Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Screaming at the Tide

It is dark.

It is dark, and I am hurtling down the highway, and I am cursing the darkness.

I curse, because, like Dante, I'M NOT EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE HERE TODAY!

I am drinking a shitty cup of (now cold) coffee that I purchased at a gas station. Purchased coffee is de rigeur when I stay at my best friend's place, because - unbelievably - they do not drink coffee at his house. Normally, this results in my getting a quaffable cup of McDonald's coffee, but this is not a normal situation. This situation, that I'm in here right now, is me leaving his house before dawn because my wife left me a message the night before. The message she left was, basically, that she was sick, and wasn't going to be much use to our daughter when she woke up, and could I please come home as soon as possible in the morning?

And that is why I'm cursing the darkness.

Because, it's just NOT FAIR, goddammit! I've waited 8 weeks - EIGHT. WEEKS. - for this weekend, and no, those 8 weeks weren't exactly "hell," but they were 8 weeks of working and working and then working a little more, and Eric & I, we'd been planning this weekend since the beginning of January, and now here it is being cut short, and where's the fuckin' justice, huh? And darkness, don't be tellin' me that I really got to do all that I basically went there to do. Don't tell me "Oh, but you GOT to play cards, and you GOT to see your movie, and you GOT to hang out with no adult responsibilities whatsoever, so what's your damn problem?" Don't tell me that. I just wanted…I just wanted the rest of my time. Just another 8 hours, that's really all I wanted. It's like that billboard I used to pass on my way home from work, the one that told me "You Deserve More." That billboard used to make me cringe, in a sort of rotten and maggoty way, and now here I am, like Tony Montoya shouting "The world is mine!", claiming that I deserved MORE. As if that's how balance in the universe works, that by working hard and loving my family and fulfilling my responsibilities, that I'll actually get everything that I wanted, that the universe is keeping track of my balance sheet and saying to itself "Yep, ol' Animal there has sure done his share for 8 weeks, let's give him 28 hours off, shall we?"


I'm approaching the gas station close to home. Impulsively, bitterly, I pull into the deserted drive. I step out into the darkness and belligerently smoke one of the cigarettes I bought at Eric's. The red and blue neon "Open" sign flickers in the window, brimming with a bright gaeity that is revealed as false once one beholds the tawdry truth within: stale jerky, cheap whiskey, losing lottery tickets, jars of pickled bologna. I exhale smoke into the cold air, searching the sky for signs of morning. Fucking time change. How I HATE the goddamn time change. More than ever this year, since President Douchebag signed a bill that pushed it even earlier in the spring. The FUCK is there to do with an "extra hour" tacked on to the end of the day? Nuthin'. It's just one more hour that I have to wait until pulling the blinds closed on another cold, grey, lifeless day. Seriously, this fucking winter…this winter has been HARD. And LONG. I could give a shit what the calendar says, what the seconds ticking by claim…this winter has been long and brutal and I'm not sorry to see it go. If it goes…

Back in the car, it's nearly 7:30. Roz should just about be getting up, and if Tess is as sick as she says she'll be relieved to see me home so soon. I pull onto my exit, still in the dark, and I realize that the day just isn't going to get much brighter. As I come up to my house, I see the downstairs is still dark, dark like the day, but the light is on in Roslyn's room, a small beacon promising some measure of hope within…

Tess turned out to be as sick as she'd claimed, which certainly didn't make me happy. It DID make me glad that I'd sacrificed the few remaining hours I would have spent dawdling at Eric's though. Roz seemed to be mostly over her own sickness, combinations of unknown things that piled up and drove us twice to the emergency room in three weeks' time. I spent the rest of that day tired, but happy to be in their company, a happiness only granted to a man who finds happiness right where he seeks it: home, among his beloved girls.

It's Monday, and I'm rounding the final corner at the end of my first run of the season. The sun is shining down brightly - savagely, for the darkness that preceeded it - and I begin to walk the last 1/4-mile home. My breath is quick, but not gasping. My heart is pounding, but not desperately so. Back home, I begin a post-run stretching routine, and my joints are stiff. I'm alive with the endorphins coursing through my system, but at the back of my mind is an odd tingling, and when I get up, I'm moving more slowly than I should be. Getting into the shower, I realize that I'm cold, very cold, and while I luxuriate in a long shower, the hot water pouring down over my head, I chuckle wryly. The universe, ever a Comedian, has found its balance; now I will get sick, so that I can understand why it was necessary to come home early in the first place. I quickly towel off, dress in layers of cotton and flannel, and wrap up in a blanket on the couch. The first true waves of illness wash over me, and in my mind I scream vainly at the incoming tide…

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Master Multitask

Sounds like a superhero, doesn't it? Or maybe a villain…yeah, like somebody the Avengers might fight. "Cap, Thor and Iron Man in a battle supreme with Kang the Conqueror and Master Multitask!" That reads just about right as the cover-splash for a Bronze-Age comic.


So, what I'm finding about parenting - or at least my personal take on parenting - is that I've become a ruthlessly efficient multitasker. I noticed this as I was getting dinner ready late Friday afternoon. It went something like this:

Read recipe from Cooking Light, decide that peppers need to be roasted first. Get peppers out of the 'fridge, as well as a jug of apple juice. Get cutting board from (clean) dishwasher, grab two other things that need putting away in the same vicinity as the countertop where I'll work. Open cupboard door with right hand and put said items away while with left hand reach for knife to cut peppers with. Turn broiler on, cut peppers in half, get pan from under stove and line with foil, peppers on foil, pan in oven, timer set for 10 minutes. Read recipe, decide I need to boil water for the pasta next. Return to dishwasher, retrieve 5-6 items for putting away (as well as the colander I'll need for the pasta), put those items away and get pasta pan. While filling pan with water, retrieve Rozzle juice cup from drainboard, fill with apple juice and put both cup and jug in 'fridge: juice is for tomorrow morning, but have eliminated that task from morning routine. Pasta pan is full, place on stove, little oil in the water, turn burner on. Put upper rack of dishes away, saving out glasses for the evening meal. Take plastic bag with pepper tops and seeds, grab coffee filter on the way by and dump both into trash. Rinse coffee filter, replace, grab stack of recyclable papers from kitchen stool, go into back room, dump papers into recycle bin, grab coffee can. Fill filter with coffee, take back to back room, go into 'fridge for water, cheese, and milk. Water goes into coffee tank, milk goes into 1) Mom's glass and 2) Rozzle's cup, cheese gets sliced and put onto plate (from dishwasher, while putting 5-6 more things away). Water, milk & cheese go back into 'fridge, glass, cup & cheese plate go to table. Inquire as to general happiness of Rozzle, receive positive reply from Mom, back to kitchen. Sausage comes out of 'fridge, timer goes off, blackened peppers come out of oven and into Ziploc. Put remaining items from dishwasher away, grab skillet from same cupboard and heat with oil on stove. Slice sausage, dump into skillet, throw away sausage wrapper and top of newly-opened cheese package. Dump today's (cold) coffee from carafe into sink, rinse carafe, back onto hotplate: now coffee is ready for the morning as well. Water boils, pasta goes in, timer goes on, peppers get peeled & added to sausage in pan. While everything cooks merrily, I fill jug with water, grab a handful of clean hanging clothes & head upstairs: clothes get hung, water goes into humidifiers in our & Rozzle's rooms. Rearrange stuffed companions in Roz's bed in preparation for night-night. Back downstairs I stir the pasta, stir the peppers & sausage, and open a bottle of wine for dinner. With two minutes left until pasta is done I decide to make 3/5ths of non-perishable lunch for Monday. Pasta is finally done: strain, add to skillet with tomato paste, stir & heat through, cut Roz's dinner into bite-size nuggets and serve everything at the table.


Sorry that was so obsessively detailed, but I needed to get the full idea across. THAT'S what I'm talkin' about when I multitask. In a half-hour of dinner-making, I accomplished something like 6 other chores that, while miniscule at the individual level, still account for a lot of doing. Used to be I'd do all those things as separate actions: 1) put dishes away; 2) make dinner, wait around while things cook; 3) make Monday's lunch on Sunday night, and etc. Now, all those things were done, and I'd be able to enjoy the rest of the evening (and parts of the next day) without those tiny but somehow onerous tasks hanging over my head. All that was left to do after dinner was to load the now-empty dishwasher and relax! And so it goes as a multitasker, right on down the line: things that I formerly did as individual actions now get compiled, not as "time-savers" (having already concluded that it's impossible to "save time") but instead to allow me to spend my time as wisely - and as relaxedly! - as I can.

In all of this, of course, Miss Tessmacher and I are so fantastically, unbelievably luckly to have family nearby. While I was doing all of the above - and Tess was at work - my mother was over for her weekly Rozzle visit, and she was entertaining Roz in the living room, allowing me to work. I don't mind the work of household chores, as long as they don't become TOO stacked up on one another. And our combined parental units really help ease time constraints by gladly spending time with their granddaughter while Tess and I can keep working, albeit at a slightly more leisurely pace.

This was driven home to me in a big way just yesterday and today, several days after I began the draft of this post. We dropped Roz off at daycare Monday in a fine mood, and so I was shocked when E. called to say "Roz has a fever & is really miserable, can someone come get her?" Actually I was pissed, is what I was, because we had just FINISHED a mother-lovin' round of antibiotics, dammit, and how the fuck can she be sick AGAIN?!? I hope it goes without saying that I didn't vent that opinion to E., who was mostly concerned that Roz felt so crummy. We could have left then, both of us, and had lots of stuff to make up after spring break, but a call to Tess' dad was all it took: he dropped whatever HE was doing and split to not only pick Roz up, but then to spend the rest of the afternoon with her…something like another 4 hours! That Papa! And today, when we kept Roz home from daycare just to be safe, Tess' mom came over for an additional day (normally Wednesday is "G. Day"), dropping whatever SHE would have done in the meantime. Like I said: we're so lucky. I have a hard time imagining what kind of a time a couple has raising kids together, but separated by hours from easy family relations. Don't even get me STARTED on single parents…!

So, now I need to figure out what I can multitask here on my desk at work, before heading home to make dinner while I start a load of whites, make the coffee for tomorrow and set out tomorrow's clothes…