Children of workaholics (poetry)
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Fri Nov 24 2017 at 22:37:46
Growing up the term
I assumed everyone's mom made her own spaghetti
sauce, bottled her own grape juice, drove to the
farm to get milk and eggs, made dresses for
her daughters to wear when they stood up
in a wedding, gave her children baths in
separate bathrooms because it was more
efficient than bathing us one kid at a
time, and set the timer for everything
so she would know how long tasks took.
My dad's idea of being on time was arriving
at least fifteen minutes early, sometimes we
were there half an hour before anyone else.
I was the oldest so if there were other kids
over I watched them as well as my younger
brother and sisters. Until my next youngest
sister grew taller than I did people thought
we were twins, they thought the same thing
of my two youngest sisters, one time someone
asked if my brother and I were twins.
Not long after I was married the family I
had just married into offered us a house.
It was a great price so we bought it despite
my objections because even though math
was never my strongest subject I could
add his income plus mine and see that we
were going to fall well short of where we
needed to be financially. My first job out
college was in finance. How do you save
when there is no plan?
People in my family were excited about the
house. They came over and helped his family
paint and put in flooring. Sure there were a
few things that still had to be done, but we
could do those later. It wasn't until I moved
out that he hired contractors to finish projects
we had started back in 1998. My dad helped
us put on a new roof above the garage while
my mom told me how excited she was for
me to put in a garden next summer.
After I graduated from college I went from
three jobs down to one. My junior year I
weighed less than a hundred pounds, but
the medical community had no idea what
the head to toe rash was from. I spent my
twenty-first birthday in bed with a case
of strep throat, unable to swallow anything,
not even mashed potates. Later on I would
discover that I was allergic to several plants
in the nightshade family. Pizza anyone?
Both of us worked full time before we had
children. When I asked for help with the
dishes and laundry he explained that he
worked full time and did the snow removal
and lawn mowing. I explained that I would
be more than happy to trade since I could
learn how to sit on a riding mower, but it
wasn't until almost twenty years later that
I was allowed to sit on the tractor his
twelve year old cousin drove around our yard.
My mom knits sweaters for her grandchildren,
she volunteers at church, she used to describe
the scenery for blind people at the theater,
when I was in college I would come in at two
in the morning and sometimes I would beat my
parents to bed. They needed money and I
totally got it. I was expected to pay for
everything, but not allowed to claim myself
on my taxes when I was forced to file,
my parents needed me as a dependent.
I remember asking Jill and Jane's dad when
he was going to be home, most of the time
he wasn't sure, it seemed that there was
a server going down so often I wondered if
they were ever actually up and running.
"Go outside and play." My parents told
us, maybe your parents said that too. So
we did. Hours of snow fort building until
I came in because my right foot was a sickly
shade of yellow due to
lack of circulation
We were at my youngest daughter's soccer
game when a woman standing next to me
asked if I was okay. I was so cold I was
literally shaking in my boots, but my mom
answered for me as if I was deaf and mute.
"She's fine. She's fine because she's made
up her mind that she's going to be just fine."
After that I told my mom we could drive
separately to events. She gets crabby when
she can't smoke when the craving starts.
I have no idea how many books I've written,
there's a stack of notebooks in a pink
backpack that I bought at Target for $4,
it outlasted a much more expensive purchase.
My girls had trips to Florida, after our first one
they wanted to know if their mom was
going to throw up on the plane again. I didn't,
but since they had printed the wrong gate
on our boarding passes we missed our connecting
flight; screaming kids and torrential rains in Atlanta.
I've always had food to eat and clothes to wear.
, I brought my
own food and still managed to get exposed to
wheat, probably the result of my mother baking
her world famous rolls and flour flying everywhere.
No matter how many times I try to explain what
it means to have
and food allergies
she still doesn't get it, despite having had to take
me to the ER when I was a kid.
I got two shots, one in each arm, but I could breathe.
If you ask my mom what she's going to be doing
in August during January she will pull out her
calendar to check which opera she's going to be
seeing, but she'll text us the day before my
sister's birthday in September, because that
never arrives on the same day every year. My
birthday is at the end of December, this year I
told my family I was going out with friends so
of course that's the day that they want to get
together to celebrate Christmas.
Both of my children write well. The other day
my youngest called to ask what time I was
picking them up, she pretended she was
a shoe store employee after I asked if Jane
was there. My girls are imaginative and
creative, they can figure things out because
they had to do something when mom and
dad were both on the computer. Our office
was impressive, we had a color laser printer
and matching workstations, one per family member.
Nobody in my family can understand why
I'm content to work less than twenty hours
a week at a job that doesn't pay me anything
close to what I'm actually worth. Maybe I am
like my friend says, but it doesn't
seem to have translated into great wealth.
My friend the attorney who wants to emigrate
has told me about the benefits of dating an
engineer, today he told me that nobody was
as handsome as he was and we both laughed.
I know that there's a way to relax, to stop worrying
about the things that haven't been done, my mom
would never let dishes pile up the way that I do.
She wouldn't sit at her computer writing poetry,
she hasn't read anything I've written in over a
decade, but I know that she's proud of me and
my accomplishments because she's told me that.
Why would you believe that you're lovable when
people at school ask if your parents are picking
you up because closing time was hours ago?
If you ever want to do something really nice for
people who may or may deserve it, stop by the
psych ward during visiting hours. My youngest
sister brought me a change of clothes and told
me that I needed more wardrobe options. I had
to call my mom at four in the morning to take
me there. She dropped me off and we chatted
as if I was checking into a hotel rather than
being admitted for hearing and seeing things
that weren't really there. No, she didn't visit.
There's a way to connect with people on a
real emotional level. This job has been
amazing as far as that goes. Every day my
manager hugs me, kisses me, appreciates
me, I work hard, but I could be working
harder. She validates me, sends me on
break when she can tell that I need some
space, I don't know how she does it, but
she has a sixth sense that tells her when
I'm close to bursting into tears.
I've acknowledged that I have a problem.
As the child of a workaholic I've been
neglected emotionally. My value is tied up
in what I do rather than who I am as a
person. When I was in high school I told
my mom about the test where I got 106.
My professor gave me extra credit when
he saw that I had gone above and beyond
on my geography test. I missed the
instruction sheet; my mom blamed me.
As the parent of children who were
born into a family of workaholics I'm
realizing that at some point it really
doesn't matter how organized I am,
it isn't a badge I can show people to
prove my worth, I exist, therefore
I have intrinsic value. After I sprained
my ankle I drove the girls out to
Wal-Mart and bought them gluten
and dairy free ice cream treats.
When I learned that I was going to
be participating in an outpatient
program I asked my mom if she
would go to therapy with me. It
wasn't exactly a question, I made
the mistake of assuming that
my mom could and would
meet with a licensed therapist
to talk about her daughter who
was potentially suicidal.
Periodically people will ask me
why I love baseball so much.
I tell them it's a family, I might
leave it at that, but the truth is
that fans I met online have
saved my life on at least two
occasions. A part of me can't
believe I'm really alive today.
I think I'm over it and then
something happens to trigger it.
Let's get a plan together:
What if I sat down with the
girls and we went through
the lists we made of fun
things to do together?
What if we resurrected
the puzzles despite having
lost my coffee and dining
room tables during the
What if I asked them what
was important to them,
noticed when they did well,
and praised them for more
than mere academic awards?
They already know that
neither of their parents care
about grades. We made it
through high school, I
have more education than money.
What if I read up on how
to become more vulnerable?
I have savings accounts
and individual stocks for
each of the girls, what if there
was a way for all of us to
get outside; go hiking,
biking, or swimming like
we did this summer when
I could barely hobble around?
What if, we could just, be?
No deadlines, no racing around
frantically trying to clean a
house that my grandmother
was going to visit, no panic
attacks because my in-laws
were coming over and they
were going to give whatever
I was making a sideways look
What if I just didn't care and
learned to love myself, and them?
I can start now, here's a poem,
I'm not finished, but my
youngest daughter is here,
I'm going to go over, sit next
to her, pull her into my arms,
and cry when I tell her that
is the only Jane that I have.
I like it!
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