How many shades of blond are there? Apparently there are 11 this weekend. This is not counting our few carrot tops who fit in anyway and a fuzzy new darkling who is too young to care.

With lots and lots of kids in the house it is easy to lose one's head. Easy for things to go awry. The trick is no stress about planning. You know everyone will be safe and do not worry about timing or schedule. Do not worry about bedtime or nutrition. Just happy and safe.

It is fruit time and Ms. Em is cutting grapes for her baby sister and for her little Punklin cousin and she is only eight and I am thinking Damn. It is book time and Mickie is reading to Ben and Manny and Hannah and the other Hannah and D.L. and the couch is full of kids, quiet. It is bubbles time and for some reason 4 wands and 2 containers work for 9 kids. This time I am thinking Wow. I wonder at the marvelous diplomacy but do not question gifts like this.

Three days after the new baby is a delicate time still and when an emergency shows up we are still thinking Safe. Healthy. This is all we want. Someone (like maybe a god) decides to grant us this and it is fixed half an hour later, in tears with relief and stupidity. How big are the words Thank You God?

Here is my shameful secret: the trick of buffets and All You Can Eats is that you keep coming back until you want no more, and then you leave it behind. Why do you think I love these kids so much? I have decided to be Aunt Jane who will hand out candy and play stupid games and spoil them rotten making them giggly hyper and then give them back to their parents. It’s my prerogative. HAHA.

I do not know but I never noticed how many of these children are sunny.

All the kids make a lot of laughter noise food mess and it is not long before the Punklin decides to eat all the cucumbers in sight. This of course upsets Henny and it is tears, hysterical wailing, and it is me who saves the day by Presto peeling slicing more of what she calls crunchy green stuff for her. All the kids make a lot of laughter noise food mess and then it is me who suddenly decides on the park. Like the old woman in a shoe, shining heads in a long handholding chain behind me. Fucking love it. And then we are there and it is swings and ropes and ladders and slides and it is motion motion motion and it is also my trick for making them tired.

You read books so I know you have seen this before. Still it is a picture you need to have. Lined them all up, squinting at the sunlight. Took out the cameras. This is it, you know. This is family. This is forever.


Imagine that you live in a normal house and live a normal life, and then one day a mouse carves out a little hole in the corner of a wall. At first you're annoyed because you're going to have to fix that damn hole and find that damn mouse and kill it, and now you're sure that there must be other mice in your house as well. But when you get your tools and bend down to start the repair work, you notice something shining inside that little hole in the wall. You get a flashlight and shine it in the hole and, to your utter astonishment, there is a piece of gold in there. So, instead of fixing the hole, you get a hammer and a chisel and make the hole bigger. And the bigger you make the hole, the more gold you find. In fact, you discover that the entire house has walls that are filled with the purest gold known to man. There is enough gold in the walls of the house so that you will never have to work or worry about anything again. And it's not just regular gold with stamped engravings, but it's gold that is adorned with enchanting symbols and wonderful hieroglyphic writing that you don't understand in a logical way, but you realize that it is the most special thing that any one man has ever seen. And you realize that the mouse has shown it to you for a crucially important reason.

I live in a normal house and I live a normal life. One day, a mousey wife I have carved a hole in my heart by walking in from work and telling me that she was moving out, after almost exactly 24 years of marriage. She had already settled the notion in her head and had done the things that wives do when they leave their husbands. I discovered that these things are:

  • You go to the bank and take half of the money in the joint account and transfer it into your own new account.
  • You have your luggage packed and ready to put in your car.
  • You have a girlfriend who lives alone and has allowed you to move in for a month or so while you find your own place.
  • You research the divorce laws in your state to see how things work legally and what steps to take to make the separation final.
  • You drive away and leave a man standing there, shattered. Broken. Desperate.
  • You do all of this because you have learned to love yourself enough to not be thought of as mousey.

I also learned what the man does when this happens.

  • He no longer eats.
  • He no longer sleeps.
  • He cries non-stop because he realizes that he has really messed up and what has just happened is likely not going to be fixable.
  • He then starts to make a list of the reasons this might be a good thing and the reasons why he should try to fix this.

In my case, the list of "why this might be a good thing" was empty. The list of "why I should try to fix this" was endless. And so I began a desperate plan of repairing the hole in the wall so that the gold would remain intact. In implementing this plan, I learned more about myself and my wife than I imagined possible.

I learned that I have not been able to cry nearly enough to shed my soul of the burdens I've carried for years and years. Sometimes things can build up in your life and you can fail to empty your soul by crying for so long that you literally have buckets of tears inside you that have probably become rancid if not toxic. It burns your eyes to cry out those buckets of tears, but you have no choice unless you choose to grow old alone and miserable with yourself and the entire world around you.

I learned that I have treated not only my wife badly for several years, but I have treated everyone on this planet as though they were nuisances to me for longer than I can remember. I watched There Will Be Blood and saw Daniel Day-Lewis play the same character as Orson Welles in Citizen Kane so many years before: The wealthy misanthrope whose only goal was to achieve enough fame or wealth or status so that he no longer needed or had to abide the lesser humans around him. I saw myself so clearly and even remembered both my mother when I was a child as well as my wife when I was an adult telling me, "You should just get yourself an island and live on it like a hermit."

I learned that I had to start asking people for forgiveness for the way I have treated them. At first, I started with the folks who were easiest; the online people I have been abusive and rude to for years. Then I worked my way up to the flesh and blood humans. I made a pilgrimage around to those whom I have treated badly for no good reason at all. I found out something astonishing. It made them feel as good as it did me to tell them, face to face, that I have had no reason except foolish pride to have said and done some of the things I've said and done. What amazed me the most was how willing they were to forgive me and how much better those tears afterwards felt than the bitter tears I had cried alone and wifeless.

I learned that there is something in my make-up which some call the traits of a visionary. In other words, I see the world in patterns and those patterns do not enjoy being disturbed. Thus, if someone says, "Let's do something different," my first reaction is, "Absolutely not," because it disturbs my image of the way things should be. So, in the example of my relationship with my wife, if she said, "Let's take a vacation," my first reaction would be, "No. It's too expensive and I have things I have to do here. And what about the dog? And what about the cat? And what about the house?" And all of that is a smokescreen for an unwillingness to change a routine, even though I realized long ago that the routine was pointless. It's like the cartoon I saw recently where a toddler has come downstairs and the mother tears herself away from company at the house and says, "Go back to bed, honey. Mommy and daddy and their friends are pretending that their lives have meaning."

I learned that I could blame the internet if I wanted a scapegoat. I could also blame alcohol. But the deeper realization was that it was really neither; it was my misanthropic nature toward other people, including my wife, that was to blame. I learned that this had to be dealt with once and for all unless I intended There to Be Blood in actuality.

Once I learned all of this and acted upon it, my wife decided to come back home and be with me. And that is when the real volume of gold in the walls was discovered and the weird symbols on that gold began to make sense.

I realized that I was living with a woman who has for years been on a self-improvement program that I've totally ignored. She went back to school several years ago and got a degree as a Physical Therapist. And yet I had never before been to the place where she currently works and has worked for several years. I had gone to the place where she worked previously, but only because of back surgery and the fact that I was a patient.

I watched her at work with people in real distress, not marital problems or self-imposed psychological disorders, but folks who can no longer walk or take care of themselves. I watched her do her job to help the helpless. And I thought about all the times she's tried to help me and I didn't even want to accept it. I thought of all the help she's given our child throughout the years and how now our child, who is so much like me that it's frightening, doesn't appreciate it, either. And then I thought of how hard this all must have been on her; especially making the decision to finally just pack up and leave, and I loved her so much for that strength that I thought my heart would literally burst from my chest. And the tears I cried then were sweet and felt even better than the tears of forgiveness from folks to whom I am not related by a blood oath.

Then, when I thought things could not get any better, I agreed to attend one of her Yoga classes she teaches a couple of times a week at a local gym. Imagine a fat, bald man of almost 60 years in ugly green shorts and a wife-beater t-shirt in a room with young beautiful women, one of whom had a baby last month and looks as trim as a movie star. Imagine that he rolls out his Yoga mat and begins to do poses along with the women, with mirrors on every wall and fully knowing that he is as out of place as a mountain of gold in an otherwise normal house.

Imagine that he actually is able to achieve some of the poses that his wife is showing her class, as she talks about how grateful she is that we are all here, in this place, sharing our collective energy and how we should forget about the pains of the past or thoughts of the possible futures and focus on the now of living our lives and our connection to the oneness of the universe.

Imagine that she never mentions that this is her husband of 24 years, sweating like a pig trying to contort his overweight body into positions that he's never been in before. Imagine that her loving and soothing voice tells everyone that they are doing just wonderful as she goes around the room and helps those who aren't in the correct pose adjust just so.

Imagine that at the end of the hour, as everyone is lying down on their backs and doing the "corpse pose," which she refers to as the hardest pose of all, that he not only understands why she says this and how true it is, but that as she walks by him she brushes her hand on his cheek as a secret signal that she is now fulfilled and ready to live the rest of her life with him. And then imagine that these tears he cries are like nectar.

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