No Regrets, Kid.

Today would have been my Dad’s 54th birthday.

Sometimes I think birthdays are the hardest days. This day is supposed to be all about him.

In my house, we never celebrated birthdays, as they were ‘just another day,’ and ‘overly marketed by corporations to sell things you don’t really need.’

Since he died, all I want to do is celebrate his birthday.

Go back in time, and give him some great birthday parties to remember.

Go buy him a really awesome laser scope or rain meter or something weird that only he could enjoy. Something to make him feel like he was remembered and special and show him how much he meant to me.

But we never had one of those birthdays for him, and we never will.

I think that’s the saddest part of all.

Even studying grief and death…it doesn’t make it any easier. It just gives you tools to better cope. I still find myself having the instinct and thought to give him a call sometimes and tell him something ridiculous–and then when I remember I can’t…

I lay in bed at night sometimes and all I can see is him laying lifeless and cold in a wooden box.

And the boots on his feet.

The boots he built his dream home with.

He had more plans for those boots.

When I look at my son I sometimes think how proud my Dad would be of him. How much he would absolutely love to get a warm little hug or see him walk and talk and experience new things.

Sometimes I manage to forget for a while, and then it all comes back even more vividly than before. You think you’re okay and that you’ve ‘moved on,’ but you haven’t and you never really will.

When someone you love dies, everything changes. Literally every single aspect of your life and mentality has changed forever. You will never be the same person again.

It’s like when the loved one leaves this world, they leave these little pieces of themselves behind for everyone that loved them. They stick to us and envelop us and help us along our own paths.

Sometimes it’s easy to celebrate life, make him proud, and be the most amazing person I can be.

Sometimes I get weak and sad and angry and don’t see the meaning of it at all.

But then I remember something he said to me when he was dying.

“No regrets, kid. No regrets.”

It’s hard not to live in the past and it’s even harder on days like today to keep your head up and simply move forward.

But that’s what he did. All the time.

I cry sometimes. I get angry sometimes.

I feel guilty for NOT feeling sad or angry enough sometimes.

It will be this way for a long time, this I know.

All I can do is follow the path his death has sent me on and try to be the best person I can be in the time I have here on this Earth. All I can do is try and live with no regrets.

So this year for your birthday, Dad, my present to you is a promise to live with no regrets–NOT reckless abandon, but an honest, good-hearted, kind and compassionate, learning, intelligent, regret-less life.

Instead of regrets, I will have lessons and learning experiences. I promise to take those experiences to heart, and not to waste any time on meaningless emotions and actions.

I promise to appreciate those around me, tell them I love them, earn and give respect.

I promise to make you proud and give the memories I was able to share with you to my son.

I promise to LIVE.

That’s what my Dad taught me.

I understand now, Dad. I understand so much more.

Happy birthday.

"Sundays too my father got up early 
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold, 
then with cracked hands that ached 
from labor in the weekday weather made 
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him. 

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking. 
When the rooms were warm, he'd call, 
and slowly I would rise and dress, 
fearing the chronic angers of that house, 

Speaking indifferently to him, 
who had driven out the cold 
and polished my good shoes as well. 
What did I know, what did I know 
of love's austere and lonely offices?"  -- Those Winter Sundays
                                           Robert Hayden
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Pregnancy Is Contagious

Every time I hang out with any of my friends that are pregnant, this feeling of impending doom washes over me. This last weekend, I was seemingly surrounded by pregnant chicks. Outnumbered, if you will. Then I remembered that I have two other friends, who were not present that are also pregnant. That’s FOUR FRIENDS, all of them an incubation chamber.  Something about pregnancy feels contagious. Then, i realized…that it IS. You can’t help but feel like you may be next…

Oh, yeah. It’s so much fun!

Pregnancy is absolutely contagious. If you already have a child, or children…you know how it works. You see all your friends being happy, and excited, and knocked up, and looking forward to the rest of their lives. With more kids. Even if you don’t have kids, you can’t tell me that hanging out with friends who DO have kids doesn’t make you think twice. You see that whole happiness and ‘circle of life’ thing happening, and you start thinking.

If you’re not thinking about having any children, just hang out with some pregnant friends. It never fails to make you think twice about your choice. No matter how concrete in your ideals you think you are, you will always find yourself second-guessing your choices after a nice day of good old-fashioned, wholesome fun with some knocked up counterparts.

You start thinking, ’19 is a good number.’

You recall all the heart-warming memories of being pregnant, and downplay all the awful things…like having to give birth naturally, or not sleeping for three months. Everything just feels like it’s covered in velour and soft and squishy and full of love.

And then everyone goes home. You sit there telling yourself, “Aw. I miss being pregnant. I miss that feeling of excitement and nervousness and anticipation that life is changing. I want another one”

Then, all at once, you snap out of it. “WTF is wrong with me?”

THIS, my friends, is how pregnancy is contagious. Women get this squishy feeling when they see another preggo, go home, watch “Look Who’s Talking’, and mount their men. All in efforts to have another one. Just because they got this crazy idea from other pregnant chicks. It’s brainwashing, I tell ya. Pure brainwashing.

So, in conclusion, I will restate that–yes– pregnancy IS contagious.

te.

When it rains

This past weekend was great. Fabulous weather, fabulous family, fabulous life. So why the hell have I been crying all weekend, I ask myself. I never cry. EVER. I’m not a crier…never have been. So why the eff have I been a sobbing mess these last couple days? My period came and went with the same waves of angst, rage, and bitterness that always concludes with an uncomfortable day of whining…and that was it. Nope, that’s not the reason for the tears. Saturday-cry. Sunday-cry…WTF?

As I tried to figure out why I was such a hot mess this weekend, several reasons pop into my head.

We’re poor. I mean, really poor this month. As my husband and I assessed our bi-weekly finances, we realized we had about $4.54 left until Friday. Our car is almost paid off. As we’re nearing the end of our 75-year contract on our Cobalt, we have incurred late charges over the years. Now, since we’re at the end of the loan, we’ll have to pay extra this month and next, so that it is paid off on time. What’s an extra 50 bucks, you ask? Well…that 50 bucks means a lot. And I’m pretty sure that 50 bucks is why I’ve been a teary-eyed, red-faced, emotional wreck this past weekend.

My husband called his parents, who gave him gas money for the week. At least he’d be able to make it to work. I saw the 50 bucks on my kitchen table, and felt good. Then I opened the fridge and realized we didn’t have enough food for the week. I looked at our diaper supply which was dwindling down to about 4 diapers. DEF not gonna work. We talked about it, and I told him that I’d have to use that money on the table for food and diapers…we’d have to figure the whole ‘getting to work’ situation out…after our kid had the things he needs.

I decided I’d call my mother, and explain the situation to her. Maybe she could help.

Alas, she did not. Could not. Whatever you wanna call it.

As I hung up the phone, I began sobbing. HARD. The feeling of being 26 with a child and a family and not being able to get him the things he needs…well, it’s awful. I’m almost crying again as I write this all down.

This is the first time in quite a long time that we haven’t had money. We’ve successfully depleted our savings, and with another few months before I get my student loan disbursement, pretty sure there won’t be any ‘savings’ for a while.

My husband saw me there, crying. He decided to call his parents back and see if they could help us out. They said they would pick us up some groceries, and I felt a little better…a little.

Nolan went down for his nap, and then I heard a knock on the door. It was them. The ‘outlaws’, we like to call them. We opened the door to see them standing there, soaked from head to toe, holding several bags of groceries. These people went out and bought us food in the middle of a hail storm. Thunder, lightning, and pouring rain and hail. And then they delivered it to our door.

As they came in, I started unloading the food with shame. I felt awful. God damn it. Now I’m crying AGAIN. Aaaaanyway….

I mean, it’s awesome knowing that there are people that care about us, that will help us as much as they possibly can, but it is still so awful to know that if they hadn’t been there to help us this week, we would be selling our things at a pawn shop, or going to a food bank for food. Knowing that if I had gone to school a few years sooner, or NOT gotten laid off two years ago, that things would most likely be different. Looking at those groceries made me so thankful and so sad at the same time. I now understand the shame and sadness that TRULY poor people must feel every day.

As I unloaded the items, I couldn’t stop it. It was coming, and I knew it. I popped like a balloon filled with tears, and I exploded all over them. I don’t think they really understood why, but they’ll read this, and then they’ll get it.

So, as it would seem, the next month will be a difficult one. Spent pinching pennies, clipping coupons, and finding deals. After that, the car should be paid off, so that’s a good chunk of money we’ll be able to save, and with school starting back up soon, I’ll get my loan disbursements, and we should be back to normal.

On my drive home from work yesterday, I cried again. Same reasons. I realized that poor moms probably cry a lot. I also realize that there are people that have it much worse than us. There are people with no homes, living in shelters, and stealing food just to live. Then I remembered that, when I was a kid, my Dad used to do those things to support us. He used to go out in the middle of the night to find metal and cans and junk to scrap so he could put food on the table for us. He also did many more unsavory, undesirable, sometimes criminal things just to support his family.

I got home from work and saw my little boy, in our nice little apartment, watching a nice, big TV with his Daddy and  that Anne Murray song started playing in my head…”even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya, honey.”

I know it could be much worse. And the amazing American Beauty quote comes to mind:

I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me… but it’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life… You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure. But don’t worry… you will someday.

Beauty is in the eyes of…

My Son

            My son is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. His eyes are blue, like the sky on the most perfect spring day. Most of the time, they are perfectly round, like little blue raquetballs, darting around, taking in his surroundings. When he gets tired, the shape of them changes to almost almond-shaped, outer edges pointing downward like a ski slope.

Before he was born, I was positive he would come out looking just like me. I am dominantly Italian, with dark, deep features–dark hair, dark skin, and dark eyes. I thought surely that my features would overtake my husband’s, but I was happily surprised to see that they didn’t—light hair, cute boyish features, and blue eyes. The doctors assured me that his eye color would most likely change, but alas, they did not. And I couldn’t be happier.

I watch him intently as he eats his meals with tiny, chubby little hands grabbing wildly at fruits and macaronis, stuffing them into his cute, pink little mouth, one by one.  At the mere mention of food, his eyes squint into a smile, wrinkled at the outer edges, and with little arms reaching up toward me, we go into the kitchen to eat.

You can tell a lot about a person by their eyes. I’d like to think you can tell a lot about a baby by their eyes, as well. I can tell if he’s tired, happy, content, angry, or sick—all just by looking into those little blue eyes.

We recently taught him to “wink”. If you wink at him, he closes his eyes tightly and harshly, squinting as though he is staring directly at the sun. His round eyes turn into a wrinkled mess of skin, and his mouth opens wide into a large smile, showing all 16 of his teeth. He then repeats this process about six to eight times, until he gets the desired laughing reaction from his audience.

In his eyes, I can see the future. I can see where I’ve been, where I’m going, and where I need to be. I can see Christmases and Halloweens to come, monster truck rallies, sports events, and life passing by. I can see the first day of Kindergarten, graduation day, and his wedding. I can see my son, my husband, and myself. Above all, I see my life, and my purpose. To look into the eyes of something you created with the one you love is an experience unlike any other. I take one look into those laughing eyes, and I just know that this is where we are meant to be.

They say everything happens for a reason…

I never really knew or understood how life-changing it could be when a loved one dies. On May 21, 2011, I watched as my father took his last breaths at Saint Peter’s Hospital in Albany. It had only been five or six weeks since we found out he had stage four lung cancer, and by that time it had progressed to a point at which there was nothing more they could do. He spent his last 11 days alive in the hospital, and the last three of those on hospice care.

The pain I felt in my heart was overwhelming. Indescribable. Unless you have been in this same circumstance, you will never understand. To watch someone you love very much die right in front of you is hard enough—the things that happened in my life immediately following the most heart-breaking experience in my life made it even more overbearing.

We immediately moved back into my mother’s two-family home to try and help her with some expenses, and to just be there for her. She quickly found that, with taxes coming up soon and his final expenses (he had no life insurance) she wasn’t going to be able to afford the mortgage. She put the house on the market, and it sold in five days. They wanted to close by the end of the month, so we had about three weeks to vacate the premises. The last day before we had to be out, I went downstairs into my mother’s apartment to say goodbye to our cat who we had for about eight years (he was staying with the house per the new buyer’s request), and I had a realization. My whole family was now gone. Everyone. Growing up, it was my Mother, Father, The Dog, The Cat, and I. Our dog had died in February, my Father in May, now the cat was gone, and my Mother was moving away. My entire family was gone. I had taken them for granted for so long, and now they were all gone. I could still call my mother on the phone, but they days of her being close by were no more. Now it would be weeks – even months between seeing her

We found out later that week that it would be my husband’s last day at work. He worked for a subcontractor for DirecTV, and they were bought out by a larger corporation. Almost everyone that worked there was out of a job, including him. So, along with everything else that was going on in our lives, now this. We had no money saved up to move into a new apartment, and with him losing his job we really had nowhere left to go. We called my husband’s parents and asked if we could stay at their home for an undisclosed length of time. They have a nice home, with two extra bedrooms, so I suppose it worked out fine.

Now, here we are a month and a half later, living in a home with five people and six cats. They already had four cats—Fuzzy, Cleo, Lucy and Flash, and we have our two—Clamps and Tiny Dancer. I have never before in my life had allergies to any animal. However, living in a house with six cats, I have developed the itchiest eyes I have ever had, along with a nose that at times runs like a water faucet.

I feel awful. We are a married 25-year-old couple with no savings, a one-year-old child, and two cats. We are such bums. Living in a house with this many living creatures just does NOT feel natural. I’m not sure how the Amish do it. I know it seems more economical to all live together and conserve things, but not at the expense of my privacy. My husband and I have had our own household for almost eight years. At first, I must admit it was nice to have dinner on the table at 6 o’clock every night, and have the dishes done, and not have to clean much but at a certain point I want to cook my own dinners again. I wish I could be using my dishes, and sitting on my brand new furniture. We were so unprepared for all of this.

I am currently in the process of taking control of my life. A month after my father died, I decided to enroll in school. He had always told me to go to school and do something with myself, and after what I had saw and heard from him over the last week or so of his life, I knew I did NOT want to waste ANY MORE of my life…ever. If something that quick and drastic could happen to someone like him, then it could happen to anyone. Even me. I looked at my family’s situation and knew I couldn’t depend on anyone to change it. Not my mother, not even my husband. I knew I couldn’t complain about something I wasn’t willing to take action on. I took on a second, part-time job at Stewart’s and eventually quit my full time job to work there only. Working two jobs and going to school full time, along with having a family was too much for me, so I decided that one part time job was enough. School needs to be my number one priority if I’m ever going to get my family out of the situation we’re in.

My husband recently heard of a good job opportunity, so he’s in the process of interviewing for that, and applying to other companies in the area. Hopefully he will get something soon (UPDATE- He got that job!). For now, I suppose things worked out all right. We are all still alive (for now), my mother is happy in her new life, I am on a career path that will make me very fulfilled (and rich, hopefully), my husband is able to stay home with the baby so we can avoid day care costs, and we are all okay. We’re also saving up some money and most important of all – I now have direction. Something I never had before. I know where we are, and I know where we need to be.

I would have to say that my father dying changed my entire life. It hurts me very much to think that he is gone, but in a way, it made me a better person. I now have an appreciation for life that I never had before. I have purpose and direction and a will to succeed. It’s hard to think of my father’s death as a positive experience, but when I think of all the knowledge and power that I received from having gone through that, I can’t say it was bad. If it was going to happen anyway, I am so glad that I took what I could from it and gained what I did. I feel and know he would be proud of me right now even though we are living with my husband’s parents. All he ever wanted was for me to work hard to reach my full potential, and I never did before. It feels satisfying to know that I am doing everything I possibly can to make my life turn into what I want it to be, while I still can.

How Having a Baby Changes You

I miss the freedom, I thought to myself the other day while trying to detain my 11-month-old son who crawled frantically across the Pergo floor to try and escape me. He smelled like rotting carrion on the side of the road on a hot day. It must have been the fruit and cheerios mixed together. I scooped him up and put my face in his little belly and blew some raspberries on his stomach. He giggled and laughed as I lay him down on the couch to change his poopy diaper. As soon as the pants come off, a meltdown ensues. He rolls and kicks and screams. He hates getting his diaper changed. While I’m trying to make sure poop stays off my in-laws’ very expensive furniture, I find myself in a daydream-type state. I wonder what life for us would be like if I hadn’t gotten pregnant.

My husband, Nick and I have been together since high school. On our fourth anniversary, when we were opening presents on Christmas morning, he had asked me to marry him. I said yes, and a year and a half later, we got married. I was working a very good job, we were making great money together, and we were doing excellent. We could afford anything we wanted. We had a brand new, flat-screen TV (when they were a new thing, I might add), one of the best and fastest computers you could buy, a brand new car, a beautiful apartment with more rooms than we really needed…we had anything and everything we wanted.

We would frequently eat out, go to the movies, hang out with friends, or just sit around and do absolutely nothing. We did a lot of that. Nothing, really. And it was nice. We could just do whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted, however we wanted to do it. There was nothing to stop us. We could just stay up late, drinking beer and having wild sex if we wanted to or play video games all night long. There was no reason to limit ourselves in almost every aspect of our daily lives.

My husband has a pretty subdued personality. He doesn’t like to draw any kind of unwanted attention to himself, so he is usually pretty quiet, maybe somewhat socially awkward. He would rather stay home and watch TV or play video games then go out to the bar with friends or be in any type of large-group environment. He likes to hang out with a few friends, on a nice, quiet night, having a few beers, no one getting too loud, and everyone going to bed relatively early. I, on the other hand, am almost completely opposite.

In my early 20’s we had no child, no real responsibility, fabulous jobs, and money to do whatever we wanted with. I have, what some people may call, an impulse-control issue. I see something. I want it? I get it. Whatever it is. Doesn’t matter. It’s that simple. I wanted to be a real-estate agent, so I did it. I wanted to quit that and do something else, so I did that. I just did whatever the hell I wanted. If I wanted to go out to the bar and get hammered on a Thursday night, then I would do it.

I had already been thinking of having a baby for a few months before Nick had asked me to marry him, so by the time we married, I had already been thinking about it for almost two years. I decided we should try and get pregnant, and see what happened. He was reluctant. We had a few scares over the years, but nothing serious. He knew I wanted to start a family. We hadn’t gotten pregnant in the first six years we’d been together, and after much “convincing”, I suppose he slipped-up on purpose and decided he was also ready to start a family.

I had been rehearsing this day in my head for quite some time at that point. I had taken a few pregnancy tests over the years, a few days late and scared…just trying to make sure. I never got a positive result, and I always wondered what I would do, how I would act, and what I would say the day I saw those two little pink lines. I was trying to get pregnant now. It was different. I wasn’t taking this pregnancy test out of fear; I was taking this one with hope. Well, maybe there was a little fear in there, too. I saw the plus sign, and immediately grabbed the other test in the box, praying I had some more pee left in me. That one said positive, too.

“Uh, Nick. Come here,” I said, not a yell, not a scream, but just loud enough for him to hear downstairs from in front of the TV.

“Whaaaaaaaat?!” he yelled back, annoyed. He most likely assumed I was going to ask him to do something.

“Come HERE,” I said again, and he came up the stairs into our bathroom, where a pregnancy test lay on the instruction sheet that was enclosed. He picked up the test, pulled it close to his face, set it aside and grabbed the instruction sheet.

“Are you sure you didn’t mess it up, or something?” He asked, his eyes huge, a half-smile, half- terrified expression on his face.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” I said back chuckling. “How could you ‘mess up’ peeing on a stick and waiting?”

“I DUNNO!” He said back to the mirror, a look of fear on his face. His eyes were large, his mouth wide open,  rubbing his bristly, patchy beard. This was all becoming too real for him, I could tell. We just looked at each other and you could feel the anxiety, but you could also feel the happiness and the excitement. We both wandered back downstairs, where we sat on the couch, completely silent for the next 10 or 15 minutes,  pretending to watch TV, but neither of us really was.

Holy shit. I thought to myself. I know he was thinking it, too. We really did this. We made this happen. What was going to happen next? What do we do? What can’t I do? Oh, God, I’m pregnant now. Now I can’t drink, or eat too many shellfish, or roller blade. Then panic set in. Oh my God. Now I need to call the doctor and ask them what to do. It was all over from that point on. Nothing would ever be the same.

I immediately adopted and loved this new lifestyle. I traded in my late nights out with friends for day trips to the museum and walks in the park. Shopping became a new favorite hobby. Especially for baby things. How could you NOT buy baby things?! Over the months I was pregnant the excitement built even higher when we found out we were having a boy. This just reassured our ideas that we always get exactly what we want. It was a beautiful thing to watch my husband’s transformation from scared and unsure, to excited, happy, and looking forward to our future.

Nolan came into our home like a hurricane. We were only 24 years old. This was our first child. We had no clue what we were doing. After the one-hour labor fiasco I had just endured, my body stitched back together, and not being able to sleep more than a 2 hour stint at the hospital, by the time we came home, I was exhausted.  Neither one of us had any clue what we were doing, so everything was a two-man operation. One late night, he was having a middle-of-the-night bottle, and my husband went to change his poopy diaper. For some reason, he left the old diaper off while he turned around to grab a new diaper, and all I saw was a stream of poop flying through the air. It got all over our bed, Nick’s hands,  and the floor. My husband was gagging, and almost throwing up. I was laughing hysterically, clutching my chest, and pointing my finger at him. We quickly cleaned everything, and put Nolan in-between us, and just laid there and stared at his little, perfect face. My husband looked at me and said, “We have a family now. Our own little family.”

I then began to hysterically cry, realizing that my life was now more complete than ever. All I could see were the years to come – apple picking, carving Halloween pumpkins, opening Christmas presents, doing arts and crafts – all kinds of other corny things I had always looked forward to doing with my own family. Every Halloween it seemed so awkward to me to carve my own pumpkin alone. Now that would never be the case again.

Nowadays, when Grandma and Grandpa take the baby and we have a “night off”, we go home and relax…maybe even sleep. The last time we ate out at a restaurant was Panera. We have to go to “family-friendly” places now to drown out the sounds of a baby who wants his All-Natural Cheese Doodles. I still go out with friends once in a while, but I have become a much more responsible, laid-back person. I worry about money. We can’t go spending on frivolous things like we used to. My husband and I went to Wal-Mart the other day and bought a large package of diapers, a large box of wipes, 10 jars of baby food, some baby socks, some of his Cheese Doodles, and a few other things, and the total came to $130. Not to mention he grows so quickly he constantly needs new clothes.

Who could resist?

Having Nolan has definitely changed both of us for the better. We are much more responsible, less apathetic and lazy, and we both have a little person to take into consideration. Everyone says it, and it’s such a cliché, but “It’s not all about us, anymore.”  Even going to the grocery store is a production, now. We went from having more than enough time, money, and patience to having almost none of ANY of those, and we love it. When I sit watching his little hands shovel Spongebob macaroni and cheese one-by-one into his little mouth, I know we did the right thing. Every time a little old lady walks up to me in the store and tells me that I have the cutest baby she has ever seen, it just makes my life complete. I would say, having a child with my husband is the most satisfying and fulfilling decision I have ever made. I would trade all the drunken nights and wild sex in the world for snuggling with my cute little companion for life, any day.