Where we live, while awesomely close to downtown, having a yard is unusual. Giant houses that take up every square inch of their lot are the norm.
I treasure my small backyard. With so many statuesque trees flanking our streets, songbirds abound. If I am really lucky, I might see a deer:
Just kidding. Our alley is being reworked so the only deer(e) I see cause quite a ruckus.
Besides the mild annoyance of construction noise, where we live is very fun. We are a few blocks away from excellent restaurants. We try to walk to meals out as much as we can.
Most of our family loves this.
T.Puzzle hates this.
He hates to walk anywhere. To him it is slow, boring and ultimately pointless.
Seated at lunch last weekend, the four of us had walked to a new taco joint. The food was great and the weather perfect for our outside table.
We debated if we would walk to get ice cream before hitting Target (yes! we can walk to Target!). We didn’t want to push T.Puzzle’s attitude because we know better, and he is only a mild fan of ice cream, weird, I know.
“You up for walking for ice cream?” said Mad Dog.
Then, slowly, T.Puzzle formed a response as his shoulders lifted in a slight shrug.
“I guess so.”
I read the meaning behind his words.
“Basically, T.Puzzle is willing to walk with us but he will be super depressed about it the whole time,” I said. “Did I guess that right?”
At a recent dance/cardio class, a woman I was conversing with could not believe that I had kids that were fourteen and twelve. She was under the impression I was in my twenties so when I started talking about Full Speed approaching his first year of high school, she almost fell over.
I normally dance in the front row of class and she is always anchored towards the back. It was an easy mistake but also flattering.
I should have kept this story to myself.
You know T.Puzzle, he likes to keep things ‘real’.
He quickly put me in my place and in no uncertain terms shared that the absolute youngest I could pass for was forty-three.
It’s not just T.Puzzle that keeps me in check. I have a minor obsession with birds and flowers. To my delight, I have this magazine app that has several back-issues of Birds and Blooms. It makes my heart happy to peruse the colorful photos and imagine being face-to-face with these adorable, fluttery beings immersed in a sea of flowers.
My struggle comes in the form of this particular magazine’s ads. Hearing aids, orthopedic shoes and various bladder control products are the major themes.
Unbelievably I was asked to submit a baby photo of Full Speed to commemorate his upcoming graduation. It is hard to fathom that he is on the cusp of being in high school but, here we are. There were so many great photos to choose from, I sent in several. The parent committee chose to display this one:
T.Puzzle would like a different angle when it comes to his future 8th grade photo selection. He wants something that feels authentic to him. After his coaching, I found a couple of gems.
When my boys were small and T.Puzzle would wake from a nap, I would plop Full Speed in his crib and they would wrestle and play. More often than not, as it seemed to be the natural tendency of their interactions, their play would quickly turn violent.
Things would start out happy:
This is the photo T.Puzzle wants me to send in once things went south.
I was curled up in bed as another round of coughing wracked through my body. I had been sick for four days and knew something was not right. My body refused to heal and I couldn’t figure out why.
I had enough sense not to Google my symptoms. In my weakened state any glimpse of doom I might read would derail any chance at wellness.
I croaked out his name and asked him to join me in my room. I asked him to Google dehydration for me.
He sat with me a long time. He patiently read through each symptom discerning what he could share with me in my fragile state and what he could not.
After a few moments, we confirmed it. I was dehydrated. Full Speed helped me formulate a plan to get me feeling better. He went and got me some Powerade.
This made me cry.
This confused him.
I went on to share that I was so proud of him for being a good caretaker. I then confessed that the girl he may or may not have been messaging (he will neither confirm or deny this allegation), made me emotional. Of course I am so happy he has found someone who has peaked his interest (or not), but I am sad he is no longer my ‘baby’.
This made me cry harder. Torrents of tears and emotions poured out of me and nearly washed both of us away.
He continued to sit with me.
He offered words of comfort and reassurance without judgment.
I said, “I don’t know if you realize this, but I am teaching you how to be in a relationship. When your future (current?) girlfriend gets emotional you will be prepared. You will know how to handle it just like you handled this situation with me. In fact, you may wonder if ‘that’s all she’s got?’ because I admit, I may or may not be a tad more emotional than your average woman.”
With that, I let out even more tears. When I was done, he twisted off the cap to my Powerade, handed it to me and left me with a hug.
As he left the room it hit me hard.
I was training him how to be a husband.
In my complete expression of what was in my heart and my mind, I was showing him how to sit with another’s vulnerability.
Showing Full Speed the truth of my inner world is a part of husband training. The other half happened nearly two decades ago. It started the minute I fell in love with Mad Dog.
At the time and being only twenty-four years old, I could not know how he would be as a husband and father years later.
He has far exceeded any expectation I ever had.
Every day he shows my boys what it means to be a husband. They watch how he works tirelessly to provide for us and how he will do anything to make my dreams a reality.
When Full Speed clicked open that Powerade before he handed it to me, he did so after watching years of Mad Dog doing the same.
In no way am I saying that Full Speed is required to get married. It is his life to live and it is frankly, none of my business.
My business is to stay truthful. To continue to be authentic in how I live and love.
Sometimes I am embarrassed by how much emotion bubbles out of me at the most inopportune moments, but it is who I am.
In a way, this may be where my greatest strength originates.
I am lighting the way for love for both my boys.
True love. The love that is most real. The kind that endures the ups and downs of living a life together.
The kind that takes you on unexpected adventures but also finds your heart tucked safely inside gratitude simply by being together.
Things change as time passes. Now, when I take my boys to the movies, they no longer jump up on the seat and shout at the screen during action sequences. While I don’t miss wrangling them into a loosely based version of socially acceptable movie theater behavior, I do miss the wild abandon they would demonstrate as they actively believed they were part of the movie. (Full Speed watching Transformers for the first time is the stuff of legends in our house).
On a personal level, over time I have noticed a shift in the way my body reacts to dips in temperature. Ten years of living in Florida has given me the bold physical constitution of a tiny, very old woman. My midwestern genes fail and I recoil at any temperature below eighty degrees.
My boys tease me endlessly about this.
Recently, Mad Dog purchased me a blanket. It is velvety smooth and weighted. Just the kind of thing to help combat cold weather and the stress of our on-going home renovation.
With the boys on break and the home stuff in full swing, we had to take refuge in our upstairs guest room.
I asked the boys to please bring up my new blanket.
Full Speed could barely contain his mirth. He thought it was hilarious that it was sixty degrees out and I needed this mammoth-like blanket to warm me.