Archives for posts with tag: relationships

I wrote this piece specifically for a writing contest. Alas, I did not win. Such is the life of a writer. Moments of unadulterated joy and success followed by a dark pit of despair and failure. There are rarely middle moments of mediocrity. Or maybe there are, but they get lost in the whirlwind of highs and lows. In my younger years, I think this moment of failure may have destroyed a bit of me. I am sad, of course, but this is not the only thing I have going for me. It is part of the writer’s life. We don’t win them all. Not every reader will enjoy our writing. Maybe you will hate this piece below. I am not sure. I am not sure I care. I wrote it. It is true. It is honest. It is a part of my very being, always lingering behind my happiness. This sadness that engulfed me when my grandma died. A sadness that never quite leaves. It ebbs and flows throughout my day dreams and middle of the night over-thinking sessions. So here is a brief story about my grandma, her life and death. It is not the whole story, I need an entire book for that, but a glimpse into one of the relationships that shaped the woman I am. 

She Was Too Tired

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My grandma and I were always close. Summers spent climbing the trees in her never ending yard. Was the yard really as expansive as I remember? It seemed to go on and on. Sleepovers with cuddles on the couch. “Grandma can you play with my hair some more?” The answer was always yes. Her long nails, scratching my scalp for hours on end. Was it really hours? I am not sure, but to me, it felt like she had all the time in the world to play with my hair. Tantrums ignited by having to leave the comfort of her walls. Six-year-old me even ran away from home. Riding my bike across town. Knocking on her backdoor. “Can I live with you? Mom and Dad won’t let me do what I want to do.”

I have this photo of her, my grandpa, and my firstborn son. Sitting on the couch, smiles on all their faces. He was six months old. The only child of mine she got to meet. As I was folding hand-me-down clothing for my youngest son, I came across the onesie from the photo. I stopped. My hands shaking. My stomach began to churn. Gingerly twisting the fabric between my fingers. Tumbling back in my memory to that afternoon. She was on the other side of my camera. Smiling at me.

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When I was eight months pregnant with my youngest son, my grandma died. I was sitting in my backyard, watching my three-year-old son play in the sand when my phone rang.

When I walked into her hospital room, nausea enveloped by body. She was hooked up to so many tubes. A giant mask on her face. The hum of oxygen penetrating the empty spaces around us. My grandma, who I used to tell “you’s not fat grandma, you’s fluffy!” looked so thin and frail in that bed. The next few days were a blur. Me and my round belly, waddling back and forth from the hospital. Sitting by her side, with my grandpa, with my dad.

Then came hospice. We got her settled into her room. Everyone gone, only my parents and I remained. I walked over to her, leaned down, and kissed her. Whispering, “get some rest grandma. I will see you tomorrow.”

She took my advice. The next and last time I saw my grandma, whose very presence oozed warmth and grandma-ness, was in her coffin. Unborn baby in my belly. An unborn baby she would never take a photo with. An unborn baby whose middle name would be the very name she gave her own son, my dad. She was too tired to find out how the story ended. She needed her rest.

 

*Special thank you to my friends and personal editors who volunteered and helped me edit this piece. I am eternally grateful to you and your intelligently sharp eyes. Ashley, Taryn, and Amanda. A writer is nothing without a great editor. Thank you! Thank you to my mom and husband who both told me this was a great piece and are always cheering my writing on. I could send them a run-on sentence jotted on a gum wrapper and they would say it was great! Thank you for believing in my writing no matter what.* 

Male following female into blue night shadows

Yesterday I was walking home from an appointment. The boys were at camp and preschool, I was enjoying a leisurely walk home alone. Headphones in, phone out, reading through my email. I normally do not do this when the boys are with me, but hey, momma was alone. I happened to have a great email giving me an assignment for our local newspaper. I was about to send a text to my husband and then mom, when a young man, ran up beside me, out of breath. Initially I thought something had happened. He immediately started talking to me, I removed one of my headphones. He said something along the lines, “I thought you were really cute and I just had to talk to you. What’s your name?” At this point, my body language must have changed from elated, over my personal good news, to utterly terrified. I said, “I am married.” He said, “You’re married? You look really scared right now!” I ignored the comment and said, “Yes I am married and I have two kids.” He mumbled something else, sorry perhaps, I am not sure. I was rather uncomfortable. Then he turned around and walked away. I kept walking forward. Changing the purpose of my text to my husband from job to street interaction.

Rewind to the week before. It was around noon, I was walking home from our local coffee shop. Pushing my two year old in the stroller. I was using our small stroller, so I did not have my cup holder tray. I had on a tank top and shorts. They kept riding up as I walked. I kept cursing them in my mind, because it felt annoying. Pulling them down was tricky with two full hands. It was blazingly hot outside. We were enjoying our walk home. I was balancing my coffee in one hand while pushing the stroller, uphill, with the other hand. My little guy and I were just kind of chatting. I noticed a man approaching, walking in the opposite direction. He was swaying back and forth. As we began to get closer, I noticed an open can of beer in his hand. Again, it was noon. We were walking through a very family friendly park. There is a playground with a splash pad. Lots of trees and beautiful landscaping. There is a small dog park. There is an open field area for fitness programs, sports, playing, or laying around with friends and family. It was noon! As he got to us he looked me up and down, very slowly. I began to feel incredibly uncomfortable. No one else was around us. Just him, my baby, and me. I felt a twinge of alarm. He spoke. With slurred speech he said, “Damn! You got a lot of muscles on you girl.” I did not respond at all. I quickened my pace, my heart frantic to get my child away from the situation. In my head I thought “I do! If you touch me, I will use every single one of them to beat you.” I was ready to fight him off, to protect my baby, if it came to that. I did not feel safe. We arrived home safely a few minutes later. My son, oblivious to the situation.

Rewind even further. I took my oldest son to see Neil DeGrasse Tyson on a Tuesday. We walked home that night. It was not overly late, maybe around nine. As we left the theater another drunk man sexually harassed another woman. It was not me in that moment, but I did walk up to her and ask her if she was ok. My son asked me why, and I explained it to him, in as gentle of a way as I could. We moved on and continued to walk home. As we got closer to our building a group of men approached. College aged boys, all shirtless, for some unknown reason. One of them got very close to me and my face and drunkenly said “You are really good looking.” I pulled my son to the side and said nothing back. Again, that fight or flight took over. When my children are with me, flight wins, so I can avoid a fight. I had to have a chat this time, about why that was wrong and what had happened.

As I replayed the interaction yesterday, and how the young man seemed truly bothered that I seemed afraid of him, I recalled these two specific moments. There have been many others in my life, but I could write a memoire if I included every incident. My instinct yesterday was to be afraid, even if his interaction came from a genuine desire to connect with another human, society has made it so that women are instinctually afraid. We must be on the defense because of men like the ones who harassed me. I am not looking for a connection with a stranger, I am married. I have a family. I am not writing this from the view point of a single woman navigating the dynamics of meeting people. I am writing this from the view point of a woman who has been a victim of sexual harassment too many times to count. While street harassment is not studied enough, a 2014 study did find that 65% of women had experienced street harassment. I can recall moments even as a preteen, men hollering at me out of their car windows. I have been dealing with this for most of my life. It is no surprise that when this man did approach me and I realized what he was saying, that my mental and physical reaction immediately braced for another round of street harassment.

In today’s overly digitally connected world we are often lacking the face to face human connection. This is something that is discussed at length, if you Google that, you will find 25 million results. However, how can we, as a society, learn to embrace that innocent human connection, when so many rotten apples have ruined it? When these offenders have made us feel defensive and unsafe just walking down the street, with or without our children. In the moment, it can be difficult to ascertain the difference between someone who just feels drawn to you and someone who is sexually harassing you. Putting up your defense is usually the safest and most comforting reaction. Perhaps for some, at the risk of losing out on positive moment.

I do not have a simple solution. I do feel drawn to talk about it, though. I want to hear your stories. How do you navigate this often tricky balance? How do you determine when a stranger is just being genuine or if they are a threat? Are you like me, always having defenses up, because too many times you have been a victim of harassment? You are not alone in this battle, there is strength and safety in numbers. I do not feel bad that I came across as afraid, it is not my fault, I do however wish that our society was different. I wish that a woman could walk down the street without feeling the need to constantly be aware of her surroundings. I wish a woman could walk home at night, with her son, and not be harassed. I wish a woman could walk home from grabbing coffee in the middle of the day, without being harassed.