Hanging in There

7 Oct

I have been going through my mom’s things little by little, each time I go to my parents’ house.

I found a handwritten note with an unattributed poem called “If I should Go Tomorrow”. That made me cry.

I found the original version of the poem she wrote in 1976 about naming her daughter Music. That made me cry.

I found print outs of emails I sent my mom from Mexico City when I studied abroad there. I found pictures of random pets and of me and my brother and of Michaela. I found articles she cut out of the newspaper about the tennis exploits of her favorite player. I found old address books from throughout my mom’s life. Those mostly made me smile.

I ordered my mom’s death certificate. That made me cry.

People keep asking me how I’m doing. My go-to response is “I’m hanging in there.” It’s mostly true. I’m fine except when I’m not.

Mike and Michaela are hitting a good groove in terms of homeschooling. Today we had a conference with our education specialist, who invited Michaela to walk her (and us) through her learning. Michaela talked about each of the subject she’s studying and reflected on how homeschool is going. She was very positive about it, particularly the flexibility and fact that she doesn’t have to be on Zoom for hours every day, and said her favorite thing is doing Fix It! Grammar with Mike– probably the first time a 10-year-old kid has ever said their favorite part of school was studying grammar.

I’m so proud of Mike, who is doing a great job teaching Michaela. It’s hard to figure out the best way to teach each subject; on the occasions when I’ve had to jump in to help with school, it’s been rocky. And the fact that Mike is going that while still making great videos for his clients, supporting his team of employees, and doing a lot of work on/around the house is just that much more amazing.

Michaela’s taking a STEM class and this week, she’s supposed to build an elevator out of the parts of her choosing. My dad was a machinists who spent his career building elevators on Navy ships, so Michaela had the idea to ask my dad to work on the project with her. My dad is super excited about it. He talked to her about some different options and bought some supplies. She’s going over this afternoon to work on the elevator, which is going to have five floors and be made out of a tissue box, construction paper, and popsicle sticks, among other things.

I call my dad once a day, just to check in. He likes to be busy. He’s always got something to do, even with COVID. That’s coming in handy now that he’s on his own. He and Michaela are also working on a project where she’s helping him put ads on Craigslist for the classic car parts he sells. They worked out a deal that she does the ad (takes the picture and types up the description he writes for her) and he gives her 10% of anything that sells. He called last night to announce his first sale and tell Michaela she just made $40. He sounded so happy! It was beautiful.

We had dinner as a family last Friday — my dad, brother, me and Michaela. Mike had a shoot so had to miss it. I sort of figured we’d tell stories about my mom or something, but it didn’t go in that direction. We talked about today and tomorrow, not yesterday. Which may just be my dad and brother’s way of hanging in there.

I went away for an overnight in Palm Springs (actually La Quinta) with a couple of girl friends last weekend. It was a little weird to be out and about like that — especially when we saw dumb drunk twenty-somethings bunched up at the resort’s adult pool like COVID isn’t a thing — but it was also really refreshing to sit by the pool and read, the bob around in the water, and to eat Mexican food with friends. Especially in the last week or two of my mom’s life, I was responsible for so much of her care that it was really nice to be away and not responsible for anyone but myself.

Now I’m dying to go back to the resort with Mike and Michaela. Because as nice as it is to be footloose and fancy free, I also love my little family.

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