All I seem to do these days is drive around. I pick up kids from here and deliver them to there. I pick up other kids from there and deliver them here, there and there.
When I’m not driving around, I’m working or cooking or reading, pretty much in that order.
I’m not sure why my life feels so crowded now. I crave space but instead my days are chopped into bits that I have to give away.
Meanwhile, I’m acutely aware that change is afoot and I don’t really embrace that idea at all. My middle son is a senior in high school and is planning to attend college in another state (he says) and all I can think are the words of the Wild Things, “Oh please don’t go–we’ll eat you up–we love you so!” right before Max climbed into his boat and sailed away.
But that’s the story of life, isn’t it? People come and people go, whether you are ready or not. (For instance, Monday was the 26th anniversary of my dad’s death. He was only 47. I always hasten to add his age because it was so unfair that his life was abbreviated. I want people to understand that. Forty-seven. Too young.)
Anyway, so while time is ticking away, I’ll be driving, picking up and delivering, gazing into the rear view mirror while I’m speeding along.
This is an annual reposting of the original post made in 2006 when I participated in the 2,996 Project, for which 2,996 bloggers volunteered to write a memorial for one person who perished in the attacks on 9/11. (I was able to find the following information about Thomas online.)
Today, on the fourteenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on the United States, I remember Thomas Kuveikis.
Thomas Kuveikis was known to his family and friends as Tommy. He grew up in Brooklyn, attending Blessed Sacrament Elementary School. He later graduated from Wheatley High School in 1971 after his family moved to East Williston.
Tommy studied architecture at both SUNY Farmingdale and the Pratt Institute, but her never completed a degree. He dabbled in carpentry, a skill learned from his father. He joined the New York Fire Department (FDNY) in August of 1977 when he was twenty-four years old.
Within a year, Tommy made a name for himself as an aggressive, brave and tough firefighter. His younger brother, Tim, once said, “If I could be half the fireman he was, I’ll have a really good career.” (Newsday.com) He loved the action of firefighting in Bushwick, a Brooklyn neighborhood. (His father was a legendary firefighter who died in November 2001.)
But Tommy wasn’t just a tough guy. He came up with an idea to help a poor family at Christmas. Starting in 1987, members of his squad visited a priest at St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church and ask for the name of the poorest family in the parish. Then they would contact the family, set up a Christmas tree and provide presents.
Tommy was married twice and was about to be engaged to Jennifer Auerhahn, who described him as “sweet, funny, kind gentle and unselfish.” His brother Jimmy wrote about him on September11victims.com website saying,
“It was really tough to lose Tommy as he became such a king, considerate guy over time. He was not always this way, especially in his twenties, but ‘life’s difficulties’ made him become a great human being. He was a vegetarian, he gave money and time to Putnam County Land Trust to preserve ‘special’ land . . . he loved animals, kids and good people. Tommy was already a tremendous fireman, working in a poor area of Brooklyn, where he could experience many more fires than the average fireman, just like his father did.”
Kathy Gelman said her brother, Tommy, was “honorable, honest, humorous, humble, humane, and hero.”
In his spare time, Tommy worked as a carpenter. In fact, he built a steam room in Squad 252’s firehouse. He had a reputation for not charging enough for his carpentry work. One day a year, he would donate a day of carpentry to the Putnam County Land Trust.
Tommy had one daughter, Kristen. He had five siblings, sisters Christine, Karen and Kathleen and brothers, James and Timothy.
Tommy had been a firefighter for twenty-four years and a member of Squad 252 (“In Squad We Trust” was their motto) for five years when his squad answered the fifth alarm at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, at 9:00 a.m. He was forty-eight years old that day. CNN footage shows his squad pulling up to the east side of the Trade Center around 9:28 a.m. The six members of the squad entered the north tower, rescued a man from an elevator.
Two of the firefighters’ bodies were found in the C stairwell 18 days later. The other four men of Squad 252, including Tommy, were never found.
Today, I remember Thomas Kuveikis. Thomas Kuveikis is one of the 343 FDNY firefighters who died on September 11, 2001. He is a hero.
I frantically unplugged and replugged, disconnected and reconnected. Rebooted my computer. Unplugged the modem again. Lather, rinse, repeat, more and more frazzled. And still, the light would not turn green.
Finally, after thirty minutes, I called our Internet Service Provider. The automated voice asked a series of questions to which I responded, “YES!” or “NO!” with increasing frustration, but, as it turns out, automated customer service agents do not really care about your tone of voice or your rage.
Finally, the robot lady voice told me she could not detect my modem online and that she would transfer me to a real person. I don’t know. I was practically frothing at the mouth by that point.
Then–after twelve minutes of being on the phone–I spoke to a real person who also could not see my modem online and who finally, sadly, told me that a technician would have to come out in person between one and three the next afternoon.
That was really not okay since I needed to work online immediately, but what can you do at 9:40 PM when the real live guy says he cannot detect your modem online? (I unplugged it and replugged it a few more times anyway, just for good measure.)
I did get to enjoy a parade of my distraught children marching into my office one by one to let me know that they could not get online.
I have been the IT person in this family since the days of AOL and dial-up and yet my children had the audacity to suggest that maybe I should “reset the modem.” I believe I glanced at them with what might be commonly known as a Death Glare.
They looked at me like I was a feeble old lady incarcerated in a nursing home who doesn’t understand technical things like computers and the World Wide Web and the Internet and electricity and entertainment.
The pain was real. They could not play their video games! They could not view their Netflix movies! They could not watch YouTube videos or Skype.
Meanwhile I was freaked out because I could not do this little thing called “WORK” which requires me to be online every night.
I used my phone and its cellular data to work as much as possible. The darling children just had to suffer all night without their access to the outside world. Poor babies.
Anyway, after sixteen hours of dead Internet, it sprang back to life fifteen minutes before the technician’s “window” began. I called the ISP who said the technician would still come. And he did, but an hour after the “window” ended. (He was supposed to come between 1 and 3 PM. He arrived a little after 4 PM.)
The technician guy looked like he belonged in a video game swinging a sword instead of troubleshooting glitchy technology. He was about 6’4″ and had a thick Russian accent. (He was afraid of my extremely friendly big dog which was kind of surprising.) He and his very long blond ponytail spent an hour wandering outside and then inside and then back outside.
He finally rang the doorbell and told me everything was fine and I don’t know why I even asked, but I said, “So, did you actually do anything?” and he said (a little defensively), “No.” He showed me the green indicators on the little tablet he carried and assured me that the signals were all good. (As opposed to when he arrived and said the signals were “poor” even though we had Internet again.)
So, let’s review.
My Internet inexplicably stopped working last night at 9:10 PM.
Today, it started working again at 12:45 PM.
No one understands why or how it was fixed including, but not limited to the automated computer voice on the phone, the real customer service guy on the phone, the Russian swordsman and me.
The kids are just relieved they can access their many entertainment options and, oh yeah, also do their homework.
I started this blog in 2003. At the time, my baby girl was a year old.
Here’s the first thing I posted. (It’s kind of long, so grab a cup of coffee and get comfortable.)
Saturday, 11 October 2003 The beginning Note: I created this site in October, but this was written last February.
February 8, 2003.
“I am the mother of boys. Three boys. The twins are almost 10 and the youngest is two weeks away from being five.
Before I had these boys, I used to think I would be a wonderful mother. I would teach the children to read and cuddle them in bed and tell them bedtime stories. I would prepare crafts in advance for them to do and allow them to paint whenever they wanted. I would bake them cookies and healthy meals and they would love vegetables. I would cheer for them and hug them and be a room mother and make sure their socks were really, really white. My house would be clean and tidy and ready for company at all times.
As it turns out, I am a horrible mother.
I hardly ever get out the paints. The socks are dingy grey because the boys like to play outside without their shoes on. The boys leave socks on the floor or on the couch and the dog carries them away in a wild running game outside. My boys have never eaten broccoli. They don’t like anything that has onions in it or anything weird-looking or suspicious or mixed together.
When someone calls and says they’re coming over, sweat glistens on my brow while I frantically run up and down the stairs, putting away clean clothes and carting away dirty clothes and putting the upstairs toys upstairs and the downstairs toys downstairs and plumping the couch pillows and picking up bit of paper off the floor and scraping toothpaste off the wall with my fingernail. Then I yell, “Why is this sheet coming off the bed?! I just put it on! You are driving me crazy!” (Which always reminds me of when S. was three and used to say to me, “You are diving me cazy!”)
I yell at my kids and they yell at each other. One of my boys is as snotty as I am. I never used to be snotty. I used to be quiet and kind and serene and self-controlled.
Now I occasionally slam a door in fury and fling my hands in the air and grit my teeth and say, “OH MY GOSH!” My husband looks at me and says, “Dear . . . ” as a warning, but that just irritates me more.
I promise that I used to be a sweet and gentle person. Then I had boys.
I am responsible for their dirty, ragged fingernails, their waxy ears, their unruly hair and their unmatched clothes.
“Mom, do you think everyone stands in front of their closet every morning and says, hmmm, what can I wear that will match?” I just shake my head.
Their breath smells, one has body odor and they just don’t care if their hands are sticky. Their hair is sweaty from jumping on the bed. They use their shirts for napkins and their forks as shovels.
They clomp down the stairs.
They play outside without bothering to step carefully around the dog poop.
They accidentally make each other bleed.
They scream at each other, they smack each other and they tattle.
They are not quiet. Ever. Especially on Saturday mornings. The only time they sleep in is on Sunday mornings, when it is imperative that we wake up early and get the show on the road.
At night they whisper and giggle and occasionally shout while they are supposed to be falling asleep. They complain about going to bed at 8:30 since kids in their classes stay up until ten. Or midnight!
They hate getting into the bathtub. They don’t want to get out of the bath. They splash water onto the bathroom floor. They pee on the toilet seat–and the floor. They forget to flush. They forget to wash their hands but they remember everything they ever learned about Super Mario Party 4.
We tell them to go upstairs and shut their bedroom door and they forget to shut the door by the time they get upstairs. We tell them to wash their hands and they never even end up in the bathroom. They never comb their hair without being reminded.
Their clothes lay in a crumpled pile wherever they happen to disrobe. They don’t hang up wet towels. When they come home from school, they somehow step out of their still-laced shoes and leave them at the bottom of the stairs so everyone else can trip over them. They drop their coats on the floor.
They cry sometimes when I force them to practice spelling words. They can’t remember their multiplication facts. (Well, the almost-5 year old is exempt from that. He somehow understands the concept of negative numbers and a few days ago had me chalk a hopscotch in the driveway that started with negative three and went up to eleven.) Neatness does not count, in their minds. They grip their pencils wrong. Their handwriting scares me.
I just wonder what I have done wrong.
I thought I’d be such a good mom. I was confident my children would be quiet and respectful and smart and good students and never sassy or snotty. They would want to follow my rules and my wishes. Ha. They are likely to put one another in headlocks, but they are not likely to smile and nod and do what I say without delay.
At nighttime, my patience expires about five minutes before bedtime.
They say, “We are still hungry, we are thirsty and can we please stay up until nine?” They forget to pee. They forget to brush their teeth. They forget to brush their back teeth. They need to go downstairs to find their blankets. They want to talk about their day.
I just want them to go to sleep. I want peace. I want quiet. Instead, I go back upstairs four times telling them to be quiet. Good-night, I say. GO TO SLEEP! No sweet bedtime stories and cuddles. I am finished with them. I am no longer using my inside voice.
So, I am a mother to boys. Dirty, stinky, naughty boys.
But there is hope. Her name is Grace and she’s the reason I need the boys to be quiet upstairs! She’s just a baby and she’s taking a nap! Shhhhhh! I think I’ll be a good mother, ready for tea-parties and lace dresses. I’ll let her paint whenever she wants. I’ll let her help me bake cookies. I’ll never yell at her. Really.”
And . . . twelve years later, she is a teenager. Her birthday was yesterday and she chose to have chocolate pie instead of birthday cake. We brought her best friend home from school with us–they happen to share a birthday, though her friend is a year younger than my daughter. They went to a trampoline park for a few hours with the friend’s mom.
Then I picked up Grace, bought her a Subway sandwich and took her to youth group where I’d already delivered a cake and balloons to surprise her.
After youth group (and after picking up one son from a woodworking class), we had Birthday Pie.
Today, I vacuumed up all the confetti in her room.
I’m getting old but she’s just getting started . . . life is inevitable that way. I guess I won’t be a perfect mom, but I think I’ll be an excellent, quite possibly perfect grandmother. Just wait and see.
(Oh, and on Saturday, we celebrated by seeing Taylor Swift in concert.)
My youngest child started seventh grade today. Her alarm woke her. She wore a brown skirt and black blouse she chose herself. She insisted that I put a purple streak in her blond hair. She rejected breakfast but accepted a Zone bar and a Jamwich for later. She packed up her school supplies in her backpack and waited for her carpool ride to pick her up.
I went back to bed.
I remember the old days when I bought packs of crayons and pink erasers and chose outfits for the first day and walked kids to their classrooms. This child–my youngest child–is so self sufficient she needs me only for rides and money. I’m not sure exactly how to feel about this so I choose to feel great. I did this! I created this self sufficient being.
(Only, she pretty much created herself. She’s had a mind of her own since she was three months old and decided that no one but Mommy would be allowed to hold her. Ever.)
Do you remember how the days dragged along when you were a kid living at home, obeying your parents and following their rules and eating the dinners they provided? Now, that seems like a lifetime folded up and put into glove box, like some kind of weird shrinking universe that folds in upon itself.
I know that this stretch of time while the kids still live here and ask me what’s for dinner will be a hazy memory to them one day soon. It will no longer be everything, but just a paragraph in a life’s story. They are so eager to grow up and be gone. (Well, some of them are.)
Meanwhile, I have to figure out what to cook for dinner. I’m still trying to catch up on the laundry that piled up while my daughter and I were in the Pacific Northwest for a week. (A whirlwind of a trip!) I meant to brush the dog a few days ago, but can’t find her brush and for that reason, the dog fur tumbleweeds are worse than usual.
When you stop long enough, it’s hard to catch up. The train has long since left the station and it takes extra effort to sprint down the tracks and jump on board. Who has the energy?
That’s why I have been silent here. I stopped writing long enough to lose the rhythm. So tonight, I jump back in with a stilted update. (For all two and a half of my regular readers.)
In a few days, I’m taking a trip with my daughter to our old home state. We are looking forward to the experience for a bunch of reasons, including but not limited to seeing our old house, getting our hair done by our former stylist, visiting Mt. Rainier, seeing family and friends and (for me) eating at Taco Time. I’m also looking forward to cool nights.
But, of course, to get ready for a trip–especially when we are leaving behind more than half the family–a lot of preparation is required. I want to get the laundry caught up and the fridge cleaned out and the trash taken out. Et cetera. I need to clean the guinea pig cage and get kitty litter.
And because life gets all jumbled up sometimes, we are having company over on Sunday afternoon. This explains the carpet cleaner and picture hanging and lists of food to prepare. I have a lot to do. I’m already sweaty just thinking about it.
Crowd in my son’s haircut and job interview . . . transportation to another son’s job . . . soccer practices and the fact that my son starts his senior year while we are still gone (WHO WILL TAKE THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL PHOTO?!) . . . it’s just a lot to consider. I’d like to consider just taking a nap, really.
I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to arrange coverage for my own job responsibilities.
I need a pedicure.
By the way, don’t you hate it when you run out of checks? I use them so infrequently that I thought they’d never run out. But they did.
So there. We’re all caught up and forgiven for the silence. And now, let’s try to keep up, shall we?
Tomorrow morning, my daughter returns from her first experience at sleep-away camp. She left with her church youth group last Sunday. And while those in charge advised against campers bringing telephones, I allowed her to take one and for that reason, I’ve heard from her a few times this week via text message. (Stuff like, “uh, I broke a bracket on my braces!”)
It’s been so quiet without her here. I spent the first two days giving her room a thorough cleaning and then organizing it (with her advanced knowledge and permission). In the past year she has turned away from her beloved stuff animals and fully embraced friends and everything that comes along with middle school. She’s outgrown not just her old clothes, but childhood itself. Time to put it away.
Now the relics of her childhood are stacked in the garage. Some will be packed away to save but lots of it will be sold in a garage sale. It seems another lifetime when I carefully packed a million stuffed animals into boxes when we moved but it was only four years ago. That little girl is gone and in her place I have an eye-rolling, opinionated almost-teenager. (It’s mostly awesome.)
When I try to imagine four years into the future, I’m blinded by the brightness. It’s like looking into the sun.
So I blink and look back. The past four years hover like a mirage, close but out of reach. Time is a fun-house mirror, always distorted.
All the more reason to focus on today. What else is there?