“Let me tell you a story about Mark’s turtles. When your daddy was little he had two turtles, Herman and Henry. They were both boys. But then one day, Mark found Herman and Henry mating, so we realized Henry was really a girl! And Henry eventually laid eggs somewhere, but we never found the babies! So then we changed Henry’s name to Henrietta!”
Mark’s mom has been visiting frequently, and it’s been great, because sometimes Mark is out of town, and I get so anxious and overwhelmed I feel like I might not make it, so she kind of saves me from these feelings, and Joel loves her and her stories, and, actually, come to think of it, so do I. It’s especially fun when I overhear them, and it’s so cute to hear Joel coo back to her. And I always wonder what Mark’s mom might say next, because it’s really unpredictable – her stories aren’t run-of-the-mill, which I’m thinking must have contributed to Mark becoming so well-rounded and having such a diversity of interests.
After Mark’s mom told Joel the turtle story, she switched to another animal story, “Now I’m going to tell you the story of the rattlesnakes. When Mark was a little boy, grandpa found some rattlesnakes living in the bushes in the back of our property, and we were worried they were going to start eating the birds that built nests in these bushes, and, also, grandma doesn’t like snakes…”
So I was waiting for the mating part of this story, but instead the story took a more violent turn, “And one day, grandpa caught one of the rattlesnakes, and he took a shovel, and he chopped off its head – no more rattlesnake!”
So at this point I started laughing, because this made two offbeat stories in a row, and I was only half listening to the beheading-of-the-rattlesnake story, so I started to ask Mark’s mom about it, and she was like, “I don’t know if I remember all of the details – let me call Doug (Mark’s dad).” And then Mark’s dad didn’t answer his phone, so Mark’s mom texted him, “Call me – I have some questions about your snake.” (Or maybe she said “the snake.” I’m not sure, but, regardless, I wasn’t sure that Mark’s dad would have much of a clue as to what was coming, because this text came out of the blue without any context provided, and it related to something that happened 25 years ago.)
So Mark’s dad called and confirmed the story and clarified that it was actually a copperhead snake, which makes sense considering Mark grew up in Missouri, not Death Valley, Nevada. And Mark’s dad was like, “Sharon – why aren’t you telling Joel more age-appropriate stories?!”
But we determined that, for now, these types of stories are okay, because Joel can’t understand them, and it’s more about hearing our voices and learning the English language, and also, in all reality, the animal kingdom can be pretty cut-throat. And it isn’t like these stories are the only stories Joel hears – this week Joel has learned about the dentist, the hair salon, and the nail salon too!
Mark’s mom also makes changing time fun. One time, I was so exhausted that I was letting Mark and his mom do a diaper change together as I half-napped in our bed. All of a sudden I overheard Mark’s mom tell Joel (with such excitement), “Joel, sometimes you fart, and some poop comes out! Don’t worry – that happens to grandma too!”
And Mark and I were like, “Oh my gosh!!! Whaaaaa!?!”
And Mark’s mom was like, “What? It’s true! You know I suffer from IBS! I have since I was 16! I have a paper from the doctor to prove it!”
And Mark and I were just rolling on the floor, laughing our asses off at the thought of doctors handing out certificates for irritable bowel syndrome. (For the record, I received Mark’s mom’s permission to include this story in my blog. This is now a running joke in our household, and we laugh at the frequent Metamucil and probiotic runs, and it isn’t a big deal. Plus, I’m thinking that poop-farts are more common than people like to admit considering my dad tells his own poop-fart story from when he was in the Peace Corps in the Central African Republic – my dad’s roommate tried to fart in his face, and… Well…)
Also, after Mark’s dad clarified the rattlesnake story for us, he delved into a squirrel story – apparently there is a home video of Mark’s parents and his late grandfather Jerome skinning a squirrel in front of five-year-old Mark. The plan was to eat said squirrel for dinner. I had no idea Mark’s family used to eat squirrel, because they haven’t (to my knowledge) in all the years I’ve known Mark. (The things I’m finding out these days!)
I bet those who’ve been following my blog for a while have been wondering where the hell AB and JVB have been. Well, we aren’t friends anymore… Kidding. But in all honesty, after having Joel, I kind of unplugged from everything work-related, as life felt pretty surreal for quite some time, though I did send them a couple of pictures and a text that said, “Miss you girls!” And they replied, but this was kind of the extent of it, because every time they’d ask if I wanted to come meet them for lunch, I took like eight days to respond, because, for a while, leaving the house seemed like such an unrealistic task, especially on my “I’m-effing-paralyzed-by-anxiety days,” and I didn’t really have the energy to explain it to them via text message. And they were under the impression that I’d been reading my work emails, oblivious to the fact that Human Resources locked me out of my email account and the server, so they, thinking I was up on all of the office happenings, felt more connected to me than I did to them.
But the other day, my mom told me that she and her co-workers have taken a page out of AB, JVB, and my book, leaving random things in the office restroom, just so they can see the email come out announcing, “Somebody lost their _____.” And the best was that they put some plastic crabs from the Dollar Tree in the bathroom, and they were so pissed that the secretary didn’t send the email to say, “Somebody lost their crabs.”
But anyway, on Tuesday, I finally texted AB and JVB, “Bitches, today is the day!” And I hopped into my car and drove downtown to meet them in the dark alley behind my building at 12:40pm. When we met, they quickly informed me that they hadn’t been to St. Louis Bread Company since I left because they were so fucking sick of it, because I made them eat there almost every day when I was pregnant, so we ate at San Sai, the place that helped me lose like 30 pounds after Matthew died, because I ate there nearly every day for three months. (I’m like Jared Fogle, except I represent San Sai, and I’m not a pervert.) And the San Sai reunion was fun – all of the employees were so excited to see Joel, and they commented, “He’s one big ass baby, and he looks like you!” and then they gave me $2.00 off my order in celebration of his safe arrival.
As we sat outside eating our spicy chicken and rice bowls next to Joel, who slept in his stroller, some co-workers walked by. They were like, “What’s this?!”
And I was like, “This is Joel.”
And they were like, “How old is he? We didn’t even know you were pregnant!”
And I was like, “11 weeks!”
And they were so nice and congratulatory and surprised, and I was enamored to know that carrying my cheap polka-dotted purse from Target in front of my belly for my whole pregnancy apparently worked with fooling lots of people. So I guess when I return, I’ll have a lot of explaining to do. But I find that, in some ways, me keeping it secret was a good idea, because while I was pregnant I didn’t have to put up with people’s stupid comments, and now, when people ask, “Why did you hide your pregnancy?!” I’ll get to talk about both of my boys instead of having to face what some talk about – people pretending my first never existed. In this case they won’t be able to get away with it, which might make them uncomfortable, but I don’t care.
Joel slept through our entire lunch, so he stayed in his stroller. AB didn’t want to hold him anyway – she prefers animals, so she was more focused on being traumatized at the thought of us shipping Howie off to Mark’s parents’ house indefinitely. She is anxiously awaiting Joel getting older – her view on babies is that they’re like llamas in that they can’t communicate with people, and they mostly just spit. AB was also amused that after lunch I plowed through a chair with my all-terrain stroller. (I don’t get out much.)
AB and JVB informed me that people around the office are speculating that I might never return to work, but AB and JVB assured them that I would. It kind of annoyed me to hear this – I feel like the only reason people are speculating about this is because Matthew died, so they can’t fathom how I’ll come back to work with what they perceive is a situation in which I might feel crippling anxiety, which I do feel crippling anxiety, but I’d rather not be the subject of the office gossip any longer.
This weekend we are attending the Share Walk of Remembrance. It is crazy to think that one year ago Mark and I attended this walk as we were so new in our grief. Though I still expect the walk to feel sad, I think it will feel slightly better being there with Joel and meeting up with a few of the ladies who I now call some of my best friends.
Speaking of October/fall things, Halloween is coming up, and on my daily walks with Joel (he sleeps GREAT at night but will NOT nap – he will ONLY nap in his stroller) I can’t help but notice the “fun” Halloween decorations in our neighborhood. I stumbled upon these dog skeletons and worried some freakazoid had saved his dead dachshund’s bones, or worse, abducted and killed a dachshund for this purpose specifically, but now I’m thinking (hoping?) one can purchase these at a store. Also, there’s these neighbors who placed some gourds in a circle pattern around their concrete angels, and it looks slightly phallic-ish…