Friday, January 27, 2017

Tombstones and Tonsils

"Mommy, what should we write on your grave when you die?" asked my sweet child on our way to school. In all fairness, death has been on all of our minds lately with the recent passing of my grandfather. An avid fisherman, 'I'd rather be fishing' is etched on his tombstone.

"I don't know, Amelia. I really haven't given it much thought. What do YOU think it should say?"

She strokes her tiny chin like she's Aristotle before announcing, "I'd rather be napping."

Oh, children. They really do say the darndest things. I give her a forced smile in the rearview mirror and reply, "Mommies get tired sometimes. It takes a lot of energy to raise a child. And a puppy. Our new puppy makes me very tired."

What I didn't have the heart to tell her was, "Mommy is mentally ill. Mommy has an imbalance in her brain that causes her to dwell on intrusive thoughts until she can hardly function. Mommy is tired because mommy's brain runs marathons everyday."

And this particular week, I'm Usain freakin' Bolt.

Let me explain: Amelia's getting her tonsils out in twelve days. To an OCD brain, a tonsillectomy is the equivalent of a toddler performing open heart surgery on the side of the road with a plastic butter knife.

I can't stop researching medical journals. I scour through case studies in the middle of the night, evaluating each and every risk in my head while watching tonsillectomy videos on YouTube. I've even read up on anesthesia experiments in young monkeys (that shit was bananas!).  I've allowed two small masses of lymphoid tissue to consume my every waking thought. So yes, Amelia, mommy is tired.

I know you other mothers worry, as well---it's part of this job description. I just want so badly to be an "average" worrier; to let my daughter play at the park without first thinking of concussions, MRSA, cerebral bleeds, or rabid raccoons lurking near the monkey bars. With Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, there's always danger around the next corner; an impending sense of doom.

Ironically, if you were to look for antonyms of OCD, you would stumble upon my husband. I married  a man who, on a scale of 1 to Evel Knievel, mitigates risk by popping a Tums before eating expired chicken. I watch in awe as he goes through life unaware of all its dangers---my very own antithesis. He's given Amelia a world of adventure that I cannot give, and in that, I take comfort.

Oh dearest daughter, I'd rather not be napping. I'd rather be seizing the freaking day. I don't want my gravestone to describe some frail, tired, scared woman. I want it to say, 'I'd rather be listening to Britney Spears' or 'I'd rather be eating cake batter', but it's so hard to be anything other than my OCD.

I wish I could stop being so selfish with my own worries and concerns and focus more on you, this amazing little being, but my brain circuits have gone haywire. I'm a defected mommy with the best of intentions, but oh, how I love you so.  If the doctors could discard OCD like they do a set of inflamed tonsils, I'd be the first in that operating room (as long as it was steam sterilized).

Until then, I'm going to need a nap or two.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

To my Dearest Grandpa Black

“Old Dan Tucker was a fine old man, washed his face in a frying pan…”  My grandfather would sing this to me as he placed his arm around my shoulder. Sometimes he would create his own melody, rhyming my name or humming a silly tune. Even as the years passed, I never grew tired of hearing him sing. In recent years, when he lost his ability to clearly speak, he would still come to my side and put his arm around me, grinning. I know he was silently singing to me; an unspoken hymn between a girl and her grandpa. 

I will miss the little things about him; the simple, mundane memories that are now so significant—his patient, calloused hands gently casting my fishing pole. I would watch with childlike intrigue as he cleaned our catch at the end of the day, expertly filleting what would soon be our dinner. 

I remember the thrill and anticipation as he built us our very own swing set, and I recall my mother’s gratitude as he constructed a bedroom wall in our basement. Wherever there was a need, he met it. My grandpa was always giving of himself.

Since Earth is that much more barren and desolate without you on it, Grandpa, then I can only believe that Heaven is that much more radiant with you in it. I pray that the lakes are boundless and the fish are abundant. I pray that you are once again singing—perhaps the newest alto in the choir of angels. Maybe you are with them now, grinning your remarkable grin and singing, “Old Dan Tucker was a fine old man”….so were you, Grandpa Black. One of the finest.