Tuesday, February 21, 2012

November Rain

It's 8:14 on a Saturday night. My glass is half full. My wine glass, anyway.  The girls are asleep. I'm wearing sweatpants & drinking a decent pinot noir sans a brassiere. If I had a cigarette it would be as close to perfection as one can get. But I quit years ago & you can't buy Marlboro's with a bridge card. VH1's "100 Greatest Metal Songs of All Time" is keeping me company & I have plans to bring my daughters' scrapbooks up-to-date. As Brett Michael's frighteningly young looking face (he is older than me..Right?) introduces #81, "Heaven & Hell", a Black Sabbath ditty that sufficiently summarizes marriage & subsequent divorce, I begin the layout & design for Vivian's first year of life. Bear in mind she'll be three in January.

I glance over at Madeline's scrapbook. It was co-authored by Leo Tolstoy.  I recorded with an anal retentive OCD like disorder all of Maddie's special moments. Her first holidays are commemorated with photos. Lots & lots of photos. Her first stuffed stocking from12/25/2006. Her first Easter basket brimming with jellybeans & bubbles & sidewalk chalk. (She was 7 months old and ate the chalk) Her every move and milestone are cropped & centered. With whimsical stickers and glitter markers I detailed the arrival of solid foods, sitting up & walking. Her first curl is there along with a painstaking record of every tooth in her head. She had professional photographs taken at 3, 6, 9, & 12 months wearing overpriced monogrammed frocks. It is, in a word, ridiculous.

I glance down & Vivian's book & begin to laugh. Two photographs (and mind you, she's not actually alone in either one) & a tiny hospital bracelet fall out. This child is completely undocumented. Like stay-out-of-Arizona-someone-might-call-INS type of undocumented. The Rollins Band is #64 with "Liar." That is exactly what I feel like trying to piece this shit together. I have a Tupperware container full of snapshots & a Ziploc bag of hair. (the latter sounds much creepier than it really is.) I begin searching for clues as to how old Vivian might have been when any one of these were taken What color / length is my hair? Is Madeline still in diapers? Did Owen have all his teeth? I begin placing the pictures on thick, pink card stock with flowers & rainbows & puppy dogs decoratively flitting across the pages. Mr. Michael's & his tan introduce #34. "Barracuda." I love the Wilson sisters. Ann & Nancy led the band, wrote the songs, & played the instruments. But for as much as I dig female empowerment, I love the day I threw away Jeremy's childhood even more. 

It began last November as an innocent Sunday evening project: clean out the attached two car garage that had morphed into a catch all of sorts.  Boxes too small children's clothes & baby gear. Lawn tools & toys the kids had outgrown. Holiday decorations. A freezer chest. It was Sunday night--"garbage night" in North Royal Oak & I was ready to get my purge on. While I was sorting into piles of PITCH / DONATE / KEEP something caught my eye. A varsity jacket peeked out of a Sterilite box. I walked over, popped the top & was greeted by Jeremy's past. Conveniently packaged into three containers & mocking me. I was storing this man's personal possessions because______? I couldn't answer.  There I was. Alone. In my garage. With a box of HEFTY bags, an iPod loaded with Guns-n-Roses & AC/DC, & white hot rage.  Crazy on you never felt so fucking good.

I dragged everything that represented the life & times of Jeremy C. Lawrence to the curb that night. His varsity coat was just the beginning. All his report cards & art projects & mementos from elementary school through college are gone. Christmas ornaments. Yearbooks. Trophies. Family photos. His framed B.A. and Masters degrees are in a landfill. There is no record of camp or vacations. The baby book his mother poured over for years bit the dust. When I finished hauling away his life I was panting & sweating & sobbing. If you can leave four beautiful children in 2010 you can leave a birth announcement from 1974.

I look down at Vivian's baby book. It's come together quite nicely. I have the Detroit Free Press from both the day she was born and Obama's inauguration. A church bulletin & invitation from her baptism day. Her gorgeous ladybug birth announcement. Lots of photos of her with her big brothers and sister. I used stickers & colored markers to log my educated guesses at when she popped teeth & ate solid food. I write her a letter telling her how her sweet & silly disposition helped both me & Madeline survive this past year and how her personality truly fits her name: vivacious and full of life. 

Brett Michaels tells me #6 is The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." Ah, yeah. Amen, Mr. Daltrey. I know my issues have issues right now & I couldn't care less. I'll eventually get over it. Like Axl said, "nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain."

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I'll Take 20 mg of Lexapro for $1000 please, Alex

     I was 22 years old when I suffered my first heart attack. Over the course of the past 18 years I’ve had at least a dozen more. I’ve also battled Lou Gehrig’s Disease, multiple sclerosis, brain tumor(s), both Type I & Type II diabetes, Inflammatory Breast Cancer, Celiac disease, lupus, had 2 ectopic pregnancies, skin cancer, & frostbite.  I have a propensity for anxiety, a tendency for hypochondria, and a flair for the dramatic. Even though no licensed medical professional has ever been able to find a God damned thing wrong with me, I know better.

     One heart attack was even Beaumont worthy. Like middle-of-the-night-ekg-machine-worthy. As my (very) obliging father hastily drove down 13 Mile Rd desperately trying not to laugh at me, I clutched the left side of my chest screaming shit like, “Dad! My jaw hurts!” and “My left arm is going numb!” Upon arrival I was immediately seen by Nurse Jackhole (not her real name). After a barrage of questioning and confident I wasn’t on a post 8 ball freak out she agreed to hook me up to an ekg machine. I remember telling her, “Those machines aren’t 100% accurate for woman” and asking, “What if you miss something?” Her mouth told me to, “Calm down.” Her eyes told me to, “Shut the fuck up. It’s 4 a.m.

     Confident I would be vindicated once the doctor saw the permanent cardiac damage I suffered at the hands of this incompetent bitch (after all, this heart attack had been going on for over an hour) I began mentally spending the spoils from my class action lawsuit.  I was rudely interrupted by a young resident standing in front of me with acrid coffee breath, acne, & raggedy, worn NIKEs. “You’re having a panic attack,” he said in a flat monotone. "Lay off the caffeine and fill this prescription for Xanax. Follow up with your primary physician as needed. Have a good day.” Oh. I guess I wouldn’t be dropping my kids off at Country Day in my Mercedes. I would, however, be able to add panic attacks to my Arsenal of Illness.

     The weeks following Jeremy’s disappearance from my life was a nightmare. I was already popping Xanax like candies--and had been for the last 6 weeks when I originally learned of his infidelities (isn’t that a polite way to say when I found out he was fucking women that weren’t me?) I spent morning, noon, & night in my red tattered Lands’ End nightgown. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t eat. I walked aimlessly from room to room. I smoked cigarettes. I forgot to feed the girls. My house was filthy and my fridge was empty. I lost my keys. My purse. My husband. My boys. My breath. My mind.  By mid November I was having daily panic attacks and could barely bring myself to leave the house. It was time to take a shower. Scrub a toilet. Bring Madeline to school. Go to Kroger.  I was ready to begin to feel (semi) human again. It was time to peel off the God damned nightgown and call Dr. H.

     Dr. Robert T. Hasbany is my own personal Jesus. As soon as he walked in the examining room where I was busily gnawing at my bloody cuticles I opened my mouth and black tar poured out. God love Dr. H. He sat there nodding and “hmmmm-ing” and when I was all done sobbing and ranting and calling Jeremy a, “Mother fucking dick suck” he looked right at me and replied, “Yeah. He is. But you need meds. Good ones.”

     Wielding his prescription pad and pen like a sword and shield I was introduced to 20 mg of Lexapro 1x a day. With a Xanax chaser. I drove directly to CVS filled my prescription and returned home clutching my pills exhausted form my field trip to the outside world. I closed my eyes, clicked my heels, & repeated, “There’s no place like sanity…There’s no place like sanity…There’s no place like sanity.” After all, the Cowardly Lion might be in Kansas, but Dorothy was still in Royal Oak and the Tin Man and Scarecrow wanted lunch. Every day.




Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween, Fuckface

I just returned home from a night of trick or treating with my girls. We had a blast traipsing up & down Royal Avenue. The street I grew up on. The street where car loads of kids get dropped of to beg & where there are still multiple homes passing out king sized candy bars. Homeowners dress up, decorate with orange & purple lights, & play spooky music. There are graveyards, zombies, witches, & ghosts. There are friendly jack-o-lanterns & huge blow up spiders. There are even folks who run fog machines. Yeah. They get into it on Royal Ave.

As the girls & I walked up & down the street I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. And not just because it was Halloween & I didn’t want to be interviewed by Tim Pamplin & the Nightcam while they put out an AMBER Alert for my kids. My daughters astonish me—every day--with everything they do & everything they are. I looked on amazed as Madeline waited for Vivian to teeter down the porch steps after receiving her sweet treats. Sometimes she even offered her arm for her younger sister to steady herself. Then I heard Vivian’s oh-so-distinct voice boom, “TANK YOU” —without so much as a prompt from me.

As we walked along I absorbed every aspect of the evening. The crisp autumn air. The joyful noise of the kids mixed with the occasional scolding from a parent warning their child not to, “Walk too far ahead ” or to “Stay out of that bag—got it?” I was lost in thought & my mind began to wander to last Halloween. And nothing happened. So I tried again. Nada. Zip. Like I-can’t-even-remember-what-my-kids-wore kind of nothingness. Remember in Superman II when he agrees to give up his powers & marry Lois, but those three Kryptonian criminals he inadvertently released are headed to Earth? Remember the big dumb one who sucked? Like couldn’t do ANYTING  & he would squinch up his face & get all mad, but still nothing would happen? That was me.

Oooooh, WAIT A MINUTE. That’s right. Last year, Fuckface took off five days before Halloween. I couldn’t remember anything because I was drunk on Captain Morgan’s & apple cider. Last year I was bitten by an emotional vampire & had my feelings drained out of me. I was a douche bag induced zombie. It’s (vaguely) coming back to me. Meredith, Elizabeth & I snuck cigarettes on our parent’s side drive while Madeline watched TV in the back room with my mom (who thought I had Vivian. Um, I did not.) After a SUPER fun dirty white trash version of “Where the fuck is the baby?” we heard giggling under the dining room table & found Viv eating Snicker bars THROUGH the cellophane wrapping. Like 26 of them. Yes! That’s right! She had diarreaha & I was hungover. It was an all around extraordinary holiday.

As I snapped back to THIS year I began to laugh inwardly. Last year’s antics seem like a lifetime ago. As I watch these two awesome kids go up & down the block I am overwhelmed with pride—this time in myself. For simply surviving. See, The joke’s on you, Jeremy. You missed all of this. You missed everything. The costumes the school party the pumpkin carving & the cider mill. You missed Madeline’s HELLO KITTY ensemble at school & then her transformation into bumblebee evening wear. You won’t ever see Vivian as a unicorn clutching her sack of candy screaming, “Wook, Maddie! Wook! Dat house has a yight! Dey have TREATS for us! RUN!”

Happy Halloween, Fuckface. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I actually made it through the summer. Holy Shit

JUNE  2011

I am sick of “I.” Sick of making every fucking choice for every fucking aspect of my fucking life. I crave “we” and “us” and “our” Even simple choices like whether to thaw out pork chops or turkey burgers seems daunting. Everything is up to me. Everything. The grass needs to be cut. Vivian needs new shoes. I have neither a pension nor retirement fund. There is no milk in the fridge. Vivian’s tricycle needs to be put together. There is a terrifyingly huge raccoon living under the deck. The electric bill came in red writing. Madeline has a dentist appointment. The shower drain is slow.  It’s garbage day. The Camry needs a new battery. Taxes have to be filed. Does the porch light require a certain bulb? The laundry tub is overflowing. Vivian has to be potty trained. Medicaid insurance papers came in the mail. Netflix isn’t working and the whole HDTV needs to be rebooted. Madeline failed her hearing test. What the fuck is an allen wrench?

I am drowning in a sea of oil changes and school supplies and bank balances and check ups. Each new day brings another wave of responsibility that crashes on top of me pushing me further and further underwater.

It’s 8 o’clock in the morning on a crappy Tuesday. Freddie Mercury is posthumously performing in my bedroom. He rung up Bowie & the two got together for a special morning jam session:

Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure - that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets
Um ba ba be
Um ba ba be
De day da
Ee day da - that's o.k.
It's the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming 'Let me out'
Pray tomorrow - gets me higher
Pressure on people - people on streets
Day day de mm hm
Da da da ba ba
Chippin' around - kick my brains around the floor
These are the days it never rains but it pours”

When the song is over I tell Freddie he looks fantastic, all things considered. I share with him that “Fat Bottomed Girls” actually speaks to me.  He is wearing a bedazzling spandex jumpsuit and asks me where the nearest gay bar is. I tell him I am a total fag hag & actually manage one. I give him directions to PRONTO! and instruct him to tell Kurt I sent him in. I ask Dave if Iman is pissed that he had help me get out of bed this morning. He assures me she’s fine with it.  Laughing bitterly I think really, what are my options? There are two little girls sleeping down the hall that need me. ME. Not an 800 pound drunk chain smoking version of me. Because if I had my way I would by lying in bed with a Jet’s pizza, bottle of Pinot Noir, & carton of Marlboro Lights. They need their MOM. And as broken and battered as I am right now, I’m still the one. Most days I both thank & curse God for that title.
I thank Freddie & Dave for stopping by & swing my legs off the bed on to the floor. It’s time to start another day.

JULY 2010

It’s time to move. I’ve essentially been squatting here biding my time until I figured out what I was going to do. I finally got up the courage to call my landlord. Clarence. He’s a 78 year old black man who lives in Texas and refers to himself in the third person. “Now don’t you worry, darlin’ ol’ Clarence isn’t about to put you and your babies out on the street, ya hear?” I’ve never met him, but I love him. George Bailey had Clarence Odbody and I have Clarence Hall.

I mentally prepare for this conversation the way I envision a professional athlete prepares for the big game: lots of hype. I think of scantily clad cheerleaders jumping around my yard waving their pom poms shouting “Gimme an ‘A’—A—gotta  have an ‘A’! Gimme an ‘M’---M---gotta have an ‘M’! Gimme a ‘Y’---Y---gotta  have a ‘Y’ What does it spell AMY! I can’t hear you! AMY! I still can’t hear you…AMY!!!

As I reach for the phone, the crowd goes wild. I can hear Chris Berman now: “There she is, ladies & gentlemen, Amy Pugh. Did you see how she picked up that telephone and began pressing those numbers? She is actually following through! This will NOT be an incomplete pass! She could. Go. All. The. Way!"  The 69 Boyz - "Tootsee Roll" starts up as the phone begins to ring. I want to hang up and run back to bed. Too late. “Hello, there!”  Clarence booms his greeting to me. He’s so sweet. I explain that I’ve tapped out all the possibilities of staying here and that the movers are set for the end of next month. (Movers are being provided courtesy of my brother. My younger brother. My younger and infinitely more successful brother. To be continued in therapy)

Marshall Mathers? Jesus Christ. Christ? This is Marshall

It is Monday, January 3 at 6:51 p.m. and I am sitting my car in the parking lot of Kensington Church. My ten week “Divorce Recovery” group meets for the first time in 9 minutes. I am terrified. I don’t know what to expect and I hate surprises. Is it going to be two hours of prayer? Because I have been praying for his death in a firy inferno of a car accident. Like dental records only typed of CSI stuff. Not too Christian of me and there is no way I am sharing that one here—in church of all places.

The radio is on and just as I am about to pop the car into drive—making excuses to myself for myself I hear the voice of Detroit’s own Eminem and by the time I hear:

            “It's a little too late to say that you're sorry now
            You kicked me when I was down….        
             You showed me nothing but hate,
             you ran me into the ground
             But what comes around goes around
             And you don't hurt me
            You don't hurt me, no more”

I realize two things. First, that there is a reason I am in a church parking lot listening to, “What comes around goes around” and it doesn’t matter that it’s in the middle of a song rife with profanity. I get the message. I put the car in park and began to laugh. Marshal Bruce Mathers III is speaking to ME.

Walking into the Divorce Recovery seminar I smell shitty coffee and see Kleenex boxes placed strategically around the room. I realize recovering from this can and will take on many different forms. There will be laughter, tears, journaling, counseling, church, and support groups. I will have days where I need to be alone, days when I don’t want to get out of bed, and days when all I want is to be surrounded by family and friends. It doesn’t matter. I check in, put my name tag on & walk over to my assigned table. What matters is that I recover. That my girls recover. That the three of us are a family and THIS is our new normal. 

January sucked it


I ordered Vivian’s 2nd birthday cake today. While I was giving the bakery instructions on the butter cream icing and just what size I wanted the ladybug (Viv’s pet name) the woman on the phone asked me what I wanted written across the cake. Instinctively I replied, “Our Little Lady is 2!” Then I remembered. “Wait,” I choked, “Please change that” my voice now almost a whisper. “It should read ‘My Little Lady is 2!’ It’s just me.”

I live in a world of, “we, us, and our” It’s extremely difficult to be “just me” in my circle of friends and family. I am the third wheel. The odd man out. Partnerless. Alone. Table for one. 

Sometimes, after I put my daughters to bed I pad down the hall to my boys’ old room.  I have to keep their door closed, as it’s a Pandora’s Box of emotion and memory in there. However, every once in a while, when the aching for them simply becomes too much to shoulder, I will go in, sit on the edge of the bed and wait for the tears that always come.

I glance at their artwork and photographs. I see their calendars that are now four months behind and look around the room at toys that were once played with daily and now have a fine film of dust. I can’t bring myself to dismantle this room. I am simply not ready. I pick up Owen’s pillow. It still smells like him. Like Johnson’s baby shampoo and sleep. When I married his father he was 18 months old. He will be seven next month. A flood of emotion overtakes me.

There is a hole in my heart so black and so deep I don’t know how or if I will ever repair it. 

He is such a fucker


It is a Saturday morning at the local Bounce U—the latest craze in kids’ birthday parties. My four year old, Madeline, has been invited to a classmate’s party & she’s anxiously tugging at the sleeve of my jacket. “Come on, MOMMMMM! We’re gonna be late.” I take a deep breath, affix my Joker like smile and walk in. I know what to expect: two hours of, “Where’s Jeremy?” and “How is Jeremy?” I am nauseated.

We enter the loud cavernous room filled with the joyful noise of excited children. I quickly survey the room. The dads are in the various inflatable contraptions, jumping & rough housing with their kids. The moms are in a semi circle in the middle of the room; clutching their Starbucks, sharing harmless gossip, and waving as their kids their kids’ shriek “LOOK AT ME, MOMMA!” Typical Saturday birthday party scenario.

Madeline is a quick study. She squeezes my hand, looks up at me, and testing my emotional barometer says, “There sure are a lot of Daddies here today, huh Mommy?” I nod. “Yes, Baby. There sure are.” She looks down at her stocking feet. “I remember when I had a Daddy. He used to jump with me here….” I pick her up and kissing her face I say, “I do, too, Mads. I do, too. Daddy loves you so much—he’s just not here right now. Let’s have Momma & Maddie jump time-- I am a really good jumper!” My four year old smiles. Then giggles. Then I see the happiness return to her eyes. I glance in the full length mirror to make sure my Joker smile is still affixed. I can’t ever let her know how sad I am for her. Ever.