I cried and cried as she sat at my feet. I tried to wipe the tears casually with my shoulder. My hands were unavailable. It was a manicure/pedicure. On her tiny rolling stool she was almost kneeling at my feet and I felt way too out of my element. It felt downright lenten. I am unworthy. She massaged my surprisingly shaven legs. I had forgotten to shave one big toe. I had remembered to shave the other big toe.
The tears rolled. I bet she told her co-workers that I was crying and she didn’t know why. I didn’t speak her language so I will never know what she thought. She wore her hair buzzed and she wore men’s clothes. Her face contradicted her look. She was like Courtney Cox in that Bruce Springsteen video. Fresh faced and girl next door. Well, Asian girl next door. She looked carefree and it felt so incongruent to have her waiting on me.
Years ago, I would show up messy to get my toes done and I would introduce myself as a crazy busy mom with six kids and it made sense to all of us in the spa/ salon, why I was not wearing blush or Tori Burch flip flops. I have on Cat and Jack flip flops from the kids section of Target. I just got my hair cut at the Supercuts next door and I am mildly disheveled. We all have our way of telling the world that we didn’t even try to get ready this morning. Some of us go the tennis skirt route or the ever popular- blond pony tail, black leggings, Uggs and North Face jacket. I have adopted this two ponytail, throw on anything that doesn’t reveal any body parts underneath and smile. Here I sit. Just me with my non-descriptness trying to be invisible or unobtrusive and she sat at my feet snipping and polishing my feet which had been shamefully ignored for the winter months. My baby is 10 so I can’t rely on my old conversations of preschoolers keeping me up all night. I am here in this clean but unkempt condition because this is me- at least for the time being. I definitely don’t want anyone to think I tried and was unsuccessful at dressing so I make it clear that I didn’t try.
And I’m crying because – well, I’m not sure. I mean- I am mostly crying because my hands are busy and I can’t distract myself with my phone and the old lady customers in the adjacent chairs are woefully uninteresting- one has diamonds on the edges of her khaki capri cargo pockets. I can’t entertain that. I try to eavesdrop but they are talking about a white blazer she may have to return- I am not a returner. So, I am left to feel my feelings and think my thoughts which I have so busily avoided. I am here for self care and it is blowing my whole strategy at life.
I’m sad because…
-my dad died and he wasn’t home when I went to Hilton Head and stayed in his condo with my mom and he couldn’t drive us to the sand bar in the fishing boat and he didn’t clear his throat when I said something worrisome and he didn’t call me Tiger once
-my ex husband took a girlfriend to ski for the week of his birthday. I don’t want to be married to him. I like being unmarried. I feel free-er lately and yet it is annoying when he takes the unknown woman to Colorado.
-Tuck turned 21 in Santa Cruz without me. I sent him a few little things and then Venmoed him money. California is so far away from Georgia.
-BeBe is experiencing so much of life in her freshman year at UGA. And some of it is painful growing up stuff and I want to steal her pain from her and keep her young and in my pocket- which is impossible for any child but extra impossible when my girl is headstrong and independent. But when you raise empathetic children, the world will hassle them.
-George came with me to Hilton head for spring break and I tried so freaking hard to not rely on him too much. He brings me joy. He is empathy- when he was 4 an Argentine friend who became a yoga teacher, told me how George was an indigo child. I don’t know exactly what that is but I know she is right. Running is his love and I love his passion and work ethic and I know that it means he is forward thinking about college and he will grow up, too. (I know! that is the goal of having children- that we raise happyish healthy independent adults. But accomplishing this ultimate goal brings a bittersweet pain to moms whose babies keep leaving home.
-Dolly went to Florida with her friends and a couple of their moms. I feel a lump in my throat because I wasn’t there to see her off. I didn’t hand the moms a wad of twenties for gas and sunscreen. I went to a Patty Griffin concert for my birthday and so her dad dropped her off in his Jeep. Dolly texted me to please give the customary money to the moms upon her return and I did- but I knew I had been the slacker mom and I feared that Dolly knew it, too.
-Mim is mim. She had breakfast in bed everyday of her spring break which consisted of microwave kettlekorn and coffee milk. She begged for Chinese food from a dirty restaurant called Yummy house. She begged for time with cousins. She gave away an ipad and an old iphone to her cousins and then was furious when her grandmother said she couldn’t give that stuff away. She swam with her goggles in the Westin’s heated pools that we sneak into. She threw plastic mermaid fins across a hot tub because they are damn annoying and impossible. Yes, I let her buy more mermaid fins and yes the agony was an exact repeat of last spring break with only myself to blame, not even the Easter Bunny this time. Today, we got fancy popsicles with friends and snuggled lots, but then she put permanent paint on my new birthday shirt, obliterated a large stack of folded beach towels and crushed goldfish crackers into our bed, all because she is angry that BeBe has a boyfriend and that Bebe was going back to Athens. (I was outside for 15 minutes walking the dogs when the calamity occurred.- just so YOU don’t think I’m a slacker mom, too.)
-AND Addy has been sick. She had a fever and a migraine- both of which she NEVER gets and then she had eating disorder gut complications for over a week and it hit me hard.
A few weeks ago, Chad and I comforted Mim in a familiar waiting room with green walls that meet orange walls. At Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital, we waited with my mom for Mim’s oral surgery. Chad said he had PTSD from being back at that hospital. Toddlers who should have been waddling, roll past in red wagons with IV poles attached, followed by exhausted moms and dads carrying too many bags to not be on vacation. Older children lounge uncomfortably in pajamas during the middle of the day. It felt odd that he said that about PTSD because I felt so alone when Addy was at Scottish Rite, ten years ago. I had felt totally alone. He was there or remembers being there at that particular registration waiting room with the orange walls meeting green walls and the huge screen of fish swimming cheerfully. Maybe he used the psychological term too loosely. But, I honestly think he does experience PTSD from Addy’s illness. I was lost in my terror. And he was lost in his. And we were separate. And our family suffered terribly. Each and everyone of us. The trauma was all encompassing. To live on the brink of losing your child forever changes a family. Anorexia changed us all.
A million little things bring that terror back. It might be Chad buying 2% milk when we always buy whole. [In the world of parenting a child with an eating disorder, there are no low fat foods because seeing low fat foods in your home sanctifies low fat as good.] Or it might be seeing one of her classmates and remembering all the teenage normal things her disease stole. Or seeing Addy grayish yellow and knowing that her body has not gotten nourished because a disease is stealing Addy’s brain. I haven’t healed from much of this experience and I guess Chad hasn’t either. Addy hasn’t healed either. We use the word recovered, but Addy’s eating disorder actively gets her everyday. She lives pretty functionally but with a lot of struggle and missteps.
I’m sad because my trauma or grief is heaped on top of other grief or trauma. And I bet this happens to all of us in life. I am not special in experiencing trauma. I’m sad when I put my phone down or when I stop momentarily because life is hard. My dad. My Addy. My divorce. My kids growing up. This is hard stuff. Not for the faint of heart. Not for the weary in a huge leather massage chair with her feet in a small warm tub of water wondering how to work the remote, wishing she had a People magazine or her phone.
The young woman at my feet, asked me “What happened to you?” I answered, “my dad died.” It seemed the only appropriate answer.