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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The Mom's Perspective

I know this is old news to those of you who are fans of Tinmen Don't Dance, but for The Mom, hospital visits aren't necessarily comic relief...

Visualize a pleasant Friday evening with friends. One that you've looked forward to for about a month now because really, nothing in your life has been, well, it just hasn't been calm around here. We've moved from one emotional thing to another. Joys, sprinkled with HUGE disappointments. I'm just gonna put myself out there and say sometimes my husband's family makes me want to throw things. At them. All of that stupidity aside, I really was looking forward to a long awaited night out and God knows, Charlie and I deserve it. It's been a difficult couple of months.

Slowly, as Friday approaches, my plans begin to unravel. I'm still not completely recovered from a cold which wants desperately to become bronchitiis, but I wouldn't allow it to. The sore throats began earlier in the week with Caris, but didn't quite materialize into a full blown illness for her but instead found a home in me. Averie has to work, so she won't be able to come with us. I haven't seen Charlie all that much because he's having to split his time between running errands for his housebound mother since I couldn't do it being ill, etc. etc. etc. I'm still holding out hope that everything is going to go well by Friday night.

Come the day, Averie is now sick as a dog and won't be going to work. Caris, who I'm not all that sure still lives here because we never really see her anymore, has also come home from school feeling crappy, so she won't be going with us to dinner either. Well fine. That leaves Charlie, me and Bry. I'm determined to get out of this house tonight. I really NEED to get out of this house tonight. So, leaving the girls home; warm and safe, the three of us depart.

We're having a lovely time. The talk is pleasant as always, dinner is wonderful, the company makes me forget about the unpleasant parts of the week and my stupid in-laws. Joe and Danna are mezmerized by the news of my finding my birth family and are thrilled and excited for me. The time passes quickly. Before long, it's 9:30. My cell phone rings. It's Averie. She can barely breathe. I can tell instantly that she's having a REALLY bad asthma attack:

Averie: Mommy (whheeezeee), I'm sorry (whheeezeee) to (wheezeeeeee) bother you....

Me: Ave, what's going on?

Averie: I've (whheeeezeee) tried everything (wheeezeeeee)...even (wheezeeeeee) my nebulizer....

Me: Ave, don't talk, we'll be right home.

Now, the entire Stark family and Charlie are looking at me with concern. I turn to Danna and explain. We MUST leave now. Charlie is already in the car, I'm running out the front door. Joe and Danna tell us to leave Bryson, he can spend the night, and to call them and let them know how things are going. The Starks live in Brea; normally a 20-25 minute drive from our Costa Mesa front door. Charlie says we'll be home in 10 minutes. He means it. Before I know it, we're literally flying down the 57 freeway. For a Friday night, it's unusually quiet on the freeway. But not nearly as quiet as it is in our car. Neither one of us saying anything, but knowing full well what the other is thinking. We're scared.

Seven years ago, friends lost their daughter to of all things, meningitis. Kory was thirteen. Four years ago, another friend lost their daughter to asthma. Nicole was eighteen. That one is the one both of us are thinking of right now. Something as simple and controlable as asthma, but still so deadly. We were all stunned by Nicole's death. She was vibrant, funny, and because she had asthma, she and Averie bonded. They found a commonality. They loved and shared books, Nicole took Averie jetskiing on the river. She was older and Averie could see that asthmas was something completely liveable and manageable. When she went to away that summer to Boston University, no one ever thought for one minute that she wasn't coming home. She'd only been there two weeks, had an asthma attack, and despite all of their efforts in the ER, they couldn't save her. It was the turning point in Averie's condition. She was devastated, not only by Nicole's death, but also by the realization that asthma is nothing to mess around with. She began to be more serious about her treatments. I didn't have to nag her anymore about carrying her inhaler everywhere she went. As soon as she felt a cold coming on, she would use her nebulizer without our asking. She became proactive. She hasn't really had an attack in years. This one was a whopper.

I picked up the phone and called home as Charlie sped along. Caris answered the phone.

Me: Caris? How's your sister?

Caris: She's ok, I guess. She can't breathe.

Me: Yes, I know. Do me a favor. Please get all of the meds that she took tonight and put them into a bag so that when we get to the hospital, we can show them to the doctor.

Caris: Ok.

Me: Caris, if she gets worse, don't wait for Daddy and me. Call an ambulance. Ok?

Caris: Ok.

Me: We'll be there in about five minutes.

Caris: Ok.

True to his word and as if carried by angels, because I'm quite sure both of us in our very loud silences were screaming out prayers, we pulled into the driveway in about twelve minutes from the time we left. I jumped out, and Averie came out of the front door. I called inside to Caris and told her we were leaving. I helped Averie into the backseat while she wheezed away. I asked her if she had all of her meds in her bag, she nodded. We again, sped off. I turned to look at her, checking her nailbeds and lips for the telltale blue hue. Both were still pink. She immediately began to apologize between short, labored breaths. I told her to stop, there was nothing to apologize for, just don't talk...stop talking. We pull into the ER parking lot and she and I get out while Charlie parks the car. Now the REAL fun begins.

For a Friday night, its unusually quiet in the ER. Believe me, I know. Charlie and I have spent so much time here with his mom lately, that we know how bad it can be. I fill out a card and even though they can see that Averie is laboring to breathe, we don't get immediate help. If they are not careful, soon, the Momma Bear in me will become enraged and start clawing. The term "Emergency" doesn't seem to have a clear definition. There's obviously no blood spewing out of her head so she apparantly can wait....and gasp for air. I keep watching the lips and nailbeds for the blue hue. Still pink, so I'm not gonna go off on anyone just yet. I rub her back, she leans on me, Charlie paces. They call her to triage, take her vitals, then send her back to sit next to me and wait. I'm close to losing it. Charlie says that her blood gasses show that despite her labor, she IS getting oxygen to where it needs to go, it's just not easy for her. So we wait. They call her to registration and she and Charlie answer the questions for insurance. I pace. They send us back to sit and wait. Ironic.

About two minues later, they call her and we walk back into the treatment area, Averie wheezing away. The girl who calls us says, "this way" and we follow her. An orderly walking by says "HEY! Wait a minute....YOU (pointing at Averie) sit!" and he grabs a wheelchair for her. This makes Charlie very happy. Finally, someone who actually seems like they care. We're wheeled to a bed, Averie is asked to disrobe and the process begins. I think this is actually the first time I begin to feel like things are gonna be ok. We're here, they'll help her. Charlie remains on guard. Watches everything they do with intensity. The nurse asks the questions we expect; what have you taken, what have you done, how long has this been happening, when was your last attack..etc, etc. Of course, the only thing on Averie's mind is needles. For every question they ask, she responds with the appropriate answer, followed closely by; "you're not going to give me a shot are you? there aren't gonna be any needles, are there?" They laugh. Even in her state, she can manage to make people laugh. When the doctor comes through, he orders an albuterol breathing treatment and once that's finished, she has another. Things are calming down. While her breathing becomes less labored, her heartrate rockets and she begins to shiver uncontrollably. Side effects of the Albuterol. We're familiar with them. They keep asking if she's cold. As the three of us watch the events unfolding around us, and hear the sounds of discomfort and pain, I'm grateful knowing that we're probably going to be leaving here tonight. Some won't be. I say to Averie, "there's a comedy routine in this." She pulls the breathing tube out of her shivering lips and says, "you don't think I've thought of that?" I smile. "I know you have, Honey. I know you have." Soon, her heartrate slows to within normal range, despite the appearance of a group of paramedics who I'm sure are on some "The Firemen of Newport Beach" calendar somewhere. The doctor gives Averie a prescription, some instructions, and releases her. Three hours after we walked into ER, we were at a Del Taco drivethru because she was hungry. She thanked us for everything; for taking care of her. I commented that I liked not being able to hear her gasping for breath. At that moment, I couldn't think of anything more comforting than buying her a chicken taco at midnight.

At around 1:30, when Charlie and I have tucked Averie in, woken a sleeping Caris up to tell her we were home and everything was ok, and settled into our own bed, we finally broke the worried parent silence and spoke to each other:

Charlie: Were you scared?

Me: I think you know the answer to that.

He reaches over in the darkness and squeezes my hand.

Me: Were you thinking about Kory and Nicole?

Charlie: I couldn't think of anything else. Losing a child is not something I'm prepared to deal with. No one should ever have to go through that. Ever.

Me: She's ok. We did good.

I squeezed his hand.

Charlie: Thank you for being there.

Me: Thank you for being there.

It's Averie job to make observations and create humor out of difficult situations. It's our job to see her through those difficult situations so that she CAN create humor out of them. Somehow, seeing her through them safely makes our payoff much sweeter.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Miss Me?

Yeah, yeah, I know. Well, SO much has happened in the past week. Almost too much. I'm overwhelmed really, but there's no place like here to start. Strap on your safety belts Kiddos; it's gonna be a wild ride.

Last Sunday, as I have done many times in the past, I was tinkering around on the computer and I typed in my birth parents names. Now, in past years when I have done this, I've never gotten past the ads for companies that you pay to search for someone. I've always used that as an excuse to not forge ahead. I don't want to pay to find someone. It's never really been that important to me. As an adoptee, I've always felt that if someone wanted to find ME, they could. I was given up for a reason. It always seemed to me that I should be grateful for the parents that raised me and if you go looking for the parents that gave you up you were being ungrateful to the ones who took you in. I always looked at it as a backhanded slap in my adoptive parents faces if I did that. Now, that's just me. Please understand that I'm not putting down the millions of adoptees who have this need to find where they came from. I've just never been one of those people.

I'm not saying my life has been perfect. Far from it as a matter of fact. I'm not saying that I haven't had questions. I have. I'm not saying that it hasn't been frustrating to not know the answers to questions on medical forms about "family history". It has been. But it hasn't left or created a gaping whole in my life that I couldn't step over. Or at least I thought. Yeah, I've had some pretty crappy times in my life. But who hasn't? I've never felt myself outstanding, or deserving of any more special dispensations than any other human being that walks on this earth. I didn't give it a whole lot of thought. Ok, so I'm adopted. Big deal. This is the hand I was dealt. Why go looking for trouble? That's the way I've always looked at it. More than that, I never wanted to hurt my parents feelings. They did the best they could in raising me. I know that. They deserve better than a slap in the face. Again, that's the way I looked at it.

And then there's Charlie. He's always asked me.."Don't you ever wonder why you're so different than your family?" "Don't you wonder about the people "out there" who have the same genes as you?" "Don't you wish you knew some of the answers to the questions that you've asked yourself?" It seemed to me that HE was the one asking the questions, not me. After my mom died and my dad pulled away from us, yes, I did wonder more than I had before. Losing what little sense of family that I had, I did wonder about the brothers and sisters and parents out there who had handed me over for whatever reason. But after a lifetime of pains, heartaches, and rejections at the hands of "family", WHY on God's earth would I want to subject myself and my children to that again? I had only known dysfunction. Charlie had only known dysfunction. Wouldn't it stand to reason that if someone gave you up to another family that there was some dysfunction in THAT group as well? Good Lord, didn't I have enough? Why would I want to go find more? Why would I want to open myself and my heart up to more pain? What sane person would do that? Okay, call me crazy. I did.

So, for the first time, when I typed in my birth parents names, I got back a VOLUNTEER Adoption Search website. They didn't want money. They were a group of adoptees who volunteered their time to help other adoptees find their families. So I thought, "why not?" I entered the information that I knew. It was a surreal feeling to type the words "Baby Girl" where it asked for your birth name. Yes, that's what it said on my birth certificate.."Baby Girl" I put in my birthdate, location, the names of my birth parents as they are listed on my birth certificate and my adoptive parents names. And then I shut the computer off and walked away, never thinking for ONE INSTANT that I would get any kind of response.

On Monday morning (yes, less than 24 hours later), I opened my email to find FOUR responses from Search Volunteers. They had names, dates, addresses, AND last known phone numbers of my parents, and my siblings. I was absolutely stunned. I didn't know what to do. I just sat there and stared at the screen, and then when I caught my breath, I called Charlie at work.

"Charlie, they've found my birth family."


"That website that finds families. They found mine."

"Are you sure?"

"No mistake, it's them"

"Well? What are you waiting for??? CALL THEM!!!"

So, I hung up the phone, and I printed out the pages. Then I sat there and stared at the names and numbers. I was scared as hell. I picked up the phone and I called the number of what appeared to be my birth mother's last address in Washington State. The phone rang, but all I could hear was my heart pounding. I panicked and hung up. This routine continued for 10 or 12 times. I'd pick up, dial, let it ring, then hang up. I couldn't do it. Finally, I went back to the computer. One of the volunteers who sent me an email with the information told me that she was always online and gave me her screen name so that if I wanted to talk with her, I could. Sure enough, I entered her in my buddylist and she was online. So I IM'd her and told her what was happening. That I was scared to death. She reassured me that she and ALL adoptees feel the same way; "teeth-shattering scared". She offered to make the initial contact for me if I felt too afraid. She said that more often than not, the other party is shocked, but happy to hear from their long lost family member. So, with her encouragement and my promise to let her know what transpires, I went back to the phone to try again. Hours have now passed.

I dialed the number. I let it ring, my heart beating so loud I was sure it was shaking the walls. A young voice answers:

Voice: "Hello?"

Me: "Um, hi. I'm trying to locate James & Pearl. This is the number that's listed for them."

Voice: "Just a minute please"

Young Voice leaves and now I'm thinking.."oh my God, this is the right number. She's gone to get my mother to the phone!" Now, I'm really scared. I don't know what I'm going to say. I start to pray. Something I haven't done in YEARS now. "Please God, if you're really there, now's the time to show it. Tell me what to say. Help me." Another voice comes to the phone; a woman.


"Hi. Is this Pearl?"

"No, may I ask who is calling?"

I start to stammer. Oh god. I'm shaking. Calm down, Pua. Just calm down.

"Well, my name is Pua, and I believe that James and Pearl are my birth parents."


"Um, you know what? I'm going to let you talk to my husband. Jim and Pearl are his parents, my in-laws, and he'll know more about this than I will. Ok?"

"Yes, that would be great. Thank you very much."

Now I'm even more scared than I've ever been in my life. And I'm about to lose it. I'm going to cry. Just hold it together Pua. Hang on.


"Hi, um..my name is Pua. I got this number from a Adoption Volunteer Search website. I believe that James and Pearl are my birth parents."

"Uh, ok. Well, I'm Jimmy and Jim and Pearl are my parents."

"Well, I don't know quite how to go about this, but I'll just tell you my story, and you can decide what you'd like to do with the information...ok?"

"Ok, go ahead."

So I begin to tell my story. When, where, how, who. Dates, times, etc. And he patiently and quietly listens. And every now and then I hear a very soft..."Oh my god....oh my god." I read the names of my siblings off the the printed paperwork and he says, "yes, those are my brothers and sisters, yes....oh god..oh my god."

Finally, I say.."I guess this is a shock and surprise to you."

He responds: "You know, my parents just moved back to Hawaii the first week of March. They lived here for 7 years with me and my family until just a couple weeks ago. They decided they wanted to live out their days back home. So this is what I'm going to do; I'm gonna call my mom over there and talk to her, and if you give me your phone number, I'll call you back..ok?"

Me: "Yes, that's fair. Thank you." I added that my purpose in this was not to cause anyone any pain. I don't want to bring up unhappy memories, or make anyone feel bad for any past decisions they made. That's not why I'm doing this. I'm doing it because I just want to know where I came from. I want to know there are people out there who are like me when I'm SO different from the people that raised me. I want to know who I look like. I want my kids to know these things. It's not at all my purpose to lay blame or ask why...only to know where I'm from. Please understand and relay that message.

He says he will and that he will contact me soon. We say our goodbyes and hang up.

I pace. Charlie calls. I'm emotional. I tell him how it went. Now it's just a waiting game. Did I do the right thing?

An hour goes by. A long hour. It's like being in labor. A heavy, pregnant wait. The phone rings. I almost wet myself.

Me: "Hello?"

Jimmy: "Pua?"

Me: "Yes, this is Pua"

Jimmy: :::crying::: "This is your brother, Jimmy"

We both lose it. Uncontrollable tears. It's like the floodgates opened and it was ok to cry. He explained to me that he called and talked to our mother in Hawaii. He said a woman was calling him and saying that her name was Pua (which is my mother's name, by the way) and that she is the child of Pearl and James. He gave her dates and asked if it was possible. She told him it was. That yes, everything I said was true. I was indeed, his long lost sister. This big Hawaiian man, who is my eldest brother (52), through emotional tears began to tell me everything she said. Why she had given me up, how difficult a decision it was, and why she had never spoken about me. I have 3 older brothers, an older sister, and then there are 2 younger sisters and a younger brother after me. All of them live in Hawaii, with their families, except for Jimmy in Washington. He called me "Sis". He said he loved me and that he couldn't wait to meet me, the kids, and Charlie. He told me to thank Charlie for always encouraging me to find them. He was thrilled. Shocked, happy, thrilled. We talked for hours. We shared our lives, our spouses, our children. He has a daughter named "Joy Everly". When I told him about my "Averie Joy", we were both blown away. So many little things like this. We sent pictures back and forth. GOD, I look like someone! He told me that our mother wanted to speak with me and she was very happy I found them. For the first time in my life, people were WANTING to be my family. Aching to love me and my family, wanting to welcome us in. For the first time in my life, I felt a familial love that I had never felt before. I'm not talking about the love of my husband, which is without question or comparison, or the love of my children, which goes without saying...I'm talking about something completely different. Something that I have no descriptive words for, because it's so foreign to me.

Jimmy and I have spoken EVERYDAY this week. The day after first contact, my birth mother called me. She explained what happened and why. I told her it wasn't necessary. I didn't want to talk about unhappy times or cause her pain. I just wanted to know her. I wanted my kids to know her. She said "Welcome home little Pua. You have a big, loving family who wants to love you. I love you. Please don't be afraid to call me Mom, because I AM your mother. Your real mother. Now tell me about my grandbabies." I cried. She said..."Don't cry Sweetheart. It's all going to be ok now."

Last night, I got a call from another brother; Eddie. When Charlie answered the phone and he asked for Pua, Charlie asked if he could tell me who was calling and he said..."this is Pua's brother Eddie". Charlie's smile couldn't have been bigger. This morning, I talked to Jimmy again. As the oldest child, our mother has asked him to call all of the siblings and tell them. I asked him if he was ok with that job. He said he was VERY happy to be the one calling and sharing the good news. Everyone has cried when he's told them. It's been a happy chore for him. Soon, he says, I will be hearing from my sisters. There is a reunion being planned in Hawaii. We can't afford it. But somehow, we'll figure out a way...

I'm 43 years old. I'm a newborn.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

First Contact

Right now, I'm emotionally drained. You know that feeling. The one you get when you've been crying A LOT for what seems like a really long time. That headachy hungover feeling. That feeling where no amount of Visine will help. The thing about it is, it's not a sad thing. On the contrary, its a very very happy, overwhelmingly joyful feeling. Last night, with the help of adoption search volunteers known as "Search Angels", I located my birth family and made first contact with my eldest brother. Today, for the first time, I spoke with my birth mother. She said she loved me. Right now, that's about all I can handle writing.

Congratulations. It's a Family. :o)

Monday, March 15, 2004


First set of headshots are in. When you get to the homepage, click on the flashing "EVENTS" sign. Then click on Caris' pic on the left side and her portfolio will open. These are the "no makeup/natural" shots. The next shoot will be done with makeup and hair artists. Of these, her agent liked the closeup (18_0019) which is probably the one they'll use. Can't say I disagree.

Make 'Em Laugh!

Today is Averie's audition for the campus comedy troupe. I know she doesn't need it....but Good Luck Aves! Knock 'em dead! I love you.

I'll Take Manhattan....FINALLY!

Ya know, I feel kinda bad writing about this before Caris does, but since I have a little time on my hands (something which she doesn't seem to have) I'm gonna write it. Because I'm just too damn excited not to. We're going to New York City in May! Wayne, you see that?

For some reason, the Madrigals trip to London was cancelled. I kinda figured out around two weeks or so ago that it wasn't going to happen. They weren't talking a whole lot about it. No one was talking about passports and preparations, and despite my inquiries to Caris and Taryn, they didn't seem to have a whole lot of answers. But then last week, Caris excitedly mentions that London is off (awww!), but NYC is ON (yayyy!). I admit that I was a little sad for her because WOW, London, ya know? But then when I saw how excited she and Taryn were when they were telling Averie about it and how many shows they were going to see on their whirlwind tour, I couldn't be more happy for her. The thought of both Audreys getting to see their inspiration live on Broadway..how cool is that I ask you? Averie began telling her about all the wonderful things she and Celinda did on their trip in December 2002 and what an amazing dream come true.

I remember when Averie went to the Big Apple with Academic Decathalon, I was so envious. New York is someplace I've always wanted to go. It's right up there with Detroit for me. Don't laugh. I have my reasons. Detroit is like Mecca for a Red Wings fan. I just wanna see the boys play a game on home ice. Is that so wrong? But I digress... I remember that I made Averie take her dad's cell phone and I told her at the airport, "Call me from EVERYWHERE. I don't care where you are, call me." She did. I got calls from the top of the Empire State (it was windy up there), I got calls from inside the theater waiting for a Broadway show to start (any minute, Michael Crawford would be on the stage!), I got calls from Ground Zero (we cried together), I got calls from Times Square and Rockefeller Center (the height of her excitment!). She kept her promise and called me from everywhere so that I could share the dream with her. And now, a little over a year later, my second child will get to experience all the same things. Only this time, I get to go with her.

When she told us it was going to be NY, she said, "You know, parents can go on this trip...if they want." I thought about how great that would be. Little flutters inside me reminded me of the impending birth of wonderful things. But, no, I thought. She needs her space. I've always been a big advocate of giving kids their autonomy at appropriate times. When they were little, I always volunteered as a room parent, but I tried to make sure I wasn't the mommy in their particular groups, to give them their space. As they grew, I'd volunteer to go on field trips or drive if needed, but if they asked, I would step back. They would know I was there, which gave them a sense of security, but they were entitled to still have their "boundary of self" (I called it). I didn't want to encroach, but I also wanted to be a part of. I think that's brought us to where we are today. I can't completely speak for them, but I kinda think they like having me around..sometimes. And I'm grateful, because I've experienced so many wonderful things that I might not have been a part of had they not wanted or invited me along.

As the last few days have gone by, I pondered the possibilities. Charlie and I talked. It would be expensive. And really, we're in no position to be spending money on frivolous fantasies. It will be hard enough to just pay for Caris to go. I really have no business thinking about going. If I do go, it would mean, again, that we have to put something needed on hold. Plus, the bottom line would be how Caris felt about it. This was HER trip. Not mine. She earned the right and the privilege to go. I'm just the mom. Charlie; gracious and generous as he is, reminded me that above all, this is the opportunity of a lifetime. A chance to have a trip with my daughter that we would remember for the rest of our lives. I've taken trips with Averie. We have no issues in our relationship for the most part. We talk easily about pretty much everything. As moms and daughters go, I'd say we're pretty close. I long for that with Caris. To build, to bond. This chance may not come again. And as the girls get older, I feel those "family" type opportunities getting fewer. Soon, they will be on their own and all of this will be memory. Charlie said, "This is what you've always wanted, make the most of it now, while you still can. Go to New York with your daughter."

So I talked with Caris and I asked her how she would feel if I went to New York with her. She said, without hesitation, "I'll get the paperwork for you!". And then she called me from school to ask me to bring the deposit. I'm taking those as positive signs that she's ok with me going. So, look out New York....Caris and Pua are about to join Averie's "Taking A Bite Out Of The Big Apple" club!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Late...but heartfelt

I know this is late, but it doesn't make it any less heartfelt. A special birthday wish is in order. So, that being said...here it is:

Happy Birthday Sweet Mary.

You are very much loved. :)

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


I was talking to a friend the other day about surfing. Something that I miss terribly. The Grommet (Bryson) and I used to go surfing at least twice a week. Of course, I was in MUCH better shape back then. Anyway, I miss that time with him, and I miss the water. So, that's another motivation for getting back in shape and losing weight. Anyway, as I was talking to this friend, he was asking me about professional female surfers. I brought up Layne Beachley, and I thought Averie and Caris actually had a tshirt with her on it. I knew Averie had a poster in her room that said "The Future of Surfing Lies in the Hands of a Woman." Anyway, I wanted to make sure, so I went into Averie's room to look. She laughed because she had taken that poster down long ago to make room for another one. Then I asked both of the girls about the tshirts...again, they laughed because they had grown out of those shirts. So, I went back to the computer to "surf" the web. I typed in the name of the tshirt company, and low and behold, there was Caris!. WOW! What a surprise! Caris had done this catalog shoot when she was in 5th grade; five years ago. We had NO idea that they were using her picture on their website. In fact, back then, we didn't even know they HAD a website! Excitedly, I called the girls to come look. They both stood there with their mouths open, and then we all started to giggle. Amazing! What a fun surprise all this time later. Like a hug from the past!

Last night we had a houseful. Averie went and had ice cream with Summer and Erin, and then they all came back to the house. Lindsey showed up, and right after that, Bobby arrived. We all sat in the living room and watched Jeopardy together, and as Averie would say..."We bitchslapped that catagory, Alex!" Not long after, Caris and Taryn arrived and the house was filled with singing. They all went into the garage to shoot some pool and eat popcorn. I loved it. I love it that they all feel so comfortable to come here and hang out here and feel welcomed. It does my heart good. Safety that I never knew as a child, I give to mine. It's what I hoped for one day. One day is now here.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Lump in My Throat...

I haven't really blogged, because:

1. I haven't felt like it.

2. I haven't had time.

That about sums it up. Yes, so many amazing things have happened in the last couple of weeks. Things with Caris are moving faster than expected. She got a call-back from the agent we went to see last week. They would like to represent her. As soon as we get her headshots to them, they'll get her some work. I think all of us are pretty much blown away. I mention my awe at the situation over the dinner table last night, our FIRST sit-down family dinner in...well, geez, I can't even remember. Caris got called away suddenly to drama practice, so she wasn't able to have dinner with us. Upon Charlie's return, I make note of my surprise at how quickly things are going for her. Charlie agrees. Averie disagrees. She says we should expect this because Caris IS talented. I explain my remark. I'm NOT surprised that she's being called for work. I'm not surprised that agents are noticing her. I'm not surprised in her drive or talent. I'm surprised that it's going SO fast. Averie agrees, or at least understands my position.

Now, on the other side OR along side all of this, there are still the "normalcies" of everyday life that have needed attending to. Charlie and I spent all day Saturday taking care of Mom's affairs. Getting her files in order; things were a complete mess since Papa was the one that did all the paperwork and bill paying and since he's been gone since June, things have been a little out of control. We organized her tax files in preparation for the tax man, shredded old papers, and generally tidied up.

I've noticed with older people that no matter how organized they were in their younger days; once they reach a certain point, everyday tasks simply weary them. You see on the news stories about "hoarders", people who can't seem to get rid of anything. My own mom was a hoarder in the worse way. A kickback, I'm told, of growing up during the Great Depression. You hoard out of fear that you may lose everything at any moment. With Charlie's mom, I notice a growing dispensation toward hoarding. But her fear is different. Her fear is that of losing control of an already uncontrolled situation. A kind of paranoia. She stands next to me or Charlie as we bind old newspapers and magazines for recycling. She wonders out loud if there are any magazines with her name and address still attached. If so, she almost fearfully begs us to remove all the lables and shred them, which we do to appease her.

She still has Christmas cards in stacks on the kitchen table. The kitchen table is now covered with papers, as well as the dining room table. It saddens me because I've known this woman for 24 years and I've always known her to be fastidiously fussy about the appearance of her home, her kitchen, even her proper English self. I check her fridge. There are veggies and fruits going bad. I put them in the trash. She asks me what I'm throwing away. I show her. I tell her not to worry, I'll make a shopping list and bring her fresh produce and whatever else she needs. Charlie repairs a broken shelf in her kitchen. When I'm done with her kitchen, I move to the stacks and stacks of junk mail. I sneak around the backdoor and quietly whisper to Charlie to dump these things in the outside trash so that she doesn't see. We're talking about MONTHS of old, junk mail. She never notices they're gone.

I sit down next to her and try to help her go through her bills and prepare them to be paid. Her mind is so willing to do this thing that we all must do, but her hands won't let her write very well. So one by one, I write them, enter them in her checkbook, and I have her sign them. We seal the envelopes and put on the stamps. While I go to make her some lunch, she says she can handle the next one on her own. When I come back I notice that she overpaid a bill by $100. When I point it out to her, she becomes frustrated at her inability to keep things straight. Charlie and I make her promise not to pay bills unless one of us is with her, for her own protection.

Once we're all done with all of the "chores", we ask her if there's anything we can do for her. We have her grocery store list. We have her overdue car registration which we cannot pay until we get her car smog certified, and that's on TOMORROW'S To Do List, we have her taxes. She seems fine and happy that her house has been tidied, her bills have been paid. She's grateful and hugs us both and tells us how much she loves us.

We go home, but the work doesn't end. Now OUR dining room table is covered with papers. Mom's papers. While I sort through papers we've brought home, Charlie goes over her bank statements to balance them. We talk about what still needs to be done. We make a plan for tomorrow (Sunday).

Averie has plans for Mary to spend the night and is very excited. She misses her. I know that feeling. I miss so many things about spending time with friends. Just some quiet comfort in good company with no worries. As it turns out, Mary can't come...transporation problem. I can tell that Averie is sad and Charlie doesn't want her to drive to Long Beach in her car because it needs some engine work. You don't wanna get stuck in Long Beach at night. I tell her to tell Mary that I will drive up to LB and pick her up.

"Really? You'll do that?"

"Of course." I smile. "But it will have to be after dinner, when traffic dies down."

"Okay, no problem!"

She tells Mary by IM. Mary asks if I'm sure because it's far. I say again.."of course, silly."

Mary responds; "I love my TOM."

That alone makes it worth it and after dinner, Averie, Caris and I jump in Charlie's car and go get Mary....listening to "Little Shop of Horrors" all the way. When we get home, I'm completely exhausted and all I want to do is get my jammies on, have a glass of wine or five, and go to bed. Bobby arrives at 10 or 11ish to watch SNL with the girls. I remember days like that. It doesn't seem so long ago, and yet it was an eternity. In my room, lying next to Charlie, I fall asleep to the sounds of laughter from the next room.

On Sunday, we get up early and go grab a bite to eat before taking Mom's car to get smogged. For some reason, a wave of sadness washes over me. I have a lump in my throat and it's not dissolving so easily. It's all been so much. I cry into my coffee. I'm tired. Charlie reaches across the table and squeezes my hand.

"Thank you for all you've done. For me, for the kids, for my Mom. Please don't cry."

"I'm so tired, Charlie. And if I'm tired, I imagine that you are beyond exhausted."

"I can handle it. But I know that you've put in your time above and beyond the call of duty. You don't have to do all this stuff for my mom. When my mom has told me how grateful she is, and what a wonderful person you are and how loving and kind you have been to her, I tell her that I hope she understands now why I made the choice I did. And why I love you so much."

I smile. He means it. I don't doubt that.

"We need a vacation." He says.

I snicker. "Yeah, right."

"I know. I keep saying that. I had one all planned, and then Mom got sick. I was going to take you to Rosarito for a weekend."

"It's ok. There's so much to do and you and I are doing double/triple duty."

"I promise to make it up to you."

I smile. He means it. I don't doubt that.

We spend the rest of Sunday looking for a place to take the car, but none are open on Sundays. We decide to go home and spend some time with Bryson. Of everyone, he's the one that's been "neglected" the most. He's home alone all the time while we're doing things for the girls, or for Mom. I've felt guilty about that. He needs a haircut, the soles of his one pair of shoes is coming apart, he's grown so much in the last month that his pants are too short. So we go get him, take him shopping, get his hair cut, take him to his favorite lunch place. He's happy.

At the end of the day, I wonder about the true root meaning of the word "weekend". The elusive time of rest. End? Does the week really end? At the beginning of the new week, does it honestly feel like there was an end to the old one? I wish I could take a nice, long nap. Maybe that will help me figure it out. But there's no time for that.