Adventures Beginning With the Letter J: Inner Strength

Lil JamesJ has a short praise given to him from a teacher that he loves to retell. I am not sure how true it is, but from time to time he tells the story, mostly to illustrate how soft our children are.

Back in high school a teacher used J as an example saying, “If I was stuck on a desert island because J is a survivor.”

Why did the teacher bring this up? What made him point out J’s tenacity to the class and how did the other students react? I don’t know because whenever J talks about it he immediately goes on to say how our kids are spoiled and couldn’t endure much discomfort, let alone come out victorious like himself.

J’s early life story is noteworthy; too bad he doesn’t remember it.

J was adopted by a white family from Northeastern Ohio, approximate age four. When he arrived in this country maybe he knew his age and his real name but at the time he didn’t know English and the immediate people around him didn’t know Korean so there was no one to make note it.  The doctor guesstimated from J’s age, size, bone structure and teeth that he was probably four years old.

Asking J about his life pre-Ohio he told me that he was found wandering a rice paddy.

“Is that what you remember?” I asked him.

“Yesssss,” said J, a bit too enthusiastic. Whenever he does that it means it’s not the whole story.

“What else do you remember? Do you remember your trip to the US? Do you remember your time in the orphanage?” he shakes his head at all my questions. He doesn’t remember anything before junior high.

“Not even Little House on the Prairie?” I was incredulous.  “Not even Good Times?”

Nope.  Not even.

Subconsciously, I realize that he remembers something.  When we first got together, anytime he would be upset with me he would talk in his sleep– in Korean.  I wasn’t learning Korean at the time so I had no idea what he was saying.

And once, while Mimi and I were working on a school project while sitting on the living room floor, J fell asleep beside us and  began to sing a song in Korean.

Of course, I asked him about the incidences the following day and every time J had no clue that he even said anything.

Which is why I love to visit J’s family; they fill in the gaps that J can’t or conveniently leaves out.  Like the time he was seven and, convinced he was a superhero, he jumped off the garage roof, dislocating his shoulder.  J has a high threshold for pain so it wasn’t noticed until he was carrying the a large flad in the 4th of July parade that his parents realized something was wrong with his arm.

Then there was the time J and his friend Kenny Black got a hold of some illegal fireworks.  They hid under a trailer, near the gas tank, and was having a hard time lighting up the wicks.  Fortunately someone caught them before they blew themselves up.

“You were a crazy kid,” I said to J on the drive home.  “Man, you are lucky to be alive.”

“I didn’t do those things,” J said.

“So they are making it up?”

“Yesssssssss.”

His parents tell the stories with love.  They laugh about it now, although there was a moment when too many emergency room visits nearly got a call to child protective services.  Luckily the nurse in the ER that day was a neighbor who could vouch that J was not abused, he was just a very inquisitive.

When J’s mother realized we were serious about one another she wanted me to know his Korean name.  She said she didn’t think it was his birthname, but one given to him at the orphanage.  All the children had the same last name, she said.  So though not from biological parents, the name still  connects him to who he once was.

My mother-in-law had already had two daughters when she had read the stories in the papers about children from Korea needing a home.  She decided immediately that she would adopt a child from there.

“I didn’t care what state he was in,” she told me.  “As long as he wasn’t dying it didn’t matter to me because I knew we would get him medical care.  And we wanted a boy.”

They were told that J was found wandering the streets of Seoul, living on what he could.  When he came to them he couldn’t speak a word of English and he immediately needed medical care, which included surgeries.  There were times when J would get very upset, seeming to cry for someone although they were unsure of who.

Weeks, maybe months, later a local Korean family they knew came over to help talk to J.  That is when his story came out.  He had been living on the street with his younger brother, taking care of him.  In the orphanage J was in better health to come over so he was adopted first.  But over here, with this new family J didn’t forget his little brother.  He was crying for him.

First things first though:  J had to undergo surgeries.  He spent his first two to three years in and out of hospitals, correcting his legs and extracting chiggers.  He had lived here for two years when his parents felt they could take on another child.  She was excited to bring another child into their home and reunite J with his brother.

And that is when she discovered there had been a fire.  Several children died; all files destroyed.  It was assumed that J’s little brother had died in the fire.

My mother-in-law’s eyes glisten as she told me the story, expressing regret that they waited to go back to find the sibling.  And another brick came into place about why J would want to block out his childhood.

J and I approach life differently.  Whereas I hold everyone with suspicion until proven truthful, J takes everyone at their word.  He is more patient than I am and he’s also very loyal.  Before knowing about his story I attributed it to his growing up in a solid middle class family, but the person he is … it’s intrinsic to who he is.

I complain about him a lot and want to smack him a good part of the day, but J is an admirable person.  I am glad to have married him and raise kids with him.

Which is to say, like the teacher, if I was stuck on an island I’d want J to have my back.  I know that we would survive.

How Ugly Is He?

I want to tell you a story from my weekend but I don’t want you to think I am a mean person.

Why should I care, we are virtually anonymous.  You don’t know me except what you read here.  I do want to project a certain character; I want to appear witty and erudite, not vacuous and judgemental.

Yet I am.

Soooo…. yeah.

Here’s what I will do.  I will start with a prologue which will make this a long (but kinda funny) story so I can get this off my chest and you won’t think any less of me because people are less apt to read long blog posts.

How does that sound?

The story that took place this past weekend begins with a dog.

Animals are aways a good way to soften a tale right?

Well, a few months ago to celebrate J2’s graduation (and to counteract missing him when he went away to college) I relented and we bought a dog.  A Staffordshire Terrier if you want to know the breed but her street name is Pit but we call her Malaya.

I know, I know what you are thinking.  I thought that, too. When we first encountered her she was laying on her side in the cage in a submissive pose.  She is a really sweet dog.  She isn’t aggressive in the least, although I would never leave a small child unchecked around her because she is still a puppy and has the propensity to play too rough.  I take her to the dog park and she runs to people not to bite but to lick (kiss).  She has stolen many a lick kisses from lots of people at the dog park.  You could just be standing there, looking at the sky,  wondering if it’s going to rain and she will be beside you.  Then suddenly Malaya will jump up and lick you  as if to say, “I like you and you have not told me how beautiful I am yet.”

She is a beautiful dog.  Everyone comments on it.  I think she understands so she is vain and expects everyone to tell her how gorgeous she is.  If she was human she’d be a budding porn star; she needs too much validation from other dogs and people.

Once J2 had company and I made Malaya stay in the kitchen with me.  She knew there were people in the dining room who would want to love her, worship her so first she tries to walk past me but I stopped her and made her sit down.  I turn my back on her to finish washing dishes and she crouches low to the ground and crawls out toward the door.  I don’t realize this until she makes it past me and to the door.  By that time Malaya realizes the jig is up so she runs to the dining room and begins to lick and jump up on J2’s guests.

“Oh, pet me, pet me.  Do you like me?  I like you.  I do.  I really like you.”

I have called her a slut and attention ho many a time when leaving the dog park.  My daughter admonishes me for it, but has also noted out Malaya’s need for attention.

But this brings us to the real crux of the story: Mimi.  My daughter is equally beautiful but also very awkward.  And nerdy.  And capricious.  If she was skinny and white she’d be a Hwood star but because she is buxom and dark it makes her an outlier.  I wouldn’t change her; I love her the way she is –well, except when she makes too many snarky comments in a half hour then I want to slap her but you get my point.

So, being a natural, big busomed, self-conscious black girl she doesn’t get many dates.  I have tried to shape her, to give her pointers with dress and hairstyling but she is headstrong with the, “A guy should like me for me.”

“Of course they should,” I reply.  “But men are also stupid.  Okay, visual creatures but stupid just the same.  You have to kind of give them the illusion first.  Beauty covers many a flaw.”

So, since she doesn’t want to listen to me I told her to just wait.  She’s in college and busy with school and work.  I said, just work on you right now and when the time is right, God will bring someone to you.

She said, I am not looking for anyone so that is fine.  That is a lie.  I was her age once.  We were all her age once unless you are her age now.  When you are young and single you are almost always looking –unless you are a nun.  For women, looking and actively pursuing are two totally different things.  You can be looking by just going down the street looking your best or you can be actively pursuing by putting yourself out there by going to clubs, events –whatever.

So she said she wasn’t looking, but actually she was actively pursing a boyfriend. I told her the above on a Wednesday and on a Thursday she told me she had a date.

Now if you are reading this sit down because this is where it gets bumpy.

Me: I thought you said you weren’t looking.

Mimi: Yeah… well… I met him online where we talk about comic books.  He was one of the few guys I talked to that didn’t misspell words and seemed intelligent.

Me: Where does he live?

Mimi: Dent.

Ok.  Did you notice the two things I mentioned up above that sent up red flags?  First, she met him while talking about comic books.  Now, I like comic books and the boyfriend before my husband liked comic books so she has an interest but to hangout online talking about them sends up flags because — yeah, it signals basement dwelling buster.

Not all the time.  Not all the time.  But when you couple that with living on the Westside of Cincinnati… well… it didn’t bode well.

Anyway.  So, I text my daughter: since you met him online I need some info on him if you are going out.  J1 needs to meet him and I will need to get his license plate number when he pulls up.

Mimi: Do you want to see his picture?

Me: Yes.

So she texts a picture.  And I will be nice and not post his real picture on here –yeah, I still got it. I never delete texts or emails. Not that I am saving them for anything; I’m just lazy.

So, I’m thinking this guy is going to be a nebbish, Jewish looking guy.  That is her type.  She loves, loves, loves goyish guys.  The curly dark hair, big noses and shy smiles that we stereotypically see of Jewish men on television is her idea of a perfect looking guy.   I am hoping for a young Ira Glass.

Instead I get this:

Okay, he wasn’t wearing a top hat, but he was wearing a kilt.

I said What the bleeeeep.

But I didn’t say it to her because she is a contrary person; I didn’t want to come out the box hating on him for her then to declare he was the best person who ever walked the earth.  And I thought maybe it’s a bad picture.  I have bad pictures.  I don’t show those pictures because, like most normals, I’m vain.

That night he shows up at the house and, unfortunately for Mimi, everyone is there.  Mimi comes upstairs to get us.  J doesn’t want to come downstairs because he’s watching television.  He likes for the men that Mimi dates to come inside, he just wants me to do the vetting.

He also doesn’t like the fact the guy is white.  If the guy was black he’d go downstairs and say hi.  If the guy was Asian he’d be pulling up a chair.  But the fact the guy is white he’s nonplussed.

“Why isn’t he Asian?” my husband asked as we went downstairs.

Now.  I saw the picture but that did not prepare me for what awaited.  When I get there I’m like WTF again.  Did he not realize he was going on a date?  His hair was long and looked unwashed and greasy.  He was wearing a ratty white button down and some odd apparatus around his waist held there by a chain.  His stomach was large and his skin pallid.  The photograph was his best.

Well, at least he didn’t smell like patchouli.

J2 sat on the couch playing videogames and Malaya sat on the rug.   Yes, that was how ugly this guy was.  My needy ass dog who assaults everyone with attention took one look at this guy and said, “You know what?  I’m good.”

The only one who was not taken aback was J.  Then my husband has no common social skills, social expectations, besides we were on home turf.  J is good with greetings and small talks but if the conversations doesn’t veer soon into his common interests (sports, poverty, racial disenfranchisement) he quickly loses interests in the person before him.

Mimi said she and her date needed to leave and the guy reaches out to shake J2’s hand.  The whole time J2 kept his eyes trained on the television but turns around to take his hand.  J2 has a smile on his face, which is normal but then presses his lips together, squints his eyes.  His shoulders are shaking and he lets out a slight giggle.

Malaya doesn’t even want to leave the rug to say goodbye to Mimi.  She just cocks her head to the side and raises one ear.

When they leave J turns to me and says, “Wow, that guy was nervous.”

“Well he should be nervous,” I said.  “That guy was ugly.”

“Be nice,” J said.

“How come I have to be nice and he’s the one that came out the house looking like that?  He didn’t wash his hair, he didn’t put on clothes that fit, dude ain’t even try.  He’s busted.”

Right here I will impute that I am not as mean as I sound.  I know how black women are when we come to swirling, if the dude isn’t cute then what’s the point?  Most black women say they won’t “step out the race” unless the guy is Brad Pitt or Johnny Depp.  I am not that shallow.  I wouldn’t want my daughter to be that superficial either.

But!  There are levels.  Someone with a certain level of attraction should be aimed for.  Not saying that one should go for beautiful, but one definitely shouldn’t go for busted.  Unless you are busted.  Scratch that.  Water reaches it’s own level.  How is that?

I am not gorgeous, but I’m kinda cute.  My husband is kinda cute too.  So we match.

I couldn’t even make concessions for the guy’s job.  He works at a convenience store.  He doesnt’ have a college degree.  With the etiquette classes, the college prep schools, the dance classes and the extra education classes I have invested into this child she better come up with something better than a buster.  A doctor.  An engineer.  An IT guy.  A community activist who wants to make sure that homeless people are well cared for so he doesn’t mind paying back the exhorbitant loans he’s accumulated because it’s truly what he believes in.  Ok, that last one I might have to worry about because two folks with crazy college loans would be hard but I’d support both of them because he has a dream and she believed in him.

But a low-level, uneducated, retail working, dude?  And he’s ugly, too?

Oh hellllllll no.

I am one of those women who jump ahead in my thoughts.  When I first start dating someone I jump ahead to dating.  And marriage.  There were a lot of my name coupled with other guy’s last names when I was a teen, until I hit 17 and thought, “Why should I have to change my name when he isn’t changing his?”  So now I was jumping ahead to a future with my daughter and this guy.  They had only been gone for one hour.  What would it be like spending holidays with this guy?  Or worse a wedding!  Future children?  Oh, to have to tell my future grandkids their dad looked like a hairy swamp monster.

“Why would she go out with this guy?” I asked J.  “This date better go badly.”

“It’s just a first date,” J said.  “You worry too much.”

“And you don’t worry enough!  What happens if they get along.  Think about it. Can you see sitting across from that at Thanksgiving?”

J laughed.  “It’s not funny,” I tell him.

“You are being mean,” he said for the second time that night.  I want to punch him. “She knew what he looked like.”

“You wouldn’t be as nice if J2 brought home a female version of that.”

“J2 would never bring home someone who looked like that.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Talk to Mimi.  Ask her why she would go out on a date with someone who looked like that.”

Ok  I thought.  Imma calm down.  Let it go.  Not worry until the end of the date.  Talk to Mimi.  Hope the date tanked.

Later I get a text from Mimi saying they were going to go to a movie.  I panic and begin texting my friend Beau.

Me: Mimi went out on a date with a guy that looks like a troll.  Is it mean to tell her that?

Beau:  no, my mother once told me i had a funny lookin boyfriend

Me: How did you react?

Me: Did you keep dating him?

Beau: i just laughed.  we broke up after a few mos.  does he really look like a troll?  does she think he’s cute?

Me: he came over with long greasy hair and he’s 27 years old.  And he’s white.

Beau: make sure he’s got good credit or makes a lot of money.

Not making a lot of money, maybe has good credit.  But is that worth it?

I think back to when I was her age.  I “talked to” a guy who looked like predator except he didn’t have the long hair.  Actually, he didn’t have any hair.  “Talked to” is in quotation marks because I wasn’t really talking to him.  I was just around him because my friend Grace was dating his best friend.  She always tried to get me to date her guy’s ugly friends.  The guy she set me up with –let’s call him Marquel– worked as a parking garage attendant.  He had a high school diploma, dimples and talked like Mushmouth from the Fat Albert and the Cosby kids.

Whenever I saw him I couldn’t understand a word he said.  How the hell you live in Cincinnati all your life but have an Alabama accent plus sound ghetto.

He tried to buy my attention and I let him.  He bought me clothes and shoes, whatever I wanted.  I wouldn’t even let him hold my hand let alone kiss him.  My mother and brother Swerve (not his real name but the one he goes by) sat me down and told me I wasn’t being right.  I nodded in agreement, tried to argue the guy wanted to do this for me and I wasn’t giving up anything in return. I don’t think my mother fully believed me, but my brother Swerve told me he was disappointed in me.

I said ok, and walked away in my new shoes. 

I ended things with the guy when one night he insisted on getting a kiss.  Grace’s boyfriend was tired of me playing Marquel and thought his homeboy should at least get some lip action.  I looked at Marquel and thought, I can pimp my time for some clothes but my body?  Oh hell no.  I said good-bye to Grace,  walked out the door and didn’t look back.

Now, 20+ years later I’m wondering if this is karma.  What would be worse?  If she did like him and I had to deal with ugly love (truly, ugly love) or if she didn’t like him and she was just playing him?

Both are kind of equal to me.

Finally, my daughter gets home.  If she came home a minute I would have had the police out looking for her because along with being ugly he was also a stranger.  I was so surprised I had forgotten to get his license plate number.  But the good thing about him being so ugly and having his picture would be that I could call the police and they could flash his picture on TV.  I am sure he’d be recognized instantly.

I come into her room, behave cooly like I wasn’t worried and she calls me out on it and said she knew I was.

“Well, you weren’t supposed to go to a movie with this guy,” I said.  “Only out to eat.”  Then I asked outright.”How did it go?”

She tells me she told him she wasn’t going to see him again.  She didn’t like the stringy greasiness of his hair and during dinner he told her he was married but separated.  He wanted her to know that.

He also told her women usually fell in love him first thing.  He confided in her that women have often asked him to marry them after the first date.

I never want to lay eyes on these women in life.  Never.  Ever.

This is when I could lay into her about “The Rules” without fear of her dating this guy to get back at me.  I asked her why she would accept a date at the last-minute.  She said she had arranged a group date for the weekend with her best friend and her fiance but Penguin guy called back that morning and wanted to change.

We had a Cosby show moment where I told her to never do that again.  Never date a guy you don’t know who won’t concede to a group date.  Never accept a date at the last moment.  Never forget what you are worth.

She concedes that she should have known something was wrong with a guy that even Malaya didn’t want to greet.

Which brings us to this weekend.

I go to see my big sis from another Miss.  She is my sister-in-law’s older sister but after Wannie married my brother D our families became close.  So, L is like the big sister I never had.  She’s funny and gregarious.  She can bring a dying man back to life with her off kilter insight.  Her daughter Tiff has been battling leukemia nearly all her life; she also has the same sunny, funny disposition as her mom.

So, we haven’t seen one another in about a year so we had some catching up to do.  We shared stories, shared news (J2 graduated, her son and wife are expecting a baby!) and we shared pictures.  J2 at college, Mimi looking fierce.  My new dog, Malaya.

So, I remember about Malaya and then Mimi’s date so I have to tell her the story.  I prefaced it how I shared the story here with the dog and how she jumped up on everyone  And then I remembered I had the picture saved in my cellphone.

I bring up the picture on my phone.

“Isssssz heee whi-ite?” she asked.

“Yes, but that is secondary,” I say.

I hand the phone to Tiff.  She screams and laughs at the same time.  Because of the cancer, she speaks in a halting voice that slurs a bit.  You have to really know her to be able to decipher her speech.

“Oh my God!” she exclaims.  “He isssssz sssssso uh-u-uhg-leeey.”

“What!  Let me see,” L says.  I take the phone from Tiff  and hand it to L.  Tiff  still laughing hard and we all kick it up a notch when L looks at the picture and begins to laugh and shake her head.

“What was your daughter thinking?”  L asks gasping for air.  I continue telling them how the guy was so ugly even Malaya wouldn’t touch the guy and we are all laughing.  L tosses the phone into my lap and then falls to the floor, on her hands and knees and Tiff and I laugh even harder.  L sits herself upright against the bookshelf and a strange stare comes across her face.

Tiff and I are still laughing when L begins to shake a bit.  “L?” I said.  I get up and say her name again.  “L?”  she slumps backward, banging her head on the floor.

What the fuck? I thought?  I killed my sister?  Whatthefuckwhatthefuckwhatthefuck?!

I was already dialing 911 when I look over to Tiff who tells me to call 911.

I’m talking to the operator who asks me what is wrong and I tell her my sister passed out and I’m worried.  I didn’t even touch her because I was that afraid.  But I didn’t cry.  They ask me for the address. I didn’t know.  I suck with addresses.  Really, really suck with directions.  So I get Tiff’s attention who is still calling, “Mom”.

“I don’t know,” she said.

I run outside.  The apartment is yards away from the main street but there are some little girls standing beside the door on bicycles.  They look to be about 9 or 10.

“What is the address here?” I ask the girls.

“What?”

“What is the address, where are we located?  Do you live here?  What street is this?”

“It’s Baymiller.”

Ok, it’s Baymiller and I’m about to tell that to the operator when I realize, “This ain’t Baymiller.” I know where Baymiller is and it’s waaaaay on the other side of where we are.

The operator tells me the ambulance is on the way but they need an address.  I run back into the bedroom.  L is sitting upright again.  Tiff is fussing with her from the bed telling her she passed out.  L is saying no, she didn’t pass out.  I’m asking, “What is the address here?” and I go fumbling through the mail ont he bookcase.

Luckily I find a piece of mail with Tiff’s name and address so I tell it to the operator.  I get off the phone and tell L that the ambulance is coming.  She asks why.

“Because you passed out and hit your head.”

“I did?” she asks.

“Yes, you did!” Tiff and I yell in unison.

I call her son, G-Bear but wouldn’t explain why he needed to come quickly.  L’s husband didn’t have his phone on him so I couldn’t call him.  I didn’t know what I was going to do if they needed to take L to the hospital, ride with her there or stay with a bedridden Tiff but whichever it was I needed someone there with me.

The paramedics come and check her vital signs.  Everything was fine but when she stood up they noted her blood pressure did drop too quickly.  They wanted her to get that checked out.

“What do you remember before you passed out?” one paramedic asked.

“I was looking of a picture of a very ugly guy that her daughter went out on a date with,” L said.

“This ugly?” the paramedic points to his coworker.

“No, he’s a movie star compared to this guy.”

The paramedics leave her behind and she promises to call her doctor on Monday.  As L is trying to piece together what happened her son and daughter-in-law arrive.

G-Bear asks what we were doing right before the episode and we tell him we were laughing at Mimi’s ugly date and we begin to laugh again.

“How ugly is he?” G-Bear asked.

I whip out my cellphone and show him the picture.  G-Bear looks startled, then shakes his head.  His wife, Mandy, looks at the pic and begins to laugh.

I pull up the Tiff’s wheelchair and get her to have a seat.  She was pregnant and the last thing I wanted was for her to pass out, too.

“Why would she go out on a date with that?” G-Bear wondered aloud.

Sometimes you just have to learn to wait, I said.  G-Bear waited a long time for the right one and Mandy came along.  “I’m still waiting,” Tiff said.  I’ve been waiting 32 years.

“He’s on his way,” L assured.

I had waited for J, I said.  And the next day we’d be celebrating our wedding anniversary.

We began to talk about relationships and G-Bear made his way into the living room to watch college football.  We talked about rushing into relationships, is the ugliness of loneliness better than being with someone who isn’t right for you?  Does God plan for us to be with someone or not?  What did it all mean? Deciding it better to be whole by yourself than a half waiting for someone else; God might be moving someone your way but the point is to be ready when he got there.

Speaking of getting there it was time for me to go.  I had an event to go to that Saturday night.  I hugged and kissed my family good-bye hoping to one day be married 35 years like L and her husband G.  L told me to give Mimi a hug for her and if needed bring her down to talk to her so she won’t have any more dates like that.

“Tell her that one gave me a seizure, who knows the next one might kill me.”

Dreams of Motherhood

How does one decide when to become a mother?  What are benchmarks that you have to meet before you decide these things?

I have wondered that myself because when I first became a mother I didn’t do any “real” planning.  I wanted to, I had planned to plan.  It was sorta-kinda planned because my boyfriend at the time (rest his soul) gave me an engagement ring and then prodded me to run down to the Justice of the Peace so we could sign the papers, take the vows and I could move with him to the Naval base in Chicago and there would be no more bi-weekend trips for him to visit me here in Cincinnati.  I said okay, I can marry you.  Then two months later I urinated on a stick that turned blue.  Or was it pink?  It was hazy, I cant’ remember I just remember running out of the apartment as if running around the block and coming back inside could change my fate like Superman changed the fate of the world by flying around the globe to save Lois Lane’s life.

It didn’t.

To tell the truth, I had a dreams of my daughter before she was born.  Three years before,  when I was seventeen, I had a dream of being in a park and holding a brown baby girl with almond eyes just like mine looking back at me.  I woke up from that dream with a quick pulse and twisted stomach.  Being a junior in high school and pregnant was a nightmare for me.

Fast forward to the summer of 89 a month before I got pregnant I had another dream that I was going to get pregnant.  I was engaged at that time and in love so I didn’t think anything of it, it was just a dream.  Lapaz was insistent that we start a family right away but I was talking about going on birth control.  A month after I found out I was pregnant I again had the same dream I had when I was 17 of a baby girl but this time I was left with a feeling of tranquility, which is odd since at that time I knew I could never marry Lapaz.  After becoming pregnant it became suddenly clear that we were not right for each other.  He wanted me to become a SAHM with a gaggle of children before I hit my 30s.  I wanted a career and was feeling like he was becoming one of the children I would have to care for.  We parted not on friendly terms.  My friends wanted me to hate him but I couldn’t.  I wouldn’t.  He left me but he gifted me the greatest thing: Cricket.

I loved her the moment I pushed her out.  No, I take it back.  I loved her the minute she began communicating with me from the womb. She was my alarm clock when it was time to get up for work.  When I put my hand on my stomach she would sometimes reach back or kick back depending on whether she wanted to be bothered or not.  When she was born I was besotted;  I could not see myself loving any other child as much as I loved her.  She is literally my dream daughter.  If I could have keyed in personality, character, attributes into a machine for a child she is the person I would have created.  Now that she is a woman making her own way into the world I love the person she has become.

This time I did begin to plan for a child.  Well, J and I planned for a child.  More succinctly, J said, not now let’s wait and I said you are right.  Now isn’t the time.  I was the calendar watcher, the one with the tracking my time when it was right by the ticking of my body clock.  But the time never did seem right: Cricket was entering her junior year and preparing for a European trip, then J started graduate school and J2 –well, he’s really always been just J2 with random spurts of “Damn, really?  You did that?  What the (bleep) wrong with you?”

So I was just as guilty of ignoring the signs –even more so– than J because mine were internal.  But I wanted to believe that I was still youthful.

And I was waiting for the dream.

But the dream never came.

Or dreams did come, but I ignored them because they weren’t the signs I was looking for.  Like there was the dream that scared me of having a toddler daughter and Cricket and both died on me.  There were the dreams of being around friends who were pregnant but my arms were empty.  Then I had a dream of my close friend Grace holding a baby girl and I realized it was my daughter although the child didn’t resemble either me or J.

I puzzled, trying to find different meanings into the images my body was obviously trying to send me at night.  The dream that was the clincher came the night before my appointment with the fertility specialist.  I dreamt I was looking into a pitch dark, long tunnel, that was winding and deep.  The next day in the doctor’s office I sat with a long telescopic wand in my womb in search for eggs.  I looked over at the screen, wondering what eggs would look like inside the Fallopian.  The assistant marked little x’s on the screen but finally I began to recognize the black area she seemed to be exploring –my fallopian tubes looked like the dark tunnel in my dream from the night before.  And just like the tunnel of my dreams the tubes were dark and empty.  That is what was going through my head as I barely heard the doctor tell his assistant to end it, there was nothing to count or harvest.

I leave the doctor’s office thinking about dreams, babies and how things turn out.  I wonder when we can evolve to the point where women can begin their fertility journey later in life and extend it later –without too much medical intervention.  I think about how dreams are not harbingers of things to come and how much can I really put on them?  Or even science for that matter?

Although statistically science has a better track record than my dreams.

But with both results in it leaves me with very few options on becoming a mother for the second time.  Well, third time since the 2nd was a marital acquisition.  And now I have to figure out which ones are the best for me or not good for me at all.  :-/

Adventures Beginning with the Letter J: Maybe…

I said,   “I think, maybe I will go to the Korean church tomorrow…”

J said, “Why?”

I said, “So I can talk to Pastor Park.  Maybe he might know…” I stumble for words.  “Maybe he can counsel me or know of a blasian child that is up for adoption.”

J said, “Ohhhh…”  He was reflective for a moment, only a moment.  Then he quickly changed gears, “Is it going to be a free baby?”

I said, “I don’t know.  I don’t think we can get a “free baby”–”

J said, “Because I don’t want to pay 10,000 dollars for a baby.”

I said, “I don’t know if it’s that much?  Is that how much they paid for you?”

J said, “I want a free baby.  If he can find us a free baby, then you should talk to him.”

I look at J and roll my eyes.  I was going to say, but you wanted to wait but decided it was not a fair line of discussion because what is done is done.  Instead I said, “Babies aren’t free.  You have to pay something.”

J said, “It’s like slavery, paying 10,000 dollars for a baby.”  I wanted to remind him that going through South Korea it could cost at least 20,000.  It could be more.

J said, “What if we were in Korea and some woman walked up to you and said, “I see you are American!  Take my baby!  You can give Ki-hua a good life in America!”  He sounded like a Korean Mrs. Doubtfire.  I was going to admonish him but he sounded so funny I had to laugh. 

I said, “No woman is going to walk up to me in Korea and ask me to take their child.”

J said, “No, they’ll walk up to me because they will see I’m American.”

I said, “Is that right?”

J said,” Yeah, that’s right.”

I said,” Why wouldn’t they think you were just another Korean?”

J said,”Because I look American.  And they’ll give us their child for free.”

Then J began to go off on a tangent, wondering how a person could get birth certificate for an imaginary free baby and why the price of adoption was so high. 

I’m still wondering if this is the journey we should take.  Adoption is not something to enter into lightly;  there are pros and cons that I’ve been listing in my head.  Pro: I can have a young  one to love and raise; share my love of books and music.  Con: just because I do all that it doesn’t guarantee love back.  Pro: I have someone I can guide into adulthood.  Con: I’m not passing on my genes, the child won’t be a visual reflection of me or J, nor an inheritor of our quirks and other personality traits.  Pro: the child will be different from us and not have our issues.  Con: the child may never see us as it’s true parents.  Con: The child hates us for taking him/her away from their homeland.  Con: The child never bonds to us.

I never thought about these problems when it came to having my daughter.  I thought J did either when his son was born. There was no guarantee they’d love us, that they’d come out alright.  That we could have a good relationship.    But now with age I can see  the nuances, especially with a phantom parent who could be across the sea; always impossibly perfect compared to the parent that is in person.

I said, “We should pray for guidance.  If it’s to be it”ll happen.” 

J said, “For a free child?”

I said,” Yeah, for free.”

Cauliflower

A few weeks ago I stood in the hall and watched J2 wrestle for first place in a local tournament.  He came close but  no cigar.  Wrestling makes me nervous because of the potential violence.  One kid picking up another and trying to slam him to the mat.  It’s hard to watch other people do it but when it’s your own kid with his face on the floor being tied up like a pretzel it’s even worse.

But the Js really, really love it.  They bond over it –I know, I mentioned it before.  They constantly talk about past matches, upcoming matches, who sucks, who to beat, and where everyone stands. 

Right now J2 can’t wrestle because he has cauliflower ear . I never knew it was a real condition, I’ve only heard it mentioned on cartoons.  It’s been drained but he has to take a brief hiatus from the sport to let it heal.  Instead the J’s have to content themselves with WWF or WWC or whatever that soap opera wrestling federation is called and the movie down below.

In Thanks…

On Thanksgiving Day I feared I was going to run out of flour so I sent J to the store to get some more before they closed for the day.  It turns out I didn’t need the flour so it wasn’t until Friday that I discovered that he picked up the wrong kind of flour.  I needed “All Purpose Flour” and he chose “Self Rising”.

“I can’t use it,” I said, handing him the package.  “You need to take it back.”

He looked at me as if I sprung two heads.  He leaned back, cocking his head to the side, and said,”You better use it.  I’m not taking it back.”

See, I knew I should have had a canned dinner.

It was my idea at the beginning of the week to just purchased prepackaged, pre-prepared food for Thanksgiving.  I thought of it after I dropped off our big box of canned goods and frozen turkey for the poor to the church this year.  J and I bought the food together, picking up a big box of generic stove top stuffing and then a store brand of canned corn.  At first I felt guilty and thought, maybe I should get a brand name of canned vegetables but then thought “Why?”  All canned food is gross anyway.  Once you eat fresh, in season fruit and vegetables you get spoiled and you don’t really want a canned substitute.  But I’m getting that for the poor.  I felt bad and wanted to put the stuff back on the shelf and head over to the produce aisle to get some kale and string beans for the folks.  But it wasn’t on the list and I didn’t know how long the fresh food would sit in the box so I got the canned food instead.

But carrots and potatoes were on the list.  What sense did that make when I couldn’t buy milk or butter?  How can someone make mashed potatoes without fresh milk or butter?

So after I dropped off the food at church with frozen turkey I thought, maybe this is the way to go.  Some family was going to be happy to get those things to feed their family and just be together on the holiday.  And as far as I knew it was just going to be me and J for the day.  Cricket was staying over at college and wouldn’t be back until Christmas and J2 was going to be spending the holiday in Cleveland.   It seemed redunkulous to do all that cooking just for two people.  I was making plans to find a restaurant open that day or hop from relative to relative to get fed.

But then J2 got a reprieve from his mother, so it ends up that it would be three instead of two.  That’s when I got the bright idea for canned Thanksgiving dinner.

“But J2 likes your cooking,” J whined.

“No, he doesn’t.  J2 doesn’t know the difference between biscuits from scratch and those refrigerator biscuits you buy.”

“But you like to cook–”

“No I don’t.  I hate it.  I just do it because I want to eat healthy, but at Thanksgiving no one eats healthy.”

“You want to cook it.”

“No I don’t.”

“Yes you do.”

“No I don’t.”

J and I went around and around like that for a minute.  “You know you want to cook it.”

“No, I don’t.  Cricket won’t be home.  She’s my sous chef.”  It would also be my first Thanksgiving dinner without her in 19 years.  It was weird to not have her around.   And, really, the Js eat too damn much.  I didn’t want to take that on by myself.

“I’ll help you cook.  Whatever you want.”

“You lie,” I said with a raised eyebrow.

“No, I will help, whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it.”

“And you wont’ complain?”

“I promise.  Just make your dinner.”

I know, I’m stupid.  A man will make desperate promises when they are either horny or hungry, you can never trust them when either one is in play.  I gave in and planned a southern style dinner: rosemary turkey,  cornbread dressing with sausage,  balsamic collard greens with sundried tomatoes, buttery garlic Brussel sprouts, buttermilk garlic mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry-persimmon sauce, turkey ham (that’s already cooked, I just preheat)  sweet potato biscuits, rosemary rolls.    I even planned dessert, and I rarely make dessert, which was sweet potato pie and applesauce spice cake.

On Thanksgiving Eve I made the desserts, cranberry sauce and greens.  I should have known then to scrap the whole idea and just go get some cans.  After I made the cake and had it in the oven I needed J to washed the dishes so I called him in the kitchen.

“I’ll do them tomorrow!” he called out.

“No! ” I called back.  “Tonight!  You need to do it now!”

J stomped into the kitchen, grumbling.  He did it several more times as I asked him to wash after the other things.  He was mad that I was cutting into his study time although he was studying in front of the TV and toggling back and forth between a video game and his paper on the computer.

I washed the last of the dishes and finished the pies by 2am.  I was tired and J had already gone to bed.  But I was up by 7am to make the rolls and then the biscuits.  By 9:30 I had the cornbread in the oven and was making croutons when J came downstairs looking like who did it and what for. 

“Coffee,” he mumbled.  “I need coffee.”

There were a few bowls in the sink so I said,” I need you to wash those.”  J spun around.  “I just woke up.” he whined.  “Let me get some coffee first.”

“Go ahead,” I said.  And he did.  By 10am he was caffeinated, mouthy and ready to supervise.

“Why isn’t the turkey in the oven?  What?  When did you plan to make it?  We won’t be eating until 10 tonight!  It takes forever to cook!”

I turned my back to him as I placed some rolls on the cooking sheet.  “J shut up.  And if you are really worried about it why don’t you wash some dishes.”   I turned around and he was gone.

We need a dishwasher instead we just have a small sink with a dish tub.  We can’t just let the dishes pile up because there isn’t any room for it, although it not like J hasn’t tried.  But in keeping the meal moving I can’t let the dishes get out of hand so I go and retrieve him. 

J melts down, “You don’t respect me being in graduate school.  I don’t have time to do all of these dishes.  I was in the middle of a thought and now it’s gone.”

That crazy ass Korean!  He was in the middle of watching a football game.  I was 10 seconds from drop kicking his behind into the flat screen.  Through clenched teeth I said,  “Just wash the dishes.”

He grumbled, traisping over the the sink, mad.  “I don’t see why you need all these dishes…. why did you make all these rolls, no one wants rolls… ”

“You wanted me to cook; I wanted canned food.”

“I didn’t want ro-ollls”, he said splashing in the water.  I think instead of turkey we should have roasted J instead.  I think of how I could have my own segment on TLC’s Snapped.  It would be really creative.  The sheriff would say, “I never seen anyone truss a 220lb man before and stuff him in the oven, but she did.  He even had a nice golden glaze, it held up well as evidence.”

J stomps out the room after the dishes are washed.  I go to him, take his hand and look him in his eyes, “Is your mantrum over?”

“I wasn’t throwing a mantrum.” 

I decide to overlook the obvious.  I apologize for cutting into his study time (although I note he’s still watching TV) and ask him to go to the store to buy eggs, flour, fresh rosemary and butter.

“You have flour,” he says.

“It’s almost gone.”

“You don’t need it.”

“Yes, I do.”  He leaves, grumbling out the door.

J2 stays in his room most of the day, out of the way.  He doesn’t know how to wash dishes because J thinks he’s too klutzy and will break them instead of washing them.  He hasn’t eaten anything all day and I suspect that he’s going on a morning fast just so he can eat more when the meal is done.

By the time J comes back home I have turkey is nearly ready to go in the oven, I only need the fresh rosemary to make a quick paste.  After that I spend the rest of the afternoon basting the turkey every 15 minutes along with making  the brussel sprouts and dressing.  The turkey is done by 3:30.  I bake the rest of the food and we were ready to eat by 5pm.

Except me.  After I laid out all the food on the dining room table I realized I made way too much for just three people.  We live so far out that my nephews, niece and cousins wouldn’t just drop in for a plate of food –the nephew who came last year I had to go pick up.  And I was tired.  I sat down while the Js attacked the table, happy I decided to go the usual formalities of making them say what they were thankful for.  I was drifting in and out of sleep by 5:30.

J woke me up.  “Thank you,” he said sweetly.  He was on his 2nd plate.  He give him a frown as I try to drift back to sleep.  He’s a damn spoiled ass. 

It’s been just a few days and there isnt’ much left of the meal.  J2 ate both sweet potato pies by himself and J has set aside pieces of cake for the women in his store.  He even said the little old ladies are awaiting the assortment of muffins that I made a few years ago.

“I can’t make it with the self rising dough,” I said.

“Yes you can.”

“No, I can’t.  You don’t bake you don’t know.”

“Just make the muffins for them. ”

“It’s too much work.  Cricket isnt’ here to help me and I can’t use the flour.”

“I’ll take the flour.”

“It’s still too much work–”

“I’ll help you.”

Where did I hear that before?

In Sickness (Scenes from a Marriage)

I

It started two weeks ago, over the weekend.  I felt like crap and my mucous membranes were itchy to I figured it was just allergies.  On Sunday I was feeling a bit dizzy and was unable to accomplish anything so the next day on Monday I called in sick.   I could have made it into work, but I was tired and had some writing I needed to finish.  On Tuesday I still needed to write and I didn’t feel any better so I threw that day in, too.

The week before J was complaining of feeling sick but it never panned out.  It never does.  He’s a carrier and when anyone is sick in the house I look at him as patient 0.  That Friday he went out and bought a bottle of whiskey, allegedly to make hot toddies.  He poured some whisky in glass and then added some lukewarm tap water.

“That’s not a hot toddy,” I told him.

“Yeah it is.”

When I succumbed to feeling bad he made me real toddies with hot water, lemon, and honey added to the whiskey.  He was even sweet enough to bring it to me in bed.  I know it was only a shot of alcohol but it knocked me out within an hour of drinking the elixir.

By Wednesday I was feeling worse but I had to go in since I worked in the evening.  The only thing that got me through the hours was Dayquil, Benadryl and coffee (to offset the Benadryl).  When I got home I asked for J to make me another hot toddy.

“You’re drinking up all my whiskey!” he whined but made me one anyway.  He made himself one, too.

II

Thursday my throat was starting to hurt but not bad enough to take off from work.  I was  willing myself to get better because my friend Tony was in town and I was determined to meet him at the clubs.  Saturday I could barely lift my head off the pillow.  When I could finally roll out of bed I was moving slow. 

“What are you making for dinner?” J asked.

“I don’t think I can make dinner,” I said and then snorted to keep the mucous from dripping down to my lip.

“Blow your nose!” J yelled.  “Blow your nose!”

“Shut up!” I rolled my eyes.  “Just order dinner tonight.  I’m going to take a nap so I can be ready to go out tonight.”

“You’re not going out,” J said with a stentorian voice.  Who is he, my daddy?

“Oh, I’m going out,” I countered.  “I haven’t seen Tone in years. I’m going out.  Do you want to come?”

“No, I’m not going and you aren’t going, either.”

I twisted my lips and raised my eyebrow.  “Oh, I’m going.”

The food came and I could barely eat it. J brought me a hot toddy and asked me to drink a little to clear my chest.   I fell asleep and woke up during the Boondocks for a few minutes only to fall asleep again.  I wondered if her drugged me.

III

Monday came and I was without my voice.  J was happy I was without my voice. 

“Pick me up at 5,” I barely whispered. 

J knitted his brows and looked puzzled.  “You heard me!” I growled but it was lower than before.

“No I didn’t,” J said.

“You did!  Stop playing!” 

He frowned and looked quizzical again.  I swear I’m going to punch him.

Now I am coughing up phlegm.  I take it as a sign that I am getting better, but J doesn’t.  By Wednesday morning J is prognosing me.

“Go to the doctor,” J said.  “You have H1N1.”

“I don’t have H1N1, it’s just a cold,” I said.  “Besides, I don’t have a primary doc anymore.  He moved.”

“Go to the doctor we all go to,” J said.  Cricket, J2 and James all go to the doctor on the square.  It’s about .2 miles away from our home. 

“I’m getting better,” I whisper.

“No you aren’t.  Do you hear yourself?  Go to the doctor.”

I’m quiet, stewing that I knew I was on an upswing.

“Did you hear me?”  J nudges me, I won’t respond.  “Okay, just make sure your insurance is paid up so I can get paid once you die.  Do you wanna die?”

“Okay, I’ll make an appointment.” I growl between my teeth.

I couldn’t get in that day so I went on Thursday.  At first I resented J for being paranoid but as the day progressed I was steadily getting worse.  I began to wonder myself if I might have H1N1 because by then I had coughed up a river of phlegm.

The next day at the doctor’s office I get checked out.  Listening to my symptoms, checking my temperature, and looking at my history she surmised I didn’t have a virus but that my allergies had gotten out of control.  She prescribed a Z-pack,  gave me an inhaler and told me to try Zyrtec D instead of Benadryl.  I kind of doubted that it was allergies but after using the inhaler once I had to admit that it helped to open my lungs. 

J comes home and asks what I was going to make for dinner.  He and J2 have been eating take out for the last several days and both were getting  of it.  It’s okay for the to sneak and eat take out when I’m not looking but too much take out is not cool.   On Wednesday night J called me up to ask me what I was going to make for dinner.

“I’m at work, J”  I said. 

“Yeah, but what about dinner?” he asked.  When I work 1-9 I make dinner before I leave but this whole week I thought it best to stay out of the kitchen because I did not want to be Typhoid Mary.

“You know what, you can make dinner.  Or you can order something.”  He groaned in the phone but then said he would make noodles with ground turkey.  When I came home he had ordered out instead of cooking. 

So after being diagnosed with just atomic allergies I figured I’d make the Js homemade Cincinnati Chili.  They were both happy.

IV

Today my throat hurts.  I figure its from the draining sinuses.  My chest is a bit tight, but other than that it’s better than before.   My voice is coming back, too, but since I can cook again J figures it’s a trade off.

To soothe my throat I gargled with salt water but an hour ago J decided to go to the store and I went with him to get some sucrets.  I never had them before and opened up the package as soon as I left the store.

They taste horrible.  With each passing minute it got worse and worse.  I sat in the passenger seat with my hands covering my face.

“Oh my God,” I said.  “Oh my God, oh my God.”

“What’s wrong?” J asked.

“These sucrets are horrible,” I said.  “They are so nasty.  I am about to spit this out and just deal with a sore throat.”

“Stop being a baby,” J said.  “Let me have one, I love sucrets.”

He really does.  He eats cough drops like candy and loves the taste of cough medicine.  When I first got sick he mistakenly brought home Hall’s Refreshers instead of regular cough drops.  He didn’t believe they weren’t cough drops until I pointed out the printed words hard candy in the corner.

“They made it for people like me, who love cough drops!” he said happy with his purchase. 

Now J took the package of sucrets, pushed one out and popped it in his mouth.  “Mmmmm,” he said.  “It’s minty cold.” he blew out some breath as if he expected icicles to for on the car’s windshield.

I was rocking back and forth, wishing the stupid thing would melt faster and not leave an after taste.  It was like robitussin in candy form.  Who would find that appealing?

Oh… yeah.