Friday, April 24, 2009

An Impeded Life

Retard. I have always been a bit sensitive to the word. The definition for retard is to make slow; delay the development or progress of an action, process, etc.; hinder or impede; or disparaging slang for a mentally retarded person. I suppose it’s an innocent enough word compared to some, but hardly ever used in proper context or without being malicious, it's a word that causes me to cringe. I’m sure my disdain for the word was influenced by my dad’s little brother, Roger, who is mentally retarded. Anytime I heard the word I took it as a personal attack against him - somehow against me. My uncle's retardation was just part of life, no explanation needed, you looked out for him, found humor in what you couldn’t control and loved him for it.

It’s been years since I’ve seen him, but I can vividly picture him, over 20 years my senior, wishing everyone he met a "Happy Birthday" and how he would say "Yes, dear", with his eyes tightly closed and his head cocked so far to the left, his ear almost rested on his shoulder. He was always praising God with a "P.T.L. Praise the Lord" or a "Happy Birthday Jesus." I can imagine him gently rocking as he built with Legos stacking bricks on top of one another, just so my Pappy could take them apart again. He had a fondness for toilet paper, pens, and toothbrushes. Before leaving our house my mom and grandmother would have to check his pockets so that in the morning we didn’t have to make it through the day with tarter encrusted teeth and so my grandmother didn’t launder the five Bics he had stashed. The toilet paper, a parting gift of sorts. There was the time he shut my sister's cat in my dresser drawer and we didn’t find it until several days later (yes my room was that messy, scary huh?). He was more than funny stories, he participated in the Special Olympics, he had a job, he went to church, he loved bowling, he had friends. He had a life, not like yours and mine, not typical, but he had one.

You may wonder why I’m using past tense. Well, my Uncle is now lying in a hospital bed battling cancer, from what I am told, he is a shell of who he once was. He has fought this battle before and won, but it has returned and now he is weakened and most likely won’t pull through. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to fly back for the funeral. I won’t visit him in the hospital much to my dismay. I could find solace in the fact that he wouldn’t know me anyway, like I said it’s been years, but then again his memory would often surprise me. I could comfort myself with thinking that at least I can remember him the way he was, but that would be selfish and ridiculous. The fact that Roger is lying in a hospital has made me see myself as being somewhat retarded, as well as a retarder. Retarded, in the fact that I have the tendency to disengage myself from home and my family in a way that only allows me to remember people as they once were and not how they are now. Good or bad, I’ve done it with everyone, not just Roger. I pick and choose what I want to remember, what I choose to involve myself with back home. The things that may hurt I tend to stand-off from. I don’t see life for what it really is sometimes, I hinder the truth with blindness so that I don’t have to deal with what I don’t want to handle. You see if I went to that hospital bed and I saw Roger lying there with an ashen face, the rosy-cheeked-man just a glimmer, I may not like what I’m seeing but the truth of the matter is I should be rejoicing. I shouldn’t retard the process, delay the progress, of what he is going through because in weeks possibly days my uncle will no longer be considered what some call a retard, but he will finally reach his completion. He will finally get to be whole in the presence of the one he loves so much. Nothing will be hindered; no more seizures just dancing before his God, no more body laden with cancer he will be covered in righteousness, no more limited understanding for God will reveal his ways to him, and no more building with Legos for God has built him a mansion. And all I can say is P.T.L.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

An April Fool - The Joke's on Me

In the fifth grade, my friends and I got in really big trouble for pranking our teacher for April Fool's Day. For some reason, Ms. Mitchell didn't see the humor in her drawers being taped shut with what I believe were croutons inside. (Don't ask I'm not even sure how that made sense or where they came from.) She especially did not appreciate the "Talking Toilet" we fastened to her chair that said something about her having a large butt. We lost recess privileges and my brother's commode device was thrown in the trash. Some people are no fun at all. Not since that day has an April Fool's backfired on me, until this year. Okay, if you count the year I made "cat puke" from spaghetti squash I guess that would go in the "Don't Do Again" file too.

Normally my jokes of faux food are a hit, when I was employed my "mark" fell for the message from Mr. Lyon and called the local zoo-like Feline Compound, and the kitchen sprayer with the rubber band gets the unsuspecting hand washer every time. This year though I wasn't in the zone. My meatloaf made from Coco Rice Crispies didn't firm up in time. The chip bag I replaced with carrots and put in the kids lunches were upgraded for cupcakes before even being opened. Even my jello drinks did not set all the way before having to serve them to the kids. This year was a flop. All of them fell short, even the one my brother suggested, the one I played on Brian. I woke him up as usual for work and told him we were expecting again. Even though he believed me, he was unphased, slightly excited and just asked me questions. I had to end it quickly since once again I didn't get the elicited response. My prank arsenal was depleted, I was done for the day. Then it happened fifteen days later, the best April Fool's joke ever. Sadly enough I can not lay claim to the ultimate joke, I was not the pranker but was instead the recipient. The only April Fool in our house this year was me as I stood in the bathroom barely peeing on a pregnancy stick before two lines magically appeared. Yes, we are pregnant!!

God always knows when to humble us doesn't he? Here I was thinking I was so funny, almost smug at times, tricking friends and family for years and he reminded me who has the best sense of humor of all. Thankfully his humor is more thought out then salad toppings in drawers and electronics from Spencer's rigged to chairs, and most importantly it is always accompanied with blessings and not humiliation.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What I'm Missing

My parents, the kids, and I, along with half of Los Angeles, decided to visit the Aquarium of the Pacific last Wednesday. I am not a crowd person. I don't like crowds when I am by myself and I definitely don't like them when I have 5 kids in tow. However, after two hours in the car there was no turning back. We pressed forward - and when I say pressed, I mean it literally. Thankfully my parents were there to help me out.

For the first 15 minutes, following the 15 minutes that it took everyone to potty, I floundered in dread. Not that anything dreadful was happening, but my mind was trying to formulate a plan of how we were going to make it through this jam packed place, alive, and actually having fun. Why couldn't we be like Jon and Kate or my beloved Duggars? Often when they visit museums and attractions, they close the whole place down or the camera crew creates such a cushion that it's like being alone. I began to think that big families can't do attractions like normal families, unless they have some TLC status. I couldn't even get all five at once up to the window to see the dang puffins. My double-wide stroller was just another obstacle that added to my anxiety, as I would get gridlocked while the family moved forward without me.

To the credit of my brood they were awesome. Unlike some others, they waited their turn and said nothing as other children pushed them aside to view the jelly fish and the sharks. I secretly wanted to tell them to shove the Gap child model down or better yet push her in the touch pool and I would look the other way, but thankfully they are much better than me, in more ways than one. The crowds phased them very little - they stuck together with no wandering off and they looked out for one another, enjoying each others company.

Afterward we walked around the harbor at Long Beach and the kids loved rolling down hills and playing in the sand, I was grateful for a few minutes of quiet, while I sat and enjoyed the cityscape. Filled with great restaurants and beautiful hotels I became a bit jealous of the mother of the little girl I wanted to feed to the sharks. I envisioned her having the single-child jet-setting life that I imagine many LA moms to have, and having all these places at their whim. How nice it must be to eat at whatever restaurant you want, to stay at hotels and not have to sneak kids up so that you don't exceed the 4 person per room limit. Yes, ashamedly, I admit the green-eyed monster paid me a visit on that bench I was warming. Even as I watched the kids play and I joked and laughed with them it still stayed with me, the want of more, the guilt of not doing enough with and for my kids, wishing we could do elaborate vacations. Are you shocked? I was. I tried to shake it but it clung to me like the sand to Vance's runny nose. Even as we left the picturesque city and headed to meet Brian who was in Orange County on business, I quietly let it bother me. I selfishly thought of all the things I'm missing out on; weekends away with Brian (after all who can find a sitter for five kids), delicious foods at my favorite restaurants (I would eat out everyday if I could), the clothes (I still have things in my closet from 12 years ago that I still wear - no offense would be taken if anyone wants to send me to What Not to Wear). My mind began thinking of all the things my kids are missing out on because of our decision to have a larger-than-most family; the family trips to amusement parks and far away destinations, the bikes and boards Jace wants, and the toys the others want. Not to mention all that Brian sacrifices as he goes to work every day for us. There I was driving the 405 with a gray cloud over my head, thinking poor me, poor us, we're missing out on so much.

We pulled into the place where we were to meet Brian and as we sat there listening to Vance who had been screaming for the last 30 minutes from over stimulation, I wallowed in my "woe is me" thoughts some more. Then I saw him. There was Brian, breaking the law by jay-walking across the divided highway, and I felt such a relief, such love for my life. The clouds parted and I knew I was missing nothing at all. Maybe it was the four days apart, maybe it was the PMS finally settling, or maybe it was God reminding me of what I have. At that moment in time my pity party evaporated. Seeing him, my goateed honey, brought life into perspective. Brought our family into perspective. My envy for the mom with the adorable rude child dissipated. Why would I want to travel the globe, wear Jimmy Choo, and never regulate my restaurant food consumption, when we have the desert to explore, I can sport a "vintage" t-shirt from High School, and I have an easy rockin' pot pie recipe that the whole family loves? My five kind children may have taken away my chances for living the "good" life in the opinion of many, but what they have left me with instead is a blessed life, for which I am thankful.