Monthly Archives: April 2007

the new family

I don’t even know where to begin.

I’m exhausted. And everything just feels normal, like it’s been this way forever. Like every day we’re sitting in this kitchen, and I’m typing on my blog while my partner chats with her son and his adoptive family, who we’ve never met before today. You know, aside from when Rukan birthed him.

He’s gorgeous. Absolutely, stunningly beautiful, and sweet with Rocky, and just absolutely wonderfully darling. I love him. You will, too.

Chuck-will’s-widow

I don’t usually let myself see signs. I don’t believe in reasons. My friend Diane did not die of brain cancer for a reason. She just died, like we all do. Rocky was not born with a heart defect for a reason. What human-shaped god would put that on a little girl? I’m sure the true believers have an explanation – in fact, I’ve heard it. I don’t buy it. Rocky has a heart defect because kids get born with heart defects. It’s not a sign, it’s nature, which is god, which is just the way things swirl. We can make of a situation whatever we need, whatever we’re ready to dance with. Signs, reasons and magic are for people who want to believe the pretty lie.

But the animals tell me a different story. I can’t explain it. The enormous red doe I kept having close encounters with up on the island, with the indescribable eyes I somehow recognized. The seagulls who swirled, silently circling and circling, dozens of them, the day my powerful grandmother died. The cats I keep seeing in the shadows, darting through the dark between trees. Calling with loons on lonely dark existential-teenager nights; owls and eagles, dogs and cats; even a cottonmouth on the bank of the Colorado – these creatures I’ve encountered all have seemed to have something to tell me. It’s just my imagination, right?

I was just flushed out of my quiet house and onto my dark second-story porch by a very unusual sound – the call of a chuck-will’s-widow. It’s a bird, a nightjar, related to nighthawks and whipporwills. I peered around at the dark silhouettes against the evening sky until I found it, perched on the telephone pole by my house, framed by the shadows of leafy trees. “Chuck-will’s-widow!” it called, loud and clear and sweet. I found myself in the most beautiful state of awe – a feeling I had forgotten, surrounded as I am by traffic and dump trucks and work and other spirit-dulling things. I see it in Rocky’s face often, and wish I could feel it too, every time. As a child, filled with childhood magic, I could see the the one-dimensionality, the plodding-forward, in the adults around me. I vowed never to let it happen to me. I delayed adulthood as long as I could, but it caught up with me, engulfed me, before I knew what was happening. I’ve felt like there are bricks in me, weighing down my flightless body. Confined to a new life in the cage with the rest of you big-heads.

But the animals. Messengers? I can’t help it. I struggle against the feeling that there was meaning in my encounter with the chuck, and something inside me is shaky. Both of us, out there in the dark together, each acutely aware of the other – something transpired, something was passed between us. I recognized something of myself, up there in the sky, something I couldn’t quite put a finger on. The gift, the message, a memory – that we are a part of everything, and that Little Blue is still alive, filled with awe and wonder and the ability to talk to the animals, to become very, very still inside, to remember the quiet language of all living things.

Now leaving the atmosphere.

I aced the anatomy test, passed the practical even though my stomach was empty and my head swimming from fatigue and I momentarily exposed my client’s boob, got my wife and child packed off to Louisville, finished the portrait and got it to my client, got the dog, cat and fish taken care of, Rukan’s hand is going to heal without needing surgery and she can go back to work whenever she wants, and now I just have to pack and get on a plane and on Thursday we’ll be in Indiana, meeting Rukan’s son.

Life is a rocket-ship ride to the moon.

I want my mommy

I’m doing such a good job, I’m being a good and patient and caring wife, a good mother, I’m giving the dog long walks, the cat pets and the fish lots of reassurance. I’m doing well in school, I’m following up with my clients, doing all the dishes and packing Rukan and Rocky for the trip since Ru can’t use her hand, spent the entire morning at the laundromat so they could wear clean britches on the plane, just generally keeping everything together. Which is, lets face it, not usually my role. It’s like Rocky telling me “you be Jesus” when we’re playing make-believe. I’m just not Jesus, people. I’m the cripple leper with a lisp that Jesus has to help. But somehow I’m rising above my usual state of petulent codependency, because there’s just no one else right now to hold up the fort. Or the cross…

Tonight I have an anatomy test I haven’t had time to study for. Tomorrow I have a practical, where a teacher watches and grades me on a 60-minute massage for which I do not know the routine, because I haven’t had time to study for it. Tomorrow Rocky and Ru are scheduled to leave at the crack of dawn, and I’ll spend my first full day and night away from my daughter. Yes, she’s three, and yes, we’re ready for it, and no, I’m not going to suck it up and just be ok with it, it’s going to SUCK. And now Rukan is at a last-minute appointment with a surgeon, possibly making last-minute plans for last-minute surgery tomorrow morning so that her possibly-severed nerves and tendons do not “retract” and cause permanent damage, and hey, the ER doctor didn’t mention that part to us! and I have to call the airline and try to change Rukan’s flight and just have them hold the tickets, not actually switch, and Rukan is crying because she just wants to go meet her kid, you know? and I have to pack all their stuff and mine and get the dog to the dog-sitter and make a list for the fish-sitter (defrost peas when he gets constipated and starts to float, but make sure you cut them in half so she doesn’t choke on them), and when we get back I’m going to have to figure out how to make all the money we need to live on, and I have a portrait due. Today. That I haven’t started. Because I haven’t had time.

Stress manifests itself in me in very unpleasant ways. That’s why I usually avoid it at all costs. I’m wishing I had seven arms and three heads to help get all this shit done; but my heads and I would still be in the bathroom with an attack of IBS every five minutes wondering which end to point at the hole while our heart was firing all wonky and skipping beats and feeling like a mini-landmine exploding in our shared chest cavity and our seven hands would be numb and tingly with this fight-or-flight bullshit we don’t really need any more, because we killed all the wolves.

How do the grown-ups DO it?

AUSTIN WOMAN STABS SELF, AVOCADO

I heard the cry of pain, ran into the kitchen and saw my wife on the floor clutching a bloody hand and on the counter, the rebellious avocado impaled on a steak knife, pit intact. Rukan, gifted massage therapist (and main breadwinner for the family), with a hand growing increasingly “weird-feeling”, then one finger completely numb, then the throbbing pain, from a wee little 1/4 inch slit just below her ring finger. Turns out, at the ER, that that innocuous-looking slice is a nasty, deep gash, probably involves a nicked tendon and nerve, required stitches and a splint and an appointment with a plastic surgeon to examine the potential need for surgery. On her hand. The hand that massages people, people who pay her the money that pays our rent. Those fine, strong hands that craft symphonies inside muscle and fascia, have for fourteen years. Nerve damage.

Rukan of course had to drive us home, even with one hand wrapped like a mummy and propped on the door and pain-sweat beading on her brow. She told me they can fix it. Nerve damage? No problem! Worst case? Two months off work. No worries! Me, I’ll just get a fourth job! I’ve heard there are great opportunities to be had, shoplifting groceries and living under a tarp!

4/17/04











A thousand thanks to Camille for these pictures

1:00 a.m., three years ago

I had a human being living inside my body, for only a short time longer . . . I found out what contractions felt like . . . I drank wine and slept for five minutes at a time, Melissa’s arms wrapped around me in the dark and quiet.