I finally have a moment to sit and write. I am in NYC, in a beautiful hotel room (see photo at Left) paid for by my dear friend Liz’s company. Yes, the same lovely Liz who I traveled with in
So, Liz headed off to work at 8 am this morning, and now I sit in bed, working on my laptop, about to do a few hours of work before catching a train back home to NJ.
Random fun quick news: When Mike and I moved in to our house, the fridge in the kitchen was too small. We bought a large stainless steel one, placed it on the opposite side of the kitchen with every intention of moving the original fridge into the basement. Problem: that original fridge was too big to fit through the door to the basement. So, for 2 years I’ve had 2 fridges and close quarters in the kitchen. Cut to one month ago: My friend Grace’s husband Steve came over with his teenage son and helped me move that original fridge out the front door, down into the basement through the outside door, remove some excess counter and cabinet, and sand and spackle the exposed wall and install baseboard. Then, I decided to paint the new wall a bold brick red. My new huge kitchen is my favorite room in the house. I LOVE IT. (see my beloved wall at right)
The wall was finished just in time for the Young Holiday Christmas Caroling extravaganza featuring Choir Masters Pat and Peg Walsh. This year, we had about 60 people, including many of the families on our street. Santa arrived to deliver gifts at about 7 o'clock (thanks, Carrie!), just before the party transitioned from kid-friendly to adults-only (see Santa in photo at left. Also well-featured is my heaving bosom. Enjoy.)
Christmas was spent in NH this year, under 36 inches of snow (see photo at left of Poppy shoveling!). And it snowed almost every day we were there (Dec 20 – 27). Baxter went sledding with his Poppy and Auntie Jae Jae and cousin Kylee, did a lot of cooking with Mimi, and had a great time playing with the schmancy tool kit that Uncle Stephen got him for Christmas. It was a relaxing and wonderful holiday.
Of course there were moments when it was hard. There always are. For about an hour after watching the movie “The Pursuit of Happyness” on cable I was a freaking disaster. How I could possibly have thought that watching a film about a single parent who struggles to raise a son by himself was a GOOD idea is beyond me… but I survived the fallout. What’s interesting to me is that being in a circle of people without Mike no longer introduces that sort of empty incomplete feeling that it used to. I’m so accustomed to it that I think I’m just not as sensitive to it anymore.
Each night, after Baxter would go to bed, I would take a glass of wine or tea out onto a cleared off spot on the back deck. The sky is so big up there. But it was overcast each night, so I didn’t have that same sublime feeling that accompanies gazing off into the sea of stars. Instead, I felt enveloped and protected. I don’t know why.
Maybe I do know why. I spent the entire Christmas break knowing that I am at the beginning of a wonderful relationship. I talked to him every night while I was away. We texted throughout each day. He makes me feel… enveloped and protected. And happy. And young. And alive. And good… healthy good. Like I feel after voting or eating veggies for dinner. I feel like he makes me better. A better person, I mean. And when I’m “in it,” he holds my hand or rubs my back and says he’s here for me for whatever I need.
I know people close to me may be wary of my willingness to put my heart out there and to talk about it, but I think that I need to. In my last post I alluded to this new relationship, but as you know - I've always been weird about writing too much about relationship stuff on the blog. However, I think that my fear of being prematurely self-disclosive in the context of this relationship is the reason I haven’t written much in the past couple of months. (Our first date was late November).
To be honest, my relationship with this wonderful young man is always on my mind. I can’t really figure out what to write on the blog without talking about it. So, at the risk of saying to much…. Screw it. His name is PJ. He’s funny. Way smart. Likes to think and argue about issues and politics. Makes fun of me for being full of shit (which is a necessary element to a healthy relationship with me). Very affectionate and kind and loving. Playful. Silly. Charming. And so so so cute. Like the kind of cute that gets more and more attractive every time I’m with him.
We see each other about 4 or 5 times a week. We go to the playground with Baxter. We go to the movies and out to dinner – sometimes with bax and sometimes without. I’ve met his friends. He’s met my friends. I enjoy cooking for him – with the added challenge of the vegan diet. He now keeps a carseat in the backseat of his hybrid – which I think just about caused his mom to have a little heart attack when she saw it last week – but when she meets Baxter on Friday, I’m pretty positive she’ll be smitten. Word on the street is that his family is already keen on me because he’s so happy. That alone brings me joy.
On New Year’s Eve, after our few friends left, I fell to pieces in my grief. Several reasons why… but in the end it was that jarring realization that now it’s 2008. Mike’s still dead. He died in 2006.
There’s a line in a song by Ben Folds that says it all: “You drifted far away. Far away it seems. Time has stopped, the clock keeps going.”
Sentimental Guy, Ben Folds
You can listen to it here (ignore whacky video, just listen):
There's a moment in my mind
I scribbled and erased a thousand times
Like a letter never written or sent
These conversations with the dead
I used to be a sentimental guy
Now I'm haunted by the left unsaid
I never thought so much could change
Little things you said or did
Are part of me, come out from time to time
Probably no one I know now would notice
But I never thought so much could change
You drifted far away
Far away it seems
Time has stopped, the clock keeps going
People talkin' and I'm watching
As flashes of their faces go black and white
And fade to yellow in a box in an attic
But I never thought so much
Could change, now I don't miss anyone
I don't miss anything
What a shame cause I used to be a sentimental guy
So, that night I sat on the edge of the bed, sobbing with my face in my hands, and apologized. PJ asked if I would rather he go downstairs, if I wanted to be alone with my grief. I nodded. He walked to the door of the bedroom, out into the hall and then his footsteps stopped. Then I heard him whisper from the doorway, “Babe, I will go downstairs and leave you be if that’s what you really want, but it’s killing me watching you cry there all alone.” I gestured for him to come back. He simply sat next to me and rubbed my back. I started spewing stuff… memories, funny things about Mike, sad things from when Mike was sick, statements of anger. I don’t even know how long I went on for. PJ just sat beside me and rubbed my back. In that moment he was a dear friend. I can’t imagine how difficult and potentially awkward it could be for someone to stand in his shoes. Someone without a strong sense of self might feel trivialized or jealous or shut out. But he didn’t. And for me to connect with someone – to really connect and be myself – that person is going to have to accept that my grief is a part of who I am. I’m not in it very often anymore… but as I’ve always said, when I am “in it,” it hurts just as bad as always.
Then there is the Baxter side of the equation. Baxter loves him. He loves Baxter. He loves playing with Baxter. And Baxter is sweet as candy when PJ is around. I think he likes the fact that we are openly affectionate, hugging and holding hands. Baxter smiles and his eyes twinkle a little bit. One time we hugged and gave a quick kiss and Baxter gave PJ a double thumbs up behind my back. No, I'm not joking. Part of me thinks that Baxter remembers what it was like having a mommy and daddy who loved each other and were affectionate and kind and sweet. I think that somewhere in his mind, the sweetness that PJ and I show each other is ringing familiar with Baxter. He seems so calm and happy when we are together. It’s incredible really. One would imagine that the 3 year old boy would be territorial and competitive for my time. But it's quite the opposite.
At the same time, I think that this relationship is stirring all kinds of memories for Baxter. When he’s tired now he yells, “I want my daddy.” Or “I miss my daddy.” A lot more than he used to. Sometimes when he wakes up in the middle of the night he’s saying it. When he says it during a tantrum, I really feel like he’s trying to get a reaction from me. And I know that no matter how hard I try NOT to react, I’m sure that my body tenses up and he can tell that it hurts. But in the middle of the night? I don't think that's contrived. Something is stirring in his little head.
The other night before he went to bed, after we had read Bax a story, it was like the Spanish Inquisition: “PJ, will I see you tomorrow?” yes. “Will you play cars with me?” yes. “Are you going to be at our house for all the day?” yes.
And while a part of me is nervous about this level of intimacy this soon… the part of me that actually knows what’s going on (the heart part, not the over-thinking head part), knows that I have nothing to worry about. On paper this thing is way too quick… and potentially dangerous yes. But we’re not living on paper.
I’m reminded of those early days with Mike. I don’t know how much I’ve written about this and I hope we’re far enough away from it that all parties involved are ok with my writing this, but…. Mike was married before he was married to me. And when we met, they had been separated for several years, but not divorced. And he was older than I, as you know. By almost nine years. Now, on paper, this would appear to be a freaking disaster. Not a wise choice to get involved in this situation, right? But, I knew the situation. I knew his wife. We shared – and continue to share – common friends. I trusted Mike. I knew that he was open with me about where things were at.
The divorce took a long time to come through. Mike’s friend offered to do it for them on the cheap (or free, for all I know), but since he wasn’t a divorce lawyer, it just took a long time. Mike and I started dating in February 2000. February 2001 we were talking about my moving in with him when my lease ran out (I had a studio apartment at 19th and Walnut). My lease would be up in May. When April 2001 came and the divorce wasn’t through, I had to tell Mike that I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t move in until he was officially divorced. It just wasn’t right – for me. And no, it’s not that I didn’t trust him. No, it’s not that I thought I was being duped. It really was about my feeling like I had to have some self-respect and do what felt right. So, I extended my lease with a month to month arrangement. Mike and his soon-to-be- ex-wife got the paperwork completed. In July it was final. And at that point, I moved in.
Interestingly, about a month after I moved in, Mike told me how much he respected my decision to extend my lease on my studio. It helped him realize how important this was to me. It helped him see that I would make decisions in my own best interest – and not simply cave under pressure. He told me several times that those couple of months really informed him about what kind of person I was.
All of this is to say that when I described my dating situation to friends and family in that first year with Mike, eyebrows raised and brows furrowed. It just didn’t look like a wise situation. But it was. I knew it was. I trusted him completely.
And that is how I feel right now. PJ is not the kind of person who makes cavalier decisions. I actually don’t know many people who live their lives as deliberately as he. His veganism is about a larger notion of right and wrong. He drives a hybrid for the same reason. The guy is a recycling fanatic. He doesn’t use gift wrap because it’s so wasteful. He is very close to his family (he's one of 5). He sees them about once a week. He spent last weekend painting his parents' house with his dad. He has a core group of friends who he has been tight with since high school. He stays in touch with them on a regular basis.
Suffice it to say, he is not someone who would insinuate himself into Baxter’s day to day routine without a firm belief that he’s going to be in the picture for a while. Simple as that.
So, that's what I've been up to. Now that I have opened the door to posts about what's REALLY going on in my life, you will likely hear from me more often.