Childhood Lost

Oh.. that face I love. It still gets me—every time. All those years locked behind the blue eyes and long lashes. Years I can see and remember. Years that he wishes I would forget. But I can’t. I can’t. And that’s why it hurts.. because I have to let go.. and pretend the years don’t matter.. at least for now.

He’s a teenager full of angst and questions. Rebellion and hormones. He stumbles and pushes. Softens and stiffens. I’ve been through this a few times before but still struggle to make sense of it. I could be an award-winning actress.. my heart is on my sleeve, outside my body, vulnerable and aching. But I’m the only one who knows it. And he doesn’t care. Not really.

He can’t. He’s individuating. And I care more than ever. The paradox is strangling, devoid of any sense. But there it is—yet again. The dichotomy that is adolescence—one moment everything he was as a child, the next, someone I’ve never met. And I am expected to be the adult—in control, solid, ready with a firm hand and a loving heart. I am tangled and torn, weary and raw. My love for this child is swallowing me up. And the irony is I can’t allow that. I must individuate, too.. if I want to keep him in my life.

I don’t like this. The older I get.. the more I know what’s at stake for him. But he gets to choose. And I get to watch.

Only, it occurs to me, yet again, that watching isn’t all I must do. I have to continue to live, work, play and grow.. no matter how much his decisions and developing attitudes worry me. I cannot afford to succumb to paralyzing fear. I’ve given into this before and I know it’s not the answer.

Peace.. the only real peace, comes from pursuing my own life–fully, and without reservation. The years of child bearing are over.. and the few years left of child rearing are fading fast. My life waits.. while I grieve over lost childhood that is rightfully over.. but painfully gone. The future calls to both of us. Oh, how I want his to be happy.. but I can’t make it for him.

He is not that child anymore—he is a young man.. and while finding his own way, makes some good decisions along with the shaky ones. He is smarter than I stop to think he is. My first instinct is to question him. I need to stop this. At least most of it. He gets to choose. He gets to choose. He will make decisions I won’t be happy with. That is certain.

So.. maybe, even though his childhood is lost to me, for good.. my future and his, are found. I just have to let it be whatever it’s going to be for him.. and be around to help with any rubble he might want me to assist with.

Oh.. the letting go is like extracting my heart and throwing it onto a soccer field.. and letting it be booted around until he decides to kick it into the net. It’s the passing from one set of cleats to another that knocks the fight out of me. Where will it end up today? Can’t we just land somewhere?

No. Not yet. It’s not time. And besides.. part of what I have to do is find a way for my heart to be more of a spectator than a participant. That freakishly unbreakable mother-love is always there. And while he grows into whoever he’s going to become, I have to do the same.

Childhood lost—both of our futures found. But oh.. the ache, the longing, the worry.. and yes, the hope. Always the hope.

Wednesday Gravy: Olympic Passion

When my first born was a wee pup, crawling all over me as I watched Nadia Comaneci score perfect 10s in the Montreal Summer Olympics.. the onscreen drama must have seeped over into my psyche which I promptly conveyed to my baby via osmosis. Or something like that.  He’s been an Olympics lover ever since.  He says one of his fondest childhood memories was me dragging him and his sister out of bed to watch the spectacular televised closing ceremonies at the 1984 Los Angeles event.

We speak of the Olympics often. We talk about the athletes, he and I. We muse on performances past, and wonder about future achievements.  During each Olympics, we have one “all-nighter”..  an evening for staying up ridiculously late and eating large amounts of naughty food.. all while watching the athletic competition unfold.  Of course, we toss out phrases like, “I could do that, but I don’t wanna.”

Last summer, the boy and I, not to mention other family members.. enjoyed our fete while watching Michael Phelps win that spectacular race in a gazillionth of a second.  It was a crowning moment in the games made even more extraordinary by all of us experiencing it together.

A few months ago I was missing my boy as mommies sometimes do–even, maybe especially, as they get older.  He’s a husband and father.. and well, he’s actively involved in everything inherent in that busy life.  I asked him for a favor.  I asked if some time, whenever he and his family could manage it, if he could come and spend the day with me.  Just him.  Not that I don’t adore his wife and babies—-I do.  But, I needed some boy time.  Just me and him.

He called a few weeks ago saying that he was working on it and would let me know.  That was good enough for me.

Last Saturday, on a whim, the boy and his family came to visit.  These kinds of visits bring palpable pleasure.

During casual conversation, he mentioned he’d  like to plan our one-on-one day.. but that it wouldn’t happen until February 2010.  Well.. he’s got stuff going on.. I’ll take it, I thought.

Then, he told me the rest of it.  I needed to provide the transportation, he said.. and he’d supply the tickets.  Tickets? What?

Turns out our mommy-son get-together will be to an Olympic hockey game at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games.  Just the two of us.

The revelation dawned.. and I’ll admit my emotions grabbed me by the throat.  Not only did he pencil in a day for me.. he decided to make it something once-in-a-lifetime special.

He warned: “Now, of course, we can’t depend on it being anything spectacular..  It probably won’t be another “Miracle On Ice” moment.”

My response?  Doesn’t matter if it’s Czechoslovakia vs. Tasmania. How could it not be spectacular?  It’s the Olympic Games.

We’ll drive or catch a shuttle over the border.. we’ll employ air horns and foam fingers.. we’ll have a real, live, Olympic adventure together.  No words illustrate this joy, yet I’ve tried to use them.. and probably not very well.

Meanwhile, I wait for February 2010 and ponder the gift.. and what it will mean for us—for me and my boy.

Monday Gravy: AA Comes Home

My first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting was Saturday night.

Beloved daughter was celebrating two years of sobriety and asked Mommy to come to the party.  I was thrilled.

Whoa. It was a room full of tangible love. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it. Hugs all around.. genuine support.. people of varied backgrounds. I saw quickly there was no one stereotype for alcoholism–it crosses every barrier.  But I think I already knew that.. my attendance at the meeting only confirmed it.

After spending 90 minutes with these people I was astounded.  They were real.. no cop outs.. no pretending.. no excuses. It was an honor to be in the same room with them.. and be part of the ritual not only marking my daughter’s second birthday.. but the birthdays of many others.  Some had 10 years in the program.. some 8.. or 6.  I met one woman who had 30 years there.

After sweet daughter began the program, I read the AA Big Book.  I saw how the implementation of these ideas helped and continues to assist and breathe life back into so many who would otherwise be dead or wishing they were. When I saw the positive roads this journey was opening up for my girl, I began to examine my own life.  The principles are solid.. the success undeniable.

The people I met take nothing for granted. They seem to live each day in joy and possibility.  And when they asked “Carrie’s mom” to speak to the room.. I couldn’t say no.  Instead, I was honored.. and grateful.  At first, it was because of what they’ve all done for my daughter. Then, it became personal. Being there was like having a warm blanket thrown around my heart.  Rapt attention to what everyone said signaled passionate respect.

Funny how my children keep bringing positives into my life.  When I was a young mother I thought I would always be the one supporting, helping and providing insights for my offspring.  As the years roll by, and as I allow it.. my soul reaps the benefits of people, places and things I never would have thought of on my own.

Like AA.

My name is Sue Ann and I am not an alcoholic.  But they invited me back anyway.

I intend to accept that invitation.

Dave’s New Gig

Well, it’s official.. David Letterman is no longer single.  Truth be told, he’s been attached for a long time.. but until the final vows were said, I considered him fair game.. the mother of his young son notwithstanding.

I’ve loved him forever.. as long as I can remember knowing who he was.  And true, in later years, he’s become more cynical and even bitter at times.. and well, older.  But I forgive him for this because he’s brilliant. He doesn’t pander to the lowest common denominator like Jay Leno, and his wit is dangerously sharp–still.

A man with a sense of humor has always caught my eye.. but one who’s also flawed and a bit deranged is irresistible.

You know that gap between his teeth?  Perfect!  His skewed charm, his flirtability.. all fodder for years of my dreams.

Dave said he avoided marriage partly because he felt other men saw him as sort of “the last gunslinger”.. a man who’d escaped the trappings of that convention.

Hmm.. well.. maybe other men are disappointed.  But I’ll tell you what.  David Letterman’s new gig only makes him more attractive to women–at least this woman.  It only sweetens the deal.

His purple tie, his gray socks, the goofiness.. it’s all part of the love.

I’d wish him good luck, best wishes and all of that.. but I’m still smarting from the news that he chose someone else instead of me.

Never mind that he never met me.

Unrequited adoration?  Probably.

It’s still great to know that he’s in the world and making funny stuff happen.  That has to be good enough for me.

Monday Gravy: The New “Middle Age”

My friend turned 55 over the weekend.

He talked about being a senior citizen now.. at least in California.  He mentioned the upcoming “senior moments” he’d be experiencing.  I protested wildly.

“No!” I asserted. “I hate that term.  The only reason we can’t remember things as we age is because of all the stuff crammed into our brains. It has nothing to do with our capacity to remember.”

Even as I wrote it I saw the fallacy.  The more we have to remember, the older we are.  It does have to do with aging.. and that’s that.

My friend’s claiming to be a senior citizen was especially disconcerting because since we are the same age, it meant that I was one, too.  He makes a good point, though, when he says he probably won’t live to be 110.. dispelling that trendy adage about 50 being the new 30 (or 40.. I forget which it is right now).

Technology and medicine keep raging into the 21st century with innovations that prolong life. Let’s face it.. that’s true. People live longer, healthier lives than ever before. Maybe that’s part of my objection to the “senior citizen” reference.

But I suspect it’s something else.  I’m not ready to die.. at least I don’t think I am.  That long, slow decline from age 40 (or even earlier, some say) gets faster with every year.  I find myself not denying it as much as ignoring it. But maybe I do both.

My friend is right.  55.. or even 50.. is not the new middle age.  We are way past that.  It doesn’t mean we are dead or dying,  just past middle age.  And with everything our modern world gives us to look forward to.. I still expect vitality and joy.

Come to think of it.. what’s ever been so great about “the middle” anyway?  It’s safe, it’s sandwiched in between two extremes.

I am officially past middle age and while that slapped me silly when I realized it, it also cracked open doors.  Doors that lead to more of who I really am.. doors that fling wide to parts unknown.  And that doesn’t necessarily include The Early Bird Special at 4:30 pm.

I like the sound of that adventure..

13 Random Things I Know About Mothers

1.  You never know.  I mean you really never know.  You may think you know.  You may pride yourself in knowing.  You may make it your life’s work to know. But the truth is, you never know.  Not everything.. not even some of the things you thought you knew. Children keep a cache of well-hidden secrets. You never know everything.  Just accept it.

2.  Since mothers are often in charge of food gathering, I offer this nugget: You can never have too much food available, especially for teenagers. Have food of all kinds, and lots of it. This will ensure crowds at your house, but the odds are you will never be sorry for it.

3.  It’s been said that mothers wear their hearts on the outside of their bodies.  For most of us this is true.  There is the occasional mother that is not a nurturer by nature. But usually, we are. Big time. Everything our child does is fodder for our emotional well-being, or not-so-well-being. They become extensions of us.  And while this isn’t healthy, it’s common practice. Go ahead, love ’em to death, but at some point, in the name of everything maternal, back away and keep your feelings to yourself.  Running out onto the baseball field after Junior throws the winning pitch is not a good idea, no matter how close you are.

4.  Mothers often take credit for the good things their children do.  It’s because we have so much invested in them.  Their success is ours, too.. right?  Not so fast, Ma Walton. If we take credit for their accomplishments, we have to absorb the bad stuff, too.  At some point, they make their own decisions..accompanied by consequences.. and if I’m lucky, I’m along for the ride, that’s all.

5.  We like to take take ourselves too seriously.  But what about our responsibilities–shouldn’t we take them seriously?  Yes.  Ourselves?  No.  My thinking here is that no one should do this.  But mothers have a tendency to hold onto pride and entitlement. It’s unattractive and repels children.. not to mention men.

6.  Whenever I produce a healthy belch.. usually after a couple of good swigs of Dr. Pepper.. it makes my teenage son smile.  This is worth any public humiliation I may endure.

7.  I’ve learned I need to back off.  I lean toward pushing.. pushing a child toward betterment, responsible behavior, for information. A nudge is OK. Doing my homework about the child is crucial. But pushing just alienates him.. and makes me come off cranky and yes, bitchy..  which, of course, I am.  Give the kid some room.

8.  Lock the bedroom and bathroom doors.  I’ve learned the hard way that seeing one’s mother in her underwear only confuses already weird feelings in a teenager.  Even as a daughter, it played with my head a little when I saw my mother in her undies.  11-18-year-olds especially don’t like to think of their mothers as people with lives and feelings, and well, underpants.  Just lock the door.

9.  You know when a child says, “You don’t understand”?  We really don’t.  We can’t.  We may understand what it was like for us, and while that has value, it’s not definitive. Mothers like to think it is.  Our children are growing up in a society that even 20 years ago was unimaginable.  They are faced with burdens we do not know.  Maybe our best response when they say this to us.. and if they haven’t yet, they will..  is “You’re right. I don’t.”

10.  Mothers should touch their children lovingly.. even teenagers.  Especially teenagers.  It’s easy to snuggle and snog with babies and toddlers.  But the older ones need it, too.  They may not talk about it or request it.. although I know that some do. Most, however, will turn shades of scarlet if this is done in public.. or in front of friends (the kiss of death).  So hug them, put an arm around them, pat them on a cheek or tousle shaggy hair.  Just do it.. and do it a time or two every day.. because this means something.  To them it means they are still adorable to you, even though they are older and awkward.  It teaches affection.  And to a mother, it can be oh, so satisfying.

11.  We will fall on a sword for our children. But too many of us do it even if it’s wrong. One mother in the Midwest sold her son’s car because she told him one of the rules was no drinking, and she found a beer bottle under the seat.  She did not witness the act of drinking, but despite claims the bottle in question didn’t belong to her son, she put an ad in the paper to sell the car, touting herself as “the meanest mom on the planet.”  She received calls from all over the country.. parents, emergency workers, hospitals.. all thanking her for the courage to take a stand.  It’s hard to do this.. but mothering is not a popularity contest–although some of us try to make it into one.

12.  Don’t take it personally.  Mothers do this.  We pout or induce guilt, we turn into martyrs or screaming machines.  They are children.  They’re younger than we are. They are still learning.. even if they are 17-years-old.  The benefit of our years and experience comes in handy here.  That, and a look at the big picture.  If we are functional at all, and show we care even a little.. they love us.  Don’t worry.

13.  Expect goodness.  Children will do “bad” things sometimes.  They will, of course, balk at requests, chores, authority, and clean underwear.  But there is a lot of good there.  Teenagers can be disrespectful and downright mean.  We teach them appropriate behavior and start over again.  They are individuating.. they have to do these things.  Look for all that’s good..  grades, positive behavior, reliability, kindness.. and let the compliments flow free.  Expect it all.. but especially the good.  It’s there for the taking.


Not long ago, on a Sunday night when life did not feel warm and fuzzy, I drove to a nearby bay. I parked my car so I had a view of the sunset, dined on a baked potato I brought along (one of the ultimate comfort foods), wrote down feelings that were spilling over, and shot this pic as the sun dropped.

Silence, a baked potato and beautiful water..  each on their own is a pretty good deal.  Together they were spectacular.

Abundance vs. Scarcity

I think this particular meditation, though titled something different, is really about practicing generosity.

My friend, The Writer Mama has taken generosity and shaped it into an exquisite art form. Her writing and her life, it seems.. is all about how much she can give away.

It has been my habit, especially in late years, to pull back: Will there be enough? What if I do it wrong? What if people don’t like me? What if I don’t get enough attention? (Ouch.. that one hurts, but it’s true)

This pinched and limited way of being in the world never works long for me–at least not very well. I start feeling stifled, untrue to myself and others and exhausted. Every time I plunge into scarcity mode I view my retreat as protection from hurt or pain. The irony is, a scarcity mentality only brings more hurt and pain, not to mention isolation.

One might think I would learn the lesson I need to one of these times and stop the spiral. I think it’s getting better.

From Christina and others like her, I do continue to learn that putting the focus so wholly on someone else doesn’t diminish me as a woman, a writer, a mom or a human being. In fact, in some cosmic way, it makes me better–much more useful to others and happier than I would be hogging the spotlight for myself. And it’s refining somehow.. even relaxing.. to not have to be the center of the universe all the time.

Oddly enough.. when I’m generous with time, talent, money and ideas–the abundance I gave away–and more–comes back to me. When I employ a death grip hanging onto whatever I’m afraid of losing, I’ll lose it for sure.

I think this is called something–karma, the law of retribution or something else I can’t remember. Whatever it is.. it’s not magic.. it’s real.

I believe it’s in our natures to give, emote, share and nurture. And without trying to sound ‘woo-woo,’ I know this because of experiencing light and wholeness whenever I engage others in this way.

It can be exhausting to give–just like pulling back is. But if it’s done with the right intention, it’s a different kind of tired. It’s the kind that makes you want to get up in the morning and do it all over again the next day, rather than stay in bed with the covers over your head–something I’m sorry to say I’ve practiced a lot.

This is what I know: If we lovingly give away what we have, even if it’s everything we can muster– somehow–and probably in a way we won’t expect–we’ll get it all back in spades.

The Top Ten Reasons I Will Always Love David Letterman

10. He’s a sexy doofus.

9. He rarely dumbs it down for his audience.

8. He stocks his mom’s fridge with Colt 45.

7. He loves the doggies.

6. He always wears grey socks.

5. He and Paul Schaffer have been close, personal friends for over 75 years.

4. He’s nuts about his little boy.

3. He’s nuts.

2. He took a fruit basket to GE.

1. The gap in his teeth.