The brother-in-law that pushes my buttons, and not in a good way. He can be a nice guy. He’s a good father. He’s married to Linda. Once upon a time, he was the spoiled oldest male child in a traditional Mexican family. He’s getting over that one day at a time, but making my sister’s plans go awry while that happens. If my sister changed husbands tomorrow I might not miss him.
To help get me back into the blogging groove, I’m trying out The SITS Girls daily writing prompts. Today I am supposed to discuss what brings joy into my life.
As cliched as it’s going to sound, it’s my family that brings joy into my life. And, honestly, the younger members (niece and nephews) accomplish this with very little effort.
Last week I was driving my youngest nephew to Spanish camp. My sister’s school doesn’t break from Summer school until this week, so she needed some help getting him to camp on days when she couldn’t arrive later to work. I pitched in a few days, my sister-in-law pitched in a few days, my niece did a day, my brother did a bunch of days, and between us we were able to cover the morning drive.
My youngest nephew is a surprise, a child who exceeds all expectations for intelligence and whose point of view never fails to astonish me. His mother enrolled him in the Chinese dual language program (instead of the Spanish one) because she hoped it would prove challenging; it hasn’t. He has been bumped up a year, the result of which is that he’s the youngest (and smallest) child in his class; she refuses to bump him up another. She has enrolled him in a multitude of after-school activities, including some sports, to keep him engaged and entertained. He goes to school for socialization, she tells me, and does middle-school level reading and math on the weekends for fun.
Smart kids are normal in my family. It’s common to hear from teachers about how well “we” are doing/have done in class. Even allowing for the different personalities, none of us had any difficulties in school. Yes, a few of us were distracted students, failing to turn in schoolwork and even failing to turn up for class. But, usually, there would be a test or something (for which little studying was done) and the term would be saved. We are used to seeing the children in our family be at the top of the class.
None of us were prepared for my youngest nephew. If he hears it, sees it, reads it, then he remembers it. And he makes connections with what he’s learned to apply it correctly to conversations or situations. He is a walking endorsement for “educational television” and proof that there’s educational value to Youtube.
Last week’s ride is an example. I had news radio on because he doesn’t care what I listen to as long as he has his iPad for the ride. I never count on conversation, he doesn’t “do” conversation on demand. There was a story about a Bob Dylan memorabilia item being auctioned off. I think he only caught the end of the story, when they kept repeating just the last name, “Dylan.” This caught his attention, since he recognized the last name as a name from school.
“Dylan?” he asks, a bit puzzled.
“They are talking about Bob Dylan,” I tell him. Then I proceed to try and explain that who Bob Dylan is, but he cuts me off.
“I know who Bob Dylan is,” he says. “He’s a guitarist.” Then he proceeds to tell me a lot about him, more than even I ever knew.
As he tells me that he knows all of this because it was in an educational video at school, I can feel the smile of delight on my face. My 7-year-old nephew knows who Bob Dylan is, I tell myself in a moment of awe.
A week later, that’s what I remember about that morning, not the fact that ten minutes later he threw up all over the back of my car. Because even the smartest 7-year-old is still a little boy.
What brings joy to your life?
* * *
After a few hours in your presence I am struggling for air
trying to keep the moisture in my eyes
from becoming drops that will break me
It’s my fault, really
I became distracted
I forgot who I was with
I let too much of my real self shine through
I let me be me in enemy space
Your reaction was predictable
a blast of destructive cold
leaving an unforgettable aftermath
wondering if today’s scars will heal
when others haven’t
That I love you truly is not in doubt
I would give you my life
I would take someone else’s in your defense
I would not choose you, did not choose you
I do not like you
You do not care
I got tired of being subtle… I volunteered to take my mother to see her mother. I can’t say the words, “You need to see your mother in case the worst happens.” I can’t tell her that she needs to see her mother before she dies, in case she dies. The words just will not erupt from my mouth. There’s a kind of block between what I want to say and the words themselves.
A visit to my mother’s hometown is not on my list of things I want to do. I am well acquainted with my inner selfish tendencies; I have long since accepted my inner voice. In this case it’s telling me that the timing is all wrong… I won’t enjoy the visit at all… I don’t have close emotional ties to that part of my family… I can’t afford the trip… I will be the only person there to provide emotional support (which isn’t my best thing)… I know, in advance I know, that I’m going to regret the trip.
The list of things running through my mind is endless. I hear each and every reason why I don’t want to go, very clearly. I just don’t say them out loud.
It was my idea. I’ve known for weeks that this trip has to happen. I’ve known that my mother won’t go on her own, that I can’t send her by herself. I know that I have to make sure that she goes. I volunteered. It was my idea.
I’m not a bad person for acknowledging that I don’t want to make the trip. But I never considered not making it. I never thought even for a moment that I wouldn’t go. I always knew that I was going to make this trip.
There is a part of me that knows that I want to make the trip for me too… in case the worst happens.
My mother finally said the word out loud. We’ve been skirting around it, as if by not saying it we could make it less real. We’ve been using other words, softer words, words that don’t sound so final and so harsh, but we both knew what we were thinking.
“Your grandmother’s cancer is spreading,” she said. “She’s in a lot of pain.”
So far what I know is that my grandmother is in the hospital, being “observed.” They don’t know how serious it is. They don’t know exactly what next steps are. They don’t know what the options are.
We do know she’s in pain. We do know that the growth is growing.
I’ve been nudging my mother, pushing her towards a trip to see her mother. It’s at tricky conversation. I can’t really push, or she’ll refuse to go because I tried to make her go. I can’t neglect to ask because then she’ll (later) say that I didn’t want her to go.
I don’t want her to wait too long.
In the meanwhile, I get these vague text messages from my mother with updates. And I call her for explanations which she gives, grudgingly. An hour later I get yet another text message. She’s giving me info one drop at a time.
I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t understand what my role is supposed to be in this.
And I am truly worried that, while I figure it out, I’m screwing things up.