Letter to Zinger, 7 Years and 8 Days

Dear Z,

Remember that tooth that you were waiting to lose? The one I thought you might lose on your actual birthday but didn’t? You lost it, five days ago on April 11. The terrain along your toothline is varied and fun, and you own every single bit of all the smiles you flash. It salves my soul.

I’m about to pick you up from school. I saw on the news last night that police shot a 13-year-old child. A child. I also saw on the news last night that eight people died in a mass shooting in another state.

This is not the country I want you to grow up in. I don’t know what to do.

Every day I drop you off at school I try not to worry. Your classroom is close to one of the building’s exits. Your class has a number of adults who can hopefully guide you to safety in the event of an active shooter. Let me tell you I just hate the possibility of that idea becoming a reality. Would you or any of your classmates know to keep quiet? I know your teachers would do what they could to protect you. The risk is a lot. The thought is unbearable.

I’m so glad these scary thoughts are the furthest thing from your mind. I’m grateful you take every moment of your life to find joy and fun, to give affection and friendship. To share love with the world around you.

Let me be the one to worry. You keep on being precious and spirited and happy.

I love you and your newest goofy smile,

Mom

P.S.

It goes without saying I worry endlessly about Dadda, too. I hope we can all figure out how to make this better.

Terrified

these thoughts are nowhere near complete. just a quick ramble.

today z is staying home from school. she had some early morning nausea, and i don’t want to get her class or teachers sick.

her sheets and one of her blankets are in the washer. there’s more laundry to do.

she’s gotten to the point of understanding to vomit into the toilet. or bucket. or bowl. or whatever receptacle is nearby.

she’s watching a disney film. as i sit i the adjoining office, i hear her little jabberings in the family room.

ever since she’s returned to school the thought has crossed my mind.

is she safe.

covid is still a concern, but it’s less so now that mass shootings are back at the forefront?

reopen the country, and active killings become more prevalent?

again?

because we’ve never solved for them?

since columbine?

since sandy hook?

when it was somehow decided that killing children was acceptable?

so.

z’s classroom is very close to an exit.

that exit–and probably all exits–can only be opened by a teacher’s badge.

she will have to learn shooter drills. will she understand?

every time she’s sick the empathy kicks in hard and a lump in my throat and a sinking feeling in my stomach follow me around until she’s better. sometimes those feelings linger. because i’m her mom.

and her safety always brings a constant undercurrent of worry.

this

is the world she’s growing up in. that her dad and i have to navigate with her.

these recent shootings and almost-shootings have terrified me. really just continued the terror from the past almost-30 years.

that i have been scared for so long

has also angered me

a lot.

i just love her so much.

Some Sunday Thoughts

The Little lost another tooth.

After a year of only bottom teeth–the four front ones–Z finally lost a top tooth.

Losing teeth always feels like a milestone. Part of the child goes away and a little bit of adult takes her place. Like sorting through outgrown clothes, this aspect of development saddens me a little.

I love that girl so much.

We watched part of the Grammys tonight in Payson. Talked about a few bands that Carla liked. A few songs that are hard to listen to. I walked into the living room to check on Z and my eyes landed on the photo used for Carla’s obituary. One of the tunes we’d discussed just moments before earwormed, and tears welled in my eyes.

“Golden Embers,” by Mandolin Orange.

I’ve always watched the music video of the band performing, and not the story form video. I’ll post the story here, still not having watched it. Not sure I can handle crying right now.

Lyrics here.

Mandolin Orange’s Tides of a Teardrop is a tribute to Andrew’s mother. It’s beautiful, poignant; very relatable.

It’s still hard. That’s really all I can feel right now.

Meetings

Yesterday Reilly and I attended a video call with Z’s teachers for her yearly IEP. We talked about her goals and progress. Her teachers seemed impressed with how well she’s doing with online school. It’s been almost a whole year. This week last year was when Utah decided to shut down schools for the rest of the school year, and my employer announced that we’d be working from home. This week last year we met with Z’s teachers on a Wednesday, and that following Friday the whole world changed. What a wild ride.

It’s probably easy to imagine a child–even one who has social delays–craving some kind of social contact beyond her parents. Even if we’re out running errands, Z will say, “Hi!” to a random child. To many random children. She will try to make friends. And we have to remind her about social distancing, even if everyone is wearing masks. Z’s teacher has said that her classmates (the ones attending in-person since the beginning of the school year) ask where she is all the time. Her name is on a desk, and it has been empty all year.

I had my weekly check-in meeting with my boss today. I told her about Z getting ready to attend school. I told her I had her practice unpacking her lunch. I told my boss about Z’s desk at school. She said that at the beginning there will probably be some separation anxiety, to which I quickly replied, “For me, probably not so much for her.” And my boss said, “Aww!”

Truth: it’s gonna be hard. After a 9 months of sitting by her and prompting her and waking her up in the mornings to do homework, I will have no easy time sending our baby off to school.

But like every other year she’s attended school in person, she’ll be amazing. And we’ll be proud parents.

Feelings Friday

You know when you’ve slept well and you awake refreshed and it’s gonna be a great day, no matter what? That’s today.

Like it’s mostly puppies and rainbows today, but layers of the other stuff, too. The add-perspective stuff. A cross section of all the strati is beautiful, and it’s important to see.

Reviewing posts from the past couple of years has revived my desire to write as an outlet. To journal feelings for my own mental health.

From June 2019 I began documenting some grief, which still isn’t complete. Which also isn’t a thing that doesn’t really arrive to completion. I’ll definitely revisit that.

Then: a long break to November 2020, when I got upset because it was the election, and emotions were running so hot, both from my cozy echo chamber and friends whose opinions differ, and I didn’t know how to navigate certain relationships. And the immediate reaction was to withdraw from facebook, and unfriend toxicity. I still think that was the right thing to do.

Then this month. With Hilary Hahn’s new album release, and me being a total fan. And today I’m being an unapologetic fan. This album is the bomb. Do they still say that? This album is the shit? That feels weird, though I have taken to swearing more. My official review: Paris is perfect.

AND, my little Zinger’s birthday is coming up next month. My brother’s, too. Gosh, my heart is so full.

See you soon.

Just Keep Swimming

I posted this on social media two days ago: Monday, 6/24.

Just keep swimming.

This past Saturday was three weeks since Nana’s passing; two weeks since her funeral. June 22 is Nana and Papa’s wedding anniversary. Z woke up, and she led me through her morning routine. I asked what she wanted for breakfast.

She looked at me and said, “Nemo.”

I very deliberately paused. “You want to watch Nemo? Ok, let’s go turn it on.”

We watched about 30 minutes of the movie when Reilly got home from the gym. After pausing the movie, we went upstairs and started eating the donuts he brought. Then Z headed back downstairs to finish watching. I followed her.

While the movie was playing I had my laptop open, writing and reviewing some personal thoughts. Then I heard Dory sing, “Keep swimming, just keep swimming.”

I stopped typing. This was the motto Nana had applied to her own struggles and afflictions the past couple of years. No matter the procedure, the pain, the fatigue, nausea, heartache: she pushed on. With a smile, even.

As Dory sang, I cried. As Marlin guided her through the swarm of Portuguese Man-o’-Wars stinging her, and Dory fought to stay conscious, she sang: Keep swimming.

After Finding Nemo, Z asked to watch Finding Dory. Young Dory sang “Keep swimming” when a current swept her away from her parents. She sang it throughout her search for her parents. That was how she survived. And succeeded.

I cried again.

It had been a while since Z watched either of these movies, and Reilly suggested she was feeling nostalgic. I agreed, but not just for the movies, but for Nana. I know she misses her.

Z knew what the day was. It wasn’t a coincidence she wanted to watch those movies.

Then while we were in Payson yesterday for dinner, Cousin Jessica made and brought these dogtags for all of us. A reminder of Carla; a talisman for how to live our own lives.

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We’re gonna just keep swimming, Nana. We love you.

A Break for the Tear Ducts

Places I’ve cried in descending order of frequency:

  1. Garden/Flowerbeds
  2. Shower
  3. Work
  4. Car, on the way to/back from work
  5. Talking to Z, tucking her in
  6. In my own bed, trying to fall asleep
  7. Family room

Today might be the first day in over a month I haven’t cried at all.

Weird.

 

It Was A Beautiful Day

June 8, 2019

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This was two weeks ago. I don’t know how that happened, where the time went. Not that it passed particularly quickly or slowly, but that it . . . moved.

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The service at the church was beautiful. Poignant music. Heartfelt words. A lot of tears. Some laughs. Many hugs. There are a million stories that could come from that hour and a half at the church. And a million more that could come from the hour-long viewing beforehand.

Graveside. Sunny, mid-60s.

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Z could not have been been better behaved. She understood the day.

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Carla would have loved these flowers. A coworker relayed that Carla actually chose her spray. Her colleagues were more than eager and happy to oblige her. For this day. This one wish. Something in the way her coworkers regard her is particularly touching to me. They were also her friends, but there was something about their relationship that somehow resounds with me.

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Two weeks sometimes feels like a million years ago. Sometimes it feels like yesterday. These perceived lapses occupy the same space. Or maybe they’re layered on top of each other. Or interwoven. I don’t understand it. Maybe a part of me wants to believe that understanding it will help me feel better. But what I should understand is that I’ll feel better with time. Whether that time is in slow-motion or warp speed.

And “feeling better” isn’t a singular event. I’ve felt pretty darn ok in certain moments. Laughed, even. I’ll take what I can get.

I’ll give what I can, too.

Today is Blake and Carla’s 41st wedding anniversary.

This isn’t an easy month right now.

We’re all going to watch Reilly’s brother play in the Utah Symphony as they accompany a screening of Harry Potter and Goblet of Fire.

Should be fun.

A Voice

“I sure do love you.”

This.

This is the soundbyte.

Over the last few months. Probably the last year. Carla would say that right into Z’s ear whenever she gave her a hug.

Whenever this memory bubbles up, I hear her loud and clear, as if she’s in the very same room. As if the memory is present. In real time. The inflection. The tone. The depth and pureness and sheer truth of this statement.

I don’t ever want to not hear it, for it to fade.

At bedtime, I try to say it to Z the same way Carla said it to her.

I want to keep hearing it. I want Z to hear it. Forever.

To feel it.

Parent-Teacher Conference and Kevin

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Last night we met with Z’s preschool teacher. The first thing she asked when she saw us was, “Who’s Kevin?”

Well, Kevin could be a couple of things:

kevinup

or

kevinmin

Z’s teacher said that Z often says, “Come on, Kevin” during class. Which sounds totally not out of the ordinary to us. We know who Kevin is (or could be), why doesn’t everyone?

We then talked about Z’s placement for kindergarten. The teacher said that she, the speech pathologist, and occupational therapist agree that Z is on the cusp of going either to a special class or an autism kindergarten class.

We forgot to ask what the difference is.

But her teacher said that Z catches onto academic stuff like reading and colors and shapes and math really quickly. In other areas Z is working on a few skills, and she still has social delays. She’s fine working or playing alongside a teacher or aide, but when another child/peer joins the group, Z leaves.

Y’all, sometimes I’m like that. But I don’t want to be the reason Z can’t interact with people. So we asked what we could do to improve her social skills. And we decided to try scheduling regular playdates with kids her age, just like we tried last year.

Sometimes I ask myself, “What’s kindergarten?” I don’t see a totally regular class full of typical kids–what I and Reilly grew up with. That’s not the normal around here. What I do see is the possibility of the bird from Up or one of the Minions. Both are equally great: Fun, goofy, smart (maybe not so much the Minion); generally happy and unassumingly generous with cheer. That’s our normal. I’m grateful to have accepted and live it every day.

That’s our girl.