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CONNER!! I have to find him!!”

Elaine woke with a start with David’s arms wrapped tight around her. He was whispering in her ear, trying to calm her.  It was the way she usually woke up now.  Poor David.  It must be hard on him to have to console her like this every morning.  She was ripped, sometimes screaming, from nightmares.  Other times out of blissful dreams where the five of them were together. Either way it really didn’t matter.

She was thrown out every day into the living Hell of not knowing where her son was. 

Well, she knew where his body was now, of course.  Somehow, people seemed to think that should help. 

Reigning in her grief, Elaine kissed her husband and thanked him for his comforting arms as she did every morning now.  As she sat up on the side of the bed, the deep ache settled into the place it had carved in her heart and she rose to greet the day. 

It was the 157th day she had woken without Conner in her life. She would live through another day without seeing his face and hearing his laugh. 

Elaine slid her feet into her slippers and she went to wake her remaining sons.  The days she had left with them were numbered, so she took a deep sigh, masked her grief and walked out of their bedroom.

“Rise and Shine, Sleepy Heads!” she said loudly and cheerfully. 

There had to be a way to show them how to live through the grief of loss.  They would be doing it again soon, she thought with deep regret.

David was a wonderful husband and father.  She could not imagine what life was like from his perspective.  He was working through his grief as well.  At the same time he bucked up and supported her, Sam and Jake. She loved him with all her heart. 

She felt such sorrow for David and prayed once again that he would understand her plan and not hate her for it. David may not ever forgive her, she knew.  But then, his acceptance was not necessary, either. 

Every day at breakfast they said a prayer for Conner.  They had done it every morning since the first morning after he’d gone missing.  The fact that his body was buried now did not seem enough of a reason to stop. 

Besides, Elaine knew that Conner was still somewhere.  What haunted her was that she was sure he still needed her.  Just like he had when he was lost and wondering.  Just like he had needed her to be there to catch him before he fell to his death. 

She tried and tried to stop herself from imagining his cries for her and for help.  She never could stop imagining that, though.  At times throughout the day his cries and pleas broke out of her imagination and she could hear him with her ears as well as her mind.

Elaine tried to tell her dead child that she was sorry for it all and she would be there with him soon. She prayed he could hear her. 

It seemed like Elaine prayed a lot – and to everyone. 

It would not be long now, she knew.  All the letters had been written.  All the plans had been made. 

She had seen the priest, a lawyer and a financial advisor.  While none of them agreed with her and all thought her plan insane, two were barred from sharing her plans by confidentiality.  The other did not really know the whole truth. 

Elaine had explained it as best she could.  She knew where Sam and Jake were.  She knew that David was capable of raising them and being there for them. 

But who was there for Conner since he died?  Was he with her grandmother who’d died a couple of years before?  What about her recently deceased uncle, was he there with Conner?

How did that work when you died? She had no idea.  She knew what she’d been taught as a child about the afterlife.  But she did not know if that was right or not.  And there was only one way to find out.

Had Conner been on a trip to Europe and needed her, she would have packed a bag and gone immediately without question.  David would have put the trip on the credit card and told her to call him when she landed.  If Conner or any of their sons had ever needed her in life, David would have understood.  Elaine did not know if David would understand that following Conner into death to find him and be with him and make up for the last days and moments of his life when she was not there made just as much sense. 

And if she was wrong?

What if there was nothing after death? 

Then she would go into oblivion. She would never find Conner and would have abandoned David, Sam and Jake for nothing.  But then, blissfully, she would never know it.  That was selfish, she knew, but there was a big part of her that simply couldn’t accept that would be the case.

What if Heaven and Hell existed?

Would she be sentenced to Hell for killing herself in order to find her son? She hoped God would not be that cold and callous, although, she also knew that there were plenty of Hell-worthy sins in her life to atone for.   At the very least before banishing her He would have to let her see Conner – even if it was the last time for eternity.  Conner would know that his mother would go through death to find him. She could tell him she was sorry.  She could let him know she should have been there when he needed her.  She could tell him she would always love him and he would know that if there was a way for her to prevent it, he would never be alone again.

She could go to Hell after that and be ok, she thought.

But then there was hope. 

Hope that she would find him.  Hope that she would be able to still see David, Sam and Jake in some way after her death.  Hope that her grandmothers already had found Conner and were keeping him safe until she could get there.  Hope that Conner would still love her and not hate her for letting him go camping and get lost and fall and break his neck.  

Hope that David, Sam and Jake would be ok and know she loved them and was waiting for them. Hope they would be able to forgive her over time and have good lives before they joined her and Conner.

Elaine realized over the next few weeks that a calm had come over her. 

She enjoyed Sam and Jake. She spent time with them together and alone.  She told them the things she though it was important for them to hear from their mother. 

And she loved David as best she could.  He was beginning to think she was getting better.  He was enjoying the time with her like they had years before, both before and after the boys were born.  They were happy.  

She had chosen a date that she hoped would not ruin any happy times she had with David or the boys.  It was just a Wednesday.  She’d been saving up the pills and would take them one night and leave quietly to go find Conner. 

Her parents and the rest of her family would be devastated, she knew, but there was nothing she could do about that. If her letters could not explain, then nothing could

Her biggest fear (besides not finding Conner) was that Sam and Jake would hate her for abandoning them.  She hoped one day they would understand how she could leave them. 

She knew where Sam and Jake were and she trusted they would be okay with David’s guidance.  She’d left letters that would come to them on different occasions in their lives from the lawyer.  She hoped they knew that if it had been either one of them instead of Conner she would have gone after them, too. 

David had agreed with the idea that Sam and Jake would have a good week split between their grandparents.  She had tried not to cry too hard when they left.  Elaine did not want them to think anything was wrong.  Her mother had known something was wrong, though, and Elaine knew she would not be shocked when they got the call. 

Later on in the week, after a few (last) nights together, Elaine confessed to David what she had done when it was too late for him to stop her. She begged his forgiveness and told him she loved him as she drifted off in his arms for the last time. 

All of a sudden, the light was blinding.  The feeling of falling and flying at the same time made her feel nauseous, or would have if she still had a body. The near-death experiences she’d heard had been accurate, she supposed. 

Elaine stopped in the light and looked back.  She saw David panicking – screaming and shaking her.  Voicelessly, she once again she told him how much she loved him.  To her surprise, Elaine saw David look up at her instead of down at the body he was holding, his eyes wide with shock.  He’d heard her. Maybe he would understand one day after all. She drank in what was possibly her last glimpse of him, filled with hope…

Then she bolted though the light into whatever was beyond Life screaming for her child.

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Have you ever met anyone who is just a rotten person?

I am not talking about a child molester or ax murderer, mind you. That’s evil and there is a difference.

I am talking about a regular, every day, run-of-the-mill person – who also just happens to have a character flaw rendering them either a bitch or an asshole, as if it were truly no fault of their own.  They cannot help being negative, soul-sucking people lacking in basic human traits of empathy and compassion as they were apparently just born (or raised) that way and simply cannot help it.

This is the kind of person whose personal agenda is more important than the welfare of those they say they love – to the point they will justify and rationalize any actions, no matter how despicable, to callously (and, I suspect, self-satisfyingly) have their way.

Love, decency, kindness and respect are not things these people understand.

They operate on the idea that life is first and foremost about being right, even when “right” requires a good deal of “spinning of the facts” to make them “right.”

They are spiteful and vindictive people who are most satisfied making rules, passing judgment and handing out punishments…regardless of whether or not they have the actual or moral authority to do so.

You have heard of the kind, right?  Hell, I’d bet your know a couple.

They are the ones who are quick to blame the victim.

[A woman is raped outside a bar?  Well, sure, it is awful and no man has the right… but if she’d been a good girl and not some slut alone at a bar, it never would have happened, now would it?]

They are the ones who are apparently on the inside track with God, too.

[A tornado hit your house?  Awful.  Of course, if you were in God’s good graces and went to (the right) church and were not such a pathetic sinner, He might have spared your house. You need to be more Christ-like (like me) and things like that wouldn’t happen to you.]

Hmmm, sounds a lot like Pat Robertson, doesn’t it? Funny how those apparently most able (or presumptuous) to speak for God seem to have very few qualities that could be described as “godly,” isn’t it?

I can readily admit that there are people who I do not like (obviously). I can even admit there are a few who just don’t like me.  We all know that there are some people you just cannot get along with and have to do your best to tolerate.

Maybe it is your boss’ secretary who always seems to have eaten something sour and has a nasty attitude – never passes on your work promptly or messages accurately – yet you are stuck dealing with her on a regular (and unpleasant) basis.

Maybe it is your actual boss you have to put up with the same way you have to deal with your 4-year-old’s temper tantrums (but is not near as cute or loveable as your 4 year old – and you cannot put them in time out).  [To be clear, my boss is great and in NO way am I describing him, I promise]

Maybe you are lucky and it is just the dour, snitty person at the DMV you only have to deal with once a year.

Maybe you and someone in your family have a tenuous relationship making family gatherings terse and difficult.

Or maybe your ex-sister-in-law is a holier-than-thou, self-righteous, know-it-all whose vindictiveness and spiteful nature cannot even be tempered by her supposed love for her own children.

Or, you know, whatever your particular set of circumstances happen to be.

So, let me give you (and myself) a bit of free advice for dealing with such people.

1. Don’t take it personally – especially if they do. Realize that those that don’t like you are going to be out there and, at least with some of them, there may be nothing you can do about it.   So someone doesn’t like you.  Big deal.  Fuck em.  Go hang out with the people who do like you and have a blast. Besides, unless you are one of the people I am describing, you probably have a lot more people who love and like you than don’t.

2. Maintain your self-respect. Lowering yourself to the level some of these people will stoop to will not help.  Defend yourself vigorously, of course, especially if you are being wronged or taken advantage of; don’t be shy about that.  But always keep in mind, jumping into a pig sty and rolling around with the pig will leave you just as nasty, smelly and disgusting as the pig.  What’s worse, though, is that the pig won’t know any better.  But you will.

3.  Just do what is right and let go of the outcome. While watching those who have wronged you to finally get their comeuppance can be gratifying, you should get your pleasure in life from the wonderful and positive things that abound rather than waiting for the downfall of others. Life is too short for that shit. Then, when God or karma does get to them, it will be like a little surprise gift – unexpected and, therefore, even more enjoyable.

And, finally, as a further public service, I will give you some words.  If you are unsure whether someone qualifies as a soul-sucking bitch, try this simple little test.  If you can honestly use (more than) 3 of these terms to describe the person, you probably should do everything possible to excise them from your life. At the very least keep your distance.  There is no proof that it could rub off on you – but no sense risking it, right?

Vindictive, spiteful, vengeful, negative, judgmental, self-righteous, sanctimonious, pious, hypocritical, hypercritical, pharisaic, smug, hateful, self-serving, self-satisfied, snide, superficial, artificial, duplicitous, moralistic, arrogant, contemptuous, haughty, disdainful, divisive, proud, rude, hoity-toity, heartless, obtuse, insensitive, foolish, shallow, neurotic….

I had an excellent weekend.  It was my birthday. Remind me and I will tell you all about it sometime – if you’re interested, that is.

But this post is not about that.  It is about another rite of passage…one rarer than a birthday. 

Jay put Sawyer’s crib together this weekend.

The boys now share a bedroom.  We are officially raising brothers.

Toys were sorted; furniture rearranged; pictures and mirror hung. I even made the bed and put away their clothes. 

No going back now.  Jay can check that one off his “Now That I am a Dad To Do List.”

There was even the obligatory run to Home Depot for screws. 

Luckily for Jay there was not a problem with instructions and he did not have parts left over at the end, so it all went smoother than an American Express commercial.

Afterwards, we stood back as proud parents and surveyed the results of our efforts with satisfaction, happy and contented.

I wonder if robins do the same thing after a particularly satisfying day of nest feathering.

My brother is getting married this weekend!  (Congrats!!! Love!!)

Tonight I am packing to go to Dothan for the weekend.  It is a 3.5 hour trip.  A 210 mile drive. 

At least, if you don’t have kids. 

The last trip we were up to about 4 hours of actual “on the road” time.  Which doesn’t seem too bad, uh?  It really isn’t.  However, I consider it to be 4 hours of semi-rest after all the running required to pack to get in the car to leave.  (Jay drives.  Forever and ever, amen.)

You know I have a 6 month old and a 4 year old, right? 

Well, then try and begin to imagine the packing.  Bottles, diapers, dvd player (don’t forget the dvds!!), snacks, toys…

And then you get to the changes of clothes, toiletries and sundry items all women have come to require in almost (less than one week left! Eeek!) 41 years (sunscreen!).  At least I am the only girl.

And we are going to a wedding!  I have small cute kids who need to look their most adorable.  And yet be comfortable. This means I have to be comfortable enough (in wedding-appropriate clothes) to be able to run after Ezra should he decide to test us in public – which is totally possible considering his little attitude lately.

Tonight I am going to attempt to put Ezra to work packing his own back pack of traveling items.  He has been a handful over the last few weeks; getting into trouble at school and such – the general complaint is that he does not follow directions.  (Yeah.  We know.  You think he is any better at home with us?  We’re working on it, I swear).  This way he is occupied with a task that will, if not now then sometime in the near future (fingers crossed) be helpful to me. 

Sawyer has just started solids.  We are grinding what is in the frige and pantry up with a Baby Bullet and he is doing two meals a day. This week he had bananas, squash and brown rice. The faces he makes and the cuteness and hilarity of the process makes cleaning up after him (pretty much) worth it.  (So now I get to pack baby food. And bibs.  And spoons.) 

Of course, I really feel for Jay. He is going to have to help me, who is scatterbrained and a bit panicky when I am feeling pressured and rushed (to put it nicely), get all this done and out the door at a reasonable time on Saturday morning to make a 2p wedding. Yes, you shoudl pray for him)

In case anyone wants to be helpful and suggest a glass of wine to take the edge off, I have to be clear about something – my parents do not drink alcohol.  Ever.  How serious are they about the evils of alcohol?  My mother once made someone take a 6 pack of IBC Root Beer out of her shopping cart because she worried another shopper may glance in her cart and mistakenly think it was real beer since it was a 6 pack of brown bottles.  (True story.  My parents do not drink. They don’t much like people who do, either.  Reason #13 why my mother does not read this blog.)

So… I can only think of two things to do in preparation for the whirlwind that will be this weekend.  They will be added to the packing list and checked off accordingly.  I am going to need them to keep a grip on my sanity.

There is a bottle of pinot grigio chilling in my frige, just lying in wait for me to get home.  I may not be allowed to drink at my mother’s house, but I am at my house tonight, now aren’t I? 

I’d better text Jay let him know about the other…

I looked at the girl as I got on the elevator.  I supposed she was beautiful.  She was certainly dressed the part of the socialite granddaughter of a talented and, in many circles, famous man – complete with suede platform wedges at least eight inches high bought, most assuredly, at Neiman Marcus. 

The man in the elevator with her had already noticed what I had not.  She was holding balloons and remnants of a birthday cake.  He congratulated her.  And she quickly thanked him, countering – proudly and without hesitation – that it was her 25th birthday today. 

I looked at her and thought about when I was 25. 

I remembered that year vividly.  It was the year Lee died

Greta was 4.  An adorable ponytailed t-ball player. 

Kind of like Ezra is now. 

I remarked to the girl that 25 was a good year.  She agreed.  And she then proceeded to tell me how she felt really old now; how she and some friends were going out celebrating tonight; how she was getting up in years and needed to stop smoking a pack a day soon.  You know, start taking care of herself now that she was getting “up there.”

Her voice was a bit raspy.  I imagined she did a good deal of partying. I had heard her in the elevators before.  She was no quiet, demur socialite.  She had a mouth on her… an opinionated one.  I imagined she had been a handful in private school. 

At 25 I had a kid and still managed to have my share of fun.  I could not imagine what it would have been like if, instead of being a single mom raising my child, going to school and working, I was single, living in a kick-ass apartment in downtown Atlanta , had a brand spanking new college degree (on Daddy’s dime, of course), a job at the family company and a fabulous night planned  for my 25th birthday at a club where I would wear $325 stilettoes and be hit on constantly. 

For about a minute I thought how fun that would be. 

But then I remembered that this privileged 25 year-old’s life would pale in comparison to my life at 40.

I had married the man of my dreams and started our family together this (my 40th) year. 

I have replaced waking up hungover and alone on a Saturday or Sunday…

… with waking up in bed every morning with the three most amazing guys on the planet.  Of course, one may have his foot in my face and the other his elbow in my ribs, while the 3rd is waaaay on the other side of a king size bed snoring….. but it is still Heaven.  For the 20 minutes I am awake and they are all still asleep, at least.  Then Ezra’s eyes open and his tongue starts wagging. 

I have replaced constant running conversations with girlfriends about possibilities with this guy or what that guy thinks about our almost hooking up 3 weeks ago but then he only called once like 6 days ago and I am going crazy thinking he is just blowing me off….

…with actually having a conversations with my amazing, talented and funny husband about everything from our plan upon winning the Mega Millions, to issues Ezra has been having at school and Sawyer’s physical therapy… to laughing our asses off about some silly, but hilarious, joke dreamed up halfway through the second (large) bottle of wine at 11:30 on a Sunday evening, how business is going… and where we are going together as a family.

I have replaced bars, dancing to live bands and shots…

…with NOLA jazz (the Loose Marbles) in the kitchen while cooking, drinking wine, and, on occasion, impromptu dances with Ezra and/or holding Sawyer until we are all three laughing and winded in the dining room.  [This is not to say that is totally behind me, however.  When I am IN New Orleans, I will certainly be hearing live music somewhere on Frenchman… more than likely there will also be shots involved.] 

There are other wonderful perks as well…

Last night, while Jay worked, Sawyer was the perfect gentlemen patiently watching a chick flick with me on the couch.  He snuggled up and gave plenty of love and kisses, while both cooing and talking to me here and there – but also sitting quietly and letting me watch the cheesy ending where the girl got the guy but didn’t compromise herself or whatever.  When it was over, he did not once comment on the silliness of the movie. He was the perfect date. 

Tonight Ezra will run to see me when I pick him up from school.  He will want me to read him a book at bedtime.  He will spontaneously tell me I am beautiful and want to sit close to me and just BE together. He will tell me, “Mommy, I you best friend!” (that is, if it has been a good day, it is just as likely that he will say, “I not talking to you, Mommy!” if it has been a bad day…the difference between a tired and hungry toddler and a well-rested and fed toddler)

And then there is quiet time with Jay while children sleep. 

Yeah, that 25 year old doesn’t have a clue what she is missing. 

I wouldn’t change places with her for anything.  My life is too good.

Hazy and thoughtful, I start the day.

There is a calm facade draping over me.

I go around people, looking at my feet.

I don’t bother to brush the hair out of my eyes.

I have packed up what is needed and brought it with me.

I am tired. 

I am constantly explaining.

I am living through the best time of my life.

And I am doing it hanging on by a thread.

You would think this would be weird,

But it is not.

My life is not complicated, but it is exhausting.

I have to put out so much effort,

 I go through this task and into the next one that has to be completed.

Seamlessly.

There is no pause button.

Every moment of this life has to be lived.

Even the boring ones.

If only so I can enjoy the important ones.