yet also most harrowing nightgowns with his monogram on them, screaming in misery…..I just could not take it. He wanted me. If I held him, he would sleep. So, I would hold him. 24/7. And I was so tired that one night, in the middle of the night, he and I were sitting in the glider out in the den, and I fell asleep rocking him. I woke up and he was face down on the carpet! He wasn’t crying. I was sure he was dead, and I had killed him by dropping him on the floor. I picked him up and he looked at me and blinked his eyes. We had very soft, padded carpet. Mothah was staying with us to help me and try to keep me from going over the edge. I went and woke her up. I was crying hysterically and told her I thought we needed to go to the hospital. She started laughing. She took The Baby from me and looked him over. “He is FINE, Jennifah. He does not need to go to the hospital. What probably happened was that he just slipped down, slowly, onto the floor. The carpet is soft and padded. He is totally fine. Stop crying. STOP IT.” I did. About 30 minutes later. You would have thought this was my first baby, not my third. The loss of 2 liters of blood when he was born had really done a number on me. My mother in law found a contraption that would fit inside our bed and The Baby could sleep in it. It was like a little box. It was low enough that he felt like he was sleeping right next to us, but we could not roll over on him and he could not get tangled up in the bed covers. It even had a little light on it. It folded in half for easy travel. The Baby actually liked the damn thing! So, The Baby slept with us. It was, again, the only way I (or Mothah!) could get any sleep.
Here is the part that should be embarrassing. It’s the part that you might judge me for, and that is totally fine because I really don’t give a shit what anyone thinks about it. The pediatrician knows already. The Baby slept with us for 7 years. In fact, he just moved out. We have tried, countless times, to move him out over the years. We have used charts and stickers and money and prizes. Nothing has worked. We have tried reading to him and staying in his room until he falls asleep. We have tried leaving a light on–all to no avail. For the past 6-8 months, he has been sleeping on the floor in our room. 2 weeks ago, he and I rearranged his bedroom so that his bed is positioned for him to be able to see my bedroom from his bed. He has slept in his bed, all night, every night, ever since. He was ready. He has been sleeping in his own bed at his MiMa’s or in a sleeping bag at his MiMi’s for over a year now–so it’s not like he couldn’t do it–he just wouldn’t do it at home. He just wasn’t ready to do it at home. We did not feel like it was necessary to force him. We kind of miss him now…..it means he is growing up and we are getting older and things are changing…..There are a whole lot of feelings that I don’t want to feel! Imagine that.
I guess my point of sharing this with you is that my kids dictated how they wanted to sleep. I know that there are many books about how to force your kid to sleep…how to make them cry it out….etc. I know all of that psychology. I have read it. I have all of those books. Or had them. Shit, I hope I have given them all to Goodwill by now. I allowed my kids to dictate how they wanted to sleep–right, wrong, or indifferent. I was and still am judged for it. And I believe that it was the right thing to do for us, no matter how painful it was at times. I will end with this story. When Mini Me was about two and a half, we were at a park in Memphis, Tennessee. There was a homeless man there who was watching my us play. He went up to my husband and said, “Whatever you do, don’t ever break him.” That has stuck with us ever since. For us, that has meant allowing our kids to be themselves, and sometimes it means not going “by the book”. I believe it is okay to not go “by the book”. Don’t ever break him…… it resonates deep within my soul today and Mini Me is 17. I try to live by it with all three of my children.
So…all I could see was the darkness. After spending five days alone at Mothah’s, watching television talk show’s and talking on the phone, and showering non-stop to get the radioactive sweats off of me, I left and drove back to Emory for another body scan. Along the hour’s drive, I had a melt down. One thing I failed to mention in my previous post is that during my hypothyroid state, my paranoia made me borderline on the ridiculous….perhaps lean towards the psychotic…. I am quite sure that my family would say that there was no perhaps about it! I was bat shit crazy there for a few minutes. I could not see this then, of course. I would purposely listen to songs in the car that would make me think of things that would bring me to tears. Now, why I would do that to myself is the million dollar question, but it made total sense to me at the time. So, I was driving up I-20, listening to one of my favorites: Mr. Brightside by The Killers…..This song made me think about how after I was dead, JC would be dating someone else….if you know the song, then you can piece together the rest of this scenario. It was complete and total bat shit crazy at it’s very best. So, I cried my way to Emory. By the time I got there, I was a hysterical mess. Remember, I was about 8-10 weeks post-op, having had absolutely no thyroid medication….my TSH was sky high. I was like a time bomb waiting to go off at any second. When I walked down the hall in the hospital, I would walk right next to the wall–not because I needed it for physical support, but being out in the “air of the hallway” made my paranoia worse. When I say I was bat shit crazy, PEOPLE, I am NOT joking. They took me in to do the body scan and when it was over, they told me that there was something glowing on my head. This was not good, they said. They needed to scan again, they said. I thought I was going to lose my shit, I said. I asked if I could see the scan, which I expected the answer to be hell no. To my surprise, they let me. I had to laugh. The glowing thing was sticking straight out from my head. What was I laughing at, they asked. THAT IS SO OBVIOUSLY MY HAIR!!! I practically spat in the guy’s face. “I’m sorry, ” I said, “But do you see a knife like protrusion sticking out from my head?” The technician did not find this the least bit amusing, and back into the scan I went. I was sure to smooth my hair down to my head this time. Sure enough, guess who was right? Moi. This time, the glowing strip was straight down on the side of my head, right where I had smoothed my hair. I was sort of starting to get a big head. If I could read a damn body scan–hell, I might ought to apply for a job in Nuclear Medicine! So, the official ruling was that I had sweat so much that the RAI had pooled in a strip of my hair. Clean scan. This meant that I got to start taking Synthroid and get back to feeling normal (whatever that is!) again–until July, when I would have to do all of this yet again, for the massive therapeutic dose of RAI.
After a few weeks of taking the medication, I was able to get back on my feet and go back to work–teaching Art and French at St. Timothy School. I taught Pre-K through 6th grade, and I loved it. Unfortunately, in May, I was forced to have the world’s most heinous surgery ever. I can assure you that this is a tale on it’s own, but I will say this: I would not wish this upon my worst enemy, and if faced with the problem again, I would choose to bleed out. That is all I will say about that now. Those of you who know me, know. Those who don’t, can just wonder. I am simply adding that to tell you that my life was in no way a piece of cake at this point in time. We also decided to move….. Talk about crazy….
The time flew by and mid June came much faster than I wanted it to. It was time to stop the Synthroid and start eating shitty rice cakes and natural peanut butter from Whole Foods, yet again…dammit. This time, since school was out, we sent the kids to Mothah’s for a week. JC and I had read up on RAI and discovered that if we stayed a certain distance from each other, we could stay in the same house. I ran this by the doctor, who said YES, thank GOD. This meant that I would not have to be quarantined in total isolation. Emory did not run out of RAI this time. Everything was much smoother, this time. After it was all over….clean body scan! I went back on Synthroid. I did not know that it would take an act of God to regulate the Synthroid…..so I remained somewhat of an emotional basket case for a while. A year went by. The medication was still not regulated. I did not feel like myself. I was beginning to think that I may never feel like myself again, and I was just going to have to be okay with that. I was alive. That alone was enough. I decided that if I couldn’t feel like myself, FINE.
The next part of the story should perhaps be called The Epilogue…..
*WARNING: SOME OF THE FOLLOWING MAY BE TMI….just sayin’……if you cannot handle women’s health and pregnancy, perhaps you should exit and consider the above the end of the story. For more adventurous readers, carry on….
It was time for my yearly OB-GYN appointment. I loved my doctor. We talked about the possibility of my birth control pills and the Synthroid not working well together. We decided that I would stop taking the BCP and in a month come back for an IUD. I was 36 years old. JC and I had always talked about having more than 2 kids, but at this point, we really thought that was off the table. So, I immediately stopped the pills and honestly did not give it a second thought. I did tell JC about the plan, though–it was not a secret. A couple of weeks went by–and I mean literally a couple, maybe 3 weeks….and I knew I was pregnant. I am that in tune with my body, but I did do 3 tests just to confirm…. The endocrinologist told us not to get all excited yet. Too late! He said that since I was a year out from having had the RAI, all was safe as far as that was concerned; however, my Synthroid was not yet regulated and it was all very iffy in the beginning….. I had to have a neck ultrasound in my first trimester and the doctor discovered a couple of growing lymph nodes. This, of course, scared the shit out of me. Now, here I was pregnant, and having to have surgery. We had to wait until the first trimester was over because I would have to be knocked out with the old twilight stuff. It was the only anesthesia that would not hurt The Baby. The doctor removed 13 lymph nodes–none cancerous, thank God. My medication had to be kept at a lower level because I was pregnant. I had zero energy. I had to visit the perinatologist every other week for him to check The Baby’s thyroid. I have a wonderful collection of 5 x 7 glossy photos of The Baby, in utero, as a result of these visits.
The Baby was not due until the middle of March 2008. I was extremely uncomfortable. It hurt to walk. It hurt to breathe. At one of my mid-February visits to Dr. Korotkin, he said he thought The Baby might weigh over 10 lbs! He was going to do an amnio to see if his little lungs were developed enough to induce. HELL YES! This nightmare was soon to be over, I remember thinking to myself. I received a phone call telling me that I was to report to Northside Hospital at 8:00am on February 28, 2008. The induction would begin soon after, and since this was #3 for me, I was quite confident that it would be fast and The Baby would be in my arms by early afternoon. WRONG. Oh, how wrong I was. When the nurse came in to give me the epidural, a sensation of panic spread over me. Mothah had told me that I would regret getting that damn tattoo on my lower back! I had gotten it in San Franciso, in sobriety, and I had chosen that area of my body because I knew it could be easily covered up. I had never heard the term tramp stamp….until about a week after we got home from San Fran! OMG. My first tattoo…I was actually quite proud of it, was indeed, a tramp stamp. It is not the kind that spreads the entire width of the back. It is relatively small–the size of a silver dollar–under normal conditions. Now, it was about the size of a dessert plate. I had clocked in at 225lbs the day before at the doctor’s office. I had gained a whopping 85lbs. I felt like complete trash, sitting up there, waiting for that epidural with my backside exposed and that tattoo hanging out. I told the nurse that Mothah had told me I would regret that damn tattoo, and that right then, she was right. The nurse started laughing and told me that mine was very minor compared to some that she had seen. This made me feel a little better. A little.
The epidural did not work the way it had with Mini Me and The Middle Child. It made me numb from my toes to my chin and I threw up intermittently all day long, which was lovely. I felt like I was paralyzed. Afternoon came and went and I was not even dilated half way. SHIT! I did not want The Baby to be born on February 29. That would mean he would only have a birthday every 4 years! How would we ever explain that? Finally, around 11:00pm, I was 10cm dilated and ready to push. The only problem was that I could not feel my legs at all. In fact, I could not even hold one of my legs up by myself. Hell, they weighed about 80 lbs each. I pushed and pushed–or thought I did. Finally, when midnight came and went, we decided that my in-law’s should take Mini Me and The Middle Child on home. At 1:30am, the doctor decided, FINALLY, that an emergency c-section was in order. They wheeled me into an OR. I was feeling enormous pressure on my lower back, and it was very painful-regardless of the fact that I was still numb from my toes to my chin. The anesthesiologist was sitting on a stool up by my head. I was begging him to knock me out. He could not until The Baby was out, and unfortunately, The Baby was stuck. It was starting to get a little chaotic in the OR. The doctor got up on top of me, straddled me backwards, and was trying to pull The Baby out of the birth canal. I was screaming. The lights were bright. It was a complete clusterfuck. Why was I not surprised? The doctor was calling in for back up….they were going to have to break my pelvis to get The Baby out, when we heard what sounded like a cork coming out of a bottle of champagne. That was The Baby’s head popping out of the birth canal. He looked like he had been in a bar-room brawl, but he was totally fine. I was still screaming for the anesthesiologist to knock me out. “Don’t you want to hold The Baby first?” he said. “HELL NO! HE IS THE THIRD ONE! I WILL HOLD HIM LATER! KNOCK ME OUT PLEASE!!!” I screamed…..then all I saw was black. Peace.
When all was said and done, I had lost over 2 liters of blood and they would not give me a transfusion. I was at Northside for 5 days. The Baby weighed in at 9lbs 3 oz–my biggest baby. We named him Truman Hayes Boyanton. His birthdate is February 29, 2008. I got over my not wanting that to be his birthday. He loves his birthday. When everyone else his age is 100, he will only be 25. He gets it. I was a complete wreck for almost a year. My not holding him right after birth had zero affect on our bonding. He was mine. We moved when The Baby was 2 months old. Moving does nothing to help with psycho. It took me 2 years to lose the damn weight, and FINALLY, FINALLY, my thyroid meds regulated!!!! I have felt like myself for about 7 years now. I told you….it took an act of God.
Protocol has changed for thyroid cancer patients, and after the 5 year mark, I have not had to have another body scan. As long as my bloodwork comes back looking good, I get an ultrasound every year and I see my doctor every 6 months. I have moved on. I rarely even think about the cancer anymore. What I like to think about it is this: It was a terrible, scary time in my life, but at the end of the cancer drama, I got a prize! A great big, bouncing baby boy prize, and I cannot imagine what life would be like without him.
My stepsisters came to stay with us every other weekend, and it was something I had grown to look forward to. I had lived for 15 years with only a brother, and found that I really liked these stepsisters a lot–in fact, I grew to love them a lot over the years. One of them, Lyn, is 6 months older than I am, and we were in the same grade in different schools. Lyn is short for ‘Carolyn’, and she is Grandmothah Bennett’s namesake. When the girls were at our house (their father’s house), this meant that Grandmothah was sure to show up at any given time. We could bet money that she would be there bright and early Saturday morning. When we got a little older, this really sucked if we had sneaked out and had 1 (or 3) too many Budweisah’s…. Grandmothah Bennett would come barreling down the driveway at Robin’s Nest Farm in her white Bonneville with the navy blue velour interior about 8:00am–like clockwork. The yip yip dogs (a term used to describe a rat terrier and a mini yorkie, who thought they could eat you alive) would go ape shit when they would hear her car screech to a halt, kicking up gravel. She would stub out her lipstick-stick stained Misty Menthol in her already overflowing ashtray, then she would put her giant purse on her lap and dig through it for 10 minutes until she found her lipstick. She would flip the lighted mirror down on the sun visor and put her lipstick on–moving her lips and holding the lipstick perfectly still. I have said that she was the only person I have ever known who could do that, but actually, I have seen The Middle Child do it! It’s an art! A REAL talent. Anyway. She would then fling her car door open. I swear a Cheech and Chong-worthy smoke cloud would billow out as she hoisted herself out of the car, giant purse on her arm. Always in her chunky heels, she would teeter on the brick walkway, up to the door and yell into the house until somebody came to the door–all the while, the dogs barking their heads off at her. God she was a sight. We would come into the kitchen and she would want us to all give her a hug. I say all. She would take a hug from me, but she really meant just her grandgirls, and I wasn’t really one of them–not at that point, anyway. I became one over time, but at the time that this story took place, I was still relatively new to Grandmothah, and she was not the most…well…she wasn’t the most accepting person right off the bat. After a few minutes of visiting, Grandmothah told us she was headed to the car wash in town. Since it happened to be just a week or two away from Lyn getting her learner’s permit, Lyn asked Grandmothah if she could drive her to the car wash. Grandmothah always said “yes” when everyone else said “no”–just like any good grandmother does. So….again, if my memory serves me, we just said that we were going to ride with Grandmothah to the car wash, still in our pajamas (because this was small town Saturday and we were not going in anywhere), and Lyn and I went out and I got in the back seat with 2 bags of trash that smelled like they had been there for 2 weeks, and Lyn got in the front and Grandmothah drove us out of the driveway and pulled over and then let Lyn drive to town. (Yes, I do realize that was a really long sentence.) We had made our clean getaway. Now, I could have it confused. Mothah could have known. We could have just kept it a secret from Bob. It has been 30 years, so forgive me. The car wash was at Speed Break, which was a convenience store on 441. In fact, it was the hang out, drive-by spot at night for teenagers. Don’t ask me why. We are talking about Madison, GA in 1985, 1986. There were 2 or 3 stop lights at the time. It was not the booming metropolis that it is today. Here is another place where my memory is foggy. I cannot, for the life of me, remember who drove into the car wash! Either Lyn drove in, or she and Grandmothah switched again and Grandmothah drove in. Anyway, whoever drove the damn Bonneville in, drove it in crooked. And by crooked, I mean, half off the track. And this car wash was not one of those with the great big round red and white bristly brush thingies. This was a new ’80’s car wash. It was a big silver thing that was elongated and revolved around the sides of the car. I remember saying that it was going to hit the car because we were not on the track, and I clearly remember Grandmothah barking back at me, “It will be FINE!” So I shut up, which is what she intended for me to do. It started in the front and went around the driver’s side and around the back, fine. When it started going around the passenger’s side, I knew we were going to have a major problem. It hit the side of the Bonneville. It made a terrible noise and kept going all the way up the side. Lyn and I looked at each other and our eyes got big and Grandmothah started screaming in the Misty Menthol voice, “OH DEAH FATHAH HELP US! HELP US!” And Lyn and I started laughing. It was the uncontrollable kind of laughing. The I-might-wet-my-pants kind of laughing. Then, Grandmothah turned around and pointed a crookedy finger at me and screamed, “JENNIFAH! GET OUT AND GET THIS DAMN THING OFF THE CAH!” like I was Hercules or something. Remember now, I was in my pajamas. Which were actually yellow scrubs from the Greenville Hospital System. I had cut the pants off at the knees. Oh, and…I was barefooted. It was 8:00am when Grandmothah arrived at our house, remember? So, I got the hell out of the car. I was actually relieved to get a breath of something other than old trash. The car wash thingy was still spewing out water and soap, and it was stuck hard onto the Bonneville. No amount of my trying to move it would budge it. My laughing problem was not helping either. I got back in the car. Now, all I could smell was soaking-wet-2-week-old-garbage, Misty-Menthol-infused-velour. I thought I might throw up. Grandmothah made the executive decision that we would just drive right out of there. “It’s not a good idea”, I said, “It will really tear up the car, and it will break the car wash.” Grandmothah said the car was already torn up and she did not give a damn about the car wash. So, again, I shut up, as was the intention. I say that I shut up, but you must understand that Lyn and I were laughing so hard this entire time–that awful kind of can’t-stop-laughing. The kind of laughing that physically hurts. So, whoever was driving, drove the Bonneville right out of the car wash. There was a horrible sound and an even more awful noise, as the giant thing left a huge, black dent in the car and ripped the passenger’s side view mirror off and left it dangling by some wires. I remember saying, “We should really go tell somebody” and I remember Grandmothah saying “HELL NO!” and I remember laughing. Lots and lots of laughing. When we got back out to the house, Grandmothah said, “DON’T TELL LYDIA!” Lydia would be my Mothah. I guess she did not want us to tell her because Lyn did not even have a learner’s permit yet and Grandmothah let Lyn drive. I don’t know. That’s why I said several times–my brain is foggy on this one. But one thing was for sure, we told Lydia the minute we walked in the door. We had to. She was standing in the kitchen and saw us drive up. Lyn and I had barely gotten out of the car good before the Bonneville was kicking up gravel and Grandmothah was gettin’ the hell outta dodge. I was soaking wet with soapy water and smelled like trash and Misty Menthol’s. And Lyn and I were still laughing. Hell, it has been 30 years and I am still laughing….