Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We're still in that slump slumping slumpiness, as delineated in yesterday's post. It has to do with old sicknesses and ailments segueing into new ailments and sicknesses with no remarkable transition points. Like when I was on a bus in Europe going from Paris to Amsterdam. At one point we stopped for a pee break for 5 minutes and then got back on and kept going. Someone asked me how I liked Belgium. "That was Belgium?" That was Belgium. And when people ask me if I've ever been to Belgium, I say yes and snicker to myself.

Now that I think about it, "I have to go to Belgium" is a great personal euphemism I may employ in the future.

We're getting used to the slumpiness, actually, except that I never really seemed to have gotten used to the previous overriding slumpiness of parenthood, so, oh bother. This seems a new sort of parenthood, with two kids. Parenthood redefined by simple quantity. People think that the addition of kids changes things. It doesn't. It changes you.

I know little, or nothing, of who my parents were before us kids came along. I suspect that, at least to some degree, my mother -who is in her seventies- still sees herself as that shimmering youth with her fine arts degree and on her way to ballet class. But then -poof!- six kids came along and eventually transformed her into the glowing matriarch she is now, with her back bent from picking up children her whole life and an innocent smile that belies the immense fortitude we all know she has for managing her incorrigible husband all those years. She's been battling cancer for nearly a decade, but you wouldn't guess it unless you asked her about the noticeable weight loss and gain that comes and goes between treatments. She just sucks up about it. It's what parents do, and she's gotten good at it after all these years.

I, by contrast, suck at it. I'm predisposed to complain. And I still see myself, in so many ways, as that long-haired, struggling artist, daydreaming about future travels (to Belgium!) and what I'm going to say in the next pitch session. But that horse died some time ago, and instead of letting it go, I'm prone to just changing sticks and beating it some more.

My kids don't see me that way.

One of the blessings of having children is that you get to remake yourself. It is the truest of graduations, and, really, the only time in your life that everyone you know will let you do it without hassle. It also happens to be the only time it actually matters. Here, suddenly, midstream in life, are some new people who look to you, depend on you, love you more than anyone ever has, and in ways you barely understand, and they don't care who you ever were. All that matters is who you are to them now, how you treat them today, and if you were an ass in some previous life, if you lied and cheated and hurt the myriad of strangers and so-called friends that passed through your space in some B.C. ("Before Children") well, it can all be dismissed now. Just don't do it again, Dad.

Unsullied forgiveness like that makes it easy to dig some trivial ditches and pour some brainless concrete and build some dopey aluminum patio covers in the sun. You do it for the money, you do it for them -and you don't mind that part about it. Just keep at it. You're allowed a few bad days.

My mom, in the middle.