Spoiled (not so) Rotten

You have to be careful when you are talking about other people’s rotten kids.

Even to define what it means to have a “good” kid or a “bad” kid can be tricky.  It’s broad terminology.

Regardless, I couldn’t help but ponder a comment I heard about an obviously “bad” kid who had grown into a bad man.  The comment was that his grandparents had raised him and they had “always bought him anything he wanted.”

There was tons of heavy implication within this comment, laid on with a skill that only the elderly Southern lady possesses.  I, being skilled in interpreting this clandestine dialect, understood what was really being said.  The boy had been “spoiled” by his grandparents and so had turned out to be no good as an adult.

This got me thinking.  Does buying too many things for our children turn them into bad people?  I have always seen the clichéd images of the over-indulged child throughout my life.  The greatest and most recent, of course, being Dudley Dursley.  This is archetype of the “bad” child.  He has too much of everything.  He is bought too much, fed too much, simply given too much. As a result, he (or she) is spoiled.

I’ll be honest.  This comment hit me on a personal level.

I have always been guilty of overbuying.  I’ve never mortgaged my house to buy my kids something, but if it was in the budget and there was something cool they wanted, or even something cool I thought they might like to have, I probably got it for them.

I love technology and gadgets, so we always have the latest iPhones and iPads.  The Boy likes Nike shoes, and I got him a pair.  I guess I just never really thought of it as a big deal.

Now, The Boy is 16.  He got his first job this summer and is working hard.  He does very well in school.  So, we got him a car.  It’s cheap, it’s small, and it’s not at the top of anyone’s dream car list, but it is new, it gets great gas mileage, and it is his.

So I ask, have we been doing things wrong?

If I go by what society (and some family members) tell me, then we have spoiled children.  But the funny thing is, they don’t act like spoiled children.

Obviously, my daughter doesn’t really fit into a simple mold, be it spoiled or not spoiled or anything else, but my son is pretty much a typical 16-year-old boy.  However, I happen to think he is an exceptional 16-year-old boy.

He is compassionate and kind.  Little kids are drawn to him like moths to a flame.  He pretends like this annoys him, but I know he loves them and it brings him joy.  He is one of the most generous people I have ever met.  I honestly don’t think he has a selfish bone in his body. He works hard and is so smart.

I don’t think it is what we buy our kids that makes them who they are.  I think it is what we teach them.  You could buy them things and they could be little brats.  However, you could also buy them things but still demand that they treat people with respect, and do their chores, and behave a certain way.

Ultimately, it really isn’t anyone’s business what you do or don’t buy for your kids.  I think we are all probably guilty of overbuying, especially in this modern age of “stuff.”  But the responsibility of raising respectful, responsible children remains the same.

It seems to me blaming the “stuff” is taking the easy way out.  It’s easy to blame something superficial like “spoiled” rather than say, “his grandmother let him speak disrespectfully to her all of the time” or “he was never responsible for anything around the house.”

So yes, I think you can spoil your children.  But I think you spoil them not by giving them too many material things, but by not giving them enough of what we all need to be decent adults:  discipline.

What do you think?

Driven to Insanity

My son is 16 years old.

For those of you who do not have children, this number may mean nothing to you.  It may not strike fear into your heart.  It may not ignite inside your soul the devastating fear, the agonizing terror that lives in the heart of every parent.

My son is nearly ready to get his driver’s license.

I stalled the inevitable by making the boy take Driver’s Education.  That gets you a break of approximately $0.00000004 on insurance.  (Incidentally, I think it is crap that insurance is more for a boy than for a girl.  So much for equality, right?) However, in spite of my many attempts to pretend that my children are still small, the boy is nearly ready to get his driver’s license.

He will be able, according to the law of our great state, to operate a motor vehicle on his own.

(Who made these laws? Someone without children, I guarantee.)

I consider myself a very adaptable person.  In fact, it is one of my strong suits.  I’m not one of these people who get bogged down by the fear of change.  I laugh at those people.  Ha!  But someone I find myself ill prepared for my son to drive.  It isn’t just him–all of his buddies are also driving.  A few of them are older than my son and have already received their operators license.  A couple of them drive themselves to school every day. I still visualize these kids as the same ones who couldn’t tie their shoes without assistance, and they are out on the same roads as you and me, with no adult supervision, in vehicles capable of many thousands of dollars of personal property damage.

God help us.

The worst part of it all is that I’m not sure if I’m upset because my son is 16 years old and driving (and he is a good driver, very cautious and law-abiding) or if I’m upset because this is just another reminder of my own impending geezer-hood.

I am not ready for this.  I myself identify as a cool young person.  I listen to cool music and drive too fast (in a minivan) and have tattoos and all of the other stuff that makes people cool.  But how can I be a cool young person when a human being that I grew inside of my own body is now old enough to operate a motor vehicle?

Okay, I’ll tell you the truth.  I’ve been sly about it and pretended like it was about so many things that it wasn’t.  It isn’t really about my son.  It isn’t about him driving.

It’s about the fact that I’ll be 40 in a couple of days.

You read that right.  I will be forty years old.  Conceivably half way through my whole entire life.  If I’m lucky, that is.

I cannot stand to hear about people having midlife crises, especially men with the sports cars and the blonde mistresses and such.  But honestly, I have to seriously ask myself if I’m not in the throes of a midlife crisis right now.  Why else would all of this be hitting me so hard?  What other explanation is there that the contemplation of my life and the life of my son and his friends should cause me such distress?

I’m sure the wine has nothing to do with it.

Regardless, my son is sixteen years old, and getting ready to get his license.  No matter how much I piss and moan (and drink), time just keeps on slipping by.  I thought I had lots of time.  I used to complain about how slowly time passed.

I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry.  I didn’t know.  I take it back.  Just please, please slow down a little.  They can drive now, so let’s just take a breath.  Let’s take a minute to get our bearings.

Let’s realize how precious our time is, and how much we take it for granted, okay? I swear, we’ll do better from here on out.

Okay?


 

The Split Second

I don’t know about where you live, but lately around here there seems to have been an increase in the number of child-related tragedies.

I won’t rehash them one by one.  They were depressing enough the first time around. Suffice it to say that some terrible, strange accidents have happened to some small children around the state.

Accidents aren’t really what this post is about, though.  What got me thinking was looking at and listening to some of the comments that people make about these tragic accidents.  Without fail, the parenting abilities of the parents involved with these accidents are always called into questions.  Sometimes people are downright cruel, saying that some people shouldn’t have children and that how idiots should be sterilized so they can’t reproduce.  You hear such mature, helpful advice as “hang them” and “arrest them for neglect.”

I have no doubt that some of the horrible things that happen to children are the result of bad parenting.  But then, these things aren’t really accidents, are they? What about the horrible things that happen that really are accidents? We are so quick to judge, so quick to pass sentence and shake our heads at these poor, foolish parents.

Haven’t we all been that foolish parent?

Nobody wants to admit it, but we have all had our less-than-stellar parenting moments.  The difference between me and the woman whose son died in a tragic accident is little more than pure luck.

Children are fast, and I don’t think any human on Earth can honestly say they are prepared for every possible danger scenario in the life of their child.  We try.  God knows we do.  We baby-proof and use car seats and door latches and we hover and wring our hands.  But sometimes stuff still happens, doesn’t it?

I know as the mother of two I’ve had some close calls.  One that stands out in my mind is the time my then two-year-old son found the switch that operated the automatic door we had so my sister could go in and out in her wheelchair.  The house was baby-proof.  But I noticed I didn’t hear my son, and when I went in search of him, I found him standing on the back porch looking through the door which had closed just as easily as it had opened.  He was so shocked that he had just stood there, and in reality, no more than a minute could have gone by, but what could have happened? What if, instead of stopping and looking back through the door, he had kept on trucking and went out to the road? Or down in the woods? Or, or, or, if, if, if.  I was lucky.  I grabbed him and mentally calculated the number of years that had been shaved off of my life, but that was it.  We were fine.

Another time, we were in DC seeing the sights.  We got on the elevator to go down to the Metro.  We were packed on there, and somehow I got shuffled behind my sister’s wheelchair.  My son was in front of her chair.  The door opened, and he stepped off.  For some reason, everyone else just sort of stood there.  The door started to slide shut, with me inside and my four-year-old son standing on the platform by himself.  I literally climbed over the back of my sister’s chair and hit the “door open” button.  Everyone shuffled off then, and I joined my child on the platform.  Yet another year or two off of the span of my life.  It could have gone down very differently, and been much worse.  Or, or, or, if, if, if.

So, what about you? Have you had those life-shortening, sphincter-tightening moments of parenthood? I know you have.  We all have. Go ahead, tell me about it.

I won’t judge.

 

 

 

The Thin Line

When you have little baby children, you think that things are very difficult.  You have to feed them, change them, and suck the boogers out of their noses with those little bulb things.  They cry and vomit and don’t sleep.  Life seems like one endless sucking maw of baby bodily fluids.  Oh, when will they grow up?

Then they become toddlers.  I’m far too tired this evening to recount the joys and horrors of raising toddlers.

Then they kind of go through a cool phase.  They get to be around, oh, seven or so, and from then up until around ten or eleven, or even twelve if you’re lucky, you get to interact with what appears to be an actual human being, in miniature form.  You do fun things together and talk about everything.  You are buddies.  You are best friends.  Furthermore, you are the coolest parent in the world.

Then they become teenagers.

Jack Sparrow Screaming

 

 

 

 

 

Suddenly, you find yourself looking back wistfully on those diaper changing days.  Needs of the body are easily met, but meeting the needs of the teenage mind is a problem that is unlikely to ever be solved.

My son is fifteen years old.  I know the child I gave birth to is in there somewhere, but some days I wonder if that little boy hasn’t been replaced by some alien from Planet Attitude.

Teenagers know everything. I mean, when did I miss the class in middle school that taught literally every thing about every topic and every possible scenario in the history of mankind?  Because teenagers certainly seem to know it.  They can argue about anything. They can argue with you if you tell them it’s raining outside.

Now I am starting to run into the real difficulties of raising teenagers.  Sure they are obnoxious and know-it-all and they never listen and the eye rolling thing, oh LORD don’t get me started on the eye rolling thing, and they are so dramatic that they could give acting lessons to soap opera stars, and they think their lives are just so tragic and no one understands them and their parents are totally lame and old and —–

Whew!

Sorry, I got carried away there.

My point, in case you forgot, was that raising a teenager has to be the most difficult parenting stage, hands down. The issue that I have been struggling with lately is privacy.

I’m an advocate for privacy.  I love my own.  I want my son to be able to have his space and set his boundaries and know that no one is messing in his personal business.  I can truly see it from that point of view.  It’s part of treating our children like adults.

But…….

Where is that line?  I want my son to be responsible and be able to have his personal space, but I cannot allow myself to forget that this is a fifteen year old boy that I am talking about! His decision-making capability at this stage is right on par with that of a hamster, or maybe a really smart potato.  I’m not singling him out!  I’ve known his friends since they started kindergarten, and they are all the same.  Remember when I said I thought maybe they had been abducted by aliens from planet attitude?  Actually, I think they have been abducted by Hormones, and the Hormones don’t care about consequences or mistakes or grades or anything like the future.  The Hormones care about one basic topic–sex–with many sub-topics, such as jokes, tv, games, videos, movies, all related to the main topic, which was, in case you forgot, sex.

So, what do you do?  Do you read all the texts?  Do you stalk the email and the Facebook pages? Do you snoop in drawers? Do you hire private detectives to track your child’s every move? (Just kidding.) ((Sort of.))

Help me, dear readers.  How far is too far?  My job is to be his parent, and I am going to push into those boundaries all the time, much to my son’s distress.  At what point do I officially become a stalker?

I’m all ears.

 


 

 

Not So Qualified

*In honor of my one year blog-a-versary, I decided to share some vintage (not so) Special material.  This was my first official post of the blog.  Maybe my new readers will enjoy it, as they surely haven’t gone back this far into the archives.  And if you’ve already read it, maybe it can make you smile again!  Thanks to all my faithful readers!

 

The Grandmother occasionally reads little tidbits out of the newspaper to me.  The other day is was a piece about some woman who had been arrested for doing some ghastly thing to her own child. The Grandmother made the comment, “People should have to take a test to make sure they’re qualified to be a parent!”

A few days after that, upon hearing that I was homeschooling, the comment was made to me, “Oh, I don’t know if I’m qualified to teach my own child.”

That got me thinking…….

Qualified. Webster defines this as “fit; competent.” That got me thinking even more–am I qualified to be a parent? Consider these following points about yours truly.

  • I once searched for almost forty minutes for my cell phone. My son, upon realizing what I was looking for, told me to call it and listen for the ring. I did, and I heard it ringing……..from inside my pocket.
  • I have served, as the main course of a meal other than breakfast, Lucky Charms.
  • I have told my children to shut up.
  • I have lied to my children because a) I wanted them to do something they didn’t want to do, b) I didn’t want them to do something they wanted to do, or c) simply to get them to be quiet and leave me alone for a few minutes.
  • I have let the television babysit my children.
  • I have a drill sergeant’s philosophy about shouting–I never shout, I just speak in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear.

I will not even get into the background stuff before my children were born. This is a blog after all, not a confessional.

Anyway, would I qualify? Let’s just say it’s a good thing there isn’t a test. The stuff back there is just the tip of the iceberg. I have a list of faults a mile long. Yet, somehow, I have been entrusted with not one, but two little people to raise into functioning adults. Better still–one of them is a special needs child who is dependent on me for everything.  Needless to say, it makes me nervous.

It doesn’t help when I am confronted with the uber-mommy. You know the ones I’m talking about. Where do these women come from? They always have their hair fixed and their make-up on, and they are always dressed in cute little outfits that have those sweaters with no sleeves or whatever.  They craft and scrapbook and they fix three nutritious meals for their families every day. I expect they churn their own butter.

Meanwhile, I’m home pouring Lucky Charms into a bowl and yelling at my kids. It doesn’t seem fair, does it? And yet…..my kids seem pretty happy and well-adjusted.  We’re a pretty close family, and there really isn’t a whole lot of drama here.  I don’t seem to embarrass them too much yet.  I think the key might be love. More than that, I think the key might be loving your children more than you love yourself.  That is where a lot of people fall short.

I’m almost absolutely certain that I wouldn’t officially be called fit or competent to raise another human from birth into adulthood, but I’m struggling along every day and doing the best I can. It’s worked out okay for me so far.  I’d love to share with you some of my success stories, but right now I can’t. I’ve got to go look for my cell phone.


 

Mick Jagger Said it Best

     “You can’t always get what you want…..”

     Inspired by a post on a beloved blog, “Do Sweat the Small Stuff,” and the writing prompt for Red Writing Hood,  I decided to write about a very thought provoking question……..what do I want? What an open-ended question! I ask all of you to think about it–what do you want? Probably lots of stuff pops into your mind right away, mostly material things or things that need to be completed in your life. But what do you really want?

     I thought it would be most interesting to think about the things I wanted 18 years ago and compare them to the things I want now. I don’t even know who that person was, let alone what happened to her, but I do remember some of the things that were very important to her. Here’s a list of what she wanted most in the world.

  1. To be a marine biologist and study humpback whales in both Alaska and Hawaii.
  2. To study at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
  3. To become a world-renowned expert on humpback whales.
  4. To have a home on a rocky coast somewhere overlooking the Pacific.
  5. To lead a free, unbound life, on no one else’s terms.
  6. To possibly never have children, and certainly not until much later in life, and even then most likely adopt them.
  7. To never, ever, ever, depend on anyone else.

     Now, that list just looks like a big pile of crap to me now. Not one thing on there is reality.  Here are the things that I want now.

  1. I want my children to have every possible opportunity and to never be held back by their own fears.
  2. I also want them to have a top-notch education.
  3. I never want my own fears to project onto my kids and stop them from doing something they want to do.
  4. I want them to have as little pain in this world as possible.
  5. I want to have just one month with a little money left over.
  6. I want to remember what it’s like not to worry.
  7. I want someone to invent self-cleaning windows.
  8. I want my family to be happy.
  9. I want my daughter to look at me and call me mommy. I’d sell my soul for this one. Believe it.
  10. I want to be able to find myself again someday.

     It’s not hard to see the difference between those two people.  You get married and have kids, and things change. Some things change for the good, and some things, well, not so much.  Responsibilities and obligations arose, but the truth is, most of the things I didn’t do are simply because I was too afraid to do them. That’s what happens to us all. The things we want, that we really want, we are too afraid to go and get them.  We put them off for just a while, then a while longer, and then the next thing you know, your life is so far down some other path that it is unrecognizable. 

     I don’t ever think I’ll have those things on that first list, but that’s okay. Things are different now. The essence of the dream is that it comes to an end and reality takes over. Sometimes it hurts a little to let them go, but letting go always hurts, even if you are letting go for something better. Sometimes the thing you didn’t even know you wanted turns out to be the best thing ever, and so it’s all okay in the end.

     I notice how much simpler the things I want now are. I guess I’m more easily satisfied. My dreams are smaller, but my satisfaction is infinitely greater. My children’s happiness means more to me than my own ever could. All of my hopes and dreams now are wrapped up in them.  I’m fine with that.  They are both the most beautiful part of my life, and the fact that I didn’t even know that I wanted them until I had them makes it even better.  Maybe there’s a lesson there–forget about what you want, and just be content with what you have.

     “……but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” Mick Jagger

A Hillbilly in New York, Part 2

     Well, we made it back.

     I think the trip went remarkably well.  It’s taken me a few days to get this post up because I’ve been in recovery since we got home (at 4:30am!)  Also, I think I’ve spent some time digesting what all we saw, and fielding the questions that my son has fired off to me almost non-stop since our return. He didn’t have the time or energy to ask me while we were actually there.

     We saw some truly amazing things, one of the best being “The Lion King.” If you ever have a chance to see a Broadway show, do it. It’s worth the money.  There really aren’t any words that can adequately describe what it was like–just a long string of superlatives that make it sound cliché, which it certainly is NOT.  I saw what New York looks like at twilight from the top of the Empire State Building, ate lunch from Fluffy’s Cafe in Central Park, watched a performance in Carnegie Hall, walked through the immigrant registration station on Ellis Island, and stood at the foot of the Statue of Liberty. In short, I knocked about half the items off of my bucket list.

     Ellis Island was especially fascinating.  There was a quote on the wall there from a Lithuanian immigrant about how her mother said watching her get on the train to the coast was the same as watching her go into her casket. They never saw one another again. That young woman did that because of the golden opportunity she thought was waiting for her in America.  It’s an odd thought.  So many of us complain constantly about our government and our country, but some viewed it as the promised land–a place they would literally give up everything to come to. Interesting thought.

     Mostly, as usual, my son and I were both fascinated by the people.  We heard as much foreign language as we did English. And as for the New Yorkers themselves, well, I’m still undecided.  We hear that they are rude and overbearing, and upon first glance, you might take that as the truth–certainly upon entering a vehicle everyone in the city transforms into some sort of homicidal lunatic–but I’m not so sure. To me, it almost seems like something more, something different than what we “southerners” call rude.  They have become immune to tourists, and really to themselves as well. 

     When we were travelling, we wore matching tee shirts. So, we stood out.  Our commander-in-chief would ask some random person waiting on the train if we were picking the right one to get where we wanted to go, and immediately that person would become very helpful and courteous. They would sort of look around at us like they hadn’t noticed us before–which I fully believe to be the truth. It’s not so much that they are rude, it’s just that you have to penetrate beyond that cocoon that they have enveloped themselves in to find the real person underneath.

     I guess you’d have to be  a little immune to it–there are umpteen billion people there bustling about, tourists and locals alike, and at times you are literally squeezing through crowds. There’s no way you could say “excuse me” to each person you nudge or bump.  I’m reminded of Crocodile Dundee when he went to NYC, and he tried to greet everyone and be polite. If you haven’t seen the movie, I’ll give you the answer–it didn’t work. So everyone just goes along with their own lives, headed to wherever they are headed.  Another point–I don’t know where they are going, but boy are they in a hurry!

     Don’t get me wrong–there were rude people there just like there are everywhere, including right where we live. Business Bitch Barbie, for example, ran right over our friend Lucas, and rather than say sorry, she had an expression on her face like she stepped in something stinky. To add insult to injury, she ran over his foot with her Business Bitch Barbie rolling briefcase accessory.  I called “Excuse us!  Have a nice day!” after her, but I didn’t get a response, of course.

     So, there are rude people in New York, and there are nice people, and mostly there are just regular people doing what everyone does–working, shopping, going to school, just living.  It was an awesome trip–so much so that I want to go back on a private vacation so I can explore a little more. The city impressed me, and I can see why so many not only flock there, but thrive there.  I recommend it highly to anyone who is looking for a vacation destination, just listen to a little advice–take plenty of spending cash, wear your walking shoes, see “The Lion King,” and watch out for Business Bitch Barbie. She’s hell with that briefcase.

A Hillbilly in New York, Pt. 1

     Yep, you read that right–we are going to New York City.  A friend of mine is a music teacher, and she is taking a group of her kids to perform in Carnegie Hall (practice, practice, practice) and she invited us to go along! How cool is that?

     I am VERY excited.  Now, I’m not what you would call country.  (I’m actually coal camp.)  We’ve travelled a quite a bit–Philly, Atlanta, DC, Birmingham, Knoxville, Pittsburg, Charlotte, Baltimore, and a few others–but still…..this is New York City we are talking about people!  We are going to see the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building, just to name a few.  We’ll leave Tuesday evening and be home late Friday night.

     I am also VERY nervous.  Not about the trip–like I said, we have been to a place or two, and the only part that makes me nervous is the bus ride. What I am nervous about is walking away from my life for four days.  I’m sure to most people that sounds a bit drastic, but that may be because you don’t know how anal retentive I can be about certain things.

     Primarily, I’m nervous about leaving my daughter. My sister is in good hands, and she’d rather be where she’s going than with me anyway, so I’m not really worried about her, but Evelyn doesn’t really understand why we just sort of disappear for four days.  I don’t have any way to explain it to her.  She’ll be with her dad and The Grandparents, but I worry.  It makes me wonder if she is maybe a little bit more aware than I give her credit for, because now, to make me feel even better, she is sick.  Her teacher called from school today to inform me that she was running a fever and lying around. I picked her up early and she has slept in the chair ever since.

     Thanks, Evelyn.

     I know all of my guilt is self-inflicted, but that doesn’t make it any less.  No matter what, in my mind, no one can care for her the way I do.  No one.  No one can read her and understand what she wants the way I do.  I’m just going to hop on a bus and be hundreds of miles from her, which is bad enough, but now I’m going to do it while she is sick.

     Don’t get me wrong–I’m going anyway. I’m nervous, not stupid.  I have WAY more separation anxiety than Evelyn ever did (I still cry on the first day of school. Really.) I imagine every possible thing that could happen or go wrong, and I have a great imagination. I miss her so much that sometimes I lay in bed in night when I’m away from her and cry. I’m just a great big girl, right? (I miss my husband too, by the way, but I know he can feed and clothe himself with minimal assistance.)  I just have to suck it up and have a good time.  This will be the farthest I’ve been from her in a long, long, time, and the farthest I’ve ever been while she was mobile and able to get into a lot of trouble.  The last time I was far away from her, she was basically like a potted plant.  She couldn’t even crawl. Now she’s like a damn cat–just five minutes of not watching her and all hell could break loose. So you see how my mind works.

     But anyway, I’m very excited.  We will never have another opportunity like this again.  My OCD acts up a little when I pack, and I always remind myself a little of Melvin Udall in “As Good As It Gets” when he’s packing for the trip to Baltimore. I even have a list. (People think the fact I make lists and keep things organized is because I am organized, but really the opposite is true. If I didn’t keep things in order, I would never find anything again. Ever.) Anyway, we are all packed up and ready to go.  Evelyn and Matt will drop us off at the bus tomorrow afternoon, and I’ll laugh and joke and wave frantically as we pull away.  I’ll save the tears until everyone else is asleep. I do have my reputation to uphold, after all.

Dental Hell

“We have nothing to fear but fear itself–and the dentist.” Someone other than Winston Churchill

!!!!!!!!!!!WARNING!!!!!!!!!!!!

THIS BLOG POST CONTAINS LARGE AMOUNTS OF SELF PITY

     It says in the Bible that the sins of the father shall be visited even unto the seventh generation (or something like that) and I think it may be true.  I have carefully avoided the dentist for most of my adult life, and now I’m paying for it. Sad part is, my daughter is apparently caught up in that whole seventh generation thing, too.

     I’ve recently become more acquainted with the dentist than I ever wanted. A few grand later, I am now a great believer in the dentist. I’m a dental zealot. I will go to the dentist every six months until the day I die, even if my family has to roll me through the door in a hospital bed. I will never, ever, neglect my teeth again.  My mouth, or my wallet, could not survive the trauma again. So, I’ve learned my lesson, right? End of story. Right? Right?!?

     Right.

     Evelyn’s feelings about the dentist transcend fear. She views the dentist office as some sort of torture chamber. She has to be held down, people are touching her head AND rooting around in her mouth. Now, since the routine cleaning thing isn’t traumatic enough, she is having some problems of an orthodontic nature. Her teeth are clean and healthy, and she has always gone to the dentist regularly, but they just aren’t where they should be. I won’t go into all of it–it’s too depressing.  In short, she has a very small jaw (the medical term for that, folks, is micrognathia) and there just simply isn’t enough room for all of her teeth.  So this time she had to have x-rays, which we never did before, and wasn’t that fun! She was already so royally pissed by the time the routine stuff started, the whole thing was a nightmare. We were all sweating, some of us (not naming names) were crying, and I was exhausted.  Obviously, Evelyn won’t every be wearing braces, or an expander, or any of the various orthodontic equipment that would normally be used for someone with her dental problems. The best option for her will be to remove some teeth, but she has to have that surgically done (obviously), which means a trip to the hospital and general anesthesia.

     Why of why must everything be so difficult for her? Look out, this is where the self-pity comes in–I don’t understand why she can’t ever get a break.  Even dental procedures become an ordeal that involves the hospital, anesthesia risks, recovery, blah, blah, blah.  Couldn’t one thing, just one damn little freaking thing be simple for her, and let’s be honest here, for me?

     Okay, that’s all. I guess.  I have no idea what the answer to any of those questions is, and I don’t think anyone else does, either, so there isn’t really a reason to ask them.  I just have to look at the big picture, whatever the hell THAT means, and see that she will feel better when this is all over, and she will be happier if she’s asleep through the whole thing. Didn’t I have sedation through my extensive procedures? (Yes, I did.) What’s the difference?  She won’t ever know a thing about any of it, and I’m sure that’s how she wants it.

     Why are we all so afraid of the dentist? I have a healthy fear of the entire medical profession, but the dentist is in a class of his own.  I have tattoos, I’ve had surgery, and still I sit in the dentist office waiting room with sweating palms, a pounding heart, and a racing mind. Beats me. Maybe because you’re awake for the actual stuff that’s happening, or maybe it’s something that’s just passed along from generation to generation. To be honest, I had little to no discomfort with all of the work I recently had  done, and a toothache hurts WAY worse than anything the dentist has ever done, but still…….

     There’s nothing for it, I guess. We’ll just have to be afraid. But do me (and yourself!) a favor and tough it out. I’m not much of an advice-giver, but I’ll give you some, and it’s a LOT cheaper than a visit to the dentist.  Take care of your teeth. Really.  Do it for me, or, if you don’t want to do that, do it for Evelyn. I guarantee she hates the dentist more than you do.

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

     We took a little mini vacation and spent two nights in Gettysburg. My son is a great history lover, particularly wars, and specifically the Civil War.  You can imagine the pull Gettysburg has for him. He recently memorized the Gettysburg Address, and he was itching to see the place where Lincoln gave the actual speech all of those years ago.

     Me, I was a little worried. It is a Civil War buff’s playground, it’s true, but it’s a solemn place. Where we live we are surrounded by Civil War history. Literally. Somehow up there, it was different. Such a huge battle, so important, and so many lives lost in such a short time. Ian tends to be pretty tender-hearted, and I wasn’t sure what he would think. He did fine–he was shocked, I think, but like so many of us, it was such a long time ago, it tends to lose some of the heart-wrenching potency. It was in another time, and another world–a world that my eleven year old son, who thinks I’m old–can barely even fathom.

    On the way home today, we went to the Flight 93 National Memorial Site.  That tragedy, my friend, happened in a world that we can not only fathom, but that we live in still today.

     The site is still a temporary arrangement. The crash site is in a field at the foot of an old strip mine, and the metal building that was once part of the mine, which stopped producing in 1995, serves as an exhibit room now. At the time of the crash–a day which I’m sure I don’t need to name, but anyway, on September 11, 2001–it served as the base for the investigation and eventually the recovery. Also, the media crush gathered on the overlook that now serves as the visitor overlook.

     It’s not a very fancy memorial, but for all that, it says a lot.  There is ongoing construction, so it’s not peaceful, or beautiful. There is a makeshift chain link fence with two signs hanging on it that show where the site of the crash was on that day, and tells a little bit about what happened, and what the memorial will be like when it’s finished this September, which will of course be the ten year anniversary. Inside the exhibit, there are more details about both, and pictures of the 40 passengers and crew who died that day. There is a guest book, and a place to write a message and hang it on the message wall. I wanted to, but I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what NOT to say.

     What can anybody say? Forty people got on a plane that day, that’s all. At Gettysburg, so many thousands approached that battle, as so many of them had done before, and as some would do again, and what were they thinking?  At the National Military Museum, I heard a quote, which I can’t remember verbatim, but which basically said, any man who faces death and mutilation without fear is a lunatic, but one who fears death and mutilation, but faces them anyway because of duty and honor, is a hero. I’m sure not all of the boys at Gettysburg wanted to be there, some maybe didn’t choose to be there, but once they were there, they faced death, and fear, and they were heroes–blue or gray, black or white–they did give the last full measure of devotion.

     So, forty people got on a plane. Thousands of people do that every day. Do they think they might die? I doubt it. The truth is, any of us might die any time, but we don’t necessarily go around thinking about it.  Those forty people, they had plans, dreams, ideas–their whole lives planned out.  We know now, some very bad people had different plans, and things changed for those forty people on board Flight 93.  I sit here in my comfortable chair, with my family asleep in various parts of the house around me, and I don’t know if I would have done what those people did.

     But……

     Maybe they would have said that same thing, too.  They weren’t soldiers, after all.  They were just people on a plane.  Suddenly, they were confronted with the possibility of death, and fear, and what did they do?  They faced it.  They knew what had happened with the other planes.  They knew what was going to happen to their plane, too, I bet, but they faced it.  They didn’t set out to be heroes, and I know their families would rather have them here than have a million memorials dedicated to them–that’s how I’d feel–but it happened, and they lost their own lives in an attempt to keep others from dying. What is that but the last full measure of devotion? Maybe quoting the Gettysburg Address is cliché, but it’s a simple, beautiful speech, and those words meant something then, and they mean something now.  I think of the fear they faced, and the heartbreak of their families, and of that memorial, and of my son, and my daughter, and I am so glad that there are still heroes, still people who can face fear and death, and face it with a courage I can’t even imagine.

     We hear bad things so much. Our lives are inundated with the terrible things that people do.  But sometimes, people do things that aren’t terrible, but wonderful.  Sad, and awful, but wonderful. When people do terrible things, I’m so glad that there are other people who will stand up, even though they may not have volunteered for the job. Those people lived a hundred and fifty years ago, and ten years ago, and today.  If you pray, or meditate, or whatever you do, think about those forty people, and what they did, and the hard anniversary that’s coming up for their loved ones, and say thanks for all of the heroes, then and now. Then go give your kids a kiss. I think I’ll do that now, too.

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