Monday, January 30, 2012

Three generations on ice

My dad taught me how to love playing on snow and ice.

No. He showed me how to love it.

He didn't have to say much. He only had to supply the gear, get me into my snowsuit, bring me outside, and put up with an untold amount of whining and snot.  But he did it. He just kept showing up and putting up with us. Now that I have kids, I appreciate what he did all the more. That's a lot of snot and whining.

My dad never stopped "showing up" and modeling how to have a good time in this regard.

Once when I was home from college and he was still working, he came home on his lunch break to find me digging my ice skates out of the attic. I was headed over to the pond on the golf course, alone, for a skate. He was envious. He went back to work.

Half an hour later he showed up at the pond, still dressed in his suit and tie, with a hat and scarf and gloves for warmth, skates in hand. I will never forget that skate together. And oh how I wish I had carried a camera with me everywhere I went back then like I seem to do now. I only have the memory, but it's a vivid one.

And he showed up yesterday at the skating rink where I was teaching/showing Isla how to love skating. (It's been too warm, again, for pond skating.) He showed up with his old school racing skates. He bought them 20 or more years ago in Ottawa so he could skate through the city on the Rideau Canal.

He got to the rink with just 35 minutes of public skating time left. It took him 20 minutes to put on his skates. Isla helped him. She patiently knelt at his feet and helped him tighten and tie his skates, painstakingly trying to get her fingers to form the perfect bow that still eludes her. She treated Papa like a king.

"Okay, put you other foot in, Papa."

While this was going on, my sister, who brought my dad to the rink, and I engaged in some irreverent, nervous-daughter banter regarding whether or not she should write DNR (Do not resucitate) somewhere on my dad's person with a Sharpie pen. I suggested his forehead.

When he finally got situated, there was just 15 minutes left to skate. I offered my hand to him as he stepped out onto the ice but he wouldn't take it. "Funny, I don't see any of my friends out here," he said, knowing damn well he was the only octogenarian on the ice.

He wobbled at first, like a toddler learning to walk. And just like I do whenever I watch a toddler learning to walk, I held my breath and resisted the urge to say, "be careful! Don't hurt yourself."

The first few stilted strides he took made me wonder if this was such a good idea after all. 

He caught up to Isla, she looked back over her shoulder and saw him coming and promptely skated right into the path of a man who was trying to pass her and fell down. Dad offered to help her up, but she declined. He found his stride and made it around twice before sitting down on the bench to tighten his skates, then took two or three more laps before the Zamboni started up and the door lifted.

He tried to go around one more time but I reminded him the Zamboni was coming. In hindsight, I should have let the Zamboni driver wait.

Most recent airing of dirty laundry can be found over here at BabyCenter.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

A whole lotta horse shit

Saying goodbye to Ian, again, in England has left me feeling flat. As flat as a human can be and still be breathing.

I am a piece of cardboard. A cereal box, empty and folded. Ready for recycling. A newspaper, read, handled, folded in half and shoved under the bed.

I feel it most upon waking. Deflated. All my air, inspiration, hope has leaked out of some invisible hole overnight.

My sleep is fitful, hot, unsatisfying. I am seething with something. I miss Ian. I don’t want to be here without him any longer. I’m angry. Yet, I feel nothing.

It’s hard to parent when you are flat. Hard to find my arms to hold my children with. Hard to feel my heart beating. Hard for them to cuddle me without bumping into sharp edges. They crawl into my bed and lie quietly next to me. My heart says, reach out, enfold them in your arms. my brain, my stupid brain, won’t let me. It’s almost as if I’m too weary. Or as if I don’t want to let them in. Don’t want them to catch it, whatever it is I have. This melancholy.

I spent three blissful weeks with Ian, not once bothering to discuss the status of his immigrant visa beyond the most passing of comments. We were together, it was nice, let's not ruin our reunion with annoying, maddening bureaucratic talk.  Anyway there was nothing to talk about, we were in a holding pattern. Just waiting. Or so I thought.

Just days after I got back from England, I got an e-mail from Ian regarding a letter from the National Visa Center that had been waiting in the mailbox in France, for  three weeks. It was the hardcopy of a letter I received, and we had discussed, back at the end of November just before I went to Guatemala.

There was an attachment, as always, and forms to fill out. They were waiting for him to officially name me as his "agent." We had discussed this. Somehow, this discussion had failed. Ian thought I was meant to fill the form out. I knew he was supposed to fill the form out. I believed, the whole time we were in England together, that he had filled the form out and e-mailed it back to them.

I was wrong. Nothing had been done. The NVC was waiting for this form. No further progress was being made without this signed form. We had messed up, once again.

Our argument started via e-mail. Then we took it to Skype. I got so angry, and upset, over Skype I had to hang up on him. I went across the room and opened my mouth to let out the wounded animal sounds I hadn't wanted him to hear.  Then I swore, and cried, and swore some more. Five minutes later, feeling more under control, I called him back and we resumed our stupid conversation.

I hate being angry at Ian, or anyone I love. What I hate more is being angry at something bigger, the world, the system, myself, and taking it out on my loved ones. That makes me feel like a monster and a coward. Ian is sorry for having let this ridiculous oops happen. I know he is. There is no need for me to rub it in, to shame him for it. But sometimes I need someone to blame. Someone to be angry with. Someone to pass off my frustration to. Anyway, he signed a contract to be my husband and I'm sure somewhere in the small print there was some part about taking the blame for each and every thing just so your spouse can feel better. Isn't there?

Thankfully, this got cleared up quickly and two days later, how did that happen, I got another e-mail saying I had been named as agent and could now pay the immigrant visa processing fee of $404. Lucky me.

I struggled with that online payment form for several days, yes days, and finally called a toll free number, was put on hold for approximately 25 minutes, and learned that I needed to use Internet Explorer in order for the form to work. Does Internet Explorer even exist anymore?
I spent a morning trying to download a compatible version of that to my macbook and gave up when the graphics were all wonky. I tried Safari instead and had success. You have paid!

This is boring, I know. I apologize for that.

Short story is, we wait, we wait, we wait.

Ian now has to navigate all this Affidavit of Support crap, proving he has been earning enough money over the years and won't be a financial burden to the U.S., blah, blah, blah.

He's degraded and deflated and not so elated about being back in France without us. I want so much to go back there and be with him but know it doesn't make sense financially, or family wise, or in any way.

As much as I like being home, I miss France. I miss helping Essie do her homework, spelling words for her in French, reading books in French, complaining about the French. It's getting more and more dreamlike. But having Ian there isn't helping us hang on to our time in France.

It's only sucking the romance out of the memories. What price, this little adventure of ours? What price?

Gosh, Mom. These horses must have been poopin' all day while I was at school.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Mother Nature hosts a playdate

I have said it before and I'll say it again, I do not know how to parent in a northern winter without the aid of snow and ice. The kids keep looking at me, like starving dogs, to feed their hunger for entertainment. And I keep looking at the sky for help.

Case in point, we went for a walk-- yawn-- through the brown landscape, sprinkled with hints of what could be, and just as everyone was about to fall asleep on their feet, I stepped onto a snow-dusted section of my parents' driveway and, be still my heart, slipped on ice. Beautiful ice.

Ice Ho!  Ice Ho! Ice! I yelled. (Lest anyone take offense, let it be known the girls had been playing pirate ship on a fallen tree and some just moments earlier.)

The girls came running and, like trained Olympic curlers, swept away the snow to reveal a three yard stretch of smooth, delicious, opportunity-filled ice. Right there in the middle of nowhere, silently waiting for us.

First I took a running start and slid across. Then Esther followed and Isla after her. Soon they were smiling, giggling and hooting, and slipping and sliding and mock ice dancing and, in the case of Isla, ice break dancing back and forth along that darkly perfect stretch of ice. They were riding that ice like they stole it.

And I breathed out a huge mommy sigh of relief at finally, finally, feeling like a Vermont winter mom again. Phew!

An hour earlier, I had been threatening to get in the car and drive half an hour  to a ski area or indoor skating rink. Finding fun without doing that, and without spending a penny, is, to me, sweet victory.

On the way back home, we discovered the stream running through our pasture was frozen enough to walk on. Not exactly a river to skate away on, but Isla was determined to teach her feet to fly.

Walking the plank.

Read my most recent post at BabyCenter, if you'd like.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Perspective, and then some

I just read an Op-Ed piece in the N.Y. Times written by a Nigerian man, Lakhdar Boumediene,  who was detained in military custody, without explanation,  at Guantanamo Bay for SEVEN, yes 7, years.

His children grew up while he was inside being tortured, interrogated and treated like a terrorist despite the lack of any evidence against him.

Seven years.

They were not allowed to talk to him.

Seven years.

Letters they wrote to him were sent back.

When he was finally released, the only explanation was that the government had made a mistake.  Oops.

It breaks my heart. Incenses my every fiber. Shocks my soul. Seven years. You can not give a man the experience of being with his wife and watching his children grow back to him once you have stolen it. It's gone, forever.

And it makes me feel just a wee bit guilty about my ongoing pity party regarding not being able to get my husband, father of my children, back home where he belongs after just five months of trying. I'm still angry, more so than ever, but I'm also humbled somehow, in the face of just how bad it could be.

The world is filled with broken families. To see families broken up unnecessarily, and children losing their fathers for no good reason other than the heartless churning wheels of bureaucracy, is painful.